How to Zero a Rifle Scope Step by Step

Last Updated on September 26, 2020

How to Zero a Rifle Scope

Are your shots not going where you aim at? Did you know that this common hunter/shooter problem could have been prevented by just zeroing your scope?

Zeroing is the process where you align your point of aim with your point of impact, (a.k.a where your bullet actually hits) at a certain range. This allows you to accurately fire a shot across a known distance so you can hit your target or prey without breaking too much sweat!

I know zeroing your scope sounds complicated and hard, but trust me, this could literally change your life and dramatically increase your aiming and shooting accuracy. You’ll only need to know the right tools and the right information, which I have written in this article!

If you want to know how to zero a rifle scope, do read on and follow this guide!

What You’ll Need to Follow this Tutorial

  • A rifle
  • A rifle scope
  • User manual and instructions for rifle scope installation
  • Ammunition
  • Target paper
  • A boresighter
  • A rifle recoil pad

Step-by-Step Instructions on How to Zero a Rifle Scope

Step 1. Quality Installation and Proper Mounting

Although zeroing is not too difficult or complicated, a scope may be impossible to zero if it is not installed or mounted correctly. So, I highly recommend performing a good quality mounting for your optic.

Make sure to secure and tighten all screws and rings once you have finished mounting the scope. A cheap and inferior scope will be harder to setup and can compromise the accuracy especially if you mean to adjust your turrets frequently.

Note, also, that different thermal scopes will require a slightly different installation or setup depending on the brand, type, and scope rings. Some factors may also vary depending on the type of rifle you’re using.

It will help to read and follow the installation instructions given by the manufacturer. For a better idea of how this is done, watch this video from MidwayUSA.

Step 2. Decide on The Load

Zeroing a scope to a rifle also means you are adjusting its accuracy for a specific type of ammunition, called the load. This is because load factors such as bullet weight, length, projectile, and velocity can cause slight variations in accuracy that can have a larger impact at longer ranges.

I suggest choosing one type of ammo with different hunting scopes and stick with it when precision target shooting and hunting. For red dot scopes, using different ammo hardly ever makes a noticeable change in accuracy.

How to Zero a Rifle Scope

Step 3. Decide on a Shooting Range or Distance

Next, decide on a distance or range for which to zero your device. You will need to know the distance to accurately zero a rifle scope.

Most manufacturers recommend shooting across 100 yards to eliminate as much user-error as possible. It also reduces the effect of factors like the wind and air resistance. Any shorter than that is not very precise. I also personally prefer to sight in and zero at 100 yards.

However, other marksmen and experts suggest shooting from at least two different distances and positions but focusing on the distances over which you are most likely to shoot when using your rifle.

When zeroing from multiple distances, start from the shortest distance and make your way up. Just make sure to perform the basic adjustments for every position.

Step 4. Getting on Paper

If you’re a novice shooter or if you have just recently acquired a new firearm or scope, another thing you should do first is to get the rifle on paper. This means you have to shoot with your tactical scope and barrel in rough alignment to hit a paper target. For a faster alignment, use a laser boresighter.

Use a bulls-eye target specifically made for zeroing, such as in the picture below. It will have measurements. You will use these to measure just how “off” your hits are, allowing you to make more accurate adjustments.

Use a rest for your rifle to eliminate the error. I recommend using one that is intended for this specific purpose. This does not require as much personal contact with your rifle and will increase your chances of getting the most accurate zero.

Then, aiming at the target’s dead center, take two to five controlled shots. These first shots would either land somewhere on the lower left or upper right part of the target.

Step 5. Make the Necessary Adjustments

Examine the dials or knobs and see which ones adjust the scope of the left, right, up, and down. Refer to the user manual for a better idea of what you’re dealing with.

Use small increments at a time to adjust the scope based on the misses. If you missed high to the right, adjust the scope to the same direction.

Load and fire at least three shots in between adjustments. Each group of shots should be pretty close to each other. If the shots land at random positions both left and right or high and low, there could be an external issue.

Continue to make small adjustments until your shots consistently hit the bull’s eye. Once you’ve achieved that, you can now move on to another distance. Don’t worry if you have to go back and forth to get it right. This is common and is perfectly alright.

Take your time and make sure that your barrel does not get too hot. If it does, allow it to cool down completely before shooting again. Just to be sure, pause to clean your barrel and scope after every 20 shots.

Step 6. Double Double Check

Yes, I said double twice because that’s about the number of times you need to recheck if your rifle is zeroed correctly. Try it again with a shooting aid or other devices you usually use on the field, which can make a significant difference.

Fine tune the adjustments. Once you are confident with your work, do a couple of practice shots to make sure. Then, your rifle scope is ready to go!

How to Zero a Rifle Scope

Final Words

There you have it! Congratulations, you have just learned how to zero a rifle scope! Believe me; this is such a useful knowledge for both target shooters and hunters. It also helps you improve your shooting skills while also getting more familiar with your weapon and your scope.

So, did you like this guide? Did you learn something new? I sure hope you did! And I also hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did as I was writing it.

If you liked it or if you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment below! Don’t forget to share with fellow gun enthusiasts and hunters, as well!


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