A rifle is useless without a properly-maintained scope!
I used to find it quite a hassle to do scope maintenance regularly until I neglected to do so, which resulted in some pretty bad shots.
All I had was a damaged scope that needed repair ASAP!
As hunters, remember that you need to give the same attention to your rifle scope as you do your rifle and other equipment.
Here, I’ll walk you through everything so you can perform the perfect rifle scope refurbishing for the next hunting season.
But before we get into how to repair a rifle scope, let’s quickly get acquainted with its main parts.
- Preliminary Step: Understanding the Parts of Rifle Scopes
- Steps for Rifle Scope Repair: Maintenance & Alignment
- What is a Rifle Scope?
- Why Rifle Scope Repair is Important
- The Right Scope
- Frequently Asked Questions
Preliminary Step: Understanding the Parts of Rifle Scopes
Before you get started on repairing or adjusting your scope, you must understand several things, which include the parts of a rifle scope.
This will let you figure out which parts need repair while also giving you a better understanding of how all these parts work.
Ever wondered what the eyes of your enemy would look like?
Well, for your target, it’s the objective lens.
This is the external lens of the scope that receives light from your surroundings and directly faces your target.
The BIGGER it is, the HIGHER the amount of light it can absorb. However, note that this will also make your scope heavier, which won’t work for all rifles.
Generally, the objective lens can easily get damaged if the glass or lens coating is low quality.
A bad lens coating makes them more prone to getting scratches or shattering.
The ocular lens directly faces your eye and shows you the light received from the objective lens.
Depending on the lens, it will have various coatings to improve light transmission and its ability to repel water.
As the name “focus lens” suggests, this lens lets you focus. Pretty obvious, right?
Have you ever taken a picture and realized it isn’t the proper scale? Well, this lens fixes that by correcting any parallax disorders you may encounter.
The eyepiece is a rigid metal cylinder that holds the ocular lens of the scope.
Depending on your model, you may be able to make adjustments to improve the focus of your reticle systems.
The erector tube ensures that whatever image reaches your eye will be upright. That way, you can be sure you’re seeing everything accurately through the optics.
Think of this as the housing or case of your rifle scope.
It is a solid metal tube that contains all the moving parts and fragile lenses of the scope and attaches to your rifle through a few rings at each end of the tube.
Elevation and Windage Turret
You can find your scope’s elevation adjusters or turret on top of the rifle scope.
This is a millimeter wheel that lets you adjust the vertical position of the reticle when you’re zeroing in.
Just like the elevation adjusters, this is also a millimeter wheel that lets you adjust your scope.
However, you can find this on the right side, and it works to adjust the horizontal position of your reticle.
Both these components can get damaged over time if your scope rusts.
There are different types of reticles, and the maintenance will depend on what kind you have.
The first focal plane reticles are placed in FRONT of the magnification lens, while a Second focal plane reticle is positioned BEHIND the magnification lens.
Laser-etched rifle scopes are susceptible to damage from water droplets that are produced by temperature changes in the tube.
The standard wire reticle has the same vulnerability to temperature changes because it uses 2 metal sheets or wires in the tube.
Things like temperature changes should definitely be considered when buying your scope.
Remember that toggle or button you use on a camera to zoom in or out? That’s essentially the function of the power ring.
This lets you magnify or zoom in, and vice-versa.
Note that higher magnification will mean you have a considerably smaller field of view, which means you won’t see what’s nearer to you as much.
However, the field of view from the power ring will also give you better detail on the image you’re looking at.
Steps for Rifle Scope Repair: Maintenance & Alignment
Rifle Scope Maintenance
One of the first things a hunter or rifle owner needs to know is how to care for your scope regularly.
Remember: The purpose of maintenance is to prevent long-term damage to your scope, so you must do this regularly.
Step 1: Nitrogen Refill
If you wear glasses, isn’t it irritating when your lenses fog up whenever there is any moisture change?
But the truth is…
Nitrogen prevents moisture damage by keeping it from entering and damaging your scope.
Manufacturers fill their scopes with nitrogen at the factory, usually with a vacuum line into the tube, before sealing everything up.
Now you have 2 options to refill the nitrogen.
- First, you can send it back to the manufacturer or any professional to have them refill the nitrogen.
- Second, you can also do it yourself by placing your scope inside a nitrogen-filled bag.
And if you notice that the nitrogen seal leaks, DON’T PANIC!
Just put it in a container with some silica gel bags and leave it to absorb excess nitrogen.
Step 2: No Oil!
Because scopes are made of metal, you may be tempted to oil them to avoid rusting. RESIST this urge!
Oil will damage the components of your scope, including the external components like the windage adjuster.
If you’ve accidentally done this already, take it to a professional who knows how to take scopes apart and deal with this issue.
Step 3: Cleaning Lenses Regularly
Just like with binoculars, you need to clean scopes regularly to get rid of dust particles.
- First, use a cotton ball soaked with isopropyl alcohol or lens cleaner to wipe away the particles.
- Then, use a puffer brush to get those small particles that can cause minute scratches on your lens.
Keep the lens cap ON whenever you aren’t using your scopes. Do not wipe the lens surface with a rag or cloth because this will scratch it.
Repairs for Scope Misalignments
So now you know the regular repairs you need to perform, this part teaches you how to deal with a misaligned scope.
