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How to Sight in a Rifle Scope: 8 Steps for Hunting

How to Sight in a Rifle Scope

Whether on the hunt or in the range, you want to be sure that your gear is in tip-top shape.

How exactly can you calibrate your rifle scope to ensure it’s in perfect working condition and ready for your hunt?

Fear not, because this guide will show you how to sight in a rifle scope like pro hunters in a few easy steps.

8 Steps to Sight in a Rifle Scope

Step 1: Make Sure the Scope Is Installed Properly

Step 1

One of the first steps you and other shooters have to do is the proper installation of your rifle scope.

When installing/mounting your scope, you need to ensure that your scope rings are tightened and torqued to the specifications of your rifle.

Whether your bolt rifles are outfitted with pre-drilled holes or have a grooved rail system, you want to be sure that everything from your scope mount to your rings fits your particular rifle.

All of these are done in an effort to ensure that your rifle is in top working condition for your hunt.

It never hurts to take a second look at all your equipment to ensure they’re all in working order and can be used properly.

Follow the steps to ensure that your gun will work effectively!

In case you find that something is off, it is best to double-check it again.

If the problem persists, try visiting your local firearm retailer, as they can help you install everything properly.

Step 2: Adjust Eye Distance

Step 2

The second step involves setting your eyepiece properly so that the image you see through the scope is clear.

It is important to get the perfect amount of eye relief, also known as the distance between your eye and the end of the scope.

These scope adjustments are critical to ensure the accuracy and safety of your gun.

You have to make sure that the distance between your eye and the scope is JUST ENOUGH so that when you fire the rifle, the recoil from the shot won’t fire back and cause your scope to hit you in the eye.

After you fine-tune your scope for eye relief, it is time now to bore sight of your firearm.

Step 3: Bore Sighting Your Firearm

Step 3

Before ever shooting a rifle on the range, always take the time to bore sight it first.

Basically, bore sighting is the procedure of aligning the center of the barrel, also known as the bore, with the sights on your rifle.

It’s a simple process that should take only a couple of minutes. This can be done using a collimator, or a laser bore sighter.

These devices are the only option for action guns, such as semi-autos, where it’s impossible to look down the barrel from the breach.

For rifles where you can look down the barrel from the breach, such as a bolt action rifle, you’ll first want an unloaded rifle and a solid rest.

Shooting rests are fairly common and can be bought from various retailers for a low price to boot.

Once the gun is set, follow these steps to boresight your rifle and rifle scope. Make sure that the center of the bore is aligned with the center of the scope that you’ve mounted on your rifle.

There are many ways to do this, but the most common technique is to position your rifle about 25 yards to 50 yards range away from a paper target.

Step 4: Focusing the Reticle

Step 4

After you’ve tightened your rifle scopes, it is time to focus the reticle, also called the crosshairs, on the scope.

One way of properly focusing your rifle scope is by following this technique.

  • Look through the scope with your eye, then look away at something else nearby the range, such as a house or a tree.

Then, proceed to look back through the rifle scope. When you bring your eyes back to the rifle scope, the image you see must be sharp, and the optics must be clear.

It should appear sharper in less time than it takes for your eyes to adjust. If you look through it and the optics aren’t up to par, fiddle with the diopter adjustment.

The diopter is the thing located nearest to you on the rifle scope.

Keep adjusting until you clearly see the scope and reticle without any blurriness whatsoever.

Our goal is to get your reticle to look like a cross when seen through the rifle scope.

When that happens, your sight improves, thus helping your shots become more accurate, especially for larger distances.

Step 5: Calibrating Your MOA or Minute of Angle

Step 5

You have to do some things when it comes to setting your zero, an action you perform when aligning the sights on your rifle so that your bullet hits a certain distance.

To hit your shots at a high accuracy rating, you have to understand what MOA is. MOA, or called Minute of Angle, refers to 1/60th of a degree or, in other words, a tiny fraction of an angle.

Think of it as taking one degree on a protractor and dividing it by 60. That’s how small the MOA angle is. However, it can make a huge difference when you’re out in the field.

This is why you need to set your zero properly.

QUICK TIP: Adjusting for parallax is also something you need to keep in mind.

Step 6: Use Proper Shooting Techniques

Step 6

Sighting is not about how well you can shoot. Rather, it is all about the rifle itself.

Your goal is to eliminate as much human error as possible, even when using most modern rifles.

A way to avoid human error is by making sure you have a good, steady rest.

