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Zeroing In... Scopes
Some do’s and don’ts on scopes and mounts...
The old rule of thumb was, a scope should cost about half of what your gun did in order to get a quality scope in the same quality category.  This is pretty much out the door with modern manufacturing.

First and foremost, how far do you plan on shooting?  I have friends in open area’s who need long distance visibility and others in heavy woods who will never see more than 100 yards down a cut trail at best. Obviously their magnification and field of view needs are vastly different.

Scope basics front to back:

Front lens is the objective, it gathers the light and its size gives the field of view (last number in 3-9x40, etc.).

Tube size/Scope body, one inch or 30mm are the standard sizes, rings must match diameter of scope body.

Adjustment knobs, can be turrets, flat tip screwdriver or finger pressure to change elevation and windage. Standard is one click changes impact 1/4” at 100 yards. Less expensive scopes will provide 1/2" at 100. Some larger magnification scopes have a parallax adjustment as well, although most will have parallax set at 100 yards.

Rear is the eyepiece/magnification adjustment and usually a focus knob.

Reticle can be a simple cross hair, mil dots, cross hair with a set of smaller lines to compensate for bullet drop (BDC) or many other variations.  Some light up via battery or ambient light pickup.

Eye relief refers to the distance between your eye and the lens at the rear of the scope that will give you a full crisp view, no dark ring around the edges.  Important to know for high recoil calibers to avoid a black eye, broken eye socket, or worse

Some scopes are single power (3×32, 4×30 for example) which means no magnification adjustments.

Variable power allows the user to adjust the power given in first and second number of its designation, 3-9x40 is fairly standard.  Low end magnification is 3 times larger than the naked eye to 9 times larger, 40 refers to a 40mm wide objective lens (more light entering the scope).

Objective size will impact the size of rings needed to clear the barrel and exponentially increase the cost as it get larger.

Lens coatings block different wavelengths and repel water, see scope specifications for details of which coatings your scope has.

Charged scope means nitrogen (or other) gas filled to keep out moisture.

Anyone can sell you an expensive scope that is more than you will ever need.  Figure out how far you will need to see where you live, play, and possibly have to fight.  Next, how big do want the object to appear and space around it, this will be one factor to your objective size.  Lastly, light levels throughout the year.  Darker area’s (heavy woods, further north) will demand more light coming in to get a good view. A 3-9x40 is ubiquitous for a variety of calibers and environments. It’s a great all around scope for a variety of needs and circumstances. If you plan on sniping at 500 to 800 yards, a 4-12x40 or 42, 6-24x50 (or something similar) would probably be a better choice.

Looking at a scope in the store is vastly different than looking outdoors in different weather conditions.  The best thing would be to borrow a scope/gun from a friend and put it through some paces.  Do this with several different brands and different powers to get a feel for what works best for your situations, skills, and eye.

It would be great if I could say, “Buy brand X with this magnification Y-YxY and you will be happy.”

My own general observations are as follows (these are only suggestions for specific categories) use your own judgement and common sense:

  1. .22LR open sights, red dot, 3x or 4x power, or 2-7x30 scope (0 to 50 yard parallax).

  2. .223 AR 22” long barrel. The reasonably priced Burris Fullfield ll 3-9x40 BDC, or UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope with AO Mil-dot

  3. .223  AR shorty (16” collapsible - CQB) Burris 4x Prism (green or red rings, no power no problem, black rings), or UTG 30mm SWAT 3-12X44 Compact IE Scope with AO Mil-dot.

  4. .243 to .270 bolt action Bushnell Elite 4200 4.5-12x42

  5. 7.62×39 4×32 scope, red dot, or iron sights, anything else is a waste of money.

  6. 7.62×51/7.62x54R/.308/7mm-08 Burris 4-12x42 BDC

  7. 30.06/most magnums/any 6.5mm bolt action Vortex Crossfire ll 6-18x44 BDC, or any good 4-12x40

  8. Shotguns Hi Viz front sight or red dot (not a scope but aids in getting on target)

  9. If you will be doing most of your shooting from the bench or a prone position, a Harris, or Harris type bipod is a must for long range shooting.

