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Am I getting on the right plane?

Today we have a guest blog from reader Ian who we all know as 45Bravo. He will give you his observations on first focal plane (FFP) scopes.

If you’d like to write a guest post for this blog, please email me at blogger@pyramydair.com.

Take it away, Ian.

Am I getting on the right plane?

This report covers:

  • First Focal Plane scope
  • Too much stuff
  • I LIKE IT! 

Am I getting on the right plane? That is a question I am sure every traveler that has flown has asked themselves at least once. But today that question is not about traveling, it is referring to First Focal Plane and Second Focal Plane rifle scopes. Also called FFP and SFP respectively.

The most common scopes on the market are of the Second Focal Plane variety, meaning when you increase the magnification of the scope the cross hairs or reticle will stay the same size while the image seems to get larger. 

The problem with this type of scope is that as you change the magnification, your dots or hold over points will change in relation to the target. If you are zeroed at 20 yards and you hold 1 mil dot higher for a 40 yard shot with the scope at 10x magnification, when you change to 14x you may have to hold over 2 or 3 dots to hit the same place on the target. 

If you are using the reticle for range estimation, the instructions that come with the scope will tell you what magnification the scope is calibrated for. 

Using an example of a scope that is calibrated at 10x, a piece of 8.5×11 inch paper may appear to be 4 dots tall in your scope. If you change to a lower magnification, then the same piece of paper may appear to be only 2 dots tall at the same distance when viewed through the scope at 4x. 

I hope this makes sense, and is not as clear as mud. 

First Focal Plane scope

The First Focal Plane scopes are different, in that the size of the reticle increases and decreases as you change magnification. So a piece of paper that is 4 dots tall at 6x will also be 4 dots tall when viewed at 20x. 

zoom range
This is how the reticle of a First Focal Plane scope appears as you change magnification.

For a shooter this means if you hold over 2 dots at a given range, you will always hold over 2 dots when your target is that distance, no matter what magnification you use. 

The downside of a FFP scope as you can see from the graphic above is if you are at a lower magnification, your cross hairs may be too small for some hunting purposes to make a fast shot at closer ranges. But the illuminated reticle seems to help nullify that drawback. 

That brings us to the subject of today’s blog. I bought a new First Focal Plane scope. 

Until this purchase all of my scopes have been of the SFP (Second Focal Plane) variety, so I am entering uncharted territory.

I had pre ordered an Air Venturi Avenger Bullpup and wanted a nice scope for it. After a lot of internet searching and looking at entirely too many scopes, of all prices, there were just so many to choose from it made my head hurt, so I put it on a back burner until my rifle came in. 

Too much stuff

While cruising a gun show there was a vendor there who was based out of Dallas that imports the Sniper brand scopes from China. I had seen this brand of products online many times and seen a few in person on airsoft guns and air guns I have worked on in the past. The scopes I had seen in the past from this company I felt were low quality gimmicks with too much stuff mounted on the scopes.

You know the ones with a small fixed 4x scope with an extra red dot, a laser, and a set of fiber optic pistol sights all attached to the scope, looking like the accouterments had hopped onto the scope for a ride to the range. 

Too much stuff
Yeah — like anyone is going to ever use a scope with all that extra stuff!

But on his table I saw many nice looking side focus 30mm tube FFP and SFP scopes with nice clear glass etched reticles, with red/green illumination, push pull locking turrets, a larger wheel for the side focus parallax knob, a sunshade, nitrogen purged, waterproof, fog proof, “shockproof” (more on that later) and a lifetime warranty!

We talked about scopes for a while and since he was the importer he was asking questions about airguns, we discussed specifically what an airgun does to them during the shot cycle. 

I looked at several models, he even allowed me to take some outside to see how they were in natural light. 

I eventually chose a side focus 5-25x50mm First Focal Plane scope with a 30mm tube, 1/4 moa adjustments, and resettable zero locking turrets. The scope retails for $320, as this was his open box display unit, he let me have it for $150.  

Sniper 5-25
Sniper 5-25X50 FFP scope. This is Sniper model number ZT5-25X50FFP.

I chose the 5-25 power scope because I sometimes like to shoot offhand, and a lower magnification doesn’t show my wiggles and jiggles as much, but I still have the option to shoot from a bench at 25X. I like the fact I can shoot at different distances on 6x standing, 12x sitting or kneeling, and 25x from the bench and not have to have a scope holdover chart for each magnification.

I mounted the new scope on my .22 caliber wooden stocked Avenger with a known ability to shoot well. 

The scope came with a Picatinny cantilever mount that fit the Avenger perfectly on the rear part of the scope rail, and still had room to clear the magazine.

