By now you have settled on a rifle as your method of take.
If you’re going to use a rifle, you’re probably going to want to use a scope.
And if you want to use a scope, you need to sight it- or zero it.
I am going to throw a lot of information at you that may make it sound like a complicated endeavor.
But I assure you… it’s not complicated.
In practice, it is actually quite simple.
By the time you finish this article, you will be able to confidently zero any rifle scope.
If you do not feel that way, let me know, and I will personally take you through the process.
Zeroing a rifle will start with having a properly mounted scope (which can be a complicated process in and of itself.)
If you are reading this article…
I will assume that you do not have the time or equipment needed to mount your own scope.
In time, I could explain the process for you to do it yourself, but if you are new to the game (and we all were at one point,) I recommend you have the professional at your local gun store mount and bore sight your scope.
No shame in that game- that’s exactly what I did when I started.
So, we’re going to start with the concept of boresight.
What is a boresight, you ask?
Boresighting is the process of aligning the barrel with the reticle (i.e. crosshairs.)
If you had a gun rest that you could set the rifle in and had a rifle which allowed you to remove the bolt so that you could look through the chamber and see through the barrel, you could center a faraway object on the barrel, and then align the reticle with that object.
There are also lasers that can help with this process.
If you are new to this, your money would be better spent on hiring the professional at the gun store to mount and bore sight your scope- rather than spend money on a laser that will not get regular use.
Bore sighting, even with a laser, will not really get you zeroed…
…but it is a good place to start.
Assuming you have a properly mounted and bore-sighted scope, the next step would be to zero at close range.
This is just to get you on paper (aka shooting paper targets) and will save you time and ammo on the next step.
Most people like to start at 25 yards (although Marines like to start at 32 yards, because…well…Marines.)
Personally, I like to shoot at targets that have one-inch grid squares all over.
This way, when you look at the target after you shoot, there’s no guessing about how many inches away from the target you are.
Using the fundamentals of rifle marksmanship fire one round at 25 yards, then evaluate how far off the bullet is.
This is where the grids on the target come in handy.
If it were, say, 1” high and 1” right and you had a scope that had 1/4 MOA adjustments, then you know that you would need to adjust 16 clicks down and 16 clicks left (if this doesn’t make sense to you then read the article about how to calculate MOA.)
Once your adjustments are made, fire one more round.
It should be just about center.
If it is not center, then you may have an accuracy issue, a calculation issue, an aiming issue, or a bad scope.
Whatever the problem, you need to figure it out at 25 yards before you move on.
Once you have a 25 yard zero (or 32 if you were a Marine…because…something about dogs of the devil…ruff ruff!) then you need to confirm your zero at 100 yards.
There are some who think the 100-yard confirmation is not necessary.
These are probably the same people at work who probably like to leave their dishes in the sink for someone else to clean, even though there’s clearly a sign that says “Steve, clean your dishes!”
…but I digress.
Don’t be this guy, because I assure you:
The only way to get a 100-yard zero is to zero your rifle at 100 yards.
I once zeroed with a guy, let’s call him “Steve,” who thought 25 yards was all he needed to zero his rifle.
So, I set up a 100-yard target and asked him to shoot it.
He found out that at 100 yards, his round was about eight inches high.
So, now that we’ve unfriended and moved on from “Steve,” let’s take a shot at 100 yards.
Using the fundamentals of marksmanship, shoot three rounds at a 1” grid square target.
If the scope is good and the rifle is accurate, you should have three rounds close together, often in a triangle formation.
The center of that triangle is what you are trying to move to the center of the target.
Let’s say for our purposes here that your three-shot group was within a one-inch circle.
That would mean that you are shooting a one minute of angle (which would be good shooting and good equipment.)
Let’s say that the three-shot group was 8 inches high and 2 inches right.
To move the center of that triangle, with 1/4 MOA adjustments, we would move the reticle 32 clicks down and 8 clicks left.
Again, if these measurements are unclear refer to our MOA article, where we go over our DIAC method for calculating MOA.
Then, fire another three-shot group.
If that last three shot group still has a spread of less than one inch but is not center, it could mean your scope does not have good tracking (a story for another time.)
If you are not able to shoot a tight group, it could be an inaccurate rifle or ammo combination.
Or, as my pappy used to like to say, it could be a problem with the Indian, not the arrow (aka you!)
If you are shooting a tight group but your rounds are not centered, continue to adjust until you are centered.
If you can get it centered, but it took more than nine rounds, than you may have a set it and forget it scope.
If you have a set it and forget it scope I’d recommend you head over to our set it and forget it article for more details.
I have explained to you how to zero at 100 yards, and that’s a great start.
But do you want to know the best part?
Most modern cartridges can shoot pretty flat out to 200 yards.
My rifle, for example, only drops about two inches at 200 yards and seven inches at 300 yards.
I like to zero my rifle so that it is 2 inches high at 100 yards, even (or zeroed) at 200 yards, and five inches low at 300 yards.
The reason I have my scope set this way is that hilly terrain, I typically don’t see a deer that’s further than 300 yards.
When I go to Wyoming to hunt, I can see deer 1,000 yards away on a regular basis because it’s so flat.
Depending on what round you are shooting, and what type of terrain you are hunting in, you may want to zero for 100 yards or 200 yards.
Now after reading this, if you do not understand how to zero a rifle scope, let me know where I lost you in the comments below and we’ll get you taken care of.