It's very easy to spend as much as, or twice the cost of the rifle on glass. You would be better served starting with a good gun, in a great caliber (I'm a 6.5mm for everything kind of guy myself), and applying a little sound logic. A more expensive than you need scope usually won't compensate for poor skills and marksmanship, so contrary to what your monkey brain is telling you, you can't buy your way out of being a lousy shot.

There is no doubt Zeiss makes a fantastic scope with distance and wind calibrated stadia lines.  The harsh reality is most cannot afford it, nor do they want to break the bank for one.  There are good scopes, great scopes and fantastic scopes. Look for names like Bushnell, Nikon, Leupold, Vortex, Vector, NightForce, and a few others.

Don’t worry about being a scope snob with your friends, buy what you need, for your needs.  Everyone has their favorite brand and magnification. Read current reviews on different websites.  Many companies have different lines from budget to professional.

At the end of the day, practice with a lower priced scope in good rings that holds a zero is better than no practice with a high dollar scope.

Final thought, do not buy the cheapest rings possible. The rings are far more important than you will ever know, and will make all the difference when you're splitting hairs (both figuratively, and literally).  In the machine shop world there are two standards they deal with, in tolerance and in specification, both pass QC (the difference between good and great).  Let’s say a scope tube has a spec of + -.001 and a tolerance of + -.0025, rings the same specs.  Although within tolerance, multiply .025 x4 for the worst case scenario for scope and rings, front is up .0050 and back is down .0050.  Let’s add in the gun receiver being out of whack between front mount and back as well but still within specification, of .0025, scope bases can also be within specification and cause problems.

At this point you are shimming rings and/or lapping rings (sanding to allow level fit) to get on paper.  I have better results with $30 to $50 rings than with $5 to $10 rings.  How much ammo and time do you want to waste getting zeroed VS accurate first shots?  I shot a friend's 30.06, used 20 rounds to get on paper (took some time to figure out where it was hitting) with a Walmart Tasco with cheap rings that ran the scope out of adjustment.  New quality rings helped greatly.

If you want a reasonably priced, let's get going, wonderfully made scope (for almost any gun), you'd be hard pressed to find something better or more affordable than the 'one size fits all' Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Mate BDC 600.

Advantages of Using a Rifle Scope

You are a sport shooter: It’s easier for you to target what you needed. A riflescope's crosshairs is a bullet's point of impact and makes distant targets and surrounding objects appear closer. A riflescope is recommended for safer, more accurate shooting in the field and on the range.

You are defending your house and family: Of course you might need this to defend your family. It can help you target the invader without creating unnecessary collateral damage and hitting any of the people around you or one of the members of your family. You just position on the target and shoot. Low magnification, or red dot scopes serve best in this role.

You want to replace a new scope: Rifle scope manufacturers don’t make scopes like they used to. Modern manufacturing have made today’s scopes less expensive, more reliable, and with better lens coatings. In deciding what rifle scope you want depends on the type of range you’re aiming. There are types of rifle scopes that can help you choose the right one.

And you are searching a best rifle scope for the money: Buy the best scope you can afford for the gun. Rifle scopes are like most products you buy, you get what you pay for. It still depends on the type of shooting you are doing. If you are an average hunter, or want to get started in longer range target shooting you can find good rifle scopes in the $200 to $500 range. You can shoot the rest of your life with a scope in this range and be very happy. If you are a professional hunter, long range target shooter, or sniper, higher magnification, better optics, and more bells and whistles provide a higher degree of precision IF, and only if, you are as good as the glass and gun.

Here’s a great video on scopes in general...   How to choose a rifle scope

The Slow and Steady Approach to Zeroing a Rifle Scope...

It doesn’t matter whether you’re going hunting or planning a fun day at the range; you want to hit what you’re aiming at, so the first step is to make sure your rifle is properly zeroed. Here’s one way how to do it:

1. Get on Paper
If your rifle is an old friend, this step may have been handled long ago, but if it’s a new rifle or you’ve changed scopes, then the first thing you must do is get the rifle on paper. In order to do this, you must get your barrel and scope (or sights) in rough alignment. A collimator or laser boresighter will enable you to do this quickly, and these devices are really the only option for actions (semi-autos, levers and pumps) where it’s not possible to look down the barrel from the breech.

