Step-By-Step Instructions

      This instruction manual is presented for information purposes only.
      Neither the author nor the website host will be held accountable for
      the use or misuse of the information on this page.

Step 1:
Preparation. Buy a non-magnum bolt-action deer rifle larger then .22 caliber and install a scope with a mil-dot reticule and finger-adjustable dials. On non-German scopes the mil-dots are only accurate at the highest power, so you may want to tape the power dial (duct tape use #857) so it cannot be turned down. Sight the weapon in to hit dead-on at 300 yards.
Step 2: Measuring Angles. Just as mechanics must be familiar with both English wrenches calibrated in fractions of an inch and metric wrenches calibrated in millimeters, snipers must be familiar with both the English measure of angles, minutes of angle (MOA), which are one sixtieth of a degree, and the metric measure of angles, milliradians (mils), which are one thousandth the distance out to the target. However, unlike automobiles which require either an English or a metric set of wrenches, but not both, the dials on your scope are calibrated in MOA while the reticule measures mills. A mil is about three times bigger than an MOA.
Step 3: Holdover. If you know the size of some item like a garage door (they are all 84" in both rich and poor neighborhoods), then its apparent size in your scope, measured in mills, is inversely proportional to its distance. For example, a garage door that measures four mils is twice as far away as one that measures eight mills. If you have memorized the information on the card labeled "The Aguilar System for Medium Range Sniping," then you know that the former requires three mils of holdover (hold the third mil-dot down from the crosshairs on the soon-to-be-departed man's belt buckle) while the latter requires holding dead-on. The items we are using are garage doors, storefront doors, cars and vans. This does not mean you will be shooting at doors and vehicles; you will be shooting at soldiers standing nearby. No such men are pictured in the photos because I couldn't find any volunteers when I told them that the job title was "target." You'll just have to imagine that they're there.
Step 4: Windage. Once you've determined the proper holdover, you also know the windage needed for a 10 mph crosswind. Holdover and windage are printed in adjacent columns on the "The Aguilar System for Medium Range Sniping," chart. Note that holdover is measured in mils while windage is measured in MOA. You will not touch your elevation dial in the field - you just hold on the mil-dots. But you do use your windage dial, which is why it must be finger-adjustable and why the windage column is in MOA. If there is only a five mph wind, halve the adjustment listed for a ten mph wind.
Step 5: K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid. In combat, you have only one important question to ask yourself: What the hell am I doing here? Just kidding. That's a good question, but I was actually refering to the one important technical question: How do I convert the input data (apparent size of the target, in mills) into the output data (holdover, in mills)? The Aguilar System for Medium Range Sniping converts the input data directly into the output data, with no unnecessary detours. Such "fun facts" as the number of yards out to the target or the number of inches below the aiming point you would have hit had you held dead-on are irrelevant and should be ignored.

The fact that ammunition manufacturers print their data sheets in what is certainly the most useless format conceivable (yards to the target and inches below the bullseye) has contributed to a tremendous amount of confusion in the general public. It's not that the data is wrong, it is just that nothing on your scope measures, or is calibrated in, yards or inches. Scopes measure angles (the apparent size of a target) and have dials calibrated in angles (elevation and windage). Most people who claim to "know all about" mil-dot scopes will demonstrate this knowledge by first figuring out the yardage to the target, then figuring out how many inches below it they would hit if they held dead-on and then how many MOA to hold over the target. Then they have to figure out how many inches to the side they would have missed due to wind at that yardage and, finally, how many MOA to hold into the wind. By the time they've done all those calculations, it's too dark to shoot.

"Mil-dot rangefinding requires a time-consuming mathematical process to use," writes Chuck Taylor, explaining why police snipers are routinely outmaneuvered by civilian snipers in fast-paced urban combat. Source: "All About Tactical Scopes" in Guns and Weapons for Law Enforcement, November, 2008. Write a letter to the editor and complain about this idiot!

By using the Aguilar System for Medium Range Sniping, which considers only angles, you should be able to fire within five seconds of locating the enemy and without taking your eyes off him. This is important because you probably only detected the tiniest hint of movement in the rubble. If you have to look away to operate a laser rangefinder and/or a slide rule, you may not be able to find him again. Also, if you are firing from darkness into light, illuminating your slide rule with a flashlight is a mistake.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Do I tack the cards to the wall and look at them through my rifle scope?  How far back do I stand?
Answer: No. You hold the cards in your hand and look at them through a transparent plastic card with a mil-dot reticule printed on it.  After measuring an object (like a car or door) of known height, you say how much holdover and windage you would give a target at that location.  Then you turn the card over in your hand to see if your answer matches what is printed on the back.  It is just like the animation on the home page.

