How To Sight In A Scope In 5 Shots

How To Sight In A Scope In 5 Shots

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  – Ben Franklin

 

There are plenty of places to learn how to sight in a scope on the internet. Really, there is no shortage of information there.

 

That being said, a lot of them are written in what looks like 8 point font, were filmed in the late 1980’s, or simply do not go into enough detail on the whole “what you need to do when zeroing a scope” bit.

 

I don’t like that. I like detail when it come to things I’m trying to accomplish.

 

And when you learn how to zero a rifle scope, you really want to make sure you get things right!

 

Why? Because little mistakes now can cost you big time down the road. And I don’t say that trivially.

 

For instance, let’s look at a reticle cant:

The image to the right is an example of one. A cant is when your reticle does not line up directly up or down, so when you adjust the scope it adjusts at an angle.

This image was taken from riflescopelevel.com

At that same link they talk about how a 5 degree cant creates a horizontal bullet displacement of 4.2 inches! That’s nothing to sneeze at.

Zeroing A Scope For Beginners

Now, odds are that when you’re starting out, you will make plenty of mistakes. And that’s okay, trust me I did. And still am for that matter.

 

The important thing is to learn from those mistakes. Or better yet, to learn from other people who have made mistakes and get to your goal quicker.

 

This article is designed to teach you how to sight in a scope in less than 5 total shots. Really, it could be done in 3, but as we’re going to learn, it’s better to shoot groups that way you have a consistent amount of data to go off of.

Note – when we say “zero” we mean that we are adjusting the scope so that when you aim at a point, that is exactly where the bullet is going to go.

Bullets travel in an arc, they don’t fly in a straight line. So the point you aim at, isn’t where it’s going to hit, unless you zero it at a distance.

Scopes are “zeroed” at certain distances, usually 100 yards. So when we say a scope is “zeroed at 100 yards” we mean that when you aim at a certain point at 100 yards, that’s the point the bullet will hit.

One caveat here – it is highly unlikely that as a complete beginner, it will only take you 5 shots. You probably don’t have the muscle memory to shoot the kind of tight groups you need to really know where your bullet is landing.

Fun fact – first time I zeroed a scope I used about 20 rounds of ammo. It was painful, but I learned a lot.

 

This article isn’t for just your first time zeroing a scope. It’s for you to use time and again as you get better and better.

 

Enough talking, let’s get started. Follow along with the video as well if you’d like

Preparation

It has never failed to surprise me the difference in preparedness makes when I am trying to achieve something. It’s like the difference between being able to predict your outcome and not.

 

The first part of the process to sighting in a scope is making sure your setup is running correctly.

 

Remember that example from above? Yeah, we don’t want you to have a cant when shooting. That leads to big problems, and it’s often difficult to know what’s wrong.

Step 1: Mount the scope

Preparation starts with mounting the scope. Now, you’ll want to follow the very detailed tutorial we’ve put together at this link here. But I’ll give you a brief overview.

 

What you’ll need: high quality rings (like Seekins), a mount, a level (kind of like this level, it is more effective if you have one mounted on the gun and on the scope), your gun (duh) and the hex wrench of the size you need for your rings.

 

The absolute most important thing when mounting the scope is to make sure that the scope is level relative to the gun, and that the gun is level relative to the ground.

 

Which is why it’s important to have a level for both the rail of the gun and the scope. The gun level will center the scope, and the scope level will level the scope relative to the ground.

Start by aligning the rifle to the ground so that the bubble level says it is perfectly level, or as close to perfectly level as you can get.

 

If you are using a gun vice, this is where you tighten the gun into place. If you are using a bipod (like me), then once it is level make sure the bipod is tight once you have it level.

 

Now it’s time for the scope. Attach the scope level to the scope.

 

Then Attach the bottom of the rings to the base or the mount. Place the scope in the rings, then place the top of the rings on top of the scope.

Tighten them to the point where they are holding the scope, but that you can still move it. Note: it is not important for you to have the scope level at this point.

Now we are going to adjust for eye relief. Place your head behind the scope in the way you will when you are shooting the gun, make sure you are comfortable and not straining your neck.

 

Move the scope forward and back until the picture takes up the whole of the glass and there is no black ring around the edges. Good.

Step 2: Bore Sighting

Boresighting is simply a way for you to make sure that your scope is pointed where your barrel is pointed. This is important to make sure you don’t burn a bunch of ammo guessing where your scope is pointed at 100 yards.

 

For instance:

 

If, for some reason, your scope is dialed up too much and you take it to 100 yards to shoot your group, you will miss the target completely. When you miss the target, you have no idea by how much, and will simply have to guess your adjustment until you land on paper.

 

That is a huge waste of ammo. Boresighting saves you this, and thus saves you money.

 

There are two main ways to boresight, depending on how you want to do it:

 

  1. Using a Boresighter
  2. Getting on paper at 25 yards

 

I usually use option 2, but we’ll go through both.

 

Option 1 – Using A Boresighter

A boresighter is simply a cartridge-looking object that fits in your gun barrel. You use it to shine a laser dot on the wall and to adjust your scope to meet the dot.

Simply place your boresighter inside the barrel, turn it on, then adjust your scope turrets (see how to adjust a rifle scope) to make the center of the reticle line up directly with the dot.

 

Option 2 – Getting On Paper At 25 Yards

I usually use this method. The boresight is effective, but the boresighter is just one more thing to keep track of and I’m not interested in getting the scope to line up perfectly with the little red dot anyways.

 

What we do in option 2 is to set a target anywhere between 10-25 yards (preferably 25) and we shoot. Typically since it’s so close, it’s going to land on the target, unless you are at the upper ends of the spectrum in turret adjustments.

 

Once you’re on paper at a low distance like this, make an adjustment to get you close to your “zero” or where the center of the crosshair was aiming. Don’t worry about shooting a group, it’s not needed to be perfect at this stage.

 

Your scope will most likely not be lined up exactly with where the barrel points, but it will be close enough to make sure your group will be on paper at 100 yards, or whatever the distance is you are going to zero at.

Step 3: Aim & Check your level

Before you shoot your group, make sure your levels are showing that your rifle is level to the ground. Since we mounted the scope relative to the rifle, just making sure one is level will be fine and you don’t need both levels on the rifle anymore.

