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How to use a rifle scope

Last Updated: 29.11.21


Similarly to a quality spotting scope, a rifle scope is used to view distant targets and the objects that surround them magnified, so that they seem closer than they are. Many of the scopes currently available for sale are designed to identify a potential bullet’s point of impact.

If used effectively, rifle scopes can provide a more accurate and safer shooting in the field without the need of additional optics that could weigh you down such as your nifty pair of hunting binoculars. Below you will find a guide that will help you get more familiar with your rifle scope so that you can get the best performance out of it.

Get familiar with the terminology

When researching the market for the right scope for their rifle, most people end up feeling discouraged by the baffling array of terms that they need to understand. To use a product effectively, it is crucial to know its essential components, which is what this part of our guide will try to achieve.

The body, or “the tube” is the diameter of a rifle scope and it commonly comes in one inch or 30mm sizes. The adjustment knobs are there to help you change elevation and windage, and they came in a variety of forms including turrets, finger pressure knobs, or flat tip screws.

The elevation we mentioned above refers to the vertical, or up and down motion of the bullet’s potential trajectory. Windage, on the other hand, refers to the horizontal, left or right motion that can affect the bullet’s likely path.

Rifle scopes also come with a variety of reticle styles, including crosshairs, mil dots, target dots, and more. The reticle serves to estimate the approximate landing point of the bullet, and some complex reticles may use lines in order to compensate for bullet drop or other factors from the environment. Some may even be illuminated via battery or by using ambient light.

The sights also referred to as iron sights, are two metal indicators that are mounted physically on the shaft of the rifle to provide an approximation of the path of travel that a potentially fired bullet might follow. These do not offer the accuracy or adjustment flexibility that a lensed rifle scope does.

Finally, some modern rifles are equipped to measure parallax and adjust it. Parallax is a term that refers to what it happens when your eye, the target, the lenses and the reticle inside the scope are not all perfectly aligned, which can make you miss your shot. This happens because your eye is not precisely centered on the eyepiece.


Learn the basics

After you have mounted your scope on the rifle, the first step is to “zero” the scope, namely to adjust the various alignments until they provide accurate information. Additionally, you should also make sure that you take into consideration various environmental factors such as elevation, humidity, shot angle, windage, and the presence of a tailwind or headwind.

The reason you need to consider these factors is so that you can make precise calculations and compensate for the bullet’s trajectory. Once you use parallax to make precise adjustments, you can compensate for range quite accurately.

Once all of this is done, you can now place the reticle of the rifle scope on the intended target at your zero distance. If done correctly, the rifle scope will now be ready to provide you with accurate guidance to help you achieve precise targeting.

If you are looking to purchase a rifle scope, a common rule of thumb is that the unit should cost around half of what the rifle did. Of course, the recent advances in precision machining have led to a substantial drop in prices, meaning that it can be possible to get a high-performing rifle scope for less than half the cost of the rifle.

You also shouldn’t forget about safety since it is crucial that you follow all local, state, and federal laws while shooting. Because firearms have the potential to cause serious injuries, make sure that you have all the required safety equipment at the ready, including a pair of quality tactical goggles to protect your eyes.

Adjust your scope

Most of the scopes you can find on the market do not come appropriately adjusted out of the box, and this means that you will need to make some additional adjustments, depending on the distance, wind, velocity, and much more. Sighting in a scope requires patience and precision.

Adjusting your scope can be a bit difficult since you will need to take a trip to a shooting range that has a distance of at least 100 yards. This step is crucial, and the length should be measured accurately, not eyeballed.

First, experts recommend to shoot at 25 yards and then move on to longer ranges. This can help save you time, frustration, and ammunition so that you avoid taking shots at 100 yards from the first try that don’t even hit the target.

When sighting in the rifle, it is crucial that you shoot from a stable position with a lot of support. You can either use a specially built rifle rest or sandbags to do this. Don’t support the rifle with your muscles since this practice leads to less precise shots.

Once you are in position, you should fire three shots at the center of your 25 yards target. It is okay if you won’t hit the bullseye from your first few tries. Once you fire your first bullets, check the mark to see where you are hitting.

Then you can measure the distance from the group of bullets to the bullseye and adjust your scope accordingly. Most scopes on the market have ¼ Minute of Angle adjustments. What this means is that one click will move the bullet impact zone one-quarter of an inch at 100 yards.

Thus, in order to move the bullet impact the same distance at 25 yards, you will need to make four times the number of clicks (16 clicks = 1 inch). As you go further and further away until you meet the 100 yards limit, you will end up finding the perfect adjustments for your scope for all the different distances you might encounter in the field.



Ioana Moldovan

Ioana’s professional experience in the optics field has helped her understand the value of passing her knowledge forward. Her curious personality helps her gather useful information for her readers and her goal is to make technical information fun and accessible to everyone.

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