Get To Know the Basics: Adjusting Rifle Scope Correctly

The Proper Way of Adjusting Rifle Scope

People prepare for the coming hunting season and have spent their time cleaning and getting ready for their guns. But many season hunters feel that those are not enough. Part of the preparation of many hunters during the offseason is adjusting rifle scope. The rifle scope is one of the essential accessories of a gun. But when hunters dismounted their scope at the end of the last hunting season and kept it in storage, they must mount the scope again as they prepare for the upcoming hunting season.


By the time the rifle scope is again mounted on the rifle, a hunter has to adjust a rifle scope to ensure that it is perfectly zeroed for the exciting season ahead.

Clean and Ready Your Guns

Your guns need to be cleaned and maintained, and adjust your scope, to preserve their value and functionality. They will also be kept accurate and safe. The attention and efforts that you put into the maintenance of your firearms will give you peace of mind knowing that your guns will be ready to do what you need to do when you have to. Having good maintenance habits will help you get familiar with your guns better, and have more confidence in their performance when you use them in the field or the target shooting range.

When cleaning your guns, preparation is key to a good job. Select a work area that is well-lit, well-ventilated, clean, and organized. The garage or outdoors will be an ideal place for the job. If you have to work indoors, select a large room with big, open windows. Your work table must be durable. It must not move or rock even when you lean on it. Do not use tables with casters or wheels. Also, do not use the dining table or kitchen counter because using either for your gun cleaning might contaminate your food. Remember that in cleaning your guns, you will be using cleaners, solvents and other chemicals. For the same reason, you should not be eating or drinking while you are cleaning your guns.

After choosing an appropriate area for the job, remove all ammunition from the room or space. Keep all ammunition, loose and boxed, to the storage before you commence cleaning. Only after storing all the ammunition should you bring out the guns and make sure that they are not loaded. If any of your guns has an extra magazine, check to make sure that they are also empty.

Before proceeding to clean, have the manufacturer’s manual ready. It will help you to remember the procedure of taking the gun apart and clean it, in case you have forgotten. The manual will come handy when you are about to clean an older gun that you have not used for a while. 

There are many tools, both specialized and improvised, that you need to get the job done right, such as a non-slip rubber part to protect the guns and the table for damage, a cleaning cradle to keep the gun under control when you work on it, and a lot more. It is important to have a container to keep small parts. If you are the type of person who keeps losing small parts, it will be a good idea to keep a flashlight with you. Small parts will cast a shadow when the flashlight beam passes over them.

You will also need a cleaning rod for the gun barrel. Make sure you have a cleaning rod with the correct diameter. Cleaning rods typically come in various calibers such as .22, .30, and so on. Do not use a cleaning rod that is too big as it will get stuck in the bore. On the other hand, a cleaning rod that is too small will flex in the bore and will take much effort to push it through. The bore brushes must be sized to the exact diameter of the bore it will thread onto the cleaning rod of the correct diameter.

Starting your cleaning

Start your gun cleaning using wet patches that will loosen the bore’s fouling. Bore solvents are typically intended for lead fouling or copper fouling. If you have been shooting copper-plated or jacketed bullets, you must use a copper solvent. If you have been shooting unjacketed lead bullets, you must use a lead solvent. 


Spear the patch on a jag or thread it through a loop before wetting with solvent. Jags produce better surface contact but are harder to push through the bore. Do not scrub, pull, or change the direction of the dirty patch back through the bore. Remove the dirty patch from the rod as it exits the bore. After running patches through the bore, the gun is now ready for the bore brush.


Get bore brushes that match the diameter of the bore. Bore brushes can be nylon, steel, or bronze bristles. Depending on your gun, nylon brushes are the gentlest material, although it may take you longer to clean. But for the most cleaning job, bronze brushes do the job exceptionally well. 


After about ten passes with the bore brush, you should run three more wet patches to pick up whatever fouling has been lost by the brush.  After wiping down the cleaning rod, you should finish with dry patches. You will notice that each dry patch will come cleaner than the last one. 


Depending on your shooting plans, you have to decide on your next step. If you are going to use the gun right after cleaning, you may just leave it to dry. If you are going to store the gun for an extended period, you need to run a wet patch with oil through the bore to protect it from rust.  Oil must be swabbed before shooting again as a bore with oil may create excessive pressure, which is a dangerous condition. So start the habit of running a dry patch down the bore before taking your gun for some shooting.


