How to Calibrate a Rifle Scope – All You Need to Know with FAQs, Tips & More

how to calibrate a rifle scope

Most rifle scopes you find in the market typically have turrets with ¼ MOA or 0.1 Mil per click.

In most cases, they need to be calibrated every time you change your shooting distance. 

Quick Summary

In this post, we will discuss how you can correctly calibrate your rifle scope. 

We will also discuss the unit of measurements, MOA, and Mil. Furthermore, we will expand upon when recalibration is needed and when it isn’t. 

Let’s get started. 

MOA and Mil 

To correctly calibrate your rifle scope, you need to turn the knobs for windage and elevation in order to adjust the reticle properly. 

The measurements for the changes in elevation and windage can be measured using two different units. 

These units are MOA and Mil (also known as MRAD). 

Whether your rifle scope measures the adjustments in MOA or Mil depends on the manufacturer. 

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

1 Mil is equal to 0.36 inches of up-down (elevation) or left-right (windage) travel of the bullet at 100 yards. 

So, for example, if you have a rifle scope with ¼ MOA, then a single click clockwise of the elevation turret will adjust the reticle to aim 0.25 inches upwards at 100 yards. 

We recommend that if you are an inexperienced shooter, you should get a rifle scope that measures adjustments in MOA since they are easier to keep track of. 

On the other hand, if you have other hunting buddies and most of them use Mil, then it can be a good idea to go for a scope that measures in Mil. 

This is only because you’ll have your friends to guide you and help you get used to the measurements. 

Rifle Scope Calibration 

calibrate a rifle scope

Note: For the purposes of this post, we assume that you have mounted your scope onto your rifle already. 

The most efficient way to calibrate your scope is to shoot live rounds using it and assess whether or not the bullets hit where you wanted them to. 

To do this safely, it can be a good idea to visit a shooting range. 

Before you head out to the shooting range though, we highly recommend that you bore sight your rifle scope. 

Bore sighting isn’t necessary but it’s definitely a process that can make scope calibration much easier. Not only that but it will save you a lot of ammo too. 

We’ve got a full guide on how to bore sight your rifle scope that you can check out for easy instructions on how to do so. 

Step 1: Visit a Shooting Range 

We highly recommend that you visit a shooting range to calibrate your rifle scope rather than firing live shots somewhere on your own. 

This is fairly obvious but you’ll have to get enough ammunition and safety accessories for the trip to ensure you can calibrate your scope with ease. 

For accurate calibration, use a bullseye target that is specifically designed for zeroing-in purposes. 

If you can’t find one at the range, simply ask the range owner for it. They will most likely provide you with one. 

Step 2: Place Your Rifle on a Gun Rest

calibrate

To eliminate any human error that could occur during calibration, it’s a good idea to use a gun rest for your rifle. 

Gun rests are typically available at sporting goods stores and gun clubs. You can also purchase them online. 

If you don’t have a gun rest, it doesn’t hurt to ask the owner of the firing range for one. There’s a high chance they may have a spare one that they could let you borrow. 

Even if you can’t find a gun rest, you can use books, bricks, or jackets as a substitute. 

Pretty much anything that can help you achieve a stable position with your rifle for shooting would be appropriate. 

Step 3: Fire Some Shots 

Once you’ve successfully placed your rifle in a stable and secure position, you can proceed to load it and fire some shots down the range. 

Always try to hit the same spot with all of your shots and fire at least 5 shots. 

Once you have done so, either retrieve the target or use a range sight to examine the grouping of the shots you made. 

Depending on where you were aiming and where the shots hit, you will need to make adjustments to your elevation and windage. 

Elevation and windage adjustments cause the reticle to move up, down, left or right. 

For an in-depth look at how to adjust elevation and windage, you can check out our detailed guide

Keep repeating the process of firing 5 shots, checking the target for where they landed, and then making adjustments accordingly. 

Do this until you can hit the bullseye target repeatedly and consistently. When you are able to do so, it means that your rifle scope has been correctly calibrated. 

Step 4 (Optional): Calibrate at Different Distances 

We assumed that you calibrated your scope in the above steps at your primary distance. 

By primary distance, we mean the distance that you expect to be commonly shooting from when you go for a hunt.

Once you calibrate your scope at that distance, you’re pretty much good to go. 

However, if you’d like to calibrate your scope for a different distance, you can do so at the firing range as well. 

Just make sure to use a different target so you don’t get confused by the previous bullet holes. 

It’s important to note that whenever you change your shooting distance by more than 50 yards, you’re going to have to recalibrate your scope. 


This is true when you’re at the firing range as well as when you’re out hunting. 

Wrapping Things Up… 

This brings us to the end of our post on how to calibrate a rifle scope effectively. 

Firing shots at the gun range is fun but it’s important to take all safety precautions to ensure no one gets hurt. 

To get the best results possible when calibrating, it’s a good idea to make small changes at a time rather than big sweeping ones. 

Do you have any other questions about rifle scope calibration? Let us know in the comments below. 

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