Making sure your gun is level is absolutely critical. If it is not level, it will develop a cant.

 

A cant occurs when your reticle is not matched perpendicular to the ground, i.e. the scope/rifle isn’t level. This means that when you make turret adjustments, you will not be adjusting directly up or down or left or right, your adjustment will have an angle to it.

 

So although you think you adjusted to zero, you actually adjusted up 1 MOA and left 2 MOA, you didn’t.

 

Basically you’ll be missing the center, and you won’t know why. This burns ammo and depletes your self esteem. Do yourself a favor and make sure the rifle is level.

Step 4: Shoot your group

Now we move the target to whatever distance you want it zeroed at. I usually do 100 yards, and that tends to be pretty standard for long shots. But some hunters do it at 50.

 

Neither is better than the other, it’s entirely your preference and relative to your situation.

Now what we mean by a “group” is that we shoot anywhere between 3-5 shots. 3 shots should be sufficient, but sometimes people go more.

 

We do this because we want to actually see where your bullet is landing. One shot is an accident, two shots are a coincidence, three shots on the same spot is a pattern and it’s far more likely that that is actually where the bullet is landing independent of human error.

 

When you shoot your group, you will be aiming (most likely) at the center of the target or a target. Your shots are most likely not going to land in the center, but will land somewhere of the target.

 

Shoot three shots pointing at the exact same place on the target each time. If your shots are within 1 MOA of each other (at 100 yards that ~1 inch), you can be reasonably assured that that is where your scope is currently tracking.

Note: this is where the promise of the blog post, “How to sight in a scope in under 5 shots” may not deliver on it’s promise. If you are shooting bad groups and you can’t easily tell where the shots are landing, you will go over those 5 shots.

Step 5: Make your adjustment, shoot your zero

Now we measure how far off that group is from where you were intending. You can use your reticle (if it has the subtensions to allow it) or use the target itself.

Some people take a tape measure and measure the distance. If you do that, use a tool like our MOA and Mil calculator to convert that distance to MOA or Mils.

Note: use the unit of measurement that your scope subtensions are in and that your turret adjustments are in. It just makes it easier on you.

 

If you have a reticle that has these measurements on it already, that’s great! Just use that instead. Either way, figure out how far vertically and horizontally you need to adjust your turrets to make your shot go to zero.

 

Another note – please see the walkthrough on how to adjust a rifle scope because it will come in handy here.

 

Bingo, you’re ready for the final step!

Step 6: Evaluate, adjust as necessary

And there you go! You have a sighted in rifle scope.

 

Every time you go to shoot, you will want to confirm this zero. Rings are not always as dependable as manufacturers would have us believe, and when moving a rifle the scope can get bumped around a bit.

 

It’s also common for a scope to lose it’s zero. There could be about a million different reasons as to why this happens – something happened with the gun, the erector tube broke, the mount came loose, you name it.

 

What you need to do here is accurately diagnose the problem. Sometimes it just happens and it’s a freak thing, other times it might be a mechanical malfunction.

 

Just make sure you confirm your zero everytime you go out to shoot. If it lost it’s zero, go back through the steps above. Simple as that.

 

Drop your comments below – what new techniques did you learn? How are you going to adjust the way you adjust your scope next time?

 

Also, if you’re in the market for an optic, we do 12% off for all first time customer. Head to the shop if that’s you!

 

 

Reticle Types Analysis – Part 2: Advanced Reticle Types

Reticle Types Analysis – Part 2: Advanced Reticle Types

This is part 2 of our series on reticle types, where we take a look at the different rifle scope reticle types used in optics and what they are used for.

 

The last article was a very broad overview, and you can read about it here.

 

This article is going to be much more in depth as we take a look at the more complex reticle types that are available.

 

This can be daunting if you’re unfamiliar with long range shooting. Just looking at some of the different reticles out there can seem like you’re reading a chart out of a physics book from college.

 

But these are more or less set up in a way to help make your shooting game more effective. The different markings (usually) have a purpose, and if you know what you’re doing these can be incredibly helpful for you and improve your shooting tremendously.

 

We’re going to go over 3 different complex reticle types from 3 different companies: Leupold, Vortex and Athlon. Each makes very high quality reticles, and each are going to be good examples of what to look for when picking out a complex reticle of your own.

 

At the end, leave a comment about the reticle you’re the biggest fan of now and what you look for when shopping for scopes.

 

Enjoy!

The 3 Reticles We Will Be Examining

Complex reticles are a pretty big marketing tool for companies. The more complex the reticle is, the fancier the scope seems.

It’s important to understand though that this is just one of many factors that make up the quality of a scope. In fact, it’s a very small part of our optics test we use on scopes to grade their quality.

 

That being said, using one of these appropriately can make your life much easier. It can also help up your game.

 

Just don’t think that you can completely depend on a high quality scope to make you successful. Long distance shooting takes skill, and building good habits without a scope tends to lead to better results the farther you go down range.


Let’s take a look at the 3 different reticles we will be examining: the Athlon Cronus BTR APLR, The Leupold Impact 60 and the Vortex Razor HD Gen-II Horus H59.

Athlon Cronus BTR APLR Reticle

Athlon Cronus BTR APLR FFP IR MOA

Ah the Cronus, Athlon’s flagship product.

The Cronus BTR has got to be one of the best Rifle Scopes I’ve ever used. With A+ tracking and edge to edge clarity, there aren’t many scopes that are in it’s category.

That being said, this is probably the least fancy reticle of the three we are looking at.

APLR stands for Advanced Precision Long Range. This is simply a name given to the reticle by Athlon and usually serves more for marketing purposes rather than meaning something about the reticle itself. I said usually, not always.

 

We call this a Christmas Tree reticle. For no other reason than the subtensions make a Christmas tree as they spread out below.

 

What makes a complex reticle useful is how easily you can lock on your target with the subtensions. This is achieved by having, more or less, the right amount of distance between the hash marks, in MOA or Mil depending on your reticle.

Furthermore, a higher amount of MOA or Mil on the Y axis of the reticle gives you more room to work with when shooting at longer distances. The APLR in particular goes down 50 MOA.

 

This gives you quite a bit of room to work with, and a lot of shooters use this scope for going out to 2 Miles.

