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How to Adjust a Rifle Scope? – Do it the Right Way

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Shooting long distances is more than just mounting your scope and firing. The best shooters you see know this, and it is no surprise they are among the top shooters.

Your expensive rifle, plus an equally expensive scope, will mean very little without further adjustments. Surprisingly even some experienced shooters are yet to grasp how these adjustments work and how to do it correctly on their rifles.

A scope can be adjusted up, down, left, and right. These adjustments affect the accuracy and ease of shooting. So when you see those experts hit accurate shots time after time, you should know that they have properly adjusted the scopes that allowed them to take those shots.

The pain of taking several shots with each shot seeming to be farther away from the target than the last can be eliminated by adjusting the rifle properly.

Making the right adjustments to your scope will save you ammo, as you no longer need to take several shots before you hit the target. This means it’ll also save you money in the long run.

Adjusting your scope the right way will also improve your accuracy and make you a better shooter. Know how you admire those who are so accurate with their shots that it seems they don’t miss? Learning how to adjust your scope the right way will take you to almost that level. Accuracy will become easy to get, and your contact or hunting expeditions will become more successful. You may even start winning a couple of shooting competitions here and there, whether for hunters or combat shooting.

There’s so much more proper adjustment of your scope can get you that’ll make your life easier and make shooting more enjoyable and successful.

In this Guide we are going to know about different scope adjustments, explained below:

  • Adjusting the Dials on the Scope
  • Adjust the Windage and Elevation of Your Scope
  • Types of Turret
  • Turret Designs

Adjusting the Dials on the Scope

Adjusting the Dials on the Scope.

Typically there are two dials on a scope, sometimes three in high-end scopes. The dial on the top, called the elevation turret, moves the bullets vertical direction while the dial on the left called the windage turret moves the horizontal bullet direction.

They are both important if taking great shots is a priority for you.

The proper adjustment of these turrets will give you a “what you see is what you get” moment when you look through the scope lens. The bullet will hit exactly where the center of the crosshairs is pointing at the set distance.

The Different Adjustments to Make on Your Scope

There are two main dials on your scope that can be moved in four ways, but there is also the third dial, not on every scope like the other two but equally important when shooting.

The scope can be moved up, down, forward, backward, left, and right depending on the dial you’re turning.

But that’s not all; you may need to adjust the magnification to improve your accuracy further.

Don’t let all this information scare you; the makers of these scopes know that this can be overwhelming. That is why they’ve made it somewhat easier by giving each adjustment a different dial. So once you know which turret moves what, your work is almost done.

The turret at the top is the elevation turret that moves the bullet direction horizontally. The turret on the right of the scope is the windage dial that moves the bullet direction vertically. And then the not-so-popular turret by the left of the scope is the parallax turret that adjusts the eye position and the target.

Let’s look at each adjustment type in detail:


If you take a shot and see that the bullet is to the left or right of the target, you’ll need your windage adjustments to rectify this problem.

Just like its name suggests, the wind.

The turret for windage adjustment is located on the right side of your scope. Each dial or click (the sound you hear at every turn) is measured in minute angles (MOA) and expressed in inches. It is usually calculated at 100 yards.

The dial can be moved up and down, which causes the change in direction you need.

1 MOA is almost approximately 1 inch, 1.047 inches specifically. This means if you have an MOA of ¼, every click will move the direction ¼ inches depending on the direction you’re moving the turret.


This is like the opposite of the windage adjustment in both operation and change.

If you take your shot and notice it is off the target horizontally – that is, either high or lower your aim point, you need an elevation adjustment.

The error here is usually caused by bullet drop since the bullet does not move in a straight line. Its parabolic nature means that it might be lower or higher than the intended target depending on where you target your crosshairs.

The dial for this change is located at the top of the scope and can be moved from right to left or vise versa. This causes the change in direction you need.

The elevation change is measured in a minute of angles (MOA) or MRAD and expressed in inches just like windage. It can be 1, 1/2, or ¼ MOA per click, all set at 100 yards.


Parallax is the not-so-popular adjustment that even some seasoned shooters don’t know how to handle.

Not many scopes have this additional turret which is usually located on the left side of the scope.

Before we talk about this adjustment, you should know what parallax is when it comes to scopes.

Parallax is the change in target through your scope when you move your eyes. And seeing that it is so difficult to keep your eyes steady for long when aiming, parallax has become a big part of shooting and its success.

The adjustment of parallax tries to curtail the change you should normally see when you move your eyes, even after picking and sighting your target.

The parallax error occurs when the image and the reticle are on different planes. The work of this parallax turret is to correct this so when you move your eye after sighting, and the crosshairs do not move.

How to Adjust the Windage and Elevation of Your Scope?

 How to Adjust the Windage and Elevation of Your Scope?

You understand what windage, elevation, and even the less popular parallax adjustments mean. Now, you should know how to make these up, down, left, and right adjustments through the help of your turrets.

Before we talk about adjusting all these, let’s see what you need to make the adjustments possible.

What You Need to Adjust the Windage and Elevation of Your Scope?

A little confused on what you may need to adjust your scope for accuracy? Worry no more as you’ll see everything you need.

  1. Ruler
  2. Strawbale
  3. Bench rest
  4. 100-yard tape measure
  5. Screwdriver (depending on the type of scope turret)
  6. Pen
  7. 10-foot tape measure
  8. Paper target with bull’s eye
  9. Flat shooting location

Once you have all these ready, you can move to the next step.

Here’s what you need to do next:

Place the ruler on the paper with the bull’s eye and draw a horizontal line from the center of the bull’s eye using the pen. This will divide your paper into two parts, the lower and higher part. Use your ruler and mark distances on the line you’ve drawn, assuming the center of the bull’s eye is 0. So you have to mark the distances away from the center of the bull’s eye from each side.

