A riflescope can be an intimidating piece of gear. A lot of people have it mounted at the local gun shop and never touch it again. But if you familiarize yourself with a couple of key techniques, adjusting your riflescope and even moving it between rifles can be a quick and painless process.

The three main aspects to consider when adjusting your riflescope are:

  1. Getting the right eye relief
  2. Making sure your scope is level
  3. Fine-tuning the eyepiece focus


Everyone’s built differently with different proportions. Knowing how to set up your scope for your body is critical to the performance of the scope. One of the first things to consider is eye relief. What is eye relief on a scope you might ask?

Eye relief is the distance from the eyepiece lens to your eye. Every model of scope has an optimal eye relief, so you’ll have to look up your scope’s specs when you’re mounting it to know about where is should sit of the rifle in relation to your eye. Also, note that eye relief changes depending on what magnification you’re on. The change isn’t very big, so it’s best to take those two numbers and split the difference between them; that’s going to give you your ideal eye relief.

Setting your eye relief can be a pretty simple process.

  1. First, place the scope in the rings and put the ring tops on, but not tightly. Make sure the scope can still move around.
  2. Next, mount the rifle like you were going to shoot – ideally this is done on a table or stable platform. You want to be able to see a big image that fills up the entire eyepiece lens. If you’re too far away the image will be small; too close and you will get a lot of black around it, which is called vignette.
  3. Shoulder the rifle with your eyes closed. Get in your most ideal, comfortable position. Once you feel comfortable, open your eyes and see where the eye relief of the scope is. The reason you do this with your eyes closed is that with your eyes open, you tend to adjust your body position to get the ideal eye relief when you actually want to adjust the scope, not your body position.
  4. Repeat this step a couple times to make sure the scope is exactly where it needs to be when you’re comfortable on the stock. Remember, if your eye relief is good, the image will completely fill the eyepiece – there will be no black edges around your sight picture.


After you determine the right eye relief, you’ll need to level the scope. Leveling the scope to the rifles action and barrel is extremely important for precise shot placement – especially at long-range. Investing in a high-quality leveling kit will make this process simple and repeatable.

Once the eye relief is set, remove the elevation adjustment cap or dial. You’ll want to use the post that the dial attaches to in order to get the most accurate level. With the bolt removed, install the level into the rifles action. It’s very important that the level sit all the way down in the action evenly – it’s easy to inadvertently tweak the level, which will cause the scope to be crooked. Some leveling kits come with a barrel-level attachment, as well.

Level the rifle and then place the other level on the top of the exposed adjustment and center it. Carefully twist the scope (making sure not to move it forward or back) until the bubble is in the center of the lines. Tighten the ring tops evenly to their 26 inch lbs spec (or per the included instructions of your rings). With the scope securely mounted and the proper eye relief achieved, the next step is to adjust the eyepiece focus, which is also sometimes referred to as the diopter adjustment.

Focusing the eyepiece ensures the reticle or crosshairs looks clear for your specific eyes. Generally speaking, younger eyes have an easier time focusing. As we get older, our eyes degenerate and don’t focus as easy, which is why most people need reading glasses as they age. Younger shooters usually have a negative adjustment, which means the eyepiece focus is screwed all the way in. Older shooters will generally have a positive setting, so the eyepiece is screwed further out.

The eyepiece focus is located on the eyepiece end of the scope, closest to your eye. There are a few different types, but the two main ones are called “standard” and “fast focus”. With the standard type, the whole eyeshell will twist. The fast focus type has an inner rotating piece that turns the lens while the eyeshell stays in place.

With the rifle on a stable platform, point the scope towards a bright, solid color background. The brighter the background, the easier it will be to see the reticle. Shoulder the rifle so it’s in your standard shooting position and simply turn the eyepiece focus until the reticle is nice and crisp. The scope is now tuned for you.