How to Sight a Rifle Scope?

Improving shot accuracy over set and varying distances is something all shooters aim for. While this takes patience and practice, it is very achievable, and as progress is made, your sense of achievement also grows.

There are various ways to up your rifle accuracy game, but none are better than taking advantage of a quality scope. And these days, shooters have an excellent selection of rifle scopes to choose from at prices to suit all pockets.

But, getting the most from any scope means two things are essential. It must be correctly installed, and you need to understand how to sight a rifle scope. The good news is that these procedures are quite straightforward.

So, let’s take a look at the steps required, starting with why…

how to sight a rifle scope

Correct Mounting is a Must

The first priority is to ensure your scope is correctly mounted on your rifle. It is very important to follow any included mounting instructions and, where necessary, use online videos to check the procedure. Mounting rings need to be tight and should also be torqued to the manufacturer’s recommended specifications.

You then need to ensure eye relief is set correctly. Again, this will be in the scope’s specs and is something you will have checked before purchase. Also, knowing and understanding the strength of recoil your rifle gives with different types of cartridges and loads is essential. You need sufficient eye relief to guard against any “scope eye” injury.

Don’t Dismiss The Importance of Bore Sighting

Bore sighting aligns the center of your rifle barrel (the bore) with the sights. Here is a proven and effective way to complete the task manually:

Make sure your rifle is unloaded and then secured in a vise or shooting rest. It should be pointed at a target placed 25 yards down range. Your task is to align the center of the bore with the center of the mounted scope. This is achieved by visually matching the bore center position with the center of the scope. You will need to loosen the scope in order to make slight adjustments.

Stand behind the rifle and look through the bore (the barrel) of the rifle. Your aim is to center the target in the bore. This will be achieved by making small, careful adjustments to the rifle.

Once that is complete, you then need to adjust the scope to center on the target without moving the rifle. This means the scopes reticle (or red dot) should be centered on the target you are looking down the bore at.

how to sight rifle scope

Keep it steady…

Once you are satisfied that the boresight is set and your scope’s reticle (or red dot) lines up with the target center, it is time to tighten everything up. When doing this, take care not to move the position of the scope.

Note: It is possible to purchase and use a laser boresight, such as the StrongTools BoreSighter for 223/9MM/7.62X39MM/30-30/30-06/.25/270/243/308/7MM/ 45 Colt Caliber Rifle Scope Handgun Brass Red Dot Boresight Kit. These fit into the chamber of your rifle and do virtually the same job as I just described. A laser boresight makes the job easier but is certainly not a ‘‘must have” accessory.

The RUB1ZR0 Boresighter Kit Precision Alignment Bore Sighter with 16 Pieces Adjustable Arbors is also an excellent option if you are looking for pinpoint accuracy.

Why Only Boresight at 25 Yards?

Many shooters may be surprised that bore sighting is carried out with a target only 25 yards away. The reason for this is that there is no need to go any further. Once the task is completed at 25 yards, it means that when shooting live ammunition at a 100-yard target, you will be ‘‘on paper’’.

The type of target used is a personal choice. Many find that using a target with a large, clearly visible center makes life easier. Those that come with distance markers from the bullseye or with a circular orange bullseye, such as the Remington Bullseye Style 100 Yard Sight-In Target (Pack of 12), are worthy of consideration.

Reticle focus….

Once the scope is secured correctly to your rifle, it is time to focus the reticle. When looking through the scope, your eye needs to sharply focus on the crosshair.

Choose a solid background (the sky is not a bad option!) Point the scope at your chosen background and look away at something in the distance. Then bring your eyes back to the scope.

What needs to happen is that you have an immediate, sharp, and clear focus. You should not have to wait for your eyes to adjust. Good focus should be instant. If the reticle looks blurry, you need to adjust the diopter setting until it is crisp and sharp.

Also, check that the reticle pattern is correctly positioned. When looking through the scope, it should be a perfect cross. Correct reticle position when taking shots at close range is absolutely necessary in order to achieve accuracy over longer distances.

How to Sight a Rifle Scope – Now it’s Time to Fire!