With bolt-actions and single-shots, you can generally achieve rough alignment by boresighting. Remove the bolt, or on a single-shot, open the action and set the rifle in a solid, steady rest. Put up a target at short range—25 or 50 yards. A bull’s-eye target is probably best for this because it’s easier to align the round target within the round view through your barrel. Line up your barrel on the target, make sure it’s steady and then look through your scope or sights. Using the adjustments, move the scope or sights until you’re seeing the same “picture” as through your barrel.

Now it’s time to shoot. You should learn to be pretty darn good at boresighting, and once in a while you’ll get it spot-on—but it is not a perfect science, and neither collimators nor laser boresighting devices are perfect, either. So start with a big, clean target! If you have some confidence, you can start at 50 yards, which is what I usually do—but if you’ve just clamped a scope on something like a lever action, where it’s impossible to look down the barrel, better start at 25 yards with plenty of clean target—sometimes you can be way off! Shooting and making adjustments, try to get the rifle more or less zeroed at short range. The legend is that a 25-yard zero will be about right at 100 yards, but this is not true. It depends on the trajectory of the cartridge and the height of the scope, but generally speaking, a perfect zero at 25 yards will be too high at 100 yards, so if you start at 25 yards with a scoped rifle, you’ll usually save some ammo by making that initial short-range zero about an inch low. When I start at 50 yards I try to make it “point of aim, point of impact”—and then I’m ready to move out to longer range.

2. Make Your Decision
Now that the rifle is roughly in zero, there are three basic decisions to make before fine-tuning: distance, load and point of impact. For distance, most believe in zeroing at 100 yards. Less is not precise enough, and while I know some good riflemen zero at 200 yards and more, I prefer to sight in at 100 yards so I remove as much human error as possible and minimize effects such as wind. If you plan to shoot at longer ranges, it’s a good idea—and maybe essential—to practice at longer ranges, but for sighting in, I prefer 100 yards.

If you’ve already decided what load you intend to use, then you’re ready to move ahead. But all rifles display different levels of accuracy when you change brands, bullets, propellants or anything else. So if you’re still working on what load you want to use, I recommend postponing achieving a perfect zero and just shoot groups. At this point it doesn’t matter where they land on the target. You may ultimately select the most accurate load that you try, or you may compromise a bit between optimum accuracy, bullet performance and even velocity.

Once the load is selected, you need to decide exactly where you want your 100-yard point of impact. For short-range hunting situations—like close-cover hunting or for dangerous game—you may well want a 100-yard zero. For shooting at longer ranges you’re probably going to want your point of impact to be a bit high, like a zero that’s maybe 2 to 2.5 inches high at 100 yards. Depending on the cartridge, this will put you dead-on at maybe 200 to 225 yards. These days, with long-range shooting all the rage, a lot of guys sight in to be 3 inches high at 100 yards. That’s your choice, but the mid-range rise may exceed 5 inches, and the most common aiming error is to hold too high rather than too low, so as Jack O’Connor advocated a generation ago, about 2.5 inches high at 100 yards is just fine.

3. Use Good Technique
Sighting in is just like shooting groups—it has nothing to do with how well you can shoot; it’s all about the rifle, so you want to eliminate human error. Use a good, steady rest, and take your time. The bench accentuates recoil, so don’t hesitate to pad yourself or use recoil-absorbing shooting aids like the Caldwell’s Lead Sled. Settle down, really concentrate and squeeze the trigger, and then adjust your sights and do it again until you have reached your desired zero.

When shooting from a bench rest, try to get the rifle perfectly steady, and let the sandbags or rifle rest do the work. Use your supporting hand to snug the butt into your shoulder, with your trigger finger the forward-most contact.

4. Cold and Clean
If you’re lucky you might get the rifle “pretty close” in three or four shots. Sometimes it takes quite a few more! Relatively few riflescopes have truly precise and consistent adjustments, so it isn’t uncommon to go back and forth a bit to get it right. That’s perfectly OK, but you have to take your time and make sure the barrel doesn’t get too hot. Once you think you’re there, let the barrel cool completely and then check again. Depending on how many shots were fired, there’s a good chance it’s now time to clean the rifle. There is no set rule, and all barrels are different, but for optimum accuracy it’s probably best to clean the barrel after no more than 20 shots. Now a freshly cleaned barrel will often have a different point of impact than the same barrel after a couple of shots, so clean at the range, and if that’s your last zero session before taking a rifle hunting, clean the barrel and then fire a couple of “fouling shots,” thus checking the zero one more time.

