Tips for sighting in your rifle

image Rifle Deer Hunting is right around the corner!

Share your tips for sighting in rifles below! (Feel free to share pictures of your rifle as well!)

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My biggest tip is STOP CLEANING YOUR RIFLE!!!

Let’s say you are an annual hunter and before you hit the range pre-season you clean your rifle. You get to the range and get all snuggled in behind the rifle and squeeze off a prefect shot. It lands high and right. So you adjust your scope. It’s still high and right. You adjust again and you get pretty close to the center of what you are aiming at. A couple more shots and you start spraying the target, high, low, left, right.

Two things just happened. Your first round had oil in the bore as did your next few which upped the pressure of your round because fluids do not compress. In trying to get the gun “and yourself settled down” you over heated a hunting weight barrel and it started flinging rounds all over. The hotter steel gets the more ductile it becomes.

So you let it cool down and low and behold you are wayyy low and left. You go slow and get it back to the middle and figure you are good to go. So you take your rifle home and clean it. Now you are all set for opening morning. The day arrives and you are there and Mr. Buck shows up, you center up and send it. He hops straight up and his tail goes down. Hit. You spend the next 5 hours looking for the deer. If you are lucky enough to recover him, you find your shot high in the belly or high in the shoulders/neck (depending on which way he was facing).

Your cold bore shot is the most important shot right next to the last shot you took which will tell you where the next one will go IF you didn’t mess with the bore.




Always swab your bore dry after cleaning.

Personally if it won’t run dirty I won’t own it.

Even with my very expensive custom long range rifles one or two of them will ride in each truck most of the year getting dusty and dirty and I don’t worry about it because of the quality of the firearms I own.

Now a little bit of crazy… .

I will clean the snot out of them once a year with the exception being the super high velocity small bores like the .204 and .220 swift. Those you have to run as clean as possible to avoid excess throat erosion and barrel wear.

The rest, once thoroughly cleaned will get 3 "fouling shots’ fired through them so as to maintain consistency through the year.

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Use subsonic ammo, especially with rimfire rifles. As the bullet slows back down from supersonic, it’s own sound wave will disturb the bullet in flight.

? Very few people are going to be shooting at ranges where bullets hit the trans sonic range.

Even with the lowly .22LR that point isn’t reached for several hundred yards.

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I routinely shoot rifles, especially .22 at ranges this effect would occur. Within a few minutes drive from me, are 3 ranges that have some distance. The farthest being a 500 yard range. I know a lot of people can’t say they have that available, but, I still recommend sighting with the subsonic stuff. Since the question did it specify rimfire, or centerfire, I just added the 2 cents I have.


The big thing is to simply get to the range, and fire your hunting loads through the rifle that you plan to use. Try to stick to the same “Lot Number” if using factory loads, or the same recipe for handloads. Try to shoot in similar weather and temperature conditions if possible. Unless you plan on long range shots (300 yards and out), which I personally don’t agree with when hunting, getting dialed in at 100 yards will put you in a good place for deer hunting. Most modern hunting loads won’t change enough in point of impact out to 300 yards to really change your holdover or point of aim. Beyond that is another matter. Keep in mind too, that most deer are shot inside 200 yards, and many inside 100. It’s “hunting”, and not sniping nor long range precision competition.


@45IPAC I get where you are coming from on the .22 front and you are correct in that disturbance does occur in the transition zone of any boolit.

@Nathan While I respect your opinion for “ethical” hunting distances I will disagree with your assessment that boolit drop from a rifle zero’d at 100 yds is inconsequential at 300. A standard .308 with a 165 SBP doing 2700 FPS with a rifle zero’d at 100 will drop ~14.5" @ 300 yds.

Obviously lots of variables to be had in “modern hunting rifles” there in, caliber and cartridge.

IMHO if I had to zero a hunting rifle at a particular “yard line” distance it would be 200 yards given the above performance as it would only drop 8.5" at 300 and be +2.8" at 100. The other option of course is to hold or dial. For game animals I generally use the “half second rule” if it takes the boolit more than a half second to get there I am going to seriously evaluate the shot.

Yes I do “hunt” down in the bottoms at rock throwing distance but when it comes to putting meat in the freezer I will take my LRPC and other experience and hunt acrros the field at ranges up to and a fair bit beyond 300 yds. I regularly shoot a 30-06 with 210gr Bergers or 208 AMAX’s at a mile to good effect, both of which work very well on deer inside that range. I take great pains to ensure the round I put out is going to be a one shot “quick” stop, I have too much respect for the animal to not give it due regard.




@Craig6 - You are correct. I should have been more detailed when I said to get “dialed in” at 100 yards. Many people do not have access to ranges beyond 100 yards, so sighting in must be done with what is available. Getting sighted in at 100 yards does not mean zeroing on exact point of aim. Depending on the round, you will want the POI to be a few inches ABOVE POA at 100 yards. The bottom line is to plan around the conditions, distance, and load that you plan to hunt. As for needing a rifle capable of hitting a deer-sized target at a mile plus, if you feel the need to shoot across mountain valleys rather than stalk in closer, then I say good for you. The longest kill shot I have made was on a coyote at 400 yards or so. Where I live in Maine, that is a LONG shot. I doubt I will ever have to reach out further than that in my hunting career.


