Sighting In Checklist
By Glen Wunderlich
With the possible exception of experience, nothing can prepare a person for the rush of adrenaline a hunter may feel when an opportunity to take a whitetail deer is at hand. Recalling an incident in a treestand with a bow years ago, I realized I was out of business when the shivers hit me. Call it buck fever or what you will; it happens.
However, missed shots can have many root causes and often they can be traced to the mounting system of optics. As an example, a friend described how he had purchased a new slug gun, mounted a scope and headed to the practice range to sight it in. Box after box of slugs were shot and each group resembled a 40-yard shotgun pattern, rather than any kind of group. The culprit was a loose scope base, which had been poorly installed at the factory. Check them and tighten to 35 inch-pounds.
If all is well, check the screws that hold the scope to the base. Then move on to the screws that secure the scope in the rings. In John Barsness’ book, Modern Hunting Optics, the author states that an awful lot of ring marks and bad scopes can be blamed on screwdriver crunching, or as he aptly puts it, “farmer tight.” Modern hunting scopes are slightly flexible along the main tube, and it’s because of this that only 20 to 28 inch-pounds of torque are necessary. The flex in the tube results in pressure against the rings and that will hold them securely in place under recoil.
If you were a good scout and cleaned your firearm after last season, congratulations! But, before heading to the range, you’ll want to run a clean patch through the bore to remove any residual oil or grease and to ensure there are no barrel obstructions.
Even if you’ve not changed any scope settings on the gun, it’s still a good idea to check its zero. If your ammo stock is low, now is a good time to get a new supply. Just make sure to get more than one box of the same lot numbers in the event the sighting-in process burns up more ammo than you thought it would. Do not trust that your old ammo will shoot to the same point of aim as new ammo. Also, do not mix different brands or different weight bullets, because they probably will shoot differently.
When you finish sighting in, leave the firearm uncleaned in the bore. Cleaning it before hunting, can change the point of impact, which defeats the purpose of sighting in. After the season, give it a thorough cleaning.
Practicing at the range has another distinct advantage: familiarity with the gun. Most deer guns are single-purpose tools in that they are used very little in the course of a year. Many opportunities are blown afield because a hunter fumbled around for the safety.
In summary, stock up on some ammo and gain the confidence that only hands-on experience can provide.