If you are new to the shooting world, then you might need some help getting used to rifle scope usage. As a shooter, whether you’re a newbie or a pro firearm user, there are certain basic rifle scope handling knowledge you need to be able to make good use of your gun and riflescope combination. Even if you take your rifle and scope to a gunsmith, there’s a limit to how much they can help you configure your weapon.
A gunsmith might succeed in helping you to mount your scope and make every other rifle scope adjustment, but there’s this one adjustment you have to master yourself: How to adjust your rifle scope for windage and elevation.
No matter the kind of shooting you are involved in, as long as you’re going to be using a rifle scope, you need to know how to make precise adjustments to the windage and elevation turrets. Also, regardless of the kind of scope you’re using, even if the scope lacks other kinds of adjustments like brightness settings, fast focus eyepiece, parallax adjustment, and others, there must be windage turret and elevation turret adjustments.
Generally, rifle scope adjustment has the same concept and method. So whether you’re shooting with a modern holographic sight, a red dot sight, thermal scope, or even a night vision scope, you’ll still find a windage turret and elevation turret adjustment knob useful.
What Direction Of Movement Can Be Made With Windage Turret and Elevation Turret?
The direction of movement that can be made with the windage turret and elevation turret on rifle scopes depends on the specific scope and its design. However, in general, windage adjustments are made by moving the reticle left or right, while elevation adjustments are made by moving the reticle up or down.
If you recall, in your elementary geometry or geography class, the cardinal points on a map are North, South, West, and East which is equivalent to UP, DOWN, LEFT, and RIGHT. When moving the reticle with your turret, you cannot move it forward or backward. Forward or backward adjustments can only be made when you move the entire scope front or back along the scope rail.
The windage turret is typically located on the side of the scope and is used to adjust the horizontal alignment of the reticle. If your shots are hitting to the left of the desired point of impact, you’ll need to use the windage adjustment knob to move the reticle to the right. Conversely, if your shots are hitting to the right of the desired point of impact, you’ll need to use the windage adjustment knob to move the reticle to the left.
The elevation turret is usually located on the top of the scope and is used to adjust the vertical alignment of the reticle. If your shots are hitting low, then you have to use the elevation adjustment knob to move the reticle up. Also, if your shots are hitting too high than you want them, then you’ll have to use the elevation adjustment knob to move the reticle down.
It’s important to note that you can move in any direction on the windage and elevation turrets, and most scopes have a total windage MOA adjustment or elevation MOA adjustment at which you can move the reticle. Therefore, it’s always important to refer to the manufacturer’s instructions or consult with an experienced shooter or gunsmith for guidance on how to adjust your specific rifle scope.
Why Do I Need To Move The Reticle Left to Right or Up and Down?
You need to move the reticle left to right or up and down to adjust the point of bullet impact of your shots on the target.
The reticle, also known as the crosshairs, is used as a reference point to help aim the rifle at the desired target. When the rifle is fired, the bullet travels in a trajectory that is affected by factors such as gravity, wind, and distance. As a result, the bullet impact point on the target may not be exactly where the reticle was aimed.
By adjusting the position of the reticle on the scope, you can compensate for these external factors and bring the point of impact closer to the center of the target. Moving the reticle left or right, known as windage adjustment, compensates for the effect of wind drift on the bullet’s trajectory. Moving the reticle up or down, known as elevation adjustment, compensates for the effect of bullet drop over distance.
Therefore, by making these adjustments to the reticle position, you can achieve greater accuracy and consistency in your shot placement, which is crucial for hunting, shooting competitions, and other shooting activities.
The first step in adjusting rifle scopes is to ensure that you have the necessary tools. Depending on your rifle and scope, you may need a set of hex keys, screwdrivers, or other tools. Make sure to check your rifle scope manual for specific instructions.
Windage adjustments are made to adjust the horizontal aim of your rifle. To adjust the windage, follow these steps:
Step 1: Safety First
Before making any adjustments to your rifle scope, safety should be your top priority. Always make sure that your rifle is unloaded and pointed in a safe direction. Check and double-check that there is no ammunition in the chamber or magazine, and ensure that the safety is on.
Step 2: Set up Your Rifle on a Stable Rest
To eliminate human error when adjusting your rifle scope, it’s best to set up your rifle on a stable rest or shooting platform. This will help you to hold the rifle steady and make accurate adjustments to your scope.
Step 3: Aim at the Center of the Target
Look through your scope and aim at the center of your target. Ensure that your crosshairs are aligned with the target center.
Step 4: Fire a Few Shots to Get an Idea of Your Shot Placement
Before making any adjustments, fire a few shots to get an idea of where your shots are landing. This will give you an idea of how far off the target your shots are and in which direction.
