How to Adjust a Rifle Scope Correctly – 3 Easy Steps

Scopes are very popular and important tools for your rifle. Whether you’re practicing at the range, or out in the forest hunting, they can make hitting your target much easier.

Knowing how to adjust a rifle scope is a must. It does not do any good to have a scope on your rifle if it is not set up the right way.

When you are adjusting a rifle scope you need to make sure to adjust for elevation, windage, and parallax.

If you do not know how to adjust a rifle scope, here are three easy ways to adjust your scope.  

How to Adjust a Rifle Scope Correctly

Step 1: Adjust For Elevation

The first thing you need to learn how to do is how to adjust a rifle scope up and down. When you are adjusting a rifle scope up and down, you are adjusting for elevation.

Elevation refers to moving the impact of the bullet on your target up or down. When you adjust your scope for elevation you adjust where your bullet is going to hit your target vertically.

In order to adjust for elevation you will want to use your scope to shoot at a target. You will want to shoot three to five times to get a good idea where your bullet is landing. If you are consistent in hitting above or below your intended target you will need to adjust the elevation turret.

Once you adjust your elevation turret, you will want to shoot three to five more times, until you are consistent in hitting your intended target.

On your elevation turret there will be numbers. You will want to record what number your turret is clicked to when you feel it is at the right elevation. Remembering this number will  make it easier for you to adjust for elevation at the same distance, at another time.

Scope adjustments are measured in MOA’s, or Minute of Angle increments. The numbers and dashes on your turrets represent MOA increments.

Note: Each scope is different and will come with an owner’s manual. The owner’s manual may have further, more in-depth descriptions on how to be more precise in your adjustments for elevation. Be sure to check your manual before making adjustments.

Step 2:  Adjust for Windage

As adjusting for elevation is important with a rifle scope, so is adjusting for windage. When you are adjusting a rifle scope to the right or left, you are adjusting for windage.

Windage refers to moving the impact of the bullet on your target right or left. When you adjust your scope for windage you adjust where your bullet is going to hit your target horizontally.

Adjusting for windage is almost exactly like adjusting for elevation. You will want to shoot at your target three to five times to see where your bullet is landing in relation to the target. If you are hitting to the left or the right of your target your will want to adjust the windage turret until you are hitting where you want to be.

Remember, like with elevation, to record the MOA on your windage turret for later use. Recording this number will make adjusting your scope a lot easier in the future.

Note: Like with elevation, your owner’s manual may offer recommendations for adjusting for windage. Be sure to check it out to ensure optimal adjustment.

Step 3: Adjust for Parallax

Adjusting for parallax is a little different than adjusting for elevation and windage on a rifle scope. In fact, not all scopes need to be adjusted for parallax.

First let’s talk about what parallax is. Parallax refers to the movement of the crosshairs on your scope when you move your eyes or head in a different position. It’s that “swimming” motion you may get when looking into your scope. This usually happens when what you are looking at is not in focus or not on the same optical plane as the scope reticle.

You most likely will need to adjust for Parallax when you are using a high end scope. Some scopes will not have a way for you to adjust for parallax. At certain distances these scopes are parallax free. If you are using a scope with less than 10x magnification you will not need to adjust for parallax. It is usually when you are above 10x magnification that adjustments need to be made.

To adjust for parallax you will need to first focus your eyepiece on your scope. If your eyepiece is not focused to you, than adjusting your parallax is not going to happen. Once your scope is focused for your eyes, you are ready to adjust for Parallax:

  1. Set up a target 100 yards away
  2. Adjust your parallax ring for the distance your target is at
  3. Look through the scope with your aiming eye and adjust your rifle position so the cross-hairs of your scope are centered on your target
  4. Move your eyes all over the place; up and down, and left to right. You want to look to see if the cross-hairs  moves across your target when you do this
  5. Adjust your parallax ring slightly if the cross-hairs do move, or “swim”
  6. Repeat your eye movement, looking for cross-hair movement.
  7. Once the cross-hairs no longer are moving, you have adjusted your parallax for that distance.

Note: Like with elevation and windage, you will want to record the position of your parallax ring. This will make adjusting your scope in the future easier and quicker.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to adjust a rifle scope, using your scope will be much easier and effective. Adjusting your rifle scope for windage, elevation, and parallax will make night and day difference when it comes to shooting your rifle. Reading your owner’s manual and following these three steps will make adjusting your rifle scope for hunting or target practice quick and easy.

Gary Fretwell is a 33-year-old die hard hunter and blogger from Wyoming. After serving in Iraq, he finished school to become an Asset Protection Officer and currently is learning to be a tracker to help hunters like himself find big game!