The Ultimate Guide On How To Calibrate A Scope

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

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 very first time often have a fairly hard time learning to mount, sight and adjust their scope. In the case you are having the same trouble and in need of solutions, this article could help you out. Down below, you would find some interesting information about scope operation along with a step by step guide on the best way to calibrate it. Read through everything and you should be able to place all your shots right on the target without much difficulty.  

Scopes That You Should Calibrate

For most of the time, shooters who have precision, “clickable” scopes with around 1/4 MOA (or 0.1 Mil) adjustment per click should learn to calibrate their scopes. These rifle scopes tend to come in really handy when the distance between you and your target often exceed 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 increase, 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 are not exactly precise instrument 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 purpose. 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 of the case, you could achieve a 6 to 8-inch grouping.

The Installation Of The Base Mount

Before you could actually calibrate the scope, you need to install a mount first and it’s advised that you stay concentrated while doing so. If you do a shoddy work, the scope will become vulnerable to recoil and impact forces which reduce its value. Since you already spent a good amount of money on the scope, why don’t you invest just a little bit more to get a nice mount? A quality mount is capable of keeping your scope secured for years.  

To install the mount, the preferred method is to tighten the screws base on the instruction manual provided by the mount manufacturer.  It’s recommended to proceed in an X pattern so the scope doesn’t get pulled from one side to the other. In order to make necessary adjustment in, you should tighten the screw slowly at first then pick up the pace afterward when everything seems ideal. There is no need to rush the process so just take as much time as you need to do things right.

Attaching The Scope To The Mount

After the base mount is properly secured, the next step is to attach the rifle scope and make initial adjustments. Place the scope on the mount according to the manufacturer direction with correct eyepiece orientation then simply tighten the rings. By setting up the eyepiece correctly, you would be able to see 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 9 (12 o’clock)

Ass you tighten the scope 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’s hasn’t moved from its spot.

Testing And Calibrating The Rifle Scope

  • Step 1: Visit A Shooting Range

The most effective way to calibrate a scope is to shoot a couple of rounds from several positions and see the way things turn out. To do just that, you should consider heading to a nearby range if you wish to sight in your scope. Needless to say, you need to prepare in advance by purchasing enough ammunition for the trip and packing safety accessories. Obey the regulations of the range and for an accurate assessment, you should use a bulls-eye target that is specifically designed for zeroing purpose.

  • Step 2: Place Your Rifle On A Rest

To eliminate potential human error, it’s wise to place the rifle on a rest which is available at sporting goods stores and gun clubs. In the case you are unable to find a rest, you could always use books, bricks or even your own jackets as substitutes. As long as you able to achieve a stable shooting position, you could use pretty much anything you like but the rest is still the best choice overall.

  • Step 3: Send Some Rounds Down Range

Load the rifle, train the 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 scope turrets then shoot again. Keep repeating the process (shoot, check the groping and make adjustments) until you could hit the target repeatedly without missing. For optimum result, you should make as little adjustment 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 but do remember to use a different target for each distance so you don’t get confused. In most of the case, you better start at 20 yards and increase the distance after each shooting session. For optimum result, you should not move more than 50 yards at a time. If you have the time and patient, you could theoretically go as far as you want.  

About the author

Christopher Wade

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.