Got a new scope? Maybe you haven’t pulled a trigger since last fall? Either way, rifle season means you may need to reacquaint yourself with your weapon. We’ll show you how to acquire or double-check your rifle’s zero and throw in a few ways to make more accurate shots afield.
The easiest way to get on paper is to place your gun in a vise, remove the bolt and look through the barrel downrange to view a bullseye target 25-50 yards away. Adjust your scope so you see an identical picture through both barrel and scope.
You can also use a laser rangefinder or magnetic bore-sighter to bore sight, but a word of caution: any time you stick something in your barrel be extremely careful. Too much jostling and twisting could scratch the inside of the barrel and mar the rifling. For the money, though, a good laser bore-sighter is very accurate and will cut down what you spend on practice ammo.
Dialing It In
After roughly 20 rounds, your rifle better be dialed in. Let it cool down, clean it, and then send two more rounds downrange to “foul” it up a bit. That way, when you take your next shot at an elk, the condition of the barrel will be nearly identical to the barrel you just zeroed.
Most elk hunters I know like to zero in at 100 yards. Depending on the caliber and load, your bullet will likely hit the 25-yard target an inch or two high. That’s because bullets travel in an arc when they exit the barrel, first rising then falling. If you’re aiming for a 100-yard zero and you’re two inches high at 25 yards, shoot the 100-yard target and fine-tune your scope.
To simulate the chest-pounding adrenaline of an elk in your cross-hairs, crank out 10 push-ups or jumping jacks and then get behind your rifle. See how long your heart-rate slows until you can make an accurate shot. Focus on slowing your breathing.
Decide the field position you most prefer to use when shooting: offhand, kneeling, sitting, prone. Because we most often practice what we’re best at, shoot from two other positions, using only what you carry afield: shooting sticks, bi-pod, hunting pack, etc.