How to Adjust a Rifle Scope in 2023: A Step-by-Step Guide

MOA on a Scope

In the world of firearms and hunting, precision and skill go hand in hand. To achieve the perfect shot, knowing how to adjust a rifle scope is essential. With over 40 years of experience, I’ve learned that mastering this skill is the key to unparalleled accuracy.

Understanding Scope Adjustment Made Simple

Adjust a rifle Scope

In this guide, we’ll delve into the fundamentals of rifle scope adjustments, demystifying the process for both novices and seasoned shooters. We’ll explore the basic adjustments that allow you to fine-tune your aim, emphasizing that there’s no going backwards or forward regarding reticle adjustments. We’ll even touch upon the often-overlooked aspect of scope attachment because where your scope sits on your firearm can make all the difference.

But it’s not just about the technicalities; it’s also about the personal preference of hunters and shooters. Some of us swear by the benefits of scopes, mainly when dealing with slugs, while others may opt for the raw, unaided experience. We’ll consider the scope quality factor, recognizing that not all scopes are created equal, and how a top-notch scope can elevate your shooting game.

So, whether you’re a rookie looking to learn the ropes or a seasoned pro seeking a refresher, this guide will provide you with the insights you need to adjust your rifle scope confidently. Because when it comes to hitting your target dead-on, there’s no room for guesswork – it’s all about understanding the geometry, cardinal directions, and the mechanics of your trusty scope. Welcome to the world of precision shooting, where every adjustment counts.

In this comprehensive guide on how to adjust a riflescope, we will delve into the following topics:

Mounting the Rifle Scope

how do you adjust a rifle scope

Scope Selection

Choosing the proper scope for your firearm is crucial. It’s like picking the perfect tool for a job. In my experience, your chosen scope must align perfectly with your shooting style, whether you’re into long-range precision shooting or close-quarters action.

Rail Selection

Once you’ve settled on a scope, the next step is selecting a compatible rail system. Think of this as the bridge that connects your scope to your rifle. The rail choice needs to match your scope and firearm seamlessly. Trust me; compatibility is critical here.

Tube-Style Scope

If you’re going for a tube-style scope, you’ll need rings to secure it. These rings are the trusty handshake that seals the deal, holding your optic firmly in place. It’s not just about attachment; these rings also play a crucial role in elevation adjustments.

Optics Compatibility

Now, regarding optics compatibility, it’s like speaking a different language. Holographic, reflex and red dot sights have their own rules. They often skip the need for scope rings and attach differently. So, before you dive in, know your optic’s unique requirements.

Mounting Systems

Some scopes come with integrated mounting systems. These are like the all-in-one packages, eliminating the need for separate rails or rings. It’s a time-saver, and it simplifies the process.

Tutorial Resources

I suggest using instructional videos and guides to walk you through the mounting process. Optics Planet, for instance, offers a video like having an expert with you. It’s a visual guide that can make all the difference, especially if you’re new.

Height Adjustment

Scope Rings Function

Let’s talk about scope rings. These aren’t just about securing your scope; they also provide crucial elevation adjustments. It’s like having the keys to fine-tuning your aim. The most common size is 1 inch, but various sizes exist for specific applications.

Common Ring Sizes

Different ring sizes cater to different needs. From 30 mm to 40 mm, each size has its purpose. Some scopes even have unique ring requirements tailored just for them.

Height Variations

Rings come in various heights, such as low, medium, high, and very high. These options allow you to customize your scope’s positioning to suit your shooting style. It’s all about finding that sweet spot for your comfort and precision.

Long-Distance Shooting

If you’re into long-distance shooting, very high rings are your best friend. They provide the elevation you need to tackle those challenging long-range shots. It’s like having a built-in calculator for your scope, compensating for bullet trajectories.

Lateral Adjustment

Ring Placement

Proper scope placement is crucial, not just for focusing but also for your safety. Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the scope lens, and getting it right is essential to avoid blurry images or even a black ring around your field of view. Trust me; it’s all about that clear-sight picture.

Scope Alignment

Speaking of alignment, ensuring your scope is mounted straight on the rail and rings is critical. A twisted scope can be a nightmare to zero and maintain zero. Consider investing in a scope alignment kit to ensure everything lines up perfectly.


how to adjust scope on rifle

Rail Types

Rails come in two main types: Picatinny and Weaver. Picatinny fences have standard spacing, while Weaver rails can vary. Pic rails are more common, making it easier to find compatible accessories. Some rails even allow backward and forward adjustments to fine-tune your eye relief.

