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How to DOPE a Scope? | Learn the Basics

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You’ve got your rifle set, you spot your target, and immediately start to zero your scope for accuracy. You were going as fast as you could, but by the time you were done, your target has moved far from your calculations or even disappeared.

This is what a lot of shooters go through just to hit a target. Doing all these calculations almost every time you have to take a shot is quite a chore. It is also one of the leading causes of shooting failures. Speed is of utmost importance when it comes to shooting non-stationary targets.

Sometimes even with a spotter by your side, the information you need at that moment about your shot may not be available. How else can you make improvements on the previous shots without data on your last shots?

But what do you do? It’s not like you can just put in some numbers and have everything settled in a short while, right?

Well, you can, in a way. You can DOPE your way to successful shooting. I know you may be wondering what DOPE is.

What is Scope D.O.P.E?

What is Scope D.O.P.E?

D.O.P.E is an acronym that stands for Date On Previous Engagement.

Scope dope is a record of ballistic information for your weapons and shots that you can reach and use quickly when you need it. Here, instead of doing new calculations in the field, you can jump the gun, save yourself some time by simply inputting matching data from the information you have recorded.

As you can see, DOPE-ing is a time-saving, less stressful way of getting your target locked in. It can also be quite precise with the right equipment.

The scope Dope kit helps you take this information and store it when it is needed. The scope dope kit comprises several components like the rectangular range card and data disc that perfectly fit the flip-up lens cover. These components also need durability to last the test of time. This is why they are made from a combination of ultra-durable UV cured printing and heavy die-cut vinyl. This reduces the effect of wear and tear on it.

Tools Required to Dope a Scope

Before we jump right into the scope DOPE and its working mechanism, you need to understand that several tools are required to make your work easier and faster. These tools work together to provide you with an almost seamless data collection, storage, and retrieval unit.

Here are some of the tools you should be getting:

  • Modular data books
  • Weather meter
  • Chronograph

Modular data books

Some decades ago, the rifle data book was the go-to guy for data collection. This was a physical booklet with spiral-bound covers where information is inputted or stored. This book has since been modified into a more pleasing and effective Modular data book.

The users can modify the Modular data book to fit their specific rifle needs. The data books are used for developing and referencing ballistic data for your rifle.

Weather Meter

When you start data collection, you’ll also need to record the environmental conditions at that particular time. This ensures the right information is stored. Since environmental conditions have a huge effect on the path of a bullet, it is ideal for including environmental data.

Depending on the quality of weather you get, it should show you the temperature, humidity, density altitude, wind speed, and barometric pressure. This is enough environmental data to give a precise result.

However, a weather meter with all these features may be too expensive. A weather meter with just temperature and wind speed gradients will serve you.


To get even more accurate ballistic data, you should record the rifle and ammunition muzzle velocity.

To get information on this type of data, you need a chronograph. Ideally, you want the average muzzle velocity to be at the zero range for up to 10 shots to get accurate data.

The chronograph is not as important as the first two tools listed, as you can get the average muzzle velocity of your rifle and ammunition through several other ways. Although, using a chronograph is easier and produces more refined data.

How to DOPE a Scope?

How Does Scope Dope Work?

If you’re wondering how DOPE works, your curiosity will be satisfied in this section that talks about the working principle behind this phenomenon.

To DOPE successfully, you need several pieces of information, which, when put together, provides you with accurate data that will lead to a precise shot when used.

So one of the first things you should be doing after getting your tools, of course, is gathering the necessary data.

First things first, choose the type of DOPE you want to use. There are different types of dopes, all with varying methods and degrees of accuracy. Choose the type of scope you want to use; ideally, choosing a more natural option leads to better results.

Now, jump to your rifle and ammunition. Which rifle are you using? What kind of ammunition can it carry? Which ammunition are you currently using in it? You need to gather as enough ammo information as possible. Things like the velocity and travel distance rate should be recorded.

This information will guide you on the type of DOPE card you need. All you need to do is run a quick Google search on the dope card suited for your particular ammunition features. Other ammunition info you need is the muzzle velocity, course, and caliber. Luckily, this information is easily accessible on the manufacturer’s website.

