Scopes vs Iron

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Here's my thread about this to branch off from a different post about scopes on a Mini-14...

For over 5 years now I've been heavy into guns, both rifle and pistol... with the rifles I started with a mini-30 and mini-14 and progressed, or possibly regressed, to a couple 10/22 (now with target 'thick' barrels... and now even two AR-15s...

On all of these I've tried a couple different scopes... and except for one of the 10/22's I have not really been pleased.... both my mini's... and AR's the rounds seem to kind of move around... I'd say the absolute best I've done was with my AR/M4 and some 75gr ammo I shot a 3" group at 100 yards.... my latest AR has a 20" nato barrel on it and I was trying to sight it in at 50 yards last week and the rounds were all tracking to the left about 2" at every shot.....

This is part of the reason I have been claiming to like Iron sights... yes I can't shoot as well with the Iron sights but I do seem to shoot more consistent.... In fact I'm thinking the above mentioned best I've done with the AR/M4 was with Iron sights.

So, my question is has anybody else had this kind of trouble with scopes? I've varied between about 3 different kinds... two fairly low brand ones and a Millet tactical that cost me about $250, which is a goodly amount for me.
 

Canazes9

Bearcat
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No. I have mediocre eyesight and find that my best shooting performance w/ rifles is always achieved w/ the aid of a scope. Like any piece of mechanical equipment a thorough understanding is necessary to get the best performance and the scope is only as good as the weakest link.

David
 

6mmsl

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I agree with Canazes9.

My shooting has always benefited from using a scope.

I have good luck with all Leupold products.

Good shooting-
 

Sig685

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There are two main types of iron sights: 1- Open sights where you fit the front sight into a notch or other indentation on the rear sight and 2- Aperture sights where you put the front sight where you want the bullet to go, while looking through some kind of circle or aperture, while relying on the fact the human eye will center the front sight.

The iron sights force you to establish a 3 position relationship; the rear sight, the front sight and the target. The human eye, especially with several decades of use, can really only focus on one of the three objects at one time. This is why they keep telling to focus on the front sight, and that is the correct method.

A riflescope compresses these three dimensional proportion and create a single plane for focusing and aiming. The picture of the target is transmitted by the objective lens to a specific plane in the scope. The reticle (or aiming point) will be either at the first focal point where the image is transmitted by the objective lens, or at the second focal point, where the image is erected to appear right side up and proper side showing so that the target image and the reticle are merged into one plane for the eyepiece to focus on.

Either way, the reticle will appear on the same plane as the target so that your eye does not have to establish a relationship at three different planes.

However, there is no free lunch. With all things optical, there are proportions and trade-offs to deal with. The first one is that as magnification increases, the criticality of the relationship increases. In other words, as the magnification increases, the focus on the image on the same plane as the reticle becomes more important and this variation is called parallax. Most scopes for center fire rifles have their parallax adjusted for 100 yards. What this means is that for a target at 100 yards from the rifle, the reticle will be in exactly the same plane as the projected image of the 100 yard target.

You can verify the parallax for a specific distance by koving your eye around while looking through the scope. If the reticle moves in relationship to the target as you move your head around, the parallax is not set properly. If your scope does not have an adjustable parallax, either at the objective or on the side, it does NOT mean that you can be accurate, but it does mean that you need to have a consistent cheek weld.

Please re-read the prior paragraph again and then remember what you said about shooting at 50 yards. I can assure you the parallax of your scope is not adjusted for that distance.

So, we see that we have to do a bit of work to shoot with a scope. Either we adjust the parallax properly for the distance at which we are shooting or we pay attention to cheek weld.

Looking through the eyepiece, the picture that is projected to the eye superimposes the reticle on the target image. If the parallax is not set properly, this relationship will change depending on how we look through the scope. This is why target scopes and most "tactical" scopes have adjustable parallax. Hunting scopes do not; one is not going to set the proper distance on a running deer and hunting accuracy is not that critical.

But we punch paper and we want to look good. The low-cost brands will most probably not have adjustable parallaxes, so we deal with that. The only two ways to do that is to shoot at whatever distance the parallax is set to (most probably 100 yards,) or make sure we look through the scope is the same every time, regardless of the distance to the target.