This is the same way that people learn vocabulary when studying a foreign language.  Since speed is important, you should shuffle the cards and then time yourself on a stopwatch to see if you can go through the entire pack at an average pace of five seconds per card.

The cards are labeled "marksman," "sharpshooter," "expert" or "master."  I recommend that you omit the expert- and master-level cards from the pack until you have gotten the hang of the Aguilar System for Medium-Range Sniping.  Then add the expert-level cards to your pack.  Do not add the master-level cards unless you actually are a master shot, as determined by the military or the NRA.  There is no point memorizing holdover and windage for targets that you do not have the skill to hit.
Q: You say that the Aguilar system works for any "non-magnum bolt-action deer rifle larger than .22 caliber." That description includes a lot of different rifles. Don't they all have unique ballistics? Which one do you recommend?

Yes, the Aguilar system works for every rifle in that category though, for small-caliber rifles like the 6 mm Rem., the .243 Win. or the 25-06 Rem., one must pick the heaviest available bullet. The following chart is from Federal’s free downloadable ballistics software:

Federal's software can only print six trajectories at a time. Omitted were the 6mm Rem. with a100-grain Nosler Partition, the .243 Win. with a 100-grain Sierra BTSP and the 7mm-08 Rem. with a 140-grain Nosler Ballistic Tip. However, I assure you that all three of their trajectories are inside the printed group.

Which is the best caliber? I have said elsewhere, and you can see from the chart, that the .308 is the worst of the bunch. This has led people to think that I am critical of the .308, which is not true. If one uses match-grade ammunition, not hunting ammunition, it is perfect for the Aguilar System. Match-grade ammunition is readily available because of the M1A's popularity with National Match competitors, so this is not a problem. In fact, the M1A is not much less accurate than a bolt-action rifle and it is not a bad choice for urban combat if fitted with a scope.

Which is the best bolt-action rifle? The Aguilar System works for all of them, so it really depends on your non-martial interest in shooting. Varmint shooters are generally better marksmen than deer hunters because they get more practice. So, if you live in the West, get a small caliber like the .25-06. If you live in the North or in bear country, get a big caliber like the .30-06. The .270 is probably the best all-around rifle, reliably taking everything from gophers to elk. It and the .30-06 have identical wind drift, while the .25-06 is slightly worse, though still within the Aguilar System guidelines.

Q: I own a sniper rifle and use 173- or 175-grain BTHP bullets, which have a higher ballistic coefficient than the hunting bullets that the Aguilar System is calibrated for. Does the Aguilar System work for me?

The Aguilar System is calibrated for the average trajectory of non-magnum hunting ammunition and the .308 Winchester is the worst of the bunch. But 173- or 175-grain BTHP bullets flatten out its trajectory so the Aguilar System is almost exactly right for military sniper rifles.

Q: I own a rifle with a long barrel, which gives it a higher muzzle velocity even when using factory ammo. Does the Aguilar System work for me?

A: I chronographed 175-grain Federal Match ammunition fired through a 34” barrel and it was 2700 f.p.s., a hundred f.p.s. faster than it is through a 24” barrel. I dial in 6.5 MOA when using this rifle in 500 yard matches. Holding on the second mil-dot as the Aguilar System advises would be 6.88 MOA. A difference of two inches at 500 yards is negligible.

Q: I own a Palma rifle and stuff the cases with slow-burning powder to take advantage of the long barrel, which gives the additional powder more time to burn. Does the Aguilar System work for me?

A: Palma shooters must keep their bullets supersonic out to 1000 yards because bullets destabilize when they break the sound barrier. This is not a problem with the 155-grain bullets originally specified in the rules. But 155-grain bullets are hard to shoot in the wind and many competitors are launching 168- or even 175-grain bullets at case-splitting pressure levels. However, hot ammo is inherently less accurate because it causes the barrel to vibrate. Thus, if one is going to put a scope on a Palma rifle and use it for combat, one would be better off matching the factory’s ballistics than using such hot handloads. If you insist on using your 1000-yard ammo at 500 yards, follow the advice given below for varmint rifle shooters.

Q: I own a varmint rifle, which shoots flatter than a deer rifle but is more affected by the wind. Also, I cannot practice holding over on a mil-dot as I would in combat because the dot completely covers the gopher. Does the Aguilar System work for me?

A: Varmint shooters sometimes use their rifles during deer season and the ammunition manufactures accomodate them by offering heavier, less-fragile bullets in their caliber. If such ammunition is available for your rifle, you can use the Aguilar System without modification. Such bullets are fairly blunt but, starting out at higher muzzle velocities, they will have dropped about as much as more typical bullets at the 500- or 600-yard line.

