The modern red dot sighting technology was a game-changer for shooters and hunters alike because it allowed users to aim in a very natural way while keeping both eyes open. When this technology was used in rifle scopes, it quickly became a very popular choice along the spectrum from beginners to seasoned experts and has also continued to remain significant to this day.
A red dot scope generally uses an LED or a light-emitting diode to point at targets, which is safer and easier on the eyes as compared to lasers which are known to emit energy at harmful wavelengths. In this article, we will guide you through a simple and no-nonsense way to sight in a red dot scope without shooting, that will preserve your patience and expensive ammo for the actual hunt!
What is a red dot scope?
For the uninitiated, a red dot scope is a very common type of magnifying scope for firearms like rifles, shotguns, etc. which allows the user to fixate a point of aim using a brightly illuminated red dot. They allow rapid acquisition of the desired target and are relatively easy to use for purposes like target shooting, hunting, and in the armed forces.
Red dot scopes are free of inherent optical distortions, so as long as you can see the red dot on your target, then you are on target as well. There are quite a few good quality red dot scopes available in the market across a range of budgets. Brands like Aimpoint, Bushnell, and Vortex Optics offer quite the bang for your buck, but I prefer the < affiliate link, if available > for its variety of brightness settings, high accuracy, and general ease of use.
What is sighting in?
Starting with the technical side of the article, sighting in your scope, whether mounted on a rifle or some other firearm, essentially means aligning the view through the scope till it is perfectly on target for shooting. This process allows the shooter to maintain accuracy and precision even at long distances, save tons of ammunition, and also keeps one from getting frustrated. It is thus a very crucial part of the setting up of your gear and must never be skipped, no matter what.
How to sight in a red dot scope without shooting?
The process of sighting in a regular scope is pretty straightforward and easy. Shoot, measure, and adjust the turrets at half the required distance or better yet, at around 50 yards until you are hitting your target exactly. Then move out your target further to the final distance that you want to shoot at and repeat the process to fine-tune your aim. That is all there is to sighting in regular scopes.
In red dot scopes as well, the process is similar to the one mentioned above. However, if you want to zero in your red dot scope without shooting, the method you will need to follow is slightly different. You will have to bore sight your rifle with a laser bore sighter or a collimator and if you do not have either of these, then do not worry. Your naked eyes will suffice for bore sighting too, and this process is called optical bore sighting. However, it might take you a tad longer so hold on and don’t let your patience wear thin.
What is bore sighting?
Bore sighting is the process used by shooters to align the bore axis of the firearm’s barrel with the intended target. The method of bore sighting is generally used for calibrating different types of rifles, like lever actions, semi-automatics, and automatic rifles. Doing this beforehand allows the hunter to sight in the optical or iron sights much more easily, thus saving time and ammunition while increasing the shooting accuracy.
How to bore sight your rifle?
If you are using a bore sighting tool or a collimator for bore sighting, then you will need to mount your device before proceeding with the zeroing in.
To do this, first select the correct size of a stud for your rifle. Insert the stud into the bore sighter and tighten the clamp screw. Then attach the stud full depth to the muzzle and after sighting through the scope, rotate and align the bore sighter grid pattern with the red dot of the scope, both vertically and horizontally. Use the turrets to adjust the windage and elevation of the scope so that the red dot appears at the center of the grid pattern. Once that is done, carefully remove the bore sighter and the stud to not disturb the setup, and your red dot scope should be sighted in perfectly without shooting!
If you are using a laser for bore sighting, then just fit the laser into the rifle barrel and turn it on. Adjust the rifle to focus the laser pointer exactly on the target and then look through your scope. In case the red dot is not perfectly aligned with the target then calibrate the scope using the turrets to sight in. Before shooting, remember to remove the laser.
Now if you are visually bore sighting your red dot scope without the help of any devices, then you first need to secure your rifle with sandbags or a gun rest. Next, remove the bolt from your rifle and observe the view through the bore. Tweak the position of your rifle till you can zero in on your target perfectly and then look through your scope. Again, you should be able to see the red dot aligned with the center of your target, If not, click the turrets accordingly to adjust the view through the scope, till you are adequately zeroed in.
Things to keep in mind
1. Unload your rifle
To prevent any mishaps and accidents, it is a general rule of thumb to always check that your gun is completely unloaded, i.e. there are no bullets either in the chamber or the magazine. So, before you make any changes to your setup, always remember to check and recheck for the same, without fail.
2. Shooting Aids
For all gun users, steadiness and patience are of utmost importance. However, it is not an easy job for hunters to lie in wait for hours in anticipation of a certain game. In that case, there are a lot of aids available that can reduce human error by preventing fatigue and providing stability while shooting. It is essential to invest in aids like shooting rests and cradles (my top choice is the < insert affiliate link if available >) or monopods and tripods like < affiliate link, if available >. In a pinch, you could also use sandbags to create a reliable shooting position.
When it comes to safety, there should be no compromises. Get yourself a pair of good quality protective glasses and/or ear protection. If you are new to shooting and are not used to the recoil, or using some new equipment with a significant kickback, then it is also a wise idea to invest in some padding to prevent injuries.
3. Check your gun
For most shooters, it takes a while and quite a few rounds of shots to sight in their rifle scope. This ultimately heats up the gun barrel heat up and clogs it up with dust, gunpowder remnants, and dirt. To maintain your precision, clean the barrel of your rifle every 15-20 shots and allow it to cool down before making adjustments to your point of impact.
4. Scope Mounting
The way you mount your scope is a very sensitive affair and if done improperly, it can hamper your aim, and ultimately your whole shooting experience. A few things to keep in mind are to make sure that the scope is mounted as low as possible without making contact with the rifle, that the scope rings are level, and also that the scope is not too tightly attached to the scope rings as it can skew your measurements. To understand how to mount your scope in detail, read our article here < affiliate link, if available >.
5. Practice, practice, and more practice
If you get frustrated or annoyed at the time it takes for the whole process and to get on target, then keep in mind that sighting in a red dot scope without shooting is a fairly advanced skill. It requires a significant amount of experience to be able to perfectly zero in a rifle scope simply by visually bore sighting it, so consistently keep on with it until you are firing closely grouped shots on target.