Interestingly enough, the proper use of iron sights demands that we have the same cheek weld every time. This is exactly why a scope or sights adjusted to fit you will most probably yield different results for someone else, because they have a different face and hold. I NEVER let anyone mess with my scope or sight adjustments.
 
Joined
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Damn Sig... I read that real slow and I think I got it. (no complaint, its just a lot more complicated than I wanted it to be)... I always thought parallax had something to do with the distance between the scope and the barrel of the rifle but it sounds like it has to do with the difference between the lens and the cross hairs and the distance to the object.... man that is a lot more complicated... of course the solution is not... just learn the discipline of shooting... and setting yourself to use the same motor skills exactly in the same position each time..

I guess this is why they have coaches and classes for this sport.....
 

gig

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I too have ageing eye sight and the scopes seem to help. But the problem with scopes is that you get what you pay for and the poorer quality scopes need good eyes.

I have had good luck with the Leupolds as well.

Most of my shooting is at running hogs and the sight picture of a low power makes it easier to lead 'em just right. We have two 1x4 power scopes and use them on 1 power the most.
Note, these are true 1 power, not 1.5 or 1.6, for with a true 1 power we can shoot with both eyes open.

blume, have you tried a holosight yet? I really like the one I have except for having to turn it on and off, and adjusting the brightness....Maybe someday a Trijicon Reflex.

Most of my shooting is at either prairie dogs, coyotes, or hogs; just never have gotten into shooting paper, but see great sport in target shooting with iron sights.
 

Canazes9

Bearcat
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Most of my hunting scopes have parallex adjustment - preset to the most usefull distance for the task at hand (just like the magnification setting). W/ parallex set to 100yds and magnification set to a minimum setting you are covered for the sudden, close, fast moving stuff. Usually the long distance stuff will give you enough time to make some adjustments and if not you are no worse off than you would be w/ a low power, non parallex adjustable scope.

I shoot all my scopes w/ both eyes open, regardless of magnification setting (even my 8-32x40 4200 set on 32x). It is an acquired skill that can be learned w/ a little practice and dramatically improves your situational awareness. Give it a try, you may be surprised how quickly it can be learned and how much better you will like it once you are accustomed to it.

I have shot most of the brands of scopes through the years in a wide variety of rifles and applications. I agree Leupold is a solid choice, just not one you will find on any of my rifles. Leupold's main claim to fame is that they never sold any K-mart blue light special level crap scopes that tarnished their reputation. Invariably, whenever you hear of someone comparing Leupold to Brand X and touting their superiority they are comparing a $300 scope to a $25 scope.

Don't believe what you read on the internet - go compare scopes side by side, dollar to dollar, feature to feature. If you do that I doubt you will bring a Leupold home, not because they aren't good (they are), but because they are overpriced for what you get, particularly their lower priced and mid-priced options. My current favorite (on my Ruger m77 Hawkeye in 338Federal) is the Bushnell Elite 6500 2.5x16x40. I also acquired a Trijicon 2.5x10x56 this year and have been very impressed w/ the value for the dollar.

JMO

David
 

gig

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Hey Canazes9, I will have to try shooting with both eyes open on higher power. I can see that if one became comfortable with it, it would be a help.

I agree sometimes Leupold are over rated; but one point I go by is weight, especially on a mini-14.
I try to keep the weight in the 10-12 oz range.
I suppose I am concerned about weight because much of my shooting is either grabbing the firearm off the seat of my pickup for a sudden coyote or carrying the firearm in the field.

I would probable view this weight thing differently if I was doing alot of bench rest shooting.

The Leupold warranty means something everytime I look over and see the mini bouncing around the cab while chasing a hog or coyote.

I have had good luck with the VX1 2x7 which weights in at just over 10oz.
 

Sig685

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I'm happy to do it for you Blume, I want to be sure you understand the idiosyncrasies of a riflescope. Let's go a little further.

The big-ass lens in front is called the objective. This lens is the one that captures the image and transmits it to the first focal plane of the lens. This first plane is right at the front end of a tube inside the scope, called an erector tube. If the scope has a first focal plane reticle, it will be found here at the front of the erector tube. This tube is movable up and down and side to side by twisting the external adjustment knobs. Opposite the adjustment knobs, there is some springy material to keep the tube under tension inside the main body of the scope.

