Shooting Mystery is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

How to Use a Rifle Scope: Step-by-Step Process

How to Use a Rifle Scope Correctly

You’ve made the right choice in choosing a rifle scope. But to get the clearest shot in the field, you now have to learn HOW to use a rifle scope!

I’ll guide you through the process of how to use a scope properly with a few simple steps.

I’ll also discuss how you should store and clean your rifle scope, as well as WHY it’s important for you to use a rifle scope properly out on the hunt.

By the end of this article, you’ll be confident to start hunting big game first thing in the morning!

Step-by-Step Process of Using a Rifle Scope

Learning how to use a rifle scope involves the steps below.

Read through every step and proceed with caution. We always want to operate our rifles and scopes as safely as possible!

Let’s get started with the first step.

1. Mount Your Scope

Step 1

Mounting your rifle scope safely secures it on top of your rifle.

Sometimes, you would need to purchase mounting scope rings to support your specific scope.

Should this happen, make sure that the hardware of the scope rings matches both your device and accessory perfectly.

Most rifle scopes, however, already come with pre-drilled grooves for mounting attachments. Whichever the case, this first step considers the following:

  • Match your hardware to your scope design.
  • Attach the scope to your rifle barrel.
  • Tighten any screws to keep the scope intact. Make sure that the pressure on all screws is even.

Keep in mind that your rifle scope might be damaged if you tighten it too much! Always try to find the right balance for you.

To help you get started, here are the different types of scope mounts to choose from!

If you want to delve deeper into how to mount a rifle scope, we also have a full guide on how to do so!

2. Align the Reticle

Step 2

The reticle of your rifle scope is vital to indicate the direction you will aim your scope.

Depending on what your reticles look like, make sure to follow the cross figure on your lens. This helps make sure you are correctly fixed on the target.

Sometimes, reticles appear as red dot sights that you have to fix through bore sighting.

But generally, to align the reticle of your rifle scope:

  • Loosen the mounting scope rings.
  • Rotate the scope until the reticle is correctly positioned.
  • Make sure that the horizontal and vertical lines should intersect right at the center and form crosshairs.

Sometimes, a good rifle scope may make use of lasers to boresight. Should this be the case, the same process may be followed.

Check out this guide on how to sight your rifle scope to learn more!

3. Adjust the Eye Relief

Step 3

After aligning the reticle location, the next step would be to account for eye relief.

To do this, you would have to adjust the distance of the scope’s lens to avoid rifle recoil or point of impact.

With high magnification power, you will usually have the tendency to move closer to the scope. This results in less eye relief and higher chances of eyesores.

The thing is, you have to be conscious of yourself when accomplishing this step. After all, this is all about doing constant readjustments to find a comfortable position for you.

 To achieve this, simply do the following:

  • Place the scope as far away as possible while it is still mounted on your hardware.
  • Slowly move the scope towards your eye until you can see the entire field. Make sure that your vision remains the same and is no less blurry than before.
  • To ensure eye relief, remember to keep the scope at a distance of 1 inch away. Scope adjustments should be made while keeping this as a check for possible recoils and bullet impact.
  • Once satisfied, tighten the ring screws with again the same pressure as before.

4. Test the Scope

Step 4

Remember the parts of your rifle scope: the body or tube, the rifle scope reticle, the elevation and windage knobs, and the sites.

More than these, remember that to use a rifle scope, you also have to consider its power.

This step is all about ensuring that your vision is appropriate for the purpose and setting of your hunt for big game.

For you to determine the appropriate type of your scope:

  • Know if your scope is fixed or variable. The latter allows you to choose the magnification.
  • If you have a variable lens, choose the magnification level that gives you the clearest view of your target.
  • Look through your lens.
  • If uncomfortable, repeat Steps 1-3 from the mounting of the scope.

5. Aim the Shot

Step 5

Now that your scopes are ready, you are now ready to aim the shot.

Divided into three important subcategories, make sure that you don’t skip anything important to get that perfect shot!

Establish the Sight Picture

To get a precise shot, it is important to get a good sight of the range before doing anything else.

  • Center the reticle in your field of view.
  • Position the reticle right over your target.
  • Make sure that the picture within your sight forms a perfect circle at the end of the scope.
  • If there are more black areas on one side than the other, re-center the gun again to make way for adjusting the scope.

Make Windage and Elevation Adjustments

When given the opportunity to conduct test shots, these adjustment knobs are important to adjust elevation and windage to get even more precise shots.

However, should the need for silence be important, you would have to depend on instinct and gut feel to adjust these elements.

