As always, make sure your firearm is unloaded and rendered safe before handling. You should make this a habit.
The first step I would recommend is bore sighting your rifle as this can save you a lot of heartache when you actually get on the range. That said, it should be noted that this is not an exact science and is just designed to get you on the paper so you’ve got somewhere to start from.
If you decide to use a bore sighter I would recommend the magnetic type and there are some good ones on the market that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Mine is a Leopold. I personally don’t like the probe type bore sighters as pushing a probe into the muzzle could potentially damage the crown and this can be expensive to repair. Look after your rifle and you’ll save yourself some money.
With the bore sighter attached to the barrel look through your scope and adjust the windage and elevation turrets until the reticule aligns with the centre of the bore sighter. It is worth noting that when bore sighting you are adjusting the scope to match the bore of your rifle. This is the opposite of what happens when you are adjusting the scope on the range so that the point of impact of your bullets aligns with the sight picture. As such when bore sighting you have to move the scope in the opposite direction to what is shown on the turrets. For example if your cross hairs appear to be higher than your bore then you need to wind your scope in the up direction in order to bring the two together and so on. Make sure you remove the bore sighter from the barrel before going to the range as the consequences for not doing so could be devastating.
If you do not have a bore sighter and you happen to have a bolt action rifle then another way to achieve the same result is to remove the bolt and set the rifle up on a stable platform. Looking through the barrel sight it in on a target about 50 metres away. Once this is done look through the scope and adjust it using the windage and elevation turrets till the reticule is also on the target. Now you’re ready for the range.
Sighting at the Range
When you go to the range make sure you take some basic tools like screwdrivers and Allen keys so you can make the adjustments needed. It’s also a good idea to take your hearing protection as well as sand bags, targets and patches as these may not be available when you get there.
When sighting in your rifle you should only use one type of ammunition as the point of impact will vary from one type to another and the idea is to keep this consistent while adjusting your scope. The bore sighter should have you on an A4 page at 25 metres and that is where you should start. If you’re not on target at 25 metres you won’t have a chance in hell at 250 metres so start close then move further away.
Fire three shot groups and adjust the point of impact using the windage and elevation turrets until you are hitting the centre of the target. Move to 50 metres and then to 100 metres doing the same thing.
During sighting in it is a good idea to periodically check to ensure the scope rings and bases are not coming loose. Remember that if a scope has graduated adjustments of ¼ MOA that means one click will move the point of impact about ¼ of an inch or 7.3 millimetres at 100 metres. At 50 metres one click will only move it half that distance while at 200 metres it will move it twice as far.
Also now that you are on the range adjusting the rifle’s point of impact you need to follow the directions on your scope’s turrets. If you are grouping low you need to move your scope adjustment up, likewise if you’re grouping left move your scope adjustment to the right. Continue making adjustments gradually until you’re happy with where your shots are grouping at your chosen range.
For a hunting rifle most people sight their rifle in to be about five centimetres high at 100 metres as this then pretty much guarantees a killing shot between 50 and 200 metres.