Inside this tube there are lenses used to turn the image right side out and upside down. If the scope is a variable there will also be extra lenses in the erector tube that move front and back and provide for more or less magnification. At the rear end of the tube we come to another focal point, the second focal plane. For a second focal plane reticle scope, this is where the reticle will be found.

In a variable scope, you can see that since the objective image is focused on the same plane as a first focal plane reticle, when you twist the magnification knobs, both the focused image AND the reticle will change size. For a second focal plane reticle, only the focused image will change size, the reticle remains constant. The vast majority of scopes in the US are second focal plane.

The erector tube inside the main tube is used to adjust the reticle so that you can set it to match the point of impact for a specific distance. Since the erector set lenses are in the tube, you do not perceive the movement of the reticle; the FFP reticle actually moves with the erector tube, the SFP reticle does not but it is always set in relation to the middle of the erector tube. This erector tube has a very hard limit on its travel; we will get back to that shortly.

The last part we have is the eyepiece. This is the set of rear lenses that actually do the magnification task for the riflescope. This eyepiece in effect inspects the second focal plane image and magnifies it. It is critical that this piece be adjusted to your eye, because if this is off, all the other great work done by the scope is wasted.

Let's talk about mounting a scope. You will remember what I said about the reduced travel of the erector tube, so for normal distances (300 yards or less), you want to place the erector tube in the middle of its range, both horizontally and vertically and then mount the scope so the reticle is as close as possible to your target. You do not want to use the internal travel of your scope to make up for gross deviation due to poor mounting. Boresighting is an excellent way of quickly verifying that everything is going well. Boresighting is a little difficult with the Mini-14.

We can discuss mounting scopes if you want, just let me know. I will assume that you know how and have done a great job mounting yours.

Once the scope is mounted to your satisfaction, and this includes having the eyepiece exactly where you want it in relation to your face once you are in position, you need to focus the eyepiece. Point the rifle to a white wall or to the sky or clouds and take a quick look. Can you see the reticle or is it difficult to see? It needs to be sharp, and crystal clear. Don't look through the scope long, just take quick peeks and twist the eyepiece focusing knob until you have the very best image of the reticle. If you look too long, your eye will adjust to the focus of the reticle, but that is defeating your purpose. You want the reticle to be sharp from the get go.

What you have just done here is made sure your eyepiece is properly focused on the second plane, where your reticle is. The adjustable objective will allow you to properly focus the target image onto the same plane and you will thus eliminate parallax and have a clear crisp picture on the reticle superimposed on the target.

My match rifles have their scopes eyepieces focused to my naked eye. My hunting rifles have their eyepiece focused to my eyeglasses-corrected eye. When I look through my match rifle and have my glasses on, the reticle is fuzzy and difficult to see.

Next installment will be about shooting with a scope.
 

Snake45

Hawkeye
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And then there's the psychological effect of shooting a scope. Unless you're shooting off a benchrest, when shooting a scope, it looks like you're wobbling all over the place. You're actually not wobbling any more than you are with irons, it's just that you can see the wobble so much better. This bothers some people, including me sometimes.

I've run tests where I've shot the same gun offhand with irons and with scope. Group sizes (averages) were identical but while shooting I'd have bet money that the iron sight groups would be smaller.
 

gig

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Sig685, you got any good suggestions for scope shims?
I've been useing electrical tape doubled----sticky-to-sticky.
 

Divernhunter

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Denair,Ca,USA
Brass shim material for shimming scopes works. In a pinch an Al can will sometimes work.
My eyes are getting old and the scope works best for me. Even when I was younger I prefered scopes. This is on rifles. Most of my pistols are open sights. For serious hunting rifles I like 3X9X40 non-AO scopes or 3.5X10X40 non-AO and always a Leupold. I get very small groups with tese type of scopes and better yet I get game. The KISS princple works well here and I have seen too many game get away due to 47 adjustment needing to be made and flip-up scope covers when hunting. Also alway hunt with the scope set on low power. Many years around guns/hunting and a excellent gun shop taught me this. They are worth the money. For fun guns or varmit rifles not used in all weather conditions etc other brands will work as if they screw up it does not ruin a hunt.
MY 2 CENTS
 

6mmsl

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Jun 8, 2009
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153
Location
Utah
gig--Burris Signature Rings have a shimming system.

