FAQs: Second Focal Plane Scopes

By Joe Kriz


A popular choice among shooting enthusiasts and professionals alike, Second Focal Plane (SFP) optics are one of two types of riflescope designs. To help shooters better understand how they work and make informed purchase decisions, we answer ten frequently asked questions about SFP scopes.


1) What does SFP mean in optics?

SFP stands for “Second Focal Plane,” referencing the rear location of an optic’s reticle.

2) What is a Second Focal Plane scope?

Rear or Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes feature reticles that maintain constant size across all magnification levels. SFP reticles appear the same size to the shooter while observed targets grow and shrink at high and low magnification.

3) Where is the reticle in an SFP scope?

Second Focal Plane (SFP) reticles are located behind a scope’s magnification assembly, closer to the ocular lens and optic eyepiece. This rear positioning is why magnification has no effect on SFP reticle size.

4) How does magnification affect SFP subtensions?

Second Focal Plane (SFP) reticle subtensions are only accurate at one magnification level (usually highest power). At other magnifications, shooters must adjust calculations for elevation holdovers and windage to account for changing target size.

Example: If an SFP reticle's subtensions are calibrated for 100 yards at 6x magnification, holdover measurements will only be accurate at 6x. When at 3x magnification, subtensions will not accurately measure distances or compensate for bullet drop and wind drift. The shooter must perform calculations to adjust for the change in magnification.

5) What are SFP scopes best used for?

Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes are well-suited for a wide range of practical shooting applications but are best used when speed is a factor and targets are at fixed/known distances or maximum optic magnification is used, ensuring reticle subtensions are accurate. SFP optics are popular among recreational and competitive shooters, hunters, and military and law enforcement professionals.

Recreational Shooting

For casual target shooting and plinking indoors or outdoors, SFP scopes offer simplicity and ease of use. Recreational shooters can quickly and easily adjust for common distances without worrying about reticle size changes or complex calculations.


SFP scopes are popular among varmint and big game hunters because the constant reticle size at lower magnifications provides a clear, consistent, and unobstructed view of the target for quick target acquisition from stands/blinds or dense environment spot-and-stalks.

Competitive Shooting

In certain competitive shooting sports, like 3-Gun, where shots are taken at pre-determined distances and time is a factor, the clear and constant reticle size of SFP scopes can be a winning advantage. SFP scopes also provide a wide field of view ideal for engaging and transitioning between multiple targets quickly.

Tactical Shooting

In high-stress, rapid-response military and law enforcement situations, the constant size of SFP reticles aids in fast and intuitive aiming without the need for complex calculations. A wide field of allows for quick target scanning and acquisition in close quarters and open surroundings.

6) Why are SFP scopes less expensive than FFP optics?

Compared to First Focal Plane (FFP) optics, Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes feature less complex internal designs, reducing manufacturing costs. Unaffected by magnification, their user-friendly reticles are popular among shooters of all disciplines and skill levels, creating greater consumer demand that further contributes to their affordability.

7) What are advantages of SFP scopes?

Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes offer several advantages, including:

  • Constant reticle size at all magnification levels aids simplicity and ease of use
  • Well-suited for applications with targets at fixed distances or shooting at maximum magnification
  • Wide field of view at lower magnification for greater situational awareness and target acquisition
  • Better reticle visibility in low light conditions and at high magnification as reticle size remains constant
  • Less complex internals contribute to lighter optic weight and increased reliability and durability
  • Practical and versatile optics for recreational and competitive shooters, hunters, and military and law enforcement professionals
  • Budget-friendly optics thanks to lower manufacturing costs and higher consumer demand

8) What are disadvantages of SFP scopes?

While popular, Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes do have limitations and disadvantages, including:

  1. Reticle subtensions only accurate at one magnification level, usually highest power
  2. Require calculations to compensate for distance, bullet drop, and wind drift at lower magnification
  3. Steeper learning curve to understand effect of magnification on reticle subtensions
  4. Less effective in dynamic applications where magnification must be adjusted frequently or quickly
  5. More prone to parallax error, as budget SFP optics often lack objective lens focus adjustment

9) How do SFP and FFP optics compare?

Second Focal Plane (SFP) and First Focal Plane (FFP) optics each have distinct characteristics that make them suitable for different shooting applications.

SFP Optics

Reticle Size: Constant at all magnifications

Subtension Accuracy: Only accurate at one magnification (usually highest power); requires calculations to compensate for distance, elevation, and wind at lower magnification

Applications: Recreational shooting, blind/stand and spot-and-stalk hunting, competitive 3-Gun shooting, close-quarters tactical shooting; best used when targets are at fixed distances or shooting at maximum magnification

Ease of Use: Often considered more user-friendly, especially for new shooters or those in high-stress situations making quick decisions

Cost: Budget-friendly thanks to simpler manufacturing processes and greater consumer demand

FFP Optics

Reticle Size: Scales with magnification; both reticle and target get larger as magnification increases and smaller as it decreases

Subtension Accuracy: Accurate at all magnifications; offers consistent range estimation, holdovers, and windage corrections throughout zoom range

Applications: Long-range big game hunting, long-range competitive shooting, sniper tactical shooting; best used when targets are at various distances or precise adjustments are needed on the fly

Ease of Use: May require higher skill level to use effectively, particularly understanding how the scaling reticle impacts aiming at different magnifications

Cost: More expensive due to complex internal engineering

Read FFP vs SFP Reticles

10) What SFP scopes does Swampfox Optics offer?

Swampfox offers multiple Second Focal Plane (SFP) low power variable optics (LPVOs). From military and law enforcement to hunting and competition, we have the clear, precise, tough scope for your every need.

Swampfox Tomahawk II LPVO

Built on the foundation of our original riflescope, Tomahawk II embodies user feedback with enhanced features. Now offered in 1-4x24 and 1-6x24 and equipped with a Second Focal Plane BDC or new Bright Fiber Optic reticle. Housed in a 30mm tube, it reflects the evolved preferences and needs of real-world shooters, marking a significant stride in our LPVO lineup.

Shop Swampfox Tomahawk II

Swampfox Arrowhead LPVO

Excellent in all applications, every quiver should include an Arrowhead LPVO. Push/pull locking turrets protect against unintentional adjustment while its 30mm tube and 24mm objective lens offers a wide field of view and sharp resolution. Arrowhead is available in three magnifications and SFP reticles, each with 12 red or green illumination settings engagements in any light.

Shop Swampfox Arrowhead

Swampfox Tomahawk LPVO (Legacy)

Though since moved to our Legacy Series of optics, the original Tomahawk SFP LPVO laid the foundation for the future of Swampfox riflescopes. Like the second-gen Tomahawk II, it was built on a 30mm tube with 24mm objective lens in 1-4x, 1-6x, and 1-8x magnifications. It’s glass clarity and illuminated etched reticles offered a superior sight picture for its price and category.

View Swampfox Tomahawk

Try Swampfox optics risk-free with our 30-Day Money-Back Satisfaction Guarantee. If an SFP scope isn't right for you, simply return your optic and exchange it for another or a full refund.

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