This article goes into detail about the etched glass reticle
on a rifle scope. We’re going to talk about exactly what it is and the benefits
of etched glass versus using a wire reticle.
Because believe it or not, there is a pretty big difference!
With optics, quality is everything. A cheap scope is going
to be made, well cheaply.
This includes the turrets, the glass, the tube, everything.
And an etched glass reticle is definitely something that would need to be put
into the quality statement.
Let’s take a look at etched glass reticles and wire reticles
and then go into why one is better than the other.
The discussion about
etched glass should start with the study of wire reticles.
Originally, reticles were made out of hair (animal and human
hair) or even spider webs. Needless to say, this didn’t exactly prove to be the
highest quality approach!
Hair and spider webs were prone to break and shift their
positions. Sometimes the would just disappear from the scope. Compact Binoculars Leupold
I mean, imagine being in the middle of hunting or in a
battle, going to aim through your scope, and the reticle isn’t there.
So the community innovated and upgraded these reticles to be
wires. This approach allowed the reticle to be sturdier and they would be break
But still, a piece of wire on top of the glass leaves room
for improvement. Etched glass reticles tend to come on the higher end scopes.
Still, many modern scopes use wire reticles. Typically
they’re used to make cross hairs, and features like MOA and MIL adjustments are
harder to do.
Etched Glass Reticles
All the high end scopes use etched glass reticles nowadays.
The advantages are numerous, but primarily they work better because:
They tend to be much more precise
Provides the ability to customize the reticle, including
hash marks and bullet drop compensators
For instance, see the Athlon Argos BTR Reticle below. This
has hash marks representing 0.1 Milliradians in length. This makes it much more
efficient to switch where you’re aiming.
Much more durable – wire can break, and unless you break the
glass of an etched glass reticle, they’re going to stay intact
Typically they come with ED glass
Now, you might read somewhere that etched glass reticles are
weaker than wire reticles. To which I say – where are you getting this from?
Unless you literally destroy the glass, the reticle is going
to stay intact.
Etched glass reticles are usually cut with a laser at the
manufacturing plant. They cost more because this process needs to be extremely
After the laser cut process, a thin piece of glass (which
will also be coated like the lens) is placed on top of the reticle.
Wire Vs Etched
Which one you choose will probably depend more on your
budget than anything. As mentioned earlier, the process for making an etched
glass reticle is much more complicated and precise.
As a result, this makes wire reticles cheaper, typically
Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are of less
quality. ED glass and tube construction tends to define a scope as higher
quality, as durability and glass clarity tend to make a difference in the long
That being said, complex reticle design isn’t possible with
a wire reticle, at least not the way it is for etched glass.
A lot of low cost hunting scopes use wire reticles, one in
particular being the Neos line of hunting scopes from Athlon.
These are by no means poor quality, in fact they get 5 star
reviews all the time! Like I said earlier, quality in a rifle scope tends to be
associated with overall construction and the glass quality.
That being said, as more of a precision shooter myself, I
prefer spending the extra money for etched glass and the type of reticle design
that comes with something like the Helos BTR.
One thing to keep in
mind though is how the adjustment of the reticle is affected by the difference
in reticle type.
For instance, a wire reticle is adjusted via the wind and
elevation turrets. The accuracy of the crosshair movement is dependent on how
accurate the turret movements are. Best Rangefinder Binoculars
An etched reticle is different. The entire lens moves with
an etched glass reticle.
This means the accuracy of the scope is dependent on the
integrity of the lens system. If that goes out, the scope could be compromised,
and it’s tough to fix.
But any high quality rifle scope comes with an excellent
warranty. Companies like Athlon and Vortex do lifetime warranties, so if the
integrity of the system goes out you can get it replaced.