There are rail systems that offer shimming capabilities as well.

Sig-your comments were excellent.

Good shooting-Steve
 

308dave

Bearcat
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Dec 12, 2005
Messages
96
Excellent topic and great info! I've always hunted with a scope but like iron sights for back-up and sight in with both. I think the bottom line is to shoot whatever you're comfortable with and it works for you. If using a scope, though, get the best glass you can afford. I was amazed at the sight picture difference between Leupold's VX-I 20mm 1.5x4 shotgun scope and the VX-III 36mm 2.5x8 during low light conditions and when there was a lot of glare. I had the VX-III on my 6.8 Ranch Rifle last year and used the VX-I this season because it was more compact. Both deer taken this season were early and late on sunny days and I decided to compare the two (thankfully I didn't sell the VX-III) since I had a little trouble acquiring the target on one of the shots. I can't get as technical as Sig685 but I know what I saw when I compared the two and the larger objective lens model made a huge difference. At 53 my eyes aren't what they used to be either so if you're looking for a scope get the best you can afford that'll do the job for you, whatever it is you shoot.
 

Canazes9

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308dave":30pm2uvp said:
I can't get as technical as Sig685 but I know what I saw when I compared the two and the larger objective lens model made a huge difference. At 53 my eyes aren't what they used to be either so if you're looking for a scope get the best you can afford that'll do the job for you, whatever it is you shoot.

308dave

Respectfully, I don't think the larger objective had anything to do with it. The human pupil can only expand so large, to take in so much light. Pretty rare to find someone over the age of the 30 w/ a pupil that will expand much over 4.5mm. 20mm (objective lens diameter) / 4x (max magnification) = an exit pupil diameter of 5mm = all the light your eye can use.

The difference you are seeing is a combination of two effects: 1) Higher quality lens coatings (primarily) and higher quality glass (to a lesser degree) make sure that more of the light that gets through the scope is usable (visible wavelength maximized) and that the percent transmittance is significantly higher. 2) The higher quality glass (primarily) and the higher quality lens coatings (to a lesser degree) greatly improve optical resolution.

David
 

Sig685

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I will pause for bit here and comments on some of the posts here.

Shooting with both eyes open is a good thing as it allows your brain to receive more illumination. I know it sounds funny but it’s true, with one eye closed only half as much light is transmitted. For those who are distracted by having both eyes open, a common remedy is to put translucent Scotch tape on the glass in front of your non-shooting eye. This way the eye remains open to transmit the light it receives, but the vision for that eye is blurred and so does not distract.

Gig, for scope shims, DnH had some good ideas and I actually use the Burris rings that 6mmsl mentioned; they are great, highly recommended.

308Dave, what Canazes9 said is absolutely correct and right on. Let me just add that where a very large objective will make a difference is at higher magnification, as David was explaining; the exit pupil size is a function of the diameter of the objective lens divided by the magnification. You may also want to Google or Bing “twilight factor” and read up on that concept as it may be brought up but lens coating, as David says, is more important. A great place to read about scopes and binoculars are bird watching sites. I learned a lot at birdwatching.com; these people take their optics VERY seriously.

I have refrained from suggesting any brand or range of optics; I am only discussing how scopes work and how to make them work for you. In the grand scheme of things, as long as a scope provides a good picture and holds the zero, it is usable and can provide excellent accuracy to the shooter at the local range punching paper. Hunting, law enforcement, military, competition, etc bring their own requirements and that’s where scopes require different and sometimes very expensive enhancements.

Now I want to get back to shooting with a scope.
 

Sig685

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We have reviewed the components of a riflescope, we have properly mounted one on our rifle and we have bore sighted it. Now we are going to take the rifle to the range and we are going to sight it in and then we are going to see how accurate the rifle/scope/ammo/shooter system is. Before we take off for the range, I suggest you pack some small sand bags or a bag pack or some type of large soft object that will not be attached to the front of the rifle (no bipod, that introduces more problems for people who do not know how to use one properly. We can cover bipod use some other time.) I would also suggest you bring a rear bag or sock with sand or maybe even a glove for your non-shooting hand. A high power spotting scope would also be great to have if your scope is less than say 20X, so you can see your bullet holes. For targets, bring regular targets with the square inches and also some blank sheets of paper and a marker.

