How to sight in an airgun with open sights

by B.B. Pelletier

We have an emergency today. Seems one of our readers received an air rifle for Christmas and needs help sighting it in. Here is his comment, “I have just got a new Gamo Shadow 1000 and I was wondering if you knew how to sight in the open sights?” The nice thing about answering this question is the answer applies to all open sights on all airguns – not just the Gamo.

First – what is the sight picture?
With open sights, there are a number of different sight pictures to choose from. The one you select must be used every time you sight the rifle, or else the sight-in will be invalid. The Shadow 1000 comes with fiber optic sights, front and rear, so the sight picture is a red bead resting down in the U-shaped rear notch between two green dots. If there were no fiber optics, this would simply be a front bead resting down in the rear U-shaped notch. The front bead is held on the spot where you want the pellet to go. This is called a center-hold sight picture, and it is commonly used for sporting purposes.

Starting the sight-in
I like to start sighting in an air rifle at 10 feet. When I’m that close to the target, I know the pellet will land somewhere on the paper, no matter how far off the sights are. Be sure to wear safety goggles if you do this, because you will be hit by lead particles splashing back off the backstop. To minimize backsplash, cover the face of the target trap with cardboard, and mount the target paper to that. I like to use a clean sheet of paper, approximately 9″ tall by 6″ wide. I simply take a real target and turn it around so there is nothing on the paper. I draw an aim point with a ballpoint pen. It should be a circle about 1/4″ across. Fill it in with the pen, so it looks dark.

The first three shots
Using the proper technique for a spring-piston air rifle, because the Shadow 1000 is sensitive to hold, shoot three shots at the aim point. Use the center hold sight picture. The three shots should be very close to each other. The center of the group is where your rifle is currently sighted. I like to bring the group over to the center of the aim point (left/right) first. Here is the big tip of this post – always move the rear sight in the same direction you want to move the shot group. If your first group is too far to the left, crank the adjustment knob on the side of the rear sight to move the notch to the right. On the Gamo, there are index marks on the sight plate and numbers on both adjustment wheels to let you know which way you are going. I like to watch the rear notch actually move as I adjust it.


The Shadow rear sight is clearly marked for adjustment.

Get the shot group centered, left and right
Keep adjusting the rear sight windage wheel (the one on the right side) until a three-shot group is centered on the aim point. Don’t worry about the elevation yet. If you adjust the windage knob in the wrong direction (it happens to me all the time), simply crank it back that much more on the next adjustment. Once the shot group is reasonably centered, left to right, you’re ready to adjust elevation.

Elevation adjustment
Note how high above the center of the bore the sights are. It will probably be less than one inch, but pretty close. That is how far BELOW the aim point we want the pellet to strike! The adjustments are made with the large elevation wheel located in front of the rear notch. Turning counterclockwise elevates the shot group. When you have the shots centered on the aim point and as far below the point as the sights are above the center of the bore, it’s time to move on.

Move back to 10 yards
At this distance, you want the pellet to strike in line with the aim point left to right and one inch below the aim point. Make the necessary sight corrections to do this. When you are grouping in the right place, it’s time to finish sighting-in.

Move back to 20 yards
Here you want the pellet to strike the aim point. You’ll probably have to make a new target with a one-inch aim point in order to see it. Try to get your group in the center of the aim point at this distance. Once you’re satisfied, you will be sighted-in at 20 to 35 yards, with the Gamo Shadow 1000. At any other range, you will be low. Shoot several groups at distances outside the sight-in distance to learn where your groups will be.

This procedure takes longer to read than it does to actually perform. You should be sighted-in within 5 to 10 minutes this way.

25 Responses to “How to sight in an airgun with open sights”

  • Tod Says:

    BB

    Yet again, an interesting article.Sorry about the off-topic question but what do you think about non variable zoom scopes? Is variable zoom important for the now and then plinker?

    Tod

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Tod,

    Some of my favorite scopes are fixed power. I have a 7 year old Leapers 6X Compact that winds up on most of my airguns as the first scope.

    Now that Leapers has brought out their new Bug Buster in 6X I think it has to be one of the best fixed-power scopes available. Be sure to check it out.

    B.B.

