How to Set Up Your Scope for Long Range Shooting

Posted by Oryx on 2022 Aug 31st

How to Set Up Your Scope for Long Range Shooting


The best gear in the world is useless if it is not set up correctly. When it comes to long-range shooting, two essential pieces of equipment are your rifle and riflescope. Riflescopes have come a long way in the last 20 years, but they do have to be installed and set up correctly. Setting up a riflescope is not hard though it requires a few tools and a little space. You can do everything from home if you have a small backyard or even a hallway.

To complete this task, you will need:

  • Torque wrench
  • Level
  • Plumb line with a weight attached to it

Follow these steps for success! Let’s get started.


The first step to installing a riflescope is to secure the rifle in a tripod, bipod, or a vise. Use a carpenter level across a flat area like the forend or on top of the Picatinny scope mount. Pictured here, we used the ORYX Sportsman Chassis with an ARCA rail mounted to the bottom, allowing us to use a tripod with a bubble level to ensure we're set. There are many ways to do this, but you need to ensure you can maintain a level rifle throughout this process.


After securing your rifle, it's time to mount your scope rings. Place your scope rings as far apart on the front and rear of your scope base. This creates more stability. It's the same concept as having your bipod as far forward on your forend as possible and using a rear bag to create stability. Once the rings are on your Picatinny rail, push them forward in the slot against the Picatinny rail before you tighten them down. This reduces the likelihood of them moving from recoil. Hand tighten the scope rings to the base.


After hand tightening your rings, place your scope in the rings, and put the ring caps on. Hand tighten just enough so nothing will fall off. We'll still need to adjust the scope's position in the following steps, so we don't want things to be too tight.

Attach your scope bubble level to the scope tube. We recommend placing it in front of your parallax knob for right-hand shooters. The bubble level is an essential piece of kit that, without it, you won't be able to ensure your reticle is level with the world when firing. If your rifle is canted slightly to the side, when you adjust your elevation for long-range shooting, you will find your bullet will travel to the left or right. You may think this is due to a wind call, but it is an error in your trajectory due to cant.



Once your riflescope is in the rings, get behind the scope in a stable position. With the scope on full or max magnification, look through the riflescope. Push the scope all the way forward until you see a large black ring in your view. Then start pulling the scope back until you have a clear picture. Keep pulling it back until you see the black ring appear again. Finally, push it forward to the sweet spot, where you get a nice clear picture without any black ring. Once again, hand tighten your scope ring caps down so the scope stays in place, but do not torque the screws down because you still have to set the level of your reticle.

More:Optics: Understanding The Optical Triangle


For this, you will first need to set up a plumb line, draw a vertical line using a level, or point your rifle scope at a known level object. A field expedient vertical line can be made by tying a weighted object to a piece of cord and then hanging it from something (like a tree limb). You will have to point your rifle at this line (making sure the rifle is still level) and look through your scope. The vertical reticle must be aligned with the plumb line by twisting the scope body until the reticle lines up. In the photo above, we used the side of a building we knew to be vertical. Once the reticle is plumb, we tighten the rings more to inhibit movement.

After your reticle is plumb, you need to set your level on your scope. Make sure the bubble sits in the middle of the level and stays there as you tighten the set screw. Make sure it doesn't shift while tightening. After everything is set, double-check to ensure the rifle is still level, the reticle is still plumb, and the scope level reads level.


The final step is to tighten everything down, so it doesn't move under recoil. You will need a torque wrench for this to avoid damaging your riflescope. Read your manufacturer's recommendations for tightening your scope rings to the base and your scope caps on your scope itself. Over-tightening the scope rings can lead to crushing and damaging of your riflescope.


Once this process is complete, your bubble level will be trued to your reticle, and you can now level your reticle to the world when firing. This will allow you to avoid any misses from can't-induced errors when shooting your rifle at long range. 


Andy Slade grew up shooting. He turned his passion into a profession and served as a marksmanship instructor for the United States Marine Corps. He ultimately represented the Marine Corps in various PRS field matches, including the Mammoth Sniper Challenge. A member of Team MDT, Andy Slade continues to teach precision rifle for his company Riflemans Path

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