So what do I think about a FFP scope?


At all magnifications it has the ability to focus from 8 yards, out to infinity. The yardage markings on the side focus knob seem to match the distances shown with my handheld laser range finder out past 100 yards.  

8 yards resolution
The image is perfectly clear at 8 yards with 25x magnification, with the text easily readable, the image of the target appears fuzzy in the photo because it is at the maximum resolution at which my cell phone scope cam is capable. 

The reticle is graduated in 1/2 mil increments. 

reticle legend
The A & B letters are not in the actual scope, just indicated here so you can see what parts of the reticle correspond to full and half mil dot spacing. 

The scope has a clear image, even indoors under less than ideal fluorescent lighting, and the red/green illumination only illuminates the middle crosshairs and lower vertical scale, with no interior blooming or glare like less expensive illuminated scopes seem to have. [Editor’s note: On less expensive scopes with wire reticles, when the reticle is illuminated you can see light reflecting off the dark interior surfaces of the scope. This is what Ian is calling bloom.]

no bloom
There is no internal blooming of the reticle. 

I like the fact that I can hold the same aim point for a given distance no matter what magnification I am using. 

I mounted the scope to a workbench, and using a 6 inch x 6 inch card at 50 yards, I set the crosshairs on the top left corner of the card, then adjusted the scope around the card from corner to corner. Counting clicks as I went, it returned to the starting place with no problems within 2 clicks of where it should have been. I did tap the turrets after every adjustment just to counter any stiction it may have.

Now for the bad news, it is shockproof, but not springer rated, the manufacturer says it is rated for a magnum centerfire rifle, but not a .50 BMG cartridge.  So in the airgun world that will limit its use to PCP/CO2 or single/multi stroke pneumatics only.

The included cantilever mount is also decent quality and made of nicely machined aluminum, but it also has one feature that I was not surprised to see from this company….

There is a short piece of Picatinny rail machined into part of one of the scope rings. It is there just waiting for some accessory to hop onto the scope for a trip to the range…

Pic rail

Be safe.


author avatar
Tom Gaylord (B.B. Pelletier)
Tom Gaylord, also known as B.B. Pelletier, provides expert insights to airgunners all over the world on behalf of Pyramyd AIR. He has earned the title The Godfather of Airguns™ for his contributions to the industry, spending many years with AirForce Airguns and starting magazines dedicated to the sport such as Airgun Illustrated.

35 thoughts on “Am I getting on the right plane?”

  1. Ian,

    Nice report, but….
    All you need is another column on your dope card for SFP. What is so hard about one mil-radian = 10 cm a 100 meters @ 10X? So at 50 meters it is 2 cm. 25 meters it is 1 cm. At 16X and 50 meters it is 3.2 cm. At 25 meters on 4X= 2.5 cm. What is so difficult about that????

    IMHO, MOA scope reticles are worthless for springers. To many hash marks to count! Since I shoot Hunter FT, I do not care about anything over 16X. However, when they changed the rules for 14 X to 16 X, I wish they would have gone to 18 X, the math is easier…

    In FFP scopes one of the lenses at the front is the one that has the reticle etched in it. On SFP scopes the reticle is etched on the last glass element. I believe that this provides a cleaner image than when the scope is marked earlier in the glass array. Just my $0.02.


    • You give me too much credit in the math department…
      I understand the 10cm at 100 and so on, at 10x, but rarely do I shoot at 10x only.

      Math makes my head hurt.

      With anSFP scope, I have always chosen a magnification and learned the hold overs for that magnification, and put a reticle reference in my scope cap.

      I small game hunt and long range plink more than I do FT.
      THe ranges are always different, and sometimes I don’t have the time to figure how many centimeters at what distance before the squirrelly little animal gets restless and decides to go to a new distance (hence the adjective squirrelly refers to a restless nervous and unpredictable creature).

      For me, the FFP makes more sense on my PCP guns.

      Yes a Bugbuster scope will always reside on myAirArms pro-sport (my only springer).

      True, I will probably never use more than 10x offhand, unless I am resting against a tree or fence post.

      And now that several of us have started shooting long range. (100 yard plus), from a bench, the higher magnification helps immensely to see the tiny holes in the target.


      • Ian,

        My hunting gun has a 3-9 front AO scope on it. Before I shoot, I estimate range to target, turn A/O to proper close setting, turn magnification to appropiate setting, IE 4X at 10-15 yards, 9X at 60 yards, and everything in between. At shorter ranges out to 25 yards, I shot dead on. At longer ranges I holdover depending on range and magnification.

        I had a great 4th grade math teacher, we called her Battle-Axe Baxter! She made sure I GOT IT!