When you get to the range, get to a table and drop your stuff on it. If you are shooting prone, even better, but I will continue as if we are at a bench or table. If you are quite sure of your boresighting, hang a target at 100, else put one at 50 or 25 even. Make sure all the screws on your scope mount and rings are tight. Do that before you begin, trust me on this.

Now set the front rest that you brought on the bench. It should support the rifle in front of the action, but not at the end of the barrel. (I am assuming you are right handed from now on.) Now sit at the bench and cozy up to the rifle. Position your head so that your shooting eye can see the eyepiece clearly and completely. There should be no dark circle in the scope. The higher the magnification, the more critical the eye relief becomes and the more important it is to have a proper position. My match rifles have fixed power 36X scopes; they are adjusted so that when I get behind them my head is naturally positioned at the exact spot where my eye sees the entire picture. I have no difficulty seeing through these powerful scopes, but it may take you some time to find the proper spot.

If your scope is a variable, it should be set on the lowest power for now.

Ok, here is the first secret to highly accurate scope shooting: The shooting hand only pulls the trigger, the non-shooting hand drives the rifle.

By this I mean that your shooting hand, the one that is going to pull the trigger, should not be controlling the rifle and aiming it. Your non-shooting hand is the one that does that and it does it by controlling the rear of the stock at your shoulder. The front rest will hold the rifle and then you put the rear bag or sock underneath the stock and pull the rifle to your shoulder with your left hand underneath the rear of the stock. The left hand drives the rifle on the target by squeezing the rear bag or making a fist or whatever device you are employing in the rear. You can try this by putting your right hand on the table and simply using your left hand to aim the rifle. I suggest you practice this a little bit and get comfortable doing that; before long it will be second nature. At the public range near the house, I see people using front rests with their non-shooting hand underneath the fore end or better yet on top of the stock or even the scope. The results are best left unmentioned.

Once you are confident that you can aim the rifle with the left hand, use your right hand to load a round. Now for the first sighting shot, place the reticle directly on the target, take a few slow breaths and then exhale some and using your right hand, squeeze the trigger when the reticle is exactly on the target. Make sure your right hand only pulls the trigger and does not move the rifle. Stay in position and let the rifle recoil normally, do not move. This is called follow through and is our second secret. You see most people yank the trigger and jump right up to look around. Look for what, I have no clue, but we know to stay in position and let the rifle recoil, it’s also a good time to finish exhaling.

By the way, you need to do this quickly. If you can’t get the shot off within 5-6 seconds from the time you start aiming, back off the scope, take a breath and then try again. Looking in scope for a long time will only induce tremors and make your eye lose its acuity. This is actually one area where quality manifests itself; a cheap scope will create issues for your eye faster than a quality scope, but even with a quality scope, the eye will lose its acuity after 8-10 seconds. If you want to stay on the scope, look around the picture, get off the reticle and then come back to it. In other words, don’t get fixated in the scope.

Once the rifle has recoiled, stay in position, especially the left hand and use your right hand to work the action and load the next round. Using the spotting scope set up next to you, or if a buddy is spotting for you (even better), find out where the bullet hole is. If you are on paper, shoot a second round exactly the same way as I just described above, using the same sight picture. If you have done everything right, and your screws are tight in the mount and rings, you should have two bullet holes very close to one another on paper. Stop right there, and then calculate the exact amount of correction required to bring the average of the two shots to where you want then on the target. Where you want them on paper is outside the scope of this discussion, it all depends on your application, just make sure you twist the knobs in the proper direction and for the proper amount of correction, no half measures here. Let the rifle cool down for a bit.

(Note: if you are not on paper, this is where a buddy spotting for you is a great asset. It is hoped that he can tell you where you are shooting and you will be able to make corrections. A few ideas are if after 2 rounds you are not on paper, aim the next round at the left edge of the target, then the next one at the right edge of the target, then at the middle bottom of the target and finally middle top of the target. If all these fail to get a bullet on target, get a bigger target or bring the target closer. Next time do a better job on your boresighting.)