Step 5: Locate and turn the windage knob on your rifle scope
The windage knob is usually located on the right-hand side of the scope.
If your shots are landing to the left of the target, turn the windage knob in the direction you want your shot to move. For example, if your shot is hitting to the left, turn the knob to the right. If your shots are landing to the right of the target, turn the knob in the opposite direction.
Make small adjustments, typically in increments of ½, ¼, or ⅛ MOA (Minute of Angle) per click. One MOA represents 1.047 inches at 100 yards. After making adjustments, fire a few more shots to confirm the changes made. Make further adjustments if necessary.
Once you are satisfied with the accuracy, lock the adjustment knob or use a piece of tape to hold it in place to prevent accidental movement.
Elevation adjustments are made to adjust the vertical aim of your rifle. Elevation adjustment is similar to the one described above:
Before adjusting your rifle scope for elevation, it’s important to make sure that your rifle is mounted securely on a stable rest or shooting bench. This will minimize any movement or vibration that may affect the accuracy of your shots and allow you to make precise adjustments to your scope.
There are various types of shooting rests and benches available, including bipods, sandbags, and shooting bags. Whichever type of rest you choose, make sure that it is level and stable before mounting your rifle.
Look through the scope and aim at the center of the target.
Fire a few shots to get an idea of how far off the target your shots are landing. Note the direction and distance from the center of the target.
Locate the elevation knob on your rifle scope. The elevation knob is usually located on the top of the scope. If your shots are landing too high, turn the elevation knob in the direction you want your shot to move. For example, if your shot is hitting too high, turn the knob down. If your shots are landing too low, turn the knob in the opposite direction.
Like the windage, elevation also has increments of ½, ¼, or ⅛ MOA (Minute of Angle) per click. You should fire a few more shots after adjusting to ensure the changes are good. If necessary, make additional adjustments. To prevent accidental movement, lock the adjustment knob or use tape to hold it in place once you’re satisfied with the accuracy.
Role Of An Erector Tube In Windage and Elevation Adjustment
An erector tube is a key component of a rifle scope that helps to adjust the position of the reticle inside the scope body. It is a cylindrical scope tube that houses the lenses and other essential elements that make up the scope’s internal assembly.
The erector tube is typically located in the center of the scope body and is responsible for adjusting the image of the target as seen through the scope. It achieves this by moving the reticle in relation to the lenses to adjust the focus and magnification of the scope.
The erector tube works in conjunction with the windage and elevation turrets to help the shooter adjust the position of the reticle relative to the target. When the shooter makes adjustments to the windage and elevation turrets, the erector tube moves the reticle accordingly to compensate for external factors such as wind drift and bullet drop.
In addition to its role in adjusting the position of the reticle, the erector tube also plays a critical role in maintaining the alignment of the essential elements inside the scope. Any misalignment of these elements can result in distortion or blurriness in the image seen through the scope, making it difficult to aim accurately.
Does the parallax adjustment do the same work as the windage and elevation turret?
No, the parallax adjustment on a rifle scope does not do the same work as the windage and elevation turret adjustments.
The parallax adjustment on a rifle scope is designed to minimize the effect of parallax error, which occurs when the reticle appears to shift in relation to the target due to the position of the shooter’s eye behind the scope. This error can cause the shooter to misalign the reticle with the target, resulting in inaccurate shot placement.
In contrast, the windage and elevation turret adjustments are used to move the position of the reticle relative to the target to compensate for external factors such as wind drift and bullet drop, as I explained previously.
How do I know if my scope needs to be adjusted?
If you find that your shots are consistently landing off-target, it may be an indication that your scope needs to be adjusted.
Can I adjust my scope without firing a shot?
It is possible to adjust your rifle scope without firing a shot, but it is recommended to fire a few shots to get an idea of how far off the target your shots are landing before making any adjustments.
Mike Hardesty is a published freelance gun writer. With dozens of articles and reviews published in Pew Pew Tactical, Snipercountry.com, and TTAG (The Truth About Guns), Mike is considered a firearms expert. His special area of expertise is handguns.
Mike is a long-time shooter. He has been punching paper targets, taking deer and other game and shooting at competitions since about 1975. Other related pursuits include reloading and bullet casting. He currently reloads for over 10 calibers, both handgun and rifle. His reloads, particularly for 9mm, were in great demand during the height of the ammo shortage among family and friends. He donated hundreds of rounds to informal shooting sessions. He was quoted as saying “I do not sell my reloads but I sure will help my guys shoot ’em for free!”. He has a few cherished firearms that he has inherited or otherwise procured — those are his favorites.
He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees from Indiana State University in 1974-1975.
He’s a firearm experts and is the founder of mhardesty.com.