Learn How Far A Klick Is In The Military

Kilck = 1000m

Silva Ranger Compass Land Nav
military compass. Getty images

Maps for land are measured and meters and charts for water navigation are measured in yards or nautical miles (2000 yards). Grid squares on land maps are measured in meters. Since World War I, the United States and the British military started using the metric systems when performing combined operations with the French who used the metric system.  The maps were made by the French and the term kilometer became a fixture in the United States military lexicon after World War I.

Since World War II and the creation of NATO, all maps made and used by NATO members comply with the NATO Standardization Agreements. The Military Grid Reference System (MGRS) is the mapping system standard used by NATO military members for locating points on the earth and can pin point a place on Earth to the nearest meter.  

How Far a "Klick" Is in the Military

In military terms, a "klick" means a distance of one kilometer or .62 miles. So, if a Soldier radios, "We're 10 klicks south of your position," that means they are 10 kilometers away, or 6.2 miles away. In military land navigation, when you use the original method of foot travel (a land map and a compass), distance is measured in meters (m) / kilometers (km).  On United States maps, elevation is measured in feet (ft). Most foreign maps will have elevation contour lines measured in meters as well. The elevation is noted on maps through the use of contour lines and denotes hills and valleys.

Usually, these lines are red or pink in color.

History of the Word "Klick" for 1000m

Some military historians believe that the term originated in Vietnam with the Australian Infantry. As the story goes, infantry soldiers would navigate by bearing (compass direction) and would measure distance by pacing (this was, of course, prior today's magical GPS devices).

In order to keep track of distance, one or two "nominated" soldiers would count their paces. About 110 paces on flat land, 100 paces down-hill, or 120 paces up-hill would equal 100 meters. The soldier would keep track of each 100-meter "lot" by moving the gas regulator on the Australian L1A1 rifle, one mark. After moving it 10 marks (1000 meters), the soldier would signal the section commander using hand signals, then indicate movement of 1000 meters by lifting the rifle and rewinding the gas regulator with a movement of the thumb, resulting in an audible "click."

Others Uses of the Term "Click"

In "military-speak," the term "click" (spelled with a "c" instead of a "k") is used when sighting-in a weapon, such as a rifle. On most weapons, one "click" equals one minute of arc, or -- in other words, one inch of distance at one hundred yards. So, moving the site adjustments of the rifle "one click" will change the point of impact one inch for a target 100 yards away, two inches for a target 200 yards away, and so forth. For the detailed oriented, 1 Minute of Angle (MOA) at 100 yards is actually a tad over 1 inch (There are 360 degrees in a circle and each degree is divided into 60 minutes.

If we round to the nearest 1⁄100 of an inch, at 100 yards 1-degree measures 62.83 inches. One MOA, 1⁄60 of that, measures 1.047 inches), but rounding it works for quick calculations. The term comes from the clicking-sound made by the sight adjustment knobs as they are turned.

Lat and Long vs. Grid Coordinates

Some American maps still also use the Longitude and Latitude system and continue to do so on the water.  For instance, the Lat and Long of the White House in Washington DC is:

Lat and Long System:  Latitude 38.8977° N, Longitude 77.0365° W

The MGRS Coordinates of the same point is:  18SUJ23410665

The United States Military uses the MGRS which is measured in meters and the Latitude and Longitude are measured in statue miles.