If not already done, you must first boresight the scope to the barrel. This is the process of aligning the crosshairs of the scope with the bore of the rifle. There are several ways of doing this, the most popular using a laser boresight at 25 yards. From a stable platform (gun rest or sandbags) so the gun cannot move, you put the laser on the bullseye and then adjust the crosshairs of the scope to also align with the bullseye. This first step is critical to make sure when you fire that first round it is “on paper”.
Now we are at the range and ready to shoot. One of the biggest mistakes most hunters make is trying to zero the scope at 100 yards. Nope, start at 25 yards. Inaccuracy is exaggerated at longer distances. It is much easier to adjust shots at a close range. Again from a stable platform, not free standing, align the scope crosshairs on the bullseye and fire a three shot group. The shots should all be close together and the center of that group is your adjustment point. Using the scopes owner’s manual as a reference, turn the windage and elevation knobs the appropriate number of clicks right/left or up/down to move the strike of the bullet to the bullseye. Most scopes are designed where one click equals ¼ inch in movement.
While you are doing this adjustment, it allows the barrel to cool down. If you shoot too rapidly and the barrel heats up you will lose accuracy. After these first adjustments fire another three shot group. At this distance, with the crosshairs on the bullseye, you want the bullet impact to be about one inch low. Why is that? You don’t see it but a bullet actually arches as it travels. When a bullet is one inch low at 25 yards it should hit dead center at 100 yards.
Once you have established your zero at 25 yards, it is time to move the target out to 100 yards and repeat the process. If done properly at first, the first three-shot group should be dead center at 100 yards. If not, make adjustments as you initially did. If you plan on taking long range shots out to 200-300 yards your point of impact should be 1-2 inches high at 100 yards.
Here are some other things to remember. Using full metal jacket ammo for the initial zero may save you a little money on ammo, but the last group at 25 yards and all subsequent groups at 100 yards should be done using the ammo you plan to hunt with. There are many factors like bullet weight, design (i.e. ballistic tip) and powder charge that can change the point of impact of a given round. Considering all the other cost of big game hunting, ammo is cheap. Use it.
Use sight-in targets that are graduated in one inch increments. You’ve seen them in gun shops with squares on them. It is difficult to judge how many clicks on the scope adjustment knobs with a standard bullseye target. Another helpful hint is to use the same clothing you plan to hunt in. This will help you get comfortable with shouldering the rifle and getting a proper sight picture before the season starts. With all this done, you are ready for the field!
Your next opportunity for a Hunter Education class will be coming up September 24 – 25 at Mars Hill University in Blackwell Hall. Classes both nights are from 6 to 9 p.m. There are plenty of seats remaining and you can register online at www.ncwildlife.org. Click on the Hunting Tab at the top and Hunter Education in the middle of the page.