#1. Choose the Type of DOPE

As earlier stated, there are several types of DOPE for you to choose from. These dope types have varying features, levels of accuracy, and tools needed. Let’s see 3 of the most popular types:

  • Ball Park D.O.P.E: it is so-called because of the level of accuracy you can get from this type of DOPE-ing. The information needed for this type of DOPE is basic and can easily be gotten from your ammo manufacturer’s website. This info includes the caliber, zero distance, velocity, ballistic coefficient, and weight. Then you can input these details on a simple ballistic phone app or website. This website will analyze the data and give you a range card with a decent level of accuracy. You will get MOA, mil, and click adjustments. Still, accuracy is lacking as your shots usually fall close to the target within the ballpark. However, this is a less stressful and cheaper method.
  • Precision D.O.P.E: as the name implies, this type of DOPE gives you a precise target. You should be able to hit the bull’s eye easily with this range type. What this means is that you’ll be spending more money on other tools. The two tools you need are the range time and chronograph, which shows you the true velocity and standard deviation of your ammunition. To do this, shoot your ammonium over the chronograph. The average velocity gotten from this will give you a more accurate range card for shooting.

    On the other hand, the standard deviation does not affect the range card but has a huge effect on the ammo performance and the probability of hitting the target. The range time is the fine tuner. It helps fine-tune the data you have and remove any variations that may lead to any deviation when you shoot.
  • Real World D.O.P.E: this is the testing method of DOPE-ing where you let the data from consecutive shots guide you. While the ballpark method is inexpensive and the precision method requires you to get a couple of more tools, the real-world method requires you to access a large range. This is not accessible as not many people have access to a large private land or range. But if you do, this may be the best method for you.

    It is inexpensive if you remove access to a suitable location, and it also gives precise data. You want to place targets along your shooting part at distances of 25 to 50m apart. You can then shoot at each target and record the bullet drop at each distance. Also, record the distance from where you’re shooting from to each target. With this information, you can easily calculate the MOA and clicks needed for accurate data.

#2. Make the Data Easily Accessible

The data you have gotten should be easily accessible as you use your rifle. Scope Dope should save you time, not waste it. If you have to spend a lot of time going through the information before implementing then, the aiming of DOPE-ing has been defeated.

First, you need to record this data in a way that is understandable and clear to you. You should get a scope book.

This book will carry all your data in an orderly manner that is easily understandable. Basic information like the temperature, wind, scope adjustments, previous target distances, and even shooting positions are necessary and should be included in your book.

The type of book you use is up to you. You can get an expensive scope data book or use a simple book with the reliant columns and sections. Whichever one you choose, the aim is to have your information organized and tidy so you can access it on the go.

You can also keep a ballistic app on your phone for recording some of this information. However, I would advise you have this as an additional piece of information collection and not a replacement for your data book.

With time you’ll notice your data book is becoming more than just a book for storing data but more and more like your shooting diary where you record your thoughts during shooting. Things like your hits and misses, what you felt you were doing wrong, and so much more can have a huge effect when you’re going through them, days later when the field attention has worn off.

Now that you’ve seen what you can record and how to record effectively, you need to be able to see what you’ve recorded easily when shooting.

I’ve found really interesting ways to do this:

  • Get a wrist coach: a wrist coach is a simple band worn around the wrist. It has a clear plastic film where you can put the printed data from and access it when you look at the film.
  • Get a gear tie: here, a gear tie is used to attach the printed data form to the side of your scope. Use clips to hold the top of the paper and attach it to the gear tie that is fastened around the scope.

With any of these methods, you’ll save yourself the stress and save time as you can have your eyes on the target and still see your data with a little shift of the eyes.

Laminate the printed data form so it is protected against the weather as it might get torn or damaged in wet conditions or from the force of the wind.

Why You Should Scope DOPE?

Why You Should Scope DOPE?

There are several reasons you should consider scope DOPE, and you’ll be seeing some of the most prominent ones shortly.

  • Precision shooting: if accuracy is of utmost concern to you when shooting, scope Dope should be necessary. Scope Dope helps you achieve the kind of precision needed to hit the bull’s eye in your shooting consistently.
  • Save time: one of the biggest advantages of scope DOPE-ing is the time it’ll save you. After gathering the necessary data, all you need to do to achieve accurate shooting is to input the data and adjust your dials. This would cut out a huge chunk of the time you would have spent calculating on the field. It may also be the difference between a successful shot and a miss, especially when shooting at moving targets.
  • Save ammunition: ammo is expensive enough; you don’t have to continue wasting it just to calibrate every time you go shooting. You’ll spend a lot of money on ammo with little result to show for it. Instead, you should scope Dope by gathering data over time that’ll provide you with the information needed to bypass the initial testing phase. Thus saving you a lot of money in the process.

Finally Verdict:

Scope DOPE-ing is the key to precision shooting. Suppose you want to go from good to the top level of shooters quickly. In that case, you should start with D.O.P.E, as it’ll help you with the information you need for accurate and repeatable data.

Scope Dope may seem like an abstract term for new shooters, but as you have seen, it is no more than a fancy name for data collection and referencing. With the guide above, you should easily gather information over time and then use that information to get accurate shots.

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.