Hunting season is upon us and it is never too late to prepare.  Many hunters are guilty of putting their rifle away after the season and not even touching it again until right before the next season begins.  The experienced shooter understands the importance of sighting-in their rifle before heading out on a hunt.

However, there are a few common sight-in mistakes shooters make which ultimately may result in a frustrating hunting experience.  These are:

1. Thinking all ammo is the same. It isn’t. All rifles display different levels of accuracy when you change brands, bullets, propellants or anything else.

One brand of ammo will generally shoot differently than another in your particular firearm.  The same is true for two different bullets of the same weight – they will not always shoot the same.  It is best to find a brand and type of ammo that you find works best in your rifle and stick with that.  Out in the field is not the time to experiment with new ammo. And it’s also not a bad idea to clean your barrel after every 5 or 6 rounds.

2. Rifle bounce. Sighting-in is generally done using a sandbag or gun rest for support.  Make certain the rest is firm but not hard.  If the rifle fore-end is sitting on a hard surface, the rifle will bounce and the shot will be high. DO NOT rest the rifle barrel itself on anything as the bounce will cause your bullets to rise and you will get a false zero. While you can use a sandbag or something as support to get you on-target, you will not have a sandbag with you in the field and your rifle will react differently when it is shot unsupported by the sandbag.  So, for the last few shots as you zero in, David E. Petzel of Field and Stream magazine recommends you rest your rifle in your hand and shoot. Although you may not get a tight grouping this way, you will get a true zero.  If you use a sling or bi-pod to shoot with, this is the time to use it.

3. Overheating the barrel. This is never a good idea. Bad things happen when your barrel overheats, one of which is the heat rising off the barrel and causing a mirage (refraction – bending of the light).  Looking through a shimmering wall of heat waves will cause you to see your target higher than it really is.

Shoot no more than three rounds at a time and let the barrel cool enough that you can hold it for a ten-count.  A quick tip is to stand the rifle on its butt with the muzzle pointed up.  This creates a smokestack effect and helps heat escape the barrel.

4. Running out of scope adjustments. A common first step in setting up your rifle is to use bore-sighting where you set the scoped rifle up on a steady rest and place a target at 100 yards. Remove the bolt, look through the chamber and move around the bore until you can see the bullseye centered in the bore. Without moving the rifle, look through the scope and note where the reticle is positioned relative to the target. If the scope reticle is not closely aligned to target center, you need to make adjustments. DO NOT use the scope windage and elevation adjustments for these pre-sighting adjustments or you will run out of adjustment for final zeroing.  Make all major bore sighting adjustments using the base mount adjustment screws. Use the scope’s internal windage and elevation screws only to make final adjustments. This will prevent running out of internal adjustments.

Here are a few more quick tips to help improve your shooting accuracy:

1. Make sure your scope is mounted properly.

2. Use consistent shoulder pressure that you use in practice.

3. Learning to press a trigger—moving it straight to the rear without disturbing the sight picture.

A lot of gun ranges offer sight-in days.  Be sure to contact the range nearest you for details.

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What are your secrets to successfully sighting-in your rifle?

Be safe and happy hunting.

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