If you insist on going to war with a dedicated varmint rifle like the 220 Swift or 22-250 Remington, dial in three MOA elevation for each mil-dot of holdover recommended by the Aguilar System. A milliradian is 3.44 MOA so, by rounding down, you take into account the flatter trajectory of your rifle and you can hold on the crosshairs as you have become used to doing. You will have to use your own knowledge of wind drift, however, as a 52-grain bullet just doesn’t buck the wind the way a 168-grain bullet does.

Q: I own a magnum rifle. Will the Aguilar System for Medium Range Sniping work for me?

A: Yes, but only if you choose your ammunition carefully.  I had to say “non-magnum bolt-action deer rifle” in the instructions because the word “magnum” includes everything from the 7mm Remington Magnum, which is only slightly more powerful than a typical deer rifle, to the 458 Winchester Magnum, which is used on cape buffalo. The following charts (from Federal’s free downloadable ballistics software) compare some popular magnum rifles to the 270 Winchester, a typical deer rifle. All the examples use the Nosler AccuBond bullet – obviously, one cannot use the Bear Claw or similar dangerous-game bullets for sniping. The 338 Winchester Magnum drops a bit more than a deer rifle and all the magnum rifles have slightly less wind drift, but the difference would not be noticable to anybody but a master-level shooter.

Military snipers using the 338 Lapua can also use the Aguilar System in a pinch, though probably with little or no windage adjustment at these close (for them) ranges.  However, I want to be the first to point out that this type of shooting is NOT why they were issued such a rifle.  The same goes double for civilians.  While it is possible for Aguilar System shooters to use magnum rifles, it is NOT recommended.  For the price of one 338 Lapua, a scope for it, and a spotting scope for the sniper’s partner, your organization could have put ten men or women in the field with 270s.  The ten will win – there is really no substitute for numerical superiority.  See my tactics page for the proper use of the swarming technique.


Q: Professional snipers and well-heeled civilians have a laser range-finder and a Leupold Mark IV scope with yardage, not MOA, printed on the elevation dial. Doesn’t that make the mil-dot reticule obsolete?

A: Without the laser range-finder, the Mark IV scope is useless because it requires measuring the target, putting the rifle down, turning on your flashlight to use your Mildot Master and then picking up the rifle again to try to find the target. An Aguilar System shooter could have gotten that shot off in five seconds without ever having to put his rifle down.

Laser range-finders have become de rigueur among professional snipers, but that is only because Iraqi tanks were all destroyed in the first few days of both Gulf Wars. I remind them that Saddam Hussein was a military moron. There is no evidence that the Chinese or the Iranians are led by idiots, however, and U.S. snipers must assume that, in the event of war with either country, there will be FLIR-equipped enemy tanks on the battlefield throughout at least the first half of the war. (Hezbollah fought the Israelis for a month and never lost the ability to launch anti-tank missiles in the dark.) If a sniper turns on his laser range-finder in the presense of such weapons, he isn’t going to get to see the second half of the war.

Q: I lead a peasant army in an impoverished third-world country. I cannot afford laser rangefinders or even new rifles. (I buy mismatched secondhand deer rifles at American gun shows.) My troops cannot speak English or evaluate even simple mathematical formulas. None of them know how long a yard is. For that matter, most of them are a bit hazy on how long a meter is. Can the Aguilar System help me train them?

A: Absolutely! The Aguilar System works for any non-magnum deer rifle, so it is not necessary to have matched rifles. Bushnell ET1040 Elite Tactical scopes with mil-dot reticules are inexpensive and can be purchased on the internet. All Western scopes have dials calibrated in fractions of minutes of angle. If you use Eastern scopes with dials calibrated in tenths of a mil, my system will work for holdover but not windage.

No familiarity with yards or meters is required, as the snipers will directly convert the apparent size of an object (in mills) into holdover (in mills) without ever learning the distance to the target, in any measuring system. The officer who zeroes the rifles must be able to measure 300 yards, however, though pacing off 324 strides (350 strides if he’s under 1.6m tall) on level ground is close enough. If he is sighting the rifles in at a 300-meter range, he should have them hit six centimeters below the point of aim.

Each card ranks the difficulty of its shot as marksman-, sharpshooter-, expert- or master-level. These are American (specifically, NRA) terms which mean, basically, easy, medium, hard and masterful. You must also translate “holdover,” “windage,” “mills,” and “M.O.A.” There is additional material on topics like shooting at moving targets, but its translation is not necessary to use the cards.

