By Mark Fike
At some point all hunters need to sight in a rifle or slug gun. There are many factors that can impact your results of being successful or not in putting all bullets or slugs in one hole or cloverleaf pattern on the target. All results are based on how you go about sighting in, the condition of the gear you are using and the quality of it.
Start with snugging everything down.
This means tightening the stock, the scope rings and bases. You have to have everything rock solid. If in doubt, remove the scope and put some LocTite on the screws for the bases and scope rings. Make sure the stock is snug and the wood (if you have a wood stock be sure it is not warped) is not causing issues.
If during this process you are finding something loose then that may be why your previous shots were not on target. If you are simply trying to diagnose a POI problem, tightening and resighting should be fairly easy and quick.
Get a good solid platform
Using a soft ball of material like a sleeping bag, coat or something similar is not recommended. Use a bench, table, cradle or even a Lead Sled. If you use a Lead Sled, please read Mike Willis’s article about their use here….
Using a solid rest helps eliminate body movement, and it also helps reduce movement from breathing. A rest, in short, improves your accuracy.
Be sure to hold the rifle as you would normally hold it and keep the forearm from jumping, particularly if you are using a Lead Sled or cradle. Using a sling is a good idea both on the sight in range and in the field. Loop the sling around your arm until it is snug when you put the rifle to your shoulder.
Be sure your trigger control and breath control is what it should be.
I like to lightly press the trigger. My finger is not wrapped all around the trigger. The first crease or joint is where I put my finger on the trigger. I press only when the crosshairs are crossing the bullseye. This way the rifle goes off only when the crosshairs are on target.
There are some that feel the rifle recoil or report should surprise you. I disagree. I would like to say I practice with my rifle enough that I have a good idea when it will go off. While I don’t anticipate the shot and jerk the rifle, I do have a good idea how much more tension I have in the trigger.
Basic marksmanship requires good control of your breathing. There are several schools of thought on how to breathe and break the trigger. One is to breathe in, let half out and start pressing the trigger. Stop pressing if you feel yourself running out of oxygen and repeat. With some practice you will become quite good at this.
The second method I have heard of is to breath in, start with the crosshairs above the target slightly and exhale as you are dropping in on the target. Break the trigger as you cross the trigger. My personal preference is for the first method. Each person should figure out their own way.
If you have a scope that seems to be giving you trouble, eliminate the scope as the problem. Make sure you have a good quality scope. Some scopes have reputations for points of impact changing. The POI should be consistent even if you move the power of the scope up.
Your gun should also be in good working order and clean. Sometimes a dirty bore can result in poor accuracy. Clean your rifle!
When you are sighting in avoid being out of breath from walking back and forth to the target. Use a spotting scope, binoculars or ShootNC targets to mark where your point of impact is. Also, eating lots of sugar or drinking lots of caffeine is not good for time on the range.
Finally, if you are trying to sight in and you are not a fan of recoil or you are rusty with your shooting skills, start with a .22 rifle and enjoy some plinking to warm up. Note where your shots are and troubleshoot your shooting before you graduate yourself up to the big bore.
Sometimes getting in the groove is worth the extra 15-20 minutes of fun and actually may save you money down the road on high powered loads.
Sighting in should be a fairly easy chore. Use the tips here to ensure things go smoothly and remember not to rush the shots. Give yourself ample time to get the job done.