The ability to “zero” or sight in a scope is an incredibly important skill to have. If you have experienced the frustration of things going wrong, you will appreciate this assertion. That being said, you need not worry; we have you covered.
Zeroing in a scope is the art and science of aligning where the barrel of the gun is pointing and where the scope is pointing to.
The first thing to do is to ensure that the scope is properly mounted and well adjusted. Thereafter, you can proceed to the sight in process. Begin by determining the distance, you want your scope to sight into. It is recommended to start with a shorter distance ideally between 50 and 100 yards. This recommended applies even if you are planning to zero in your scope at a long distance such as 300 yards. Once you have a short distance zero, you can adjust your scope for a longer-range zero.
There are plenty of tools on the market that will help you sight in your rifle. However, for simplicity reasons, we are going to cover bore-sighting. With this method, you do not need to use any specialized tools and it also very quick to do.
Foundation for Using a Scope
The foundation for quick and efficient scope sighting in is using an extremely stable platform. Typically, ranges will have a solid shooting bench. Such benches should suffice if they do not move around.
Also fundamental is to have a good rest for your rifle. You might use shooting bags or a gun vice. However, whatever you choose to use, ensure that it is extremely stable as well.
Performing bore-sighting involves looking down the barrel or bore of a gun, thereby getting the scope aligned. If you are aligning a bolt-gun, just remove the bolt. Doing so will give you an unimpeded view down the barrel.
On the other hand, if you bore-sighting an AR type of rifle, you first need to move the bolt forward. Thereafter, remove the 2 pins that secure the upper to the lower. Once you pull them apart, you can remove the bolt. You will end up with the upper without a bolt, allowing you to see down the barrel.
Thereafter, place the upper or the upper on the rest you are using, pointing towards the target. For the best experience, use a large target with plenty of contract such as the NRA SR-1. This target comes with a black center superimposed on a light background. This contrast makes sight-in easy.
With the target at the desired sight-in distance and your firearm at rest, look directly into the barrels. Gently move the gun around until you find the target. The goal is to align the target’s center so that it occupies the center of the bore. This is where the black center target superimposed on a light background comes in handy. It is very easy for you to bracket the middle of the bore. When you have a proper alignment, remain steady, making sure you do not move the gun.
With the bore aligned with the target, you should align the scope too. Without moving the upper and the rifle, look through the scope taking note of where the reticle is pointing. While you might not be able to lower your head to your usual shooting position as you do not want to move your gun, you can still see through the scope. With your eyesight looking through the scope, adjust your elevation and windage adjustments, until the reticle is perfectly aligned with the target’s center.
Do note that you might have to repeat this process quite a few times. Even the best among us still moves the rifle a little bit whilst adjusting the scope. After you have centered the reticle, look back through the bore to ensure that it is still aligned. If it is still aligned, you good to proceed to the next step. If not, realign the bore to the target and adjust the reticle once again. The goal is to end up with the bore and the reticle centered.
When you are satisfied with our bore-sight, you can re-install the bolt, assembling the lower and the upper. That being said, you should note that rarely will the bore-sight be perfect. While perfection is a good goal to pursue, you should not worry too much. After all, it is only meant to get you on target. Importantly, you can make precise adjustment thereafter.
Fire your first shot down range. Using the scope markings – U for up and R for right – make the precise adjustments with the intention of getting your group where you intend to put it. When using a Leupold scope, the adjustments you make change the direction of the point of impact.
As such, assuming you are sighting at just 100 yards and you miss the 1 inch to the right, it means that your scope has ¼ MOA per click adjustments. Therefore, adjust your windage 4 clicks towards L. Consequently, this will move your point of impact to the left. After making an adjustment, shoot at least 2 rounds to ensure that your point of impact has moved as desired.
Once you are satisfied with your groupings, you want to zero your dials out. With all the adjustments that you have made, the dials will not be at “0” anymore. Zeroing is dependent on the scope you are using. As such, you should your scope’s manual to learn how to zero your scope.
That being said, you should note that most scopes come with dials that pup up or a set of screws that you just loosen to reset the dial. Depending on the scope model you are using, pop the dial down or turn the dial to “0” (obviously without using the adjustment under the dial) and thereafter tighten the screws back in place.