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.
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!