Scope repeatability

by B.B. Pelletier

I hope to dispel some of the myths about scopes today. If you saw the movie Quigley Down Under, you saw a mythological gun that could hit its mark at fantastic distances, even when held offhand. In the first demonstration, Matthew Quigley just attached the tang sight after a 3-month ocean voyage and adjusted it after estimating the range to an oak water bucket at least a quarter-mile away. He then proceeded to hit the bucket three times from the offhand position. Pure Hollywood – fun to watch but never happens in real life. And so it is with scopes.

Optics tend to shift
The metallic tang sight Quigley used is actually able to maintain a zero far better than an optical sight such as a riflescope. Optics tend to shift as the temperature changes, and points of impact do the same. For an optical sight to work properly, it either has to be re-zeroed or the zero must be confirmed all the time. Snipers know this and have ways of compensating for temperature shift, but the average shooter knows nothing of this phenomenon. He is surprised and feels cheated when his zero moves by a half-inch at 50 yards.

I’m not talking about a sudden jump of one inch or more in the point of impact. That’s not caused by this situation. I’m talking about the gun that was zeroed on a 70-degree day and now shoots a half inch low on a 35-degree day. That shift is due to the change in temperature. But that wasn’t the question – was it?

No – the question was how repeatable a scope’s adjustments are. I just thought some of you might like to know about the fallibility of optical sights, so you wouldn’t fall into Hollywood’s deception that a bullet always goes to the intersection of the crosshairs! Repeatability refers to the adjustment knobs. When you make adjustments, will they come back to the same spot if the knobs are turned back to the same settings? That’s repeatability!

Click values
No doubt, you’re aware that scope knobs are supposed to move the impact of the round by a certain distance at 100 yards. The most common distance is a quarter-inch, so we call these adjustments quarter-minute clicks. Since a minute of angle is so close to one inch at 100 yards, it is customary to think in terms of inches: one click equals 1/4″ at 100 yards. Nice thought, but not entirely accurate. Some quarter-minute scopes actually move the round a fifth of an inch, while others move it a different amount. The click values are approximations rather than precise values. However, EACH click should move the round by the SAME AMOUNT in a quality scope.

Also, some scopes need to have a shot fired after adjustment before they move to the new point of impact and settle down. Some go there immediately, but a lot do not. I am not sure what this is caused by, but you should know about it. Please do not ask me which scopes do this and which do not – I don’t know! I only discover it when testing a certain scope.

Now, we’ve come to the heart of the question. If you move a scope’s adjustments and them bring them back to where you started, will the rounds be striking in the same place? I know you want a black-and-white answer…and there is one…but you have to make certain allowances. The first being this: Can YOU put every round through the same hole with the rifle you are testing? You shouldn’t test scope repeatability at close range. Test it at least at 30 yards or more, so you can really see the separation of the shots. If you’re shooting a rifle that can’t group better than 2″ at that range, how will you ever know what the scope is doing?

Yes – a good scope is repeatable!
With a quality scope, it’s possible to adjust the knobs and bring the shot group back to the original setting – PROVIDING THAT:

1. The temperature doesn’t change dramatically AND
2. The adjustments are in the middle of the scope’s adjustment range AND
3. The first shot after adjustment can be discounted, if necessary.

The way to demonstrate this is to shoot at a target at least 30 yards away. Start with the scope sighted to strike somewhere away from the aim point. Shoot a five-shot group, then click 20 clicks of elevation and shoot a second group. Then 20 clicks to the right (or left) and another group. Then 20 clicks down and another group. Finally 20 clicks to the left (or right) to come back to the original group. If the last five shots fall on top of the first five, you have demonstrated repeatability.

To see what this looks like, read Test Two in Tom Gaylord’s article They asked for it!

40 thoughts on “Scope repeatability”

  1. Hi B.B.,

    I hope you and everyone else had a great holiday season! Among other things I sure enjoyed watching my nephew shoot is new Daisy 499. He’s a pretty good shot for a novice… the Cub Scouts got him off to a good start. Now he’s the proud owner of a great tool for learning and polishing the correct skills and responsibilities of gun ownership.