        PS take 2 aspirin for your head ache. Can you convert BAR to PSI on your PCP’s?

        • I can only do that conversion with the help of SIRI.

          my college algebra professor once told me I would use algebra every day I said I doubt that.

          He knew i shot competition.

          He brought up that bullet drop is algebra.
          He asked what I was shooting this weekend I told him 1000 yard high power rifle.

          He asked what caliber and distances.
          I told him 300, 500 and 1000..

          He asked what caliber and bullet weight velocity and ballistic coefficient.

          I told him.

          He said let’s see who can figure out the bullet drops first.

          He started doing math, I wrote my numbers on a piece of paper.

          When he finished a few minutes later he asked to see my numbers
          My 1000 yard numbers were different than his by 10 inches.

          He asked if I could do the math in my head why can’t I do it in class.
          I told him t didn’t do it in my head.

          When he asked where did I come up with those numbers,

          I just told him lots of practice.

          And yet another day I didn’t use algebra Dr. Malone.

        • Shootski,I found out that 1 MIL=3.4377 MOA, and that there’s shootersMOA, SMOA, and true MOA. So, 10x with MIL
          reticle can be converted to true MOA by downsizing the zoom to 8.6 power, or 9x if you have SMOA reticle. I read to round up the MOA value to 4. to make it easier to convert MILS to MOA. with a SMOA reticle (1/4″ @100yds) but I dont do that with my cheap scopes. Something else to fool with today.
          There can’t always be a mil dot in exactly the right spot can there, so the shooter needs to interpolate sometimes. I could see a FFP scope with with mildots being a good thing.

          • 1stblue,

            Field expedients for when their cellphone battery go dead.
            I still memorize important phone numbers by dialing them on my smartphone also use mental math and pencil and paper! I also never gave up my Govt Issue Grease Pen and Lexan kneeboard sheet.


        • Man, who’s idea of a relaxing day of shooting/hunting includes a bunch of metric/imperial ballistic calculations? My Marauder pistol is +3 dots to the pellet trap in the garage, +2 dots to the treehouse, dead on to the top branches of the cherry tree, and -1 to top of the neighbors fence (but let’s not mention that to him).

  2. Ian

    Many thanks for this report on FFP scopes. Finally I clearly understand the advantage over SFP scopes. Until now I knew the disadvantages only. Once again thanks for sharing your first experience with a FFP scope.

    As Siraniko said above, it would be nice if this scope was okay for break barrel air guns. BB says airgun growth now is for hunting and long range shooting. Both would seem suitable for FFP scopes for some folks but I’m thinking far more break barrels are used for hunting than pneumatics.


  3. Ian,

    Thanks for this look at FFP scopes and how they are used. I personally do not have much use for these as I always prefer low power, even on my PCPs. I also rarely adjust the power. If I was shooting competition, I would most definitely go with a FFP and would really like to give one a try.

    Do not let Yogi get to you. He is a hard core sproinger dude. Most FFPs will not take what sproingers dish out. I also understand his point concerning the actual reticle. He cannot reach out to where that type of reticle will really work.

    Now, as for those mounts, you are supposed to mount a dot sight up there for quick, close in shooting when you do not have time to fiddle with the scope. If you are using that particular airgun and that particular scope for benchrest, you do not need that. I myself like those mounts.

    • What I found most unusual about the mounts, is that picatinny rail is between you and the scope turret.

      It should be on the other side of the turret.

      My rifle that scope will probably end up on has some droop, so I have ordered a couple of new mounts that adjust for elevation, and one that adjust for both windage and elevation.

      All I need is a zero at 50 yards, and then enough reticle view to get me out to 100 and beyond..

      If my calculations are correct thank you Chairgun (and they probably aren’t) my 10yard and my 100 yard aim point SHOULD be the same.

      Report on those mounts will be in the future.


      • 45Bravo,

        Very clear reporting on FFL vs SFP scopes without the usual errors in description of pros and cons. I can deal with either even learned to live with MILDOT reticals on MOA SFP before MRAD scopes more more available. The WHISKEY 3 scopes on my SIG ASP’s are the first scopes in decades that are back to SFP switch hitters. No clue WHO at SIG was in charge of that decision!?!?
        Ian you said:
        “What I found most unusual about the mounts, is that picatinny rail is between you and the scope turret” i kept looking at the picture as i tried to read on because it bothered me so much! I like to dial Elevation and always do a last check of the windage turret before i pull the trigger… just to be certain that windage was really by choice not by oversight. S0, I have a theory: the factory assemblers were clueless or they were messing with folks! Move/switch the rear ring top half to the front cradle and vice versa; hopefully they fit. Looks like a good spot for a small LASER sight for real close shots when pesting or “JUMPED” by a Song Dog.

