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How to Zero A Scope Without Using Profanity

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You might be new to gun ownership, but first time zeroing a scope. You might be a little embarrassed, but the fun fact is that many hunters and shooters never learn how to do it properly. Still, with just the right amount of patience (yes, we bolded that) and practice, you can get pretty good at zeroing your rifle scope quickly and easily.

What do you Need to Zero in Your Scope?

To zero your rifle scope, you will need:

  1. Your firearm
  2. Your scope (shocker, we know)
  3. A spotting scope (optional)
  4. A sturdy platform to rest your gun on.
  5. Benchrest
  6. sandbags
  7. Some targets
  8. The correct ammo
  9. A shooting range
  10. A quarter
  11. A friend (optional)


How to Zero a Scope

This is the board overview on how to zero a scope. If you want more in-depth, keep reading past this section. 

To zero our rifle, we are going to use yards and MOA. Again you could use meters and MIL or any other combination of the 4. It does not matter. Just pick one and stick with it.

1. Mount your scope Properly

You typically want a 3-4 inch eye relief (distance from your eye to the scope lines you are looking into). The windage turret (on top of the scope) and the crosshairs on the scope should align 90 degrees with the center of the bore of your gun. Finally, make a proper cheek weld to your rifle and look down your scope at a target. Your sight should be clear of black semi-circles. This means your scope is aligned. If you see black in your sight, adjust your scope. The sight you have in your scope is your point of aim.

If you want more info on how to mount your scope watch the video below

2. Take 3 shots

Time for the range! Take our included target in this guide and position it at first at 25 yards, then 50 yards, and finally 100 yards for centerfire or keep it at 25/50 yards for rimfire. A rifle bench rest or sandbags must get consistent and accurate shots. It is also highly beneficial to have a spotting scope next to you focused on the zeroing targets you’re shooting at.

While aimed at the dead center of our target at 25 yards, take 3 controlled shots. The average of the shots is your point of impact. Check and see where they are.

The three shots you took are 1 square high and 1 square to the right of the bullseye. Now what?

Outdoor Methods Target!!!

3. Zero your scope 

Our goal is to align our point of aim and impact with this step.

Fortunately, the target we gave you has squares that are precisely 1 inch in size.

A vast majority of riflescopes tell you how many MOA Minutes of Adjustment (MOA) equal for 1 click on the scope itself. If they do not check the manual. We will assume 1 click = 1/4 MOA for this example.

Based on this, let’s do some math.

1 MOA=1/4 inch at 25 yards.

1 click= 1/4 MOA

To find how many minutes we are off, use the following formula

(inches off from target)/ (inches per 1 MOA at current target range)

1/0.25= 4 MOA or 4 MOA up and to the right of the target.

Next, find how many clicks will be needed to adjust the scope.

(number of minutes required)/(number of MOA adjusted by 1 click)

4/0.25= 16 clicks, so we will need to change our scope 16 clicks to the left and 16 clicks down.

4. Repeat

Repeat steps 2 and 3 the above at 50 yards and 100 yards for centerfire guns. Remember:

1 MOA=0.5 inch at 50 yards

1 MOA=1 inch at 100 yards.

5. Adjust your new “zero.”

After you’ve done this, relax, get settled and take two more well-placed shots at the center of the target. To ensure you are spot on. If not, continue to zero in your firearm.

Once sighted at 100 yards, it is time to set our new “zero .”Refer to your scope’s manual to perform this.

We also strongly suggest taking several shots at a clean target for that extra confidence that your scope is set up perfectly.

You now know how to zero a scope!

Keep reading to dive deeper into how to zero a scope!


Basic Terms And Info for Zeroing in a Scope

If you’re new to shooting or just new to using a scope, it’s essential to understand basic terms and concepts. This will help you zero your scope quickly and easily. Here’s what you need to know:

Point of aim (POA): is the point you are looking at with your scope.

Point of Impact (POI): is the point at which your round hits the target. It may be helpful to think of it as the “target’s center.”

What is the difference between POI and POA? The point of impact is where your bullet will actually hit. The point of aim is where your crosshairs or reticle is placed on the target.

Turrets: are the knobs on a scope. They help you to adjust how your scope is aimed. You need to know your “point of impact” to use them. That’s the point where your bullet will hit the target.

You can find this out by shooting at a target and seeing where the bullet lands. There are two types of turrets: windage and elevation.

Windage turrets: are used to adjust the scope left or right. This is important because it can help you compensate for the wind.

