a man using a rifle with scope while lying on ground

How To Adjust A Rifle Scope To Improve Your Accuracy And Precision

Understanding how to adjust a rifle scope is an important step to achieve consistently accurate shots. Adjusting, or sighting, the scope is not difficult if you understand the right way to do it, beginning with properly mounting your scope.

Nothing is more important than your scope because it is the most responsible piece of equipment for hitting the target. A well-adjusted scope and some practice can result in precise accuracy that is not possible without a scope or with a scope that has not been adjusted and sighted. It pays dividends to learn how to adjust a rifle scope.

Sighting a Scope

a man wearing a cap looking through the scope attached to the rifle

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Sighting your scope, also referred to as “sighting in” a scope, is crucial. If you install without making proper adjustments to sight it, you will ultimately have a useless scope. It is more accurate to use an iron sight than an unsighted scope.


Follow these steps to understand how to adjust your scope.

  • Install the scope but do not fully tightening it.
  • Be sure the rifle is stable.
  • Line up your reticle with your target.
  • When you are confident with the alignment, tighten the scope.
  • Fire test shots to measure accuracy.
  • Adjust as necessary until your point of impact matches the target.

Before considering the process of how to adjust a rifle scope in more detail, it is important you understand your scope.

Understanding Your Scope

Scopes are primarily the same among brands and types with a few extras here and there. It is important that a good scope be simple for quiet and quick operation on the hunt. They also need to be sturdy enough to the woods and elements of bad weather.


Scopes are rated by power, and their power can be a fixed or variable measurement. A scope will usually have a power of 20 or less. A military scope is usually between 8 and 10, so anything beyond 20 is probably exorbitant.


At the end of the day, the scope's job is to aim through magnification.

Magnification

Every scope magnifies. You have to understand how much magnification you prefer. But understand as you learn how to adjust a rifle scope that your scope will only be accurate at the magnification you use when sighting your scope.


Changing magnifications after sighting the scope will leave it unreliable. So be sure you know what magnification you want. Biggest is not always best.


Remember, a more magnified scope will be less bright, and even the military rarely uses more than 10 power. It does no good to choose a high magnification if you do not have an objective lens with the size and coating needed to provide appropriate light.

Parts of a Scope

In learning how to adjust a rifle scope, it is important to note that your scope likely comes with critical adjustments for wind and elevation. They help you adjust for the difference between the reticle and the bullet's launch trajectory as well as the wind patterns.


The wind adjustment moves your reticle left or right as needed, and the elevation moves the reticle up and down. Together they can help ensure that your bullet meets at the crosshairs of the reticle.

Turrets

Turrets are knobs on your rifle used to execute your wind adjustments and elevation adjustments. The windage turret controls your left and right movement while the elevation turret controls up and down movement.


Sometimes there is a side-focus parallax turret to focus the reticle, but not always. Sometimes the turrets are easily accessible and other times they are covered with protective caps. One style offers ease of use and the other offers protection. It's a personal preference.


The turrets do nothing to adjust the bullet flight or direction. That is dictated by your barrel, and there are no adjustments for a barrel. Turrets actually move the reticle in your scope. You need the reticle to be aimed where the bullet will hit, but the reticle cannot control the bullet in any way.

MOA

Windage is measured by Minute of Angles (MOA) and expressed in inches. You can adjust the MOA by turning the turret. The more you turn, the more windage you make up for.


The elevation turret uses the same Minute of Angles principle measured in inches, but this turret adjusts up and down. Minutes of Angles measure the angle very similar to the way degrees are measured. A 180-degree turn is a U-turn, and right angle has 90 degrees. Similarly, the angles of adjustment needed to adjust for wind and elevation are measured by MOA in inches.

Tips

If you adjust your elevation you should be sure you have enough bullets to fire test shots while making continuous adjustments. Try to use the same bullets for consistency, and allow the rifle to cool between shots.


Use a similar process for windage adjustments, but remember the wind will vary. It is more of a guess and check technique


If you have a parallax turret, be sure the reticle is clearly in your vision and adjust little by little until there is no movement in the reticle's relation to the target.

Focus Adjustments

Learning how to adjust a rifle scope means learning how to make focus adjustments. Just like a pair of binoculars, you need to have your scope in focus, This is usually accomplished through by a turning eyepiece or extra knob. This moves your ocular lens into position for a clear focus.


Some scopes also have a parallax focus adjustment to account for eye relief, meaning how far you like to have your eye from touching the scope. There will be more to say on eye relief below as you learn how to adjust a rifle scope.

Lenses

A scope has two primary lenses, the ocular lens and the objective lens. The ocular lens is the one closest to your eye, and the objective lens is on the target end of the scope.


The objective lens is actually the more critical piece of glass. A large objective lens allows more light into your scope. This is important because magnification will naturally make your scope dim.


A large lens doesn't increase magnification, but it is needed with increased magnification to allow proper light.


