How to Boresight a Scope on a Bolt-Action Rifle or Pistol

Sightron SII Big Sky 3x-12x scope on offset Weaver rings
Russ Chastain

When mounting a scope on a rifle or pistol, it's recommended you boresight it (align the crosshairs with the barrel) before attempting to sight it in. This saves both time and ammunition, as there will be fewer test shots and adjustments if you get the approximate sighting as close as possible. The method described here will work on most bolt-action rifles & handguns.

Difficulty Level

  • Easy

Time Required

  • 15 Minutes

    Here's How

    1. Check to see whether the gun is loaded; if it is, unload it.
    2. Mount the scope on the gun if it's not already mounted. Make sure the scope and mounts do not interfere with the operation of the gun--for example, by conflicting with the throw of the bolt handle.
    3. Remove the bolt from the gun. This is usually very easy and only requires holding the trigger back or engaging another type of release while pulling the bolt towards the rear of the firearm (after opening the bolt, of course).
    4. Place the gun on some kind of solid rest that won't mar its finish. Cushions on the hood of your truck, across the back of a sofa, or in a solid shooting rest are all choices that will work.
    5. While looking through the bore (barrel), carefully align the barrel with an easily identifiable distant object. It can be as close as 40 feet, or as far away as you like.
    6. Without moving the gun, take a look through the scope and note how far the crosshairs are from the object in the previous step, and in which direction--higher or lower, to the right or left--relative to the aiming point of the crosshairs.
    1. Using the crosshair adjustment screws on the scope, adjust it (see Tip 3 below).
    2. Sight through the bore again. If the gun has moved, realign the bore with the object.
    3. Check the scope again and re-adjust as needed.
    4. Repeat steps 8 and 9 until the bore and the crosshairs both point at the same spot.
    5. After boresighting, head to the shooting range to sight in the scope. Start shooting at close range--I recommend starting at 25 yards, progressing to no farther than 50 yards.
    1. Congratulate yourself on a job well done and a savings of ammunition and range time!

    Tips:

    • ALWAYS keep guns pointed in a safe direction.
    • Always follow all gun safety rules.
    • Remember that when adjusting a scope in this manner, you must go the opposite direction stated on the scope. Example: The bore is aligned with a target, but the crosshairs are to the right of it. You must turn the windage adjustment screw to the right to correct this.
    • Similar results can be had for guns other than bolt-actions through the use of a boresighting tool. These can be costly, but most gun shops will boresight your gun for a small fee.