How We Sight in Firearms

Since we are always talking about getting out there and shooting, we figure it only makes sense to give you some tips on sighting in your firearm. It’s an easy process if you take the time and do it right. Sighting-in is one of the most important parts of preparing for hunting season.

1. The first step in sighting-in your rifle is to give it a thorough cleaning. A rifle’s accuracy will often improve with a good, complete cleanup.

2. Check the screws on the action, sights, scope mounts, and scope rings. A loose screw can result in poor accuracy in the field. Remember this one even if the scope has been on the firearm for a while.

3. Bore sighting your scope and rifle will ensure that the first shots fired will be on the paper at 25 or 50 yards, and you will not waste ammunition. Most rifle ranges have a bore-sighting device called a collimator that you can use by following simple instructions. A gun shop or gunsmith may bore-sight your rifle for you. If you cannot find a bore-sighter, this will work on bolt actions set up a bulls-eye target at 25 yards. Remove the bolt from the rifle and place the rifle on a solid rest.

4. Look through the barrel and place the bulls-eye in the center of the barrel. Your eye will automatically center the smaller circle (the bulls-eye) inside the larger circle (inside of the barrel). Now ease your face up until you can see through the scope. If the scope cross-hairs are centered in the bulls-eye then you will be able to hit the target. If they are not centered you should adjust the scope until the cross-hairs are centered in the bulls-eye. When you are bore sighting by this method you must move the scope adjustments opposite the direction you want the cross-hairs to move. Check often to make sure you have correct alignment.

5. The next step is to select your ammunition. Most modern rifles will shoot bullets of “medium” weight with good hunting accuracy. Many rifles will prefer one brand of ammunition to another. In this case we will use one brand all in the same weight to get a good starting point. Once the firearm is sighted-in we can change up the bullet weights and brand to find the most accurate load for the firearm.

6.  Now its time to go to the range. Make sure you have and use hearing and eye protection. I don’t want to harp on you, but if you can’t hear or see anymore, doesn’t that make hunting a little challenging? The secret to accurately “sighting-in” is to build up a front and backrest that will support your rifle without you having to hold it in place. Make adjustments in your rest until the cross-hairs of the scope are centered on the target. You can do this with either shooting bags or shooting rest most of which can be purchased at a very reasonable price. This will take most of the guesswork out of how accurately you can shoot a firearm, and everyone has off days so these tools do work.

7. Knowing the distance to the target is very important. The first shots should be made at 25 yards, as this is the first time the bullet will cross the line of sight on most calibers.

8. Now carefully load a single cartridge. Adjust the firearm until the crosshairs are centered on the target. Breathe slowly and naturally. Relax, exhale and squeeze the trigger. Now two more times and you have a group. This group may not be in the center of the target. Determine the center of the group.

9. If the center of your group is one inch low and two inches right of your point of aim, you must use the scope adjustment screws to move the center of the group one inch up and two inches left. In this case, you move the scope adjustment knobs in the direction indicated on the knobs, up to move the group center up, and left to move the group center-left.

10. Now to move the crosshairs at 25 yards is just a little different than at 100 yards that you’re adjustment knobs are set for. Most scopes are set up as a ¼ MOA or a 1/8 MOA we will stick with the ¼ MOA for now at 25 yards to move the cross-hairs 1″ you will need to move the knob 16 clicks, at 50 yds. to move the cross-hairs 1″ you will need to turn the knob 8, at 75ds. to move the cross-hairs 1″ you will need to turn the knob 5 and if the target is at the 100 yds. to move the cross-hairs 1″ you will need to turn the knob 4 clicks. This may seem too complex or just a pain, but there is a nice little tool for calculating these adjustments called “Accuscope”. It is a slide rule that has these figures already figured out for you. It is a cheap and fast way to get your measurements right. Check it out we have them in stock. View Accuscope Tool.

11. Once you have moved the center of the cross-hairs to the bulls-eye its time to shoot another group of three and see where the group is and adjust if necessary. If the group is good (in the center of the bulls-eye) move the target out to 100 yards and give it a go with another group most of the deer size calibers will be between 1.5 to 3.5 inches high at a 100 yds. with a dead-on group at 25 yds. So the more time you spend at 25 getting it right the less time you will spend at 100 yds.

12. Do not rush your shots. Give your rifle barrel time to keep cool. A hot barrel will not shoot to the same place as a cold barrel. Unless you think you are Rambo, you will be hunting with a cool or cold barrel. So take your time and enjoy being outside.

If you use this method to sight-in, you should be able to correctly place a shot on any game animal out to 200 yards by simply holding the cross-hairs in the middle of the vital zone and squeezing the trigger.

That’s it. So go out, get sighted-in before fall, take some of our targets out with you, and have some fun.

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