Q: I read in Snipershide's website that you said the Leupold Mark IV is "useless" and recommend those el cheapo BSA scopes instead. Is that true? Incidentally, I don't think they meant the term "Ass Hat" in a complimentary way.

A: Criticizing their beloved Mark IV is not the way to endear oneself to the guys at Sniper’s Hide. However, I never said the Mark IV was useless. I said a $180 BSA with an illuminated mil-dot reticule is better than a non-illuminated $450 Leupold VX-II “tactical” scope and I stand by that assessment. The $1800 Mark IV is better than both, as is to be expected from optics costing ten times as much. But my typical customer, leading his peasant army in that impoverished third-world country, cannot afford the Mark IV.

A $520 off-the-shelf deer rifle with a $180 BSA is effective out to about 650 yards. A $2500 "tactical" rifle with an $1800 Mark IV is effective out to about 1000 yards, but only if the sniper is accompanied by a spotter equipped with a $1000 spotting scope and a $300 laser rangefinder.

Suppose a third-world "strongman" gets a wild hair up his ass and decides to invade his neighbor. Both countries have a $560,000 budget for equipping their snipers. Emulating the rich Americans, the strongman fields 100
two-man sniper teams, each capable of occasionally making a 1000-yard shot. Knowing that they need elevated positions to even be able to see 1000 yards away and that they do not have the support of the people and cannot hide in private homes anyway, they must take only static positions on the rooftops of tall buildings.

The defender fields 800 snipers (actually, designated marksmen) capable of quickly and accurately engaging targets from 200 to 650 yards away before jumping on their motorcycles and moving to a new location. Since they have the support of the people, they can hide their bikes inside people’s houses, fire their rifles out the windows when a target presents itself and then scram. (The motorcycles are privately owned, so their cost is not included in the $560,000 budget.)

You tell me: In fast-paced urban combat, which side is going to win? The 800 highly mobile defenders using the system I advocate? Or the 100 stationary attackers using the system Sniper’s Hide advocates? I think the answer is obvious. "Quantity," as Stalin said, "has a quality of its own."

Q: Some guy on the Daily Paul forum is bad-mouthing you. He calls himself "MW" and claims to be a sniper instructor with 24 years of experience. What's your take on this?

A: If MW is a sniper instructor, then I’m an astronaut.
  1. "Tip: for those who might encounter this thing [an M113], or one like it, the tracks, behind the second wheel, are a vulnerability if you need to 'negotiate' with it."

    Obviously, if you approach an APC with a piece of plumbing pipe, the soldiers surrounding it are going to take your pipe away from you and shove it up your ass. MW is a sniper instructor with 24 years of experience? Hmm’. He sounds more like a 12-year-old boy with an extensive collection of GI Joe comic books.

  2. "The adjustments for the .223 is much more than the 30-06, and if you were to use the .223 milling for it, you would fire a spoiler- a clear miss of the vital zone’ The .223 drops 48.5 inches (9.3 MOA or 2.7 mils) at [500 yards] with a 300 yard zero using basic 55gr. Spitzer from the average sporting goods store. The 30-06 drops only 34.7 inches (6.6 MOA or 1.9 mils) at that range with a 300 yard zero using 180gr. Trophy Bond."

    The 180-grain Trophy Bond .30-06 ammunition is premium hunting ammunition made by Federal, which cost $25 a box. MW purposefully compared this to no-name .223 ammunition"crap costing about $5 a box. I clearly state that snipers are expected to buy premium ammunition with as little wind drift as possible"if you buy crap, it’s not my fault when you miss.

    Federal sells premium .223 varmint ammunition which uses a full-metal-jacket bullet, similar to military ammunition. Its trajectory out to 600 yards never varies from that of their 180-grain Trophy Bonded .30-06 ammunition by more than an inch. The following chart is from Federal’s free downloadable ballistics software:

    A little 55-grain .223 bullet has over 150% as much wind drift as a big 180-grain .30-06 bullet, however, and it was because of wind drift, not holdover, that I specifically excluded .22 caliber rifles from my definition of "deer rifle." Also, with about a fifth the residual energy of the .30-06 at 600 yards, .223 bullets are not really capable of killing anybody out there. This is why I state that my system is for a "non-magnum bolt-action deer rifle larger than .22 caliber."

    Only someone purposefully trying to obfuscate would pretend that he doesn’t know the difference between an AR-15 and a non-magnum bolt-action deer rifle larger than .22 caliber. Anybody who has competed in the National Match competition (200, 300 and 600 yards) with an M1 and an AR-15 would know that both rifles use the same elevation adjustments but require significantly different wind drift adjustments. By his ignorance of this basic fact, MW makes it clear that he has no experience competing with either rifle.

