Once you’ve mounted your scope onto your air rifle, you need to sight in or zero in your scope before going out to the field to shoot it or use it for hunting. In this guide, we go through the basics of how to sight an air rifle scope.
The reason you need to sight in your scope is that after it is mounted, your scope and your gun’s barrel aren’t synced in yet. You need to zero in your scope so that your rifle will hit what where the crosshairs of your rifle is aiming at.
Note that there are many ways of how to sight an air rifle scope and this is just one method. There is no wrong or right method as long as you get the rifle zeroed in correctly, meaning the pellet hits where your scope’s crosshair is targeting.
What You Need For Sighting In An Air Rifle Scope
- Your air rifle
- A mounted scope
- A Bore Sight
- Spotting Scope
- Gun Rest
- Gun Vise
- Target with ample backstop
- Rifle rest / stand, or tightly rolled up towels (anything to keep the rifle set in place)
- Your rifle’s owners manual
- Your scope’s owners manual
We have many tools for sale to help a shooter bore sight his/her rifle. These are instructions to
bore sight a bolt action rifle by removing the bolt, AKA “The Old Fashioned Way.”
- Place a target about 50 feet away
- Take the bolt out of the chamber
- Look through the bore and find the target on the wall
- Preferably on a gun vise, move the gun up and down to center the target
- Look through the rifle scope, the scope needs to center on the target as well
- Adjust the windage with the windage screws
- Adjust the elevation with the turret knobs
- Make the proper adjustments until the target is centered in the rifle scope
- Double check your bore to make sure the target is still center
- Reinsert the bolt and head out to the field
How To Sight An Air Rifle Scope
Now that you have all the tools prepared, we go through the steps of hot to zero in an air rifle scope.
Before we can sight your air rifle’s scope, you’ll need to set yourself in a position where you can place your rifle on a steady base. This will let you place down the rifle positioned in the same place each time (between cocking and loading the pellets). This will let you compare your shots from a consistent position making it easier to zero in the rifle.
If you have a rifle rest, you may use this. Otherwise you can use a makeshift stand by rolling up a towel or two firmly and resting your rifle on the towels.
Next make sure that you have a safe shooting area. This means the space behind your target, between you and the target as well as to the sides of the target are clear.
1. First, set yourself up 10 yards from the target. We begin at a close range which makes it easier to sight in.
2. If your scope has an AO (adjustable objective), adjust it so the view from through the scope becomes clear at 10 yards.
3. If you’re using a variable scope, set your scope to the maximum magnification setting. Variable scopes are easily distinguishes because their specifications looks something like this 3-9×40, where the 3-9 is the magnification. There can be other numbers but the first is the minimum while the last number is the highest magnification.
4. Next you want to adjust your eyepiece so that your view through the scope is as sharp as possible.
5. Remove the caps from the windage and elevation knobs (located on the top and side of your scope). You’ll be using these knobs to adjust the horizontal and vertical alignment of the scope throughout the sighting in process.
6. Once you’re ready, load the rifle, aim at the target and shoot.
7. Don’t worry if the pellet does not hit the target. Often the pellet will hit lower than the expected target at first, which is the natural trajectory of air rifles. This is why you need to zero in your rifle before going outside to shoot.
8. Once you’ve taken note of where the pellet hit, reload your airgun and set it back in the exact position you fired the previous shot. This is the reason why we wanted to have a steady stand (or used the towels).
9. When your rifle is set, look through the scope. Now instead of your scope aiming at the original target, you want the center of your crosshairs to aim at where your pellet just hit. Do this by adjusting the horizontal and vertical alignment of the scope using the windage and elevation turrets (see below). Remember not the move the rifle from its original position.
10. Once you’ve moved the scope so it aims at where the pellet hit. Reposition your rifle so it now aims at the original target (not the pellet anymore). Doing it this way we are effectively aligning the scope with the barrel by first before setting it to aim at our intended target.
11. As mentioned earlier this is one way. There are other methods but this is simple, effective and easy to follow.
12. When you’ve positioned your rifle to the original target, aim and fire.
13. If you hit the target, then you’ve successfully sighted in your air rifle at 10 yards. If not, repeat steps 8 through 12 until the pellet hits the original target.
14. When you’ve gotten the rifle zeroed in at 10 yards. It is time to move further. Ideally, you want to move to the distance where you expect to do most of your shooting. For air gunners, a good distance would be 25 or 30 yards. Then repeat the sighting in process here.
- Aim at the bullseye and shoot your first shot
- If it lands on the bullseye, grab your hunting gear and go get’em. If not, read further.
You will need to adjust the windage and elevation so that your cross hairs will center at the point of impact.
- Remember, you are at 25 yards out so one click will move the crosshair 1/16 of an inch. If you are shooting low, adjust up; if you are shooting left adjust right, and vice versa.
- If the point of impact is 3 inches high and 2 inches to the left of the bullseye, you would make the following adjustments: 48 clicks in the down position and 32 clicks in the right position. Your crosshairs should now be centered at the original point of impact.
- Squeeze off one more shot at the bullseye, the point of impact should be within an inch of the bullseye. Repeat this step if needed, however if by the 4 shot you don’t see improvement, you may have to remount your scope.
- Fire three rounds at the 100 yard target, waiting for the chamber to cool within shots.
- Using a spotting scope, look at the 3 points of impact. The three bullet holes should be within a 3 inch or smaller circle. If this is the case, you are ready for the hunt!
How to Adjust Your Scope’s Windage and Elevation
Part of how to sight an air rifle scope has to do with learning how to operate your riflescope. This means understanding how to adjust the horizontal and vertical of the scope.
If set up correctly, at the top of your scope is a knob, this is the elevation turret. You can turn this to adjust the vertical alignment of your scope. Often, it will be marked by an arrow and a capital letter “U”. This tells you turning the knob in that direction moves the scope’s aim upwards.
At the side of the scope is the windage knob. This works the same way as the elevation knob except it moves the scope’s aim left and right. It also has markings and arrows, telling you “R” for right and “L” for left, so you know which direction to turn it to, to move the scope left or right.
Each time you turn these knobs in a direction you’ll hear a clicking sound.
Finally there will be another label on the knob, which is called the minute of angle. While the L, R and U tell you the direction, the minute of angle tells you how much each click will move your aim.
The knobs are often labeled something like: 1 CLICK = 1/4” YDS
This means you scope has ¼ minute clicks.
More importantly, this tells you that for each click you hear your are effectively adjusting where the scope aims. In this case a click will move where the pellet hits by 1/4” at 100 yards in the direction you turn.
Since most air rifles are shooting closer than 100 yards, you’ll have to scale the amount. Using the same example, if we shoot at 50 yards, then each click now moves the pellet 1/8” since we are half the distance. At 25 yards, each click translates to 1/16” move in your aim.
Different scopes will give you different figures, some for example 1/2” YDS.
One way to avoid having to compute a lot of numbers is to use an estimate the number of clicks and just adjust after each shot, using smaller adjustments as you get closer to your target. This is much simpler specially at very close ranges where you need a lot of clicks just to move the pellet an inch to any direction.
Ideally, once you’ve properly zeroed in your scope, you should be able to hit groups of an inch (shots hit close enough together they can be covered by a circle that’s 1 inch in diameter) at 30 yards. Of course this takes into consideration that you’ve gotten used to the rifle, have a good hold, breathe properly and have good enough technique.
So now you’ve gotten your air rifle sighted, it is time to go out an practice.