At times I think there must be something magic to sighting in a scoped rifle. I have had customers who have been shooting and hunting for years bring me guns to sight in before they take off on a big hunt. I have even had outfitters call me to ask how to adjust their scope to hit point of impact.
Why should you sight in your rifle every year? It should be simple to make sure it is still shooting in the right place. Just because old Betsy was shooting one-inch groups last year doesn’t mean it will do the same this year. Pre-season is the right time to check everything out. Make sure your rings are still tight. The worst problem found is with rings and bases. The Redfield or Leupold STD bases have windage adjust screws that will come loose and you will find yourself with a rifle that won’t hit a 4 x 8” piece of plywood at 100 yards. Check the base screws which hold the bases to the action, they will come loose over time. Ammo will have a big difference from brand to brand. Just because you sighted your rifle in with a 150grain Remington Core-Lokts, don’t expect the 150-grain Winchester Fail Safe to hit in the same place. Don’t think you can have two different bullet weights hit the same point of impact. I mean don’t have your first shot a 165-grain bullet and then have a 125-grain bullet loaded in the box magazine in case you see a hog. Just shoot the same ammo all the time! Believe me if you hit the hog with the same bullet you are using for Deer you will kill the hog. Some people try to get too specialized with their bullets. I have seen as much as 8 inches of different point of impact between two different brands of ammo with the same bullet weight, not to mention changing to a different bullet weight.
Shooting your rifle off sand bags is not a big deal as long as you follow a few simple suggestions. First, put the front sand bags under the forend of the stock about where your front sling stud is. Never place the barrel on the sand bags. The bags will put too much pressure on the barrel and it won’t shoot the same place twice. Place a sand bag in the rear grip area of the stock. This will stabilize the stock and you won’t be moving all around trying to keep the cross-hairs on the bullseye. Place your forward arm (left if your right handed) on the stock just behind the front sand bags or don’t touch the rifle at all with the forward hand. Never lay your arm over the scope. This may look cool but it won’t help your shooting. Watch your breathing, it is a good idea to hold your breath as you are getting ready to squeeze the trigger. Stay loose, don’t bear down, relax and let the recoil push you. By relaxing you will feel less recoil. I know everyone understands not to jerk the trigger and to just squeeze, but at times with the heavy factory trigger settings, it is hard not to jerk. One of the best things that will help your shooting will be to have a Gunsmith do a trigger job on your rifle. Repetition is the key to good shooting, try to do the same thing every time. Don’t hold your breath on one shot and not on the next. Consistency is the key to shooting accurately.
Scopes are not all built alike but they all work the same. You have to adjust the cross- hairs in the direction the bullet needs to go. If you shoot to the left of the bullseye then you have to adjust the scope to the right. If you shoot high then you have to adjust your scope lower. This may sound simple but most people do just the opposite. I even catch myself moving the turrets the wrong way. The new Europeon scopes like Kahles or Swarovski don’t use up or down for their marks they use an H, which stands for Height. So if you have to bring the cross-hairs up then you should use the H to go up. The new Zeiss Conquest scopes have the same turrets on both the elevation and windage sides and this can get real confusing when the top turret says both H for up and an R for right. Last, 20 power and higher scopes are great for seeing animals at long distances but most of the time it is too much power for sighting in at 100 yards. You tend to pick up every movement and heartbeat while trying to sight in this type of scope. Try shooting a group at 6 power, a group at 9 power, and one at high or 20 power and you might be surprised what you get.
What distance is best to sight in depends on the type of shooting you will be doing. And the type of rifle you are using. A 30-30 is a short range rifle and should be sighted in for short range. If you are hunting in east Texas where the shots are seldom over 100 yards then sight in dead on at 100 yards. But if you are headed to New Mexico for a Pronghorn hunt, then a 300 yard zero is more like it. I usually will sight my rifles in about 1 ½” high at 100 yards which will give me a 200 yard zero and a 8 inch drop at 300 yards. Most rifles will shoot like this whether it is a 270 Winchester, 30-06 Springfield, 7mm Remington Mag., or a 340 Weatherby, they will all shoot about 7 to 9 inches low at 300 yards with a 1 ½” high at 100 yards sight in.
No magic, just a little work. I can usually sight a rifle in with 3 shots, but I have to do my pre-shooting work first. Make sure the gun is clean. Make sure you have the right ammo, know that the rings and bases are tight and how the scope works. And believe me, if I can do it then you can too!