Rail Specialty Mounts

For high-end setups, you might encounter speciality mounts. These can be game-changers, allowing you to adjust the scope rings for optimal eye relief. It’s like tailoring your shooting experience to your specific needs.

Levelling the Scope

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Scope Alignment

Achieving a level scope is critical. It ensures your shots are on target and that your scope adjustments are accurate. A superficial spirit level can make this task a breeze, ensuring your rifle and scope are perfectly aligned.

Sighting In

Reticle Alignment

Now, let’s talk about sighting in your scope. It’s like calibrating your instrument for the perfect harmony. You’ll adjust the reticle for elevation and windage, ensuring it’s perfectly aligned with your point of impact.

Reticle Types

Depending on your scope, you’ll have different reticle options. From classic crosshairs to red dots and holographic, it’s about personal preference and your shooting style. Some scopes even offer unique and fun reticle designs.

Bore Sighting

Before you start shooting, I strongly recommend bore sighting your rifle. It saves time and ammo. It won’t likely zero your rifle, but it’ll get you on paper. It’s like setting the stage for your precision performance.

Time to Shoot

When you’re ready to fire, ensure you have stable shooting support. A rolled-up jacket, sandbags, or a Caldwell Lead Sled can do wonders. These supports stabilize your rifle and make zeroing in a breeze.

Multiple Shots

Don’t be disheartened if it takes several shots to achieve the desired accuracy. It’s completely normal. The first shots are like a rough draft; you’ll fine-tune your aim with each successive image.

Precision Adjustment

Elevation and Windage

Elevation and windage adjustments are your best friends when it comes to precision. Scope turrets allow you to make these adjustments. Knowing how much each turret clicks moves the sight (MOA or MILRAD) is crucial.


Minute of Angle (MOA) and Miliradians (Milrad) are the units used for turret adjustments. While MOA is standard and roughly equals one inch at 100 yards, Milrad is gaining popularity, especially for long-range shooters. Understanding these units helps you dial in your shots accurately.

Click Value

The click value is how much each turret click moves the sight. It’s a tangible sensation or sound you’ll feel or hear as you adjust. Knowing your scope’s click value is vital for precise adjustments.


Elevation Adjustment

Elevation adjustments control the vertical movement of your reticle or dot. It’s like fine-tuning the up-and-down motion of your scope. This comes into play when compensating for bullet drops at different distances.

Bullet Drop

Understanding how your bullet performs over different distances is essential for accurate shooting. Elevation adjustments allow you to compensate for the bullet’s trajectory, ensuring you hit your target dead-on.


Windage Adjustment

Windage adjustments, on the other hand, control the left and right movement of your reticle. These adjustments come to the rescue if your shots are drifting off target horizontally. It’s like making micro-corrections to account for wind or other external factors.


Parallax can impact your accuracy, especially at longer distances. High-end scopes often feature a parallax adjustment turret. Ensuring the reticle is centred on the target is crucial for precision shooting.


Focus Adjustment

Focus rings on your scope help you achieve a sharp, clear target image. It’s like bringing a blurry picture into focus. Twisting this ring until your target becomes crystal clear is essential for accuracy.

Zoom Ring

For scopes with variable zoom, the zoom ring lets you adjust magnification. It’s like zooming in on a subject with a camera lens. Finding the right magnification level for your shot is critical.

Multiple Shots

Practice and Accuracy

It’s important to practice regularly to improve your shooting skills. Shooting accurately isn’t just about equipment but your skills and familiarity with your firearm. The more you practice, the better you’ll become.

Where to Set Zero

Choosing Zero

Selecting your zero point depends on your shooting needs and ballistics. Consider factors like your typical shooting distance and the performance of your firearm. Different guns may have other optimal zero points, so choose wisely.

Focal Plane Scope

how to adjust a scope on a rifle

Focal Plane Types

Scopes come in either first or second-focal plane configurations. The first focal plane scopes change reticle size as you zoom in, while the second keeps the reticle constant. The choice depends on your preference and shooting style.