This line and its markings are going to be the windage gradient.

Next, place the ruler on the center of the bull’s eye vertically, cutting the first horizontal line at the center of the bull’s eye. Use the ruler to mark distances on this line as you did for the horizontal line.

This time the markings (in inches, of course) are going to start at the bull’s eye and go upwards and then from the bull’s eye downwards. This will be the elevation gradient you’ll use.

By now, the paper must have been divided into four equal parts and markings in inches showing upwards, downwards, left, and right distances from the bull’s eye.

After this, place your paper with the bull’s eye at a distance in your flat shooting range. A distance of 100 yards is ideal, but you can use any lower distance possible and recalculate when this is not possible. Use your 100-yard tape measure for this.

Place your rifle comfortably on a bench rest. This is so you minimize barrel movements that can disrupt your measurement. You can then calculate the distance from the center of your barrel to the bench rest and then to the ground. Add them together and take note of it.

Use your 100-yard tape measure to measure 100 yards from the ground where the nozzle of your rifle is. Place your straw bale there. And then measure the distance you got from the center of your barrel to the ground.

Measure this distance from the ground up on your straw bale, and then place your paper target with the bull’s eye there. Ensure the bull’s eye is precisely at a distance from the ground.

Take 3 shots from your rifle to your target and go to the paper target with a ruler to measure the distance of your shots away from the bull’s eye.

What you want to measure is the vertical distance and horizontal distance from the bull’s eye. Take note of these distances as these would be the basis of your elevation and windage adjustments. Also, take note of the location of these distances on the paper. For horizontal distance, you want to know if it’s to the right or left of the center of the bull’s eye. While for the vertical distance, you want to know if it’s upwards or downwards of the bull’s eye.

Now that you have these figures, you can go ahead to adjust for windage and elevation.

How to adjust windage?

Windage adjustment is done when there is a horizontal difference between your shot and the intended target.

This turret is located on the right side of your scope and can be moved upwards and downwards.

The horizontal distance of your first shots away from your bull’s eye will be fixed using the windage dial. If this horizontal distance is to the right of your bull’s eye, then you need to adjust windage to move your shots towards the left.

Check the MOA of your scope. It is typically ¼, ½, or on rare occasions 1. And remember, 1 MOA is approximately 1 inch. Assuming your MOA is ½, this means for every click, there would be a corresponding ½ inches change in direction.

But you don’t need it to change in just any direction; you need a change in direction to the left.

Assuming the horizontal distance of your shot to the bull’s eye is 2 inches. With an MOA of ½, you need to move the dial four clicks, which is 2 inches anticlockwise.

After doing this, take three more shots and measure again. Keep repeating the process till your shots are hitting the bull’s eye.

How to Adjust Elevation?

The elevation dial is located at the top of the scope. It is in charge of adjusting vertical distances from the bull’s eye. That is when your shots are either upwards or downwards of the bull’s eye.

Take the vertical distance of your shots to the bull’s eye and also take note of its position, whether upwards or downwards of the bull’s eye.

You also want to check the MOA of your scope. The manufacturer always provides this around the turret. Assuming the MOA is ½ and the vertical distance away from the bull’s eye is 1 inch upwards. This means you need to move the bullet location one inch downwards, so it hits the bull’s eye.

To do this, move the elevation turret at the top of the scope two clicks in the anticlockwise direction to represent 1 inch downwards.

Take three more shots and calculate the new distances. If off, make new corrections till your shots are hitting the bull’s eye.

Type of Turret – Factor for Scope Adjust

There are majorly two types of turrets, scopes come with. Some are associated with high-end or modern scopes and are usually raiser to use. Others may be older models and typically be harder to operate.

Let’s see the different turret types and how they work.

1. Target Turrets

These turrets come with smaller MOA as low as 1/8 to make fine-tuning your shot for accuracy even more precise.

These turrets are better for long-range practice shooting. Still, hunters will find it difficult to use as the knob is sensitive and can easily be moved by small touch, which is common when moving in the bush.

They are the most precise turrets you can find.

2. Ballistic Turrets

This type of Turret does not have tiny adjustments like the target turret. Its adjustments are typically in the range of 1/3 MOA. They are best for people who value speed and time when shooting, as you don’t need to spend so long adjusting the dial before taking a shot.

It is best for hunters and is generally easier to use.

Turret Designs – Another Scope Adjusting Factor

Turret Designs

Aside from the types of turrets, they also come in different designs that can affect the way you can use them.

Here are some of the most common designs:

  • Hollow design

This means the turret has a small hole where you can put a screwdriver or coin to adjust it.

The hollow turret is harder to use as without a screwdriver or something that can enter the hole; you’ll not be able to move the dial.

  • Finger adjustable turrets

Common in high-end scopes, they allow you to use your fingers to adjust the turret. This means less stress and speed when using a scope with this turret design.

  • Capped Turret

A turret going off and losing its setting due to some bumps is fixed with this turret design.

Here, a cap covers the turret, ensuring it does not move after you’ve set it. Simply open the cap, make your adjustments and close it back.

My Final Verdict:

Understanding how your turret works and adjusting it to improve your shot better is the first step to becoming a better shooter.

By now, you must have learned how to move your scope up, down, left, and right and, in turn, move your bullet to the intended target.

About Author

James Towndrow, a NRA-certified Firearms Instructor. During a career of 18 years had won several shooting competition including major leagues. Taking all those experience down the road, is now a successful Shooting Instructor in Texas, US.