How To Sight In A Rifle

How To Sight In A Rifle


Mathew R Reed
August 17, 2021

A savvy hunter understands that preparing their firearm for the task at hand is just as important as taking the shot.

Learning how to sight in a rifle is a crucial part of preparing your rifle so that you can hit your target, and it’s a minimal effort job for maximum results.

How do you sight in a rifle?

To correctly set up a scope and sight in a rifle, you’ll first need a paper target to practice on, and a rifle that’s resting somewhere stable.

Begin by using bore or collimator sighting, and then move onto the ammunition you plan on using, practicing with a group of three shots at a time and adjusting it as needed.

With your rifle aligned as it needs to be, you’re guaranteed a more accurate and clean shot, and it can be adjusted to the exact range you need.

This beginner’s guide will show you how to sight in a rifle and why it’s so important, giving you a basic firearm skill that everyone needs to know.

Why Do You Need to Sight in a Rifle?

Why Do You Need to Sight in a Rifle?

There’s no point trying to shoot anything with a rifle that hasn’t been sighted in, whether it’s on the field or at target practice.

Each time you take your rifle out, you need to get familiar with this practice, as one single move during use could knock it back out of place again.

The purpose of sighting in a rifle is to get it properly aligned with the biggest advantage being a more accurate shot.

There are other benefits to this practice though, including improving aim, guaranteeing safety, picking up issues with your technique, and knowing what range you’re able to shoot at successfully.

The Steps to Sight in a Rifle

A rifle’s bullet doesn’t just have a straight trajectory with the pattern being more of an arc. It’s important to sight in a rifle so that it hits the target you have in mind, and you should do this each time you get your gun out to use.

#1: Follow the Target’s Instructions

When using a paper or other type of target, you’ll need to follow its instructions explicitly. All targets are made differently and will come with recommendations about the sighting-in process.

In most cases, you’ll be starting at 25 yards, and working your way out from there.

This includes firing three shots at a target on the piece of paper and checking to see where the holes are in relation to the target you were aiming at, but this may be different depending on the paper target you’re using.

#2: Setting Up a New Scope

If you plan on attaching optics to your rifle, this is where you mount them. Do a double-check to make sure the scope is secured as it should be so that there’s no movement and it’s firmly attached.

Look through the reticle of the scope and check that the crosshairs get in focus immediately and sharply.

You may need to pull away from the firearm for a moment and look at something in the distance, then return to the scope to see that it’s in focus as it should be.

After looking through the reticle and confirming that it focuses immediately, make any necessary adjustments. If it’s blurry, you’ll need to turn the diopter adjustment which can be found right near the shooter. Continue making adjustments until the focus is clear and it happens immediately.

#3: Bore and Collimator Sighting In

Along with the scope attached, you might also need to use the bore or collimator to sight in the rifle, using your paper target.

Depending on the type of rifle you have, you’ll either have a bore or collimator so you’ll have to learn the technique, and once it’s perfected, you can move onto ammunition to perfect it.

Bore sighting is the best technique for a bolt action rifle and collimator sighting in is better for all other types. To do so, set up the firearm on sandbags to steady it but be careful not to lean on the barrel, remove the bolt, and set up a paper target so it’s between 25 and 50 yards away.

Look through the bore or collimator and line up the shot so that the barrel is on the target. You’ll also want to make sure that any scope or sight attached to the weapon has the same view of the target, and if not, perform any adjustments necessary.

#4: Testing With Ammo

Now that you’ve lined up the bore, collimator, or scope on paper, it’s time to get serious.

When sighting in a rifle, you’ll want to do so with the exact ammunition you plan on using.  Using even slightly different ammunition will cause a different result and you’ll lose all of the benefits you gained from sighting in to start with.

Using a loaded weapon, set up at a distance of 25 yards, just as you did with the bore sighting. This means you’re guaranteeing accuracy even at a close range and you’re able to move out 25 yards at a time after this, firing at your target each time.

Set up the rifle so it has adequate support and can be kept stable, and remember to avoid leaning the barrel on anything.

The key here is to use a device like a sandbag or a rifle rest so that you’re not using your body, as it can be unstable and shaky, even if you’re not able to notice it yourself.

Once you’ve found the right spot, aim for the center of your target and take three shots. The three should be grouped together but may not be in the dead center as you’d hoped.

Do not change where you’re aiming, but rather measure from the middle of the group of three and then make adjustments on the scope just a small increment at a time.

#5: Adjust the Scope

The best way to adjust the scope is by following the rifle and scope’s configuration. In most cases, turning the turret clockwise by just one click will move the impact around ¼ inch when you’re aiming from 100 yards.

If you’re only shooting at 25 yards, the one-click will become four, as it’s four times closer. Check these measurements with the scope you’re using though, as you’ll need to follow them strictly.

Once you’ve made the necessary adjustments and given the barrel time to cool down, take aim and shoot another group of three at the target.

Continue adjusting and firing until you’ve hit the sweet spot, and then move the target out another 25 or 50 yards so that you finally land on the range you’re going to be using the firearm for.

After the final adjustment, shoot another group of three shots to be certain that it’s correct, and then it’s ready for action.

You should always check the scope any time retrieve it back out after storing it, as even the slightest movement can knock it out of alignment. Once it becomes a habit, you’ll be able to go through this process quickly and easily.

Precision and Accuracy With Every Shot

Precision and Accuracy With Every Shot

A responsible rifle owner understands the basics of sighting in their rifle and setting up a scope, with more benefits than just accuracy on offer.

If you’re new to firearm ownership this is one skill worth taking the time to learn and it’ll become second nature to you and your weapon after just a few tries.

Related Questions

Learning how to sight in a rifle is just one crucial element when it comes to hunting. If you’re a newcomer to the sport and want to get the basics on hunting rifles, check out these commonly asked questions and our expert answers to help you out.

Can You Use a Rifle for Deer Hunting?

The traditional weapon of choice for deer hunting used to be a bolt action rifle and although they’re still used today, there are other rifles and gun types that have become popular as well.

The shotgun and muzzleloader are also smart firearm choices for hunting deer specifically and each of these guns has pros and cons to weigh up.

What’s the Difference Between a Hunting Scope and a Tactical Scope?

A hunting riflescope has been designed specifically for hunting game and they’re the only type that can be mounted with rails, however, they have a lower magnification rate.

A tactical scope is for use in any tactical situation and features greater precision to meet the demands of combat.

What is the Best Rifle Scope?

The best objective lens size for a rifle depends on the rifle’s configuration and what the firearm is to be used for.

The most common lens size for hunting purposes is 40mm but 50mm objective lenses are also popular because they give a wider field of view that can be helpful with hunting.


Mathew R Reed

Mathew R Reed is a professional gun seller who runs a dedicated gun store in the suburbs of Oakland, CA. A hardcore hunting enthusiast since childhood, Reed has ample experience with guns and accessories. He is the founder of and creates some of the most helpful gun-buying guides and explainers. If not in the gun shop, you can find him on the nearest hiking trail or nearby hunting spot.