How to Sight a Rifle
Rifle sighting isn't as complex as many new hunters and shooters think.
Yet, it is a necessary procedure every time you use your rifle.
Whether you've just bought new, are mounting a new rifle scope on your gun, or simply testing new ammo, here's what you need to know about sighing in a rifle.
Let's start with the basics.
The Objective of Sighting in a Rifle
The primary reason to sight in a rifle is to align the rifle's sights and bore. It is essential to note that sighting in a rifle isn't the same as accuracy.
For starters, accuracy revolves around your gun's ability to place close to each other. When you properly sight in a rifle, you can predict its accuracy over a specific distance.
You still need to sight an inherently accurate gun. Otherwise, you'll struggle to hit your target. On the flip side, it doesn't necessarily mean it'll hit tight groups with a nicely sighted rifle.
Gravity and Bullets
Bullets don't travel in a straight line. Instead, they travel in an arc. Gravity compels the bullet to drop toward the ground milli-seconds after leaving your rifle's muzzle.
The point at which it'll touch the ground depends on how high you aim and your cartridge's ballistics.
Sighting in your rifle allows you to determine how high your gun will shoot at specific distances.
If you're hunting deer, it would be best to sight your rifle to targets about 100 yards. Still, you can see your gun from a different distance based on your hunting ground.
That said, the sighting in process is as follows:
- Start by setting up a solid bench. Let your rifle’s forestock sit on padded material.
- Place your sight in target into position, 25 yards away.
- Fire three shots. Check the results. You’ll need to adjust your rifle’s sights if the bullet holes are significantly close, but the point of impact isn’t where you were aiming.
- Readjust the sights. You can refer to your sight’s user manual to determine how a specific Minute of Angle (MOA) clicks in a particular direction will alter the rear sight of your rifle.
- Repeat the process at 100 yards, or as per your range.
Now that you know how to go about sighting in a rifle let’s examine a few other equally important things to remember;
The Shooting Range
Avoid shooting from different positions when sighting in a rifle at the shooting range.
Further, reduce the element of human error to the bare minimum. Remember, the process isn’t about how good a shooter you are but your rifle’s shooting ability.
If you’re in a gun club, you’ll want to shoot from the shooting benches. If you’re shooting elsewhere, carry a portable shooting bench.
In addition, get a solid shooting rest like Caldwell Lead Sled DFT 2 or shooting bags with rest like the Caldwell DeadShot Boxed Combo. You’ll place these on top of your shooting bench. That way, the results will be more about your gun and ammunition than your shooting ability.
The First Shot
As a rule of thumb, your first shots shouldn’t be more than 50 yards.
In addition, place clearly visible material behind your target. That way, you can see the point of impact even when the shots aren’t near the target.
Consider moving up to 25 yards if you can’t see where the bullets are landing at 50 yards. Adjust your gun's telescopic sights once you see where your shots are going. Keep making adjustments until the bullets hit as close to your target’s bull’s eye as possible.
Iron Sights Adjustments
Here's what you need to remember when adjusting your rifle's iron sights:
Move the rear sight up, down, and left-right toward the direction you want your shots to move.
For most scopes, refer to the user's manual to check if the scope's adjustments are ¼, ½, or 1 inch 100 yards.
Most rifle scopes adjustments are based on 100 yards. So, if you're shooting at 50 yards, you'll want to double the number of clicks. That way, you can achieve an equivalent change in impact.
Trying New Ammunition
The first thing to do when trying new ammo is to “rough” sight your rifle. “Bore sight” the gun to save you time and ammunition at the shooting range.
Get a high-quality boresighter like the SiteLite Mag Laser. A boresighter helps you determine where your rifle points relative to the scope or sights.
Boresighters are divided into two as follows;
- Boresighters that work with an optical device inserted into your rifle’s muzzle. These allow you to view the optical device through the scope.
- Boresighters designed to project a laser on your target. You can use these with scopes or iron sights, and they are ideal for shooting ranges.
Irrespective of your boresighter, follow the user manual’s instructions once you see where the bore or aims. Then, adjust the iron sights or scope to align the sight picture with the bore.
What if you don’t have a boresighter?
You can accomplish bore sighting without a boresighter as follows;
- Remove the bolt and look down the bore. Your target shouldn’t be more than 50 yards away.
- Then, with the bore open, center target in your view down the bore
- Adjust your rifle’s sights or scope to ensure it points to the target
- While this crude bore sighting version enables you to get your first shot on paper, it isn’t a substitute for the actual sighting described above.
Side Note: The bullet weight is different from one bullet to the other, so your rifle may miss your target even after you sight in your rifle.
… one more thing
Fine Tune Ammo and Ammo Combination
With your rifle sighted in and you've determined which ammo works best for your rifle, you'll want to fine-tune the ammo and rifle combination to match what you expect at the hunting ground.
You can refer to ballistic tables on ammo manufacturers' official websites, ammo boxes, or catalogs to see where your rifle shoots with different bullets.
Most available information indicates short and long distances.
For hunting where longer ranges are unlikely, sighting in is usually at 100 yards. For conditions requiring long shots, sighting in is typically 2 to 3 inches or more high at 100 yards.
There you have — that’s how to sight a rifle, and as you can see, it is nothing complicated. You only need to know what to do and when to do it.
Stick to the tips highlighted in this article, and you’ll have your rifle sighted in quickly in no time.
Remember, it is always recommended that you sight in your rifle whenever you head out to hunt.