5. Double-Check, Then Check Again
OK, now the rifle is zeroed perfectly just where you want it. But wait—as they say in the infomercials—there’s more! Do you use a bipod in the field? It’s a great tool, especially in open country, but some rifles will have a different point of impact with an attached bipod than over sandbags. This is the one usually noticed, but I suppose the same could be true of just about any field shooting aid. So once you’re all zeroed, fire a couple of shots off your bipod or other shooting aid. You may not be quite as steady, so the results may not be as perfect—but if there’s a significant difference, you should notice it.

Finally, if you’re hunting away from home, make sure you check zero one last time when you arrive in your hunting area. Major temperature and altitude changes will make a difference (“temperature up, bullet strike up; altitude up, bullet strike up”). Other than that it’s fairly rare for a well-mounted scope to come out of zero while traveling, but it can happen, and Murphy’s Law applies.

Seasoning Your New Rifle’s Bore

It's tempting, I know. You've got a brand new rifle and you can't wait to grab it out of the box and head out to the range and crank out some rounds sighting it in.

Don't be in too much of a rush. Plan on investing some serious time in breaking in, or seasoning, the barrel on that first outing. That is, if you want to extend the life of the rifle and increase its potential for consistent accuracy.

The breaking-in process is important because it will smooth any imperfections left in the bore from the manufacturing process. If not dealt with properly, the imperfections can adversely affect your rifle's performance.

Before you fire the first shot you should thoroughly clean the rifle to rid it of lapping compound in the barrel and to get the manufacturer-applied rust preventative out of the bore and chamber.


Being properly equipped will help assure the breaking-in process is done efficiently and correctly.

Bore Guide: A fitted tube inserted through the action and into the rear of the chamber, the guide will precisely align the rod with the bore and prevent the rod from wearing the rifling at the front of the chamber. It will also prevent fouling-laden cleaner from dripping into the trigger mechanism and magazine. Some bore guides feature solvent ports, which make it easy to apply solvent to patches and brushes with less mess.

Cleaning Rod: Use a strong, one- piece plastic-coated steel cleaning rod. Aluminum jointed cleaning rods should only be used in emergency field situations when no other rod is available. Aluminum tends to become impregnated with foreign material that can scratch the bore of your rifle. Also, the joints may not fit exactly, allowing edges to protrude and scratch the bore. The sharp muzzle crown of the barrel has a tendency to strip pieces from aluminum rods, which can get into the barrel and cause damage.

Cleaning Jag: Spear-pointed cleaning jags of proper caliber will hold the patch securely. 

Cotton Flannel Patches: You can cut your own to proper size for your caliber or purchase them pre-cut for a perfect fit.

Bronze Brush: Make sure you have a bronze (not stainless steel, which can damage some barrels) brush of proper caliber. Brushes do the dirty work during cleaning, scrubbing powder and copper fouling from the bore and rifling. While scrubbing, never reverse direction before the brush passes completely out of the barrel. If you do, the bristles are forced to reverse directions against the bore and can cause damage.

Cleaning Solvent: Use a high-grade cleaning solvent designed to remove copper and powder fouling (I use FrogLube in place of solvent and lubricant).

THE CLEANING PROCESS Saturate a cotton patch with solvent and, using the cleaning jag on the rod, push it through the barrel to remove loose fouling. Repeat it once or twice. You can reverse the patch-covered jag in the barrel to produce a scrubbing effect. Give particular cleaning attention to the six inches or so of barrel just ahead of the chamber.

Use an eye-dropper to saturate the bronze brush with cleaning solvent. Do not dip the brush into the solvent container or you'll contaminate the solvent. Push the brush completely through the barrel and pull it completely back out, making 20 passes (10 in-and-out cycles). Let the solvent soak in the barrel for several minutes. Clean the brush by spraying with a top-quality cleaner/degreaser and re-saturate the brush and make 20 more passes through the barrel.

