How To Use A Rifle Scope

Shooting is a sport that people around the world have taken on, the relaxation and talent that is required to hit you mark is an enjoyable activity. Out of all of the weapons that you can choose to shoot, rifles are one of the most popular options. Rifles are accurate out to a far range and relatively easy to shoot.

When you are going to shoot a rifle, the only way to hit further out is with a scope. A rifle scope is a necessary accessory. But a rifle scope is not a simple tool that attaches to the rifle and then is good to go. To use a rifle scope there is a bit of a learning curve.

In today’s article we are going to help you understand some of the necessary steps in using a rifle. Steps that shooters around the world have developed over years of competitive and tactical shooting.

How To Use A Rifle Scope

Image by John McStravick | CC BY-SA 2.0

Learn Your Rifle

Before you start to learn how to use your scope it is a good idea to learn all of the functions for your rifle. If you are an experience shooter this shouldn’t be an issue. For new shooters that will involve learning to manipulate the safety, work the action, and takedown the rifle. These are basics that any shooter should know.

Mounting The Scope

Several different methods exist for attaching a scope to a rifle; the most common being picatinny rail and screw mounts. With the rail, the scope rings slide on and affix to a common accessory attachment point. Screws are screwed directly into the rifle itself, usually through predrilled holes. During the mounting process it is important to ensure that you mount the scope far enough forward to ensure that your eye will not be hit when the rifle recoils.

When mounting the scope its essential that you level it in the scope rings. That means the crosshairs (or other reticle) are properly aligned both vertically and horizontally when compared to the rifle. The easiest way to do this is by using a level on both the side and the top of the scope to ensure that the planes are level.

As you tighten the scope rings it is important that you do not overtighten the scope. Most manufacturers have a recommended tightness for the scope rings. If the rings get too tight it puts pressure on the tube of the scope.

Familiarize Yourself with Your Scope

Most scopes come with two major parts to identify, the windage and elevation knobs. These knobs allow you to move the reticle left or right and up or down respectively. Identifying these knobs and learning to adjust them is incredibly important, they are how you will work on your next step, zeroing your scope.

Some rifles will have other parts such as a way to adjust the distance your rifle is shooting at. To identify additional knobs, you can turn to your owner’s manual.

Zero Your Rifle In

Next you want to zero your rifle in at the desired distance. A lot of shooters zero their rifle in at 100 yards to start. It is a good distance to start shooting your rifle at. However, if you are participating in tactical shooting, you might want to zero your rifle in at 25 or 50 yards as you are more likely to be shooting at closer ranges.

To zero your rifle in you are going to take sets of three shots. Then you will measure how far these three shots are from the center of the target. Take measurements on how far above/below the bullseye and how far left/right of the bullseye the rounds land. Then adjust your scope.

Adjusting your scope is done in clicks. At 100 yards 4 clicks in a direction will move your shot one inch in that direction. For example, 4 clicks up in elevation will move your shot 4 inches up on the paper.

You will continue to take a series of three shots until you are consistently hitting the center with every round. If you cannot achieve a reliable shot or cannot get on the paper, chances are the scope is not mounted properly and you should visit step one or two.

Shooting At Other Distances

It is possible to shoot at distances for which your scope isn’t zeroed at. To do this, you need to learn the distance at which to aim above or below the target. For example if you get closer to your target you will need to remember that the bullet will have less drop and you need to account for that. You may be aiming high if your scope is zeroed further.

We recommend that you learn to shoot your rifle at other distances by practicing doing so. The best way to know is through experience. Otherwise you are just operating on a theoretical. Once you learn to shoot at a variety of distances, you will be able to shoot with your rifle at any distance.

Practice Regularly

Regular practice will help to ensure that you keep up your ability to use your rifle. Shooting is a skill that will deteriorate over time if you do not regularly use it. At minimum, experts say that you should take out your rifle once a week. But the bare minimum is once per month if you want to keep your skills finely honed.

During your practice you want to learn how the wind effects your bullet’s trajectory and other skills. It is always better to learn at the range than have to try and learn while you are on the hunt. This can affect your ability to bag an animal before it runs away. Another thing to do while you practice is to zero your rifle to different distances to get familiar with how to zero the rifle.

Protect Your Scope

Your rifle is an important piece of equipment, but it is very durable. A rifle scope on the other hand is a delicate piece of equipment. Bumping the rifle too hard can cause the scope to become unaligned. When you transport your rifle make sure it is in a secure bag where it will be protected from bumps or other impacts.

It is also important that you get scope covers for the lens. Scratches on the lens can throw off the aim, make it hard to look down the scope, and more. Your scope should have come with protectors, but you can buy aftermarket protectors. These protectors typically offer more protection. Some of them offer the ability to flip them up so that you don’t have to try and keep track of them.

Regular cleaning of your scope lens will help to protect direct or other particles from wearing into the glass over time. A lens brush is a great option as the bristles are designed to wipe off the lens without scratching it. These brushes can be bought at camera stores or shooting stores. You can also buy them online.

When it comes to using cloth to wipe down the lens you need to be careful what kind of cloth you use. The cloth should be specifically designed for use on a scope lens or camera lens. You can scratch the lens if the cloth isn’t one designed for using on scopes. Additionally, the cloth should only be used on a scope to prevent transferring other debris onto the scope.

Make sure that any cleaning chemicals that you use on your scope are designed specifically for scopes. There are a number of cleaning materials you can get specifically for the scope as some chemicals may damage the lens.

Shooting a rifle is an amazing sport. One that isn’t too hard to get into. The skills are easily learned through spending time at the range practicing. Learning to use your scope is only one part of learning to shoot. Before you take your rifle out hunting or going to a competition, it is important that you know every function on your rifle.

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