Step 1: Mounting Rings
When adjusting rifle scopes, hold it on a stable, flat surface so that it doesn’t move around. This will prevent any problem with sighting your scope.
Before you even try adjusting other parts of your scope, double-check you mounted your scope properly onto your rifle.
Why? Because a bad rifle mount won’t hold scopes onto the rifle and will lead to misalignment.
What if you’re using weaver mounts?
In that case, pay attention to the weaver rings with the parallel ridges running across the mount.
Adjust it until you can’t anymore, then note the point in the scope and the target’s location at that same point.
Now, mount the rings at a 180-degree angle from that initial point you marked.
Sight your scope again to see if your problem’s gone. If not, you will need to replace the scope rings to see any improvements.
Step 2: Adjustments for Off-Center Mounting Holes
Some rifles have holes that just aren’t placed right. Bummer.
You can’t accurately see objects, let alone see them in detail, without fixing the problem of off-center holes.
In case you have this, use the proper tools to measure whether they are, indeed, off-center. Carefully drill new ones in.
Just remember to be careful because rifles are expensive. If you’re not 100% confident you can do this, take it to a professional.
Step 3: Check Your Ammo
Your sighting will change depending on the ammo you use. Make sure you use the right type recommended by the manufacturer.
Replacing or Having Scopes Repaired Professionally
If the damage is too severe, you will need to REPLACE your scope.
When do you call the time of death on your scope?
Suppose you just can’t zero in despite replacing the mounting rings and adjusting the magnification knobs and elevation or windage turret.
In that case, it’s usually a sign that something major is wrong in the internal alignments.
You also have to pay attention if your scope is functioning properly and, if it is not, how to fix it.
What is a Rifle Scope?
A rifle scope is a part that lets you magnify an image of your target by positioning it and your eye on the same optic lane.
The scope also lets you align the center point to the target where you want your bullet to hit.
This is usually marked by a dot or a particular reticle type, like crosshairs.
How does it perform this seemingly magical feat, you ask?
Well, through light transmission using the lenses inside the scope!
With years of lens development (from using spider webs and horse hair, then manual scoring to chemical etching on the lenses and more), scopes have come a long way.
Today, the details you can get from, say, Leupold scopes are insane.
Moreover, you also get longer eye relief, so you can try your hand at multi-day hunting.
You can see our review of the Leupold VX-R here!
These improvements, from the technology in the tube to the use of nitrogen and numerous windage and other adjusters, make the scope what it is today.
Why Rifle Scope Repair is Important
When you’ve already spent hours tracking down your prey, the last thing you’d want is to make a mistake that will scare them away.
Skittish animals are difficult to track. Once you find them, one wrong move can easily cause the WHOLE herd to disperse!
It happened to me, once. Very disappointing.
Check that your rifle scope is in tip-top shape before you go out to hunt.
A well-maintained scope also gives you a more accurate shot, lessening unnecessary injuries and ensuring you come back with your prized trophy or meat.
Moreover, fixing a scope is much CHEAPER than buying a new one unless its damage is so severe that there’s no way to bring it back to life anymore.
If you know how to take it apart and spot any damage, it will also be easier for you to decide whether the damage is too bad or is still salvageable.
The Right Scope
Unlike binoculars, you can’t just use any scope.
You need to find one that can easily fit onto your rifle, meaning that if it can’t support big scopes, then there’s no use forcing it.
If you have a very thin barrel, it will be challenging to sight your scope.
To check if the problem lies with your scope or your rifle, try placing your scope onto another rifle.
If it works just fine, it’s likely a compatibility or rifle issue.
Speaking of compatibility, check out this guide to learn if you can use a rifle scope on a muzzleloader!
Frequently Asked Questions
What Parts Can Break on a Rifle Scope?
Several parts of the scope can break.
For instance, the objective lens of a low-quality scope will likely look foggy or get scratched. In worst-case scenarios, it should even break!
The scope’s turrets can also be damaged if you do not turn them gently.
Additionally, as mentioned earlier, the nitrogen filling may leak and cause moisture damage.
It’s best to take the scope to a professional in case of any severe damage.
How Do You Know That a Rifle Scope is Broken?
Your scope may be broken if it fails to hold zero or if the image is constantly blurry.
If your turrets fail to click, turn, or adjust properly, it could also be another sign of damage.
This will reflect in your shots; no matter how many times you adjust them, where the bullet lands will be off no matter what.
Pay attention to the tracking and reticle as well; if it is uneven, it is a clear sign of damage.
Can You Rebuild a Rifle Scope Yourself?
Yes, you can! You can dismantle your scope and repair it yourself if you have confidence. However, I wouldn’t recommend it.
If you are not a professional, something could always go wrong, leaving you with an unusable scope.
You are better off taking it to an actual professional and having it repaired there.
What is the Lifespan of a Rifle Scope?
Technically, a rifle scope can last for decades if you take good care of it regularly. If you’re lucky and choose a good product, it can even last forever!
You can ensure its longevity by cleaning it regularly and protecting it when not in use.
As you can see, all these steps are simple. They can cause your scope to last as long as possible!
Constant maintenance is annoying but is more than necessary if you want your scope to perform at its best.
Now it’s time you try your hand at repairing your scope yourself!
FINAL TIP: To get started on your scope journey, you can refer to this list of the best 1000-yard scopes to choose from!