How To Sight In A Rifle

Sighting in a rifle scope, also known as zeroing or calibrating the scope, is a critical step in ensuring that your shots hit the target accurately. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to sight in a rifle scope:


Prepare Your Equipment:

  • Make sure your rifle is stored and handled with proper gun safety rules and always pointed in a safe direction.
  • Ensure you have a stable shooting platform, such as a shooting bench or rifle rest bags, to support the rifle.
  • Have plenty of practice ammunition for the caliber of your rifle.

Scope Preparation at Home:

  • Ensure the scope is properly mounted and secured to your rifle following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Make sure the eye relief (distance between your eye and the scope) is comfortable.

Go To Range and Choose Your Target:

  • Set up a target at a reasonable distance (usually 25 yards for most rifles) with a well-defined aiming point, such as a big black bullseye target like the NRA B-8 rapid-fire pistol target.

Bore Sighting:

  • Bore sighting is a rough alignment of the scope with the rifle’s bore. This can save time and ammunition.
  • To bore sight a bolt action rifle, remove the bolt or open the action, and visually align the reticle with the center of the bore. Adjust the scope’s windage and elevation turrets until the reticle lines up with the bore. If you have an AR, you can boresight by removing the bolt and carrier and taking the Upper off the Lower. Lay the Upper on sandbags, and proceed as you would with a bolt-action.
  • Lever-actions, pumps, and conventional semiautos don’t allow you to boresight like this. So, what you do is either buy a boresighting device or get 10 yards away from the target. Boresighting devices sometimes work. Getting 10 yards from the target almost always works.

Initial Shots:

  • Start by taking three to five shots at your target, aiming at the center with the scope’s crosshairs. Don’t just fire one shot before you adjust the scope; fire three or five. The center hole is where the rifle is shooting.
  • Pay attention to where your shots land in relation to the bullseye. Because now you need to adjust accordingly.

Adjust Windage and Elevation:

  • Use the windage (horizontal) and elevation (vertical) turrets on your scope to adjust the point of impact.
  • If your shots are hitting to the right of the target, adjust the windage turret in the direction you want the shots to move (opposite for left).
  • If your shots are hitting low, adjust the elevation turret upward, and if they are hitting high, adjust it downward.
  • Each click on the turret typically corresponds to a specific distance, often 1/4 MOA (Minute of Angle) or 1/4 inch at 100 yards. Refer to your scope’s manual for precise information on adjustment values.

Shoot, Adjust, Repeat:

  • Continue shooting and adjusting until your shots consistently hit the center of the target.
  • Make small, incremental adjustments each time and recheck your shots.
  • It may take several attempts to achieve accuracy. Having a buddy with you observing the target hits with a spotting scope will greatly reduce time and help zero in your scope.

Confirm Zero:

  • Shoot a few more rounds to ensure your rifle is consistently hitting the target’s center.
  • Remember that environmental factors like wind and lighting can affect your shots, so try to sight in on a calm day with consistent lighting conditions.

Record Your Scope Settings:

  • Once your rifle is properly sighted in, record the settings on your scope turrets or in a notebook or in a note app on your phone for future reference. You will inevitably have your scope go out of being zeroed in. It is pretty crucial to keep record of your settings.

Fine-Tune for Different Distances:

  • If you plan to shoot at various distances, you can fine-tune your scope settings for those specific ranges.

Remember that the process of sighting in a rifle scope can vary depending on the scope model and the type of rifle, so always consult your scope’s manual for specific instructions. Additionally, practice safe firearm handling at all times and adhere to local firearm laws and regulations.

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