How to Sight in a Rifle with Only One Shot

*This post and video originally appeared on TheSticksOutfitters.com. Read the rest of the post here.

Bet you didn’t think it was possible to sight in a rifle scope with one shot.

We’ve all been there: in The Sticks or at the range with a new rifle and/or a new scope, wondering how many rounds you’re going to have to burn through just to get this scope ready for your next hunt.

Well, next time you’re sighting in your scope, why not only use one round to sight it in, then use the rest to have some fun or work on improving your shot?! That’s right, you’ll be able to sight in a brand new scope in as little as one shot.

comments

  1. avatar jwtaylor says:

    Cringe worthy

  2. avatar Joel IV says:

    You lost me as soon as I saw the barrel, instead of the stock, on the sandbag.

    1. avatar JohnnyIShootStuff says:

      Yep, the basics of barrel resonance is a mystery to that fake outdoorsmen.

      1. avatar Toni says:

        exactly what i thought. never rest on the barrel, always on the forestock. otherwise good information. i have used this method myself. to do it effectively you dont want to be moving the rifle at all even putting the bolt back in cos to do it you need to make sure the crosshairs are even on target with the original allignment. he forgot to mention that

  3. avatar Specialist38 says:

    I’ve done this.

    Works pretty well.

    I needed a gun vise to keep the rifle from moving, though.

    1. avatar Specialist38 says:

      We diidnt do the bore sight thingy.

      We shot at 100 on a large target board and then moved the wires.

      We said it was two-shot sight in.

      Close enough for deer at 100 yards.

  4. avatar Phil L. says:

    I’ve always been told rest the rifle’s forearm on the sandbag, never the barrel. The barrel has specific vibrations that occur during the shot; resting the barrel on the sandbag changes those vibration patterns – and the shot placement – in ways that won’t match typical rifle position when in the field.

    Am I the only one?

    1. avatar dwb says:

      Yes, resting on the barrel will produce different whip. One way is not necessarily right or wrong IMO. The goal should be to replicate field use. So if you shoot from a treestand, off a rail, resting on the barrel, sight in with that in mind. Be as consistent as possible with how you plan to actually shoot it. Very few people take deer from a bench rest.

      1. avatar jwtaylor says:

        Resting the barrel itself, and not the fore stock is definitely the wrong way to do it. For any consistency you would have to not only rest the barrel at the same place on your rest, but on the same material, and with the same amount of pressure. Even then you’re groups will be larger than if you had rested the fore stock instead of the barrel.

    2. avatar Klaus Von Schmitto says:

      No, you’re not.

  5. avatar dwb says:

    This method is making a number of HUGE assumptions: Scope is locked down tight, aligned properly (crosshairs are not always exactly square to rifle), and scope has enough clicks to center the shot. Its hard to know if these are all true until you have taken a few shots. On sandbags, its also very hard to keep the rifle perfectly still while you turn the knobs. For bore-sighting, I recommend a (cheap) laser, not eyeballing it.

    If you know all these are true, the rifle scope is locked down tight, this method works ok and I have used it to get pretty close. I have seen a lot of bad shooting though mainly caused by loose parts. You should still take a few more shots to be sure, and also see how it behaves when the barrel warms up.

    … and also what others have said about resting the barrel on the bags. You should sight in/ rest your rifle as you plan to use it in the field. hard surfaces, soft surfaces, resting on barrel, resting on stock, these combinations will all produce different aim points. The goal is to have as much consistency between the sight-in and field use as possible.

  6. avatar Dyspeptic Gunsmith says:

    Yea, well, OK, whatever. Never mind cold bore vs. fouled bore. Never mind the barrel on the sandbag.

    (sigh)

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Dyseptic Gunsmith,

      I have heard some people suggest that a well-oiled bore is a problem for accuracy/consistency — so much so that they recommend shooting a single round into the dirt the day before your hunt or target match.

