These days, a quality box of 20 hunting or match-grade cartridges can easily cost $80. At $4 per trigger pull, you don’t want to waste any shots sighting in your optic.
That’s why, unless you like setting money on fire, you should use the most efficient sight-in method possible—and you can’t get any more efficient than the two-shot zero.
You can find videos online that claim to “sight-in” rifles with one shot. This is nonsense. You can’t know you’ve made the right scope adjustments until you take your second shot, which is why the two-shot method is the way to go.
Step 1: Choose a Good Scope and Secure It Properly
None of this will work if your scope can’t hold zero or you haven’t properly mounted it to your gun.
I chose this 6-24x Crimson Trace Hardline Pro to demonstrate the two-shot zero because I know the CT optic will hold zero, and the turret adjustments will move the reticle exactly where they’re supposed to go. You’ll see the importance of consistent reticle movement in Step 4.
Scope mounting is a multi-step process, but for this 100-yard sight-in, the most important concern is that the rings are tight enough to prevent the scope from moving. For a detailed how-to on scope mounting, click here.
Step 2: Bore Sight the Scope
This is the most important step in the entire process. If your scope isn’t properly bore-sighted, you won’t hit paper on the first shot, which will keep you from getting to the bullseye on the second.
You can bore sight a gun one of two ways (generally speaking).
The first is to use a laser bore-sighting kit. These devices can be effective, and they’re a must if you’re bore sighting a lever-action gun or any other firearm that doesn’t allow you to see through the bore. The laser device sits in the muzzle and projects a laser downrange, and the user moves the crosshairs to the point of light.
I don’t have one of these devices, so I prefer to bore sight the old-fashioned way. At 100 yards, you can get on paper just by looking down the barrel.
First, remove the bolt from the gun so you can see through the barrel.
Next, secure the gun in a vise or on sandbags. I used sandbags on this day at the range, but I actually prefer a vice. I like using a vice because I can strap down the gun and ensure it doesn’t move.
Peer down the barrel and move the vice until the center of the paper is in the center of the bore. Take your time with this step! Just because you can see the target through the barrel doesn’t mean the gun is properly aligned. Make sure the bullseye is right in the center.
Finally, without moving the gun, look through the scope and adjust the reticle until it aligns with the bullseye.
Step 3: Take Your First Shot and Measure the Distance to the Bullseye
Once you have the rifle back together, take a shot from a vice or from sandbags. Either way, be sure both the front and rear of the gun are stabilized.
I zeroed at 100 yards.
Walk down to your target and measure the horizontal and vertical distance from the point of impact to your bullseye.
Step 4: Determine Scope Adjustments
This step requires a little math. First, determine whether your scope moves the reticle in minute of angle (MOA) or milliradian (MIL) increments.
My Brushline Pro adjusts the reticle in MOA, and one MOA is approximately one inch at 100 yards (it’s actually 1.047”, but who’s counting?). If your scope is in MILs, you can go back to Europe. Just kidding. One MIL at 100 yards is equal to 3.6”.
Adjust the windage and elevation on your scope based on the measurement you took in the previous step. My first shot landed 1.505” low and 1.560” to the left. My scope moves the reticle in 0.25 MOA increments. Therefore, I adjusted my scope 6 clicks “up” (1.5 MOA) and 6 clicks “right” (1.5 MOA).
Step 5: Verify Adjustments with Second Shot
You could call it a day after Step 4. If you only have two cartridges, maybe you should. But if you have more than two rounds, I’d recommend taking a second shot to verify you didn’t accidentally move the reticle “down” instead of “up” or your scope wasn’t jarred loose (not that either of these things have ever happened to me).
Should You Use a Two-Shot Zero?
Now that you know how to zero a rifle in two shots, you should ask yourself: “Should I?”
It depends on how confident you are in that second shot. If you know your rifle is accurate and believe you’ve mounted your scope securely, you’re probably good to go. I know this Springfield Model 2020 is dead nuts accurate, and I’ve been mounting scopes for a long time. If I had continued shooting, I’m confident I would have landed subsequent shots in the bullseye.
But if you’re working with a new rifle or scope, and you have a few extra rounds, it’s a good idea to take a few more shots. A larger group will verify that the second shot wasn’t a fluke and give you confidence that you’ll hit your targets at the next match or on the next hunt.
Whether you use two shots or six shots, the “two-shot zero” method will allow you to get on the bullseye faster, so you can waste fewer shots zeroing your optic and take more shots ringing steel.