How to Sight in Your Rifle Scope With a Single Shot

CIVIL WAR U.S. 2020
bore-sighted
Hunting rifle and ammunition on a dark wooden background.Top view.

by Glenn How to Sight in Your Rifle Scope

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. Boresight 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.

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