Rifleman Q&A: What Does 'MOA' Mean?

posted on August 1, 2021

Q: I am new to the shooting sports, and my background is in aviation. In my field, the acronym “MOA” means “Military Operations Area.” When Air Traffic Control informs us that MOA is “hot,” we do not fly, and a “cold” announcement means we can. Does this terminology cross over to the shooting sports, and what is “DOPE?”

A: In shooting, “MOA” is an acronym for minutes of angle. The NRA definition is, “An angular measurement method used to describe accuracy capability. A minute of angle is 1/60th of a degree, and subtends 1.047" at 100 yards, which, for practical shooting purposes, is considered to be an inch. A minute-of-angle group, therefore, would measure slightly more than one inch at 100 yards, two inches at 200 yards, etc.”

From a shooter’s perspective, “dope” is a useful and descriptive word when applied to the activity of achieving downrange success. This magazine has used the phrase “Dope Bag” since at least 1921 when Col. Townsend Whelen first titled his column. Even then, it had been in use for years, referring to a sack used by target shooters to hold ammunition and accessories on the firing line. “Sight dope” also was a traditional marksman’s term for sight-adjustment information, while judging wind speed and direction was called “doping the wind.” Some shooters also use it as an acronym for “Data On Previous Engagement.”

—John Treakle, Contributing Editor


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