Horizontal drop lines are dispersed every 5 MOA from the crosshairs all the way down to 50 MOA with 1 MOA hash marks in between.

The drop lines themselves start at 10 MOA across at the first drop line and go out as far as 60 MOA at the lowest drop line. Each drop line has dots spaced 1 MOA apart in both directions.

 

This is very handy for long range shooting. Why?

 

The farther the bullet has to travel, the greater the effect not only gravity has but also wind has on the bullet. Because of this, a 60 MOA span gives you all of the adjustment range that you need to make the shot.

 

Which essentially is what this scope and reticle is built for: making those incredibly difficult and long shots. At 2000 yards, you really don’t have room for error.

Leupold (Mark 5 HD 7-35x56mm) Impact 60

Leupold’s Impact 60 reticle is patented and is very popular among long range shooters. This particular one is featured on the Leupold Mark 5HD.

 

Like the APLR, it’s an MOA based reticle, and unlike the APLR it does not follow the Christmas tree design.

Instead it has a grid of dots spaced 2 MOA from each other all the way down to 60 MOA beneath the Crosshairs. This gives it even more of a distance capability than what the APLR did.

 

That being said, the Windage distance is not as wide as was the APLR. The reticle itself only goes out to 16 MOA (in either direction, 32 MOA total).

This could be a problem at a really long shot. 16 MOA left and right might not be enough at that long of a distance.

Take the above chart for example. This is data taken from shooterscalculator.com. As you can see, with windage at 15 MPH at a 90 degree angle, you max out the adjustment capabilities at 1125 yards.

15 MPH is a strong wind, granted, but it’s not like this can’t happen.

What I think makes the Impact 60 extremely useful is the grid design. If you’ll notice, the dots are much closer together than the APLR was.

 

This is going to make those holdovers a lot easier to, well, holdover. There is less spacing and thus more of a probability your adjustment will be able to land directly on the dot, giving you more precise measurements.

 

Afterall, complex reticles are built for making your shots more precise. The Impact 60 does just that.

Vortex Razor HD Gen-II Horus H59

The Horus H59 is one of the reticles that is featured on the Vortex Razor HD Gen II. And before we talk about the reticle itself, let’s talk about Horus Vision.

 

Horus Vision is a company that specializes in reticle design. They are considered to be industry leaders in the field of reticle design.

 

A lot of the top optics companies feature Horus reticles. In fact, US Optics and Leupold also feature their H59 and Tremor 3 reticles on a couple of their scopes.

Now that’s all well and good, but what actually makes this reticle special? Well there is a lot of thought that went into the design of the reticle.

 

What’s the point of a reticle again? To help you make a more accurate shot.

And that’s where the other two reticles we’ve seen almost fall a little short.

 

The APLR3 does a great job with the Christmas Tree extending out more the farther it goes down. But there is a lot of empty space outside of the windage adjustments on the tree.

And the Impact 60 does a great job by filling the area beneath the center line with dots that make it more likely your target will fall into. But it too has a lot of empty space.

Now, that’s primarily because they’re designed to cover the shots most people are going to run into. But if you run into a situation where you have more wind, there is a lot of blank space for you to make a mistake, and it almost makes the windage correction redundant.

 

What you’ll notice the H59 does is it has dots spaced at a Mil apart to the left and right of the Christmas Tree lines. This limits the extra white space and increases your odds of finding a correction, thus increasing your odds of making the shot.

 

There are also lines at various spacing above the center line, providing the same sort of compensation. This is a pretty unique feature.

Finally, the reticle has an illuminated capability that doesn’t illuminate the entire reticle. Instead illuminated dots will appear at 2 Mil increments all the way down the Christmas Tree, and at the 10 and 20 Mil mark will feature on 2 Mil increments to the left and right.

 

This is the most complicated reticle we’ve talked about, and definitely the most useful. However, they build more off this design with the Tremor 3, which we’ll go over in the next article.

Conclusion

We talked about 3 complex reticle types, what their design is and how that makes them useful.

 

Keep in mind, in order to effectively use a complex reticle, you have to:

1) have the fundamentals of shooting long range down

2) have an understanding of the reticle and how to use it

3) choose the right reticle for your uses.

 

To say we just scratched the surface of this topic would be understating it. We’re going to be releasing more articles about complex reticle types in the future, so stay tuned for more.

 

I’d like to know – which of these was your favorite and why? What did you find the most useful? Leave your response in the comments below and let’s get a discussion going.

 

Also, we carry all 3 of these scopes in the shop, and offer 12% off to first time customers and email subscribers. So if one of these was something you were interested in, head to the shop and save yourself some money.

The Mil Dot Reticle

The Mil Dot Reticle

If you’re looking for a Mil Dot Reticle, it’s likely you may be confused on a couple of things:

 

  1. What is the Dot for?
  2. Why does that one have hash marks and not dots?
  3. That’s a Mil Dot Reticle…why are the adjustments in MOA?

 

**First things first, this article assumes you have a basic working knowledge of Rifle Scope adjustments. If you are brand new and need a refresher on this, please read the articles on moa and mil so you know what we’re talking about here.**

 

I say you may be confused because I personally was in the position when I started learning. Because frankly, reticles can be damn confusing.

 

But the advent of the affordable long range scope in the past decade has made them more and more popular. All of a sudden, you have a reticle that looks like something out of a Navy SEAL movie, and you don’t really know what to do with it.

 

Have no fear, this article is going to go over the Mil Dot Reticle, Complex Mil Reticles and give you a couple of examples of Mil Dot and Complex Mil Reticles out there.

 

Mil Dot Reticle vs Complex Mil Reticles

Complex Mil Reticles started with the Mil Dot Reticle as a basis.

 

Let’s start at the beginning.

Back in the day (like way damn back), reticles were essentially just pieces of hair set in a – you guessed it – crosshair. The idea was to give the shooter a frame of reference to aim the gun.

 

This evolved into etched glass reticles that essentially performed the same function – a simple reference point for where you wanted your bullet to go.

Once shooters made the jump to the etched glass (see etched glass reticles), it became apparent that they could make the scope even more helpful. Nowadays we have the results – the optic is one of the most important parts of the gun!

At some point in time, someone thought it was a good idea to place dots at equal distances along the crosshairs. And what better way to measure those distances than the Mil system of Angular Measurement?

