How to Adjust a Scope on a Rifle – Full Guide with Tips, FAQs & More

how to adjust a scope on a rifle

Buying a new scope for your rifle is always an exciting experience. 

That being said, you need to know all the ins and outs in order to use it to its fullest potential. 

Quick Summary

In this post, we will discuss all the steps involved in correctly adjusting a scope onto a rifle.

We will discuss the adjustments you need to make to your scope both while mounting as well as when “sighting it in”. 

Let’s get started

There are several different ways of adjusting a rifle scope. 

There’s no need to worry though as many of the adjustments only need to be done once and others are fairly easy to get the hang of. 

Rifle Scope Parts and Terminology 

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Before talking about how to adjust your rifle scope, it’s important that you know what all of the different components and parts of the scope are called. 

We’ve explained all of the different components of the scope below so that there’s no confusion: 

  • Ocular Lens: This is the lens that is the nearest to your eye when you’re looking down the rifle scope. 
  • Ocular Housing: The protective casing that “houses” the ocular lens and the ocular focusing adjustment (in most cases). 
  • Ocular Focus Adjustment: This adjustment mechanism can be used to focus the image of the crosshair (reticle) inside the scope to your eye. 
  • Magnification Adjustment: On rifle scopes with variable zoom, this mechanism is used to adjust the magnification power of the scope. 
  • Scope Body: The major part of the scope that attaches to the rifle. 
  • Turrets: These are knobs that protrude from the rifle scope body. They are used to adjust the elevation and windage. You can cover them with caps when you’re not using them. 
  • Reticle: This refers to the “cross-hairs” in the rifle scope which is the indicator used for aiming when looking down the sight. 
  • Parallax Adjustment/Target Focus: This adjustment mechanism is used to bring the target’s image into the same focal plane as the reticle. 

Moreover, it ensures that no relative shifting or parallax error occurs when you aim down the sight at a target. 

It’s located on the side of the scope body for higher-end scopes. For lower-end scopes, it is usually adjusted by turning the entire outer ring of the objective end of the scope (the end farthest from your eye when looking down the scope). 

  • Objective Lens: This is the lens that is farthest from your eye and closest to the target when you’re aiming down the sight. It’s usually the larger of the two external lenses on the rifle scope. 

Just like the ocular lens, the objective lens should also be protected by a scope cap. 

Mounting Adjustments

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To start off, let’s talk about the adjustments you need to make the scope while mounting it. 

Adjusting the Rifle Scope Up and Down 

To correctly adjust the rifle scope up or down, it needs to be in a position where it’s level with your eye when you are resting your cheek against the rifle scope. 

To do this, you have a few options: 

  1. You can invest in replacement mounting rings that are either taller or shorter depending on what you need. 
  2. You can invest in a cheek-rest. 
  3. You can duct-tape a washcloth or something similar to your rifle stock to elevate the position of your cheek. 

Adjusting the Rifle Scope Forward and Back

The best way to adjust the scope forward or backward is to have enough room on the main tube so that you can loosen the rings

This will allow you to freely move the scope backward or forward. Adjust it until the distance between your eye and the scope (this distance is known as “eye relief”) is appropriate. 

If you need to move the scope further out, you can consider loosening the rings where they attach to the rail and moving them in the direction they need to go. 

Leveling the Scope

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Leveling the scope is not particularly difficult but it definitely is crucial for the accuracy and precision of your rifle. 

We recommend using a bubble level or a leveler kit to help you adjust the scope properly. 

Firstly, make sure that the rifle itself is perfectly level and placed on a flat surface. 

Next, place the level between the flat space underneath the turrets and the rail. Adjust the rail according to the level until it’s perfectly aligned. 

Focusing the Eyepiece

The focus of the eyepiece can be adjusted by turning the ocular housing, i.e., the housing around the lens nearest to your eye. 

Simply crank the focus all the way to one end to make the image blurry. Then, start focusing it the other way so the image starts becoming sharper. 

Once the image stops becoming sharper and starts becoming blurry again, you’ll know you’ve reached the sweet spot. 

Now, simply make some finer adjustments until it’s fully focused. 

Zeroing In Your Scope 

adjust a rifle scope

“Zeroing in” your scope refers to adjusting your reticle so that it actually aims at the exact spot where your bullets are actually going. 

This includes: 

Making Elevation Adjustments

The elevation knob is at the top of the scope and it adjusts the reticle to either go up or down. 

You can turn it clockwise or counterclockwise to raise or lower the reticle respectively. 

If your shots are hitting higher than the reticle, then move it upwards. If your shots are hitting lower, then move it downwards. 

Making Windage Adjustments

The windage knob is located on the right side of the riflescope and can be moved forward or backward towards you to move the reticle right or left respectively. 

If your shots are hitting to the right, then move the knob forwards. If your shots are hitting to the left, then move it backward. 

Wrapping Things Up… 

It can definitely be daunting adjusting your scope to your rifle if you’re doing it for the first time. 

We understand that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the different knobs and terms associated with a rifle scope but in reality, most of the adjustments are fairly intuitive. 

The best advice we can give you is to just keep experimenting with adjustments until you develop a feel for what you’re comfortable with.

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