In the past couple of years, more than five million Americans bought a firearm for the first time. While the most popular reason to buy a gun is self-protection, many Americans are also going hunting for the first time.
That means that long-range, bolt-action rifles are also flying off the shelves as Americans seek to put free-range, organic deer, elk, and other game species on the table.
But before heading out into the woods in search of your prey, you need to learn how to sight a rifle scope. Otherwise, there’s no chance you are going to hit your target with a new rifle and scope.
What does it mean to sight a rifle scope, and how can you do it efficiently? Keep reading below to learn the importance of sighting a rifle scope today.
What Is a Rifle?
Rifles are the second most popular type of firearm, after handguns, followed by shotguns.
Rifles are very different from shotguns and handguns. Both shotguns and handguns are typically used without a scope on top. Instead, users aim by looking at a small, built-in sight on the gun.
You line up a notch on the front and back of your gun to ensure your firearm is pointing at the target.
This works well for these types of guns, as they are close-range firearms that are most effective under 30 yards.
Neither of these guns is capable of handling long-range shots, however.
That’s what rifles are for. Most hunting rifles are bolt-action rifles. They fire a single shot through a long, rifled barrel (meaning the barrel has grooves in it to spin the bullet).
Scopes are Required
In order to see a target that far, and ensure your barrel is aiming at the precise point on a target, you’ll use a scope. Rifle scopes work like binoculars. They have a magnification range, typically from 3x to 12x.
They let you see a deer anywhere from 100 to 1,000 yards away from your location.
One exception is the 22 LR (long rifle). These lightweight rifles are often fired without a scope at smaller targets like squirrels. But with some simple Ruger 10/22 upgrades like a decent scope, you can bring home a lot more bushy tails.
What Does it Mean to Sight a Rifle Scope?
Sighting a rifle scope, or “zeroing in” your rifle scope, is the process of calibrating your scope with your rifle.
If they aren’t calibrated, you’ll look in one direction through your scope while your rifle barrel is shooting in another direction.
To sight a scope is to adjust the scope so you are looking at the exact location that the rifle is going to shoot.
Rifles and scopes are separate pieces of equipment. They are manufactured by different companies. You can install any scope you want onto your rifle.
But they’ll only work together if you adjust your scope to look where the rifle is shooting.
How to Sight a Rifle Scope
So how can you make sure your scope and rifle are calibrated with one another? Here are some simple rifle tips to speed up the process and prevent the wasting of ammo.
1. Set Up at 100 Yards
When sighting a hunting rifle, most people start at 100 yards. 100 yards becomes your standard. Your scope will be perfectly dialed into any target at 100 yards.
If you shoot a target further out, you’ll need to adjust, often by aiming a bit higher. If you’re shooting a target closer than 100 yards, you may need to aim a bit lower.
But 100 yards is the perfect starting point for most rifle users.
To get started, you need a place to shoot at 100 yards. If you have a private property you can use, set up a paper target 100 yards from your shooting location. Be as precise as possible.
Don’t have land? Head to an outdoor shooting range. Most will have a 100-yard shooting lane
Bring something to stabilize your gun for the most accurate results. If you want something nice, you can buy a gun vise, which secures the entire rifle on a table to prevent shaky shots.
For something cheaper, you can buy a set of rifle sandbags to lay your rifle on.
2. Use a Laser Bore Sighter
This step is optional, but it might save you some money. Sighting in your gun requires ammunition. With each step, you’ll want to fire three rounds.
If you have to make a lot of adjustments, you’ll burn through ammo quickly. And rifle ammo isn’t exactly cheap. But a bore sighter is only $15 to $20.
A laser bore sighter is fitted to your specific caliber. It’s the shape of a cartridge. You’ll place it in the chamber.
It emits a laser light through the barrel of your rifle. When you look down your scope, you’ll be able to see what your barrel is pointed at.
This way, you can make your initial adjustments to your scope, centering your reticule on the laser point.
This gives you a good starting point, but you aren’t done. Laser bore sighters aren’t perfectly accurate. So you’ll still need to shoot live rounds to finish dialing in your scope.
3. Shoot Three Round Groups and Adjust
Now comes the real process. Load your rifle.
Looking at your paper target through your scope, and aiming at the bullseye, slowly fire three rounds. Shooting three rounds gives you an average of where your rifle is pointed.
Looking at the three shots on the target, put your finger in the center. That’s ultimately where your barrel is pointed.
If the three rounds are perfectly centered on the bull’s eye, congrats, you’re done. If not, now is the time to make scope adjustments.
You want to move your scope to center on the shots you just fired. So if you shot high and to the right, you want to turn the knobs on your scope to move it up and right.
Looking at the manual for your rifle scope will tell you how many clicks to turn it, depending on how many inches you need to adjust for. When in doubt, make smaller adjustments and shoot again.
4. Repeat Until on Target
Once you’ve made your first set of scope adjustments, it’s time to fire another round of three shots. Hopefully, they are closer to the bullseyes this time. If they are, then you made adjustments in the right direction.
If your second group of shots is further from your target, then you made adjustments in the wrong direction.
At this point, you’ll keep making small adjustments to your scope using the windage and elevation knobs. After each adjustment, fire another group of three shots. Rinse and repeat.
Sighting Tips for Rifle Scopes
The process of sighting a rifle is simple. It’s just a matter of repeating the shooting and adjusting process until your three-shot group is centered on the target.
But shooting a ton of rounds through a high-powered rifle is costly. Not to mention, it makes for a sore shoulder.
Here are a few helpful tips for speeding up the process.
Use Grid Targets
It can be tough to know how many clicks to spin your adjustment knobs after each round of shots. But you can simplify the process by using paper targets with a 1-inch grid pattern.
This will show you how many inches your shots are away from the target. Then, you can use some basic math to determine the appropriate number of clicks, shortening the process.
So if your shots are measuring three inches high and two inches right of the target, you know you need to move your bullet’s impact down three inches and left two inches.
If you’re using a standard rifle scope, then one click will move the impact 1/4 of an inch. So four clicks are equal to one inch.
In our example, you’ll want to adjust your elevation by 12 clicks (3×4) and the windage by eight clicks (2×4).
In theory, this should move your bullet impact right onto the center of the target.
Still, you’ll want to repeat the process to fine-tune it and ensure consistency.
Try Different Bullets
Different bullets may fire differently from your rifle. So if you zero in your scope with one type of bullet, then firing a different type of bullet might not hit the target exactly.
If you’re going hunting and plan to use a specific hunting cartridge, make sure to zero in your scope for that specific bullet to ensure accuracy on the field.
Making adjustments from cartridge to cartridge should only require minor adjustments if any.
Increase Your Odds of Success
Congrats, now you know how to sight a rifle scope. This means you can dial in your hunting rifle to increase your chances of success during hunting season.
When out in the field, you may only get one shot opportunity. Anything you can do to increase your chances of success, even just a little bit, will go a long way to filling your freezer.
If you enjoyed our scope and rifle guide, make sure to head to our blog to find other helpful articles today.