 

Essentially, the Mil Dot Reticle (usually, unless the manufacturer made it different) has dots that are exactly 1 Mil away from any point on the dot to the same point on the next dot.

 

This would make the dots 0.2 Mils in diameter. It would also make the distance of the edge of one dot 0.8 Mils to the edge of the next dot.

This may not seem like much in the age of complex reticle subtensions, but back in the day this was pretty innovative. All of a sudden, you not only had a frame of reference to just aim at a target, you also had a way of measure relative distances.

Pretty snazzy eh?

 

This has evolved even further into the Complex Mil Reticles we see now. The difference here is that the Mil Dot Reticle has evolved from just dots to a hash mark based reticle.

 

These reticle subtensions (see here for information on subtensions) are specific to the reticle as to how far away they are from each other. This will also only hold true at a certain magnification for an SFP scope.

But these more complex mil dot reticles give us an even better frame of reference for calculating distances. Now you can break things down to even finer calculations by using smaller and smaller subtensions adjustments.

 

Let’s take a look at some of the Reticles scope manufacturers use.

 

Different Scopes With Mil Dot Reticles

Mil Dot is still used in quite a few scopes, even though the more complicated reticles are available. Complicated reticles tend to jack up the price of the scope, and some people don’t want to shell out the kind of money.

 

But they still want something that can be more useful than a plain old duplex reticle, so they go for a Mil Dot.

 

Below are a couple of different reticles from some pretty popular brands:

Athlon Neos BDC 22 Rimfire Reticle

This is a good example of a Mil Dot Reticle being used as a BDC, or Bullet Drop Compensator.

 

BDC reticles are used to, well, compensate for the drop of a bullet. By far the most useful aspect of a Mil Dot reticle is to measure the drop of the buller on the way to the target.

 

The BDC reticle helps with that. This particular reticle belongs to Athlon’s Neos line, which is primarily a hunting Rifle Scope.

 This one is useful for a quick adjustment for hunters to use at 75, 100, 125 and 150 yards from the target. They can make an easy adjustment and line the Dot on the target, depending on their zero and distance.

 

Easier than just that basic crosshair huh?

Leupold Mark 6 M5B2 Mil Dot

This is a pretty standard Mil Dot Reticle. As Leupold advertises, the Mil Dot was actually designed for the US Marine Corps to help estimate distances.

 

Mil is used instead of MOA because Mil is the Military standard. Basically, Mil is much easier when doing calculations, as Mils break down into Multiples/Divisibles of 10.

 

Like mentioned above, this reticle has a 0.2 Mil diameter on the dots, 0.8 Mil difference between the top of one dot the the bottom of the next dot up and exactly 1 Mil from one point on the dot to the exact same point on the next dot up or down.

Leupold features this reticle in their SFP (they call it Rear Focal Plane) scopes. But Mil Dots can be featured in FFP scopes as well.

Vortex Viper Mil Dot (MOA)

The Vortex Viper is pretty interesting, and that’s why it’s featured. Because really, it doesn’t get much more complicated than what we’ve already seen.

 

This scope has adjustments in MOA, but a Mil Dot Reticle. At this point, you may or may not being – uh, the f***?

 

Some people find making their adjustments in MOA to be easier than making it in Mil. Typically, those who learned on MOA like to stick with MOA because, frankly, mental math is difficult and if you already have most of the math worked out in your head, why would you switch?

That being said, measuring distance to target in Mil is easier because 1 Mil is exactly 1/1000th of any distance.

 

But adjustments in MOA can be preferable because it almost breaks down to 1.047 inches per 100 yards. So you can use the scope to measure distance to target, then make that adjustment in MOA.

 

I personally don’t like this approach, as inconsistency opens up room for errors. That being said, those who use this type of approach are pretty good at what they do so, well, if the shoe fits, wear it I suppose.

 

Complex Reticle Types

Needless to say, this innovation in scope reticles didn’t just stop at the dot. Manufacturers and the military started seeing how they could make the reticle even more useful to the shooter.

 

That’s where the more complicated mil dot reticles come into play.

 

Now, these might be a little intimidating at first just because they are, well, complex. That being said, learning on a complex reticle can make things a lot easier for you down the road.

 

Let’s take a look at a couple of scopes with complicated mil dot reticle types.

Leupold Mark 5HD TMR

I started off this this scope because it isn’t as complicated as the other two, but it builds off the Mil Dot.

 

Now the mil distances are measured by the has marks, instead of a dot. Notice how this makes for a much easier time using the scope and finer calculations?

 

It also makes for an easier time of using holdovers, as you’re not estimating where you are supposed to be on the dot. The hash mark makes it pretty easy.

This reticle in particular is 0.5 Mils between hash marks. You’ll start to see that reticles vary by how many mils they give between their hash marks, which can be very useful.

Athlon Midas TAC APRS3 FFP Mil Reticle

Now we get to a more complicated reticle – the APRS3 by Athlon, which in this case is used on the Midas TAC.

 

First off, the Midas TAC is a hell of a scope. Priced just under $700, this scope tracks perfectly, has very high quality glass, and has this very helpful and easy to use reticle.

 

It builds off of the TMR that the Leupold has, but notice how it has numbers next to the hash marks? This makes it a lot easier to note “oh hey, my shot was 2 Mil off left, I’ll adjust for that now…”

But that’s not it, notice how the lines below the crosshairs feature what almost looks like a Christmas Tree? Well that’s where the term “Christmas Tree Reticle” comes from.

 

These lines under the crosshairs make holdovers even easier to do. You really don’t even need to adjust your turrets when making a distance or windage adjustment, just move your gun so the adjustment lines up with the hash mark on the subtension.

 

Complex reticles make it almost too easy, don’t they? (Kidding).

 

Wrap up

Mil dot reticles are extremely useful because they let you use a scope to measure distances and make rifle adjustments. The even more complex Mil Reticles (and MOA for that matter) can make your shooting so that you don’t even have to adjust your turrets.

 

How complicated of a reticle should you get? Well that just depends on you and what you’re using the gun for.

 

Are you hunting? Maybe the complicated reticle isn’t necessary. Are you competition shooting and need to make distance adjustments quickly? Those Christmas Tree holdovers could come in handy.

