how to adjust rifle scope

How to Adjust a Rifle Scope: Detailed Beginner’s Guide 2024

If you have spent a lot of money on buying a rifle scope, you should about how to adjust the initial settings and leveling otherwise it is useless.

In this user supported guide, I am going to show you a comprehensive guide and easy steps to follow so that your spent money never let you disappointed.

If you are a beginner or pro shooter, problems never ends so I will provide solution about rifle scope adjustment, mounting, elevation angles and many other issues. So keep an attractive eye to my guide for understanding the solution.

Rifle Scope and Basic Terminology

Before any explanation, there is short introduction about the basic term so that you understand much better “how to adjust a rifle scope”.

Here I am going describe you the basic parts of a rifle scope from rear to front.

Ocular lens:

The lens near to your eye and help to see through, a basically ocular or eye piece lens. Some scopes contains protective cap and it is better to use for scope.

Also you can attach a rubber eye ergonomics for protection of your eye by the momentum produce during fire. Keep your eye ergonomics in a good condition.

Eyepiece Housing:

it is a part where ocular lens is placed. Often, it is adjustment focus of the ocular lens.

Focus Adjustment:

some scope have whole housing ocular housing as focus adjustment and some have just outer area as focus adjustment.

Magnification setting

next to ocular focus, there is a turning knob for magnification power of scope.

Main Scope Body:

there is long cylindrical body with a tube through which you can see and aim on target.

Turret System:

There is a top knob raised from the scope body use to adjust elevation angle and windage. It may be exposed and can be easily rotated until adjustment.


 The reticle or cross-hairs in the scope is used for aiming. The main function of cross-hairs is to adjust elevation and windage.

Parallax Adjustment/ Target Focus Knobs:

Normal scope has built-in system for parallax adjustment. It means to keep the image and the cross-hairs in the same focal plane.

On the base of the parallax adjustment scope can be categorized as “side parallax scopes” and “adjustable objective scope”.

Scopes with parallax knob protruding outside scope body for adjustment is known as side parallax or side focus scope. Generally it is available in higher end scope.

Objective lens:

This the front ends of a scope containing objective lens with a bigger diameter and facing to target. Always use objective lens cap as it used in the Night owl optics nightshot digital night vision scope.

Now you are familiar with the basic parts of a scope and can understand the terms used in this guide.

Adjustments While Mounting a Rifle Scope

As a beginner, we are well aware about using and mounting a scope. But you don’t need to worry, I will cover everything in this guide for your assistance.

Scope Height Adjustment:

To keep a perfect height for your eye is difficult proposition. You have to set the scope at a certain level where you can rest your face in front of ocular lens and you feel easy to shoot with a comfortable position. It makes you calm and better target fixation.

This is the main thing you have to set for your precise shooting with accuracy. If you are shooting, when you hit the target multiple time at same point it’s a “precision”. On the other hand “accuracy” means hitting the target what you want to hit.

Eye Adjustment:

This is only happens when to set height of the scope in a comfortable zone of your eye keeping your cheeks at rest.

To adjust the height of the scope you can buy replacement mounting rings for your ups and downs of the scope. All in all you have to set your eye at a single point every time.

Now, you are thinking that you can move your head up?

Yes, you can but you will end up with a neck fatigue, may last for hours leaving you uncomfortable.

Forward and Rear Position of the Scope:

You can move the scope back and forth to adjust eye relief. A scope with magnification has eye relief and you can see the image clearly only at some specific distance from the ocular lens. This distance is refers as “eye relief”.

It is necessary to keep a specific eye relief while shooting because if you don’t maintain eye relief, image will be blurry or may disappear. It mostly happens with the beginners.

Why it is important?

If your scope is without the eye ergonomics, you may hurt your eye by recoil of the rifle. This is termed as “scope bite”.

Just follow these steps to improve your eye relief,

  • Loose the rings for scope adjustment
  • Laydown on flat surface and positioned you with scope placement on stable surface.
  • Move scope rear unless black ring appear in outside of scope view. And move forth unless black ring disappears.
  • Repeat these steps, until you get a whole field of view (FOV) with no black spots.

If you want to move the scope backwards beyond the limit of the black ring then you should by a Cantilever mount extension.

Leveling of the rifle scope:

Maintaining a balance or leveling is not an easy task. By leveling your scope you will adjust your windage and elevation angle, adjustments won’t go right and left and up and down they must be at specific angle.

With the BDC ladder, Hash marks and range finder all are useless until your scope leveled. For the adjustment or leveling I will recommended you first bubble level, if you can’t do with that then you should purchase “scope leveler Kit”. Here what I use,

It is very simple to use and time saving with no worry to you. Simply place it between flat spot under the turret system and the rails then you’re all set. Now I’m assuming that your scope get mount and leveled. Now move further to scope adjustment.

Ocular Focusing:

After all adjustment, there is a need to focus objective lens to get rid of blurry images. Sometimes, there is a situation when clear reticle is followed by blurry target and vice versa.

It is actually happens with new rifle shooters and mistakes are common among new users but you don’t need to worry. Let’s read it carefully.

