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When using sights or scopes on rifles or handguns, you see the sights and the target in a straight line. However, bullets do not travel in this same straight line. Bullets leaving the muzzle do so at a slightly upward angle, rising until their velocity becomes affected by gravity and then angling back towards the ground. This path is the bullet’s "trajectory." At a point along the trajectory, the bullet comes to its maximum ordinate or the highest point it reaches, which is normally about 2/3 of the bullet’s distance to the target. Depending on the distance from the muzzle to the target, some bullets can rise as much as six feet or more above the line of your sight. This means that if you are shooting over a significant distance and there are obstacles like tree limbs and branches hanging down between you and your target, your bullet could hit these, never reaching your target or ricocheting off unsafely in another direction.

Other than ensuring accurate shots, sighting-in a rifle has other advantages:

  • Forces you to practice
  • Helps determine problems with your shooting technique
  • Builds confidence in your shooting ability

Protect your ears and eyes even while sighting-in your rifle.

  • Hearing protection is especially important with rifles and handguns because the muzzle blast is extremely loud and/or occurs at frequencies that can permanently damage your ears.
  • Eye protection is essential with handguns to prevent damage from a burst shell, punctured primer, or lead spitting from a poorly aligned cylinder.