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Zeroing a Riflescope

Zeroing a Riflescope

Sighting in is critical to accurate field shooting. Take the time to do it right to avoid wondering what went wrong.

By Richard Mann

Every year as the hunting season approaches, neighbors and friends start dropping by my house for assistance sighting their rifles. This occurs quite often not only because I have a range but also due to the fact that many hunters don’t know how to zero a rifle without shooting an entire box of ammo.

With most hunting cartridges, zeroing a few inches high at 100 yards will allow you to hold on a big game animal out to 300 yards or more, yet keep the bullet in the kill zone. For deep-woods hunting, a dead-on zero at 100 yards might be best.  

Sighting in a rifle is really an easy process, but it does require some planning and attention to detail. Using a proper rest and a stable bench is important. Beyond that, it’s really just a matter of making the rifle barrel and scope point to the same place.

Step 1: Make sure your scope bases, rings and riflestock screws are tight.

Step 2: If possible, remove the gun’s bolt so you can look down the barrel from the breech end. If you’re zeroing  a lever action or semiauto and can’t remove the bolt, go to step 2A.

Zeroing a RiflescopeStep 2A: Set a target at 15, 20 or 25 yards, and fire one shot. Adjust the scope reticle to move the bullet impact to the aiming point. Fire another shot to verify the point of impact has shifted. When bullets are striking the target within 2 inches of the aiming point at 25 yards, go to step 4. Note: With most scopes, a one-click adjustment at 25 yards will move the reticle 1/16 inch.

Step 3: Place the rifle securely in the rest, look through the barrel and line up a target at 50 yards in the center of the bore. Adjust the scope reticle so it’s perfectly centered on the 50-yard target, and then, without moving the rifle, verify that the barrel is also lined up on the target by again looking through the bore.

Step 4: Fire a single round at 50 yards. If properly bore sighted, most rifles will print within a few inches of the center of the target. Other guns might be as much as a foot off because of various reasons, so use a large target for your first shots at 50 yards.

Step 5: Verify the point of impact and adjust to strike the center of the target. With each click, most scopes move the point of impact 1/4 inch at 100 yards and 1/8 inch at 50 yards.

Step 6: Fire a second shot at 50 yards to verify the bullet is now impacting the center of the target or within an inch of center. Note: Some scopes will require a shot to shift or set the reticle adjustment. If you don’t see any measurable difference between the first and second shot, fire a third and fourth if needed to verify the reticle has moved.

Step 7: Fire a three-shot group at 100 yards and note the center of the group. Most modern centerfire cartridges sighted dead-on at 50 yards will be slightly high at 100 yards. Calculate the adjustment needed to change the point of impact at 100 yards.

Subscribe Today!Step 8: Fire another three-shot group and verify that the point of impact. Make another adjustment if needed and fire another three-shot group.

Step 9: Verify the point of impact is where you want it. If not, continue to adjust and fire groups until it is.

Step 10: If your scope has turrets that can be set to zero without actually moving the reticle, do that now so it will serve as a future reference.

You can forgo the “looking through the barrel” step by getting a gunsmith to do it or by purchasing a bore-sighting tool. In reality, these units are no more precise than looking through the rifle’s barrel as described in Step 3, but many shooters find them easier and more convenient to use.

Take your time, don’t rush the process and plan on firing at least nine shots. It’s that easy.

Reprinted from the August 2007 issue of Buckmasters GunHunter Magazine. Subscribe today to have GunHunter delivered to your home.

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