You are now ready to start shooting. It is wise to use the same cartridge type/load for sighting-in as you intend to use on a regular basis. This keeps things consistent and helps you understand how your rifle and scope combo will react during future shooting sessions.

Because bore sighting was carried out at 25 yards, you could start with a target at this distance. It must be said that many shooters choose to sight-in with a target at 100 yards. Also, to make your life easy, use your shooting rest or sandbags to keep the rifle steady.

how to sight the rifle scope

Aim and fire one shot at the target center. You will feel the usual recoil and rifle movement. Reposition the rifle to the target center, hold steady while looking through the scope and make any crosshair adjustments to POI (Point Of Impact). Fire a second and third shot repeating the above process.

It is often the case that you will not hit the target center with your first grouping. Don’t worry about this. A close grouping anywhere on the target is more important. This is because you can then make adjustments that mean the next groups will hit the target center. Adjusting your scope is explained below, but once you are hitting the target center, this means your rifle scope is sighted in.

Distance Adjustment

Sighting in a scope at different distances requires only small adjustments. Most commonly, the measurement is MOA (Minute Of Angle), and these are 1/4-inch steps for every 100 yards. This means that on average, each quarter inch moves your shot an inch for each hundred yard increase in distance.

If you are using MIL measurements, these come in 1/10th steps. Do check your scope adjustment steps, as some models will vary.

Whatever distance your target is, you should be making necessary adjustments and shooting consistent groups close to the bullseye. Concentrate on becoming accurate at the realistic distances you intend to target. You will always be able to increase range as you become more experienced and accurate with your rifle and scope combo.

A Cold Barrel is The Way To Go!

You may hear claims that sighting-in can be achieved in two or three shots. While this is possible, do not worry if it takes quite a few more. Rifle scope models vary in just how precise, and consistent their adjustments are.

Have patience and do not fire shot after shot too quickly. Rapid shooting can cause your barrel to get too hot. If this happens, then POI (Point Of Impact) is likely to vary. Obviously, this is not what you want. Slow, measured shots are the way to go. Once those close groupings are achieved, let the barrel cool completely. Then shoot another group to ensure your results remain consistent.

Looking for a New Rifle Scope to Sight?

Then check out my in-depth reviews of the Best AR15 Carry Handle Scopes, the Best Low Light Rifle Scope, the Best Air Rifle Scopes, the Best Rimfire Scopes, the Best Deer Hunting Scopes, or the Best 300 Win Mag Scopes on the market in 2023.

Or, take a look at our comprehensive reviews of the Best 308 Rifles Scopes, the Best Mil Dot Scopes, the Best Scopes for M&P 15-22, the Best Scopes for AR15 under 100 Dollars, the Best Mini 14 Ranch Rifles, as well as the Best Scout Scopes you can buy.

Final Thoughts

Understanding how to get rifle scope sighted correctly should be part of every shooter’s learning curve. The procedure is quite straightforward, and the benefits are long proven.

Combining your rifle, scope, and the type of cartridge you intend to use when sighting in is the way to go, and will help to increase accuracy during future shooting sessions. This increased precision will add to your confidence as well as your overall shooting enjoyment.

Consistent accuracy over varying distances is not something that will come overnight. Having said this, using a correctly sighted-in rifle scope will help no end. Add to this positivity and regular practice. By doing so, your shooting precision is set to improve in leaps and bounds.

Happy and safe shooting.

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About Wayne Fletcher

Wayne is a 58 year old, very happily married father of two, now living in Northern California. He served our country for over ten years as a Mission Support Team Chief and weapons specialist in the Air Force. Starting off in the Lackland AFB, Texas boot camp, he progressed up the ranks until completing his final advanced technical training in Altus AFB, Oklahoma.

He has traveled extensively around the world, both with the Air Force and for pleasure.

Wayne was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal, First Oak Leaf Cluster (second award), for his role during Project Urgent Fury, the rescue mission in Grenada. He has also been awarded Master Aviator Wings, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and the Combat Crew Badge.

He loves writing and telling his stories, and not only about firearms, but he also writes for a number of travel websites.

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