How to Adjust Iron Sights for a Rifle

••• target image by hans slegers from

Explore America's Campgrounds

To shoot accurately you need to set the windage and altitude on your rifle sights. These settings will change depending on the terrain and weather conditions. All of your adjustments will be made to the rear sight, as the front iron sight is fixed.

Items you will need

  • Target

  • Brass drift

  • Small hammer

  • Field notebook

Set up your target and fire a minimum of three shots. Retrieve your target and examine the grouping. Decide how much you need to adjust your iron sights to the left or right (windage), and whether you need to raise or lower the sighting (elevation).

Unload your weapon. If your rifle uses an ammunition magazine, check that there are no rounds in the chamber before continuing.

Adjust the windage on your rear sight. Some rifles will have a knob on the left side of the sight that you can turn to move the sight to the left or right. Some rifles will require that you use a brass drift and hammer to adjust the windage. A drift is similar to a pinch or chisel; place the tapered part on the bottom of the sight piece and tap it with a hammer in the direction you want it to move.

Adjust the elevation on your rear sight. Use your brass drift and hammer again, this time place the tapered end against the front or back of the sight base (right above where it sits in the sight channel). Tap the drift with the hammer to move the sight back toward the stock (lower the elevation) or toward the front sight (raise the elevation).

Reload your rifle and shoot another grouping at a new target. Check the grouping to see if any additional adjustments need to be made.


  • Do not use a drift made out of any other material then brass. Other metals will score the barrel or mark the sight and potentially damage your weapon.


  • Keep a field notebook with you when you shoot. Track the wind direction and wind speed and note the changes you have to make to your windage and elevation. As you learn how your rifle behaves in different winds, check the weather before you leave the house and make quick and accurate adjustments to your iron sights.