That would only make sense if you intend to shoot nothing but sub’s.

You should sight your rifle in with the ammo you intend to utilize in the field.

Not only is the vertical spread dramatically different with significant changes in velocity barrel harmonics can change dramatically with even slight changes in velocity or bullet weight and shape which will cause rounds to be thrown wildly in the horizontal plane as well.

Best single tip I can offer? Do your initial sighting in at 25yds instead of a hundred or more.

The savings in range time and ammo is dramatic.

If you’re on at 25 barring something seriously being wrong with your gun or optics only minor adjustments will be needed at 100 to get it exactly where you want it.

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Absolutely agree. Get the sights close, then fine tune with the ammo that will be used for that hunting/competition etc.

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25yds, is as you say, very acceptable for a BZO to get on at distance. I wouldn’t take a rifle w/ a 25yd zero on it out hunting with the possibility of shots much over 75yd as 16th’s of an inch have a profound effect down range.

As I mentioned I shoot a 30-06 at a mile (primarily because it is boringly accurate at 1K yds) and as such I’m kind of a ballistics hound on my long guns and even on some of my short guns that have the ability to go a long ways. I’m also a huge fan of FFP (First Focal Plane) Scopes and as part of my “normal” routine is to “hold” out to 1K either on yard lines or UKD (Unknown Distance). I don’t “hunt” at much over 300 yards but given the perfect opportunity I might consider something out to 500 but even then the boolit is in the air for just a bit too long for comfort.

All in all. Sight in for the range that you are most likely to encounter your critters but have the knowledge at hand should Mr. Big Buck step out on the far side of the field.



For a novice that’s probably good advice but beyond the novice level as long as you know the range and your drops it’s pretty academic.

I suggest 25yds just to save time and money.

If you’re on at 25 it takes minimal adjustments to get dead zeroed at 100-200yds which are the most common distances people zero at.

From there depending on the quality and type of optic a drop chart will get you “on” at any range you have data for.

We tend to dead zero for 200, have drop charts out to 1000 and a lot of solid ballistics data.

For long range shooting the gear gets much more involved and expensive.

You need to work up precision handloads with minimal extreme spreads in veocity, and have a load you can consistently shoot sub MOA with to even be reasonably competent and you’re much better off with sub .5 MOA consistency particularly for hunting beyond 600yds.

For the average hunter that will never shoot anything beyond 300yds life is a whole lot simpler.

Speaking of hunting, at my age there’s not a lot of firsts left. A few years ago I bought a Muzzle Loader for a NM Elk Hunt just in case I drew a tag for a very special hunt that unfortunately never materialized.

I was sorting some stuff out in the gun room over the weekend and pulled it out and decided “what the heck”, if you get something in ML range this year you ought to give it a try.

It’s a nice CVA long range inline ML that I bought in a package deal including the Leupold ML scope.

I spent months perfecting a load for it that would be accurate to 350 yards.

I settled on using a 325gr .45 cal sabot bullet (50 cal ML) pushed with 110gr BH209 which gives me a respectable 1980FPS.

With the big cold front blowing in today it was an absolutely miserable day outside and nothing moved till we were pretty well out of legal shooting light.

Just as I was going to pack up I picked up a nice 10pt (5x5) buck moving through some very heavy brush and picked a hole ahead of him and waiting for him to step in. Our broom weed is so tall this year I really had to guess on where his heart would be.

He was walking along at a slow, steady pace so I do the math in my head with distance, velocity, and drop, put it on the leading edge of his right shoulder (where I thought that point would be at least), gave it a gentle squeeze and sent it flying.

He hopped straight up in the air, disappeared into the brush and did not reappear so I was convinced I had a good hit.

Gave him 20 minutes and drove around to that side of the poperty and found him within about ten yards of where I figured he’d be down.

Not bad for a first timer!

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I’ve always used the 25 yd zero for rifles (36 yd for AR) and verified it at distance. You’re 100% correct on time and money for getting good hits. I usually make minimal adjustments at distance and for me personally I don’t feel like I’m “chasing” my zero when at closer distances.

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I’ve seen guys burn up a box or more of ammo just trying to get on paper at 100yds.

If you’re not on paper at .25 You need to start looking at very serious issues.

I made my own bore sight targets. I downloaded a ballistics calculator and set my zero for 36yds for an AR (25 for hunting) set my shooting distance for 3 yds. It told me the shot would be X distance low. I would then use those 1 inch circle sticker dots label one as POA (Point of Aim) the other POI(Point of Impact) I have a boresight laser round. Sight it in on paper with the laser and it’s always gotten me on paper.

Lasers can save you a whole lot of time and money for sure but the good one’s that will reach out to a hundred yards or more get awfully expensive.

Certainly nice to have if you have the budget especially if you’re buying factory ammo. Factory Ammo for many of my rifles can run as much as 75.00-125.00 for just 20 rounds.

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I got the cheap one. Just good enough to make dogs run into walls or bore sight a rifle at close distance.


I have an older Leupold prismatic bore sight that still gets the job done but it will only work with scoped rifles.