Gone Outdoors

How to Use a Rifle Scope

by Jerry Garner

Using a scope is an important part to aiming and shooting a rifle. While you can use traditional iron gun sights on a rifle, it is important to remember that rifles fire rounds at extremely high velocity. This means that the round is capable of traveling much further and using a scope will help you accurately aim at a target that is farther away than what you could shoot at with iron sights. Here is how to use a rifle scope.

How to Use a Rifle Scope

Set up your target at one end of the shooting range and take position at the opposite end of the range. The typical firing distance for shooting a rifle is 100 to 150 yards. You can certainly use a rifle scope to aim at targets that are farther away, but you will sacrifice accuracy and perhaps even miss the target all together. A good starting distance for most shooters is 100 yards.

Make sure that your line of fire is clear. There should be no one in the vicinity of the target area, or behind the target area. The sides of the line of fire should also be clear to prevent anyone from wandering into the shooting zone. Anyone present should be situated behind the shooter.

Take your shooting position. There are three basic shooting positions to choose from: Standing, Kneeling and Prone. Standing is, obviously, holding the rifle while standing up. Likewise, the kneeling position means that you use the rifle scope to take aim while kneeling. The prone position is a favorite of marksmen, and requires you to lay flat on your belly while using the scope to take aim. Once you are in your firing position, you are ready to calibrate your scope.

Line up your test shot by looking through the rifle scope. When you look through the scope, you will see a set of cross hairs. This is a vertical line and horizontal line that help you precisely identify the focal point of the scope. Where the two lines intersect in the middle of the scope marks the spot where the rifle is aimed. If the scope is calibrated, whatever is in this position of the cross hairs should be the point of impact for the round fired from the rifle.

Line up your shot so that the center of the target is in the cross hairs of the rifle scope and fire a test round to determine where the point of impact is. If the round hits the target too high or too low, use the elevation adjustment on the top of the scope. If the round hits too far to the left or right, use the windage adjustment located on the side of the rifle scope (usually the right side).

Make your initial adjustments and fire another test round. You should now be right on target. This means that your rifle scope is calibrated for that shooting distance, also known as being zeroed (as in "zero in"). You may also fire at targets farther away, but you will lose accuracy as the round travels farther away. If you attempt to shoot something 500 yards away, for example, your round will be off by a couple of inches and the scope will need to be re-calibrated if you want a precision hit.

Items you will need
  • A Rifle With a Scope Mounted
  • Ammunition
  • Target
  • Safe Area to Fire the Weapon


  • Although hunting and target shooting can be a fun recreational activity, it is important to remember that a rifle is a deadly weapon. As such, you should only use a rifle and scope if you have experience, or are under the supervision of someone with experience.

About the Author

Jerry Garner has been writing semi-professionally for more than 15 years. The body of Garner's work includes informative articles, news and current events and historical essays. He is an avid sports fan and frequently writes about outdoor activities online.

Photo Credits

  • Andrew Magill ; http://www.flickr.com/photos/amagill/1025919868/