How to Adjust a Rifle Scope for Distance – Step-by-Step Guide, Tips & More

Adjusting rifle scopes for distance can sometimes be frustrating and tedious with all the knobs you need to account for. 

It’s especially annoying when you know it’s misaligned but can’t quite identify which adjustment you need to fix. 

Quick Summary

In this post, we will expand upon:

  • Why do rifle scopes need adjusting?
  • Adjustments to make for distance while shooting

Let’s get started.

Why Do You Need to Adjust a Rifle Scope?

When you buy a scope and start mounting it on top of your rifle, it’s not going to accurately show you where the impact of the bullet will be right off the bat. 

This is true even if you mount the rifle scope perfectly straight on top of the barrel. 

It’s because the trajectory of the bullet is not always in a straight line. It may be higher, lower, to the left, or to the right of what you’re expecting. 

Your scope has a ton of adjustments that can help you account for this.

There are three distinct phases you go through when adjusting a scope onto a rifle: during mounting, while “zeroing in” the scope, and while shooting. 

Since this post is about adjusting a rifle scope for distance, we’ll be focusing on the last phase. This will include adjusting for parallax errors, adjusting magnification, and adjusting illuminated reticle brightness. 

For guidance on adjusting the scope during mounting and during the “zeroing in” process, you can check out this post on how to adjust a scope on a rifle. You’ll find all you need to know regarding mounting adjustments as well as elevation and windage adjustments. 

Note: If you want to know a complete guide about scopes click HERE.

Let’s get into the distance adjustments you need to account for while shooting: 

Distance Adjustments to Make

adjust rifle scope

A quick note about elevation and windage adjustments: In most cases, you won’t have to adjust elevation and windage while shooting.

They are meant to be adjusted beforehand.

However, when you’re outside, these adjustments can sometimes become misaligned. 

So, be observant and ensure that your elevation and windage adjustments are correct throughout. 

In addition to elevation and windage, there are a number of other adjustments you need to think about when adjusting the scope onto a rifle. 

These adjustments are: 

Note: If you want to know Who Makes UTG Scopes click HERE.


There’s a chance you may have adjusted the parallax when you were zeroing in your scope. 

That being said, the parallax adjustment is something you have to tinker with and modify every time you change shooting distances. 

Parallex refers to how objects at farther distances seem to move at different speeds compared to objects that are nearer to you. 

As you can probably imagine, this can lead to complications when shooting objects that are farther away from you. 

Most higher-end scopes have parallax adjustment options that account for this. 

Lower-end and budget scopes don’t have parallax adjustment options and they are often locked at 100 yards. This means that there will be no parallax error on these scopes as long as you’re using them to shoot at objects within 100 yards. 

You can also get other scopes that are locked in at other distances such as 300 yards and 500 yards. 

Depending on your scope, there are a number of different places where the adjustment knob for parallax might be. 

In many scopes, it’s located on the left side of the scope, next to the elevation and windage turrets. 

Some scopes have the option to adjust the parallax via the adjustable objective housing. 

In any case, the knob for the parallax will have distance markers to indicate what the parallax adjustment is set at. 

Depending on the distance of the target you’re shooting at, set it appropriately. 

Once you’ve adjusted it, you can double-check it by looking through the eyepiece. 

Look through the eyepiece and move your head while looking through the eyepiece. If the reticle does not move in unison with the target area, then that means that the parallax is not appropriately set. 

Note: If you want to know How to Dial in a Scope click HERE.


Magnification is fairly straightforward. 

It refers to how much your scope is magnified while you’re aiming down it. 

You can adjust the magnification of your scope by simply adjusting the dial right above the eyepiece. 

Some magnification rings on higher-end scopes have additional dials that can help you switch between different magnifications faster. 

Other higher-end scopes also have a fiber optic indicator which constantly shows you what magnification they’re set to. 

This is another adjustment that you’ll have to make every time you switch shooting distances. 

Reticle Brightness

If your scope is higher-end, then it may have an illuminated reticle. 

This type of reticle has many different settings such as brightness, color as well as dynamic daytime and nighttime settings. 

The most common places where you can find the knobs for these settings are on the left side of the parallax adjustment knob or on the eyepiece behind the zoom ring. 

When it comes to reticle brightness and color, it’s really just personal preference. 

We recommend that you try out all of the different reticle settings that your scope has to offer until you find the combination that works best for you. 

Furthermore, it’s a good idea to test out different settings at different times of the day as well as in different weather conditions

You may find that certain reticle settings work better at certain times of the day and in certain weather conditions compared to others. 

Note: If you want to gain information on How Much is a Night Vision Scope click HERE.

Wrapping Things Up… 

It’s highly important that you know all of the settings and how they affect your rifle scope if you hope to use it to its fullest potential. 

As final words of advice, we highly recommend that you constantly tinker with your scope’s settings and adjustments any time it does not feel right. 

After a few weeks or months of experimenting, you’ll start to develop a feel of whether the scope is properly adjusted or not. 

From there, you will then be able to instinctively know what adjustment may be causing it to be misaligned. 

If you have more questions regarding parallax, magnification, or brightness settings, then let us know in the comments below.

If you want to know more information about scopes click HERE.


  • John Moses

    John is the Editor in Chief here at The Outdoor Stores. His area of expertise ensures that there is no one better to suggest which rifles are most suitable for your hunting experience. He is also available for you to contact him personally to discuss the types of animals you want to hunt and the terrain you will be hunting on. Feel free to read his posts for expert opinion on Rifles, Scopes, Rangefinders, Bonoculars and Monoculars.

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