Setting Up Your First Long Range Scope

Long range shooting requires a great deal of accuracy and with the help of a riflescope, it’s possible to hit targets dead on from a distance. But even then, you’ll still need to hone your shooting skills by practicing and learning how to calculate sight adjustments for long shots. Any experienced shooter will tell that taking shots from long range involves more than just mounting a scope. Setting up your first long range scope also requires you to zero it, test for vertical symmetry, verify click values, and account for bullet drop.

With all that in mind, the following post will explain this process to help you land your long shots accurately when in the field.

long range scope


How to Zero Your Scope
Zeroing a riflescope is the process of adjusting your sights to enable you hit dead center at your point of aim from a given distance. Before starting the zeroing process, you’ll first need to focus your reticle by turning the eyepiece on your scope anti-clockwise until it reaches the upper adjustment limit. From there, point your rifle to the sky and look through the scope. The reticle should appear fuzzy at this point of time since it’s completely out of focus. Next, rotate the eyepiece or turn it ¼ way clockwise continuously and stop when the reticle appears sharp and crisp. You’re now ready to start the zeroing process. Just remember that it’s always best to zero high power rifles at 100yards or 100m. The reason for this is that the shorter the range, the fewer external variables that will affect your point of impact (POI).

You can eliminate shooter error by choosing to use a rifle rest. Ideally, a calm day would be best to go long-range shooting as this will reduce external variables that affect bullet path. In addition, make sure to bring along enough ammunition plus earplugs for noise protection.

To begin zeroing your scope, place a target at a predetermined distance, say 100 yards, and then get into position. If you’re using a bolt-action rifle, just remove the bolt and aim at your target while looking through the barrel. A good sight picture will appear when the breach and muzzle circle become concentric, allowing you to see the target centered squarely in the muzzle hole. If you cannot remove the bolt on your rifle, use a bore sight instead or align your sights at a shorter range such as 25yards.

Once you’ve aligned your sights, keep the scope steady and then make adjustments with the turrets to position the crosshair in the middle of the target. To establish your zero from 100yards, follow this simple method:

  1. With the reticle centered on the target, fire your first shot. The bullet should hit somewhere in the target area.
  2. Adjust the scope’s turrets until the reticle covers the hole of your first shot.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to record your fist group of 3 shots. It’s paramount to keep the rifle steady throughout this process.
  4. Your shots should form a group very close to the aimed point. All you have to do at this point is adjust the scope’s turret to position the crosshairs on the center of the group and your scope will be zeroed.

After zeroing your scope, reset the turrets. Resetting simply involves loosening the turret screws to allow the turret caps to rotate so that you can position the zero mark on the scope’s tube.

Testing Vertical Scope Symmetry and Verifying Click Value
If you want to get the best results from your long-range rifle system, it’s important to test scope vertical symmetry and verify click values. These parameters are both important when it comes to compensating for bullet drop and hence they should both be on point.

To verify vertical scope symmetry, first get a paper target that’s at least 50inches tall. Draw a vertical line along its entire height then add two 1-inch dots along the vertical line. The first dot should be 5 inches from the bottom while the other one spaced out 42 inches from the first dot and near top of the vertical line. After the paper target is ready, set it 100yards away to start shooting.

While keeping the scope reticle parallel to the vertical line, shoot at the bottom dot to verify the scope’s zero. Next, dial up to 40MOA on the elevation turret and fire three rounds while still aiming at the dot on the bottom and keeping the vertical crosshair parallel to the vertical line on the target.

If your click values are true and the scope is mounted perpendicularly, your shots should be centered along the vertical line and the mark you put at 42inches. Otherwise, you’ll have to adjust scope symmetry by rotating it clockwise or anti-clockwise if the group falls to the right or left respectively.

After obtaining a perfect vertical alignment, your rifle is finally ready for long range shooting. All that’s left to do is verify click values. To do this, simply measure the actual distance from each dot to the center of the group and use it as a reference for your true click value. Once you have this measurement, you just need to divide that distance for the number of clicks you dialed.

To find out how many click values you need to dial in order to compensate for bullet drop at distances longer than 100yards, simply use a ballistics calculator. For instance, the JBM Ballistics Calculator can generate a ballistics table for your particular shooting conditions. However, to generate a ballistics table, you need to use the following details:

  • Bullet weight
  • Caliber size
  • Bullet make
  • Ballistic coefficient

These details can be easily found on the ammo pack, so you don’t have to do any guesswork. Once fed into the online ballistics calculator, the software will generate tabulated data that can be used to calculate sight adjustments need to shoot at distances different from the zero range.

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