How to Zero a Scope in 5 Easy Steps
Airsoft guns and actual firearms have more in common than many people think. Other than the design, the way to zero a scope works almost identically for both. Granted, a BB flies differently to a bullet, but that doesn’t mean the zeroing process is too dissimilar.
Here, you’ll find out how to zero a scope for your airsoft rifle. It doesn’t have to be a sniper rifle, as red dot sights must also be calibrated for the best results. Find out all the details below.
Zeroing in a Scope – The Basic Steps
If you’re not sure what “zeroing” means, it’s the process of aligning the center point of your scope with the target. As a result, your airsoft rifle will be much more accurate than it was previously.
Be aware that zeroing in a scope isn’t a quick process, especially if you want to achieve pinpoint accuracy. It’s best to take your time when adjusting everything, but it will be worth it in the end.
Here are the basic steps of zeroing a rifle:
Mount the scope to the gun.
Assess the current accuracy.
Make adjustments to the scope.
Shoot some more BBs at the target.
Repeat until satisfied.
You’ll need a variety of tools and equipment as well. Note that it’s advised to get branded products from a reliable company, as cheaper devices may not yield the best results. High-quality sights, for example, tend to perform better than scopes that cost a few dollars.
Another benefit of this approach is that some products have a warranty, which lets you get a replacement should there be manufacturing defects.
Here is a list of what you’ll need:
Some padding for protection
A stable rifle rest or some sandbags
About 100 BBs
Some screwdrivers to adjust the scope
If your rifle has a bipod or a tripod, bring that along too, as they provide extra stability when shooting.
Below are detailed notes on everything else you need to know.
You may have seen laser sights mounted on a rifle handguard, which contribute to accuracy immensely. The same concept is applied to boresights, devices designed to make zeroing much easier. Instead of being mounted on tactical rail systems, boresights are attached to the rifle’s muzzle, shooting a light beam directly from the bore.
That’s where the name “boresight” comes from, and you can zero a rifle scope much faster this way.
There are two main types of boresights. One is made in the shape of a rifle cartridge, which shoots a laser beam from the chamber. While made for actual firearms, some airsoft weapons fire BBs from life-sized cartridge-shaped shells.
These boresight variants are less effective for airsoft enthusiasts, which is where the second type of boresight comes into play. Instead of being slid into the chamber, these are stuck into the muzzle and shoot a straight beam.
Even though firearms can also use them, airsoft snipers prefer this type of boresight as it fits into the airsoft barrel snugly. Some come with adapters that let you slot the sight into any caliber from .177 to .78, covering all standard firearm calibers.
Airsoft guns mostly fire BBs measuring around .24 caliber or 6mm. Thus, you can zero your airsoft rifles without difficulty with the correct adapter.
At this stage, you should mount the boresight on your rifle barrel. Make sure to observe all safety requirements and only point the rifle at a target you wish to hit.
The boresight will stay attached to the barrel while you adjust your scope. To prevent accidents, it’s best to keep your airsoft rifle unloaded and the fire selector in a safe position. You may also remove the magazine if it’s detachable.
This will prevent accidents from happening and keep both barrel and boresight safe from damage.
Critics may say that airsoft guns shouldn’t be zeroed as they’re inherently inaccurate compared to actual firearms. While there is some truth to the statement, high-quality airsoft guns can propel a BB in a straight line of its effective range. Therefore, it would be best to take that statement with a pinch of salt.
Scopes come in many guises, including the following:
Red dot scopes
Sniper scopes (fixed and variable zoom types)
Zeroing will help you hit targets more often, no matter your scope type. Even a basic red dot sight without magnification will have some controls to let you adjust its position. As for sniper scopes, you can adjust the scope with the built-in knobs.
ACOG scopes or similar designs usually have fixed magnification, but they can still be adjusted to achieve zero.
Red dot scopes are best for short- to medium-range. ACOG scopes are excellent over for these ranges too, but shine at medium-range in particular. As for sniper scopes, they should be used for beyond medium-range distances.
Some scopes are mounted to a ring before being attached to the rifle. You must make sure they sit level with the gun, or zeroing can become difficult.
Depending on your scope, you need to determine how far you want to shoot. Red dot scopes should be sighted for 20 or 30 meters, with the former for closed venues and the latter for open spaces. ACOG scopes are best sighted for 30 meters or more.
As for airsoft sniper scopes, try to sight them at 50 meters for the best results. In the end, always factor in your environment and conditions, though we recommend these ranges as a good starting point.
Before shooting airsoft guns, make sure to follow basic firearm safety procedures. These replicas often resemble actual firearms and should be treated as such. While you can shoot opponents during matches, please don’t do so when calibrating at the range.
Here are some basic rules to adhere to:
Treat all weapons as if they are loaded.
Always point the muzzle in a safe direction.
