A well adjusted rifle scope is prerequisite for accurate shooting whether you’re a seasoned marksman or a beginner. Adjusting a rifle scope is a simple process, but small mistakes are easy to make, especially if the process is rushed. These small mistakes can be the difference between a successful hunting trip or going home empty handed. Today we aim to provide some guidance on how to adjust a rifle scope. We hope our experience will save you frustration on the range and on the hunt.

Scope Adjust Parts and Tools

Choose the Right Scope and Mount

Prior to even beginning the mounting process, make sure that your mount is the proper fit to securely hold your scope. If the mount and scope are not paired properly the scope will not retain zero.

Gather the Necessary Tools

Mounting your scope most likely will not require you to purchase any tools, scopes will generally come with all necessary allen wrenches/screwdrivers and screws needed.

You will need a secure rifle rest, which may include a padded vice. Just about anything will work as long as your rifle will not move during this process.

Your scope mount should come with the necessary rings, or a mount may have been included with the scope.

I highly recommend using a level to make sure the crosshairs are perfectly horizontal and vertical.

If the manufacture recommends Loctite than you should use it. Some companies do, and others don’t. The rule of thumb is blue Loctite is advised over red, because red Loctite may mean the screws never come loose.

Proper Mounting

Proper mounting is the most essential step in how to adjust a rifle scope, if the mounting is off there is no correcting it down the line.

Attach the base of the mount to your rifle. This can vary depending on the type of mount and type of rail your rifle has. The two most common are Picatinny and dovetail mounts. Dovetail is the traditional mount for older hunting rifles and is still used today. Make sure you know what type of rail your rifle uses before purchasing a mount. There are dovetail to Picatinny adaptors if it is too late.

First, attach the base of the mount to your rifle using the provided screws and your Allen wrench/screwdriver. Apply a small amount of Loctite to the screw threads if desired.

Place the scope in the bottom half of the rings. Make sure that the scope’s elevation turret is on top and the windage turret is on the right side. (Also make sure the scope is facing the correct way.)

Next move the scope forward or backward within the rings until you achieve the appropriate eye relief. Eye relief is the distance between your eye and the rear lens of the scope. When you have a clear, full field of view when aiming the rifle this is the right distance. This distance should be maintained to avoid injury from the scope under recoil.

Use a bubble level to ensure that the reticle is the correct orientation by placing the level on the turrets. Place the level on the top turret of the scope and adjust the scope until the bubble is centered.

Once the scope is properly positioned and leveled, place the top half of the rings on and tighten the screws evenly with the torque wrench according to the manufacturer’s specifications. Avoid overtightening as this can damage the scope.

Sighting In the Rifle

Determine the distance at which you want to sight in your rifle. Common distances include 50, 100 , or 200 yards depending on caliber.

Bore sighting is a method to achieve a preliminary zero. This is done using either a caliber specific, or universal bore sight. Caliber specifics bore sights are placed in the rifle’s chamber, where universal boresights are placed down the barrel using a caliber specific shim. They project a laser, allowing the user to adjust a scope on a rifle to the laser emitted from the bore. For more information on bore sights check out our previous post on them.

This is a ‘rough’ zero, and should not be relied on, but may save time when zeroing with live ammo.


From a stable shooting position, fire a group of three shots at the target. This will give you a clear idea of where the rifle is hitting in relation to the point of aim. The average distance of your three shots is the distance from your zero.

how to adjust a rifle scope
Off center shot grouping

Using the rifle scope’s windage and elevation turrets, make adjustments to bring the point of impact closer to the point of aim.

The adjustment per click is dependent on the scope you are using. Most modern scopes measure adjustment in MOA (Minute of Angle) where one inch is roughly one MOA at 100 yards, and ½ inch at 50 yards.

If your shots are high, adjust the elevation turret down. If your shots are to the right, adjust the windage turret left.

Repeat This Process

Fire another group of shots and make additional adjustments as needed. Continue this process until your rifle is properly zeroed.

If this is a rifle you plan on hunting with or using specific ammo with, repeat this process using that ammo. You may not think there will be a difference, but I’ve seen it enough times to confidently say there is generally ½- 2 MOA difference at 100 yards.

Learning how to adjust a scope on a rifle is a relatively simple process overall, but I cannot emphasize enough that each step in this process must be taken with care and patients. Through following these steps, you should achieve a very accurate zero, and a rifle that will serve you well on your next hunt.

Thank you for reading, good luck!

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Tacticon Armament.