Zeroing a rifle is a critical skill that all marksmen should know. It’s also necessary if you want to enjoy the new optic you purchased. Let’s break down how you can zero a rifle in just six steps.
How to Begin Zeroing a Rifle for Beginniers
Step 1: Mount the Rifle Properly
First off, do yourself a favor and make sure your scope is actually mounted properly.
Your scope should ideally be mounted with between 3 and 4 inches of eye relief.
Furthermore, the reticle should be aligned at as close to a 90° axis as possible to the bore.
Step 2: Bore Sight
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Next, it’s time to “bore sight.”
In a nutshell, this will involve you making sure the rifle and scope are calibrated close enough together that you can fine-tune the weapon's accuracy progressively.
You should, once bore-sighted, at least hit the paper of your target instead of firing a shot and not seeing a hole anywhere.
To do this, use either a solid bench rest or shoot from the prone position so your rifle is supported as it points toward your zeroing target.
Make sure that the rifle can’t be moved easily.
Either remove the bolt for bolt action rifles or the lower receiver for AR rifles.
Also, get rid of your scope turret covers and set them safely aside.
Now, look through the barrel. Try to center the bullseye right in the bore as close as you can.
We’d recommend setting the target 100 yards away so you can measure how much you need to alter your scope quickly and easily.
Step 3: Lock Your Rifle
Now it’s time to lock your rifle into position.
If you have sandbags, use them to make sure the gun can’t move whatsoever.
Otherwise, other materials to achieve the same purpose.
Blankets, backpacks, and similar stuff can work in a pinch. Just make sure the surface is as close to even as possible.
Make sure that you support the forend and the stock of your rifle, never the barrel.
Ultimately, you just want to make sure you can pull the trigger of your rifle without messing up the aim or moving the weapon.
The purpose of this entire step is to eliminate human error as much as you can.
Step 4: Shoot the First Shots
Once your rifle is secure, look through your scope. With luck, the crosshairs will be pretty close to the bullseye.
Try to set your scope to the highest power, aim, and shoot.
Firing a few shots in rapid succession will let you get more data.
We’d recommend three shots so you can see patterns in either your shooting technique or the rifle.
If your three-shot group is under 2 inches of deviation, you just have a little fine-tuning to do.
A larger group deviation than this means there might be an issue with your equipment.
Step 5: Measure
Determine the center of your bullet group, then measure straight across in a vertical line.
We’d recommend using measuring instruments like a straight edge, tape measure, and pencil instead of trying to “eyeball” it.
Record your measurements as accurately as you can.
Then do the same thing for a horizontal line, starting from the center of the bullet grouping.
Now you have actual numbers with which you can adjust your scope.
Your scope will probably by in MOA, and most scopes adjust with ¼ MOA clicks.
A single click moves your point of impact 0.25 inches at 100 yards.
Step 6: Fire Second Shots and Repeat
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- If two out of the three shots (but not all three) move toward the new point of aim, your scope might be sticking
- If the center of your next group doesn’t hit at your desired point of impact, then you need to adjust again
- When you get repeated “sticking”, your scope’s internal mechanisms might actually be messing up. Try tapping the outside of your scope very gently with a tool to jostle them loose
At this point, the only thing to do is keep making minor adjustments by measuring the center of your bullet groups as described above and adjusting your scope MOA by MOA.
Are you experiencing any issues with zeroing a rifle? Tell us about it in the comments section.