Elevation turrets: are used to adjust the scope up or down. This is important because it can help you compensate for

Each mark on a turrent is referred to as a “click” when you move one of the turrets one mark, you will hear it click. Pro tip take a quarter with you to zero in your scope or have long nails (please go with the quarter)

Warning: Before explaining MOA and MIL and yards and meters, realize that you only need to know the difference if you plan to use calculations to zero your scope. If you will not, feel free to skip this section. Units of measurements can get confusing.

MOA vs. MIL

Minute of angle (MOA): is a unit of measurement used in firearms. It is defined as 1/60th of one degree and is equivalent to 1.047 inches at 100 yards. MOA can measure both windage and elevation adjustment on a scope.

How do you use MOA to adjust your scope (are you ready for this rabbit hole)?

There are typically 1/4 or 1/8 minute angle adjustments with each click on a scope. This means that you will need to adjust your scope four or eight times, respectively, to move the point of impact one inch at 100 yards.

However, some scopes could have 1/2 MOA per click. Check with the scope manufacturer to find out your specific scopes MOA per click.

Milliradian (mil): is a unit of angular measurement. It is defined as 1/1,000th of a radian. Milliradians are used to measure small angles, such as the adjustments on a scope.

There are 2.54 centimeters in an inch, and there are 10 milliradians in a centimeter. This means that there are 3.6 inches in a mil at 100 yards. So, if you want to move the point of impact one inch at 100 yards, you would need to adjust your scope by 3.6 mils.

There are 1/1000th of a milliradian in one click of a scope.

Some shooters prefer MOA because it is a more traditional system that has been used for many years. Others prefer MIL because it is a metric system and is, therefore, easier to work with.

Both MOA and MIL are good ways to zero a scope. It is up to the individual shooter to decide which system they prefer.

Bullet Trajectory vs.  Line of Sight Vs. Line of Departure image
Bullet Trajectory vs. Line of Sight Vs. Line of Departure

Yards vs. Meters

Yards: are a unit of measurement of distance. 1 yard=3 feet or 36 inches

Meters: are a unit of measure of distance. 1 meter=3.28 feet or 100 centimeters

Should you use yards or meters to zero your scope? 

It does not matter which unit of distance you use. However, you must stick with that unit once you pick one. It will make the process easier. Both units can be used with MOA or MIL again; keep it consistent.

Summary: 

MOA and MIL are used to measure angels

Yards and Meters are used to measure distance.


Noah’s Arks… We Mean Bullets Travel in an Arc.

Trajectory, AKA how a bullet “flies” through the air, is a gray area; we apologize for it upfront.

Without gravity and air resistance, the bullet would go out when you shoot a gun and keep going until it hits something. But there are forces at work, like gravity and air resistance.

Gravity pulls the bullet down, so it starts to fall as soon as it leaves the gun’s barrel. And air resistance slows it down, so it doesn’t keep going forever. The combination of these forces affects the trajectory of the bullet.

There are three different parts to the trajectory of a bullet.

The first part is called the trajectory arc. This is the part where the bullet is rising up before it starts to fall down to earth.

However, stop traffic.. a bullet starts to raise only if a barrel is slightly angled upwards. Not from the blast of the shot.

Therefore, zeroing a scope’s elevation can simply adjust the scope’s line of sight on the target. This, in turn, angles the bore of your firearm up and away from you.

The second part is called the ballistic peak. This is the highest point of the trajectory, where the bullet is at its highest point before it starts to fall.

And the third part is called the trajectory descent. This is when the bullet falls down and eventually hits the ground.

The size of the trajectory arc depends on factors like the power of the gun and the size of the bullet. The bigger the bullet, or the more influential the weapon, the higher the trajectory arc.

30-06 Trajectory Chart zeroed in at 170 yards.
30-06 Trajectory Chart zeroed in at 170 yards.

There are plenty of trajectory calculators on the web for you to review

Distances to Use for Zeroing a Scope

Many different distances can be used to zero a scope. However, the most common distances are 100 yards for centerfire and 25 to 50 yards for rimfire. Either of those will work fine.

Please do not ask about Maximum Point Blank Range…sigh, ok.


Maximum Pont Blank Range

The maximum point blank range is the max distance you can shoot a target, and be sure to hit it within the vital zone with minimal elevation change. The essential zone is the area of the target that is immediately lethal. For most game animals, the critical zone is approximately the size of a dinner plate.