Keep the gun unloaded until you’re ready to shoot.
Wear eye protection at all times.
Never touch the trigger until you want to shoot.
Only shoot at targets with a safe backstop, and ensure no one is in the immediate vicinity.
Keep the safety on until ready to fire.
Follow all the instructions in your airsoft manual, where applicable.
Store the airsoft guns in a safe place. That way, no one can fool around with them when they are not in use.
Don’t reuse BBs.
Make sure your airsoft gun is in perfect working order.
These rules are similar to firing range rules. By following them, no one will get hurt, including yourself.
The best environment to zero an airsoft rifle is an airsoft shooting range. As these locations have no wind and tend to be at moderate temperatures, they’re the optimal environment for zeroing a rifle. Some may even provide rifle stands.
However, any stretch of flat land can be utilized by those who don’t have access to a range. That way, you reduce the chances of making a mistake while adjusting the scope.
When shooting, make sure there’s no wind, as the BBs will be blown off-target. As for rifles with metal barrels, try to shoot them on cooler days to prevent heat from warping the barrel. Note that a warm barrel can also reduce accuracy significantly.
In a nutshell, the shooting process goes like this:
Place a target at a chosen distance.
Prepare the rifle and place it on a rest or sandbags.
Attach the boresight.
Try to adjust the scope to match.
After doing so, remove the boresight.
Load the rifle.
Fire several shots at the target.
When done, clear the gun and prepare to adjust your scope again.
When shooting, it’s best to shoot at bullseye targets. With the bullseye as the center point, you can tell what type of adjustments you need to make. Once you have a group of holes, you can stop shooting and examine the results.
The target group will contain a lot of information that helps in adjusting your scope’s reticle. If the shots are mostly hitting low and right, you have to move the reticle to the left and top. You can then shoot again and repeat the steps.
You should leave the target as it is, as replacing or moving it can result in minor inconsistency after making adjustments. Instead, use some tape to cover the holes, and this also lets you reuse targets without wasting paper.
Naturally, there will be a period of adjustment. With practice, however, the process of zeroing your scope will become much easier.
With the target group in mind, follow these steps:
Return to the rifle.
Adjust the X-axis (horizontal axis) first.
Fire some more BBs.
If it hits closer to the bullseye, repeat until you hit the center more often.
After that, adjust the Y-axis (vertical axis) slowly.
Shoot some more BBs.
Repeat these steps until you’re satisfied with the accuracy.
You may also use the boresight to help, but at this point, the tool isn’t as necessary.
Sniper scopes have knobs for both axes, and they offer sub-MOA adjustments. MOA stands for “minute of angle,” a precise unit used to calibrate scopes. Different scopes offer varying adjustment levels, so you’ll have to consult the manual and find out yourself beforehand.
As for ACOG sights, they also have knobs for adjusting the reticle. They’re closer to sniper scopes in terms of adjustment methods.
In contrast, red dot sights can vary in adjustment method. Some use knobs while others are adjusted with screws on the sight body. Others have buttons for moving the dot where you want.
Red dot sights are less precise than sniper scopes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t perform minute adjustments. You can still zero them efficiently if you have the patience.
Other things you can adjust other than the scope are the hop-up and barrel. If you follow the steps and find that the weather, the optics, and BBs aren’t the problem, the issue likely resides in other parts of your rifle.
Many AEGs and gas-operated airsoft rifles have adjustable hop-ups. These devices are responsible for making the BBs spin. When properly adjusted, BBs will fly direct to their effective range. The best configuration is the one that makes the BB hit bullseye more often than not.
Sometimes the hop-up itself is misaligned, which can cause problems. If you’re unsure about what to do, consult an airsoft technician and ask for assistance.
Airsoft rifle barrels should also be clean, as any obstructions can reduce accuracy no matter how much zeroing you do. Use rubbing alcohol to remove any dirt and debris, as silicone oil can make cleaning paper stick to the bore. Warm water can work but it isn’t the best option.
If you use barrel attachments such as mock suppressors and large muzzle brakes, they may contribute to poor accuracy. If you remove them and immediately notice improvement, it’s likely due to the accessory. Nevertheless, these attachments generally don’t affect your shooting in any way.
If in doubt, ask an experienced airsoft athlete or technician for advice.
Ultimately, increasing your airsoft rifle’s accuracy comes down to the scope and barrel. When both are aligned and stable, the scope won’t leave zero for a while.
Precision Is Key
Making precise adjustments while zeroing a scope is what helps you hit targets more often. In an airsoft firefight, it may make a difference at medium range or sniping from far away. You wouldn’t want your rifle spraying bullets in a large spread, either.
There are many tools to help you zero a scope, none of which are particularly expensive. Therefore, you should devote time to learning how to zero your airsoft rifle’s scopes properly. It will take time to learn, but your weapon will perform better in the long run.