Brightness can also be affected by coating your lens. A good lens coating can also provide clarity by manipulating light spectrums. A coated lens is one with a layer of coating on the objective lens. Others will be labeled as a fully coated lens, meaning all lenses are coated.


Multi-coated lenses have multiple coats applied to the objective lens, and fully multi-coated lens all lenses are coated with multiple coats.

Reticles

Reticles are the traditional crosshairs of your scope. From the simplest crosshairs to the most advanced high-tech reticles, they come in many types.


Some crosshairs have no additional markings. They are the simplest of the simple. If your scope is properly adjusted, this is often all you need.


Other reticles have partial distance markings. Think of hash marks on a football field. They are generally used for a bullet drop, meaning it accounts for gravity's force on a traveling bullet.


More advanced scopes have can have any number of extra markings all the way to military-style crosshairs. But if they are beyond your individual purpose, they are little more than a distraction.

Eye Relief

Learning how to adjust a rifle scope involves understanding eye relief. How far your eye is from the scope affects your ability to have a proper view through the scope. You want to avoid blackness around the edges of your vision known as parallax.


Glasses are a variable. Shooter with glasses will need extra eye relief to use the scope properly. This also involves recoil. Rifles recoil when fired, so if you do not have enough eye relief this will lead to a hard knock around our orbital socket.

Field of View

Your field of view is basically the ratio of feet to yards that measures the width of your scope view at a particular distance. In other words, a field view of 10' at 150 yards means that eying a target 150 yards away, you will be able to view five feet on each side of the centered target.
This also plays into your magnification decision, because the more magnification you use, the less field of view (FOV) you will enjoy. The advantage of a broader field of view is being able to quickly locate your target.


Naturally, your eye fixes on a landmark and you adjust accordingly until your target is in your sight. This is more difficult on larger magnifications with less FOV.

Practice Makes Perfect

Sighting your scope and shooting will involve practice. You have to be determined to do more than simply attach your scope and fire. You need to put thought into your scope and make each shot count.


You need to know if your inaccuracy is due to the scope or the shooter, and settling for bad shots in practice will muddy the waters greatly. Did you flinch? Was your trigger squeeze compromised? Or is your scope inaccurate? Slow down and take your practice seriously.

How to Adjust a Rifle Scope

a person holding a rifle with scope

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Now you are ready to sight your scope. Much like you take practice shots seriously, be prepared to take the aforementioned steps to sighting your scope seriously too.

Loose Installation

Install the scope but do not fully tighten it. Get it just tight enough to be sure you have proper eye relief. If the distance from your eye to the scope feels good, you are ready to proceed.

Stability

Be sure the rifle is stable. This is a simple but crucial step. Get your rifle on a level, secure surface. To proceed, the rifle must be absolutely stable.

Line It Up

Line up your reticle with your target. With proper positioning and eye relief, be sure your target is squarely in the crosshairs. This needs to be done at a particular distance. By sighting down the bore of the gun to a fixed point at a fixed distance, you can adjust the scope to also aim at the same distant object.

Tighten It down

When you are confident with the alignment, tighten the scope. Ask yourself one last time if you've done everything carefully and with purpose. Also, be sure your target is on an essentially level plain.


Go as far as to level your scope by ensuring it is level to barrel before you tighten it down. An unlevel scope will destroy your precision and the overall reliability of your scope. The longer your shot, the worst it will be.


Much like carpenters use levels to keep their structures plum, leveling kits are available to help make sure your scope is level.

Test Fire

Fire test shots to measure accuracy. Shoot small groups from your stable position and see if they go where you think they should. If they do, great. If not, you will need to continue making small adjustments.


Again, make every shot count and be sure adjustments are needed due to the scope and not to the shooter.

Patience, Patience, Patience

Adjust as necessary until your point of impact matches the target. You may be realizing by now that one of the most important aspects of how to adjust a rifle scope is being patient. Taking your time and making the necessary adjustments will pay dividends in the long run.


It is easy to spend time asking how to adjust a rifle scope and forget the main reason you are doing it. You do not want to miss that trophy buck or other targets because you were impatient. You need an accurate weapon.

​Conclusion

a man using a rifle with scope during target shooting practice

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Your scope is meant to make you a better shooter, but it is up to you make your scope the best it can be. There is a give-and-take that is well worth the effort.


It is not much different than a man who wants to be able to read road signs from farther away. If he is wearing his glasses and cannot see the signs, he stands no chance of being able to read signs farther away until his prescription is adjusted.


Adjusting the eyeglass lens prescription is analogous to properly adjusting your scope. The better your scope is sighted, the better longer and more accurate shots will be equipped to make.


You already have elements such as wind, terrain, gravity, and slope to deal with. You do not need any unnecessary factors to add to your task. To make the most accurate shots, you need the most accurate scope. That can only happen on a properly installed and adjusted tool.

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Logan

Logan

I'm an avid hunter and I've been doing it for over 25 years. I mainly hunt in Northern Minnesota and Arkansas during the summer. Thanks for reading my blog! I hope you enjoy my Hunting Gear Reviews, guides and blog posts!

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