You can be reasonably sure to hit the animal at shorter ranges even if your shot is not perfectly centered in the crosshairs. But as the range increases, the margin for error decreases. At some point, even a slightly off-center attempt can result in a complete miss.

To be sure of hitting the vital zone at long range, you need to know your rifle’s maximum point blank range. The easiest way to do this is to use the following formula:

M = Vx100/C-y

M is the Maximum Point Blank Range.

V is the velocity of the bullet in feet per second.

C is the Drag Coefficient of the bullet.

Y is the height of the sights above the barrel’s centerline in inches.

For example, if you are using a rifle with a velocity of 3000 feet per second, a drag coefficient of 0.5, and sights that are 1 inch above the barrel’s centerline, then the maximum point blank range would be 220 yards.

At that distance, you could aim the dead center of the target and be reasonably sure of hitting it within the vital zone.

Of course, this is just a theoretical calculation. In the real world, other factors can affect your shot, such as wind speed and direction, gravity, and even the bullet’s spin. But the maximum point blank range is a good starting point for zeroing your rifle for ranges longer than 100 yards.


Zeroing a Scope At Long Range.

There is no real advantage to zeroing a scope past 100 yards if you do not shoot for competition. Even for long-range shooting, 100 yards is a good base. Go with 100 yards for centerfire and 25/50 yards for rimfire.


What about 20, 30, 40 MOA Bases, Rails, and Rings?

If you are unsure if the scope mount is any of these, you can skip this section. MOA base, rails, and rings work by providing a platform for your scope to attach to the rifle at an incline angle. This frees up the internal elevation adjustments for you to use. MOA attachments used to attach your scope to your rifle come in different inclines.

There are three common types of MOA bases: 20, 30, and 40. The higher the number, the more of an incline angle of your scope.

If you’re using a 20, 30, or more MOA base, rings, or rails to mount your scope to your gun, you may have some difficulty zeroing at 100 yards. In this case, we recommend zeroing for 200 yards instead.


How to Zero a Scope FAQ:

1. How do you use a bore sighter?

There are a few different ways to bore sight a gun. The most common way is to use a boresight tool. This is a small device that fits into the barrel of the gun. It has a laser that projects a dot onto a target. You then adjust your scope accordingly. This is a great thing to do before taking your gun to the range to zero it in.

2. How to set the rifle on sandbags or other stable platforms?

If you’re using a rifle with a scope, it’s essential to set it on a stable platform to ensure accurate shots. The best way to do this is to use sandbags or other shooting supports. Sandbags are basically sacks of sand that you can place under and around your gun to provide stability. There are also many different types of shooting supports available on the market. These can be anything from a simple tripod to a more elaborate shooting bench.

3. How many shots does it take to zero a scope?

It depends. You may only need a few shots to get close to your target using a boresight tool. Then you can make fine adjustments until you’re dead-on. It may take a few more shots to get zeroed in if you’re starting from scratch. It shouldn’t take more than a few dozen rounds to zero your scope.

4. How often should I zero my scope?

It depends on how often you use your gun and how well you maintain it. If you use your gun regularly, you should zero your scope at least once a year. If you don’t use it as often or keep it well-maintained, you can probably get away with zeroing it every couple of years.

5. How do I know if my scope is zeroed?

One way to check is to fire a few shots at a target and see where they hit. If they’re all shooting in the same general area, your scope is probably zeroed. Another way to check is to use a boresight tool. This will help you get an idea of where your bullets are hitting without firing any shots.

6. How do I adjust my scope?

There are two main ways to adjust a scope: internal and external. Internal adjustments are made by turning the screws located on the scope. External adjustments are made by moving the entire scope on the gun. This is usually done by loosening the rings that hold the scope in place and moving it until it’s in the desired position.

7. How do I clean my scope?

It’s essential to keep your scope clean to see through it clearly. The best way to clean a scope is to use a soft, lint-free cloth. You can also use a can of compressed air to blow away any dust or debris.

8. How do I store my scope?

When you’re not using your scope, it’s essential to store it safely. The best way to do this is to keep it in a padded case. This will protect it from bumps and scratches. You should also keep it away from moisture and extreme temperatures.


Bottom line:

The scope is an essential part of your rifle, and it’s crucial to get the zeroing process right. How do you know if your scope has been adequately zeroed? You need reliable methods, which we presented to you here. However, there are other ways to do this too. The most important thing is to be consistent. Once you’ve developed a process that works for you, stick with it and master the art of How to Zero Your Scope Without Using Profanity!!

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