What is this “good tracking” you keep talking about with rifle scopes?

Tracking is the scope’s ability to repeatedly and predictably adjust the point of impact.

The simplest way I know of explaining it is to explain how to test for it.

There is an old scope tracking test called “shooting the box.”  

To shoot the box, you want to have a good shooter with a good rifle and ideal conditions.  

There are different ways to do this, but in order to keep it simple, just go with my scenario. 

At 100 yards, fire one perfect round.

Then, adjust the scope five MOA up, five MOA right, and fire one round.

Then take it 10 MOA down and fire one shot.

Adjust 10 MOA left and fire one shot.

Adjust 10 MOA up and fire one shot.

Adjust five MOA right, five MOA down, and fire one shot.

Check out our article on the basics of MOA if you’re confused.

If your scope has good tracking, it should be able to draw a square box around the corners and have two rounds in the center.

That would be a good tracking scope.

If that box were oblong-shaped, it does not have good tracking.  

This is not the only way to test for tracking.

There is another way that tracking can be tested without firing a shot.

The other process involves having a target with known measurements and markings.

Then, have the gun in a rest and move the turrets around.

Confirm that they are moving the proper distance and then returning to where they should.  


You are not only checking for repeatability, but you are also checking for proper measurements.  

If it is supposed to be a ¼ MOA adjustment, and it actually moves ¾ MOA, that is important to know too.  

It is also important to note that tracking is most likely to be inconsistent at the extreme ends of the adjustments.

For example, if you had a scope that had 60 minutes of travel (30 up, 30 down, 30 left, 30 right) then your scope may track well within the first 15 minutes of travel.

But it may become inconsistent when you get up to 25 minutes of adjustment.

To help keep the adjustments in the center of the scope, many long-range shooters install a 20 MOA scope base, which is a story for another time.  

A scope with poor tracking is not necessarily a bad scope, but it is a set it and forget it scope.