After assembling your gun, you have to check if all the parts work correctly. Check all parts for proper function. When fully satisfied that everything works well, oil down the metal surfaces of the gun’s exterior. Do not overdo the coating of oil. A light coating will be enough.


Cleaning your guns will make them safer, more reliable, and more accurate. 

Adjusting Rifle Scope

A fundamental part of knowing how to use rifle scope is understanding windage and elevation. Most modern scopes are adjusted for their point-of-impact by turning the two knobs, the first one located at the top and the other on the side. The one on top is for elevation adjustment while the one on the side is for windage adjustment.

The knobs that need to be turned to adjust a rifle scope are the top of screws that press against an erector tube assembly that consists of a second tube with optical lenses lying inside the main scope tube.

The function of the erector tube is optically erecting the image. If there are only the convex lenses at the end of the scope, the perception that the shooter will see will be upside down, which makes aiming tough. The erector tube has several lenses, which, as they are adjusted from side-to-side within the scope of the firearm’s point of impact, are affected.

A spring system pushes the erector tube against the bottoms of the screws for elevation and windage. When the knobs for scope adjustments are turned inward, the erector tube is pushed against the spring system, and the spring system moves the tube when the screws are backed off.

The two adjustment screws sit at 12 o’clock and 3 o’clock, with a flat spring sitting opposite the adjustment turrets located at about 7 o’clock. 

Accuracy of adjustments is affected by the size of the primary and erector tube. When the elevation turret is adjusted to shoot long-range, the contact point of the windage screw meets the curvature of the erector tube at a slight angle. A broad scope diameter allows the scope to have a larger erector tube, giving a more expansive area of contact for the two adjustment screws.

Many shooters encounter faulty adjustments in new scopes, which are the result of poor mounting alignment. Another reason is that scopes, despite modern technology, are still assembled by humans. Sometimes, they have machining marks on their adjustment threads, which create slight hitches in the reticle’s movement. These aberrations may be corrected by turning the adjustment dials through their range several times.

Today, the rifle scopes are superior to those made generations ago, both in terms of optics and mechanics. Understanding how they work can help shooters get the most out of what they have to offer. Even the best 1-6x scope, which can do almost everything, will not correctly unless it is properly adjusted.

How to Adjust a Rifle Scope

Your rifle scope can be one of the best red dot sights on the market, but without an intimate understanding of how to properly use it makes a waste out of your investment. Good rifle scopes are expensive, and it is quite challenging to find the best rifle scope under $1,000. Without properly using your expensive rifle scope, you will never get to witness your rifle’s full potential.

There are three most common adjustments for any rifle.

Parallax Adjustment

Parallax adjustment will bring the target image into the exact focal plane like the reticle, ensuring that there is no relative shifting of position between two objects you are looking at and that the target image is in focus. On higher-end scopes, the knob is located on the side of the scope body. On other scopes, this can be found, at times, around the objective lens and may be adjusted by turning the entire outer ring of the objective-end of the scope, the so-called adjustable, accurate scopes.

Parallax is not suitable when it causes you to miss the target because your head is not correctly aligned at the time you shoot. If this happened with your reticle and the target, your misaligned head could cause you to move the rifle to bring the reticle back in line with the target. When you move the gun, you are changing the orientation of the path of the bullet to make a miss.

When your eye is focused on the reticle, you can adjust the target focus to move the focal point of the image in the scope to be in line with the reticle. If the image of the target and the reticle are aligned on the same focal plane, they will be both in focus, and there will be no parallax effect.


Adjust the parallax setting by doing the following:


Make sure that the reticle is clear and crisp. It must be right on the target when you sight down the scope.

Very slightly adjust the parallax turret while slowly moving your head and eyes up and down.

Keep on adjusting the parallax until you don’t see any more movement in the reticle’s relation to your intended target.

Many shooters confuse adjustable objective for adjustable parallax. A scope with an adjustable parallax is ideal, but having an adjustable parallax scope with an adjustable objective instead of having a side-focus or side-parallax knob is not

Windage Adjustment

Windage is expressed in MOA, which is measured in inches. MOA means a minute of angle, and the adjustment increments can be made by turning the windage turret of the scope. The windage adjustment allows for left and right sight adjustment. The rifle scope should clearly show which direction you should set the turret in making any desired windage adjustment that you wish. Some cheaper models do not have that feature.

Turning the windage turret is regulated by clicks. Per click represents one minute of angle, roughly translated into an adjustment of about one inch at 100 yards. At 200 yards, it is two inches per click.

