Sniper’s Hide – Leveling your Scope

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Leveling Your Scope

Contrary to popular belief, in 2017 the most important element when selecting a scope is tracking.  Scope are telescopic sights and not spotters.  In today’s age, most companies do a very good job spec’ing out “good glass”.  I mean I can’t think of a shot I missed in the last 10 years because the glass was so bad I could not see the target.  However, tracking and return zero issues will guarantee you miss the target.

I test a lot of scopes, I have no less than 8 scopes here right now for review, so I do this a lot.  I expend a lot of ammo doing the same tracking tests over and over and make sure I put in the work.  That means, at least 500 rounds if not 1000 rounds of ammo under any given scope I am testing.  When I show up at the range I start over and over again testing tracking.  It’s a bit boring to tell you the truth, but it’s a necessary part of the job.

Tall Target testing is a necessary evil regardless of what scope you buy. 

You don’t need a dedicated tall target, you can make one with a nice piece of cardboard, a magic marker and a level.  Just make sure it is straight and gives you enough height and reference points.

One of the mistakes often made is not testing it the scope across a wide enough adjustment range. When you see these “gun guys” write about scopes and they do a 4″ or 8″ box test on a piece of paper they took out of their printer, they are wasting our time.  You need to move the scope enough to magnify any potential errors.  If you are not moving it enough, you may never see the problem.  I recommend a minimum amount of movement equal to 10 mils or 36″ …

10 Mils or 36″

One of the tools I use quite a bit is a 4ft level. That bright yellow Stanley level is easy to use. You just mount it vertical at 100 yards (exactly) and when you place the reticle on top of the level and move the scope up, the reticle will travel down the level.  You can make sure the reticle tracks straight to the fall of gravity and you can count the clicks to make sure it moves accurately.    Be sure to bag the rifle or scope in, or use a lead sled and strap it down so it doesn’t move.

Killswitch is on top of it

I would also recommend you check out the thread we have pinned in the forum, Killswitch Scope Testing.  He uses what he calls a Humbler to test a scope using a tall target, and mounting the scope in such a way it will not move.

This is super important stuff, and is something you need to be doing before you even begin to play with your ballistic computer.

Errors Happen, but they can be adjusted for

When you are spending less than $2000, $1500, definitely $1000, the odds of a tracking issue happening once you extend to the max elevation of the scope increases exponentially. In one of my precision rifle classes last year we had 16 out of 18 scopes with some form of correctable error.  Those errors usually hover around 5%, we often see a lot of 2% errors which are easily adjusted for.

In your ballistic app, you can make the necessary adjustment to counter any error.  It’s one of the reasons people see a problem with the dope given to them by their favorite Ballistic App.  They never checked their scope, or only checked it once.  I recommend you check it every 500 rounds to 1000 rounds.  Things change all the time.

Calibrating your scope is one of the first things you need to do when using a ballistic computer.  Say that again, Calibrating your scope is the first thing you need to do before using a Ballistic Computer.

Make sure you know the difference between MOA and IPHY too… it matters, especially at distance. If you plug in that your scope is adjusting in MOA and it’s really adjusting in IPHY (Inches per Hundred Yard) you just created another error.

Last but not least – Test it by shooting it

One of the things I also test it confirmed and repeatable data.  Your Dope !

I make sure with a given and load combination the scope is not giving me errors at distance.  If you have a rifle you have shot, and you have verifable data, you can confirm by testing point of aim vs point of impact.

Make sure you target has a watermark on it so you can verify your point of aim vs point of impact. But it’s something you can do.

That line helps determine the actual dope necessary to hit center

We can talk about this all day, so I recommend you hit the Sniper’s Hide forums to discuss in our scope section.

Hope this helps, cause knowing is half the battle …