      The only problem I have with that: does that mean you have a bore that is not adequately protected for rust for the duration of your hunting season?

      1. avatar SouthernPhantom says:

        Unless hunting at long ranges out west or culling varmints, shots on game are likely to be at a hundred yards on in. For these purposes, hitting a dinner plate at a hundred yards is all the accuracy needed. Remember that your forefathers put meat on the table with .32-20s, .44-40s, and even rimfires. Those cartridges, in the rifles for which they are most commonly chambered, are not sub-MOA shooters, nor are they excessively powerful, but they did the job then and still do now. Obsessing over accuracy in a hunting rifle is rather pointless – spend that time on improving your own skills instead. Remember, improving skills doesn’t sell equipment or magazine articles, which is why writers focus on the newest gadget to compensate for unskilled hunters and shooters.

        1. avatar michael says:

          amen! most people don’t practice enough to be a good shooter at 100 yards, let alone 300 yards.

          The shooting club I belong to did a “sight in for hunting day” with a free BBQ. Deer and elk hunters were asked to make a 300 and 500 yard shot. less than half could make the 300 yard shot and all of them consider themselves “good shooters”. only a few took a shot at the 500 yard targets….

          makes me laugh at how many people are all excited about 6.5 creedmoor and are running out to buy them yet they have no clue how to set up a rifle for that type of long distance shooting.

        2. avatar jwtaylor says:

          I don’t know where you are getting that. Maybe under 100 yards is it where you live, but even here in the Hill Country of Texas where most people shoot out of blinds at feeders, those feeders are usually set up at 100 yards. Most shots there are 100 to 150 yards. Anyone hunting fields or power line rows is likely hunting at the 100 to 300 yard mark, and that 300 yard mark is generally considered the standard “good enough” around here. The field I do most of my hunting at is 400 yards from my back porch. The back of the field is 500 yards away. Hence, most of my deer are taken between 400 and 500 yards. And that’s for deer. If you want to hunt sheep, 500 yards is considered the standard for reliably taking a ram in Texas.
          What is considered “long range” varies widely depending on location.

    2. avatar Geoff PR says:

      “Never mind cold bore vs. fouled bore.”

      For wintertime hunting in a freezing blind for hours, you don’t want to zero on the cold bore?

      I would think that would be applicable for snipers as well, holed up somewhere waiting for a target of opportunity.

      Or at the least, a rifle with not much of a difference between a cold vs fouled bore…

  7. avatar Larry says:

    I thought this method was pretty common knowledge .

  8. avatar Hoyden says:

    I like Larry’s method better-of course he’s got ALL the tools!

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mUNxR9RvZ5s

  9. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    My tip: sight-in your rifle at 50 yards rather than 100 yards, especially on breezy/windy days. This reduces inaccuracy due to multiple factors, especially wind drift which can easily be 1 inch or more at 100 yards depending on your bullet geometry, muzzle velocity, and wind speed. For example, in a cross wind of 10 m.p.h., a popular 150 grain .308 caliber bullet with muzzle velocity of 2840 fps will only drift 0.3 inches at 50 yards versus 0.9 inches at 100 yards. (And wind drift increases to 3.9 inches at 200 yards!)

    Bonus: visually bore sighting your rifle to a target at 50 yards means you are more likely to actually hit on paper!

    The down side to this method: you have to use a ballistic calculator to tell you where your bullet should impact at 50 yards. For example, if you want your rifle zeroed at 200 yards with the bullet/velocity that I specified above, ballistic calculators indicate that your bullet must impact the target 0.6 inches high at 50 yards. Thus, you need to know (or reverse engineer) your bullet’s ballistic coefficient and your scope height above your bore axis. And, you need to know to adjust your crosshairs (point of aim) to 0.6 inches below that bullet hole (point of impact) in your target.

    Also, you should probably take a shot at 100 or 200 yards to ensure that your numbers and ballistic calculator actually match with reality. This is a bit of a hassle since you have to set up twice: once at 50 yards and once at 100 or 200 yards.