  3. "[Aguilar's] flashcards have HUGE ballistic flaws in them as well as subtending problems with the Mil-Dots."

    MW doesn't even own a set of flashcards, so how could he possibly know if there were flaws in them? He based this groundless accusation on one example, the pop quiz that I posted on the Daily Paul. Very well. Let's look at this example, using MW's own .30-06 ballistics:

    A M113 APC sits 533 yards away. It is 72" tall, so it measures 3.75 milliradians. MW writes, "The 30-06 drops only 34.7 inches (6.6 MOA or 1.9 mils) at [500 yards] with a 300 yard zero using 180gr. Trophy Bond, a popular hunting round found in most stores." Since 533 yards is slightly farther than 500 yards, he would need slightly more than 1.9 milliradians holdover. Like two milliradians holdover?

    Golly, gee whiz! That is exactly the answer that I gave to my pop quiz: I said, "hold on the second mil-dot." I can rebut Mister "24 Years of Experience’ with his own ballistics data!

  4. "The bullet weight, BC, sectional density and MV all play a key role in determining the trajectory. Your cards over-simplify the matter. They also do not take under account parallax adjustment which will spoil the mil reading and point of aim, they do not take under account the mirage, light conditions which can create a wash out, and it does not take under account other environmental conditions such as conflicting winds due to terrain."

    MW forgot to mention humidity and the rotation of the Earth"and what about sunspots?

    He is over-thinking the problem. We're not trying to put a man on the moon here. We're just trying to whack someone a quarter of a mile away. I clearly state on my home page:

    "While no help with Hathcockian cross-valley shots, the Aguilar System is ideally suited to fast-paced urban combat within 600m."

    Like his previous attempt to obfuscate by pretending that an AR-15 is a sniper rifle, he is now obfuscating by pretending that urban snipers spend all their time lining up 1000-yard shots. No they don't. While such shooting is great for impressing one's buddies, it is not what wins wars.

    An infatuation with making long shots is the surest route to getting killed in urban combat. MW’s desire to impress his buddies will lead him to make tactical blunders like climbing up on the roof of a building or engaging mounted troops by firing down a long straight street. In the former case, he will get trapped up there and, in the latter case, they will rush him. MW thought that his buddies would be impressed with a 1000-yard shot? How impressed are they now that his head is on a stake in the enemy's camp? And his $2500 tactical rifle with its $1800 Mark IV scope is now in the hands of an enemy sniper who knows how to use it"use it for killing, not for grandstanding.

In my Outline of Sniper Tactics, I write:

E) Hug. Move alongside a column of troops 300 to 500 yards from them.
  1. Inside 200 yards you are vulnerable to machine guns and RPGs.
  2. Outside 600 yards you are vulnerable to artillery and air strikes.
  3. Stay in the safety zone; fire when there is an obstacle to shoot over.
There is absolutely no reason to engage the enemy from farther away than 600 yards and you will do just fine staying within 500 yards. If you are farther away than that, not only is it hard to hit your shots, but you are in grave danger of getting shelled.

Inside 600 yards there is no need to spend half an hour "doping" a shot. Estimate the wind to the nearest five mph (2.5 mph for experts), hold over on the nearest mil-dot (half mil-dot for experts), and fire the damned shot!

Q: Is there a single guiding principle to armed conflict? What one aspect of combat is essential to victory and, if control of it is lost, ensures defeat in spite of all other advantages?


Distance.  Fight at a distance where your weapon is effective and your opponents’ are ineffective and you can prevail against overwhelming odds, shatteringly-powerful weapons and tack-driving accuracy.  That is really all there is to it.

Consider a short, stocky man boxing with a tall, skinny man; or one with a knife against one with a club; or one with an H&K MP5 against one with a Ruger 10-22; or a BRDM crew against a Javelin missile team.  What determines the outcome in each case?  Distance and nothing else.

Even when the belligerents’ weapons are comparable, maneuver accomplishes nothing but to maintain control of distance.  If three muggers armed with knives form a skirmish line and you, armed with a knife also, move laterally to attack their flank, what are you doing?  You are controlling distance – you close with one while keeping the other two outside of their weapons’ range until you are done cutting the first one.

A deer rifle is most effective at ranges of 300 to 500 yards.  If civilians never close within the 200-yard maximum range of machine guns and RPGs or stand-off farther than the 600-yard minimum range of artillery and air strikes, they can defeat even professional infantry.  But lose control of distance for even an instant and defeat is imminent.  This is why motorcycles are so important to civilian snipers; distances can change in a matter of seconds and only a motorcycle is fast enough to close in on or withdraw from enemy troops.