 

It all boils down to the shooter, because it’s really not the scope but how you use it.

 

Which one do you like, the regular Mil Dot or the more complicated reticles? Drop your comments about it below, and if you’re looking to get a Mil Dot Reticle head over to the store and take 12% off your entire first order.

 

–Ryan

How To Adjust A Rifle Scope

How To Adjust A Rifle Scope

So you’ve got the new gun, you picked out an optic for your needs, and you’re all ready to go to the range. One problem though:

You’re new to PRS, you don’t know how to adjust a rifle scope, and you’re not exactly a fan of broadcasting that to all your friends.

We’ve all been there at some point. So don’t worry, Blue Line Optics has your back.

In this article we’re going to go in depth and walk through exactly how to adjust a rifle scope. We’ll take into account whether you’re using Mil or MOA, the drop of your bullet, windage adjustment (I know, scary right?) and really anything else you might need.

We made a video about it too, which you can check below if you like that better.

Without further adieu, let’s begin!

 

The Basics

The basics to adjusting a rifle scope come from the basics of bullet trajectory. If you didn’t already know, bullets do not fly in a straight path. They fly in a curve.

For example:

So when you shoot a gun, you technically need to point the barrel upwards, which is what a rifle scope helps you do.

A rifle scope will help you adjust your line of site so that when your reticle is pointed where you want to hit, your barrel is pointed in a direction so that it will hit that spot.

The scope does this through the use of turrets, called the elevation and windage adjustment turrets. Depending on what measurement your scope is in (refer to your owners manual. It’s not as common now, but some scopes will have markings in Mil, but turrets adjust in MOA. I don’t recommend using this), these turrets will adjust via MOA increments or Mil increments.

Usually but not always a Mil turret will adjust as 1/10 Mil per click, and an MOA turret will adjust as ¼ MOA per click. Click is pretty much what it alludes to – when you move the turret it makes a click.

As you are observing the reticle (like in the picture below) that click will move the reticle either 1/10 Mil or ¼ MOA in the direction opposite of what you tell the turret to adjust for.

For example, let’s say you determine your shot is 1 Mil too low, and you need to move it up one mill. So on the elevation turret tells you to twist in a counterclockwise rotation 10 clicks to move up one Mil.

If you look carefully though, the reticle moves down 1 MIl. Don’t worry, there isn’t anything wrong with your scope, this is what’s supposed to happen.

Let me explain:

You are adjusting your shot to hit higher on the target, because when you shot the first time you determined it was a little too low (1 Mil to be exact).

Well, what do you need to do to hit higher? Move the barrel up.

So the reticle is going to come down so that it forces you to move the barrel up to match the reticle to the spot on the target you want to hit.

The same is true for the windage adjustment. Adjusting left moves the reticle right. Adjusting right moves the reticle left.

This can be confusing at first, but you get used to it the more you do it.

So now that we have that down, how do we know how much we need to adjust in the first place? And how does this differ between Mil and MOA?

We address that next.

Equations

We were talking about Mil & MOA and if you are uninitiated in these arts, you’re might be confused. No worries, it’s actually a pretty simple concept.

 

Mil stands for Milliradians and MOA stands for Minutes Of Angle. Without going into too much detail as we covered in this post I’m going to walk you through the differences.

Mils and MOA are just the way we measure distances when using scopes. They are units of angular measurement which is necessary because when we move a rifle barrel, we don’t move it in a straight linear direction. Rather it moves in an arc.

Since it moves in an arc, we have to use angles to calculate the linear distance it moves. This distance is a function of the distance the target is away from you.

Why? See the picture below. The arc causes the distance between the two lines to increase the farther you get from the beginning of the two lines.

A greater angle corresponds to a greater change in distance, which increases the farther out you go.

 

Calculating Mil & MOA

There are a couple of basic guidelines for calculating these measurements:

1 Mil is 1/1000th of any distance

1 MOA is approximately 1 inch at 100 yards. I say approximate because it’s actually 1.047 inches at 100 yards. Read our article “what is MOA?” for more details on that.

So at 1000 yards, 1 Mil is? right , 1 yard. How much is 1 MOA? Approximately 10 inches.

On the reticle (like the one to the right) the has marks will be broken down by Mils and MOA. When adjusting your shot, you’ll use these to tell by how much you need to adjust your shot.

I.e. if your shot is 2 MOA to the left to what you need it to be, then you will need to adjust your windage turret 8 clicks to the right. Your reticle will move left 2 MOA, and you’ll adjust it so it’s pointing straight onto the target, thus moving it to the right 2 MOA.

If you get stuck on the Mil and MOA calculation, use this calculator to figure out what your Mil and MOA is at any distance, in inches, yards, meters and centimeters.

For basic reference, 1 Mil is 3.439 MOA. So to find how many Mils are in a given MOA, you just divide the MOA you have by 3.439 and you arrive at the number of Mils. To find the MOA you have based on Mils, you do the opposite.

 

Bullet Drop

This is where knowing Mil and MOA adjustments start coming in handy. As mentioned above, your bullet drops the moment it leaves the barrel.

You adjust your scope to account for this. What we do is we use a tool like this ballistic calculator to calculate what your bullet drop is going to be at any given distance.

It’s pretty easy to use. If you go to the link above, you’ll come to the following screen:

You just need to enter in your bullet information here.

Now, keep in mind, you want to be using your own DOPE (Data On Previous Engagements) book and taking your own data. Using a Chronograph helps you calculate your actual muzzle velocity when the bullet leaves your barrel.

This matters because no two rifles, bullets, scopes or shooters are the same. Standardized data often leaves out little nuances that make your situation unique.

So it’s important to keep your own DOPE and to track this over time. 

That being said, if you’re just starting out, use the data about your ammo the manufacturer provides. Usually this is on the website, or on the back of the ammo box.

Now that you have this data, use it to enter in the ballistics calculator. Let’s use my Winchester .308 Win Power Points from above as an example:

Note: I got the Ballistics Coefficient from the website since it wasn’t provided on the box

The results will look similar to below:

This is good because now we can use a rangefinder (like this one) to get distance to target. Once we know distance to target, we reference the table to see what the bullet drop is in inches.

Now we can do the math. Let’s do the 500 yard example to start.

We see that the bullet drop is 69.5361 inches. Well let’s say your scope is in Mil.

