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Rifle Scope Turrets: Quick and Simple Guide for Beginners

Rifle Scope Turrets

When I was still a beginner, I missed a BUNCH of my shots even though my crosshair was right on target.

So why did I miss it?

I learned that I had to adjust the turrets to help align the reticle where I wanted!

Rifle scope turrets are your best friends which can help improve your shooting performance at almost any shooting range.

Never miss your targets again, whether you’re on a hunt, in a competition, or doing long-range shooting.

Read further to learn how rifle scope turrets work in this simple guide.

What Is a Scope Turret?

Making a Good Turn

Look closely at any rifle scopes you have in hand. You’ll notice knobs on the top and either or each side of the rifle scope.

These cylinders are the rifle scope turrets.

When you search the market for rifle scopes, you’ll see that target turrets typically come with two knobs.

Yet, some scopes have three knobs in total. Each knob serves a different purpose, but all are critical in precision shooting.

If you know how to calibrate them correctly, you are sure to get great results when shooting!

The windage knob is usually found at the right-hand side of the rifle scope. You’ll often see the elevation adjustment knob at the top of the rifle scope.

In some scopes, though, there is an additional knob for parallax adjustment.

So, what does each turret do? Well, each turret works hand-in-hand when zeroing a rifle scope.

When zeroing, you move your bullet impact to align with your intended target. You can do this by raising, lowering, or moving the reticle to the left or right using the scope adjustments.

I used to think that bullets travel in a super straight line, so there was no way I would’ve missed.

But then I remembered “Right, gravity exists.” Everything we throw will always go down on Earth.

Perhaps, you noticed a bullet drop downward when shooting beyond certain distances.

Upon firing, a bullet can travel FAST enough to resist the Earth’s gravitational pull. Yet, air resistance slows down the bullet as it travels over a large distance.

So, how would you achieve accurate bullet compensation data when shooting or hunting over a large distance?

When sighting and zeroing in your scope, you can place the reticle above your target using the elevation turret.

Elevation Turret

Zero your rifles at various distances to see and record the dope needed for each distance.

You can also lower your reticle using the elevation turret knob, as needed. Relying on the elevation knob could be tricky though in the process.

I struggled to compensate for gravity and air resistance using the target turrets alone.

Remember that bullet’s path depends on the bullet weight and load data. You can notice that even bullets of the same caliber drop at different rates.

Other factors that could affect it are muzzle velocity, ballistic coefficient, and so on.

For better accuracy, I sometimes use a laser rangefinder together with my scope. It measures the distance between my shooting position and targets.

Once you know the exact distance, you can dial the turrets to MATCH the range.

While sighting in your scope, you can lower the reticle to raise the barrel to the reticle on your targets.

When using a rangefinder, you should know the rifle scope calculations.

These calculations tell you the windage dial revolutions needed to match certain distances.

Windage Turret

As you aim your rifle over your targets, you notice that wind can shift your bullet direction sideways.

To shoot with accuracy in any weather condition, you can use the windage knob adjustment to counteract the effect of wind.

In doing this, you should consider wind direction and speed for HIGHER accuracy.

Having the information on wind direction and speed, you can tell the exact number of clicks needed to move the reticle using a ballistic data chart.

Parallax Adjustment Turret

Sure, the adjustments to the windage and elevation knobs could help improve your shooting accuracy and performance.

But, some rifle scope turret systems are incomplete with windage and elevation knobs alone.

Usually found the opposite of the windage turret, the parallax adjustment turret allows you to adjust the parallax.

In some scopes, it is already a fixed feature, removing the need for an adjustment knob.

What’s With Parallax?

In technical terms, parallax is when the reticle and target DO NOT lie in the same focal plane.

When you sight in and move your head to gaze slightly, you can tell that it is off if the reticle moves.

In effect, it makes the reticle blurry, which could change the point of aim.

If it persists, you won’t get a glimpse of a clear sight picture. You need to align the reticle and target at the same focal plane for a sharp sight picture.

Getting Rid of the Blur

Having an adjustment turret allows you to adjust parallax so your target is on focus.

Here are the steps on adjusting parallax for a crisp, definite sight picture on the focal plane.

