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How to Look Through a Scope – The Right Way

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To properly utilize the abilities of a scope, you have to follow scope usage best policies. If you do not know how to use the scope, you’ll not get the accuracy and precision the scope promises. It is as simple as that.

Luckily, the proper ways to use scope are easy to learn and only require a little practice to master. Things like looking through a scope and positioning a scope for viewing may seem like an easy subject, but quite many shooters don’t know how to do this. It gets even worse, and most shooters do not realize they are doing all these wrong. They continue to blame their lack of accuracy or uncomfortable shooting positions on other things while neglecting the main issue.

This has led to the issue lingering and causing damage. If you don’t know how to look through a scope, you’ll struggle to make your shots. You may also develop lousy shooting positions that can lead to bad posture with long-term effects.

This article teaches you how to look through a scope the right way. It includes everything you should consider, some possible problems you may encounter, and how to solve them.

What is Scope Viewing?

what is Scope Viewing

Looking through a scope in a way that you can see your target from a long range or short range in a comfortable position is scope viewing. This is straightforward. It gets a little more complicated when you ask why should scope viewing be important?

It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran shooter or just getting started, the aim of using a scope remains the same – to improve your accuracy and make shooting more effective. You will not be able to achieve this goal without properly looking through the scope. When we say look through, it is not limited to placing your eyes close to the rear end of the scope and looking, and through it, it also involves the proper position of the eyes and the whole body in general, among other things.

How to Know if You’ve Been Scope Viewing Wrongly?

The thing with scope viewing is that a lot of people do not even know they have this problem. In fact, not a lot of people even know this problem exists, so it is understandable if they don’t realize they are looking through their scope all wrong. While many people just attribute their lack of accuracy to a lousy scope, some others continue to finger different parts of scope as the culprit for their misfortunes.

If you’re in this boat, or you’re wondering if you may have been scope viewing wrongly all these while, this section will help clear the air.

  • Lingering accuracy issues: if your accuracy continues to fluctuate even after trying different solutions, you may have a scope viewing problem. This is by far the most common way to know if you’re not looking through your scope the right way because the aim of using the scope will not be achieved. If your accuracy does not improve even after you must have tried several possible solutions, scope viewing may just be the issue. Bear in mind that having poor accuracy can also be caused by other things like a subpar scope
  • Injuries: do you consistently get scope kissed from the recoil of a gun after shooting? You may just be viewing the scope wrong. This is not final, though, as poor eye relief can also be the culprit.
  • Body pains: this might seem odd for some shooters, but some people actually get body pains after shooting for a long time. This is mostly due to bad posture when shooting, which can be tied to a bad scope viewing posture.

These are some of the things that can show you have a scope viewing problem. If you’re suffering from one or more of the above-mentioned problems, you may want to pay attention to the next section of this guide.

Scope Viewing Factors to Consider

There are some factors related to scope viewing that you should consider when trying to improve how you look through a scope.

  • Eye relief: this is the correct distance your eyes can be placed away from the eyepiece lens that guarantees clear images and accurate shooting. Scopes have varying eye reliefs, with some having generous and safe distances while the others are too close for comfort. Either way, you need to consider the eye relief of your scope and ensure the eye relief is also safe. This is because you can get “scope kissed” when the rifle recoils during shooting.
  • Parallax: this is an apparent displacement of an object in respect to its background when it is viewed from different angles. When it comes to scopes, parallax is the apparent change in position of your target when you move your head. I say apparently because this displacement is not real but made up. You aim to align the image, so it is focused on the reticle this way, the image position does not move even if you move the position of your head. Luckily, many MDI to high-end scopes has parallax adjustment knobs to make this change.

How to Look Through a Scope?

How to Look Through a Scope – The Right Way

If you notice you may not have been viewing your scope well all these while, which has resulted in poor accuracy and other issues, the next step is fixing the issue by learning how to look through a scope.

The primary aim of looking through a scope is to see the target as clear as possible so you can take accurate shots. This section teaches you how to look through a scope so you can finally start enjoying accurate shooting.

Scope Position

Before you consider how to look through the scope, the scope has to be properly positioned both on the rifle and its overall position. The scope needs to be mounted properly on the rifle with the recommended mounting system. Follow the instructions in the manual to mount the scope.

The way the whole setup, including the scope, is position will determine how well you can see through it. Generally, it is ideal to use a stand or sandbag to position your rifle and keep it steady. However, this is not possible all the time, and sometimes, you may have to hold the rifle steady and in position.

Typically the front end of the rifle is supported by the sandbag or bipod stand, while the rear end is placed on your heart area and supported by your non-shooting hand or another sandbag.

The position of the scope should leave enough room for you to position your head behind it.

Head Position

After getting the right scope position, the next thing to consider is your head position. This is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of scope viewing. Luckily it is easy to understand and follow.

Your head should be positioned behind the scope with your cheek firmly against the rifle stock and your shooting eye positioned behind the eyepiece lens. This is the correct way to position your head so you can look through the scope.

Figure Out The Eye Relief

Most scopes have clearly stated eye relief you should use, but you can also figure this out quickly where the eye relief is not stated. To do this, move your shooting eye toward and away from the eyepiece lens with your cheek firmly on the rifle stock.

Move your cheek across the rifle stock while looking through the lens until you see a clear image. The best position is when the image fills the lens, farther away from this distance, and the image reduces in size till it finally goes blank, and closer than this distance will cause the image to collapse.

Check for Parallax

The next thing you should do is look through the scope and check for parallax. Now, how do you do this? Look through the scope to see the position of a target on the reticle, and then shift the position of your head and look through the scope again. Does the position of the target change? If yes, then you need to adjust the parallax where possible.

This is done by using the parallax knob and adjusting till the image is centered properly, and a change in position of the head does not change the position of the image.

Breathing and Trigger Control

To look through the scope and make accurate shots, your breathing needs to be steady and controlled. You need to master the art of steady breathing even after high-energy activities like running. This allows you to be calm while looking through the scope.

Breathing goes with trigger control. You need to also have complete control of the trigger with controlled breathing. This would not only allow you to aim properly but also release the trigger without causing a shift in the target.

Shooting With One Eye Closed or Both Eyes Open?

This is one of the most keenly contested topics in scope viewing, with experts taking sides on what they think is the best way to look through a scope. You can look through a scope with the non-shooting eye open or both eyes open. But which should you use?

  • Shooting with one eye closed: this is when your non-shooting eye is closed. This allows for full concentration as your brain is focused on the other eye. Here, you will be able to line your target quickly and faster, but accuracy is affected as parallax creeps in. This style is best used when speed is more important than accuracy.
  • Shooting with both eyes open: this is when both your shooting and non-shooting eyes are open when aiming. It removes the standard parallax error and improves the accuracy of your shots. Because there are more distractions to contend with, it takes more time to align your shot when using this style.


Looking through a scope the right way may often be neglected by shooters, but it has a massive effect on the effectiveness of their shooting and their health. The good thing is that learning how to look through a scope properly is easy to achieve by following the guide above.

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.