Make The Most Of Your Rifle Scope

Many people that are new to using rifles and scopes think that you simply need to attach the scope to the rifle and you are good to go. But you have to understand that scopes are high precision optics where even the slightest maladjustment or damage can result in huge issues when it comes to accuracy.

In this guide we want to highlight the basics of handling, attaching and using your rifle scope. With some really simple tips you can ensure that your scope stays safe and accurate for a long time to come and that you get the most out of your investment.

Basic Handling Tips

When your new scope is delivered to your home you will notice that it is will be very safely packed so that damage is avoided. The first thing you should do is inspect the packaging for damage. If there is any visible damage to the packaging you should consider the following steps:

  1. If delivered by courier you can refuse to sign for the deliver citing the physical damage.
  2. Immediately take pictures before opening the packaging and contact the retailer before opening it.
  3. Carefully unpack the scope and assess for any visible damage. It is, however, more likely that any damage will not be visible and may have occurred internally.
  4. If initial use of the scope shows any signs of problems, even after zeroing, then request a replacement.

In most cases though you will find that the packaging is undamaged and the scope is in perfect working order.

Now you need to be very careful in handling your scope. Even rugged hunting and tactical scopes designed to withstand some rough handling, are not immune to severe or minute damage. While the scope is not in use you should always make sure that the front and rear lenses are protected with caps that should hve come with you scope.

Even a minute little scratch on a lens can have a huge impact on the usability and accuracy, so make sure you avoid this.

One thing we would recommend is that while your rifle and scope are not in use, and especially when they are in transport, that you detach the scope and keep it in a designated carrying case. Alternatively you can consider a rifle case which protects your firearm as well as the scope while it is attached. This will save you some time before a hunt or when you get to a shooting range.

Attaching The Scope

Most scopes that you can buy will come with a standard mounting, but it is important that you make sure the mounting will fit your rifle. This is especially the case if you have a more exotic firearm or one that was custom made or in some way customized by a gun smith.

Make sure that you pay close attention to the assembly instructions for the mount. If this is not correctly attached it will cause problems with accuracy and it may eventually come loose. The screws need to be very tight as the recoil from firing will put stress and strain on all parts. We also suggest that every time you unpack your rifle and get ready for shooting, that you check the screws for the mount to ensure they remain tight.

At this stage you are ready for taking your first shots with your new scope.


While you may be ready to start shooting with your scope, at this stage you will only want to be firing the rifle in order to zero your scope. Most scopes come preset for the most common calibers and velocity you will still want to check that this is the case. The arc of a bullet is impacted by a whole load of variables determined by the rifle and cartridge.

So the very first thing you need to do is get down to your gun range and zero your scope. This is a precision process that will require some time to get right. If you have never done this before you should check out our guide and possibly get an experienced person to help you out. It certainly can be done by a novice, but you may find that it will take a lot more bullets than if you had the help of someone that has done it before.

Confused About Zeroing?

Check out our designated guide...

Basics Of Scope Adjustment

While there are some old fashioned and extremely basic scopes available that have practically no adjustment knobs, this is very uncommon. We certainly would not recommend buying a scope which doesn’t give you at least some control.

In our designated page on the different uses of rifle scopes we go into detail about what kind of features and adjustments are needed dependent on whether you go hunting, target shooting or are investing in a tactical scope for home defense. Your general use for the scope will essentially hint at what kind of adjustments you will find on a scope.

For example, a tactical scope is unlikely to have turret adjustments for distance and wind as the main use will be at very close range where these physical impact on the projectile to not come into account.

The following is a list of adjustments you will very commonly find on scopes.

Adjusting For Distance

When your rifle is zeroed at 100 yards and you are shooting at target that are maybe 150 or 200 yards away, then distance adjustments are not going to be that important. But what is important to know is that a bullet will fly in an arc and the further away you are from the target the more severe that arc will be.

Long range scopes will come with a turret know at the center of the scope which allow you to adjust for longer distances. The knob will click and each click will be a certain amount of additional distance. The most expensive high end scopes will allow you to dial in a very precise distance, and this is very important for competitive target shooting. For an amateur this level of expense is probably unnecessary and broader adjustments will do perfectly fine.

As an example, if you were shooting at a target 500 yards away from you and your scope is zeroed at 100 yards you would have to dial in 400 yards for distance. Dependent on your scope this may require 8 clicks of the knob, assuming that each click represents 50 yards.

Adjusting For Windage

This is a lot more difficult but it is very similar as adjusting for distance. Side wind will impact the bullet and dependent on the strength of the wind will push it off target. Now, measuring wind speed is a lot less accurate in many situations than measuring distance. This is where experience will play a huge role in trying to asses direction and speed of the wind.

But this is also what makes it such a great challenge. Yes, you could by small wind speed meter and know exactly how strong the wind is and in what direction it is blowing, but if you want to make it interesting then you should let your experience take over.

Once you have assessed the direction and speed of the wind you will then click in an adjustment on a separate turret knob. Again this adjustment will compensate for predetermined ranges of wind speed. For example, a 10 mile per hour wind may be compensated by 2 clicks.

Your scope documentation will tell you precisely what each click represents and you should memorize this before you start using your scope.

Adjusting For Parallax

To help you understand parallax a bit more you should check out our terminology guide. Essentially it is a very common phenomenon that is down to the physics of how light passes through the lenses of a scope and the placement of the reticle. If you place your scope stationary and position your head behind the scope, any movement of the head should not result in the reticle moving.

If it does then you are experiencing the effects of parallax and this can have an impact on your accuracy. There are scopes that have a parallax adjustment know on them and with a simple modification you can rectify the issue. All you need to do is make and adjustment and by moving your head from side to side judge whether the effect is getting better or worse.

For more information we highly recommend checking out this video clip.


The level of magnification will vary from scope to scope and will usually be highlighted as something like 3-9x. This means that the lenses will magnify 3 to 9 times as close as the human eye can see. Scopes can very much differ in how this adjustment is made. Higher end scopes will have two knobs for magnification with one providing slow and one fast magnification.

This helps you be a lot more precise in your magnification, while also being able to go from long to short range very quickly when needed. Again, your intended use for a scope will dictate how much magnification you will need. If you are going deer hunting you will likely be shooting from 150 to 200 yards. If you zoom in very close you will lose a lot of field of view.

Make sure you know what you will be using your scope for before you make a purchase.

Different Rifle Scope Uses

Check out our designated page about the different uses of rifle scopes. Dependent on what you intend to use your new scope for you will need to consider different features and specifications. Click below to find out more!

Reticle Mil Dots

Preferences for the reticle will vary from person to person, but what you will very commonly see is a reticle with mil dots on the vertical and horizontal. These mil dots are very convenient if you want to make quick adjustments for distance and wind without adjusting the turret knobs; or when your scope does not have distance and wind adjustments.

For example, using a standard caliber cartridge and increasing the distance to the target by 200 yards, you would possibly compensate by one mil dot. This is very quick and easy way to make such compensations, but they are less accurate.

Anyway, once you have adjusted and compensated for environmental factors and the laws of physics you are ready to pull the trigger. There are many techniques around how to actually pull the trigger and breathe correctly, but this is something you should probably have demonstrated by a professional or experienced shooter. If you are a novice you should maybe check out some lessons at your local gun range.