1 Mil at 500 yards = 500 yards / 1000 = 0.5 yards. 0.5 yards * 3 (feet in a yard) * 12 (inches in a foot) is 18.

So 1 Mil at this distance is 18 inches. Sweet.

Now let’s figure our adjustments. Bullet drop is 69.5361 inches. 69.5361 / 18 = 3.863 Mils. So you will need to drop your reticle by 3.863 Mils.

Now, we can’t make that fine of an adjustment, so we will need to round to the nearest 10th, making this 3.9 Mils.

Remember, our turrets adjust in 1/10th Mil per click. So on your elevation adjustment, you dial up 39 clicks, which comes out to be 3.9 Mils.

Your scope will come down 3.9 Mils, so you’ll make your barrel adjustment so that the reticle lands on the target where you want it.

And that’s it! It really is that easy.

 

Windage Adjustment

Now we come to wind. Wind can be incredibly complicated, and there have been entire books written on the matter.

That being said, we can get the basics down.

The first thing with windage is to figure out how the wind is blowing. And by how I mean in what direction, and how quick.

A simple way to do this is to check the wind effect on the range you’re one. For example:

 

  • Seeing smoke drift – 0-3 MPH
  • Prominent on the face – 3-5 MPH
  • Leaves moving – 5-8 MPH
  • Leaves and dust blowing – 8-12 MPH
  • Small trees moving – 12-15 MPH

You’ll also need to estimate for the direction of the wind. In short you can use the clock system, which basically says winds from 1, 5, 7 and 11 o’clock are given ½ value. Winds from the 2-4 o’clock on the right and 8-10 o’clock on the left are given full value.

 

Now there are formulas we can use which use these ½ and full values to calculate the shift in direction of the bullet. That being said we can also just use a more complex calculator like the one at shooterscalculator.com.

When you fill out the data you get something similar to what I got here:

(You can click to view the images in a bigger window if the numbers are too small)

This lets you know that at 500 yards, your windage shift is 2.85 inches for a 3 mph wind at 45 degrees (approximately a ½ value).

So if you have a wind coming in from the right, you’ll need to compensate your shot to the right 2.85 inches for the wind.

For a Mil calculation, we know that at 500 yards, 1 Mil = 18 inches. 2.85 / 18 = 0.15 Mils. So we adjust to the right either 1 or 2 clicks to compensate.

Now that’s a very basic example for wind. It gets more complicated when you have multiple winds at multiple directions. But this is a “how to adjust a rifle scope” article, so it will suffice for now.

 

Holdovers

For those of you that have purchased an FFP scope with a more complicated reticle, like the one below:

You have the option of using a holdover.

 

For scopes like this, the distances between the hash marks will stay constant no matter the magnification you have the scope set on.

The bottom of the scope has these extra lines with extra hash marks. This gives some reticles a “Christmas Tree” appearance. So we end up calling these reticles “Christmas Tree Reticles.”

What’s great about a Christmas Tree Reticle is that it negates the necessity to make the turret adjustments if you don’t want to make them. You can just use this as a “holdover” meaning holding that part of the reticle over the target.

So using the example we have already above, instead of adjusting the turrets, we can simply move the reticle up 3.9 Mils and to the right 0.1 or 0.2 and align the reticle like below:

This saves you a bunch of time, as you’re not constantly adjusting for things.

 

Conclusion

There is more that goes into how to adjust a rifle scope than what we have covered, but this was a good first start in learning the art.

It can be confusing at first, but practice over the long term will make a lot of these things second nature.

Drop a comment below and let me know what you thought – do you prefer Mil or MOA? Do you use Holdovers for corrections? What’s your favorite way to tell the wind?

Also leave questions if you got em, I’ll be glad to help!

Athlon Optics Vs Vortex

Athlon Optics Vs Vortex

Vortex is by far one of the most recognized brand names in the Optics industry. So it’s no wonder that the Athlon vs Vortex question has come up multiple times for us when people are searching for a optic on the site.

 

We’re in the process of hopefully bringing Vortex online as one of the brands we offer, so i thought this would be a good opportunity to compare one of their scopes with an Athlon scope of similar quality.

 

Recently I purchased a Ruger American in 308 Winchester, and besides the fact that this might be the best gun for the money, it came with a Vortex Crossfire ii. Pretty cool feature, and smart move on the part of Vortex to get their name in the door with a very well respected gun brand.

 

So I’ve had the opportunity to use not only the Crossfire, but to compare it to the Athlon Neos.

In this article, I’m going to make the first comparison of Athlon vs Vortex but comparing scopes of similar pricing and quality. This will be the first of many, as I intend to stack up the different Athlon and Vortex models and do side by side comparisons and quality tests on both in the coming months.

 

As always, I appreciate your feedback. At the end of the article, let me know what you think of the comparison and some features you think might help as well!

 

The Two Scopes We’ll Be Comparing

Like I mentioned above, the two scopes we are going to be comparing are the Athlon Neos 3-9x40mm with the Center X Reticle versus the Vortex Crossfire II 3-9x40mm with the BDC Reticle (see the reticle types article to learn more).

Athlon Optics – Neos (4-12x40mm)

Vortex Crossfire II – 3-9x40mm

You can watch the full video here:

These are identical in zoom and objective lens diameter, but the Vortex has a BDC reticle while the Athlon has a Center X.

 

Other than that, the Vortex is quite a bit more expensive with a price tag of $149.00 at most retail outlets, but the Neos comes in at $89.99.

 

I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that the Crossfire has a more complicated reticle, but then again Athlon is establishing themselves as the masters of developing high quality optics for less than anyone else out there.

 

Let’s take a look at an overview of the two scopes then get into the similarities, differences and ultimately if one really is better than the other.

Athlon Optics Neos

Like most Athlon Rifle Scopes, the Neos is advertised as a high quality optic without breaking the bank.

 

Primarily targeted towards the hunting crowd, it features capped windage and elevation turrets. Most models even have a parallax feature (the one we’re looking at in this article and video does).

The reticle choices are the BDC 22 Rimfire, BDC 500 IR and the Center X reticle (all pictured below). The one we’re looking at is the Center X.

