How to Use a Tactical Scope

Every tactical shooter should know how to work his way around a tactical scope. Investing in a good tactical scope is always a good idea with long distance shooting. More sophisticated designs of tactical scopes are designed each year by different companies, however there are four fundamental parts of a scope that you should know about. They are the objective lens, the reticle, the internal erector lenses, and the ocular or eyepiece lenses. You might want to look them up for more details on their working principles.

Working principles of a scope

To use a tactical scope, first you need to know how they work. The principle is quite simple. Light falls on and passes through the objective lens. The resulting inverted image is then projected onto the internal lenses. These internal erector lenses turn the image to right side up. The ocular lens enlarges the image and this is the image that you see.

Installing the scope

A solid mount is crucial for a satisfactory performance. It is better if you mount your scope close to the rifle. This ensures proper cheek placement on the stock for stable firing and consequently faster target acquisition. After installing make sure that the scope doesn’t interfere with the rifle operation and isn’t in contact with anything other than the mount rings. Here are some tips for installing a tactical scope.

Adjust for eye relief

For proper eye relief, you should start by mounting your scope as far forward as you can, if your manufacturer doesn’t provide you with recommended distances. You shouldn’t mount the scope too far back, as the eyepiece can hurt your brow while firing. Holding the rifle in normal shooting position, move your scope slowly to the back until a full picture comes to view. You might want to try a number of positions such as kneeling and seated, and aim both uphill and downhill.

Without disturbing the eye relief, position the elevation adjustment dial at the top of the scope by rotating it.

Check that the vertical hair of the reticle is aligned with the vertical axis of your firearm.

Next, tighten the ring screws securely.

Focusing the reticle

To focus the reticle, you need to place your firearm in a secure position. Then, point the scope at a background object of light color so that the scope is four inches away from your eye. You need to make sure that the reticle appears sharp and clear. Next, you need to adjust the focus with the eyepiece if the reticle appears blurry.

How to Sight-In

Preliminary sighting-in can be done by bore-sighting at a target 20 to 50 yards away. The traditional boresighting method is as follows:

  1. Firmly position your firearm. You can use sandbags to steady it.
  2. Remove the bolt.
  3. Looking through the bore, center the bull’s eye inside the barrel.
  4. Make windage and elevation adjustments until the reticle center aligns with the bull’s eye.
  5. Now, you’re ready to fire. If you miss the center by several inches, try making adjustments to move the reticle to the center. Fire a three-shot group. The center of the group can be used as a reference for final windage and elevation adjustments.

How to make elevation and windage adjustments

Windage adjustments

To make windage adjustments, remove the adjustment cover on the scope and rotate the windage adjustment dial. You can move the point of impact to the left by rotating the adjustment clockwise.

Elevation adjustments

Similarly, remove the cover on the top of the scope and turn the dial to adjust the elevation. If you want to move the point of impact up, you need to rotate the adjustment counter-clockwise. To move it down, rotate it clockwise.

Making adjustments for parallax

Rifle scope parallax is a common optical illusion that shooters come across. Your target may appear out of focus because of parallax. You need to make parallax adjustments for precise targeting. Many companies allow this by adding necessary features in the scopes.


Aside from these steps, you also need to determine how far your bullets land from a target and modify your scope accordingly. While centering the cross hairs on your target, you may need to adjust for distance, wind, or position by hovering the cross hairs.