Make sure to use gear that helps with the recoil, such as sandbags, a bench rest, or a shooting bench, and, most importantly, don’t forget to take your time.

When you take a shot, be wary of the bullet holes on your target.

Fire three shot groups first, then after each set of shots, adjust your sight and riflescopes accordingly until you hit your desired zero.

Make sure your shooting position is correct, and be wary of your surroundings when you’re in hunting situations.

Step 7: Clean Your Rifle Barrel

Step 7

When you’re shooting, it’s best to take your time to be sure that the barrel doesn’t get too hot. If it does happen, let the barrel cool for a bit, then check it again.

If you’ve fired a significant number of shots, it should be time to clean your rifle.

There is no hard and fast rule, given that all barrels are different per rifle, but usually, you need to clean your rifle after about 20 shots or so.

Cleaning a rifle can affect your shot and its accuracy, which is why it’s important to clean it regularly.

Step 8: Double Check Everything

Step 8

You’ve done everything at this point, and now you’re ready to head out into the field.

But before you do, it wouldn’t hurt to DOUBLE-CHECK everything once more to make sure that everything is in working order.

It can happen that, as you’re driving from the shooting range to the hunting ground, your scope could come out of zero.

Always double-check that everything is as you intended when you arrive.

Important Details to Consider When You Sight Your Rifle

Important Details

Reticle Cant

If the crosshairs of your scope are not aligned with the windage and the directions of elevation, this is called Reticle Cant.

Reticle Cant can result in your shots missing, with the bullet impact landing to the left or the right of the intended target.

This is why it’s important to focus your reticle as accurately as possible to get the correct point of impact.

To properly focus your crosshairs, you will need a solid background that you can find in the range, such as a wall or even the sky.

Getting a Bullseye Target

A bullseye target is the BEST in terms of accuracy because it can be easily aligned with the bore’s round shape.

After aligning your bore with the target, take a look through your scope and fix and adjust it until it matches the image seen through your bore.

This is not an exact science, and the boresight and scope don’t have to match completely on point.

The goal is to get it to hit a point on a paper at around 25 yards, which you should be able to do if you followed the instructions above.

You may begin tightening the scope once the reticle is lined up with the target. Be sure not to move it, as doing so might misalign your scope from your bore.

Why Do You Need to Calibrate the MOA?

There are a couple of reasons why we shoot in terms of minutes.

When you’re shooting a target at a distance of about 100 yards away or less, you’ll notice that you’re hitting it right in the center by having your windage knob adjusted properly.

However, the farther you go from 100 yards, let’s say 600 yards, you’ll notice that there will be a different point of impact.

You’ll find that your shots will start to tread downward from the intended target, hitting a lower point.

The farther a bullet travels, the more it is affected by gravity, which changes its velocity by moving it down. The arc’s slope, then, becomes steeper.

The distance between where your bullet hits and the target is called the bullet drop, which is measured in inches,

On the other hand, the bullet trajectory is the path or arc that the bullet takes.

How Does MOA Work and How Is It Applied to Shooting Techniques?

Here’s the hard and fast rule: There is a one-inch change, or a one MOA change, in the bullet’s point of impact at 100 yards.

As you go farther and farther away, it changes at a rate of 1 inch high at 100 yards. So a target 600 yards away will need an MOA of 6 inches.

Once adjusted, you have set your zero properly!

“How do I set my zero?” you may ask. Take a look at this example:

Suppose the drop at 600 yards is 60 inches. How do we go about adjusting our settings according to MOA?

We can divide 60 inches by 6 as the MOA for 600 yards is about 6 inches cause 600 yards divided by 100 yards is 6.

From that, we can see that we need a 10 MOA adjustment to get the shooting right, so set the windage adjustments accordingly. This is how you can effectively set your zero!



While sighting most rifle scopes sounds like an easy task, there are many things to consider as you are doing it, especially for first-timers.

While it may seem like a long process, it will undoubtedly help you in the long run and will help you improve your skills to reach the level of experienced hunters.

One thing is for sure: you will be able to shoot accurately and cover a range that is high at 1000 yards or more if you perform these steps correctly.

Now that you know how to sight with your rifle scope, you can go on and hunt that group of whitetail deer that you’ve been dreaming of!

FINAL TIP: For all those scope newbies, you can refer to our guide on how to properly use a rifle scope to help you get started!



August 31, 2022 - Added 6 new article links, minor formatting edits
August 24, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
June 15, 2022 - Made minor updates to content and formatting
September 16, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links

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