Zeroing a rifle means aligning the sights – or scope – so that you can aim accurately at your target and save yourself ammunition. Follow this simple guide to zeroing a rifle scope.

1. Set up a target in a safe place, 100 yards away. Draw it on a large piece of paper in case your bullet goes wide, you need to see where the bullet lands. Use 1 inch or 25 mm divisions for you target so you can use the measurements later. Alternatively, there may be a bulls eye target at your range specifically for zeroing.

2. Check that all the parts of your rifle are nice and tight. In particular, check the stock/action and scope fittings are secure. Make sure the screws are at the right torque. If you’ve got a moderator, check it’s screwed on properly. Use a bore snake or cleaning kit – available from most gun shops – to make sure the barrel is clean and dry.

3. Align the scope with the barrel. Unless of course your gunsmith did this for you – lucky you. If you fitted the scope yourself, then remove the bolt and sight down the bore in the good old-fashioned way. Use a spirit level if you have one. Prop your gun up, then position it so that you’re looking at your paper target down the bore. Look through the sight and adjust the crosshairs onto your target without touching your gun. Set your scopes magnification to between 6 and 8 power at the most and leave it.

4. Fire a shot. This should (hopefully!) land somewhere on your target

5. Using a spotting scope if you have one, find out how far out you are from zero. Otherwise, walk up to your target and use your target divisions to get a measurement of how many inches up or down for example your bullet is off the target. Then adjust your windage and elevation settings up or down, left or right as necessary. Each interval (or click) on the adjustment turrets of your telescopic sights will move the point of impact a certain distance. You’ll need to check your manufacturer’s instructions to work this out. Remember that at 25 yards, an adjustment will require four times as many clicks than at 100 yards, e.g. if the adjustment is four clicks for an inch at 100 yards, it will be sixteen clicks for an inch of movement at 25 yards. 

6. Fire a second shot. Bingo. You should be very close to zero this time. Fire another four shots in quick succession and take the average of where they land on the target. This is your mean point of impact (MPI). Ignore any stray shots away from the cluster of holes – these will likely just be mistakes. Draw a line between the centre of each bullet hole on the target. Then draw a line from the centre of each bullet hole across the midpoint of the opposite line. Where these second lines cross one another is the MPI. 

 Re-adjust your scope using this info if you need to. Fire a last bullet to check you’ve done the job right.

And there you have it. How to zero a rifle in six easy steps. Read on for some final helpful tips.
Top tips

Don’t attempt to zero your rifle if the weather is extreme. Do it on a dry day with no wind if you can.

Don’t let your fingers get in the way of the rifle barrel or moderator or it can affect your zero

Not everyone can get their shots in a group, but this is important. So do fire five shots in quick succession. Don’t zero after a single shot or you will be chasing your zero for ages.

Remember, you’ll always have to fine tune your rifle to make sure it’s zeroed exactly – and it’s actually only the sight that can be adjusted, not the rifle itself.