  • shootin’ blanks Says:

    b.b. i shot a shridan blue streak recently and had a problem… it seemed that after about ten shots that the gun would start to shoot left and i think it is because the pump assembly heats up and warps the barrel slightly. am i right in thinking this and if so what can i do about it? and is this performance typical of benjamin/sheridan?

  • Anonymous Says:

    The problem I have w/ the Shadow 1000 is the red front sight is about 1/2 the width of the space between the green sights. So it’s hard to center the red dot between the green dots. Up close it’s not a big deal, but at 20 yards it’s 1″ or more of error. How do others sight the red dot between the green ones?

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    No fiberoptic sight will give precision. They are used for quick acquisition. For precision, you need black sights.

    I’m sorry, but fiberoptics are simply dreck, in my opinion.

    B.B.

  • trapcat111 Says:

    I like the light post open sights. Dont bury the front sight like a shotgun bead! Use them like conventional sights or top grade pistol sights. I killed crows at 50 yards with those sights.

  • Marlon James Says:

    To B.B.P. Sir
    I’m a long time reader first time writing in.
    Thank you for your article.
    It was just the right information to adjusting my open sights.
    I have an out of the box RWS350.22 with rear sight adjusted to the extreme left. Which means it’s point of impact is grouping 5″right 5″high from point of aim. Very frustrating. Still, even with the rear sight adjusted as low as it can go. I have to hold a sight picture of 5″ low and a little to the left to hit the x. The accuracy is great. The grouping is within 1.5″ free hand at 12 yards. I put a williams peep sight, it too is adjusted to extreme left and as low as it will go. But the factory rear sight is in the way. What insights do you have? If the rifle is shooting high right with extreme adjustment left, what can I expect when I put a Beeman 4-12x44mm AO/TT high mount rings. I received the firearm through my local gun shop. I found no manual but discovered a Umarex tag on the trigger. I’m still waiting for a response from them. So What do you think? P.S. I know there is a breakin period, the gun is very rough and dry inside. Some deiseling occured. I’m waiting for more information before doing the right thing. So What do you think? Marlon James

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Marlon,

    No question that the front sight of your rifle is rotated to the left. I would return it to the dealer for a replacement, if you still want a 350.

    If you want Umarex USA to correct the problem, contact them at

    http://www.umarexusa.com

    If they don’t respond to an email, give them a call at

    479-646-4210

    A scope will correct the sight alignment problem, but I hope you have read how to correctly mount scopes on RWS Diana rifles. They have a problem that must be addressed correctly or the scope will never stay put. Also, all RWS Diana guns shoot low and a scope may require adjustable mounts to obtain the correct downward angle to correct this.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Hey B.B, I needed this :)

    I just didnt know the sights would so much vary over distances…good to know.But do that apply also when using a scope? If you adjust the scope at 10 yards to hit the aim point,would these adjustments be the same at lets say 50 yards? Or do you have to adjust again for 50 yards?(i think the adjustments will be the same,but just wanted to make sure)
    P.S :I bought a gamo sporter 3-9x 40 that broke and the dealer said he’ll ‘make it stronger’ from the inside,so that it would handle the power of my 350 mag for next time. And i think i will add a scope stop that comes with a RECOIL ABSORBER.But in that case ,i will only be able to use a double mount system,so that the scope stop will fit between the 2 mounts.Do you think that should work without breaking this time?

    Thanx

    Fouad

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B,

    You said :’No question that the front sight of your rifle is rotated to the left’ in a reply for Marlon James…..could that be that the BARREL is leaned or rotated to the left?? Or just the front sight that might need replacement?

    Fouad

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Fouad,

    Yes, the aim point of a scope changes with distance. Oddly, you may be in the same place at 10 and 50 yards, but you’ll be 1.5-2 inches high at 20-30 yards.

    As for the gun torquing, this is a movement you can feel with some airguns. The sights and barrel weren’t off, the gun actually twisted. And that may have had no effect on where the pellet struck, because it happened so long after the pellet left the muzzle.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    Thanx! I have just finished reading your http://www.pyramydair.com/blog/2005/06/at-what-range-should-you-zero-your.html blog.
    I also understood well why the scope is zeroed at 2 distances…pure logic.Thanx for these infos :)

    ABOUT the open sights,yes i have told you before that my shots were grouping 1 inch ON THE LEFT of my aiming point and i corrected this problem by turning the rear sight about 7 clicks to the LEFT.Now i know what was the problem.
    BUT there is one question :
    About a week ago,I noticed that the left part of my rear sight (fiber optic sight)is slightly higher than the right part of the rear open sight,AND even a little declined toward the left.Before,I used to put the rear sight in the MIDDLE and hit targets right where I aim.Now if i return the rear sight in the center,the gun will shoot left.Do you think that the elevated left part of my rear sight is responsible at my airgun hitting targets at the left?(left part and right part are not the same ,the left part being slightly elevated and even declined from left to right). If so i will change my rear sight.