 

You can also get it in various magnifications and two objective lenses, 3-9x40mm, 4-12x40mm and 6-18x44mm. These different sizes have field of views ranging anywhere from 17.5’-5.9’ to 37.8’-12.6’ and eye reliefs from 2.99”-3.19”. The higher magnifications are larger (21.7oz, 13.5” long) compared to the smaller mags (17oz, 12.4”).

 

It’s also extremely well built. I’ve used it a long and can see it holding up in any number of hunting/outdoor excursions. Not to mention, it lives up to it’s reputation of not costing you a boatload: you can get the Neos for anywhere between $89.99 – $159.99 depending on magnification and features.

Vortex Optics Crossfire ii

Also advertised as a high quality optic that doesn’t break the bank, the Crossfire ii might have the best eye relief on a scope I have ever experienced. Seriously, there is so much room for movement there. 

Like the Neos, you can also get the Crossfire ii in a couple of different magnifications (1-4x, 2-7x, 3-9x, 4-12x and 6-18x) as well as Objective Lens diameter from 24mm to 56mm. It has a decent amount more variety than the Neos in terms of selection (although you will have to pay for it).

 

All models stay at a steady 3.8” eye relief, which like I mentioned above, is by far the best quality about this scope. You can also get it in an illuminated reticle, and choose between BDC reticles as well as a Center X like the Neos.

 

It’s pricier than the Athlon scopes though, the cheapest Crossfire will run you around $128.49 and the most expensive is right around the $300 mark. This isn’t a bad price, but once you hit that $300 mark, you might as well be thinking about an Athlon Argos right?

The Similarities

 

They were both easy enough to zero and adjust (zeroed at 50 yards) and give the same presentation. Meaning: they could hold up through the rigors you’ll end up putting them through.

 

The glass clarity was on par for both, and the price you pay for them is pretty fair for the quality of glass (exception is the Neos, which I think was more than fair to be honest).

 

They both have windage and elevation turret caps, which prove incredibly useful when you get the scope zeroed and you know that you’re going to hit where you point.

 

Other than that, both are small and compact and roughly the same in size and weight. Good news for those of us who take them out and about.

The Differences

I’ve talked about this a couple of times already, but the Vortex eye relief literally blew my mind. I mean I really didn’t need to mess with it when mounting it to my Ruger in order to see clearly.

Not to say that the Neos was bad, because it wasn’t, it had pretty good eye relief. But the Crossfire just set the bar for what can be done for eye relief. I don’t know how they pulled it off, but this led to less of a pain in the neck (literally) when shooting bench rest, which I did for both.

 

That being said, I am going to give the Athlon Neos the victory here when comparing the scopes side by side. True, it has the extra magnification, but the reason why it won wasn’t because of any extensive test I did (I didn’t do an extensive test on the two) but rather it had to do with the features it provided for the money.

 

There were three that made the Neos stand out:

1) The excellent turrets – extremely crisp and defined clicks, and great tracking to go along with it. The Vortex turrets were mushy and I was never 100% sure I had actually brought it up a click or not.

2) The Parallax Adjustmentstarting from 10 yards to infinity, you can adjust the Athlon Neos for Parallax, an incedibly handy tool. Note: not all of them come with this feature.

3) Elevation and Windage Adjustment – as if the turrets weren’t enough, you also get an extra 20 MOA in Elevation and Windage Adjustment with the Neos vs the Crossfire’s 60 MOA. That’s nothing to sneeze.

However, the one I have a $119.99 scope, which came with parallax. The Crossfire would cost $149.00. Add the superior turrets onto that, and you have a ball game there.

 So I give the prize to the Athlon here, not because of any crazy test I put these two optics through, but just as a regular hobby shooter using the product to go out and have some fun.

The Athlon vs Vortex Question

Athlon vs Vortex will not be answered by any one blog post or comparison of just two scopes of the line, so I’m not giving an answer to the question in this article alone.

 

Both of these scopes brought a lot to the table, and they are both great buys. That being said, the high quality turrets and extra features for the lower dollar price make the Neos the winner here.

 

This is the first of plenty of articles we are going to be doing about Athlon vs Vortex, so to stay in the loop leave your email below and you’ll get front of line access to the newest content.

 

Also, drop your comments below with any questions.

Athlon Ares ETR vs Athlon Ares BTR

Athlon Ares ETR vs Athlon Ares BTR

Seriously, why on earth would you pay 3k-4k for a scope when you can get the same quality for around $1200?

 

I mean you would have to have some serious brand loyalty to do that. And even then, you’d be hard pressed to find a lot of people willing to part with that extra 2 grand.

 

The problem with Rifle Scopes though is that until recently, there had been really no way of getting the features of a $3k optic for under $2k, let alone $1k.

 

Then Athlon came along, with their incredibly effective manufacturing process and took the industry by storm when they released the Ares BTR. This puppy has features usually seen on scopes for $2k+, and their price? $849.99.

Actually if you read this in time, you can get it for $599.99. March 2019 has the Ares BTR $250 off.

 

About 2 years after the BTR, Athlon released the Ares ETR. And this has proven to be just as popular as the BTR (if not more).

 

 

With this popularity comes an extra whopping $350 onto the price, bringing in the Ares ETR at $1199.99. Which begs the question:

Is the ETR really worth that extra change?

 

In short, yes, and if you haven’t seen the review on the Ares ETR, check it out here.

 

But still, it’s worth looking at what the differences are between the two. This way, you’ll know which one is right for you, and whether you want to spend the extra money on the ETR or not.

 

The Athlon Ares BTR – The Answer

We’ll start off with an overview of the Ares BTR.

 

The Ares was (and is) dubbed “The Answer” as in “The Answer to your request for an optic with a bunch of great features that doesn’t break the bank.”

 

And for that, it definitely does what is advertised to do. We did a full review on the Ares BTR, and if you missed it (or don’t want to take the time to go read it) basically here is a synopsis:

1) It has incredibly Valuable features like:

  • ED/HD Glass
  • Multi Coated lenses
  • Etched glass reticle
  • Illuminated reticle
  • Precision Zero Stop system
  • Argon purging

(this list is not extensive)

2) Turret tracking is great

The machine tracking test we did resulted in a B grade (83.47/100 points). This is a lot better than most scopes out there, and proves that whatever issues were around with the BTR turrets are now in the past.

