Whether you’re going to shoot a big game animal, like a whitetail deer or black bear, or simply do some target practice, you should make sure that your rifle is correctly sighted to place your shots for a quick and ethical hunt.
You may ask me whether the rifle scope sighting is essential or not. I believe that every responsible and ethical hunter cannot imagine his hunting checklist without a sufficiently sighted rifle. If you’re a professional shooter or an avid hunter and your scope is out of focus, you cannot accurately hit what you’re aiming for.
As a hunter, your goal is not to miss the target, right? You may also want to have appropriately placed shots to get ethical and quick kills. That’s why sighting in a rifle is necessary.
Sighting-in is a process of adjusting a sight on a piece of particular hunting equipment, such as a rifle. It needs to be aligned with the reticle of the scope with the bore of that weapon so that you can hit a target from a specific range. This adjustment will help you determine the place where you’re willing to hit the shots.
You’ll agree with me that all hunters should learn the process of sighting-in scopes on rifles. If you have an incorrectly sighted rifle, it will be quite challenging for you to shoot your prey accurately.
Although adjusting a rifle scope has been proved really difficult for some hunters, it might be an easy task for you if you regularly practice it.
Are you still feeling any problem? Don’t worry; I’m here to provide some help to you in this matter. I’m a professional gunsmith, and now I’m going to deliver a simple guide on how to adjust a rifle scope step by step. It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a low-priced scope or a high-end optic like a Nightforce Optics 5.5-22×56 NXS Riflescope.
Rifle Scope - the basic things to know
If it’s your first rifle scope purchase, then you need to know all the basic parts of a rifle scope. Otherwise, you can skip this part and jump into the How-to Section. I’m going to explain some essential measurements and components (related to adjustments) of a rifle scope below.
Mil & MOA
You’ll find a couple of measurements while calculating Mil and MOA. Basically, 1 Mil is 1/1000th of any distance, and 1 MOA is around 1 inch at 100 yards. It’s an approximate calculation because, at 100 yards, it’s actually 1.047 inches. So, at 1000 yards, 1 Mil is 1 yard, and 1 MOA is around 10 inches.
Let’s see through an example of how it goes. If you need 2 MOA to the left, then you will have to adjust the windage of your scope 8 clicks to the right, so the reticle moves left 2 MOA. As a result, you’ll perfectly adjust it, and it’s pointing straight onto the target.
If the calculation seems to be a little bit difficult, then you should use a calculator to figure out the measurements of Mil and MOA in meters, centimeters, inches, and yards.
The windage turret is measured in MOA (minutes of angle). It’s located on the right side of the scope and allows you to adjust the horizontal alignment of your reticle. You can adjust it by clicking with just your hands, although some scopes need to be adjusted by the use of a screwdriver or a small coin.
The elevation turret located on the opposite side of the windage turret works on the same MOA principle. It allows you to align your reticle vertically (just opposite of the windage). Most importantly, both turrets are operated in the same increments.
Some rifle scopes come with a third turret that adjusts for parallax error. It’s usually placed on the left side across the windage turret. You may not find parallax in all rifle scopes because its adjustment is an issue only when you’re shooting at a long distance.
How to Adjust a Rifle Scope like a pro
Learning to adjust a rifle scope allows you to make accurate shots and save a lot of ammunition. If you’re willing to know how to do it, make sure you mount the scope and adjust it on your rifle efficiently. Get help from my step-by-step guide below.
1. Mount Your Scope on the Rifle Properly
The first thing you need to do is to set up the scope on your rifle. Mounting the scope is quite easy, and you have to follow some steps accordingly, as the user manual says. First off, tighten the screws into the mounts and proceed in an X pattern. Keep screwing slowly as long as it gets adjusted.
Now, the scope is ready to be mounted on the rifle. Set the scope onto the bracket with the eyepiece and make sure that it’s set in the correct direction. Next, you have to use a small torpedo level to tighten the rings. Finally, look through the scope to check whether the image is sharp, transparent, or not.
2. Start Setting up Your Zero
Once you’ve installed the scope, you have to jump into the next step: zeroing your scope. This means you have to zero your scope on the target. It takes some steps, and this is how you can do it.
- Adjusting Eye Distance
The adjustment of the distance between your eye and the end of the scope is essential when you’re sight-in your rifle scope. You’ll need to ensure that the distance is far enough so that the recoil cannot send the scope back to make contact with your eye when firing a shot. Hence, make sure you set the eyepiece correctly, so you see a transparent image.
- Aligning the Reticle
When zeroing the scopes, most hunters don’t consider the reticle alignment. Reticle Cant is a situation of when your scope has not-perfectly-aligned crosshairs according to the adjustments of windage and elevation. If it happens, you may miss your shots right or left of the target, especially when you’re engaging a target at a distance of over 250 yards.
- Setting Your MOA
Most rifle scopes allow you to adjust the crosshairs in ¼ MOA increments at 100 yards, equating to ¼ inch of movement per click, although most shooters use 1/8 inch and the 1/4 inch MOA click value. If you want to move the bullet impact 1 inch or 1 MOA at 100 yards, you have to turn the windage and elevation turret four clicks.
Here I’ve prepared an incremental list that shows how the elevation and windage turrets change MOA measurements every 100 yards.
100 yards = ¼ inch
200 yards = 1/2 inch
300 yards = 3/4 inch
400 yards = 1 inch
500 yards = 1 and 1/4 inch
600 yards = 1 and 1/2 inch
700 yards = 1 and 3/4 inch
800 yards = 2 inch
3. Take Some Test Shots
You’ve already installed and zeroed the scope. Now, it’s time to take some test shots to check if the scope works well. You may sight in 100 or 200 yards because the choice is yours. After zeroing your scope, load the gun and take some shots with safety. Try to hit the bulls-eye and repeat until you get a couple of accurate shots.
Precautions of Adjusting a Rifle Scope
When you’re going to adjust the scope, you should take the following precautions:
- Keep enough bullets so that you can fire a lot before and after adjustment.
- Make sure you’re using bullets of the same brand to get consistent results.
- Don’t adjust both elevation and windage turrets together.
- Let the rifle cool down after taking 3 shots per click.
- Keep changing the parallax turret slightly in the case of moving your eyes and head.
Having excellent knowledge of how to sight a rifle scope is quite necessary. It not only enhances your shooting enthusiasm, but it also helps you become a professional shooter. If you learn how to do it yourself, your target acquisition will be much better.
I think you may not want to miss your targets just because of your shabby aim. You require a lot of target practice at the shooting range, and a rifle scope can help you develop your skills.
However, I hope I’ve been able to provide you almost everything that you need to know how to adjust a rifle scope. You may face some difficulties, but it will be pretty simple once you get accustomed to it. Don’t get disappointed until you become a master in it.