How To Read A Rifle Scope

If new to shooting or hunting, using a rifle scope may seem daunting at first. However, once you understand the basics, it can significantly improve your accuracy and precision. In this beginner’s guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about reading a rifle scope and how to use it effectively.


Objective LensThe lens at the front of the scope that gathers light and
transmits it to the eyepiece.
Eyepiece LensThe lens at the back of the scope that magnifies the image
produced by the objective lens.
MagnificationRefers to the number of times the scope magnifies an object
compared to the naked eye. For example, a 10x magnification
means the object appears 10 times closer than it actually is.
ReticleThe crosshairs or aiming point visible through the scope.
Different reticle types include duplex, mil-dot, and BDC.

Parts of a Rifle Scope

Before diving into the specifics of using a rifle scope, let’s familiarize ourselves with its essential parts:

Objective Lens

The objective lens is the larger lens at the front of the scope. It gathers light and transmits it to the ocular lens, allowing you to see a clear and magnified image of your target.

Ocular Lens

The ocular lens, also known as the eyepiece, is located at the back of the scope. It helps focus the light and allows you to adjust the reticle for a sharp image.


Turrets are the knobs on the top and sides of the scope. They are used for making adjustments to windage (horizontal) and elevation (vertical) to align your shots accurately.


The reticle, commonly referred to as the crosshairs, is the aiming point you see through the scope. There are various reticle types available, such as duplex, mil-dot, and BDC, each with its unique advantages.

Choosing the Right Rifle Scope

Selecting the appropriate rifle scope is crucial for optimal performance. Consider the following factors when making your decision:

Consider the Purpose

Different shooting activities require different types of scopes. Whether it’s for hunting, target shooting, or tactical use, the purpose will dictate the ideal features.

Magnification Power

The magnification power determines how much the scope can zoom in on the target. Higher magnification is useful for long-range shooting, while lower magnification allows for a wider field of view.

Objective Lens Size

A larger objective lens allows more light to enter the scope, improving visibility in low-light conditions. However, it may add weight to your rifle.

Reticle Type

Choose a reticle type that suits your shooting needs. A simple duplex reticle is versatile, while a mil-dot reticle enables range estimation and bullet drop compensation.

Mounting the Rifle Scope

Properly mounting the scope on your rifle is essential for accurate shooting. Follow these steps to ensure a secure and aligned mount:

Preparing the Rifle

Before attaching the scope, make sure your rifle is unloaded and on a stable surface. Remove any existing scope or scope covers.

Properly Aligning the Scope

Place the scope on the mounting rails and align it with the rifle’s bore. Look through the bore and adjust the scope until the reticle centers perfectly.

Tightening the Mounting Rings

Once aligned, tighten the mounting rings evenly to prevent any movement during shooting. Use a torque wrench to ensure you don’t over-tighten and damage the scope.

Zeroing the Rifle Scope

Zeroing your rifle scope means aligning it with the point of impact of your shots. Follow these steps to achieve a proper zero:

Setting Up the Target

Set up a target at a known distance. Shoot a group of rounds and determine the center of the group.

Making Windage and Elevation Adjustments

Using the turrets, make adjustments to move the reticle’s point of aim to match the center of the shot group.

Fine-Tuning the Zero

Take additional shots and make slight adjustments until your shots consistently hit the target’s center.

Understanding MOA and MIL

Minute of Angle (MOA) and Milliradian (MIL) are angular measurements used for adjusting a scope’s reticle. Understanding them is essential for precision shooting:

Minute of Angle (MOA)

MOA is approximately 1 inch at 100 yards. Adjusting by 1 MOA will move your shot impact by 1 inch at that distance.

Milliradian (MIL)

MIL is a metric unit of measurement, with 1 MIL being approximately 3.6 inches at 100 yards. MIL adjustments are common in military and tactical scopes.

Practical Applications

Knowing how to convert MOA to MIL and vice versa can be valuable when using different types of scopes and accessories.

Shooting with a Rifle Scope

Now that your scope is mounted and zeroed, it’s time to start shooting with it. Follow these tips for a successful shooting experience:

Proper Eye Relief

Maintain the correct distance between your eye and the ocular lens for a full and clear sight picture. Avoid “scope bite” by maintaining a safe distance from the scope during recoil.

Breath Control and Trigger Squeeze

Practice steady breathing and a smooth trigger pull to avoid unnecessary movement when shooting.


Keep your eye on the target even after taking the shot. Follow-through helps maintain proper form and ensures you maintain sight on the target.

Maintaining Your Rifle Scope

Taking care of your rifle scope will extend its lifespan and keep it functioning optimally. Follow these maintenance tips:

Regular Cleaning and Inspection

Clean the lenses regularly using a lens brush or microfiber cloth. Inspect for any scratches or damage that may affect visibility.

Protecting from Moisture and Dust

Use scope covers or caps when not in use to prevent moisture and dust from entering the scope.

Scope Covers and Care Tips

Consider using flip-up covers for quick access during shooting. Avoid using harsh cleaning solutions that may damage lens coatings.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

As a beginner, it’s easy to make certain mistakes when using a rifle scope. Avoid these common errors:

Over-Adjusting the Scope

Making excessive adjustments can lead to a loss of zero. Make gradual adjustments and track them to maintain accuracy.

Ignoring Parallax

Parallax occurs when the reticle appears to move against the target. Adjust the parallax knob to ensure a clear view and accurate shots.

Using Poor-Quality Rings and Bases

Invest in high-quality scope rings and bases to ensure a secure and stable mount.

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQs]

What is the purpose of a rifle scope?

A rifle scope is used to magnify the target, allowing for more accurate and precise shooting.

How do I choose the right scope for my needs?

Consider factors such as purpose, magnification power, objective lens size, and reticle type.

Why is proper mounting important for a rifle scope?

Proper mounting ensures the scope stays secure and aligned with the rifle’s bore, leading to accurate shots.

What is the significance of zeroing a rifle scope?

Zeroing aligns the scope with the point of impact, ensuring your shots hit the intended target.

Can I use the same scope for different shooting activities?

While some scopes are versatile, it’s best to choose one that matches your specific shooting needs for optimal performance.


Learning how to read a rifle scope is an essential skill for any shooter. By understanding the various components of a scope and following proper mounting and zeroing procedures, you can significantly improve your shooting accuracy. Remember to choose the right scope for your needs, practice consistently, and take good care of your equipment to enjoy a successful shooting experience.

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