Regardless, these are the important factors to consider:

  • If hitting a few centimeters to the left of the intended target, move the windage knob to the right.
  • If it is the elevation that is off, adjust the elevation knobs accordingly.

You can read more in our guide on how to dope your scope for more information.

Adjust the Parallax

The last adjustment knob to consider is the parallax knob. This will be the last adjustment before you are finally ready to hit the target.

  • Look through your scope and make sure that the target is perfectly aligned with the reticle.
  • Move your head away from the scope to look at the target directly.
  • If there are any inconsistencies with your vision and the reticle view, adjust the parallax knob accordingly.

6. Zero the Rifle

Step 6

Zeroing the rifle refers to the process of hitting the target without moving the rifle at a certain distance (say, 100 yards). Here’s a guide on how to zero at 100 yards!

The use of sand bags, a tripod, or a firing table may prove to be helpful for this final part.

To do this:

  • Align and adjust the sights properly.
  • Make sure that your eye relief is still maintained.
  • Eliminate all unnecessary movements: control your heartbeats, breath, and muscle twitches to prevent the gun from moving.
  • Ready?
  • Slowly and steadily pull the trigger of the rifle.
  • Adjust the scope, with particular care for the reticle and all previous steps accordingly.
  • Repeat this process until the rifle is zeroed.

The accuracy and precision of the shots depend on the adjustments that you make after every shot.

How heavy is your bullet? Is the target moving? Is the wind condition affecting my shot?

Take note of every inconsistency in your environment and of all other factors during target shooting.

Every calibration thereafter is important. But you don’t always have just one shot at a target because you can always make adjustments with your scope.

Understand Your Rifle Scope


Rifle scopes are accessories to your rifles.

They are meant to magnify your vision so that you can aim from longer distances with ease. You’ll be able to spot things from 100 yards away!

For a novice shooter, the rifle scope may pass by your radar when gearing up for a hunt.

But what they don’t tell you is that the rifle scope’s quality is more important than that of the rifle. It may be hard to believe so, but it’s true!

A mediocre rifle with a great rifle scope is proven to be more recommended in the field. This is especially so compared to the best-branded rifle with a poorly performing rifle scope.

REMEMBER: What’s important is that you get a chance at your target. And using a rifle scope from good rifle scope manufacturers increases your chances of this tenfold.

We explain more in our guide on rifle scopes and why you need them!

Factors and Alternatives

Various factors make choosing the best rifle scope for you a tough decision. Depending on the purpose of your hunt, magnification and distance can make or break it for you.

See, your distance from it should match your scope’s magnification to hit your target as accurately as you can.

If you’ll be aiming for something that’s 100 yards away, then get the best scope that can magnify that.

Needless to say, the choice of magnification could distort the effectiveness of your rifle scope. As such, make sure to discuss this with a professional when gearing up your accessories.

Otherwise, it would be enough for you to know about the alternative optics to modern rifle scopes, including binoculars, hunting rangefinders, and spotting scopes.

However, rifle scopes’ simplicity should be enough for beginner and professional shooters alike to prefer it based on its versatility.

Rifle scopes are easy-to-use accessories for long-range shooters.

With their magnification capabilities, you would only need to be knowledgeable about the reticle to perfect your target.

As such, you would have to learn more about the anatomy of your scope before you set foot in the field.

Anatomy of the Scope


There’s nothing more careless than taking on a task without knowing the basics. For shooting, it’s also extremely dangerous not to be acquainted with the ins and outs of your device.

And to fully understand how a rifle scope works, you need to know all of its basic components.

Body – Also known as the scope tube, the body makes up the scope’s entire diameter. This is usually measured to be around 1 inch thick.


Reticle – The reticle is designed to calculate the bullet’s trajectory and landing point. Reticles are varied enough to have complex designs that serve specific purposes.

  • Most notably, these include the consideration of bullet drop and other environmental factors.
  • This accessory comes in the styles of crosshairs and mill dots. These are most often illuminated for ergonomic use.

Adjustment knobsrifle turret knobs come in a variety of flat tip screws, torrents, and finger pressure knobs. These are essential in the changing of elevation and windage.

Elevation – This refers to the vertical path of movements. This knob covers both upward and downward movements that influence the trajectory of bullets.

Windage – The windage on a scope refers to the horizontal path of movements. This knob covers both right and left movements that influence the trajectory of bullets.

Parallax Knob Parallax accounts for the difference between the reticle and the view provided by the scope. Most modern scopes are designed with this.

  • All you have to do is learn how to adjust it to suit your experience. The parallax adjustment knob lets you adjust these small inconsistencies, ensuring that your shots are precise, especially when coupled with high levels of magnification.