    Fouad

  • Anonymous Says:

    SORRY :CORRECTION…..my groups were landing RIGHT (i said left in my previous post) ;and this was when my rear sight was in the center.I corrected this problem by putting the rear sight to the left.

    Fouad

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Fouad,

    Always move the rear sight in the same direction you want to pellet to go.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B,

    Ok i did this correctly then.
    About the scope sighting,if the target is at 20 yards but about 5-10 yards downward/or upward ,Will it have the same sighting of a 20 yards straight line?
    And also,why the gun is hitting RIGHT of the aiming point when the rear sight is put at the center? I have to put the rear sight to the left to hit my aiming point.Is it because part of the rear site is up and declined to the right (slightly deformed)?

    Thanx

    Fouad

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Fouad,

    This is easy for you to check by actually shooting. The rifle will shoot low out to 20 yards if sighted for 20.

    If you cannot adjust the rear sight any farther to the left and you are still shooting to the right, then either the barrel is pointing too far to the right or the sights are off. The slightly deformed sight could be what’s wrong.

    B.B.

  • Anonymous Says:

    B.B,

    I think you misunderstood my first question. I meant that if the target is upper my standing position of like 5 yards at a 20 yards lenght distance.Will it have the same SCOPE sighting as if the target was 20 yards away but at the same level(hight) ?
    About the rear sight,i managed to hit the center of my aiming point,yet the rear sight can still move a few clicks to the left.No problem with that.But just wanted to know the reason, because 2 weeks ago,i was hitting my aiming point while the rear sight was at the center.So i guess my rear sight was deformed in these 2 weeks….

    Fouad

  • JW Flower Says:

    OK, what about a receiver peep on an RWS 54? Is there such a thing? I like the idea, but I’ve never shot one, and I haven’t even shot a 54, I’m waiting for mine to come.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    JW,

    You mount a peep on a 54 you would need one with a long setback. The sport apertures don’t come back far enough to use.

    A Weihrauch (the old one, not the current model) would work, but then you’d have a problem with it moving on the rail, as the 54 rail doesn’t have a good scope stop,

    B.B.

  • eos_user Says:

    Hi, my air rifle's rear site only does elevation. The front site can move left and right. When I shoot at about 15 yards, all my shots are about 4-5 inches to the left of the center of the target. I tried moving the front site both left and right, but it seems not to make much difference?
    Thanks
    Kevin R

  • kevin Says:

    Kevin R,

    What air rifle do you have that is shooting 4-5 inches to the left?

    If your front sight is the only adjustment that you have you must rely entirely on that sight for adjustment. When adjusting the front sight you want to move the sight in the opposite direction that you want the strike of the pellet to move. In other words, if your gun is shooting to the left you want to adjust your front sight to the left.

    Please try adjusting your front sight all the way to the left and tell me what happens.

    kevin

  • Anonymous Says:

    what age is best to start a young kid off with an air rifle?

  • Anonymous Says:

    is it possible to make air rifles more powerful any modefications thanks

  • Slinging Lead Says:

    Anon

    When they are mature enough to handle it. Some kids mature faster than others. Some kids listen, others don't. The most important thing is that they respect the rifle and safe gun handling at all times.

  • B.B. Pelletier Says:

    Start kids on air rifles as soon as they are able to pay attention. Teaching gun handling is the best way to instill discipline in a child. Wait until they are old enough to hold the gun you will be training with and they must be able to listen to you and to do what you say.

    I have a good series of reports on this subject at this location:

    http://airgun-academy.pyramydair.com/blog/2010/10/single-mom-teaches-children-to-shoot-part-6/

    Now, concerning your second question, the answer is yes, but with qualifications. You need to be reading our daily blog which is located at this address:

    http://airgun-academy.pyramydair.com/blog/

    We cover subjects like the one you asked about all the time.

    B.B.

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