How to Adjust for Windage on Rear Rifle Sight

by Stanley Goff
Windage means lateral adjustment of the point-of-aim.

Windage means lateral adjustment of the point-of-aim.

In shooters' language, windage means lateral, or horizontal, adjustment of the point where a properly-aimed, properly-fired shot impacts the target. Vertical adjustments are called "elevation" adjustments. If your properly aimed and fired round hits two inches to the right and thee inches up from a bullseye, then your adjustments will be two-inches left for windage and thee-inches down for elevation. Most, but not all, rifles with "iron sights" (as opposed to telescopic sights ) use the rear sight to adjust for windage.

Read the instruction manual for your rifle to determine the proper method for adjusting the rear sight. Many have windage knobs that you twist to shift the rear sight right and left. Some are tongue-and-groove, and you adjust them by tapping them right or left. Some adjust with a screwdriver. Some military peep-sights are adjusted with a rotating wheel, turned with the tip of a bullet. Rear sight adjustment corresponds to the strike of the round; that is, moving the sight to the left will cause the round to impact further left.

Place the target 50 yards away from your sandbag or rifle support, on flat ground, ensuring a safe zone or backstop for the rounds you fire. Assume a strong, stable, prone firing position, and rest the rifle on the sandbag for added stability. Fire three, slow, careful shots, aligning the sights exactly on the bullseye.

Check the three-round grouping on the target. Draw a line connecting the three bullet holes, and a small circle around each. If your three-round group is more than three inches across, repeat the procedure until you get a valid (less than 3") group. Marking each group prevents confusion if you have to fire several volleys to get a valid group.

Estimate the lateral distance from the center of the group to the center line of the target along the bullseye. For windage adjustments you are not worried about how far above or below the bullseye line the rounds impact, only the lateral distance. Using the appropriate method, adjust the rear sight right if you need to move the impact right and left if you need to move the impact left. If your rear sight "clicks" with each adjustment, count the clicks. Make a minor adjustment at first.

Fire another three-round group. Compare the changed impact point to the adjustments you made on the rear sight. For example, if you adjusted three clicks right, and that moved your point of impact 1 ½ inches right, then you can estimate that each click will correspond to a half-inch change in point of impact. Repeat this process until your rounds are impacting along the vertical centerline of the bullseye. This completes your windage adjustment.

Items you will need

  • Rifle
  • Ammunition
  • Target stand
  • Paper target with bullseye
  • Notepad and pen
  • Sandbag or rifle support


  • Always consult a users manual, or find one online before you begin making sight adjustments on an unfamiliar rifle.


  • Never set up a firing range, even an expedient one, without first identifying a backstop, like a hill, and always check to make sure on one can walk through the bullets' impact area. High-powered rifles are dangerous for miles along the line of fire. Always remember that you lose control over the round the instant the hammer falls.

About the Author

Stanley Goff began writing in 1995. He has published four books: "Hideous Dream," "Full Spectrum Disorder," "Sex & War" and "Energy War," as well as articles, commentary and monographs online. Goff has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of the State of New York.

Photo Credits

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