How to Sight in a Rifle for More Accurate and Precise Shots

Efficient hunting requires an equally as efficient hunting rifle to carry out the task. For novice hunters, using a hunting rifle may be an entirely new experience. That is why I, a fairly experienced rifle hunter, am sharing this tutorial with you: how to sight in a rifle, a very simple step-by-step technique that will get you zeroing in on your targets in no time.


Always remember that when sighting a target with a rifle, every shot won’t be a hundred percent accurate. Thus, as you traverse this hunting skill, do so with patience and perseverance. You won’t be a sharpshooter the first time (unless you are truly gifted) like most hunters, so be patient and learn as you go with this tutorial.

Materials You Will Need

Some of the basic supplies you may need are:

  • Padding for your shoulder to lessen the effect of kickback
  • Rifle rest (I recommend a commercially available rifle rest instead of improvised ones like sandbags, but if you don’t have one, a sandbag will do)
  • Ammunition
  • Screwdriver for scope adjustment
  • Binoculars (optional)
  • Practice targets
  • Collimator or laser boresighter
  • Pillows or blankets for added comfort
A rifle hunter

A rifle hunter - Photo credit:

How to Zero a Rifle

Step One: Set up your practice targets

For practice purposes, set up multiple targets 25 yards, 50 yards, and 100 yards away from your position.

As a beginner rifleman, it is probably best and less frustrating to aim at the 25 yards target at first. When you’ve zeroed in on the nearest distance, you can move on to further targets.

A rifle and pistol practice target

A rifle and pistol practice target - Photo credit:

Step Two: Set up your rifle

For bolt-actions and single-shot rifles, have your barrel and scope in rough alignment. This may be easily done with a collimator or boresighter. For bolt-action rifles, first remove the bolt, and for single-shot rifles, open the action.

Now, it is time to load a round in your chamber. Afterwards, assume a proper and comfortable position.

Aim your barrel to the target 25 yards away from you. Adjust the scope so that the image viewable in your scope is the same as what you see without it.

Adjust it further so that the crosshairs are zeroed in your practice target at 25 yards.

Before firing, close your eyes for at least 10 seconds and when you open them, see if the crosshairs shifted from the target.

A magnetic boresighter

A magnetic boresighter - Photo credit:

If the answer is yes, your muscles are too tensed and you will need to relax them enough so that the crosshairs will always be on the target.

After you’ve relaxed your forearm and sighted your target properly, fire one shot.

  • Pro Tip: Reducing as much human contact with your rifle directly reduces human error, and, in turn, increases accuracy. This can be done with a good rifle rest.
A rifle rest can help your aim’s accuracy

A rifle rest can help your aim’s accuracy - Photo credit:

Step Three: Assess your aim and adjust

With a pair of binoculars, look at the target and determine the accuracy of your aim. According to what you see, corresponding adjustments will need to be made. Follow the instructions indicated for your scope when adjusting increments.

Cleaning out a rifle

Cleaning out a rifle - Photo credit:

With a pair of binoculars, look at the target and determine the accuracy of your aim. According to what you see, corresponding adjustments will need to be made. Follow the instructions indicated for your scope when adjusting increments.

  • Note: After firing 20 shots, it’s time to clean out your rifle to make sure it doesn’t have an effect on your accuracy. It’s also best to let the barrel cool between each shot to make sure it doesn’t get too hot.
Cleaning out a rifle

Cleaning out a rifle - Photo credit:

Step Four: Fire at larger distances

Now that you’ve zeroed in on a short-distance target, it’s time to move on to further distances i.e. your 50 and 100 yards targets.

You know the drill by this point: get into a comfortable position (while minimizing human contact with your rifle), aim at your target, and adjust the scope so that your view is clear. Fire one shot at a time, allowing your barrel to cool down enough between each shot.

It may take a few tries, but eventually, your bullet will hit the center mark. However, a zero at 100 yards is only recommended for close-range targets as a zero 100 yard hit for longer range distances may be off-center.

Thus, for long distance shooting while hunting, practice zeroing in your scope at 200 yards. Or, you can practice with 100 yard targets but with aiming 2-5-3 inches above the center. Once you’ve got this mastered, you can shoot any target at both close and long ranges.

Firing at long range

Firing at long range - Photo credit:

Step Five: Make sure to maintain your zero while out at the field

It is important that you practice your zero while out actually hunting. Remember that the zero you make at your practice range is not the same as the zero on the actual field, and I recommend practicing it first before you get on with your hunting.

  • Pro Tip: Your rifle’s adjustment will hold constant for a long time, given that you have a good-quality scope, so make sure you don’t damage it while out hunting.
Hunting out in the field

Hunting out in the field - Photo credit:


There you have it! A very simple tutorial on how to sight in a rifle. It’s always important to remember that you won’t actually get anywhere without practice. As they say, practice makes perfect, and in this case, practice is essential to get that desired kill.

Remember that every rifle, bullet, and scope is different, and you won’t always get 100% accuracy while practicing. Thus, my tip is to master zeroing in targets with a constant rifle and load before you experiment with other types of rifles. In this way, you can zero in with whatever weapon you choose.

If you liked this article, tell me so in the comments below. Moreover, make sure to share this with all your novice hunter friends to help them out as well. Thanks for reading!

Captain Hunter

Captain Hunter provides guides on how to hunt effectively, answer reader questions, and reviews of the latest hunting gear. We specialize in providing expert information that does exactly what it claims. Our dedicated staff members are each seasoned professionals with a passion for hunting built upon years of in the field experience.

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