Ok, the rifle is cool and we are now going to confirm the zero. Get in position as described above, and get three cartridges ready. Now, with the minimum of movement (stay in position and use only your right hand to work the action and load the cartridges,) fire off the three rounds using the exact same sight picture. If you made the adjustments properly, your group will be exactly where you wanted it to be. Chances are you decided to make the point of impact the same as the point of aim. This will create a problem because as your bullets impact, the point of aim gets mangled. Regardless, we are now ready to try for the best possible group.

Here is secret #3, focus your attention on the target with your reticle, don’t pay any attention to the group that is forming on the paper. In order to achieve this, it would be best if you would not make your target the exact point where the bullets will impact. In other words aim at a spot below where your bullets will form a group. First increase the magnification (to the maximum if you want,) and then crank the elevation up by 5 MOA, you want the bullets to be 5 inches higher at 100 yards. Leave the rifle to cool and take one of your blank pieces of paper and using your marker make a dot in the middle of the page about 4-5 inches down from the middle. Remember your shots will be 5 inches higher than your point of aim.

Back at the bench, you are now ready to extract the very best group possible. Make sure you have 5 rounds (target rifle with heavy barrel,) or 3 rounds (hunting rifle) or 1 round (Mini-14,) and then settle back in your now favorite position. Shoot all the rounds while you are totally focused on the dot at the bottom of the paper. That dot will not change, the group will form above. Drive the rifle with the left hand, pull the trigger with the right hand without moving the rifle, do your follow through and concentrate on that dot only. Don’t even look at the group forming. Breathe slowly, exhale a bit, hold it, pull the trigger, exhale and follow through. Do not break position, load and go again.

The rifle shot should not some as a surprise, it should fire exactly when you pull the trigger, but do not yank the trigger.
 

308dave

Bearcat
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Canazes & Sig
Makes sense and explains the higher cost for the better model - pointing back to getting the best glass you can afford. I was amazed at the difference in resolution when I compared the two and switched back immediately. When I bought the cheaper model I didn't think there'd be a real big difference - and there wasn't in normal daylight hours. By chance, both deer taken this year were at extremes - the bright glare of a low morning sun, and the odd shadows of a setting sun - and it piqued my curiosity about the scope. For the deer hunter whose prey is most active at sunrise and sunset this is an important consideration. I've been hunting deer for 20+ years now and this was the first year I started the season with something less than a VX-III - and noticed the difference!
 

TBear77

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Just found this post, has some good info. Let me add a few pointers.

1. Sig mentioned "...you want to place the erector tube in the middle of its range, both horizontally and vertically..." Here's a 'how to' trick that a Leupold Engineer passed on to me. Place a mirror (the kind where the reflective surface is on the back of the glass) face up on a desk or table. Off to one side place a bright light source, like a desk lamp. Turn the light ON, then place the scope on the mirror; with the objective bell directly against the mirror. While looking through the scope, adjust the azimuth and elevation knobs until the reticles line up with their reflected images.

2. Sig's method for shooting with a scope is very good; it removes as many variables as possible. One other variable I'll address is shooting when bags, or sticks, are not available. The example here is a prone position, the others are similar.

Theory first...when using Sig's method, the bag and your left hand determine the rifle's position. This allows for a repeatable position each time you are taking a shot. But when shooting without bags, your body position becomes a factor in achieving consistency. One trick here is to estalish a consistent body-to-rifle angle each time you shoot. The following method also reduces the subconscous impulse to correct rifle position during recoil.

Now I'll walk you through the trick...at the range, get into a comfortable prone position. Looking through the scope, acquire the aiming point on the target. Then close your eyes, raise the barrel of the rifle several inches, lower it back down, and then open your eyes. When you open your eyes, note whether the azimuth (verticle) reticle is left or right of your aiming point. Adjust your body angle (not the rifle) and repeat as necessary to get the azimuth reticle to stay on your aiming point.

Until muscle memory takes effect, you'll probably make several body adjustments, but after a while it can be done in 2-3 seconds.

Hope this helps,
Ted
 
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