How to Sight in a Rifle Scope
Sighting a rifle is an important process when it comes to the accuracy and precision of your shots. A gun that isn’t properly aligned makes you miss important shots, whether you’re at the range, in competition, or on a hunt.
While the setup may require some technical know-how, even a novice gun enthusiast can follow some simple steps to improve their rifle’s aim.
If you’re having trouble hitting the target with consistency, you may need some help adjusting the scope to achieve a more accurate shot – keep reading to learn more.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
Table of Contents
The Simple Way to Zero in Your Rifle Scope
To make sure the scope and barrel are in perfect alignment, you first need to have the scope properly mounted. Next, determine the distance you want your scope sighted to. It’s recommended to start by zeroing in at a distance of 25 yards. Even for longer-distance shooting, start at a shorter distance, then once you’re able to strike the paper, adjust the scope to get your longer-range zero (more on that later).
The simplest way to zero in your rifle scope involves a process called “bore sighting”. It’s a quick solution when you need to get the rifle and scope closely aligned. Typically, this involves doing your best to align your bore and optic and then shooting at a paper target, which then gives you a hole from which to adjust the scope. With the hole as a reference, you’ll know which direction to adjust the crosshair for your final, fine-tuned zero. Sometimes, it’s the best option for those situations that unexpectedly arise, such as when you bump your rifle against a tree on a hunt or drop it in a shooting competition.
Read on for a detailed checklist for completing this important process.
To sight-in a rifle scope, you’ll need some tools to get the job done right. First, you’ll have to decide on a scope (or determine which type of scope you have if you already own one), of which there are several:
- Iron sights: basic and made of metal, these are primarily used for short-range shooting. The great thing about these scopes is that they’re rugged and lightweight.
- Red dot sights: these project a red dot onto a lens in the sights you’re using, showing you where the bullet will make an impact on the target. This type of scope is ideal for medium-range shots.
- Magnification sights: allows the shooter to look through a lens to receive a magnified view of the target, a perfect scope for long-distance shooting.
Next, acquire a tool called a “boresighter”. This allows you to align your reticle, sight, and scope crosshairs with the true center of the gun bore. The device shines a laser through the muzzle, beaming a dot against a target and allowing you to easily see where your scope aims. From here, zeroing in on the target becomes much easier.
Another item you’ll need is a vice – also called a shooting rest or gun bench. These are engineered to keep your gun completely stationary and consistent for sighting-in cross-hairs, locking your gun into a natural shooting position while weighing it down so it doesn’t move as you make adjustments. Eliminating movement in the gun while you’re sighting-in is key to achieving perfect alignment.
Additionally, you’ll need some sort of paper target to shoot at, which can be found at the gun range or a sporting goods store. Even a large piece of cardboard with a bullseye would work. With the target placed 25 yards, you’ll be able to look through the barrel and center the bullseye exactly in the bore’s center.
Finally, you’ll need some or all of the little tools and supplies necessary for shooting and working on a gun. if you have a bolt-action rifle, remove the bolt and for AR-style rifles, remove the lower receiver from the upper receiver. Place the components in a safe spot for the time being. And, don’t forget to have plenty of ammo, lubrication, safety gear, and other essentials in a handy location near your setup.Get Started
How to Make Scope Adjustments
Whether you’re getting ready for a three-gun shooting competition, preparing for the deer-hunting season, or something else entirely, a properly sighted rifle leads to an overall better shooting experience. Let’s take a look at how you can make various scope adjustments to improve your rifle’s accuracy.
First, however, determine the proper distance you want to zero in at. While it’s easier to start shorter and work your way backward, it ultimately comes down to the range you’ll likely be shooting at. Here are some good rules of thumb to follow when deciding on a distance:
- Sighting-in at longer distances will give the bullet a downward trajectory, causing shorter shots to strike lower.
- Sighting-in at shorter distances gives the bullet an upward trajectory, so it will be high when shooting long distances.
That said, a lot of shooters choose to zero in their rifles at a nice distance of 100 yards, allowing a level of versatility. Regardless of the distance, follow the instructions below to ensure your scope is properly sighted.
Focusing the Eyepiece
To ensure you can clearly see the crosshairs, you first have to adjust the scope’s eyepiece. Find the focus knob or knobs near the side of the scope closest to your eye, where you can make positive or negative adjustments depending on your particular vision requirements. There are two main types of focus adjustments: “standard,” where the whole eye shell twists, and “fast focus,” which turns the lens via an internal mechanism while the eye shell stays stationary.
After you’ve placed your firearm securely in a vice, point your scope toward your target, or a backdrop that contrasts well with the color of your crosshairs. Step into a standard shooting position, peer through the eyepiece, and adjust the focus knob(s) until you notice the view is crystal clear.
Now that you can see the crosshairs, it’s time to adjust the elevation of your scope. Look through the scope and rotate the elevation turret, located on the top of the scope, until the crosshair is on the same level vertically as the bullseye. At this step, you may need a friend’s assistance to rotate the knob as you look through the scope and tell them how many units—or “clicks”—to adjust to center in on the bullseye.
A click is normally measured in two separate units, Minute of Angles (MOA), expressed in inches, and Milliradian (MRAD), expressed in millimeters. To learn more about sighting your rifle with these measurements – read our post, MRAD vs. MOA: The Ultimate Showdown.
Another component controlled by the turret at the top is the windage, allowing you to move the scope left or right. Essentially, you’ll repeat the process you just did for adjusting the elevation. The more you turn the dial left or right, the more windage you get for either direction.
If you’ve made it this far – congratulations! Your rifle is now considered “bore-sighted”.
Focusing in on the Target
To confirm you’ve done the task properly, secure the bolt or reassemble your AR and take aim at a bullseye. If your shot strikes the target, you’re on the right track. If you don’t see the bullet hole anywhere on paper, start again with the previous steps until you’re able to hit it. Getting the perfect aim takes practice and a little patience to adjust and get things right. Again, choose a high-contrast target that you can clearly see through your scope and crosshairs. This helps keep everything easy to see.
Adjusting the Scope Itself
Finally, you may need to adjust the scope itself, especially if you’re using a scope on a new rifle. You will first need to reset the scope to factory zero. The good thing is you can change the settings after attaching it to the rifle. There are two main ways to go about doing this.
The first way is to place the scope against a mirror. Peering through the eyepiece, you’ll see the reticle if the scope is aligned on center. If not, you’ll see a shadow of the reticle in the mirror – make your windage and elevation adjustments until the shadow is no longer visible.
The second way is to wind up the turrets completely in one direction and then in the other direction, counting the number of clicks while doing so. Divide the total number of clicks by two, spin it back to that number, and you’ll bring the turret to the center.
Protect Your Hearing While Improving Accuracy
If you spend a lot of time shooting, it may be a good idea to invest in a suppressor. Not only do they reduce ear-damaging gun blasts, but they actually make shots more accurate. Thanks to a significant reduction in recoil, modern silencers have no negative effect on the bullet trajectory, and can even help your aim thanks to a less aggressive kickback.
If you want to improve your firearm’s accuracy, we specialize in a wide variety of industry-leading silencer products. Silencer Central is the only silencer reseller on the ATF advisory board and has simplified the process involved in purchasing high-quality Class Three firearm suppressors. We quickly obtain inventory and expedite interactions with the ATF so you can spend less time waiting around and more time sharpening your shooting skills.
Take a look at our silencer selection for more information about our firearm accessories.Get Started