Video: How to Sight in a Rifle

Getting a new gun zeroed in or on target is not as complicated as some folks might believe. But it is easy to get a few crucial steps wrong. The proper equipment will make the process easier and more reliable.

First, there’s your rifle and your scope. You can mount the scope yourself and use a laser bore-sighter to get the reticle near where it needs to be. At the range though, you’ll need a box or two of the same ammunition, a fresh target, a bench or table, a chair, and a rest. You can sight-in a gun laying prone, but it’s a bit more work getting up and down, and harder to get the gun perfectly stable.

The rest may be the most important piece of equipment in this process. One of the biggest and most common mistakes I see people make while zeroing a gun is not shooting from a stable, repeatable platform. It’s almost impossible to shoot consistently from your elbows. In this video I’m using Caldwell Tack Driver sandbags, one under the stock and one under the butt, to keep the rifle in the same position for every shot. You can also achieve a pretty good rest on top of a sleeping bag cinched in a stuff sack or a backpack loaded with gear, but specialized equipment makes your life easier and your gun more precise. Some folks like the “lead sleds” that allow you to strap the gun to a secure rest, but I believe this method doesn’t allow the gun to buck the same way it would in hand, possibly changing the bullet trajectory and giving a different point of impact.

In this video, I’m sighting in a new Weatherby Vanguard MeatEater Special Edition chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor with Federal Trophy Copper 120-grain bullets. It’s important to shoot the same ammunition and the same bullet weight through the sighting-in process. Different bullets fly differently and will land in different places. This might seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many times I’ve seen people make that mistake.

Set a fresh target 100 yards out from your bench rest with a safe backstop. Remember to keep safety first, with the barrel always pointed downrange, the bolt open when the range is cold, and always wear eye and ear protection.

When sighting in a rifle, you should always fire in three-shot groups. No rifle shoots the same hole over and over and over. You will use the average, or center, of those three holes to adjust your scope. Fire those three rounds holding perfectly on the bullseye with your scope at maximum magnification and then walk downrange to see where they landed.

If your shots didn’t even land on paper, move closer to the target to find where the gun is shooting and make more drastic adjustments. But assuming they did, mark the average of those holes. Many targets, like the one I’m using here, include grid lines at 1-inch intervals. Measure up or down and left or right from the bullseye to the average of the shot group.

On most scopes, one click equals 1/4 MOA (minute of angle). One MOA equals 1 inch at 100 yards, so 4 clicks equals an inch of movement at 100 yards. The first group I shot in the video was 3 inches high and 2 inches right. So, I need to turn my elevation dial (on top of the scope) 12 clicks down, which is clockwise, to move my center 3 inches. Next, because I shot 2 inches right, I need to turn my windage dial (the one on the right side) eight clicks or 2 MOA to the left, also clockwise. Remember, the words “up,” “down,” “left,” and “right” on the windage and elevation knobs refer to the direction you want to move your grouping.

When you have completed that first adjustment, make sure the range is safe, and fire three more shots at the bullseye. Your group should be much closer. If it’s dead on, leave your scope where it is. If your average is still an inch or more away from center, you may want to adjust your scope again, then fire another three-shot group. Continue this process until you are shooting groups centered around the bullseye.

It’s that simple. With six shots, I’ve sighted in my rifle. Remember, always shoot three-shot groups, make sure you have a solid rest, and shoot the same ammunition. Stay tuned for more rifle tips to come!

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