How to Adjust Rifle Scope

Understanding how to adjust a rifle scope is vital to consistently accurate shooting. There are a number of components to be adjusted, as well as multiple factors to consider throughout the process. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the process of adjusting a rifle scope and provide you with everything you need to know for the best possible performance in the field. 

Reasons for Adjustment

The main reason anyone would adjust their rifle scope is to achieve the best possible accuracy. This can be done in a number of ways, but the most common sense of adjustment involves ‘zeroing-in’ a rifle scope. This term simply means to align the crosshairs with the rifle’s point of impact at a set distance. This ensures that bullets will impact the target exactly where the crosshairs are aimed at a specific distance. 

When it comes to adjusting for long range shots, the major focus is on accounting for bullet drop. As a bullet travels, it will naturally drop in altitude due to gravity. It’s extremely important to adjust a rifle scope for adequate bullet drop if you plan to shoot targets beyond 250 yards. 

Windage adjustments are also crucial for correcting aim against horizontal deviations caused by wind. Without these modifications, accuracy will be greatly diminished by a number of different factors. 

Understanding Scope Adjustments

Understanding scope adjustments is essential for precision shooting at any distance. Shooters need to adjust their rifle scope in order to account for bullet drop, windage, and elevation. THe process of adjusting a scope can be tedious, but necessary for accuracy. 

Knowing turret locations is the first step in zeroing-in your rifle scope. Turrets are typically located on the top and side of the scope, making it easy to perform quick adjustments. Capped turrets protect against accidentally changing the settings and are generally preferred for casual shooters. Uncapped turrets are much easier to adjust on the fly and are commonly used by serious target shooting enthusiasts, hunters and military personnel. 

It’s important to understand common terminology related to rifle scope adjustments. Some of the typical units of measurements are MOA (Minute of Angle) and MIL (Milliradian). MOA is an angular measurement that’s commonly used for hunting scope adjustments, but MIL is much more precise and preferred for tactical precision. 

Adjustments are made by turning turrets in the required direction to correct the point of impact. A good rule of thumb for rifle scope adjustments is “follow your bullet.” This means your adjustments should directly reflect the bullet’s impact on the target (i.e. if your bullet hits the target 6 inches to the left, you’ll need to move the crosshairs slightly to the left. Average adjustment ranges vary but are crucial for accuracy at any range. It’s very important to track and record adjustments throughout the process as this will ensure consistency and repeatability. 


When preparing to dial-in your rifle scope, be sure to confirm that the scope mounts are firmly secured onto the rifle. It’s important to have a consistent and firmly-secured position for the rifle for each shot to eliminate any potential human error that might influence accuracy. It’s best to shoot from a large, heavy table that’s level to the ground and lay the rifle on a rest. 

Begin by zeroing-in your rifle scope at close range before gradually extending outward in increments of 50 or 100 yards at a time. Once your scope is fully zeroed-in at 100 yards, it will be easier to zero-in at 200, then 300 and further if necessary. 

Be sure to consult the specs and product directions included with the rifle scope, or search for them online if you don’t have them. A last resort is to contact the manufacturer for directions in adjustment procedures. Adjust the scope in small increments at a time. Most models will have a ‘click’ sound once the turret has been turned to help users track the level of adjustments. 

Zeroing the Scope

Bore sighting is the process of aligning the center of the rifle’s barrel (or bore) as closely as possible with the rifle scope before making any turret adjustments. This can be done using a boring device, or with the naked eye and is meant to streamline the adjustment process. 

Aim for the same spot on the target for each shot, which is commonly referred to as “grouping” shots. It’s best to make adjustments after every 5 or more shots as this will allow you to observe the overall grouping of each shot to discern a noticeable pattern that will require adjustment. 

The elevation turret is commonly situated on the top of the rifle scope while the windage adjustment turret is located on the side. Once you consistently shoot multiple groups with the bullet striking at or very near the center of your aiming point, you can confirm zero and advance to the next distance range as desired. 

Adjusting for Distance

Understanding the bullet trajectory for your particular rifle is key to making the best possible adjustments. Different rifles will have various bullet trajectories, as well as variations between different bullet sizes, which are measured in grains. 

When dialing-in elevation adjustments, simply turn the scope’s elevation turret in the “up” direction. Most rifle scope brands can be dialed “up” by turning the top turret counterclockwise. Listen for a clicking sound to know when to count each adjustment increment. Each click signals a degree measurement known as the Minute of Angle (MOA), with a single click typically representing one-quarter of an inch per 100 yards. However, it’s crucial to consult your scope’s manual to be sure of these adjustments. 

It’s recommended to have a spotting scope, or pair of binoculars handy to confirm each individual impact while working to zero-in your rifle scope. 

Additional Adjustments

Aside from basic adjustments, shooters will likely need to make slight elevation or wind holdovers in order to achieve better accuracy, especially at longer ranges. It’s important to practice shooting your rifle in various conditions in order to understand elevation and wind holdovers. A holdover simply refers to aiming your rifle higher or left/right in order to compensate for bullet drop or windage, as opposed to adjusting the turrets for a single shot. 

Reticle focus is crucial for sharp aiming points at varying distances which will enhance accuracy. Parallax refers to the apparent reticle movement as it relates to the target when shifting eye position. Most modern rifles feature a small dial on the side of the main tube which is referred to as “side focus.” This dial can be adjusted to account for parallax by shifting the image of the target forward or backward to match the focal plane of the reticle. 

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How many clicks to adjust point of impact?

Each scope differs in the MOA degree value of each click. Most scopes will adjust elevation and windage by one-fourth or one-half inch per click. It’s important to view the owner’s manual of your scope to determine exactly how many clicks will adjust the point of impact. 

What distance to start zeroing a scope?

Most shooters start zeroing-in their scope at 100 yards, but it may be easier to begin at 50 yards and gradually extend the distance. 

Can I adjust a scope without firing rounds?

You can adjust a scope without firing rounds, but you won’t have any point of reference as to how much the adjustments have affected the accuracy. It’s always best to adjust after firing groupings of shots. 

What tools do I need to adjust a rifle scope?

Most rifle scopes don't require tools to be adjusted and users can adjust the windage/elevation by turning knobs. However, when it comes to installing/mounting the scope to the rifle, you will likely need a gun vise, reticle leveling system gunsmithing screwdriver set or Allen wrenches, and a laser bore sighting device if you choose. 


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