First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane Reticles

By Alex Fanning


So, you’re in the market for a riflescope.

Maybe you’re a casual bench shooter who wants to shoot tight groups or a hunter wanting to stretch your range. Maybe you want to step into the world of competitive shooting. Or perhaps you’re simply looking for an optic for your new rifle.

The great news is you have more scopes to choose from than ever before, including from Swampfox. But before you buy, you’ll first need to decide what type of riflescope you need – more specifically, first focal plane (FFP) or second focal plane (SFP).

Also referred to as front and rear focal plane in reference to the position of the etched reticle lens in relation to the optic’s zoom mechanism, FFP and SFP each have a place on the range, at home, and in the field. However, each also have pros and cons that may or may not suit you and your shooting needs.


First Focal Plane

In an FFP riflescope, the reticle is located between the front objective lens and magnification assembly, positioning it further from the shooter’s eye. When zooming in and out, the reticle will grow and shrink with the observed image, allowing ballistic measurements, or subtensions, to remain constant at all magnification levels.

Example: Imagine you’re shooting a target 300 yards away. Your rifle is topped with a Swampfox Warhorse 1-6x FFP LPVO, whose Dragoon MOA reticle has markings to adjust for bullet drop over distance. Since the reticle and target are both magnified, your holdovers will stay the same no matter if you are zoomed in at 1x, 3x, 6x, or anywhere in between.

Second Focal Plane

In an SFP riflescope, the reticle is located between the rear ocular lens and magnification assembly, positioning it closer to the shooter’s eye. This enables the reticle to stay the same size while the target grows and shrinks with magnification. When shooting, an SFP reticle’s ballistic and distance measurements will change when zoomed in and out, often requiring the use of DOPE charts.

Example: This time, you’re ranging on a target at 200 yards. Your Swampfox Arrowhead 1-8x SFP LPVO has markings on its Guerrilla Dot MIL Long reticle that help adjust for wind but are only accurate when zoomed in fully at 8x power. If you zoom out, the target will get smaller, but the reticle will remain the same size, impacting the accuracy of your windage readings and shot.

Use Cases

Like firearms, consider use case when deciding between FFP and SFP optics. Whether hunting, competing, or shooting recreationally, consider how you'll be using the riflescope.

If you're going to be shooting at varying distances and need to make quick adjustments – like when big game hunting – an FFP optic might be better. However, if you're primarily going to be shooting at known distances, like an established 50-yard outdoor range, or if you're on a budget, an SFP scope may be a better choice.

Because first focal plane optics offer better accuracy at varying distances, FFP scopes are best used when long-range precision matters, such as big game hunting, competitive shooting, and military/tactical applications. Second focal plane scopes, however, are often lighter weight and simpler to shoot, making SFP optics ideal for close-range hunting, tactical, and defensive applications. Either FFP or SFP can be used for basic target shooting at the range.

Pros & Cons

First Focal Plane

Advantages of FFP:

  • Constant subtension allows for accurate ballistic holdovers at any magnification
  • Magnified reticles improve visibility of enlarged holdover markings
  • Potential for increased accuracy at higher powers

Disadvantages of FFP:

  • Reticle may appear too small at low magnification or too large at high magnification
  • Magnified reticles may cover small targets at high power
  • FFP optics are usually more expensive than SFP scopes

Second Focal Plane

Advantages of SFP:

  • Easier to aim, as the reticle stays the same size regardless of magnification
  • Less complicated internals often mean SFP scopes are lighter weight than FFP optics
  • SFP optics are generally less expensive than FFP scopes

Disadvantages of SFP:

  • Subtensions change with magnification, requiring more quick math when shooting
  • Reticle markings are only accurate at one specific magnification setting, usually the highest
  • SFP optics are prone to parallax error, though this can be corrected on optics with parallax adjustment dials

Swampfox Optics

Swampfox offers both first focal plane and second focal plane optics across our series of LPVO and precision riflescopes. Whether you’re military or law enforcement, a hunter or competitive shooter, or just a recreational range goer, we have the scope for your every need.

FFP Optics:

SFP Optics:

Try Swampfox optics risk-free with our money-back satisfaction guarantee. If FFP or SFP isn't right for you, simply return your scope within 30 days and exchange it for the other or a full refund.