Advanced Scope Features

Advanced scopes with fingertip adjustments and return-to-zero capabilities can be a game-changer for those diving into long-range and precision shooting. These features allow you to make quick adjustments on the fly, which is critical for complex shots.

Go Shoot Already

Practice and Improvement

Now that your scope is mounted, zeroed in, and everything is aligned, it’s time to hit the range. Shooting accurately isn’t just about your gear; it’s about you. The more you shoot under various conditions and distances, the more you’ll learn to adjust for factors like wind and distance. Remember, it’s not just the scope you chose; it’s how much you practice that truly matters. So, go out there, shoot, and keep honing your skills.

Frequently Asked Questions About Adjust a Rifle Scope

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How does a rifle scope adjustment work?

Rifle scope adjustments are like fine-tuning your musical instrument. They compensate for the bullet’s curved path by tweaking windage and elevation turrets within the scope. It’s your secret sauce for precision shooting and ultimate comfort. Trust me; this epic guide has all the juicy details.

What is scope parallax adjustment?

Think of scope parallax adjustment as your reticle’s sweet spot. It ensures it dances on the same stage as your target image, eliminating annoying moves when you shift your head. Without it, you’re in for eye strain, off-the-mark shots, and target confusion, especially for rookies. Remember, this is for rifle scopes; red dot sights like the EOTECH EXPS 2 or 3 are “parallax-free”.

Which way do I turn my rifle scope?

Picture the turret as a trusty screw. Counterclockwise twists it “up,” and clockwise takes it “down.” It’s like dialling in the perfect recipe for precision shooting.

What are the adjustment knobs on the top and side of the scope called?

Those nifty knobs are your scope’s turrets. The top turret handles elevation adjustments, while its sidekick on the side takes care of windage. They’re your ticket to pinpoint accuracy.

What is the difference between the First Focal Plane and Second Focal Plane scopes?

First, Focal Plane (FFP) scopes are like a symphony; as you zoom, the reticle and target image combine. On the other hand, second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes keep the reticle size rock-steady, regardless of your magnification level. Check out my First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane guide for the full scoop.

How much does a bullet move per click on my scope?

Your scope’s click value depends on the scope itself. It could be in MOA or Mil, with varying fractions. If you want to decipher these angular measurements, dive into Understanding MOA.

What is the front lens on a scope called?

The front lens, the one gazing at your target, is called the “Objective Lens.” It’s your window to precision.

What is the lens on the eyepiece of my scope called?

The lens on your scope’s eyepiece is called the “Ocular Lens.” It’s the portal to your shooting world.

Is a higher magnification scope better?

Not necessarily. While higher magnification helps you see distant targets, it can sometimes be better. Balance is critical; too much magnification can hamper performance. It’s like picking the right lens for a photographer.

What does the parallax adjustment do on a scope?

Parallax adjustment is your symphony conductor. It aligns the target’s image with the reticle so they harmonize perfectly. Say goodbye to reticle waltzes when you shift your head.

What is the difference between the First Focal Plane and Second Focal Plane scopes?

First, Focal Plane (FFP) scopes are the shape-shifters; as you zoom, the image and reticle size change together. Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes keep the reticle constant, only altering the image size. Your choice depends on your shooting style and preferences.

Is a First Focal Plane better than a Second Focal Plane Scope ?

It’s not about better; it’s about purpose. SFP scopes work great for hunting and saving some bucks. FFP scopes shine in precision long-range shooting, especially with advanced reticles. It’s like choosing the right tool for the job.

Final Thought

In the world of firearms and shooting, mastering the art of rifle scope adjustment is like fine-tuning a musical instrument. It’s about precision, control, and perfect harmony between your aim and the target. From windage and elevation to parallax adjustment and reticle choices, the realm of rifle scopes is as diverse as it is fascinating.

Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer regarding rifle scope selection and adjustment. It’s a journey of discovery where personal preference, shooting style, and specific needs play pivotal roles. So, take your time, experiment, and hone your skills.

In the end, rifle scopes are your window to precision and accuracy, whether you’re a seasoned marksman or a budding enthusiast. They’re the tools that turn an ordinary shot into an extraordinary one. So, keep aiming high, shooting, and perfecting your craft. The world of shooting awaits, and your rifle scope is your guide to hitting the bullseye, shot after shot.

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