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How to Calibrate a Scope Correctly in 4 Easy Steps

How to Calibrate a Scope

In order to shoot accurately at different distances and conditions, it’s important for a shooter to know how to calibrate a scope by heart.

People that take up target shooting for the first time often have trouble learning how to mount, sight, and adjust their scope. In case you fall under this category or experienced the same trouble this article has all you need to know.

Down below, we’ll be providing information about scope operation along with a step-by-step guide on the best way to calibrate it.

Read through everything and at the end of the day, you should be able to place all your shots right on the target without much difficulty. 

How to Calibrate a Scope: Shooting and Testing

Step 1: Visit a Shooting Range

Men shooting sniper rifles in a shooting range

The most effective way to calibrate a scope is to shoot a couple of rounds from several positions and see how things turn out. You should consider heading to a nearby shooting range if you wish to test and sight in your scope.

Needless to say, you need to prepare in advance by purchasing enough ammunition for the trip and packing safety accessories. Don’t forget to obey the regulations of the range as well!

For an accurate assessment of your scope, you should use a bullseye target that’s specifically designed for zeroing purposes.

Step 2: Place Your Rifle on a Rest

To eliminate potential human error, it would be best to place the rifle on a rest. These are usually available at sporting goods stores and gun clubs, but you can also purchase gun rests online.

In case you are unable to find a gun rest or can’t get one online, you could always use books, bricks, or even your own jacket as substitutes.

As long as you’re able to achieve a stable shooting position, you could use pretty much use anything you like. However, using a legitimate gun rest is still the best choice overall.

Step 3: Send Some Rounds Down Range

Once you’re settled at the shooting range, load your rifle and sight in your scope on the target, and shoot it at least 5 times.

Next, retrieve the target or use a range sight in order to examine your grouping.

After that, make adjustments by rotating the scope turrets then shoot again.

Keep repeating the process (shoot, check the grouping, and make adjustments) until you can hit the target repeatedly without missing. For optimum results, you should only make little adjustments as much as possible.

While different scopes may come with different mechanisms, the principle is usually the same.

Step 4: Move to Different Distances

It’s likely that you like to sight in the scope at your primary shooting distance, but it’s not a bad idea to test fire at multiple distances.

The above technique could be used for any distance, but do remember to use a different target for each distance so you don’t get confused.

In most cases, you can start at 20 yards and increase the distance after each shooting session. For optimum results, you should not move more than 50 yards at a time.

If you have the time and patience, you could theoretically go as far as you want.

The Scopes You Should Calibrate

Most of the time, shooters who have precision, “clickable” scopes with around 1/4 MOA (or 0.1 Mil) adjustment per click should learn how to calibrate their scopes.

These rifle scopes tend to come in handy when the distance between you and your target often exceeds 250 yards.

If you have a scope like that, you definitely need to know how to zero the scope properly by manipulating its elevation and windage turrets.

As the shooting distance increases, the effect of calibration errors on your shooting accuracy would become more and more noticeable.  

On the other hand, scopes with friction adjustable turrets have no need for calibration and would not benefit from it.

These scopes aren’t exactly precise instruments and are not designed to be adjusted for different ranges on a whim.

Turrets of such scopes are usually set up in a way that zeroes the scope at 220 yards which is sufficient for hunting purposes.

Therefore, as long as the shooting distance is between 0 and 250 yards, these scopes would let you hit your target without fail. In most cases, you could achieve a 6 to 8-inch grouping easily.

BONUS TIP: Adjusting for parallax is also something you should keep in mind to get the most accurate shot.

Man Looking Through a Scope

The Installation of the Base Mount

Before you can actually calibrate the scope, you need to install a mount first. We also advise you to stay concentrated while doing so.

If you do a poor job at calibrating, the scope will become vulnerable to recoil and impact forces which will reduce its value.

Since you already spent a good amount of money on the scope, we suggest investing a little bit more to get a nice mount as well.

A quality mount is capable of keeping your scope secured for years to come.

To install the mount, the preferred method is to tighten the base of the screws according to most instruction manuals provided by the mount manufacturer.

We recommend proceeding in an X pattern so the scope doesn’t get pulled from one side to the other.

In order to make the necessary adjustments, you should tighten the screw slowly at first, then pick up the pace afterward when everything falls into place.

There is no need to rush the process, so take as much time as you need to do things right.

Sideview of two rifles with scopes

Attaching the Scope to the Mount

After the base mount is properly secured, the next step is to attach the rifle scope and make the initial adjustments. Place the scope on the mount according to the manufacturer’s directions with correct eyepiece orientation, then simply tighten the rings.

By setting up the eyepiece correctly, you would be able to see a sharp and crystal clear target image through the scope in normal shooting conditions. Take a look at the crosshair as well and make adjustments if needed to ensure that the vertical crosshair is top dead center (12 o’clock).

Sideview of a sniper rifle with scope

As you tighten the scope’s mounting screws, keep an eye on the crosshair in order to monitor its position. Once again, you need to slowly tighten each of the screws, ideally half a thread at a time. Check the crosshair regularly to make sure that it doesn’t move from its spot.

Conclusion

That’s all there is to it when it comes to calibrating your rifle scope.

If you’re a beginner, we hope this article gave you new insight and knowledge about guns and scopes.

If you’re someone more experienced, we also hope this article clarifies some things for you and can improve your scope adjusting procedures.

FINAL TIP: For more Scope 101 tips, we highly recommend learning about holdover shooting.

 

CHANGELOG:

September 16, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links, updated article title, re-arranged sections for better reader experience

About the author

Christopher Wade

Christopher Wade is a true outdoorsman. After spending most of his career as a firearms expert and instructor in Nebraska, he retreated to the great outdoors to enjoy retirement.

Christopher’s expertise in handling firearms and hunting gear are what propelled him to create the Shooting Mystery blog. He hopes for all readers to gain useful and practical knowledge for enjoying their time outdoors.