  1. Ensure that the reticle is FOCUSED.
  2. Place your rifle as you look at a plain background.
  3. Look through the reticle for 1-2 seconds. (NOTE: Don’t look through your reticle for TOO LONG. If you do so, your eye muscles will adjust to the sight picture resulting in a bias.
  4. If the reticle remains unclear, lower the scope while adjusting the focus dial on the optic eyepiece.
  5. Take a glimpse through the reticle. Keep adjusting the reticle until you get a clear picture.
  6. With the now-focused reticle, look at your target. Turn the adjustment turret to put your target in focus.
  7. Dismount the rifle as you check your reticle against a plain background.
  8. Once you see that both the reticle and target are in focus, you’re all set.

Fixed vs. Adjustable

If your rifle scope has a fixed parallax, check its distance covered.

Taking a parallax of 200 yards as an example, chances are you’ll experience parallax when sighting under 200 yards.

With that, you need to be more careful to avoid deviations from the bullet impact’s point.

As you go beyond 200 yards, say, 500 yards, you’ll notice that the parallax is gone.

With a parallax adjustment, you can reduce parallax anywhere above 10 yards.

What to Look for in Turrets?

What to Look for

At this point, probably, you’re already planning to buy a 1×4 rifle scope with its turrets. So, you wonder what you should look for in rifle scope turrets.

They might look simple, but having the ideal rifle scope turrets can bring out the top shooter in you. Here are some tips you can follow in choosing the best turret:

Here are some tips you can follow in choosing the best turret.

Check the method of turning the turrets, as prescribed by the manufacturer. 

If you’re a field shooter, having special equipment for turning turrets can be a hassle over time.

If you choose to have a finger-adjustable turret, look closely at its grooves or serrations.

TIP: Look for knurlier designs that are easier to grip and turn.

Test the quality of rotational adjustments of the turret. Two things I always look for its audibility and positivity.

If you’re a close-range hunter or shooter, an inaudible turret works the best for you.

Otherwise, you can pick loud turrets if you like to hear their clicking sounds.

Meanwhile, positive clicks give you sensations of the cogs and gears moving as you rotate the turrets.

If you’re torn between many options, ask for shooter opinions to help you choose.

One particular point you can clarify is the scope capability to zero during heavy and repeated recoil.

For more information, you can also check out this video:

Types of Turrets for Scopes


Everything boils down to the types of turrets you choose. As a shooter, you need to understand the difference between these types of turrets.

1. Target Turret

Target turrets might be the oldest optic items, yet they are the most precise scope turrets. From their name, you can tell that they are sought after by most target shooters.

  • Allows a shooter to make tiny, precise adjustments
  • Uses either MOA or MRAD clicks
  • Designed for sighting in and accurate bullet compensation data
  • Relatively inexpensive optics
  • Bumping and rubbing turrets can make unnecessary adjustments
  • Audible adjustments can disrupt shooting or hunting at a close distance

Depending on their adjustments, you can have different types of target turret, too. To better understand each type, you need to know the right way of using scope turrets. 

How to Adjust Target Turrets?

Using an adjustment turret is as easy as 1-2-3 and A-B-C. Here’s a simple guide for using target turrets, one kind of rifle scope turret you can use.

  1. Get the appropriate adjustment tool to rotate the turret.
  2. Two of the most common turret designs are the finger-adjustable turrets and coin-slot style turrets.
  3. With fingertip turrets, all you need is in your hands, literally. It’s the most popular and simplest turret type as you only need your thumb and index finger.
  4. With a coin slot, you need to secure a coin or the required tool in place when adjusting.
  5. Rotate the turret in your desired direction.
  6. If you’re using a finger-adjustable turret, grab the turret with your fingers. Turn it then in your preferred direction.
  7. If you’re using a coin slot, rotate the tool in place in a circular direction.
  8. Check where your reticle is going.
  9. During the adjustments, follow the movement of your reticles. With that, you’ll know where to rotate the turrets.

If you follow these steps, you never have to worry about missing your targets.

2. Ballistic Turret

Other people, like tactical hunters or shooters, look after speed on top of precision. If you’re on this side of these shooters, ballistic turrets are your top choice.

