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How to Fix a Scope That Won’t Adjust: Troubleshooting Tips

How to Fix a Scope That Won't Adjust

I remember when I was a beginner, and my scope won’t adjust properly; it was one of the most frustrating moments as a shooter.

I had no idea how to troubleshoot my rifle. I didn’t even know why it wouldn’t adjust anymore in the first place.

If you’re in the same boat, you’ve come to the right place!

In this article, I go over the common causes of why you can’t calibrate your scope and the surefire solutions for each of them.

Why Won’t My Scope Adjust?

Your scope probably ran out of adjustment. The most probable cause is the alignment of the scope and the bore. 

If it isn’t that, read on the top 10 causes and how to fix a scope that won’t adjust.

10 Causes + Solutions to Fix Your Scope That Won’t Adjust

Man in camouflage

Before we start making adjustments, first, you need to know your rifle scope. 

  • What scope adjustments are available?
  • What does each turret mean?
  • How do you dial the right turret? 
  • How does adjusting a certain turret impact your rifle scope and your shots?

When I was a newbie, it really paid off to explore my rifle scope adjustments and turret options.

1. Turret Click Adjustment

One of the first things you need to know about your scope is how the turret click adjustment works. 

What is the minute of angle (MOA) of the turret? Is it 1/2-, 1/4-, or 1/8-inch per click at 100 yards? You’ll find this on the scope.

For example, most rifle scopes use the 1/4 inch per click to say 1/4 inch per 100 yards.

This label on the turret means that every click translates to 1/4 inch at 100 yards. One inch at 100 yards equates to 1 MOA.

Let’s say your shot is off-center for about 3 inches ABOVE and 3.5 MOA LEFT. 

What you need to do is to dial the respective scope turrets in the OPPOSITE direction.

First, you want to dial the elevation adjustment turret 12 clicks up (since 4 x 3 = 12). That should be enough to bring you to the point you want to hit.

Do the same with the windage turret, which is 14 clicks right (3.5 x 4 = 14)

And you’ve got your point of impact in the center!

After fixing the scope turrets, you can take another shot in the range. Did your point of impact shift now?

If not, don’t dial the turret again just yet.

Sometimes your scope’s erector tube gets stuck after making the necessary turret adjustment clicks, and you’ll need to take a few more shots to get it to shift.

After a few more shots, you’ll probably see your point of impact shift nearer to the bull’s eye.

2. Slanted Base Mount

But what if you’re a long-range shooter and have already maxed out the adjustment range on your turret?

Don’t worry! There’s still something you can do about your rifles!

What I did was place a 20 MOA base mount, so it’s angled upward. The goal is to account for the lack of turret adjustment range.

3. Bore Sighting

Before you shoot, another thing that you should fix is your bore sight. Get a vice if you have one or a cradle for your rifle.

Anything that is a steady rest will do!

This rest will ensure your rifle won’t move around while working. Take the bolt from the action, and look inside the barrel.

While looking in the barrel at 30 yards, adjust the gun such that a small bull’s-eye is visible in the center. 

I like to use a laser to help me with centering. 

You want the scope and barrel to be pointed in the SAME direction. Turn the turret until the reticle is CENTERED over the target to set it.

Be careful not to move the rifle while you are adjusting!

Next, you want to make sure that you’re not just good for 30 yards but also MORE. To do this, take a few shots in the range.

Did you hit your target?

Now set your rifle’s crosshair back to where it was for your initial shot and adjust the windage and elevation turret to center on the bullet hole you shot.

You’re now set for a longer distance in the range!

4. Scope Mount

Perhaps you’re using a bad-quality scope mount, and it’s the one causing your trouble.

How do you know if you’re using a good scope mount in the first place?

A high-quality mount is solid and one piece to maintain zero. You also want to ensure the mount is accurately placed and FIXED on the rifle.

Additionally, if you’re using scope rings, you must ensure correct scope lapping is done for alignment.

You want a good mount because it ensures that the connection between the scope and the rifle is steady and helpful instead of the problem’s source.

If you suspect your mount is the culprit behind your missed aim, you might want to get a better, more solid mount for your rifle scope.

5. Alignment

The alignment of your mount and rifle may also contribute to your aim issues. It may occur if the rifle’s top rail is not entirely centered.

To fix this, lap up the scope!

6. Screw Torque Spec

You might also have over-torqued the scope rings and the erector tube, or you couldn’t screw it tight enough.

I was wrong to believe the extra tightening the scope rings would keep it in place, but over-torqueing can break the scope tube.

If what you over-torqued was the erector tube, then it can offset the etched glass reticle. It might be why you can’t zero in, and your scope won’t adjust.

Now, how do you fix this problem?

I use a metered torque wrench. It will serve as your guide when you work on the scope rings.

Second, follow the instructions from the manufacturer about the right torque spec. There might also be different instructions for each scope ring or mount.

