Part One
  Map Reading

  Reading Topographical Maps Introduction 1. HOME

  Topographical Maps - Definition, Purpose and Categories 2. Maps

  Information in the margins of an army map 3. Marginal Information    and Symbols

  Latitude, Longitude and Other Methods to Locate Points on Topographic Maps 4. Grids

  Translating Distance on a Topographic Map to Distance on the Ground 5. Scale and Distance

  Grid North, Azimuth, Declination And Other Concepts Used To Find Direction With Topographic Maps 6. Direction

  Overlays - Used Primarily In Army Map Reading 7. Overlays

  Aerial Photographs - Supplements And Substitutes For Topographic Maps 8. Aerial Photographs

 Part Two
  Land Navigation

  Using Compass, GPS, Sun, Shadows, and Stars in Land Navigation 9. Navigation Equipment    and Methods

  Reading The Shape Of The Land In Topographic Maps 10. Elevation and Relief

  Orienting and Navigating With Topographic Maps 11. Terrain Association

  Mounted Land Navigating With Motorized Vehicles 12. Mounted Land    Navigation

  Land Navigation In Different Types of Terrain 13. Navigation in    Different Types of    Terrain

  Sketching Topographic Maps A. Field Sketching

  Folding Topographic Maps B. Map Folding     Techniques

  Units of Measure and Conversion Factors Used in Reading Topographic Maps C. Units of Measure and      Conversion Factors

  Units of Measure and Conversion Factors Used in Reading Topographic Maps D. Joint Operations      Graphics

  US Army Training Material for Map Reading and Land Navigation E. Exportable Training      Material

  Orienteering F. Orienteering

  US Army M2 Compass G. M2 Compass

  Additional Aids such as Night Vision Goggles and Global Positioning System or GPS H. Additional Aids      (GPS, Night Vision)

  Global Positioning System -  GPS J. Global Positioning      System - GPs


Outdoor Gear Store Outdoor Gear Store

Links to other sites LINKS

Link to us LINK To Us



The military grid reference system is not universally used. Soldiers must be prepared to interpret and use other grid systems, depending on the area of operations or the personnel the soldiers are operating with.

a.   British Grids. In a few areas of the world, British grids are still shown on military maps. However, the British grid systems are being phased out. Eventually all military mapping will be converted to the UTM grid.

b.   World Geographic Reference System (GEOREF). This system is a worldwide position reference system used primarily by the US Air Force. It may be used with any map or chart that has latitude and longitude printed on it. Instructions for using GEOREF data are printed in blue and are found in the margin of aeronautical charts (Figure 4-24). This system is based upon a division of the earth's surface into quadrangles of latitude and longitude having a systematic identification code. It is a method of expressing latitude and longitude in a form suitable for rapid reporting and plotting. Figure 4-24 illustrates a sample grid reference box using GEOREF. The GEOREF system uses an identification code that has three main divisions.

Figure 4-24.  Sample reference using GEOREF.

Figure 4-24. Sample reference using GEOREF.

(1)   First Division. There are 24 north-south (longitudinal) zones, each 15-degree wide. These zones, starting at 180 degrees and progressing eastward, are lettered A through Z (omitting I and O). The first letter of any GEOREF coordinate identifies the north-south zone in which the point is located. There are 12 east-west (latitudinal) bands, each 15-degree wide. These bands are lettered A through M (omitting I) northward from the south pole. The second letter of any GEOREF coordinate identifies the east-west band in which the point is located. The zones and bands divide the earth's surface into 288 quadrangles, each identified by two letters.

(2)   Second Division. Each 15-degree quadrangle is further divided into 225 quadrangles of 1 degree each (15 degrees by 15 degrees). This division is effected by dividing a basic 15-degree quadrangle into 15 north-south zones and 15 east-west bands. The north-south zones are lettered A through Q (omitting I and O) from west to east. The third letter of any GEOREF coordinate identifies the 1 degree north-south zone within a 15-degree quadrangle. The east-west bands are lettered A through Q (I and O omitted) from south to north. The fourth letter of a GEOREF coordinate identifies the 1 degree east-west band within a 15-degree quadrangle. Four letters identify any 1-degree quadrangle in the world.

(3)   Third Division. Each of the 1-degree quadrangles is divided into 3,600 one-minute quadrangles. These one-minute quadrangles are formed by dividing the 1-degree quadrangles into 60 one-minute north-south zones numbered 0 through 59 from west to east, and 60 east-west bands numbered 0 to 59 from south to north. To designate any one of the 3,600 one-minute quadrangles requires four letters and four numbers. The rule READ RIGHT AND UP is always followed. Numbers 1 through 9 are written as 01, 02, and so forth. Each of the 1-minute quadrangles may be further divided into 10 smaller divisions both north-south and east-west, permitting the identification of 0. 1-minute quadrangles. The GEOREF coordinate for any 0. 1-minute quadrangle consists of four letters and six numbers.


A disadvantage of any standard system of location is that the enemy, if he intercepts one of our messages using the system, can interpret the message and find our location. It is possible and can be eliminated by using an authorized low-level numerical code to express locations. Army Regulation 380-40 outlines the procedures for obtaining authorized codes.

a.   The authorized numerical code provides a capability for encrypting map references and other numerical information that requires short-term security protection when, for operational reasons, the remainder of the message is transmitted in plain language. The system is published in easy-to-use booklets with sufficient material in each for one month's operation. Sample training editions of this type of system are available through the unit's communications and electronics officer.

b.   The use of any encryption methods other than authorized codes is, by regulation, unauthorized and shall not be used.

Return to Grids



Map Reading and Land Navigation Buy the book this website is based on: Map Reading and Land Navigation

This website is based on the US Army Field Manual: "Map Reading and Land Navigation" Buy a copy from to take with you out in the field.


Book Review - Be Expert with Map and Compass

One of the best ways to learn and become proficient in any subject is to find a way to make a game or sport of it. That's exactly what orienteering does! Orienteering began to develop almost 100 years ago in the Scandinavian countries as a fun and effective method for military training in land navigation. Bjorn Kjellstrom was closely involved with the early development of orienteering, and he is the person who introduced the sport to North America. He, along with his brother Alvar, and a friend named Gunnar Tillander, invented the modern orienteering compass. They manufactured and marketed it as the Silva Protractor compass. This compass, along with Bjorn's book Be Expert with Map and Compass, made it much easier for anyone to learn how to use a map and compass.

This book has become the most widely read classic on the subject of map reading, compass use, and orienteering. Over 500,000 copies have been sold in the english language editions alone. There have been very successful editions published in French, Italian, and other languages as well. It is a short (just over 200 pages), easy to read, enjoyable book that can help you to have fun while you learn the subject quickly and effectively.

The book is organized into four main parts, plus a short, useful introduction. Part 1 covers having fun with maps alone. Then, Part 2 covers having fun with a compass alone. Part 3 puts it together and shows you how to have fun with a map and compass together. This section also introduces the game or sport of orienteering. Part 4 covers competitive orienteering for those who would like to compete with others in the sport.

A reproduction of a segment of an actual topographic map is included as a fold-out in the back of the book. It is used together with the "how-to" instructions the book provides. For example, one of the exercises in Part 3 is an imaginary orienteering "hike" that uses the sample map.

If you would like to have one of the best books available on map reading and using a compass, Be Expert with Map and Compass is hard to beat. You can buy a copy from today.

Read a book review of Agincourt

Boat Navigation For The Rest of Us
  Boat Navigation For The Rest of Us

Basic Coastal Navigation
  Basic Coastal Navigation