I just got a brand-new scope mounted to my rifle and I went through the steps to set it up to make sure it fits me properly. Now I need to zero it.
How to zero your scope to your rifle
When I say zero, I’m meaning nothing more than taking the point of aim inside the scope and making it match the point of impact downrange at a certain distance. That at a certain distance is important, just like when we covered minutes of angle earlier we talked about a minute of angle is only a certain size at that distance. The likewise is true with zeroing, you see I like to zero my rifle is 100 yards, you might choose to zero them at 200 yards. If we both shoot our zeroed rifles at 100 yard target, our impacts are going to be different, but that’s okay! It’s not that your rifle isn’t zeroed, it’s just that your rifle is zeroed at 200 yards. Once we have that set up we can then use that as a baseline in the future to make adjustments for different distances.
Instead of sitting here at the 100 yard line and wasting ammunition in time trying to get it close, there’s a couple tricks we can use.
First we can boresight the scope to the rifle and second we can shoot at the 25-yard line, to make sure we’re at least close enough on paper, I have my gear set up at the 25-yard line and i will try both.
First thing, I’m going to do is boresight my scope to my rifle. By bore sighting it, you’re literally looking through the bore of the rifle and making sure the scope is aiming at the same spot. This is a course easier with a bolt-action rifle because I can just pull the bolt, if you have a semi-automatic rifle you’re in luck if it’s a style where you can take the bolt out and do the same thing. Let’s say you have an MSR an AR style rifle you can take the upper receiver out of the lower, pull the bolt out and you can still see through the barrel and adjust the scope. So after I take these out, I want to make sure I’m on a nice stable position because it’s not going to do me any good to have the rifle moving around. I like to shoot off of a back by applied legs are nice to hold the rifle, but I get more consistent results off of a back and in the back of the rifle for support, I use a sand sock. A sand sock is what it sounds like; it’s a sock filled with sand, it’s a nice piece that I can squeeze at different tensions to get higher or lower on the back, it’s a nice rest for the rifle and it really helps in this process. So what I do is I back down the rifle where I can look through the barrel, I get the rifle stable as I can looking at a certain spot on the target, then I alternate back and forth between looking through the barrel that’s lined up at a certain spot and up to the scope, and I can go back and forth to see how much of an adjustment I need to make, so that the crosshairs are where the barrels pointed out. It looks like I have quite a bit to go here, that looks good on elevation. For windage, I got a ways to go well that looks close enough but the good news is we’re at the 25-yard line anyway so we’re likely at least going to be on paper and as long as we’re on paper we can go up and measure where our impacts are and make the appropriate adjustments in our scope.
You can see what that impact was and make any adjustments if need be. That’s not bad, that shot is about a half inch away where I intended it to be which means the scope is pretty close.
I’m not going to make adjustments though one reason is I just took one shot, I didn’t shoot a group and you always want to shoot with the group and you’re making adjustments. The idea is if you make a mistake and flinch on one shot or pull one shot one way the other and you try to adjust off of that, you’ll be chasing rounds all over the target all day. You need to shoot a good consistent group first then adjust off the sound of the group. The good news is when it’s this close, I know at least I’m going to be on paper at 100. I will be able make some good adjustments.
I’m back at the hundred yard line and shoot a group that we can adjust off of. It’s important that this is a good group, so i set in a stable position, i will take a few chances to dry fire and make sure that my trigger control feels good and everything is set to go before I start sitting rounds downrange. When those felt nice and stable,i will go and start sending rounds downrange shoot that nice group and make any adjustments. I need to make it’s important that when you’re doing this, you’re honest with yourself. If you don’t feel stable or if you don’t feel that your trigger control is exactly where it needs, to be keep practicing. It’s going to save you some time and some ammunition.
So i shot a three-round group, you can see how i did and make any adjustments we might need to make all right. That’s not bad, i will be happy with any group that’s under a minute of angle and let’s revisit minutes for a second. A minute of angle ends up being about an inch at a hundred yards so these squares on the paper are 1-inch squares, so any group I shoot that’s smaller than one of those squares is going to be a good enough group to adjust off of. So i need to come down into the right but how much is the key. I have a scope that adjusts in quarter minute adjustments so we can get pretty precise.
If I take the center of the group, I need to come down two and a half minutes of angle, and I need to come over to the right a little over one we can call that one and a quarter minutes of angle. So down two and a half and over one and a quarter will get us where we need to be.
I didn’t adjust off that 25-yard shot that we shot before but if we did this result would still make sense, if you remember I said I wanted to be about an inch low at 25 yards, at 25 yards a minute of angle is a lot smaller matter of fact, it’s only a quarter of an inch so one of my advice are my tips from before was to think in the size chunks that a minute of angle is, so if you think in quarter inch chunks, we can measure the same thing. It looks like it’s just under three minutes too high and little over one minute too far to the left. Exactly the same result you see above.
Now it’s time to make our adjustments, this scope adjusts one quarter minute per click, so for every four clicks that’s one minute of angle which means for us to come down our two and a half minutes. We need to come down ten clicks to three or down two and a half minutes. We need to adjust right one on the quarter, it’s going to five clicks to the right. Group looks good, the adjustments worked. Now that the scope is zeroed, i will slip the scales by slipping the scales, what I mean is adjusting the turrets so that the zero on the turret actually lines up with the mark in the front. So it’s truly zeroed for next time.
To do this on the particular scope, i will adjust these turrets by unscrewing the little allen screws at the top of the turret cap. By doing this, the turret cap loosens up and now become separate from the adjustment inside. You see the post inside only turns, so this is tightened down to grab it. Now that I have loosened these screws, I can turn this cap and you don’t hear any clicks because no adjustments are being made. You need to be careful that when you loosen them when you first start turning, if you hear it click, pay attention because that means you’re making adjustments. So what I’ll do is I’ll line it up so the zero is on the front and then I’ll come in and snug these back down. Do not over tighten these little screws, they’re small, they can easily strip and if these things strip, when the cap doesn’t hold tight, you’re really going to be in trouble when you try to make adjustments later.
The scales are slipped and both the elevation and the windage tour line up with a zero in the front. This way, if we make adjustments in the future it’s easy to come back to the scopes true zero just by turning back to the turrets zero. Now you can run into problems in the future if one of these comes loose. If you’re in the middle of making adjustment, it comes loose and spins on you, you might not know exactly where you’re at, so it’s going to be hard to come back to the zero.
I like to do is have what I call the mechanical zero, the mechanical zero is how far we can turn one turret tour the scope mechanically stops us and then we count back from that, so we know what where the true zero of the scope is. The scope comes with some shims where you can actually put underneath the turret which are handy, because they allow the term only to go down so far, they act like a zero stop which stops the actual tour inside not just the turret cap. And even scopes I have a zero stop in the turret cap, it’s only so good as long as the turret never slipped on you. So let’s check out the mechanical zero. I will go up and count in full revolutions until it stops me. Each revolution of this turret was 12 minutes so 5 times the 12 minutes is 60 minutes plus a half, so I will write down that 60 and a half minutes down from the absolute top is my actual zero because that’s what we need to come down, there’s a half minute down and I want to come down 61 revolution from 2 to 5. Now we’re back to the Scopes true zero, this means if I ever have troubles of this turret in the future, all I need to do is just to the Scopes top limit and count down 60 and a half minutes of angle. I would repeat the same process for the windage so I know that mechanical zero too.
You now know how to zero your scope you should head out to the range and try it for yourself, you’re looking for more details about long range scopes, check out the barrettrifles.com. And remember while you’re out there, firearm safety depends on you.