How Rifle Scopes Work?

Guest post by Amy Ford.

A newbie or beginner hunter often struggles to find the right rifle scope for a hunting rifle. It is not uncommon for beginner hunters to invest in a rifle heavily and not so much on a scope. This is mainly due to not recognizing the significance of scope in game hunting. 

A bullet doesn’t fly out of the barrel in a straight line. It travels in an arc. You can hit a target without a scope, but you will have to aim a few notches above the line of sight. However, the chances of success are slim. 

Furthermore, a poorly equipped rifle scope can be a detriment to your learning curve. In most cases, the quality of a rifle scope is more important than the rifle itself. With a well-fitted rifle scope, you don’t have to bother adjusting the lens so often. Click here to know more about the best rifle scopes under $500. In this next section, I discuss the essential parts of a rifle scope. 

Most Important Parts of the Rifle Scope

1. Objective Lens

The objective lens is located in the frontmost section (shown in the image above) of the rifle scope. It is a light-gathering lens with a diameter ranging from 32mm to 44mm. The width of an objective lens is directly proportional to the visibility. The diameter of an objective lens may not be a concern for daytime hunters, but it is critical for those who head out to hunt in low light conditions. 

2. Windage Bell

The windage bell (or also known as an objective bell) is the pipe that holds the objective lens in place. The windage bell is narrower in the center of the shaft and extends gradually in the outward direction. In some cases, the length of a windage bell is shortened to make it fit closer to the rifle. Most Windage bells come with a parasol or awning on top of the objective lens.   

3. Ocular Lens

The ocular lens is located at the rear end of a rifle scope. It is the observing lens of a rifle scope. The information gathered at the other end of the scope is presented in a viewable form to the hunter. It is recommended to go for a water-repellent ocular lens if you hunt in rainy or humid regions. Before using a rifle scope, learn the correct viewing method. 

4. Eyepiece

The eyepiece is a hollow container that holds the ocular lens in place. An eyepiece is equipped with a dial to zoom in and out of the reticle. Refer to the product specifications to find the magnification range of a power ring. On average, you will be able to see the target 12 times closer than the lowest level (1x). An eyepiece also has a sunshade, which also acts as a protective lid for the ocular lens.

5. Elevation Adjustment

Elevation adjustment knob (also known as elevation turret) is centrally located and sits on the top of the shaft. As the name suggests, this knob lets you adjust the scope vertically. Note that the vertical and horizontal adjustment knobs are not interconnected. 

6. Windage Adjustment

The windage adjustment knob (also known as windage turret) lets you adjust the horizontal position of the rifle scope. This knob is located centrally on the right side of the shaft. Similar to the elevation adjustment knob, you can move the dial with a precision of +-1.0 mm. The adjustments in both knobs are measured in MOA (minutes of angle) or MRAD (milliradian).

How Do Rifle Scopes Work?

The most accurate shooters have a unique ability to hit the target without knowing the mechanics of shooting. However, most rifle shooters get good by learning it like any other skill. To use a rifle scope correctly, you must get familiarized with the point of aim (POA) and the point of impact (POI).  

As I mentioned before, a bullet flies off the barrel upward and then begins to descend, making an arch. The rifle scope eliminates the guesswork. You simply have to aim at the target and pull the trigger when the time is right. The point is that aim where the crosshair of the scope is aimed. And the point of impact is where the bullet hits. 

Arranging the point of aim and point of impact is essential. This process is also known as zeroing the scope. Typically, hunters spend a considerable amount of time zeroing their rifle scopes in a shooting range. You must stand within 100-200 yards of the target.

Note that a rifle scope zeroed in for 100 yards won’t be as accurate when shooting a target 200 yards away. Factors like wind, the moisture content in the air, and human errors will come into play. However, the same scope will yield accurate results 100 yards from the target. All you will have to do is aim at the target and pull the trigger.

This does not mean you should always get as close to the target as possible. You simply have to learn to calibrate the elevation adjustment knob, preferably in a shooting range first. The farther the target is, the more you must elevate the adjustment knob. You will get the hang of it with practice.  


No matter how much you read up on this subject, you won’t get it until you put in the hours in a shooting range. Most of the adjustments in a rifle scope are performed internally, so the scale on the dial is your only guide. 

The calibration of rifle scope has a lot to do with the cartridge’s characteristics. Make sure you are aware of the velocity, weight, and ballistic coefficient of the bullet.

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