7. Temperature Changes in the Barrel

Many modern rifle scopes shoot at one point of impact when it’s hot, then at a different point of impact when it’s cold.

If you zeroed in on a hot rifle, the direction of the shots might be different from the same cold rifle.

So what temperature is it safe to set the aim? It’s mostly when the barrel is COLD. 

Why? Because you won’t always be able to shoot in the firing range with a hot barrel.

You also assume that a barrel at ambient temperature is a cold barrel.

When hunting, you spend a lot of time waiting and observing your target, so you’ll probably end up with a cold barrel most of the time.

How do you adjust your barrel cold?

When sighting in, I take at least a minute between shots and let it cool completely before I finally zero in. 

To keep your barrel cold in the range, remember that it doesn’t take just one shot to heat a barrel. It usually takes about 3 consecutive shots.

8. Dial is in the Opposite Direction

It could also be that your reticle is moving in the wrong direction of your turret dial because you are reading the labels based on the point of aim, not the impact on paper.

If this is the case, you’ll never be able to zero in on your aim!

Use the dial direction by reference to the impact on paper, as most rifles are designed to.

9. Human Error

When I was a newbie, I would always blame the scope.

But now, I realize that it might have just been human error rather than running out of adjustment range.

Remember, when the bullet leaves your rifle, they never rise above the bore sighting. You can expect a bullet drop, thanks to gravity.

So if you see it rise, you’re probably angling it upward when you shoot. 

Try to correct your position and accuracy by using a cradle rest for your rifle. Do not move your body while you aim to avoid rifle scope zeroing problems.

I also keep my hand between the stock and support to keep my point of direction consistent and keep the rifle steady on the rest!

10. Scope Itself

Lastly, if you’ve done everything right but still can’t get the scope adjustment right, maybe the problem lies with your scope.

Maybe the manufacturer made a mistake or a false claim. Maybe you’re stuck with a defective scope or a broken one. 

You can either swap it for a new one or still try to shoot with it. If you don’t want to let go of your scope just yet, here are a few things you can do:

When the clicks have been adjusted, repeatedly hit the turret top with a plastic or wood screwdriver handle.

This reduces erector turret sticking when zeroing in. You want to mimic recoil to jar loose the stuck screw/tube junction.

You can also recall the turret setting number every time, then dial past it completely before turning around and dialing the right number.

Sometimes, putting enough pressure on it will resolve the sticking problem.

If all else fails, you can replace it with a better-quality scope that will give you more clarity, better reticle moves, more precision, better rings, and finer turret options.

You can try one with a zero-stop option!

How to Zero Your Scope

Armed soldier looking through scope

We’ll walk you through the entire process of how to zero your scope to avoid making the same mistakes!

Step 1: Use the Right Ammo

Before we start zeroing in your scope, you first must select the ammo you use on your rifles most frequently. 

Different grain variants will also affect your zero, so what ammo you use to find your zero point is important.

Step 2: Elevation and Windage Adjustment

Next, attach the laser sight (if you have one), then work with these two turrets to center your laser.

Step 3: Take a Few Shots

With your laser in the center, you can use it as a starting point and take around 3-5 shots to see your grouping. Work with the windage and elevation turrets from there.

Remember to keep the 100-yard distance!

Next is trial and error. You’ll just have to repeat the same process from the same place until you find zero.

Frequently Asked Questions

Man looking through scope

Do you still have questions on scopes and rifles? We’ve got you!

Can You Reset a Scope?

Yes, you can reset your scopes to factory zero. All you need is an Allen wrench and your scope!

First, place your scope in front of a mirror and look at the crosshairs. You will see the reticle if the scope is at the center.

If not, you’ll see a shadow of the reticle in the mirror. Now, you want to line the reticle to its shadow by fixing the turrets.

Keep at it until the reticle moves to align with its shadow, and you’re done!

Can You Shim a Rifle Scope?


Shimming a rifle scope is a good emergency solution, but it’s not a long-term remedy or the best solution.

Why Does My Scope Run Out of Adjustment?

You have probably run out of calibration options because your scope is not aligned to the rifle’s bore.

Otherwise, your scope has fewer calibration options than you need for the right alignment to your rifles.

Why Can’t I Zero My Scope?

Most of the time, the problem is that the scope rings came away as you fired the rifle repeatedly, the parts didn’t fit well, or you didn’t tighten the screws enough.

How Do I Prevent a Scope From Getting Stuck Again?

You can prevent your scope from getting stuck by cleaning and lubricating it regularly.

Dong so will keep dirt and debris out and the parts moving freely as they are supposed to.

Final Thoughts

And that’s all I have for how to calibrate and adjust a rifle scope! I hope this article has been of help to you.

It will take a little trial and error, but with all this new information about how to fix your scope that won’t move properly, I hope your product will work much better!

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