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How to Sight in a Scope

Last Updated: 22.05.24


Having the ability to sight in is an ability that you should be able to have. For starters, you can use a bow stand, but as you can’t always carry it with you, it’s recommended that you should also know how to do it without it as time passes and you learn more.

What does it all mean?

Sighting in a scope is also known as zero a scope for the obvious reasons. Because it’s so necessary, it also becomes highly annoying when it goes wrong – and from experience, you know how often it can go wrong. Worry not as we have prepared some tips for you so you won’t have a problem when it comes to doing this activity.

What exactly is zero in a scope? Simply it’s when you align where the scope is pointed with where the barrel of the gun you are using is also pointed. Doesn’t sound too hard, does it? Well, it may not be rocket science, but it’s something that still needs to be practiced before you can say you’ve mastered this task.


The preparation

Before starting the sight in the process, you have to mount and adjust the scope properly for this activity. Following this, you’ll have to approximate at what distance you want your scope to be sighted in to. A good option for when you start is to sight in at a distance of about 50 to 100 yards as this will be easier until you learn the “how-to”.

Even if you plan to sight in at a longer distance (of, say, 250 – 300 yards), we’d still suggest you do the initial sight-in by using a distance that is much shorter. After you’ve done so, you can adjust the scope so it can get to the longer-range zero.


Use a stable platform

In shops, you’ll find plenty of tools that are meant to help you sight in a scope so let’s focus on one, and in this case, the bore-sighting that you can do fast and without needing any sort of specialized tools. As you can guess for yourself if you use a stable platform you will have highly efficient results and it’s more likely that things will go according to plan.

The majority of ranges include a solid shooting bench which is, of course, great – as long as it’s not one that moves around. You’ll also require a good rest for the rifle. Some of the things you can use include a gun vice or shooting bags and again make sure these things are stable when you use them in order for things to go smoothly.

When it comes to bore-sighting, you will look down the bore (or most commonly known as the barrel) of your gun so you can align the scope. If we’re talking about a bolt-gun, you only have to remove the bolt which will give a very good view down the barrel so things can work out fine with ease.

In case you are using an AR-type of rifle you have to check that the bolt is forward. After that, you have to remove the two pins that are holding the upper to the lower and pull them apart. Finally, you have to remove the bolt. In the end, you will have the upper with no bolt which allows you to have a clear view down the barrel.

Working with the target

Now that we got that part of the way you need to place the rifle or upper on the rest that you decided to use and after you have to point it toward the selected target. Try using a larger type of target with high contrast such as the NRA SR-1. This type has a dark center on a light background which should make the zero in much more simple.

When the firearm is in the rest and you’ve placed the target at the distance that you wish, you’ll have to look directly through the barrel. Once you’ve started looking through it, start looking around so you’ll be able to find the target. As soon as you place it on the target, you have to align the center of the target so it looks like it’s on the bore center.

This is a big reason why you should use the type of target we recommended as the dot is dark and big enough for you to focus on allowing you to bracket it right in the middle of the bore. When you’ve done the correct alignment you have to be careful so you won’t move the gun around by accident.

Since the bore has been aligned with the target you’ll have to align to scope also. Don’t touch the rifle or the upper and try to look through the scope so you’ll spot where exactly the reticle is pointed. Because you can’t move the gun you also won’t be able to put your face in the usual down position used for shooting.

Fortunately, you’ll still be able to see through the scope. When you are looking through the scope, it’s time to make adjustments for the windage and for the elevation until you have reached a point in which the reticle is perfectly aligned with the center of the target.

There is a big chance you’ll have to repeat the task a couple of times as even when you become an expert you may still change the position of the rifle a little bit when it comes to adjusting the scope.

After you’ve centered on the reticle you’ll need to look again via the bore to check if it hasn’t moved and is still aligned. If it moved, you just have to re-align the bore to the target again and adjust the reticle. Just keep doing it up until both of them are again aligned on the spot they were before.

Once you put the bore-sight as it should be, reassemble the upper and lower or install again the bolt. A bore-sight is probably never going to reach perfection and it exists so that it can redirect you toward the target. After that, you can make better adjustments.


Shoot and reposition

Continue by firing a shot down range. See what the markings on the scope say (R is for right and U is used for up) and, again, make adjustments as necessary. 

It’s likely that the adjustment direction will change the point of impact which means that if you miss by one inch to your right and the scope has ¼ Minute of Angle per click adjustments then you will move the windage by four clicks in the exact way that the L is pointing which moved the point of impact more to your left and improved your aim.

Do several tests by shooting a couple of rounds following every time you make an adjustment so you can be sure that it will move in the direction you want to.

After all this is settled the next step is to zero the dials out as they changed from the 0 marks. This can vary based on the scope type that you use so you’ll have to check the manual in order to be sure what you should do exactly now.

Still, in most cases, the scope will include some screws that can be used to reset the dial (by turning them loose). It’s time to turn the dial now back to the 0 positions and be careful not to move the adjustment you’ve made underneath. Following this, you have to tighten the screws back in.


A useful tip

To make sure that everything works out the way you planned, we prepared for you a small tip that you can use in order to get the needed result. This advice is especially useful for beginners, but you can find yourself still using it even a long time after you’ve managed to become an expert in the craft.

So without further ado, this is in case you encounter problems with the rounds on paper. If that is the case, then you can try placing a couple of targets in one place which will make the impact area much bigger. After you’ve seen the hole you’ll have an idea about the direction in which you have to make adjustments for centering up the scope. Good luck!



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