Basically, the BTR originally had complaints about the turrets being a little mushy. All new BTR’s now ship with the new turret system, and this mushiness is a thing of the past.

3) Optical clarity is phenomenal

The tests we ran use a combination of a basic Snellen Eye Chart and the USAF 1951 Resolution Exam. Out of 335 total points possible to earn on tests conducted at 25, 50, 100 and 200 yards (along with a maximum distance test), the BTR scored 313, giving it a solid A or 93%.

 

Basically, everyone in the optics world thought this kind of quality could only be done if it cost a lot of money.  The features were great, and the reviews the BTR got made this easily one of the most popular (and highest quality) scopes on the market.

 

Athlon Ares ETR

Which brings us to last July (2018) when Athlon finally released the newest addition to it’s lineup: the Ares ETR.

They wanted to improve on the BTR more, and from what I can tell, the goal was to make a scope that lay somewhere in the middle between the BTR and the Cronus BTR.

 

The Cronus BTR is Athlon’s flagship product, and stands toe to toe with some of the highest quality (and priciest) scopes out there. However, it costs $1799.99.

The BTR was a bridge between something like the Argos BTR ($369.99) and the Cronus – i.e. something really high quality but not to pricey.

 

The ETR was the attempt to close that gap even further. Whatever they could do to improve on the BTR, they did.

 

Athlon brought out a whole new turret system (we’ll get into that even more in a bit) and upgraded the tube by moving it from a 30mm to a 34mm. Then boosted the Objective Lens from 50mm to 56mm to let in more light.

 

Other than that, on paper these scopes look pretty similar. So what exactly is the difference?

 

The Difference

On paper, there are quite a few differences, primarily:

  •  The ETR has a 34mm Tube, BTR has a 30mm
  • ETR has a 56mm Objective Lens, BTR has a 50mm
  • ETR has ED Glass, the BTR has HD Glass (turns out this isn’t really much of a difference)
  • The ETR has an extra 3x in magnification
  • ETR has total elevation and Windage adjustment of 32 Mil (110 MOA), BTR has 24 Mil (80 MOA)
  • The ETR is quite a bit bigger, weighing in at 36.5 oz (BTR is 27.3oz) and 15.3” long (BTR is 13.8”)
  • The ETR also has a locking Windage Turret

However, when using the two and running them through the same basic tests for tracking, optical quality and features scoring, you start to see where the differences are.  

 

For starters, the glass on the ETR did not blow the glass on the BTR out of the water. This was surprising, and yet not surprising simultaneously.

 

I mean there wasn’t much to improve on the BTR in terms of glass quality. If you remember, we gave it a 93% on the optical quality score through the review, so a solid A. The ETR ended up getting a 95%.

 

The difference between those two scores I consider to be within the margin of error, as our tests on optical quality are more for practical use and not to use machinery to test. i.e. we’re using Snellen Eye Charts and USAF 1951 Resolution Tests at various distances and measuring the resolution and our ability to see the letters.

 

So they’re both killer scopes in terms of optical quality, but this doesn’t justify an extra $350 onto the price in my humble opinion.

 

So what does, you ask?

 

The Turrets, that’s what!

The Difference That Makes A Differece

Okay, let’s start this section off by saying that I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with the Ares BTR turrets. Our tracking test returned a solid B on tracking.

 

When the scope originally came out, some of the reviews came back stating there was something wrong with the turrets. Some reviews stated them as being mushy and not enough definition between the clicks to notice the change.

The Ares ETR Turrets track as well as the $3k-$4k scopes.

Athlon fixed the problem and releases all new BTR’s today with the new turrets, so if you buy it new from a dealer you will be getting the newest version with solid tracking.

 

Anyways, a solid B on tracking, that puts the BTR in the top 10% of scopes out there (this is my estimation). And typically, scopes that track better than the BTR are going to cost 3-4 thousand dollars.

 

That is, until the ETR.

 

The ETR is, let’s just say it, by far one of the best tracking systems out there. With the manual adjustment test on a tall target we ran, it was rarely ever off. In fact it scored an A in a test that is, let’s face it, kind of like those Physics 222 tests I used to have to take in college:

 

Everyone studied their ass off for 4 weeks, showed up and failed. Class average was a D or a C.

 

Well, the ETR is sort of like that guy who wouldn’t show up for class, just do the homework and study the night before the test and show up and get an A-. Those damn curve setters, let me tell you.

 

And that’s honestly what the ETR is – a curve setter. The clicks on the turrets are extremely defined and firmed. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below:

 I ran this through not only my regular use of the optic on my Ruger American, but also through the manual adjustment test and a group shot test at targets with 10 seconds in between shots to adjust and settle (hopefully simulating a competition like scenario).

 

Never did I have problem with knowing what Mil I was on, the reticle landed where it should have landed, and for the most part my shots landed within what’s normal for my shot groups on my Ruger.

 

So, the BTR turrets are great, but the ETR turrets are the curve setter especially for optics in this price range. I have no clue how they made it for that cheap, but I can’t wait to see if they can keep releasing systems like this.

 

Additional Important differences & Wrap Up

The total elevation and windage adjustment for the ETR gives you a whopping extra 8 Mil / 30 MOA of adjustment, which is nothing to sneeze at.

 

You can hit 1000+ yards with the BTR so don’t think you’re necessarily sacrificing anything if that ends up being your scope of choice. But the ETR is build for those of you who are ready to take your long range shooting to a completely different level.

 

Which I think is the most important part to understand about the difference between these two juggernauts: they both are incredibly high quality and very much worth the money. But the ETR just set a brand new standard for what we can (and soon should) expect out of optics for under $2k.

 

Scratch that, for optics under $1500.

 

Athlon obviously has something going on with their manufacturing process that’s letting them drop the price of building something of this quality. Some folks in the industry have ben skeptical as to whether they could keep it up.

 

I think both of these scopes show they can. I mean there wasn’t really much to improve on the BTR with how it was priced, and yet they did it any way.

 

To sums things up: which one you go with will be determined by whether you are wanting just a high quality scope, or if you think you’re ready to take your game up not just a notch, but to buy a new belt entirely. The choice is yours.

 

For those of you that have used both, leave us in the comments below:

 

What did you notice were the main differences between the two, and which one did you end up preferring and for what reason?