How to Sight in your scoped rifle with a single shot

by M.D. Creekmore on June 1, 2012 · 10 comments

This guest post is by Glenn and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

I remember getting my .30-06 as a present for my 18th birthday. Well, what I got was an unfinished stock, a barreled action, and a fixed 4x scope.

After finishing the stock (I use that term loosely since I never wanted a fancy rifle), I took my rifle to the local gunsmith and had him mount the scope. He bore sighted it, sold me a box of ammo, and sent me out to his range.

I had a scoped .22LR at the time. I had mounted the scope myself, bore sighted it, and started shooting and adjusting my windage and elevation after each shot. It worked beautifully.

Have you ever fired a .30-06 with no wussy pad while wearing only a t-shirt for “padding?” The gunsmith came out after the 12th or so shot fired to see if everything was going okay, and I said it was.

I think the 18th shot finally hit where I aimed, and that was about how many shots it took for me to get that .22LR dead on back when I sighted it in. Eighteen shots and my shoulder felt a bit sore, but my rifle was ready for hunting season.

Of course, the next day, my shoulder was more than a bit sore. Eighteen shots with a .22LR rifle vs. the same with a .30-06. Plus, ammo costs money. Lesson learned.

It was many years later that I figured out a much easier way to sight in a scoped rifle, which was when my original scope fogged and I had to replace it. That was one of those “ah-ha!” moments.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Bore sight your rifle to get on the paper.
  2. Using whatever means available (sand bags, for example), steady the rifle so that it is rock solid with the scope aimed dead center on the target. You should be able to get in position and not have to worry about your breathing or making any adjustments. Just put your shoulder to the butt of your rifle, look through your scope to ensure it is aiming where it should be, and…
  3. Fire one shot at the target.
  4. If the rifle moved with recoil, reposition the rifle so that the scope is once again aiming dead center on the target.
  5. Without moving the rifle, adjust your scope’s windage and elevation (walk the sight) until it is aiming dead center in the hole the shot made in the target.

Your scope is now pointing exactly where it should be: the point of impact. Your next shot, if you want to make sure, will hit where you aim.

Since most times the first shot after bore sighting is done at closer range than what you want to be able to shoot out to, this may take two shots: one at close range and one at the longer range you want. Barring any wind impacting the bullet trajectory, you will be dead center vertically taking that second, longer range shot and once again will walk the sight to the hole in the target.

If you know the ballistics of your particular round, you can adjust the scope’s aim vertically at the closer target (after just one shot) to match where the bullet would hit at the closer range so that the shot will hit where you want it to at the longer range. For example, shooting at a 50 yard target, if you know your bullet will hit one inch low at 50 yards to be two inches high at 100 yards and then dead on at 200 yards, you would walk the scope’s sight to the hole in the target, then down to one inch below that hole to be dead-on at 200 yards.

Of course, if you are simply wanting to verify your rifle is still accurate, the single shot can be used and the scope walked to the desired point of impact, if needed.

A whole lot more gentle on my shoulder.

This method can also be used for open sights, but adjusting open sights is most often more involved than for scopes.

P.S.

I still hunt every year with that rifle.

This contest will end on June 5 2012 – prizes include:

First Prize) Winner will receive a Wise Essentials Kit courtesy of LPC Survival and an EcoZoom’s Versa Stove courtesy of EcoZoom stoves.. A value of over $300.

Second Prize) Winner will receive a $150 gift certificate for Wolf Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner.com   A total prize value of over $150.

Third Prize) Winner will receive copies of both of my books “31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness” and “Dirt-Cheap Survival Retreat: One Man’s Solution”  and a Katadyn Siphon Water Filter courtesy of Mayflower Trading Company.  A total prize value of $107.

Contest ends on June 5 2012.

10 comments

JP in MT June 1, 2012 at 11:14 am

I think you have a great way of getting things set up, but my preference is to verify the zero, then move to a position which I will be using in the field, and fire again (usually in 3 shot sets).

I have found the my “zero” is different from the bench, than from a field position.

Harold June 1, 2012 at 11:31 am

Your essay perfectly exhibits the no nonsense approach I have used for the past fifty some years with open sighted rifles. I generally fire the first shot at an object other than the target since I am not using optics. Observing where the bullet strike is, I adjust my aim point to account for the difference and second shot is usually dead on each and every time. Called Kentucky Windage and was learned from all of the older shooters in the family. I am 73 and started shooting with a muzzle loading 31 caliber rifle. You are just using your knowledgeability and applying Kentucky Windage to your scope adjustment which means I do not want to be around for your second shot. Thanks for the idea if I ever use a scope.

T.R. June 1, 2012 at 1:09 pm

A buddy owned a muzzle loading pistol , slow , but half the fun was loading it , it was a blast to take out . It was a smooth bore so its accuracy was crap , but like I said , it was a fun gun .

Matt in Oklahoma June 1, 2012 at 11:45 am

You should still fire more shots to verify and to also see the difference between cold bore shots and a warmed up barrel

T.R. June 1, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Interesting modern comparison was shown between the German Mauser and the Russian Mosin scoped rifles at the time of WW2 . The German scope was much better made but required much more adjusting , average sight in was 5-7 rounds to get it spot on . The dirt simple Soviet scope average was only 3 rounds and required no tools . This meant it was a simple matter for the Russian sniper to readjust in the field if she needed to . ( yes the russians preferred females as snipers ) The German needed to keep track of a small tool and fussy adjustments .

axelsteve June 2, 2012 at 12:14 pm

I saw a thing on the history chanel about female snipers.The Germans and Russians used them more for pragmatic reasons and not strategic ones. They were very effective though and they did not get there credit for the efforts in my opinion.

Jack June 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Excellent article. After shooting for many years I can’t believe it didn’t occur to use your one shot method of adjusting the scope. An old dog just learned a new trick. Keep up the good work.

John Maddalena June 4, 2012 at 5:01 am

Good article Sir…this is always good to know info, when talking about zeroing in your favorite SHTF or hunting rifle…have a great day Sir and will pass on this info…Blue Eagle

JSW June 4, 2012 at 11:31 am

This is definitely a valid technique for those who are already ‘shooters’ and are confident enough in their skill level to call their shots with certainty. Otherwise, there are too many variables to utilize this method exclusively, which is why confirmation shots are necessary- in normal circumstances (i.e. when not in ‘indian country’ and OpSec is required).
I’d be willing to bet from 80% to 90% of people shooting are unable to call their shots with any degree of accuracy. (I’m making this bet from years of observation at the range when hunters come to sight in thier rifles for each deer season- and have a ten year old box of ammo with four bullets missing.)

GW June 12, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Rather than post a reply to each comment, I thank you all for your comments. Glad I could contribute. Enjoy life!

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