Top Tip 1: Make sure the weather conditions are appropriate for testing your rifle and loads. There is no point testing a .17 HMR in a 30mph crosswind. Likewise, there is no point testing your 22-250 at 250 yards in hot, sunny conditions, as the mirage effect will make it almost impossible to see your target. Bright sunshine is never good to do any testing in. The perfect weather conditions are warm (for your comfort), overcast (for visibility), and little or no wind (for more accurate shooting).
Let’s assume you are setting up the rifle from scratch. I prefer to have the scope mounted at home, before I set off for the range. There is nothing worse than taking a set of Allen keys into a field in order to tighten your mounts, only to drop them in the long grass! On arrival, make sure your bench is solid and even, that your shooting position is safe, you are not shooting directly into sunshine, and that you have taken into account wind direction. (Having the wind over your shoulder, or straight towards you is better than having a crosswind.)
Your first task is to bore-sight the rifle. We do this for two reasons: 1) Once you’ve bore-sighted the rifle, you can be fairly confident that the bullet will go where you want it to go or thereabouts.
2) Cost. There is no point blindly firing a gun at a target when it’s likely to be way out as you’ll go through too much ammunition.
Top Tip 2: To bore-sight a gun, first of all remove the bolt. Place the target board at about 50 yards. I like to use a 2’ x 2’ piece of ply with a white background and a two inch diameter black circle as the point of aim. Making sure the rifle is on a solid bipod or bench-rest bag, looking down the barrel, aim it at the centre of the black circle. Now, without touching the gun, lift your head slightly to look at where your scope’s crosshairs sit. Adjust your windage and elevation turrets on your scope until the crosshairs are in the middle of the back dot along with the barrel. Once you’ve done this, take one shot. You shouldn’t be too far off.
Now we’re on paper, you are almost ready to fine-tune your rifle. My preferred zero range is 100 yards. Place your target board at this distance, making sure you have several targets to aim at (you can download these free from www.mytargets.com. My preferred target has inch dots in red and green which allows you to easily identify the point of impact.
Top Tip 3: The three-shot group. Take three shots at one of the red dots, making sure that your point of aim is exactly the same each time. Hopefully, if you have the right ammunition for the gun, you should have a tight group of three holes. This may not be where you originally aimed, but now we adjust the scope, by moving the windage and elevation relative distances. Now take another three shots and you should be on target. If not, further fine adjustments may be needed. Repeat as necessary.
Once zeroed, it’s time to move onto distance testing. I’ll talk more about that in my next article.
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