When pulling the rod back through the barrel, be careful that the jag or brush is properly aligned as it enters the muzzle so the back of the jag or brush does not damage the muzzle crown.

Again with the cleaning jag, push a dry cotton patch through the barrel. Repeat until the patch comes out clean, then run a larger dry patch into the chamber to clean out all the solvent before shooting.

THE BREAKING-IN PROCESS Clean the barrel after every shot for the first 10 shots and then after every second shot up to the 20th shot. Some hard-cores recommend cleaning the barrel after each of the first five shots and after every five shots for the next 50 shots.

As you can see, this is a slow, methodical process. Don't rush it. Allow plenty of time for thorough cleaning.


Set up a comfortable, organized cleaning station, preferably somewhere other than on your shooting bench. Use a tailgate or take a portable bench or table, where everything can be organized without interfering with the shooting process. You'll save time, be more efficient and clean more thoroughly.

When you are done cleaning for the day, be sure you remove cleaning solvent from the bronze brush with a spray cleaner/degreaser (unless you’re using FrogLube). If you don't, your brush will be much smaller the next time you take it out. Cleaning solvent will eat the bronze bristles.

During the cleaning process, frequently wipe solvent and fouling from the cleaning rod to prevent it from re-contaminating the bore.

Before beginning to clean the rifle, make sure scope covers are in place to protect lenses. Brushes, particularly, have a tendency to spray solvent as they are worked in and out of the barrel.

Finish the final cleaning after the break-in process by running a patch saturated with a rust-preventing lubricant (FrogLube) through the bore to protect it and the chamber during storage.

You can accomplish preliminary sighting-in during the break-in sessions, but save the fine-tuning for after the barrel is properly broken in and seasoned. And, remember, don't shoot so much that the rifle barrel gets hot to the touch. Overheating the barrel can cause irreversible damage. Go slow and allow time for the barrel to cool between shot groups.

Once the barrel is broken in, don't neglect it. It should be cleaned regularly. Particular shooters recommend cleaning the barrel after no more than 20 shots. 5, 10, or 15 is more likely with competitive bench-rest shooters.

Zeroing In... Scopes

© 2014 | Dynamic Force Institute, LLC | All Rights Reserved

Some do’s and don’ts on scopes and mounts...
Some do’s and don’ts on scopes and mounts...

What Is Parallax,

And Why Should I Care?

Parallax is essentially an optical illusion. 

Parallax presents itself as the apparent movement of the reticle, in relation to the target, when your eye moves off center of the sight picture (exit pupil) or in more extreme cases it appears as an out of focus image. It indicates that the scope is either out of focus or more specifically the image of the target is not occurring on the same focal plane as the reticle. Maximum parallax occurs when your eye is at the very edge of the sight picture (exit pupil). Even when parallax is adjusted for a designated distance, there is an inadvertent error at other distances. 

Most brands of scopes that do not have a parallax adjustment are pre-set at the factory to be parallax free at or around 100 yards and beyond; rim fire and shotgun scopes are set at or around 50 yards and beyond.  Most scopes of 11x or more have a parallax adjustment because parallax worsens at higher magnifications.  Generally speaking parallax adjustment is not required for hunting situations and is primarily a feature used and desired by target shooters. 

A 4x hunting scope focused for 150 yards has a maximum parallax error of only 8/10ths of an inch at 500 yards. At short distances, the parallax effect does not affect accuracy. Using the same 4x scope at 100 yards, the maximum error is less than 2/10ths of an inch. It is also good to remember that, as long you are sighting straight through the middle of the scope, or close to it, parallax will have virtually no effect on accuracy in a hunting situation.

This is another way to think of it that maybe you can relate to. You know when you are sitting in the passenger seat of a vehicle its hard to look at the speedometer and tell how fast you are going because your eye....the needle....and the mph number are not all three lined up.  So to you it looks like your going 35 when really you are going 55.  But the person behind the steering wheel has his eye..the needle and the mph all lined up straight in the same focal plane and gets a true reading.

