Sorry for posting the whole thing guys. Maybe this will settle the dispute.

XII. Accuracy

C. Miscellaneous

4. What is a Minute of Angle (MOA)?

by Robert W. Current (

[email protected]) and Trevor M. Riedemann (

[email protected]) .

It is a measurement of angle, a subdivision of a degree. There are 360 degrees in a full circle

4 quadrants = 1 circle

90 degrees = 1 quadrant

60 minutes = 1 degree

60 seconds = 1 minute

21,600 minutes = 1 circle

So they are all just measurements of an angle, should be listed in any fact finder or such.

The reason it is so widely used in the shooting sports is because if you measure an angle of one minute the lines almost run parallel at short distances, but at long distances you can see them separate. And quite conveniently they separate to 1 inch apart when you get 100 yards from the point they cross. That works out great for measuring rifle accuracy (in an idealized situation, no wind, ...):

Shots spread at an angle, increasing group size as distance from the target increases.

Diagram 1

"M" is the muzzle and "d" is the distance to the target, now it is easy to see the closer you are to the Target, the more likely you are to hit it (we all know that, at least intuitively) and it can be seen it is some function of an angle. That is why accuracy is ideally measured in angles not just shot spread.

So, if you have a 1 Minute of Angle (1 MOA) rifle, you can expect about one inch groups at 100 yards, 2 inch groups at 200 yards, 3 inch groups at 300 yards.

To explain this if full detail requires the use of trigonometry/geometry:

Diagram 2

At a distance of 100 yards from the target, length "d" on the diagram, you shoot a group that measures one inch, segment "C" on the diagram.

Then:

tan(q/2) = C/2d

(look at the addendum below to see how this is found)

Solving for theta

q = 2 tan-1(C/2d)

For C = 1 inch

d = 100 yards = 3600 inches

q = 0.0159155 degrees = 0.9549 arcmin

Alternatively this can be made by an approximation:

S = Rq

where q is in radians solve for theta

q = S/R

S is approximately equal to C (1.0000004" ~ 1")

R is approximately equal to d (100.000001 yards ~ 100 yards)

q = C/d = 1 inch/3600 inch = 0.00027777 radians = 0.9549 arcmin

So, your one inch group at 100 yards is really 0.95 MOA group!

Want to go into more detail? Well a degree is symbolized by a little o above and to the right of the number, a minute is symbolized by a single apostrophe (') and a second is abbreviated with a double apostrophe ("). You know what that means? I could say I shot a 1' group (a "one minute" group), and it could mean I shot a group that was 0.95 inches at 100 yards, or even a 1.8 inch group at 200 yards. This use of the symbols is really one of my pet peeves, that I never really rant about, I just let people sound silly and laugh to myself later. I shot a 1" group. Wow, did I read that article right, he said 1" that is one second right? It has to be, he didn't say 1 inch at a 100 yard distance, he didn't even mention distance, so he must be reporting accuracy in MOA, and that would work out to be 1/60 (one sixtieth) of an inch at 100 yards. Man those guys are so good, I must really suck, I will never be able to shoot that well.

But, even this all seems to be an ideal way of measuring things for shooting, you have to keep in mind that the real world is rarely ideal. You really have to take a few more things into a