In the huge and diverse spectrum of guns, air rifles are some of the most versatile pieces of equipment that you could possibly own. They serve a variety of ends— from amateur shooting, target practice or sporting to even hunting game in the forest— air rifles can do it all.
But whether you are a complete beginner trying to navigate the big, bad world of guns or a seasoned hunter merely foraying into a slightly different realm, zeroing in your scope is always a bit tricky. Read on to find out what distance you should zero in an air rifle scope to make your next day out a tad easier!
What is an air gun?
For those who have been feeling lost till now, it is all in the name. An air gun or air rifle is basically a gun that shoots projectiles with the help of compressed air as opposed to traditional arms that use combustion as propellants. Instead of bullets, they fire pellets, slugs, metallic shots, or even arrows and darts. As said before, their uses vary widely from sporting to hunting and also warfare.
What is zeroing in?
Now that you have an idea of what an air rifle is, we will start addressing the chief concern that most users run into while operating an air rifle— the zeroing in. Sighting in or zeroing in using your scope, whether on your air rifle or otherwise, essentially means adjusting the view through your scope till it is near perfect for shooting down your target. This is a crucial part of setting up your equipment because it ensures that your accuracy is always on point and allows you to save up on ammo and time.
Things You Will Need to Zero in Your Air Rifle Scope
There a few essential things you need by your side when zeroing in your air rifle scope. First, you want your air rifle and a variety of suitable pellets, obviously. Next, you will need some sort of a gun rest <affiliate link, if available> or a shooting stand <affiliate link, if available> that will provide you with stability and consequently, let you aim with better precision. Third, you should keep some paper bullseye or inch grid sheets handy as your targets to shoot at while zeroing in your scope. To protect yourself from rogue pellets, it is a really good idea to invest in a pair of sturdy plastic safety glasses <affiliate link, if available> as well.
Other optional items include tape measure and cleaning pellets. You should keep a calculator handy too if you are especially bad with numbers since your measurements will require you to make a few adjustments as well!
How to zero in your air rifle scope?
Like most traditional hunting rifles, the procedure for zeroing in your air rifle scope is largely the same. If you have prior experience with semi-automatics and other hunting rifles, feel free to skip to the next section, or read on to pick up some tips that might help tweak your technique! For the uninitiated: don’t worry, as this is a pretty straightforward procedure to follow.
Before beginning the process of sighting in, you should optically center your scope— that is bring the crosshairs of the scope to the center of the view, which is the default factory setting. This can be done using either the mirror method or the counting method with the scope either off the rifle or mounted on the gun as per your convenience.
Another thing that you should take care to set up is a proper backstop behind your targets to stop the projectiles in their path so that they don’t ricochet. You can repurpose a plank of wood, a covered metal board, or even some heavy cardboard for this purpose.
To sight in the air rifle scope, start from a close distance of about 10 yards and shoot a round of five pellets and take note of their point of impact on your target paper. Measure out the distance between the target and the holes and adjust the height and windage accordingly by clicking the turrets. Usually, to move the point of impact by an inch in any direction at 100 yards, the total number of clicks required is four. This is known as the Minute of Angle or MOA. While mostly constant across various scopes, this Minute of Angle can sometimes vary and it is best to cross-check with your particular models. So, at 10 yards, the number of clicks required to move the point of impact by one inch will be 40. This is calculated by a simple formula:
Total no. of clicks = [Adjustment needed (in inches) / MOA per inch at the distance] * No. of clicks on the scope per MOA
From this formula it becomes clear that the further you move away from the target, the greater number of clicks you will need per inch of adjustment. That is, at 50 yards, you will need 8 clicks per inch, at 35 yards it will become 11 to 13 clicks, at 25 yards 16 clicks will be required for every inch, and so on.
After making the necessary adjustments, repeat the process over and over till you can group shots at the center of the target. When you accomplish that, your scope will have been sighted in at 10 yards. You can now move on to larger distances and make minor adjustments using the turrets to zero in your scope at that particular distance as well.
If there are still some doubts in your mind, or you simply want a more detailed guide to scoping in your rifle scopes, read up on my other article here <link to scope article>. This YouTube video also provides a very quick and easy to follow guide for complete beginners who might be feeling a little intimidated by the technicalities.
What distance should you zero in your air rifle scope?
Now comes the crucial question of the appropriate distance to zero in an air rifle scope. The distance at which you should ideally sight in your scope varies, chiefly depending upon what you want to do with your gun. If it is a small distance that you are shooting at, then you should zero in your scope at that distance. You could follow the same rule of thumb for comparatively longer distances as well if you have experience and are confident, or conversely, sight in your scope at half or three-fourths of the target distance and then adjust after shooting a round or two. The latter works really well if you are using a good quality scope that can hold true at different distances for your air rifle.
If your plan is merely to use your air rifle for plinking targets within a limited space, determine your appropriate distance for shooting and use it for zeroing as well. A length of 25 yards from the target is best suited for plinking.
If you intend to use your air gun chiefly for hunting purposes, you should first determine the distance from your target and also consider the caliber of your air rifle. Usually, hunters use the airgun to drop targets effectively within the 30 yards to 40 yards range. In this case, you should zero in your rifle scope at 10 yards or 15 yards to maintain accuracy. This makes tweaking the adjustments much easier and faster since you will have a proper grouping of shots each time.
Things to Keep in Mind While Using Your Air Rifle
1. Maintenance is key. Make sure to keep the barrel of your air rifle scope clean so that your aim and precision are not affected. However, keep in mind that air guns do not need as much cleaning as firearms, so don’t overdo it.
2. Choose your ammunition carefully. Consider the specifications of your gun and its compatibility with the kind of projectile you choose.
3. No two pellets are created equal. They can vary widely in terms of materials used, design and function, and thus offer different performance levels. Try out a variety of these and choose the one that offers the most closely grouped shots with your gun. Remember to stick to the same pellets that you used for sighting in when going out to hunt.
4. If switching between different types of pellets, remember to clean the barrel between each type or shoot a few cleaning pellets to do the job for you.
5. Make sure to exercise appropriate safety precautions while operating air rifles, because though they might not be lethal like SAs or other firearms, rogue pellets still have the potential to cause significant damage. Stay mindful of your surroundings, use personal safety gear, and keep your gun unloaded and under lock and key when not in use.