So What If I Do Have a “Set It and Forget It” Scope?

I think we can agree that there is a lot of confusion, and a dizzying amount of choices, about how “set it and forget it” scopes work.

There’s also a lot of confusion about whether or not they’ll suit your needs when you’re starting out. 


It turns out that ‘set it and forget it’ scopes are a fantastic and simple option for hunters of all skill levels to easily and consistently hit your target….

…plus they are less likely to break the bank. 

In today’s article, we’re going to show you how they work, their history, and how you can find a scope that works for you. 

Set It and Forget It — A Primer and a History 

As we have discussed in our previous articles ‘How to Zero a Scope’ and ‘Scope Tracking’, if you have a scope that does not track, then it is a ‘set it and forget it’ scope. 

You may ask yourself, “how bad is it to have a ‘set it and forget it’ scope?”

For most hunters, frankly… it doesn’t matter.

In reality…

Most hunters actually hunt with a ‘set it and forget it’ scope. 

True story:

While I was in the army (not the Marines,) I was issued a high-dollar ‘set it and forget it’ scope, which was made by a reputable scope manufacturer. 

I was taught to sight it in… and then never touch the dials again.


That works in the army because they need a way to ensure a high degree of accuracy with all of its soldiers in the easiest way possible…

…plus they are able to even out any inconsistencies by issuing standard bullets, with a standard rifle, and a standard scope.

With that scope, I shot ‘hold off’ which is also referred to as Kentucky windage. 

“Wait what!? WTF? ‘Hold off?’ And how does Kentucky figure into this?” 

Good questions!

The term hold off’ means that instead of putting the reticle directly on the target, you put it left, right, up, or down from the target in order to compensate for either wind or distance. 

The term originated from pioneer usage of the Kentucky long rifle, when they didn’t have a scope and had to aim left, right, up, or down to adjust for wind. (Hey Davy Crockett, nice shot!!) 

It’s essentially good ole fashioned guesstimation.

Pretty sure doing a rain dance and sticking their fingers in their mouths and holding it up to test the wind was a part of the process too…

In any case:

Although my army scope did not track well, it did hold its zero very well- even under heavy use and abuse.

And for most hunters, that is all you need. [Well that, and 3 bullets and a knife.] 

Note: holding zero basically meant I was able to beat the shit out of my scope from time-to-time (Baghdad tends to do that to scopes) and the crosshairs won’t get jostled out of position and, thus, lose its zero. 

A scope with good tracking is only necessary for long-range precise shots.

How far a shot should be taken is a matter for another time (STAY TUNED!) 

If you have a scope that does not track, you can shoot ‘hold off.’ 

Now, let’s take a closer look at shooting hold off. 

How Our ‘Hold Off’ Technique [and the Free Market] Make Bullseye Shots

To shoot ‘hold off,’ you simply estimate the trajectory of the round and then compensate for that trajectory by holding off of the target and adjusting the impact of the round accordingly. 


I know that if I zero my rifle for 100 yards, then at 300 yards my round will drop seven inches. 

So, if I had a 100-yard zero, and I wanted to shoot a deer through its lungs at 300 yards, then I would move my crosshairs (or reticle) seven inches above where I believe the lungs to be and then take the shot. 

Beyond that, I know a 10 mph full value wind will push my round 2 MOA at 300 yards…

…and I know 2 MOA at 300 yards is six inches.

So, I would hold my sights off of the lungs, six inches into the wind in order to compensate for that shot. 

Make sense?? If not, don’t worry!! 

Adjusting for wind is among the most difficult aspects of long shooting.

And since it deserves a full article to itself, we’ll cover it in depth at another time…

In the meantime…

If you want to get more precise than just estimating your hold off, well, the free market has you covered! 

Many scope manufacturers make reticles with hold off marks built into them. 

Some scope manufacturers will even custom-make and install a reticle for you and your bullet.

And they do this at a reasonable price!

For less than $100 dollars, you can have your ‘set it and forget it’ scope set with a reticle that is custom-built for your bullet, which will show elevation drops from 100 to 800 yards and beyond.

It can also have the crosshairs showing you MOA marks so that you know where to hold off for wind. 

Why We Think ‘Set It and Forget It’ Scopes are Great, and You [Probably] Should Too

Now that you know what a set it and forget it scope is…

We want to emphasize to you that most people have ‘set it and forget it’ scopes precisely because these scopes have been reliably hitting targets and putting meat on the table since the 18th century. 

In addition to that, we want to emphasize that if you are new to the game (and remember even Michael Jordan was new to the game at one point) you should learn your capabilities as a shooter, and NOT shoot beyond that until you’ve truly mastered your current abilities. 


Improving your shot is a progressive process- not an overnight sensation. 

There’s also no rush to be Chris Kyle on the range on your first day. 

Moreover, with all of this modern flat-shooting ammo on the market today, most rifles are more than capable of accurate shooting to 300 yards. 

BTW — In case you were wondering, it takes a lot more skill to shoot 400 yards than it does to shoot 300 yards. 

Taking a 300-yard shot is hard enough on a range, and it becomes FAR more complicated once you are balancing yourself on the side of a hill…

…with a 20 mile per hour winds swirling around you…

…at a 700 lb Elk who just looked in your direction… 

…with 10 gallons of adrenaline now roaring through your veins…

…and you are trying to shoot between an opening in the brush the size of a baseball.

In short, I hope by now you understand your ‘set it and forget it’ scope and you know how you should be using it. 

Remember: ‘set it and forget it’ scopes are predictable and accurate- but only if you leave the dials alone. 

So, here is your next step:

Figure out what kind of scope you have and let me know in the comment box below.

We truly love answering these because we wish we’d had this resource when we were starting, and we want to provide as many resources as possible.