It’s almost deer season, and you’re getting excited about your upcoming hunt. You dust off your rifle and head over to your local range for some warm-up target practice. You sight the target down-range, confident in your bull’s-eye, pull the trigger and…

Your shot is off. What’s up?

You need to sight-in your rifle. Bullets don’t travel in a straight line; they arc. Because of gravity’s effects, you have to “sight-in,” or adjust your sights to hit a target at a specific range.

As a deer hunter, you might consider sighting-in your rifle to a target about 100 yards away. That’s a good rule of thumb, though you may need to sight-in your rifle for a different range, depending on where you hunt.

sighting_in_rifle

To sight-in your rifle, follow these steps:

  • Set up on a solid bench rest with the forestock resting on something padded, such as a sandbag. (Don’t rest the gun on its barrel, or it will shoot higher than normal!)
  • Use a sight-in target, available from retail outlets or manufacturers.
  • Set up a target 25 yards away; fire at least three shots, then check the results. If the holes are grouped  relatively close together, but not where you were aiming, your sights need to be adjusted.
  • Adjust the sights. Read your sight’s  instruction manual to find out how much a certain number of minutes-of-angle or “clicks” in a certain direction will change the rear sight (peep or telescopic) on your firearm. Consult a ballistics chart or an experienced shooter if you need additional help.
  • Repeat at 100 yards (or whatever your target range is).

Now that you know how to sight-in your rifle, you can get these added benefits:

  • Extra practice. Because you have to shoot your target several times while sighting-in, you get more hands-on time with your rifle, making you a better shot.

  • Added accuracy. When you’re on the hunt, you want to hit your deer exactly right. Being out of alignment may mean the difference between a perfect hit in the heart and a meat-ruining hit in the stomach. If you want to enjoy venison stew and remain an ethical hunter, you need your rifle to be as accurate as possible.

  • Identifying weak points. If you have a little trouble with your grip or stance, extra time at the local range with experts can help you identify and correct these problems, making your next hunt that much better.

  • Clear range. After the practice and repetition of sighting-in your rifle, you will know your range like the back of your hand. And that’s great, because it means you’ll know exactly when a deer has crossed into your firing range.

  • Improved safety. Because it is more accurate, you now know exactly where your bullet will travel, which means you can reduce the chances of an accident.

  • Bonus confidence. You have a perfectly sighted-in rifle and a ton of practice: Your hunt is going to be outstanding!