Nikon BDC Reticle Scope
When you hear the name “Nikon” most folks think of high end digital cameras and lenses. And it makes sense, it’s what they’ve built their ubiquitous optics brand with.

Lesser known to some is that they’ve also gotten into the firearm optical business, and have rolled out several high end hunting and sport scopes, like the Nikon P223.

Beyond just quality, clear lenses, one of Nikon’s features that separates it out from other scopes on the market is their Nikon BDC Reticle.

This novel invention is a combination of reticle and Web App that can give you accurate bullet trajectory calculations for your specific shooting setup.

Taking in custom information like zero distance, scope magnification, bullet speed, ammo type and more, these tools do the number crunching to provide you with the most accurate shot information, before you pull the trigger.

So let’s talk about how the BDC reticle can help you get on target.

What does BDC Mean?

BDC stands for Bullet Drop Compensation, but before we compensate for it we need to get a better understanding of bullet drop itself.

Every time you fire a gun it is essentially a case study in external ballistics. As the bullet is propelled out from the gun barrel and acts as a projectile it is subject to all the projectile motion physics equations we learned (or slept through) in high school.

The instant the bullet is unsupported by the barrel it immediately begins to fall towards the ground due to gravity. In fact, a bullet being shot out of horizontal a gun falls at the same speed as one that is simply dropped from the same height. Think differently? Check out the Mythbusters prove it here:



That’s right. Bullets follow the same motions as any other thrown object; a baseball, football, or even a trebuchet. In all these cases the vertical movement (the rising or falling) of the projectiles is independent of its horizontal movement.

If you were to fire a gun horizontally the bullet actually never rises above the height at which it was shot at.

So how does this fit in to our shooting? Well every time we zero out our rifle we’re compensating for how much the bullet drops in the time it takes to travel down range the distance to our target.

We are adjusting the barrel angle so that it launches our bullet out on a slight upward angle, creating a parabolic trajectory. This trajectory takes the bullet on a curved path higher until it reaches its peak, at which point it begins to descend.

Bullet Drop Illustration

This is what causes the common mis-conception that a “bullet rises” as it leaves the barrel. The bullet “rise” is caused from the barrel being angled slightly upwards, which initially sends the bullet on an upward path above the barrel itself.

But the fact remains true that the gravitational forces on the bullet cause an immediate drop relative to the barrel angle. So in a sense the bullet does “rise” and “drop” depending on how you define the terms.

By zeroing our gun we’re calibrating the sights with the barrel angle so the bullet is fired at the perfect trajectory that crosses the scopes’ line of sight at our target distance. Simple physics.

How the Nikon BDC Reticle Works

Nikon BDC Reticle
Say we’ve got a rifle zeroed in at 100 yards. Great, that means our bullets will impact a target at 100 yards right where our center crosshair is aimed. But what if our target is beyond 100 yards and we’re not zeroed for that distance?

Reticles typically have multiple holdover aiming points which can help with this. But without a lot of hands on shooting experience, or being able to do some quick math in your head, it’s tough to estimate which point to utilize.

That’s where the Nikon BDC Reticle steps in. With it the guesswork of choosing which aiming point to use for long distance shots is taken away.

The BDC reticle is found in a handful of popular Nikon scopes. It has a duplex crosshair design with a number of see-through ballistic aim points aligned below the center.

The real magic happens when you pair this with Nikon’s Spot On Web App. This is where you enter specific information about your rifle setup and it will do all the calculations to provide a nifty little printout telling you what distance each aim-point is zeroed at.

Nikon Spot On App
Here’s the steps for getting it to work.

  1. Take your gun to the range and zero it out at the distance of your choice. When you do this use the ammo you plan on using when shooting in the future. The BDC calibration that is going to be done is specific to this ammo type.
  2. Go to
  3. Follow the steps there to enter all the information about your setup: Scope, Ammo type, and zero distance.
  4. Hit Fire! And check out the results on the right. It is a printable diagram that shows the zero distance of each aim-point.
  5. Print this out and tape it to the stock of your gun for easy reference.
  6. On your next shoot, do a range estimate to your target and use the aim-point which is closest to that distance.

Here’s a great example of how the Nikon BDC is used in a real hunting scenario:



Our Favorite Nikon BDC Scope

Nikon Carbine Scope

We’ve had a lot of positive experience with the Nikon P-233 3×32 and its BDC reticle which we’ve reviewed here.

The P-233 was built with the AR platform specifically in mind, and has a fixed 3x magnification with a 32mm objective lens. Nikon has built its brand with quality lenses and this one provides 98% light transmission for a bright image.

A weight of 12.2oz and an 8.1″ overall length makes it suitable for most shorter barrel ARs. And the 3.4″ eye relief gives the shooter plenty of recoil protection. Users report being able to consistently hit 2″ plates at 200+ yards.

This is one of the sturdies scopes we’ve used, giving good tactile clicks with each adjustment of the turrets. And its matte black finish will keep it concealed from scouting eyes while you are taking it out in the dark or woods.

Although the price is on the higher side at $130.00, you are definitely paying for the quality in this case.

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