To fully understand this, remember that a circle is divided into 360 degrees. Each of the degrees may be divided into 60 minutes, which means that there are 21,600 minutes in a full circle.

Each of the minutes is a small angle, and you can use these small angles to adjust your scope because this distance covered by MOA is relative to the target’s circumference. 

You can calculate the MOA by doing the following:

Determine the circumference using the formula (radius x 2) x pi

Calculate the angle of arc by dividing the circumference by 360

Divide the angle of arc by 60 to get the MOA

It is important to remember that not all scopes are MOA calibrated or precise to the inch. This means that how your scope incorporates the theory versus another scope may vary considerably, making you unable to gauge what a click means until you see it in real action.

Elevation Adjustment

Elevation adjustments are necessary to change the impact of the bullet to where you are aiming. You make elevation adjustments when you zero the scope to your rifle or are shooting at different distances.

Zeroing a scope means ensuring that the point of aim with the target’s scope is the same as the point of impact where the bullet strikes the target at a baseline distance. New scope adjustments must be zeroed when it is mounted on a rifle.

When shooting at distances different than the distance at which you zeroed your scope, the bullet’s point of impact will be higher or lower than your point of aim. Gravity is the reason bullets fall as soon as they leave the barrel of your rifle and because the barrel is slightly upward as a compensation for this drop, your bullet travels in an arc to the target.

To simply put it, to move the impact of your bullet up, you have to turn the elevation turret in the direction of “up” on your scope. For most scopes, this requires rotating the turret counter-clockwise. The lower the impact of the bullet, most scopes must have the elevation turret turned clockwise. Check if this is the case with your particular scope.

If the turrets of your scope are exposed, you can make adjustments to the elevation even with your head still in position looking through the scope. To remember the right direction, imagine the turret to be a screw. To raise the screw-up, you will unscrew it counter-clockwise. Similarly, to lower the screw-down, you will turn it clockwise. If you have capped or covered turrets, do not forget to put the caps back on when you are done making adjustments.

If you are looking through the scope when you adjust and you see your reticle moving down you are adjusting upon your elevation turret, do not panic. Your scope is not broken. When turning the turret up, the reticle should go down inside the scope so you can raise the rifle to set the reticle back on target. This raising of the rifle is what causes the bullet to impact higher.

Scope Adjustment

One of the most common mistakes people commit on their scope is an incorrectly focused eyepiece. Many shooters, including some professionals, do not even know that this adjustment exists nor why it is essential to use. There is a good chance that this setting is not set correctly on your scope.

If you have either a bright reticle and blurry target or a clear target and blurry reticle, then you will understand the frustration of trying to focus back and forth. If you tried adjusting the target focus and it did not work, you have likely experienced an improperly adjusted eyepiece. 

It is essential that scope is set up and focused on letting your eye see the reticle without straining. Only then may you bring the target image near the reticle and have both of them clear. This also applies to a 300 blackout scope that is a more extended eye relief than most variable scopes as this will give you a quick sight picture.

Magnification adjustments

When you have a scope with adjustable magnification, there is a ring forward of the ocular housing that is used to adjust magnification. On some scopes, the entire ocular housing needs to be rotated to adjust the magnification.

For all adjustable power scopes, the target image will get larger or smaller by changing the magnification. On some scopes, however, the reticle increases in size proportionate to the image of the target. In contrast, in other scopes, the reticle stays precisely the same size throughout the magnification range. These types of scopes are called First Focal Plane and Second Focal Plane.

The first focal plane rifle scopes adjust the reticle with the image of the target. This means that any graduated markings can be used on the reticle for measurement at any magnification setting.

The second focal plane rifle scope adjusts only the target image while the reticle stays at the same size. This is useful for having a reticle that is the right size to see and aim with, but it can be a problem if you attempt to use graduated marks on the reticle at the incorrect power setting.

Some shooters check their scope settings by using spotting scopes to get a clear view of the landscape and other distant objects. You can find on the market the best spotting scopes tripod to keep your spotting scope steady.


We hope that you are now familiar with how to adjust your rifle scope. It is expected that shooters be intimidated by all the terminologies and processes involved in adjusting the rifle scope. Still, after repeated practice, everything will come easy and almost automatic.

What you can do now is pick up your rifle and set your rifle scope correctly and get out to the range to practice. Be prepared to be confused sometime but keep on doing the things that you have learned until adjusting the rifle scope becomes your second nature.