How to Zero a Rifle Scope

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How to Zero a Rifle Scope

For shooters, accuracy is the goal that we strive for. Hitting our target with clean precision is an ability that only experienced shooters typically possess. This skill is even more crucial to have for rifle shooters. 

Rifles are powerful, long-range guns designed to hit targets from far distances. Rifle shooters, whether they are hunting or just shooting at a gun range, place high value on being accurate with their shots. 

The first step in achieving this accuracy is properly zeroing the scope of your rifle. Zeroing the scope, or sighting in, is the act of calibrating your rifle to your scope and setting it up to strike at a certain distance. Once you zero the scope, your rifle should shoot exactly where the scope is aimed. 

Have The Right Gear

To get started, you’ll need a few supplies for your rifle. Obviously, you’ll need a scope. But you’ll also need a bench, a rifle rest, and a rear rifle bag. If you don’t have a bench, you can shoot from some sandbags or a mounted bipod. 

You will also need a range to shoot in. You need to be able to set two targets up in your range: one at 25 yards and one at 100 yards. For the targets, use objects that are large and easily visible from a far distance. It is ideal to use targets with a grid pattern so you can line up your scope vertically to it. Optionally, you can use a plumb bob or level to ensure that the grids are lined up correctly. 

The best target to use for zeroing is a bulls-eye target. These types of targets usually have lots of measurements written on them, which will be extremely insightful. The more exact you can be in your shots, the more precise you'll be able to zero it. 

You’ll also need to bring enough ammunition with you to last the whole day, as well as eyewear and ear wear for protection. If you’re a relatively new shooter, it’ll be useful to keep the instructions for your scope around. You’ll have to make adjustments from time to time and understand what each click of the turret means. 

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Mount Your Scope

Before doing anything, the first step you need to take is mounting your scope and squaring it to the rifle. Though there are kits available to buy that with scopes already mounted to the gun, it is useful for any rifle owner to learn how to mount it themselves. It may sound intimidating, but it’s actually pretty easy to learn, and you should always check your instruction manual. 

To begin, mount the base and mounting rings onto the scope. The mounting rings are used to keep your scope strong and sturdy. Next, tighten the screws into the mounts. Don’t tighten them too much, as you’ll probably have to make adjustments later on. 

Moving on, lay the scope into the bracket, with the eyepiece positioned in the right direction. For further safety, lay a small torpedo level on top of your scope to check its level, and tighten the rings again afterward.

Focus the Eyepiece

The next step is to set the distance of the scope’s eyepiece. Set up the eyepiece, so your shooting eye lines up with your target. When you look through the eyepiece, your image should be clearly visible. 

Now, it’s time to level your cross-hair. Hold your rifle steadily on its mount so the stock of the rifle is parallel to the ground. Then, rotate the cross-hair until the vertical cross-hair is centered perfectly at the top. 

Make sure to securely tighten the mounting base. Once the vertical cross-hair is dead center at the top, slowly tighten the mounting rings. Each screw should be tightened only half a thread at a time. Each time, check the cross-hair to make sure it hasn’t moved. 

To focus the reticle for your eyes, turn the rear eyepiece housing to the left or right entirely. At first, the reticle will probably be out of focus. To sharpen its focus, start turning the eyepiece until the reticle comes in. If your reticle has a locking feature, lock it down once you achieve your optimal focus.

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Set Up the Shot

At last, you’re ready to set up your shot. The only way to sight in a rifle scope is to shoot at several different distances. For this reason, it is ideal to zero in your scope at the gun range, where it’s easy to measure the distances of your targets. But it can be accomplished essentially anywhere.


To start off, mount the gun in a rest. When zeroing a rifle, you need to try and reduce user-error as much as possible. Try your hardest to hit the center of the target every time. Get in a solid stance. Lean on your rest and make sure your rifle is steady. Then, get ready to shoot.

Shoot the Shot

Make your first shot 25 yards away from your target. You want to start out close-range, then gradually move out further and further. It’s important to nail down the accuracy of your scope at this point. 

After experiencing the recoil of your first shot, place the reticle exactly where it was when you fired. If done correctly, you should be able to see the bullet hole through it. Now, while keeping the rifle still, turn the turrets until the reticle is locked onto the bullet hole.

For your next shot, aim at the same spot as your last shot and shoot. Check the bullet hole. If the shot didn’t hit the bulls-eye, adjust the turrets to position the reticle to the middle of the bullet hole. 

Shoot again. By now, your shots should be very close to the bulls-eye. Now, shoot three rounds. Look at where the three shots landed compared to the reticle center hold. Ideally, you should have a tight group of shots, close in proximity to each other. 

You’re ready to move out to 100 yards now. Load up your rifle and take three to five shots. Examine them and repeat the process you completed before. 

Make Adjustments

As mentioned before, you’ll have to make some adjustments to your rifle as you are zeroing the scope. Most scopes will have two dials on them, with one at the top and one on the side. Typically, the top dial moves your sight up and down, while the side dials move left to right.

The purpose of these dials is to adjust the scope and lock onto your target. Once set up correctly, your scope should show exactly where the rifle is aimed. On some sights, usually the older ones, you’ll need to use a coin or a key to turn the knobs. 

When turning the knobs, move your sight in the direction of your missed shots. For instance, if you took a shot that was too low, move your sight in a downward direction. Keep making adjustments until you’re able to hit the bulls-eye consistently. 

Once you’ve zeroed in at one distance, zero in at another distance. Just don’t move more than 50 feet at a time. Spend the most time zeroing in at distances that you know that you’ll frequently be shooting at. 

Lastly, only make minor adjustments. You don’t want to move your sight around too drastically, as it can disrupt your shot. 


Once your rifle scope is zeroed in, you’re ready to start shooting for real. You’ll only be able to shoot with accuracy once your scope is fully set up, so it’s best to handle that as soon as you obtain your rifle. As an owner of a rifle, it is essential to learn how to do this task by yourself. 

Remember that you will eventually have to zero your scope again in the future. Just like how a guitar will need to be re-tuned after playing it for a while, your rifle scope will need to be zeroed in again. Because of this required maintenance, it’s smart to get over the hurdle and learn how to sight in. 

As a final note, if you’re in search of affordable, stylish gun-related gear, take a look at Printed Kicks’ online store. They provide gun-related t-shirts, hoodies, shoes, tumblers, flags, and more. Stay fresh and comfy while you’re out there shooting! 



 Rifle | weapon | Britannica  

What You Need To Know About Rifle Scope Reticles | Optics Planet

How do you Adjust a Rifle Scope Up, Down, Left, and Right? | Rifle Scope Center 


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