Tips for Making the Process Smoother at the Shooting Range This Fall
Fall is rapidly approaching, folks. It might not feel like it with the hot and humid dog days of summer beating us down right now. But rest assured, those cool and crisp fall mornings that energize us and sustain us throughout the year are on their way. Fortunately, that also means hunting season is coming with it. It will soon be time to head to the shooting range to sight in your rifles, shotguns, or muzzleloaders.
Many people approach sighting in their guns the wrong way. They show up at the shooting range, pop off several shots, maybe make a slight adjustment, and then go on their way. There are likely a few things you’re doing wrong that, if corrected, could make a real difference in your accuracy.
First, let’s look at some of the common mistakes most hunters make at the shooting range, and see how we can correct them. Always sight your rifle in with the same ammunition you plan to use while hunting. This may seem like an obvious one, but we still hear about people switching out different brands or even different weight bullets between the range and the field! If you have the time and money to spare, try shooting a couple different brands and weights from your zeroed-in gun, and see how variable the accuracy is. It will shock you.
Always use a quality rest or shooting bench to sight in your guns initially. Doing so will take the human error element out of the equation, so you can focus on getting the most dialed-in accuracy possible. Soft sandbags work well as the rest, as they absorb some of the shock to keep your barrel from rising too much. If you have to fire more than five rounds, take some time to let the barrel cool down. As the metal in the barrel heats up, it can warp slightly, which changes the flight of your bullet. I’m pretty sure you won’t be shooting at a deer with a hot barrel – it will be cold! To best simulate that experience, give your gun time to cool down between shots.
If you’re not able to use your property as a shooting range, make sure you know the rules at the range you do go to. Nothing will anger the owners, workers, and other gun enthusiasts faster than someone who’s blatantly disobeying the rules of the range. You’ll likely even be kicked out if you’re being unsafe. Obviously, you should always practice good gun safety techniques (i.e., keep the muzzle pointed down and away from anyone), but it’s especially true at the shooting range. On that note, bring along any required safety equipment you’ll need (e.g., ear plugs/earmuffs, safety glasses, etc.). Even if it’s not required, it’s a good idea to wear it as it’s meant to protect you.
Try to zero in your gun at 100 yards. Obviously you can adjust that distance if you’re hunting in a dense area where you’ll only have a 50 yard shot at mos,t or increase it if you’ll be hunting out west. Why 100 yards, you ask? It’s a good general distance because you can always adjust your aim if your target is further away or closer.
Now that these common mistakes are out of the way, let’s talk about what you should do. If you have access to a bore sight, this process will be much easier. A bore sight is basically a laser that slips into your barrel, so you can quickly line up your scope with the general area of the laser. However, even if you don’t have one, if you start at a distance of 25 yards with a clean target, you should be able to quickly tell where your gun is shooting versus where you were aiming.
Adjust your scope per its specific instructions. Generally, the elevation turret (up and down) is located on the top of the scope, and the windage turret (right to left) is located on the side. Typically, each click represents 1/4” change per 100 yards. So if you’re high by about 1 inch at 100 yards, you’ll need to turn it down four clicks to get it zeroed in. Adjust whatever turret is further off before adjusting the other. It might take a little adjustment to get there, but you’ll reach zero shortly.
Hopefully these tips will help you at the shooting range this fall as you prepare for hunting season. There’s always more that can be learned about guns, which is what makes them so challenging…and addicting. Have fun out there!