The Perfect Shot: How to Sight In Your New Scope
Most scopes are built to be pretty accurate out of the box and the first instinct is to try it out, but you should always “sight in” your new scope. To do this, there are a number of steps to follow that will make sure your zero is on point with each and every shot that you take.
Fixing the Mount
The first thing to do is to mount your scope properly, because that will affect everything moving forward. While most scopes come with a mount, it’s sometimes recommended to spend extra on a better mount to ensure stability and not have to reestablish a zero every time you shoot.
Whether the mount that came with your scope is to your liking or you purchase a better one, you’ll either secure the pins or screws in the pre-drilled holes. Mounts should be screwed in similar to how a tire is changed, where you alternate turning them until all screws are tightened.
You might want to try to wiggle your mount a little when you’re done to make sure it doesn’t move, because that will defeat the purpose of finding your zero. When you place your scope on the mount, don’t forget to account for eye relief.
This differs with the amount of recoil your rifle has, with heavier calibers usually needing more relief, but you could sustain serious damage to your eye if you’re not careful. If your mount is installed correctly, the crosshairs or reticle on your scope should be perfectly level.
Adjust the Reticle for MOA
When choosing your scope for your rifle, pay attention to the MOA measurements on the reticle. While some use the Mil-dot system, MOA is Minutes of Angle, or the amount of time that the bullet’s in the air before reaching its target.
With your reticle level, you’ll want to use the MOA hashes to account for elevation and windage if you fire at a relatively-fixed distance. For most scopes, those adjustments are made at ⅛” or ¼” MOA per click where ¼” adjusts for each 100-yard increment.
Basically, at ¼” MOA, a shot at 100 yards would be 1 click, a 200-yard shot would be 2 clicks, and so-on. Obviously, it only matters to set this if you’ll be constantly shooting at the same distance. Otherwise, you’ll have to make those adjustments in the moment.
Ready, Aim, Fire
Before you begin shooting, you’ll have to make a decision on the ammunition you use. Some bullets are better-suited for different weather conditions or distances from how they’re designed, so you might want to research the grain and bullet structure that would fit your needs.
Once that’s done, you’ll want to go to the range and fire at a target to minimize factors for optimal zeroing. Most shooters like to use a 100-yard target to make the MOA adjustments easy, so fire 2 or 3 rounds at the bullseye.
Check your target to see where the bullets went before making adjustments. If they hit an inch to the left of the target, you’ll want to click your windage knob one to the right. Basically, do the opposite to account for bullet drop or windage and repeat the process.
It usually takes a few tries to perfectly zero your rifle scope, but by the time you’re done it should consistently hit the mark. Keep in mind that too many shots can make your barrel hot and affect accuracy. If that happens, let it cool down before zeroing.
Clear to Shoot
This step is often overlooked due to the excitement to start shooting, or maybe your hand’s tired, but after you zero your scope you should clean your rifle. You don’t necessarily have to break it down and apply oil, but clean the barrel and rifling.
Now take another shot to see where it goes. If everything goes as planned, the shot should be precise. If not, it means the zero didn’t hold for some reason so go back through the process and try again.
The first thing that people assume is that something’s wrong with their scope, but it could also be a shift in the wind or even humidity affecting the bullet. That’s why it’s important to improve your MOA adjustments on the fly, because weather can make a big difference in accuracy.
Speaking of accuracy, you might want to consider other accessories that can upgrade your shooting experience. Some shooters like to use a laser sight under the barrel to help line up their aim while others love using a fold-out bipod for stability in grouping.
If you’re more prone to firing from a standing position, consider an under barrel grip or maybe an elbow sling. However you like to shoot, this guide should have your new scope zeroed and ready for consistent accuracy. Just remember to practice with the MOA clicks!