Image courtesy of Bushnell Sport Optics

Image courtesy of Bushnell Sport Optics

It seems simple, but sighting your rifle is a crucial part of the process to shoot accurately and make better shots. And, it’s extremely helpful to know how to sight-in your own rifle rather than taking it to your local gunsmith and doing a lot of running around just to adjust it again when you get to the range on your own.

First, a mention of the obvious tools that can make your life easier:

·       A bore sighter (comes in many different forms) or collimator (somewhat antiquated technology)

·       “Return-to-zero” scope mounts/rings

·       Loctite thread adhesive

·       Targets that are purpose-built for sighting a rifle

·       Several rounds (10-15) of the ammunition you intend to shoot out of the gun on a regular basis

·       Sandbags/shooting rest (Caldwell lead sleds are GREAT for sighting in)

Nowadays there is a lot of potential carryover between optics, especially when you might be purchasing an optic that is many times more expensive than the guns it can be mounted on. That is to say, you might need to be able to take a scope off of a given rifle and use it for a different one depending upon use. It’s helpful in this case to understand the basics of your scope.

So, a good rule of thumb is this: If you plan on utilizing very high-end glass on your rifles and moving that glass between different rifles, make sure you are buying a compatible scope with a compatible reticle. Using a scope built for a .223 is fine on a .223, but it will likely not work for anything in the .50BMG spectrum, etc. Plan accordingly.

Luckily for most hunters, very good basic optics can be found for under $350 these days, and that allows hunters and precision shooters the option of carrying glass that is unique and specific to the gun they have it mounted on. And, once sighted in, the higher adhesion Loctite variants to keep scopes firmly in place during recoil.

Bushnell is an excellent choice for the discerning shooter that wants quality glass but doesn’t want to overpay for the privilege. It is among the highest quality brands in the space and offers all styles of optics from entry level scopes to precision optics that utilize the best glass and manufacturing technology in the industry. The company offers some very unique reticles, “Mils” or “MOA” adjustment and of course, the famous Bushnell Ironclad Warranty.

As always, utilize best practices for safety while sighting-in a rifle and always make sure you know your surroundings before taking a shot.

So, what’s the workflow for mounting glass on your rifles?

1.     Is the crosshair square?

Firstly, you want to make sure you’ve made simple adjustments to the optic you intend to mount—for example, are the crosshairs square to your mounts?

This is a simple adjustment. Simply put the screws on the scope rings until it just starts to create friction in rotating the barrel of the scope. Twist until it is very close and take a few looks at the reticle at different times to see if you are square as you look through it.

2.     Is the focal point and the eye relief correct?

When you look through the scope, is the crosshair or other reticle completely clear, instantly? Is the eye relief properly positioned? What happens when you grip the rifle like you are stalking game through the glass? Are you easily and quickly able to get the precision beat on a target at first glance through the glass?

The positioning is similar to finding the square reticle—get some tension on the rings and move it in small increments forward or back until you get to where you want to be.

This is the whole concept of “measure twice, cut once.” By prepping the scope to be in alignment front to back and left to right allows you to save a lot of time on the range and leverage those turrets to make micro-adjustments.

A collimator can help with this process if you have access to one and find you are frequently changing mounts or mounting a lot of scopes. Many ranges will have access to this tool if they tend to be a little bit old school.


3.     How can you avoid wasting ammunition on the range trying to dial in your shot groups?

Start at 25 yards. If you cannot get on target at 25 yards there may be bigger issues.

Furthermore, being way off at 25 yards may signal bigger issues. To help you diagnose them, consider canted threaded holes for mounts, a stray metal chip under an installation, a tweaked scope ring, or even a bent scope tube. If you get stumped on your own and can’t figure this out, then it may be time to make the dreaded run to the local dealer or gunsmith.

The two turrets on the scope adjust the reticle internally to fine-tune the adjustment on target; extrapolated at distance. Without going into the intricacies between “MOA” and “Mils” (mils are a slightly different measurement); generally, MOA scopes are adjusted by ¼” per click roughly (at 100 yards) and thus, turret adjustment should be reserved for 50 yards or more, depending on the final range result needed.

The vertical turret adjusts for elevation (up and down) and the side/horizontal turret adjusts for windage (left and right).

Four clicks on an “MOA” scope would equate to a change in bullet impact of 1” at 100 yards.

This idea showcases the fact that early/close range adjustment should be done on a macro level, while the micro adjustments should be done when you are within inches of the mark you are aiming for.

The best practice is to take a three-shot grouping at each range (25 yards, 50 yards, and 100 yards), which will give you an accurate representation of the shot placement. Doing this can eliminate inaccurate “flyers” during the sighting-in process and get you very close to the point of aim you want.

Ultimately, the point is to get you spot-on for your intended range and can still make quick turret adjustments in the field to shoot at different distances by memory.

A laser boresight can help do a lot of this work for a relatively inexpensive amount of money.

If you find that you are jerking the trigger, or things aren’t working, take a break. If you know that you have a habit of jerking the trigger, consider a Caldwell lead sled or something that can take some of the recoil for you.

Once you are close you will want to lock down the scope, and if recoil isn’t exceptionally heavy, blue Loctite or similar thread-locking compound can keep you in a good position to remove the scope as needed for storage or use on other rifles.

If you take these easy-to-follow steps outlined when trying this on your own, be sure to prioritize the pre-work and de-emphasize usage of the internal micro-adjustments in the scope turrets until you are within a couple of inches of your point of impact at the desired range. These best practices will allow you a lot more room for adjustment in the field if something goes wrong, and give you a better foundational point of aim to point of impact. Sighting your own rifle in will also give you a familiarity with how to make quick field adjustments so you don’t miss game or mess up your hunt.