Bear in mind, your rifle will be sighted in at a specific range. Any lesser, or further distance will change the point of impact up or down due to gravity, trajectory, velocity, and a number of other factors.

.223/5.56 - 50/200 Zero

If you zero most .223/5.56 rifles at 50 yards (50/200 Zero), the hit will be very close to dead on at both 50 and 200 yards (trajectory curve). It will not be any higher or lower than 3.5 inches off from POA at 0 to 225 yards. This is an excellent zero for both hunting and battle, since 3.5 inches high or low is still in the kill zone in battle if you did your part.

Re-zero Your Rifle With

Three Rounds...

Bore sight your rifle from a solid and sturdy rest at 100 yards (or fire at a large and highly visible target at 100 yards. You must be able to see where your shot landed.

At 100 yards shoot a bullseye target with one round from the solid rifle rest.

Dial your crosshairs into the center of the first shot hole and adjust the rifle to reset the adjusted crosshairs on the center of the bullseye. Fire round two.

Dial your crosshairs into the center of the second shot hole and adjust the rifle to reset the adjusted crosshairs on the center of the bullseye. Fire round three. You should be dead on the bullseye with the third shot.

Minute of Angle: The Measure of Accuracy in your Rifle

Minute of Angle (MOA) is the term used as the standard for measuring the accuracy of a hunting rifle.You can also use minute of angle as a means of measuring the size of an animal’s target zone.In the simplest terms, there are 360 degrees in a circle, each degree has 60 minutes.The calculated distance extended to a target at 100 yards is 1.047 inches or “one-minute.” This number is just a crosshair over “one inch” and to make calculating easier, most all hunters and shooters use “one inch,” this is called “shooter’s minute of angle.”In terms of accuracy, if a hunter and his/her rifle can shoot three or five rounds and have them group inside one inch at 100 yards, then you have a minute of angle group, or a minute of angle rifle.

The rifle scopes and the scope clicks have a MOA value also. Most hunters use 1/8 inch and the 1/4 inch MOA click value. Using the 1/4 inch scope, this means that each click equals 1/4 inch of movement at 100 yards. So in order to make the bullet impact move one inch or one MOA at 100 yards, you must turn the elevation or the windage knob four clicks. The click value moves up by a 1/4 inch for each 100-yard increase in distance, so 200 yards will be ½ inch movement per click, 300 yards will be 3/4 in. per click, 400 yards = 1 in.,500 yards = 1 1/4 in., 600 yards = 1 ½ in., 700 yards = 1 3/4 in., 800 yards = 2 in., 900 yards = 2 1/4 in. and 1000 yards = 2 ½ inches of movement per click of elevation or windage knob on your rifle scope.

Speaking of accuracy at distance, this angle stays consistent all the way out to how ever far you want to shoot. One inch at 100 yards, two inches at 200 yards, three inches at 300 yards, four inches at 400 yards and so on. So if you can shoot an eight inch-group at 800 yards, or a ten-inch group at 1000 yards, that is minute of angle grouping. And you are an accurate shot. It is possible to be accurate with a 2-inch group at 100 yards, on deer sized game, but your accuracy will only go so far. At 200 yards your group will open up to 4 inches, this is still good; at 300 yards your group opens up 7 to 8 inches, a hit will still be made, but is getting marginal for correct shot placement. At 400 yards your group opens up to 12 to 16 inches and getting marginal for a hit. At 500 yards and beyond, your groups only open up more and more and a miss is highly likely, depending on wind, conditions and setup.

It is possible to shoot better than minute of angle. “Sub” minute of angle. If your rifle shoots ½ inch groups at 100 yards, you could say half minute of angle or sub-MOA in describing your groups or your rifle. 2.99 inches or better at 300yards, 6.99 inches or better at 700 yards, or a 10-inch group at 1100 yards can all be described as sub-minute of angle.

While hunting out in the field, you can also describe how you will “hold” your aim, or cross-hairs of the scope on a game animal. You can know how big the game animal you target is, beforehand. A Mule Deer for instance has a body height of approximately 15 inches from top of the back to brisket, give or take an inch. So at 400 yards, one MOA is four inches. You could say that a Mule Deer standing at 400 yards is 4 MOA tall or 16 inches.