        Hope that swap works!


        PS: I like the design of the magnification quick throw lever.

        • Yes the swap does work the scope rings are symmetrical front/back.

          I think the assembly line that assembled the scope mounts probably just don’t have a clue.

          I let a lot of people shoot my guns trying to get them involved into the Hobby.
          Some of them are powder burners, some of them are just other Airgunner that have not explored the PCP world yet

          I always look at my turrets before I shoot to see if anyone has adjusted them away from zero because some people are clickers, and some just want to see how smooth or positive the adjustments are.

          With that rail piece in the way I cannot see it.


          • Ian,

            Glad you can swap them.
            I also enjoy introducing folks to the accuracy potential of airguns both at 10M with Olympic level PCP’s and then to the power of Big Bore airguns at 100 plus; the look of astonishment is worth the cost of the TINY (What most of them notice first.) targets, ammo, and air.


        • Some of the most fun that someone can have is hand someone a daisy 853 with a bug buster scope on it
          and setting up TicTac’s empty 22 rimfire hulls and other things at 10-15 yards
          the Rifle is capable of doing it it’s only $115 used from the CMP and people are truly astounded at how small of a target they can really hit

  4. Thanks for the report Ian, looks like you got an excellent bargain on that scope!

    Know what you mean about researching products on the web – information-overload and information-contradiction headaches! Reading customer reviews is really confusing – talk about extremes! Just went through that looking for some special purpose fly fishing lines. They are ordered now so I’m glad that’s done! Now I have to wait 3 months until ice-out to find out if I made the right choices.

    I recently went through the FFP/SFP thing and stayed with the SFP design. For long range shooting I’m going to try dialing instead of holding over with mil-dots.

    Scopes are a confusing subject eh? What you need depends alot on how you are going to use it. I shoot at minimum magnification (off-hand) most of the time and get used to the reticle as is. I use higher magnification and the center of the cross hairs when tuning/testing and shooting from a bench so the so the mil-dots are pretty much redundant. SFP works for me. 🙂

    Think that most people have way more scope ($$$, magnification, weight) than they really need/use – I know I do for most of my rifles LOL!

    I got a light weight, 4x fixed power scope for my HW30 and am liking it very much. The plain duplex reticle is a refreshing change from the busy/cluttered reticles that are on most of my scopes.

    Thanks again for the report!

    • I know what you mean about too much scope and money.

      I keep a 3-9 bugbuster on my prosport it’s strong, and a proven scope, it gives me plenty of room to load the pellet, and doesn’t add much weight to a rifle that is already sneaking up on 10 lbs..

      And 9x is more than enough to get me out to 50-60yards, which is about the limit I can reliably make shots with it.

      I have never liked clicking for adjustments, I invariably forgot to return it back to my zero before taking the next shot at a squirrel.

      Or the next trip to the range, it would be 20 clicks from where I needed it.

      Some people like manual transmissions, some like automatic, I like a manual transmission in my car, and an at this point in time, an automatic reticle on my rifle.

      That may change as I shoot the gun/scope combination more.


      • Ian,

        Agree that clicking the elevation for each shot would be a pain and also very easy to lose track of where you were or just plain forget to reset the zero. None of my old scopes are really suitable for “dialing”, so I’ve always just held over or more recently, used the mil-dots for long shots.

        With the increased popularity of long range shooting, scopes designed for “dialing” have a zero reset stop, positive detents and tall turrets for adding stickers with ranges marked on them.

        Don’t know but considering that many airguns now have the power and accuracy to be effective at well beyond the usual point-blank (20 to 35 yard) range, dialing in the range might prove useful as the trajectory curve gets more pronounced.

        Anyway, that’s the reason I picked up an Elements Helix 6-24×50 for my Impact – I want to see how well dialing works for me. Will let you know once the weather warms up enough to shoot outside.


  5. Good report, giving FM food for future scoping thought; inspired him to take advantage of a nice Florida day and give the Tru Glo globe sight one more try with the HW95 – success! FM did a couple of counter-intuitive things during the sight-in process. Or maybe he just had the elevation and windage adjustments bass-ackwards.

    Despite the media hype about “frozen iguanas” down in these latitudes, not a one in sight (no pun intended) in FM’s neighborhood. Now we’ll have to wait and see if the groundhog shows up Feb 2nd.

  6. Ian,
    I was offline yesterday, and just read your report now…great job! You did very well at explaining the differences between SFP (which is all I have currently) and FFP scopes; thank you! 🙂
    Take care & good luck with your awesome new scope,

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