Firearms Hunting Rifle Tactical

How to Zero a Rifle On the Cheap

The first thing that must be done in order to ensure that your rifle will shoot accurately, is properly zero it. While plenty of folks will tell you that you need to find a shooting range or purchase a portable bench set-up to do this properly, zeroing your rifle doesn’t have to be a burden on the budget. If you’ve got a bolt-action rifle, a rangefinder, and live in a state that allows you access to public land, you can zero your rifle on the cheap and easy. Here’s how:

  1. Paperwork

Getting on paper is the most important step in the zeroing process. Without the ability to get on paper, you won’t be able to know where your shots are going downrange. The first step to getting on paper is boresighting. While there are numerous laser boresighters out there, varying in price range from $30 to $300, there is also a good ol’ fashioned way to boresight a bolt action gun that won’t hit you hard in the wallet.

Remove the bolt from your rifle and set the gun on a steady rest. Place a paper target (with a bulls-eye) out at 25 yards. Line your barrel on the target and look through your scope. Now, move your scope until you are seeing the same sight picture as you saw through your barrel. Using a paper target with a bull’s-eye is important because you must align the round bull’s eye with the round sight-picture you’ll get while looking through the barrel.

  1. Box it Up

One of the advantages of going to a conventional range, is that the targets and the target backdrop is already prearranged. But you don’t need much to create these conditions on your own. Find a hundred-yard stretch of land with a solid backdrop, such as a large berm or mountainside. Using a cardboard box (one that is approximately 12 to14-inches across the face), and a staple gun, staple your paper target to the box. Duct tape works just as well if you don’t have a staple gun. Use rocks or a heavy piece of wood to stabilize the box. This is especially helpful if your shooting spot is exposed to wind. Place your target box in front of your backdrop, bust out that trust rangefinder and position yourself 25 yards from the target.

  1. Pack it Up

As mentioned earlier, conventional rifle-zeroing is often done from a bench. Short of dragging a folding table out into the woods with you, there is another way to supplement this. Get a heavy pack, one you’d use for backpacking or hunting. Stuff it with clothing such as snow jackets or big sweatshirts. This bag will act as your shooting platform. It is important to make sure that the bag is adequately full, a half-full bag will not make for a stable rest.

Laying in the prone position, rest your rifle across the pack and take aim at the target in front of you.

  1. Technique Talk

Focus your shooting in three-shot intervals. Aim dead center, shoot, reload. After this process has concluded three times, allow your barrel to cool off and check your target. Your shot grouping should tell you how you need to adjust your scope. Most modern rifle scopes employ a ¼” per click system. Most modern paper targets use 1-inch squares. Adjust accordingly. For example, if you are two boxes low and one box to the right of the bull’s eye, bring your trajectory knob 8 clicks up and your windage 4 clicks to the left.

Now that you have zeroed at 25 yards, break out that rangefinder again and position yourself at 50 yards. Repeat the process. Do that same at 100.

For more information on shooting techniques, check out our basic shooting tips article here:

Join our FREE Weekly Newsletter
Become a Primitive Survivor with our latest hacks, tips & tricks.

Trending Around the Web

1 Comment

  • Strangely enough, almost nothing to add. Very well done in the article and the comment on adjusting the scope to the bullet hole in the target. One point of emphasis. Let me stress letting the rifle cool adequately between shots. I have owned several that shot to quite different points of ai with a warm barrel than a cold one. One Remington ran 5 to 6 inches different groups, cold barrel to hot. Since in hunting, your first shot is almost always from a stone cold barrel, best to verify that the first shot will hit the target rather than some distance off. That is especially important at longest ranges.

Leave a Comment