  • Simple to use and can be used in any magnification
  • Allow you to save multiple zeros with zero stop features
  • Can be customized in order to meet user demands and needs
  • Some ballistic turrets come with a completely integrated windage and elevation feature
  • Often come with a cap to prevent any unwanted adjustments
  • Can be used only with a rangefinder or a certain distance
  • Require more time and practice to master the right way of using
  • More expensive than average scope contents or ballistic reticles
  • Customization can change ammo, scope, and hunting variables rendering the turret useless

Exposed vs. Capped Turrets

When dealing with turrets, you should consider whether the turrets are exposed or not.

There were times when I accidentally adjusted the turrets on one side without knowing it.

As their name suggests, exposed turrets do not have caps to protect them

It could save you time when you’re on a hunt since you don’t need to unlock the caps to adjust them.

Exposed turrets are handy in making precise adjustments as to where your bullet impacts. You can adjust these turrets down to fractions of an inch!

Yet, they are not necessarily built for quick adjustments, whether using your fingers or other tools. 

Meanwhile, capped turrets are usually protected by metal caps. In this way, you avoid turning them when not in use.

Adjusting Ballistic Turrets

With ballistic turrets, you make LARGE adjustments instead of tiny ones. Look for the numerical references that can tell the distance capacity of your ballistic turret.

You’ll see line markings that usually appear as pairs on the ballistic turret.

On a 1/4 MOA turret, you’ll notice a longer, distinct line indicating the distance. That’s good for long-range shooting.

How to Interpret the Distance Markings?

When you make clicks from one number to another on your ballistic turret, you move 1 MOA. Between the distance markings is a group of three smaller line-markings equal to 1/4 minute clicks

So, imagine you place the centerline, between 4 and 5, on the small line closest to 5. In that way, you made 4 MOA and three clicks or simply 4 3/4 MOA.

MOA vs. MIL: Which Is Better?

MOA vs. Mil

Speaking of MOA, let’s talk about the measurements used in scope turrets. Instead of MOA, some turrets use Mil often with machine guns, mortars, and snipers. 

MOA is equivalent to 1/60 of a degree. We know that a circle has 360 degrees, so there are 21,600 MOA in a circle.

When used at 100 yards, 1 MOA is approximately an inch, 1.04 inches to be exact. You need to understand how different MOA scopes work.

In the world of optics, you see rifle scopes come with different MOA scope adjustments. 

  • 1/8 MOA for precision scopes
  • 1/4 MOA for standard scopes
  • 1/2 MOA for red dot scopes

On the other side, you have Mil, which remains constant at any distance. At 100 yards, a Mil is about 3.6 inches.

Mil measurements are also divided into fractions, usually in tenths. It means that making ten clicks equals 1 Mil.

So, which is better between the two? Well, it’s up to you what you think has more impact on your shooting performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Zero Lock on Scopes?

As the name suggests, Zero Lock is used to lock the turrets in place to prevent accidental dial movement.

These locks are useful if you move around while shooting as sometimes, you may have moved the turret accidentally, throwing off your shot.

Can I Adjust My Rifle Scope Turrets While Shooting?

I DO NOT recommend adjusting the turrets as you shoot.

Doing so will result in a sudden shift of point of impact, which, in turn, will throw your accuracy out the window.

I recommend shooting a few rounds then stop to adjust. I call this the “adjustment break.”

What Should I Do If My Rifle Scope Turrets Are Not Adjusting Properly?

If your scope turrets are not adjusting properly, they may be loose or not fastened securely.

A simple rescrewing with a screwdriver should do the trick. Otherwise, if the problem persists, consult a professional for assistance.

Last Shot: Conclusion

Last Shot

A rifle scope turret is your ever-reliable buddy in the field if you know how to adjust them properly.

With turrets in hand, you can defy gravity and other things blocking your target, whether for short or long-range shooting.

When set up properly, you can hit your targets with almost every shot you take with the scope turrets.

FINAL TIP: If you want to keep improving your performance as a shooter, you can check out our article on how to correctly use a rifle scope to brush up on the basics.


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