How To Easily Adjust And Sight A Rifle Scope

A rifle scope is a great tool for hunters and target shooters, however, if you do not know how to use it properly, it can be more of a hindrance than a hunting aid. It’s important to understand how to adjust, sight and zero your rifle scope. Fortunately, learning how to use your rifle scope doesn’t have to be hard. You can learn how to adjust and sight a rifle with just a few simple steps.

What You Will Need To Adjust Your Rifle Scope:

  • A rifle with a good scope
  • Proper ear and eye protection
  • Bullets
  • A target
  • A good eye
  • A ballistic calculator (optional)
  • A BDC reticle holdover chart (this comes with most rifle’s however, you can make your own chart for better accuracy)

Step1 Set Yourself Up To Shoot Your RifleStep 1: Set Yourself Up To Shoot Your Rifle

Before putting any bullets in your rifle, take aim at the target by using the scope and line up the gun to the target. Check to see if it looks like it is lined up accurately. Then when you are ready to adjust and learn to sight your scope, you need to be as stable as possible. To do this you should use sandbags or a rifle rest to help hold your rifle stable. You should avoid using your own muscles and weight to support the rifle. This can make your sights look off.

Step 2 Determine How Far Off Mark You AreStep 2: Determine How Far Off Mark You Are

This is  a rather simple task to do. Take aim at your target and fire the rifle. You should fire at least 3 shots from 25 yards away. Firing 3 shots or more at the same spot is considered a group. Be sure to be aiming at the center of the target. Also, keep your gun as steady as possible with the rifle rest or sandbags you are using. Watch to see where the bullets land. You are trying to figure out by your own sight how far away from the initial target that the bullets fall in order to accurately adjust your rifle scope.

Step 3: Adjust Your Scope

Step 3 Adjust Your Scope

Next adjust your rifle scope accordingly. There typically is a knob on the top of your scope which is called the elevation turret. There is also another knob on the right side of most rifle scopes that is called the windage turret. The elevation knob on the rifle scope will adjust the bullet’s point of impact vertically, whereas the windage knob will affect the bullet’s point of impact horizontally. Use these to adjust it as accurately as you can by turning the knobs the direction you need to correct. Look at your target again, where did the bullets land vertically and horizontally? You can count how many clicks you need to adjust each knob from where the bullets landed on the target.

(Steps 1-3 are considered zeroing the scope)

Step 4: Fire Your Rifle Again

After making the necessary adjustments to your rifle scope, repeat firing your gun at 25 yards, 3 shots again. And then check the accuracy from your target again. Most hunters and rifle owners do not need to worry so much about wind speed or conditions like a sniper would so don’t stress over that too much. Most rifle scopes won’t be perfectly accurate all the time, so just readjust when needed. After this second round of shots if you feel your scope is more accurate then move on to shooting at 100 yards. When shooting at 100 yards your windage should be dead on. If you are still having trouble repeat Steps 1 through 4 until you are comfortable with the scope and where your bullets hit the target.

Step 5: Adjusting The Parallax

Step 5 Adjusting The Parallax

First of all, before you can adjust a parallax it’s important that you learn some terminology to help you understand what you are adjusting.

  • Reticle: (also known as graticule) are the fine lines that are visible when you look through a sighting device or scope.
  • Parallax: is the difference (or displacement) of an object that is viewed between two lines of sight. (In other words a parallax is the how off from the reticle lines you are)

Step 5 Adjusting The Parallax 1So when you are adjusting the parallax you are trying to line up your object with your reticle lines accurately. Most parallax knobs (see diagram below) have numbers on them that represent distances.

Adjust it to the best of your ability by determining your distance. Keep in mind however, that based on most situations parallaxes are hard to adjust accurately. This will come with practice and time. The more you know your gun and can judge distances and conditions, the easier it will be to adjust the parallax.

For more information on parallax errors and how to correct it please check out this video:

Step 6: Other Factors And Tools That Will Help Your Scope Be More Accurate

There are many things that go into account when you are trying to sight your target and adjust your rifle scope including wind, weather conditions, humidity, shot angle, the weight of the bullet and even the temperature. Understanding how each of these things can affect your accuracy will greatly improve shot. Other things that can help include the mil-dot, a ballistic plex reticle, a bdc reticle holdover chart and a ballistic calculator.



If you know how to use a mil-dot, it’s especially useful when you shoot a rifle. Most people get nervous by the fancy math and big words. It can be more easily understood if you understand the terminology. First of all mil-dot comes from two words milliradian and dot. Milliradian means 1/1000th of the radian or in other words a small angle, whereas dot is from the english word dot.

The easiest way to help you find your target with a mil-dot is to understand the milliradian angle. This angle is expressed as 1 yard from an average of 1,000 yard range. If you are at 100 yards away the angle converts to 3.6 inches.

Once you understand how to sight with your mil-dot scope it becomes a little more easier to have greater accuracy.

Ballistic Plex Reticle

Ballistic Plex Reticle

A ballistic plex reticle is much like a mil-dot on a rifle scope. They are quite simple and work well on short range rifles and hunting rifles. A lot of the time rifle scopes or the rifle itself will come with a BDC reticle chart to help you understand how to use a ballistic reticle. You can also use a ballistic calculator to help you, as well. However, if you have neither of these it’s good to know that these sights are used for different caliber sizes. Simply line this reticle up to appropriate caliber and distance and aim at target.

This video shows a little bit more about a ballistic reticle and why they are ideal for hunting:

BDC Reticle Holdover Chart

The picture above shows ballistic reticle (the circle) and it also has a BDC reticle chart. This chart helps you to determine caliber, some even help with showing distances. A BDC reticle holdover chart will typically come with your gun or with experience you can learn to make your own chart. Every gun is different and for the most accuracy it is recommended that you do make your own chart.

This video explain holdover a bit more and helps you to understand why we create these charts for better accuracy.

Ballistic Calculator

Ballistic CalculatorBallistics is the study of motion as it pertains to objects such as rocket and bullets. It’s based on weight, speed, gravity and other factors. There is some hard, scientific math that goes into getting it accurate. Some rifle scopes have technology built right in, while others don’t. If you don’t have a high-tech rifle scope but you want to adjust and sight your scope with precision, I suggest buying a ballistics calculator. It makes doing the math much simpler and will be a good aid when it comes to your rifle scope.

Final Thoughts

Adjusting, Zeroing and sighting your rifle scope is actually quite simple. As you learn more about your gun and understand mil-dots and reticles you can increase your accuracy even more. Keep in mind though, you are not a sniper and will never need your gun to be spot on. There will always be a small amount of inaccuracies with a hunting rifle. You may have to readjust periodically. However, just having the ability to zero your rifle scope will allow you to hunt and target shoot much more efficiently. If you are still having trouble with your scope be sure to read the manual, take a class on rifle scopes or ask your local gun dealer for more help. Overall though, if you follow these steps you should be able to effectively adjust your rifle scope.

For more information and to watch someone adjust and zero their rifle please check out this video: