How to set up the Scope of a Rifle and Zero It!
Take a few minutes to read this.
It may save you a bit of grief and some $!
To get the most accurate shots on the range and in the field, correctly sighting in your rifle is critical. Sighting in can sometimes be a difficult and time-consuming process, but it doesn’t have to be. We’ll show you how to sight in a rifle and zero it in a few easy steps.
NB: You may have purchased your rifle from your local friendly gun shop and they may tell you the sights are all set up and the rifle is sighted in. This is likely to be bollocks or nonsense for two reasons: First it takes time and costs ammo, and the fact they haven’t charged you for that tells the true story, and second, because each individual shoots a rifle slightly different you need to sight it in for yourself! At best they will have bore sighted it – in other words aligned the bore with the scope probably with a gadget called a collimator. It is a rough estimation at best and if you go onto the hills expecting it to shoot where you aim you will be dreaming!
Steps to success.
1 Mount the scope correctly.
Get your rifle and mount the scope with mounts that are designed to take as much recoil as your rifle will produce.
This is very important because if you are shooting a 30-06 and you have a .22 scope mounted on it, very bad things will happen! For example, your scope will probably fly off your rifle and could injure you or those around you. At best it will shake it up inside so your shots will go all over the place!
Make sure the mounts are tight, and if necessary, use lock-tite on the screws.
2 Use some of the following.
- A rifle rest or sandbags for added stability and to reduce error.
- A laser bore sighter may be useful, but save money and just bore sight your rifle – more on this later.
- Screwdrivers for adjusting your scope – use screwdrivers that correctly fit your screws!
- A pair of binoculars – makes it so much easier to spot your shots.
- Targets – some good free ones around – try targetz.com
- Ammunition – you shouldn’t need more than 20 rounds – usually a lot less!
3 Bore sight your rifle first.
- Secure the rifle in a bipod, on sandbags, or just any other method to hold the rifle steady while you sight it. Make sure no part of the rifle is resting on a hard surface. (This is really important because if you place your forend or barrel on a hard surface, the shots will go high.)
- If you have a bolt-action rifle, remove the bolt and look down the bore, aligning the bore with the bullseye on the target at say 100 metres.
- If you have a single-shot rifle, open the action.
- Note: auto-loader rifles and pumps cannot be bore sighted this way. You will need to use a collimator or a laser bore sighter, or fire a shot at a large target at 25 metres and take it fromthere. Do NOT go on to fire at 100 metres until you are spot on at 25m!
- Adjust the rifle on the stand so that you are looking through the breech and down the barrel with the 100 metre target centered in your view.
- Without moving the rifle, adjust your scope so that the cross-hairs are aligned on the same object.
- Your rifle is now bore-sighted to 100 metres. This means that the sights and the barrel are both pointing to roughly the same spot. But, and note the ‘but’, this is only a very rough sighting in – you will need to now fire some shots, starting with one at 25 m.
Yards or metres? At 50 yards, the difference between meters and yards is so small that it really doesn’t matter. In fact, the inherent inaccuracy of your barrel and ammunition will probably do more to mess with your zero than the difference between yards and metres – same at longer distances, so take a deep breathe and don’t worry.
4 Sight in at 25 metres initially.
When you’ve finished with bore sighting, replace the bolt, and set your scope to the highest magnification that gives you a clear image.
Relax, and fire one round at the center of the 25 m target.
Tips on sighting in:
Sighting in is just like shooting groups—it has nothing to do with how well you can shoot; it’s all about the rifle, so you want to eliminate human error. Use a good, steady rest, and take your time. The bench makes recoil feel worse, so don’t hesitate to put a pad between the rifle and your shoulder.. Settle down, really concentrate and squeeze the trigger, and then adjust your sights and do it again until you have reached your desired zero.
When I’m shooting from a bench rest, I try to get the rifle perfectly steady, and I let the sandbags or rifle rest do the work. I use my supporting hand to snug the butt into my shoulder.
Note here the importance of breathing. Try this – hold your sights on the target and take in a deep breathe. Did you notice how the sight picture moved? Now let your breathe out again – same result. When you want to shoot, take in a breathe and let it half out, then shoot.
5 Next step.
With your rifle unloaded, look towards your target with binoculars or a spotting scope.
Find where your shot has gone and adjust your scope.
Remember that you need four times the adjustment at 25 metres than for 100 metres.
If your bullet has hit in the bottom left corner, you would adjust your scope up and to the right. Follow the scope manufacturer’s instructions on sighting.
Repeat this process until your shots are hitting in the centre.
An easier way to do this is to hold the sights onto the centre of the target and then adjust the scope until the sights are pointed at the bullet hole.
If you are having difficulty sighting in your rifle in at 25 metres, DO NOT just keep on firing shots. That’s one definition of insanity. If you are having issues, check things like your scope mounts – are they screwed up tight, check the screws that hold the stock to the action – are they tight? If you just cannot get a shot to go where you want, you may have a defective scope – yes, some of the cheaper ones are renowned for not playing the game and some gun shops will sell you anything to make a buck! Putting a cheap scope on a good quality rifles is about as smart as putting budget tyres on a flash, fast car! Get help if you can from someone who knows what they are talking about – sorry, that will probably not be someone from your gun shop! (There are some exceptions!)
6 Next sight in at 100 metres
Make sure your barrel has cooled, get into a comfortable, relaxed position and fire 3 shots, slowly and carefully.
Check the shot grouping, then adjust the sight so that when aimed at the center of the bullseye, the bullets hit about 7.5 cm above centre.
This will give you the most effective maximum range.
NOTE: There is nothing more stupid in the shooting world than for a hunter to own a flat shooting rifle such a .270 Winchester, a 7mm Remington Magnum or a .22/250 Rem, for example, and sight it in for 100 metres! To show you why consider this – if he’s using a .270 and sights a deer at 300 metres and aims at it, his shots will be hitting approximately 25cm below his point of aim, whereas if he’d sighted it in 7.5 cm high at 100 metres he could shoot at it and hit the deer spot on! It becomes even worse the further out you get.
Not rocket science, but then a good number of would be hunters seem to think that their rifles will defy the laws of physics and that by sighting in at 100 metres they will magically be able to correctly evaluate range and shoot animals at what-ever distance …! Not so. ‘Flat shooting’ does not mean your projectiles do not obey the laws of physics. It’s ok for bush stalking to sight in for 100 metres, but even then, what if you get a much longer shot? And, don’t kid yourself that you can judge distances well without a range finder!
I shoot all my rifles in to be 7.5 cm high at 100 metres – that’s nothing and believe you me when you are out in the wilds, you won’t have to worry about those few centimetres, and if you have to take a longer shot you’ll love me for the advice!
Do you need to sight in again at 200 metres?
In my humble opinion, no. However it is good fun to shoot at longer distances, so if you want to do it for the hell of it, go for it.
Safe and successful shooting and hunting.