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How to Sight your Gun or Rifle


Sighting your rifleNothing is more frustrating than attempting to use an improperly sighted firearm. Some people assume their firearm is sighted from the factory, most are not. Learn how to do it yourself. It is not as difficult or time consuming as you might think, and your trips to the range will be much more enjoyable.

This article is written assuming that you have rear adjustable sights on your pistol. However if your fixed sight is inserted into a dovetail notch, it can still be adjusted for windage (left or right) using a sight adjustment tool or a brass drift kit and the method below.

First thing is first, lets get the obvious out of the way. Inspect the firearm to make sure it is assembled correctly and will function properly. Make sure it is properly lubricated where lubrication should be. Make sure you are using the proper ammo. The caliber should be clearly marked on the barrel.

Step 1:
If you are using a brand new firearm, do not move anything, just put some lead downrange. In a pistol I usually put at least 50 to 75 rounds through the pipe before making any adjustment to the sights. A bolt action rifle, I will usually put about 10 to 15 rounds through the pipe prior to sighting. Be sure you are using decent ammo and that it functions perfectly.

Step 2:
Paper targets a solid rest or sandbags will work best for sighting. For now you should start out at close range. The Army uses 27 yards or 25 meters which is the Army initial zero target standard. Because of the bullets trajectory, if you Zero at 25 meters, you will also be Zero at 300 meters. Personally, I prefer the 50/200 yard zero. I find this is the most useful trajectory for my type of shooting. This Zero setting puts me on target @50 yards, about 1.5 inches high @100 yards and zero (+/-) @200 yards. So that being my preference, I start at 50 yards. For pistols we start @10 yards.

Using your solid rest and best sniper skills, try to minimize human contact with a rifle. For pistols I use a flat table and a low chair. I place my dominant arm (trigger finger arm) flat against the table, thumbs forward using a target grip. Again the arm flat on the table helps to minimize unwanted movement. Shoot about 3 to 5 rounds at the bullseye and have a look at the grouping. Whether on or off the bullseye, the group should be pretty tight. If not, you need to put more ammo through the gun, you are flinching, or your rest sucks. Determine the cause and make necessary corrections.

Step 3:
Now that we have achieved tight grouping we can begin to adjust the sights. For pistols this is easy. Using the screws on the top and side of the sight, move the rear sight in the direction you want the bullet to go. For example, if you are shooting low, raise the rear sight (on top) to bring the bullet up. If you are shooting to the right, move the rear sight to the left (on side) to bring the bullet to the left.

For rifle or a scope, this will be no different. Adjust the cross-hairs in the direction you want the bullet to go. If you want the bullet hit higher on the paper, adjust the elevation turret (on top) to the direction that say up. If you want the bullet to move right, adjust the windage turret (on side) in the direction that says right. Repeat until you achieve acceptable results. Don't obsess just yet, we will be adjusting again.

Step 4:
Now that we can actually hit a target, shoot and shoot some more. We need to exceeded the manufacturers break in recommendation. For most pistols 200 rounds will do however, some manufacturers are extreme and want 500. Bolt action rifles usually require anywhere from 30 to 100. If you do not know what your manufacturer recommends, read your manual. Proper and complete break in procedure will be found there.

Step 5:
Now that firearm is good and broken in, we can Zero the firearm for what ever distance you see fit. This is done by moving the target out to the desired distance of Zero and repeating step 3 above. Your sight preference may differ from mine and that's okay, but for reference, my sight preferences are as follows.

For my pistols, I like a 25 yard zero. Most pistols will shoot pretty flat out to about30 - 35 yards so this seems to work well for me. I would now move my target to 25 yards and adjust my sights accordingly.

When sighting a scoped rifle, I will now move the target out to 200 yards and turn turrets till zero. With a non-magnified Red Dot that can be difficult. So when Zeroing a Red Dot optic I simply re-check the sights @50 yards and call it good. In theory it is the same thing, the 50 yard zero will meet the 200 yard zero, just easier to accomplish without magnification.

There are many excellent charts and calculators that can be found online to help you choose a zero that works for you. I have listed a few of them below.

Shoot safely, have fun.



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