Tips for zeroing an optic on your rifle

I’m not sure about you, but I’m pretty thrifty. The thought of burning up boxes of high-priced ammunition while zeroing an optic on a rifle doesn’t sound like a good time. Lucky for me, I got some help from my husband, Chris, and it took just a small amount of ammo and a little bit of time.



She Shoots 2 is sponsored by Vertx.


When I acquired my new 3-Gun AR15 from DoubleStar, I topped it with my old 1- to 4-power optic, because it works great and I’m used to using it. The AR has a 16-inch barrel and is almost considered a rifle, but I’ll call it a carbine. Although, sighting in this new optic/rifle combo seemed like a daunting task, it turned out to be a great learning experience. With help from Chris, I learned various tricks and shortcuts that he has acquired throughout the years. Make sure your firearm is unloaded before you begin this process.


Bore sighting

Bore sighting is something I’ve heard of before, but never really understood. Bore sighting is just that, sighting through the bore. To do this task, I had to separate the upper and lower receivers and take out the bolt carrier group. This gave me the ability to look down the bore of the carbine from the breech end.

I placed the upper receiver on the shooting bench, pointed at a target 100 yards downrange. The target we used is based on an NRA rifle zero target that Chris created. It has a black diamond in the center and is covered with half-inch squares. Using sandbags and a Maxbox gun rest, I locked the upper in place, and removed the scope turret caps.

Looking through the barrel downrange at the target, I placed the target in the center of the bore. This was a little tricky because I had to make sure what I saw lined up symmetrically as I looked through the barrel. When I was sure the bore and target aligned, Chris placed more sandbags around the upper to hold it in place.


bore_sighting Michelle Cerino

Michelle bore sights her rifle. (Chris Cerino photo)


With the target centered in the bore, I then looked through the scope to see where the crosshairs fell in relation to the target. Chris and I both verified, because I needed to make sure that I saw everything the correct way. Although the following steps are easier with 2 people, it can be done alone if necessary. I highly suggest you have employ the help of someone else, if possible.

I alternated looking through the bore and the scope while Chris rotated the turret knobs to move the crosshairs to the center of the target. It is important to understand that when you are bringing the crosshairs to the bore, rather than the bore to the crosshairs, the turret knobs need to be turned in the opposite direction. Meaning that if the turret says to turn clockwise for up or right, you will need to turn them the opposite direction to move the crosshairs up or right.

With only a couple cranks of the turret knobs, and after Chris verified that I was on target, I put my carbine back together.


Turrets Michelle Cerino

(Chris Cerino photo)


Shooting the rifle

I felt skeptical as to whether or not I would even be close to the 8.5-by-11 target with my first shot. After firing the first shot, I spotted the bullet hole about 4-inches high and 3-inches right of the bullseye. Impressive! After firing once more, I confirmed that my shots were, indeed, high and right.

Using the directions on the turrets, I made adjustments. The turrets indicated that 1 click is equal to ½-inch at 100 yards. With that information I calculated that I needed to come down 8 clicks and left 6 clicks. The directions on the knobs are for moving bullet impact, and since I was moving the bullet now (unlike in the previous step) I followed them precisely.

Using a target with exact measurements proved useful. My next shot hit just a little high of the bullseye. Actually only about ½-inch. I fired once more to confirm that my aim was true, and got the same result. Mission complete. A 100-yard zero in 4 shots!


Zeroing an optic Michelle Cerino

(Chris Cerino photo)


Saving time and money isn’t hard when zeroing your rifle. If you have some knowledge of the process, and a second set of hands and eyes to help get the job done, it isn’t difficult. I learned a lot from Chris that day, and feel confident that I could repeat this procedure in the future when necessary.


What about you? Do you have any tips for zeroing a new optic on your rifle?

  • About Michelle Cerino

    Michelle Cerino, aka Princess Gunslinger, first entered the firearms industry in 2011 as co-owner, president and trainer at a national training company. She immediately began competing in both 3-Gun and NRA Action Pistol, becoming a sponsored shooter. Michelle is currently a columnist and Managing Editor of Women’s Outdoor News, as well as owner of Pervenio LLC. She also manages social media for Vera Koo and GTM Original. Michelle encourages others to step out of the comforts of home and explore.


The Conversation

  • Christy Christiansen says: July 14, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Thanks for all of your great articles and helpful hints. I have been using a lot of information from your website, including this one as tips for my classes. I host a women’s summer shooting series at the range I run in Nebraska. Each month we teach a different discipline Archery, Handguns, Rifles and Shotguns. This week we are focusing on centerfire rifles and this article will come in handy!
    Thanks for all you do in promoting women in the outdoors.
    See you out there!
    Christy Christiansen
    Outdoor Education Specialist
    Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

    • Barbara Baird says: July 21, 2014 at 10:01 am

      Why, thanks, Christy! We know of your good deeds and how you give 110% to the job, or more! You keep up your good works, too, and make sure to send us any press releases and photos and we’ll run ’em!

  • David Johnson says: July 9, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    Looks like you covered it pretty well. Anyone can zero a scope quickly if they learn to think in Inches, Minutes, and Clicks; whatever the range they take their first shots. I am a cat person, so I use cat litter bags for holding down rifles when adjusting scopes.