    For me, this works the best. It requires a tiny bit more homework before you head out the range. In the end I think it is worth it.

    1. avatar RidgeRunner says:

      I’ve always sighted in at 50 yards. Mostly because that’s the shot you get most often in Tennessee hills and woods, or less. Most times i get it dead center and a couple inches high at 50 and call it ready for the season. And they almost always end up DRT, or close to it.

  10. avatar Shawn says:

    This process works very well. But it’s still a reach to really zero in 1 shot. Even in the video he took 2 shots. I’ve seen more people burn ammo by taking their 1st shots at 100 yards even when they use a fancy bore sighter. I always start my zeroing at 25 yards. I use the same method as the video describes to zero at that range. Then move out to 100 for final confirmation/tweaking.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      Shawn,

      I believe your method is excellent as well.

      Important note: all of these discussions/methods assume that you already know that your particular rifle and ammunition combination shoots tight groups. If you have no idea whether your combination shoots tight groups, you had better send at least 5 shots at 100 or 200 yards to be sure.

      And when you shoot those 5 shots, you better wait a few minutes between shots to allow your barrel to cool back down to outside temperature. (Keep your bolt open to allow air to move through the bore and help cool the barrel even faster from the inside and the outside.)

  11. avatar Gman says:

    I can’t see the video, but I have always used a two shot sight in. Bench the rifle and shoot at center bull. Re-sight the rifle on wherever the hole is and then adjust the scope back to center bull. Plus or minus, that usually works for me.

    1. avatar uncommon_sense says:

      The method in the video is even simpler. He:
      (1) aims the rifle at the bullseye
      (2) shoots
      (3) aims the rifle at the bullseye again
      (4) moves the crosshairs to the bullet hole without the rifle moving

      The key to this method is step number (3) aiming the rifle back at the bullseye, which is simply aiming the barrel back at the exact spot where the bullet impacted the target. There is a beauty to the simplicity of this method.

      Of course other factors could come into play as everyone else has already mentioned so it would be smart to take a few shots to verify that everything is as it should be.

      1. avatar Gman says:

        Wouldn’t sighting on the bull and moving the crosshairs to the hole double the error? That’s opposite of putting the crosshairs on the hole and then moving them back to the intended target (bull).

        1. avatar Paul says:

          No. If you sight on the bull, the rifle will be in the same position that put the hole in the target. Then move the crosshairs (not the rifle) to cover the hole. The rifle will be in the same position that resulted in the hole, and the crosshairs indicate the point of impact. Shepherd scopes use this method.

  12. avatar eddie in naw kerlina says:

    Obligatory gripe about auto-play.

    Doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere…

  13. avatar Southern Cross says:

    Auto-playing video.

    NOT mobile device friendly.

    Especially as the mobile version disappeared in the server move.

    Can you put a direct link to the mobile version in title bar, if it exists?

  14. avatar ed says:

    after I have went through all the unred posts in your blog, opening the ones that intrest me in tabs. Then going throug the tabs, reading the articles, by the time I get to this auto play nonsence, the video has nothing to do with the article written. NOW DO YOU GET IT? CAN THE AUTOPLAY!!!

  15. avatar jimmy james says:

    Point of aim vs point of impact or vice versa sight in procedure. Good enough advice but doesn’t take into account the first shot being cold bore and that’s really all you need to care about when hunting. Wait 15 minutes and take the follow up shots. Barrel on front bag is a NO NO! The other issue is after zero, taking 3 or 5 shots in a row to check accuracy of load in your rifle. Had a Ruger M77 MkI in 270 that after zero, cold bore shot would be within a inch of where you wanted it to go but forget about shots 2 thru 3 or 5. 2&1/2″ group was about the best it would do.

  16. avatar Rick says:

    I don’t like the auto play either. I don’t like my data plan being eaten by something I haven’t yet decided to watch.

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