If you’re a new shooter there is dire need to focus the objective lens once. It actually determines the sharpness of the reticle. You can adjust it by turning the housing around objective lens.

First you should crank the housing all one end which definitely makes your reticle blurry. Then turn it to other side until you can see a sharp image with no blurry focus. Further, move back and forth making more fine adjustment.

How to Adjust a Rifle Scope

Now I’m going to show you the best part about adjustment of rifle scope which many users find it difficult to adjust especially new rifle shooter or beginners. Let’s get started,

Zeroing adjustment of scope:

Zeroing the scope is necessary for hitting the target each time. It is the adjustment of the reticle as the center lines up exactly at the point where bullet is going to be hit.

Bullet doesn’t do straight but it move slightly curve making an arc simply called projectile motion if you are familiar with the term you can understand better.

There are two adjustments for zeroing your scope, when you are sighting in your scope you have to adjust each time when shooting.

  • Elevation
  • Windage

Here I’m not going to guide you about how to sight in a scope but you can read it more for your understanding.

Elevation Adjustment:

There is a Top knob for adjusting turret system. It move zero of your reticle with distance and weather condition. If you want to shoot long range shooting, you can dial in elevation and aim with center of your reticle.

You can turn the scope clockwise and counterclockwise for up and down adjustment. For each turn your scope count angular measurement, ¼ MOA adjustment corresponds to 1/4” per 100 yards.

If your scope is 0.25 MOA, it means with each adjustment click 0.25 inches increase in the direction of 100 yards.

No matter, what is the position of your shooting? Your point of impact should be met with the reticle. Raise the reticle up when you are shooting low and lower the reticle when shooting is too high, point of should be met.

This process is a tricky for beginners and shooters but hopefully until before reading this guide. Now elevation is explained in plain English, hope you can do it now.

Windage Adjustment:

The second most important parameter in a rifle scope adjustment is Windage Adjustment. A windage adjustment knob is present on the right side of the scope and turret system.

Windage is also has same ratio with each “click” as elevation adjustment. As elevation adjustment is done for different shooting distance, windage is not set by mostly shooters.

I will recommend adjusting the windage along with elevation adjustment. Experts don’t have adjust windage but simply feel it how much wind affect their shot.

Windage knob is turn forward and backward for windage adjustment. Reticle moves to the right by turning the knob forward and reticle moves left by turning the adjustment knob back towards you.

Shooting Adjustment

Until now, I’m assuming that you have adjusted your elevation and windage of your rifle scope. Now I’m moving towards parallax and magnification adjustment which mostly need to adjust while shooting.

Parallax Adjustment:

Some scopes comes with no parallax adjustment, they are set in by factory setting. These scopes won’t have any issue within that range.

You can adjust parallax while zeroing if not then you had to adjust parallax each time when changing the shooting range or distances.

When you move your head and reticle moves and not holds at the target then it is not properly recompense for the range. In many models like “VORTEX” parallax adjustment is present on the left side of the scope opposite to elevation and turret adjustment knobs.

In a rifle scope, if you brought your hand out by closing one eye then you’re blocking target view. So it’s better to move your eye instead of placing hand to avoid any disturbance in the view.

Actually if you put your hands then target area is blocked. By moving your eye, reticle will no longer able to block that area on the target. It is important to fix because it will throw off your shots.

Mostly scopes don’t have parallax which means they are set at 100 yards, there will be not parallax issue during aiming at 100 yards.  

Magnification Adjustment:

Magnification is adjusted both by magnification ring and rotating the whole housing part in which ocular lens is placed. In “night-force” scopes, housing must be rotated for the adjustment of magnification but some people don’t like it. Other scopes like “vortex”, there is a magnification ring for the adjustment of magnification.

It is seen that in some scope reticle may increase in size with ratio to target image and may remain same.

On the base of focal plane, scopes are of two types, First Focal Plane (FFP) and Second Focal Plane (SFF) respectively.

First Focal Plane: target image is adjusted with the reticle. It means you can use reticle numbering for magnification adjustment setting. The drawback of this setting is, your reticle may be too thick and too thin at long ranges. If you are fond of shooting at fairly large distances then buy a FFP rifle scope with higher cost to you.

Second Focal Plane: In SFP rifle scope target image is adjusted without changing the reticle size. If you have Mil or MOA marks on the reticle which are mostly corresponds to their actual size. If you change the power or reduce the setting, marks remain same but the image gets smaller. Which is a drawback and I don’t like it as many other shooters.

Reticle Illumination Adjustment:

If you have scope with illuminated reticle, then you can change the setting accordingly. In most rifle scopes like vortex diamondback, has reticle adjustment on the left side.

You can switch the colors between red and green colors, daylight and night time setting by adjusting the reticle illumination and brightness.

The Final Words:

Here I will provide the complete guide on “how to adjust rifle scope”. It is useless if you don’t know how to use it no matters how costly your equipment. Read this guide and learn as much as you can and adjust your scope to the next level. You can write us in comment if you face any problem further.

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