To show how to zero a scope without firing. This can be done by using something else as a stand-in for the bullet, most commonly referred to as “popping cans.” Zeroing marks are not necessary when popping cans unless you are trying to have sub MOA groups at 100 yards.
What equipment will I need?
The most essential pieces of equipment are listed below. However, you do not need all of them. You may want some, most or all depending on what kind of scope you have and how much money you want to spend. There are two scopes that I recommend everyone purchase before zeroing their first firearm, they are the Leupold Rifleman scope (red dot on top) and the Leupold (triangle reticle). The reason I recommend them is because they are durable, affordable, have low magnification and can be used in almost any condition. These are not the only scopes that will work for zeroing your firearms but if you do not have these then I recommend that you purchase one of them before using my methodology.
How do I zero my rifle without firing a shot?
Once you have taken care of all the equipment needs listed above this step is simple.
- Set up your target at 100 yards with your shooting area behind it so you can sit or stand comfortably while shooting.
- Set up your rifle so it is resting on a bi-pod if possible, or a table/chair armrest, or a backpack filled with something heavy.
- Place the red dot scope on top of your rifle’s Picatinny rail or place the triangle reticle scope at the 3:00 position from the bolt handle.
- Adjust your windage and elevation knobs to where they are as close to the center as possible.
- Put an empty bottle cap from a water bottle over the muzzle of your rifle then look through the magnification of your scope until you can see that there is nothing but black space inside of it.
- Rotate your elevation knob until you can’t see any black space in front of your water bottle cap anymore.
- Rotate your windage knob until the crosshair reticle is perfectly in line with the middle of the water bottle cap.
- Take your finger off of your knobs and look through the magnification of your scope again, there should still be nothing but black space inside of it.
- Put a small piece of tape on each knob to remind yourself never to move them again.
If you are using a scope that has hash marks for elevation then I recommend that you mark them with dots or lines to remind yourself how many clicks you have adjusted. If you use this method all day every day then it is not necessary because by then it will become muscle memory to know exactly where you originally set the knobs.