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GameKeepers’ Guns: Sighting in your Rifle with a Shooting Bench

Bobby Cole | Originally published in GameKeepers: Farming for Wildlife Magazine

sighting in a rifle

The purpose of GameKeepers: Farming for Wildlife magazine is to help readers enjoy their time outdoors. It’s a way to learn from others who have made mistakes. I certainly have made plenty. There are few things more frustrating than having a rifle or shotgun that’s not properly sighted in. Think about it, you spend all this time planting plots, fertilizing, spraying weeds, trimming lanes, readying stands, filling feeders and more, but then when “the moment of truth” arrives you’re holding a rifle that is not going to hit what you’re aiming at because it wasn’t properly sighted in. It’s a recipe for frustration. 

There is a big difference in consistently grouping above a one inch square at a hundred yards and hitting a Coke can. An accurate rifle can give you confidence. Confidence is an important aspect to a hunt, especially when the pressure is on, the light is low and you have a few minutes or maybe only seconds to make a decision to squeeze off a shot. An accurate rifle that you are confident in is the difference between instantly knowing you made a great hit and wondering what you’re going to find when you get to the point of impact. It’s the difference between loading your deer or blood-trailing an injured animal. We all love whitetails too much to risk wounding an animal. 

Sighting in your rifle off the hood of your truck may seem like a good idea, but it’s not. It might be a quick way to check a rifle after it has been bumped hard enough for you to wonder, but the only way you can properly sight in a rifle is to be steady, consistently steady, every time. 

Best Way to Sight in a Rifle

I would recommend setting up a range somewhere with known distances (at least 100 yards) and a steady bench. You can learn so much about your shooting skills and your rifle if you shoot from a solid, steady bench. You’ll also want a good backstop to shoot into for safety purposes. 

Once you have a good spot picked out, building a bench will take some time. You can Google “shooting bench designs” for ideas. I have built a few, typically you spend a half day gathering materials and building it. (If you go this route choose treated materials). 

Recently I was shown the Muddy Shooting Bench and I was very impressed. It’s very easy to assemble and surprisingly solid. It’s the last bench you or your club will have to purchase and it’s reasonably priced at only $160. Check it out at

Having a proper rifle range with a bench is the best way to know if your gun is sighted in and stays sighted in. It’s a great place to teach new and young hunters range safety. There are few things in hunting that we can regularly depend upon, but there is one critical item of which you can be absolutely certain. You can be confident that your rifle will hit what you expect it to with a cold barrel. The way you learn this is by spending time on a good solid bench. Having one makes all the sense in the world to me. 

bench rest and tools for sighting rifle

There are many ideas on how to sight in a rifle and we’ll touch on this in another article. But I do like my rifles to be an inch high at 100 yards and after sighting them in, I will always come back later and shoot one time with a cold barrel. That’s how you know. 

Remember to be safe when sighting in rifles and always wear hearing protection. A good spotting scope also prevents you from having to walk back and forth to determine where you hit. Shooting rifles, shotguns and pistols are fun. Having your own range will add to the experience. Take the opportunity to teach others to handle their firearms properly and safely. That’s what gamekeepers do.

spotting scope for sighting in a rifle

Don't forget to sight in your turkey guns as well! Patterning your shotgun is crucial to having success hunting turkeys. 


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