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Beginner’s Guide: How to Zero an Airgun Scope

1. Mount Your Scope Properly

Why is this important?

  • Safety: Properly mounting your scope ensures consistent accuracy and prevents accidental shifts during shooting.
  • Explanation: When the scope is correctly and securely attached, it maintains alignment, preventing movement due to recoil or handling.
  1. Attach the Scope: Use appropriate mounts to secure the scope to your air rifle in accordance with the instructions provided with your particular scope, mounts and airgun.
  2. Level and Eye Relief: Ensure the scope is level and positioned correctly for comfortable eye relief. Proper eye relief allows for a clear sight picture and minimizes the risk of injury from scope eye with recoiling airguns.

2. Clean the Barrel

Why is this important?

  • Safety: A clean barrel ensures consistent pellet flight and accuracy.
  • Explanation: Manufacturing grease or residue can affect pellet trajectory. Cleaning the barrel removes any obstructions and ensures optimal performance.
  1. Choose the Right Cleaning Method:
    • VFG Felt Cleaning Pellets: Suitable for light cleaning and maintenance.
    • Pull-Through or BoreSnake: Ideal for deep cleaning, especially for break-barrel air rifles.

3. Select the Right Pellets

Why is this important?

  • Safety: Using the right pellet minimizes the risk of unpredictable flight paths.
  • Explanation: Different pellets behave differently in each barrel. Shoot groups to determine the pellet that delivers the smallest group size.
  1. Baseline Pellets:
    • JSB Exact diabolo and H&N Field Target Trophy are good options.
    • Fire 20 shots into a safe backstop to lead the barrel (i.e., deposit some lead in the rifling).

4. Adjust Elevation

Why is this important?

  • Safety: Proper elevation ensures accurate point of impact.
  • Explanation:
    • Measurement System: Understand your scope’s adjustment system (usually minutes of angle or milliradians).
    • Low Shots: If shots consistently hit low, adjust the elevation turret upward. This compensates for the downward drop of pellets due to gravity.
    • High Shots: If shots are high, adjust the elevation turret downward.

5. Adjust Windage

Why is this important?

  • Safety: Correct windage prevents shots from veering off target.
  • Explanation:
    • Wind Conditions: Consider wind direction and strength.
    • Left or Right Deviation: Adjust the windage turret accordingly.

6. Fine-Tuning and Repetition

Why is this important?

  • Safety: Fine-tuning ensures precise zeroing, reducing the chance of missed shots.
  • Explanation:
    • Small Adjustments: Make gradual changes to avoid overcompensating.
    • Repeat the Process: Shoot more groups, assess, and adjust until shots consistently hit the bullseye.

7. Confirm Zero at Different Distances

Why is this important?

  • Safety: Zeroing at one distance doesn’t guarantee accuracy at other ranges.
  • Explanation: As pellets travel in a curve from the point of fire to the zeroed distance, you maybe need to compensate with holdover or hold under (aiming above or below the target at different distances). It's important to experiment with this is at different distances when it is safe to do so. Take a note of how much you have to holdover or hold under at varying distances to maintain an accurate shot. It can be good practice to write this information down. Some shooters will write it on a sticky label and put it inside their lens cap for eacy access.
    • Verify Accuracy: Once zeroed at your chosen distance (e.g., 25 yards), test accuracy at other distances (e.g., 10 or 40 yards).

Images from Hawke Optics UK