Sites – Also known as iron sites or iron sights, these are used to forge the path towards a specific direction you would want to aim your bullet at. These are distinguished as two metal pointers physically mounted onto your rifle’s shaft.

Other Concepts Related to the Scope

Other Concepts

Eye Relief – Eye relief distances refer to the distance between the eyes of the shooter and the lens of the scope.

  • The eye relief is estimated as the distance at which no dark scope rings are visible in the clearest view.
  • This is especially important so that your eyes do not get damaged from high recoil calibers and bullet drop while looking through the eyepiece.

Waterproof – Rifles are designed to provide waterproof protection. This means that when immersed in a liquid, the rifles can remain dry.

  • The non-absorption of moisture is especially important to maintain the integrity of the device. This feature is perfect for different weather conditions.

Power – A hunting rifle is especially known for its magnification. This explains the amount at which the subject is enlarged to make aiming and shooting easier for you.

  • You can gain more insight about this by looking at the rifle scope’s power ring. When unsure about the magnification level of your scope, you may check out its model number.
  • The first element gives you the diameter of the objective lens. The second element is its corresponding level of magnification.

Optical coatings – Scopes are coated to increase the brightness of the image. These coatings are usually summarized as:

  • Coated – one layer on a single lens surface
  • Highly Coated – single layer on all the air-to-glass surface lens
  • Multi-Coated – several layers on the surface of the lens
  • Highly Multi-Coated – several layers directly on all forms of air-to-glass surfaces

Night Vision – Our article about Night Vision Monoculars with Riflescopes has all the information you need for this topic.

Why Use a Rifle Scope?


As previously mentioned, a rifle scope is an essential accessory to maintain shooting accuracy. Not only does it save time when aiming, but it is also highly convenient to use.

As such, these are reasons why you should highly consider using it:

Improved Accuracy

There’s no question that rifle scopes have become staple accessories for rifles. Almost all modern rifles are well-equipped with a rifle scope!

Of course, this is because its main objective is to improve the accuracy of shots.

From the process described in this article, you should have noticed that every step contained readjustments to the rifle scope.

This was intentional because, without these readjustments, the rifle scope would prove to be for mere aesthetics only.

While true that different rifle scopes make for more professional-looking rifles, there really is more to it than that.

Because if anything, you always have to make sure that the design is suited to the grooves provided for in the rifle itself.

Better Scores

Before going into the domain, make sure to test your progress at a shooting range game first! Try to use a rifle scope and then compare your performance with just a rifle.

Testing your gears on a paper target before going to a real hunt is your responsibility as a hunter.

Not only does this improve your shooting skills, but this also lets you train your eyes for the real thing.

At some point during your shooting games, you’ll see that you would have improved in all aspects.

Because of the assured improvement of accuracy, better scores are almost always GUARANTEED using a rifle scope.

Long Distance Shooting

The diameter and range provided by a good and powerful rifle scope is an edge at a long distance. At least 100 yards of distance can be considered as long-range shooting.

Not only does it give you more space to work with, but it also allows you to have a better view of your field!

For longer distances, it would be easier to fixate on your target. This is especially possible regardless if your optics boasts a variable power lens or objective lens.

And for short-distance shooting, you can never go wrong with an equally powerful rifle scope. There aren’t any cons attributed to it if we’re being honest!

It’s an added pro if you’re out for long distances, but it’s still as perfect for short-distance shooting, too.

PRO TIP: An important skill and technique we highly recommend you learn about is how to do holdover shooting.

Boost Your Confidence

More precise shots can boost your confidence!

And for hunters or shooters in the industry, sometimes confidence is all you need.

Zeroing the rifle is a particularly difficult task to accomplish with a lack of confidence.

For example, losing your target because of unnecessary noise is an unwanted experience.

As much as possible, shooters should trust themselves to make the perfect shot.

And with the use of a rifle scope, you will be one step closer to growing more and more confident with your skills.

For birding and hunting, you might also want to learn the differences between angled and straight spotting scopes for better performance.

Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to use a rifle scope is an essential skill for shooting.

But to reap the benefits of using the right rifle scope, you and your fellow hunters have to appreciate its anatomy.

At any point during a hunt, your knowledge of your gear would always come in handy. You wouldn’t know when an emergency arises in the field!

But most importantly, do not be afraid to make the necessary adjustments.

Always be on the lookout and keep an eye out for the unusual. Also, make sure not to aim at your friend to avoid any accidents.

Keep your rifle scope in hand and your eye on the target. You only have one chance.

Just point. And finally — shoot.

FINAL TIP: If you want to perfect your shots, it would help to learn how to level your rifle scope! You can learn how to do so in our guide!

About the author