How to Adjust a Rifle Scope’s Windage & Elevation – Step-by-Step Guide with FAQs & More

So you’ve successfully mounted your scope onto your rifle. 

That’s great but your work isn’t done just yet. You still need to adjust and correctly calibrate the elevation and windage adjustments of your scope. 

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Quick Summary

The aim of this post is to provide you with all the information you need to know to successfully adjust the windage and elevation adjustments on your rifle scope. 

We’ll also go over some common tips used by veteran shooters to make these adjustments easy. 

Let’s get started.

“Zeroing In” the Rifle Scope 

You may have heard the term “zeroing in” or “sighting in” a rifle scope. 

The process of zeroing in a rifle scope essentially just involves accurately adjusting the elevation and windage of it. 

But why do we have elevation and windage adjustments? 

The reason for it is the fact that bullets don’t travel in a straight line when they are fired from a gun. 

Instead, they travel in a slight arc. Your elevation and windage adjustments are present in your rifle scope to account for this. 

Once you correctly adjust your elevation and windage, the reticle (crosshairs) in your scope will be able to accurately predict where your bullet will go once you fire your rifle. 

You can only zero in your scope at a single specific distance at any given time. 

Note: If you want to know complete tutorials and tips about scopes click HERE.

Elevation Adjustment 

windage and elevation

The knob for elevation adjustment is typically located at the top of the rifle scope. It’s used to adjust your reticle either up or down. 

Moving the knob clockwise will raise the reticle up and moving it counterclockwise will lower the reticle down. 

Hence, if you feel that your shots are hitting too high or too low compared to where you aim, then that means that your elevation needs adjustment. 

Adjustments for elevation (as well as windage) are typically measured in MOA (Minute of Angles). 

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1 MOA is equal to 1 inch of up-down or left-right travel of the bullet at 100 yards. 

Important note: Some manufacturers use Mil instead of MOA. In this case, 0.1 Mil is equal to 0.36 inches at 100 yards. 

So, for example, if your rifle scope is a 0.25 MOA or ¼ MOA scope, then a single click clockwise will adjust the reticle 0.25 inches upwards at 100 yards. 

Once you’ve understood everything above, adjusting the elevation will be a cakewalk for you. 

All you really have to do now is observe. 

If your shots are hitting too high, turn the knob clockwise to bring the reticle higher. 

However, if your shots are hitting too low, turn the knob counterclockwise to bring the reticle lower. 

Windage Adjustment 

Windage adjustment operates in fairly the same way as elevation adjustment does. 

The only difference is that instead of adjusting the reticle up and down, windage adjustment causes the reticle to either go right or left. 

The turret (knob) for it is typically located on the right side of the rifle scope. You can move it forward or backward towards you. 

Moving the knob forwards will move the reticle to the right, turning it backward moves the reticle to the left. 

As the name suggests, this adjustment is to account for the bullet curving due to wind. 

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While elevation is adjusted fairly often every time the shooter has to shoot from a different distance than the one he was shooting at before, windage adjustment isn’t as common. 

Many shooters tend to skip windage adjustment due to the fact that the wind is wildly inconsistent. 

Oftentimes, you adjust the windage only for the wind’s speed (and sometimes, even direction) to change. 

Alternatively, most shooters prefer to develop a feel for the wind so that they can accurately guess how much it will affect their shot. 

While this works for experienced shooters, we recommend new shooters definitely utilize the windage adjustment. Use it until you develop a feel for the wind. 

That’s pretty much all there is to the basics of elevation and windage adjustments. 

However, there are a few other things we’d like to tell you about which may come in handy while making these adjustments. 

Utilize Turret Resetting If Your Scope has It 

The functionality of setting your turrets to zero is something that is not available in all scopes. 

If you’ve bought a relatively higher-end scope, it’ll most likely have this feature. 

Turret resetting essentially refers to setting all turrets to zero (without reverting the changes you’ve made to the reticle with the turrets). 

Why is this useful? 

Well, it makes it super easy to keep track of your default elevation and windage settings. 

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For example, let’s assume that your scope does not have the turret resetting feature. 

You make most of your shots at 75 yards. Hence, you’ve made your adjustments so that they are most suitable for shots made from 75 yards. 

However, now you need to make a shot at 150 yards. For this, you’ll have to adjust the elevation and windage. 

Not only will you have to adjust them but you’ll also have to keep track of your changes so that you can return to your “default settings”, i.e., the settings that make the scope appropriate for shooting at 75 yards. 

With turret resetting, you don’t have this headache. 

Simply adjust the scope to the preferred setting that you will be using most. After that, reset the turrets to zero. 

Now, every time you make an adjustment for a specific shot, you won’t have to keep track of the changes. 

This is because you can simply turn them back to zero to get back to your default settings. 

Consider Capped Turrets 

If you’re a hunter, we definitely recommend going for a rifle scope that has capped turrets such as ballistic turrets. 

This is important because you don’t want the turrets bumping and rubbing against trees or bushes and messing up your adjustments. 

This can happen super easily with target turrets. Hence, be sure to invest in a rifle scope that has the appropriate type of turrets for your needs. 

Wrapping Things Up… 

That’s pretty much everything you need to know to effectively adjust the elevation and windage of your rifle scope. 

We hope you have a better understanding of elevation and windage adjustments and will be more confident now while making them. 

If you have any more questions about elevation and windage adjustments, 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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