You’ve done it all— from researching for hours for the perfect scope that is best suited to your game to hunting down the best deals possible. But now that you are all set with your equipment, you’re still missing one key ingredient that might be the difference between a good day in the jungle and a great one: a fool-proof way to sight-in your rifle scope.
Whether you are new to hunting or have been forged by the forests since you were young, there are always nifty techniques that you could pick up to boost your time in the wild. Here is a practical step-by-step guide for sighting in a rifle scope at 50 yards with additional pointers about what you could be doing better. Read on to find out!
Before going into the slightly more technical aspects of sighting in your rifle scope at 50 yards— or any length, for that matter— let us run over a few run-of-the-mill basics. Like all things in life, preparation is key. With the scope off the rifle, you would first want to optically center your scope. I prefer the mirror method over the counting method for this because it is easier and faster.
In a bright, well-lit room, set your scope down on a mirror and look through the eyepiece keeping a distance of a few inches. You’ll be able to see two crosshairs- one dark and the other, a dim reflection or shadow of the first in the mirror. Using the vertical and lateral adjustments, align the two sets of crosshairs into one. What this does is it essentially allows you to return to the default factory settings so that you can make the maximum adjustments while attempting to zero your rifle. You could very well do this with the scope set up on the rifle as well, but that tends to be slightly trickier for people who are just starting out.
Getting down to business
Once you’re done with the basics, you can go ahead and mount your scope on your rifle. Make sure that your scope is secured to the rings and that the rings are tight on the base. Next, you should go about roughly aligning the barrel of your gun and the scope. This is called bore-sighting and it reduces the time that it takes to sight-in your rifle.
Set up your unloaded rifle in such a way that it is sturdy, sound, stable, and also check for any barrel obstructions. Stand behind your rifle and looking through the bore, find your target. If using a semi-automatic or a pump-action where looking down the rifle is not an option, a laser boresighter or a collimator will help you do the job. I prefer using the <affiliate link, if available>. Without moving your rifle, adjust your scope until you see the same image through it as in the bore or boresighter. This is only a rough alignment and we’re not looking for complete accuracy here. Fine-tuning will be done later. Now you’re all set to shoot!
First things first, start by using a big and clear target. You could use either a bull’s-eye or a zero target depending on your preference. I like the latter on an inch grid sheet because it makes adjusting my measurements easier. Focus and lock in your target by looking through the bore and scope as mentioned before and fire your first test round of three shots from a distance of 25 yards. It isn’t too important to hit bull’s-eye right away. Remember that we’re just trying to calibrate your aim, for now, to save ammunition and time and preserve your patience in the long run.
Fine-tuning your scope
Next, observe your bullet holes in the paper but make sure never to change your point of aim or the general positioning of your rifle. Measure the distance from your bullet holes to the center of your target and re-adjust your scope accordingly. Generally, the Minute of Angle (MOA) for most rifles can be adjusted in increments of ¼. This means that at 25 yards, you will need to make 16 clicks on any turret on your scope (upward, downward, or sideways, depending on which directions adjustments need to be made) to alter the bullet impact by one inch.
Once you’ve made the necessary changes and the crosshairs appear aligned with the center of your target, shoot another round from your rifle. This time, you should have hit the bulls-eye. If not, don’t worry and repeat the previous steps because it takes a bit of time and practice to get the hang of the whole process. By the end, you will have sighted in your scope at 25 yards.
The ‘famous’ fifty
Now, to greater distances— 50 yards. The MOA at 50 yards changes since the distance has doubled. So naturally, instead of 16 clicks, you’ll have to make 8 clicks on your turrets to move one inch in any direction. Here’s a simple formula to remember this:
Total no. of clicks = [Adjustment needed (in inches) / MoA per inch at the distance] * No. of clicks on the scope per MOA
Once you’ve got this formula down pat, it is going to be a lot easier for you to make minor adjustments depending on your distance from your target. So, to sight in a rifle scope at a target of 50 yards, you’ll once again shoot a round of bullets. Depending on where your bullet holes are, make the necessary number of clicks on your turrets to align your crosshairs at the center of the target. Repeat this till successive rounds pass through the center of your target and then voila! You will have successfully sighted in at 50 yards.
According to the legend, if you sight in your scope at 25 and 50 yards, you should technically be spot on at 100 yards. But that doesn’t always hold since your cartridge trajectory, scope height, and windage always need to be accounted for while changing distances. Essentially, you could skip sighting in at 25 yards and move directly to 50 yards, but I feel that doing so takes a lot more time and patience especially if you’re not a skilled marksman.
Troubleshooting common problems
Still have the feeling that something is off but can’t seem to put your finger on it? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are a few small but effective things you can consider tweaking to make your hunting experience smoother and much more enjoyable.
Choose your ammo carefully
It’s great to experiment with different ranges and types of ammunition when you’re starting out or thinking of making a change, but know that this will affect your overall precision. You’ll always experience a difference in accuracy, velocity, or performance using various bullets, brands, or anything else, so make sure to sight in your rifle after you’ve settled upon the ammo that you plan to use long-term.
State of your rifle barrel
If you can manage to zero in your rifle in a couple of shots, then good for you! But for most, it takes some time and quite a few shots to sight in, which makes the barrel heat up and become dusty. It is best to clean your rifle barrel every 15-20 shots and let it cool down before adjusting your point of impact.
Use shooting aids
For gun-wielders, steadiness and patience is a virtue. But unfortunately, it is easier said than done to lie in wait for hours in anticipation of prey. Thankfully, living in modern times has allowed us access to innovations that can help minimize human error to a great degree, ensuring a better hunt. The use of padding to prevent injury and aids like shooting rests or cradles (I prefer using the <insert affiliate link if available>), monopods/tripods, sandbags are something that our long-gone ancestors could have done with!
Checking and double-checking
If you travel with your rifle and scope or prefer to use a bipod or other gear for support, it is most likely that your point of impact is altered by the time you arrive and finish setting up for the hunt. Therefore, even though you might have zeroed in your gun earlier, it wouldn’t hurt to double-check that everything is still in perfect alignment right before you get down to business.
Armed with all this information (and proper equipment, of course!) I know for sure that your hunt is bound to be nothing short of great. Sure, it might take you a while to become adept at this, but trust me, we’ve all been there. In the end, all the time and practice you invest are going to be worth it!