How to Calibrate a Rifle Scope

Written by kirsten o'hara
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Every rifle, even two of the same calibre from the same manufacturer, shoots differently. Different types of ammunition will also cause inconsistencies in shooting. For this reason, it is important to calibrate, or sight-in, the scope on your rifle before you use it for hunting or target shooting. The procedure for calibrating your scope is not very difficult, but it does require you to take the time to take your scope and rifle to a shooting range.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Ammunition (at least two different types)
  • 3 to 5 targets, made from either paper or cardboard
  • Bore sighter
  • Binoculars
  • Scope adjustment tools, as specified by your scope's instructions
  • Felt marker
  • Ear plugs
  • Safety glasses

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  1. 1

    Place a target 100 yards from where you will be shooting. Insert the bore sighter into the muzzle of your gun and line it up with your scope. This should be done according to the instructions for your specific bore sighter. Look through the scope. The crosshairs from the bore sighter and scope should be in perfect alignment. If not, adjust the bore sighter and the scope until they are.

  2. 2

    Remove the bore sighter and load your weapon. Put in your ear plugs and don safety glasses. Aim at the centre of your target and fire one round. You do not need to hit the bull's-eye, as long as you hit the target.

  3. 3

    Fire three rounds from each of the different types of ammunition you have. Use your binoculars to look at the pattern of the shots. You want all three shots from the same type of ammunition to be together in a small group on the target.

  4. 4

    Use the marker to label each type of ammunition on the target. The type that produced the tightest grouping of shots is what you should use going forward. Using that ammunition, continue to test your rifle and scope. Adjust the elevation of the scope until the shots are hitting about three inches above the centre of the target. This will allow for wind at longer distances without affecting closer ranges very much.

Tips and warnings

  • Once you have completed this process you can reinsert the bore sighter and write the crosshair settings on a sheet of paper. This will help you recalibrate the gun if you happen to drop it at some point.
  • Always leave your gun unloaded, with the breech open if you are not about to fire. Only load it once you are at the firing line and prepared to shoot. It is also important to wear ear plugs and safety glasses whenever you are on the gun range.

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