How To Zero A Rifle Scope

Shooting is a popular sport around the world and there are many choices when it comes to what to shoot. One of the most popular options for shooting is rifles as they are widely available and easy to use. When shooting a rifle though, one will want to be accurate up to a good distance. That means having a scope.

We all see slightly differently due to our focus points, that means a scope cannot just be sold ready to shoot. You need to first mount your rifle scope and then adjust it. The process of adjusting a scope is known as zeroing.

The process of zeroing a scope can take some time if you aren’t used to it but the more you do it, the quicker it will be. It is also an enjoyable process for many shooters. In today’s article we are going to help you get your rifle and scope ready by teaching you to zero your scope.

How To Zero A Scope

Image by 7th Army Training Command | CC BY 2.0

What You Will Need

A Few Notes

Before we begin with the instructions there are a few things that you might want to take into mind. First is the ammunition you are going to use. The powder in the casing, the shape/design of the round, and the weight all factor into a bullet’s trajectory. Unless you are planning to shoot at really short ranges, we highly recommend zeroing your rifle with the same ammunition you plan to be using in the field.

Prior to working on zeroing your rifle, you do need to make sure. That your scope will function properly. This is done by ensuring that the mounts are installed properly and you have leveled the sight. The mounts are pretty straight forward while leveling is just the process of making sure the scope sits properly aligned in the brackets before tightening them.

It is important to note that scopes can be affected by bumping and jostling. Especially if they are on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Taking care of your rifle such as making sure no pressure is exerted on the scope or the brackets when it is stored and that it is transported in a proper case will help to prevent messing with your zeroing.

Zeroing your scope typically only works for one distance. There are scopes that are capable of being zeroed to multiple distances. If you are interested in shooting at a variety of distances you could look at getting one of these scopes. An alternative to that is learning how your rifle shoots depending on the range you are at. For example, a rifle zeroed at 50 yards will be several inches low at 25 yards and several high at 75.

Lastly, to adjust your scope you use knobs. These knobs are known as the windage and elevation knobs. Each of these knobs adjusts in what are known as ticks. In almost all cases 1 tick is equal to ¼ of an inch at 100 yards. That means at 25 yards you are at 16 clicks for an inch. Doing the math for your desired distance will tell you how much you need to adjust the knob.

How To Zero Your Rifle Scope

Step One: Clean Your Rifle

When it comes to zeroing your rifle and shooting precisely, every last detail can affect your shot. To make sure that you get consistent and reliable shots, make sure you clean your rifle. Do your best to ensure that the barrel is spotless and every part needing lube is properly lubricated.

Step Two: Set Up Your Target

The first step to zeroing your scope is to set up your target. For those who are using a zeroing target, just make sure that it is at the proper distance. For other targets, it helps to draw lines coming out of the center like a crosshair and mark distance from center in inches on the target. This will help to prevent the need to walk up to the target every time until you need to fine-tune the zeroing.

Step Three: Load Your Magazine

Zeroing your scope is done by only shooting three shots at a time. For safety and proper shooting, only load three rounds into your magazine to start.

Step Four: Prepare and Fire 3 Shots

Before you shoot, do all you can to stabilize your rifle. The best position to fire from is the prone position as you can be table and let the recoil move through your body. But a chair will also work. Being stable and accurate at this part is important because you want to be able to reproduce your results.

Fire three shots at the center of the target. If you are using a zeroing target with multiple targets on the same paper, use only one target per set of 3 shots. Take your time, there is no rush during this part of the process.

Step Five: Measure Out Your Shots

If you are using a zeroing target or have made marks on your target, use binoculars or your scope to measure the distance off the bullseye each shot is. You will want to have both vertical and horizontal numbers. Write these numbers down.

For a standard target, you will want to walk to the target when it is safe to do so and measure using a ruler. Get as precise of a measurement as you can but when you are starting out, your main goal is to get closer to the center with every set of shots. You will be off at first in most cases.

Step Six: Adjust The Scope

Take the numbers that you recorded from the previous step and convert the inches into ticks. Remember, 100 yards is 4 ticks on the scope. If your scope knobs don’t have the direction written on them, the windage knob is usually left for left, right for right. The elevation knob is typically right for up, left for down.

Some scopes will need a special tool in order to adjust the reticle. If your scope requires a tool it should have come with said tool. However, an armorer’s tool will typically have the necessary tool.

Step Seven: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Now that you have adjusted your scope for the first time, it is time to fire three more shots down range. Once those shots have hit the target, repeat step five and six as many times as you need. Continue this process until you have your rifle hitting the bullseye with every shot you take.

Taking your rifle out and zeroing it for the first time will be a new experience but it should be one that you find interesting and fun. If you want to become better at the process, try zeroing your rifle in at different ranges. Then, when you are done, just leave it zeroed at the distance that you want to shoot. We do recommend that you take your rifle out and rezero it if you haven’t shot for a while. This will help to ensure that nothing has changed while it has sat unused.

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