After years of talking about it, my buddy finally took his hunter safety course and bought that first rifle, the .22. His mind was made up from the get go that he was going to buy a bolt-action, so he ended up with a Marlin XT-22. He had a ton of fun the first time we took it out shooting, but after a few magazines on my Ruger he was struck with terrible scope envy. As soon as we got home he ordered the same scope I have on mine–a relatively cheap but absolutely sufficient Simmons. For the hunting that we’re doing, not to mention our skill with a rifle, a 9x zoom is plenty. I rarely use anything above 5x when I’m hunting.
This post is specifically about zeroing a .22 for small game hunting in relatively close quarters. Zeroing a scope for long-distance shooting is an arduous process. But if you’re just looking to put that first scope on your brand new .22 and get it shooting straight at 50 yards, everything is much simpler.
The standard procedure for zeroing a rifle goes something like this:
-Set yourself up in a very stable position, be it at a bench or prone with a shooting rest, and fire three shots at the center of the target
-Assuming all three shots hit the target, average the three shots and measure the distance vertically and horizontally to the bullseye. If your shots missed entirely, move the target closer to start.
-Uncap the turrets on the scope and make adjustments along the vertical and horizontal axis to place that average directly in the center. Most scope are adjustable in increments of ¼ MOA or Minute of Angle. 1 MOA is equal to 1 inch at 100 yards. At 50 yards, 1 MOA will only be ½ inch.
-Once you are adjusted, fire another three shots. The average of these three should be closer to the bullseye. Repeat the process until your groups are consistently in the bullseye.
That method will work for any rifle at any distance. It’s a simple process that just takes time, care, and a bit of money for ammunition. But for the .22 at 50 yards, the process can be made much simpler. Definitely use reactive targets like these:
The advantage to reactive targets is that from a distance of 50 yards you’ll be able to see each shot through the scope. While you won’t be able to measure distances, you also won’t have to keep walking out 50 yards to see how you’re doing.
My next suggestion is to not always rely on the three shot group. Especially when you are first figuring things out, fire a shot or two and adjust based on that. When you first put your scope on it is likely to be way, way off, and this can save you a bit of time.
Once you’re hitting dead center, put out a new target and fire a three shot group. This will give you some insight into your marksmanship and how the rifle groups. From 50 yards, a good marksman shooting a good rifle should put out a group around the size of a quarter.
There are many things that can get in the way of a good grouping such as poor rifle handling or faulty equipment. One that I’ve noticed time and again is certain brands of ammunition simply don’t work as well with certain rifles. You can put four rounds dead center and fire another that feels beautiful but for some reason ends up a couple inches away. Finding the right ammunition is another important process in maximizing your effectiveness with your rifle.