Adjusting Rifle Scopes for Range

Proper Position

New shooters will be spending a bit of time looking in their scope, setting their scope and then looking to reset some more. It is, therefore, important to be griping the rifle and looking through the scope properly. Grip the rifle by placing your primary hand (right hand for most) on the grip and your secondary hand forward on the stock. Place the rifle butt squarely into your shoulder. Tilt your head so you can look into the scope using the eye closest to it, and close the eye farthest from the scope. Always stay or return to this position.


A modern rifle scope in its case.

The elementary function of a scope is to combine a telescope with a gun sight, so the first adjustment will be for magnification. This is done by turning a simple knob to either raise or lower to the desired power. Experienced shooters will be able to guess the needed magnification without looking at the target, but novice shooters may need to adjust this a few times. What magnification to use depends on the distance to the target and the settings available to a particular scope, but a shooter should never need to strain to see the target.

Windage and Bullet Drop

Bullets do not travel in straight lines, especially over long range. Even a low breeze can blow a bullet off course, and bullets naturally drop over distance as they lose their momentum to the forces of drag and gravity. Most scopes come with two knobs for adjusting the scope horizontally for windage and vetically for bullet drop. These adjustments will usually be small, but are critical for exact long range shooting.