    Speaking of repeatability, I’ve noticed Pyramyd Air is now stocking the Turkish made .22 & .25 caliber Webley & Scott Patriot. I’m sure interested in your opinion about how close the new manufacturer is coming to repeating the quality of the old manufacturer. If you can gain access to a .25 caliber Patriot, for a review, and add that to your long, long ‘To Do’ list that would be super.

    Thanks for all the great articles and I’m looking forward to many more in 2007!


  2. GH,

    The Turkish-made Patriot has been on my To Do list for a year! I just received one last Friday and I will be reporting on it soon.

    I have heard that Tom Gaylord is also planning to write a detailed article about the gun, so by this time next month everybody should know the verdict.


  3. Hi B.B.,

    I just got a Talon SS and am thinking about cleaning the barrel with JB Non-Embedding Bore compound right out of the shoot.

    Any reason to wait before the first barrel cleaning? Maybe AirForce barrels don’t need cleaning first?

    I haven’t easily found a brass brush for the Dewey rod but nylon brushes are offered through Pyrmyrd Air site. This is probably common sense, but is the nylon brush just as good as the brass brush?

    Right after removing the cleaning compound from the bore, would KryTech Lub/wax (used on my pellets) be a good substitute for oil on a cleaning pad? Seems reasonable, since the wax is going to wind up on the barrel shortly anyway. The folks at Pyrmyrd Air were cautious about the wax filling up the barrel’s rifling.

    Great blog and information, B.B. Very much appreciate the service you provide us all.


  4. Bill,

    No reason to wait. Clean away!

    With the SS you probably want to take off the muzzle cap first, so the patches you’ll use to clean up after the work don’t fall off the jag inside the frame.

    Brass brushes are really preferred, but nylon should work. The SS has a Lothar Walther barrel so you don’t have any burrs to remove, just rust and bluing.

    I have no experience with waxed pellets, and I am a little leery.

    I don’t oil my pellet for the SS. Just shoot them dry. It doesn’t go fast enough to be a problem.


  5. Thanks B.B.! I learn something new every day reading your blog. And often they are things that I need to know and don’t even know to ask!

    Thanks again.
    .22 multi-shot

  6. There’s a reason I stop here BB.

    thanks for sharing yet another great piece of wisdom. The infalable logic of that test is priceless…especially as I’m prepairing to enter the FT sport where scope adjustments prior to each shot is the norm.


  7. Undecided,

    The 392 shoots about 100 f.p.s. faster than the 22SG. At 30 yards it won’t still be that much faster, but the margin will hold until the pellets fall to earth at 125 yards or so (when held level and close to the ground).


  8. BB–l took-apart another brand of Turkish made spring gun, VERY sloppy (internal) workmanship. Looks just fine as a assembled rifle. So lets hope Webley’s guns are being made at a different location.

  9. Thanks, B.B., for writing about this.

    I too referenced Gaylord’s article to test my own scope for repeatability when my point of impact shifted more than half an inch within 6 shots.

    The tidbit that I noticed in Gaylord’s article that solved my own scope problem, and that I would like to repeat here for others to remember, is:


    Mine had worked loose (after around 300 rounds), and although still relatively secure, the scope had shifted. I used locktite to resecure the screws.


  10. B.B. Pelletier said… “The Turkish-made Patriot has been on my To Do list for a year! …”

    Cool! I was prepared for a long wait until you got a ’roundtoit’. Obviously I’m not the only one wondering about Webley & Scott having effective quality control in place.


  11. I really think that Co2 rifles dont get the recognition that they should. They are cheap, perform just as good if not better than a springer, cheaper than a PCP and perform sort of like them *as far as running off of an air charge* and more powerfull that most single pump pneumatics….. Co2 rifles are a bargain if you ask me. That just my $0.02

  12. B.B.,

    Do you think a Bug Buster II would be a vast improvement over the BSA 4×32 thats ships with the CF-X? Would it be worth the money basically is what I’m asking.

    I resolved my accuracy issues, BTW, with a combination of pellet and technique. 80% technique 20% pellet.


  13. B.B.,

    Sorry man but I don’t follow, if I’m off base youll have to clarify, but I already own the cf-x combo with the BSA 4×32 with which I have shot about 500 rounds and was wondering if you thought the bugbuster II would work on the cf-x,if it would be an upgrade to that scope and if it was worth the money. I am also considering the Leapers 3-9×40 AO Mil-Dot Scope with R/G for $10.00 more. I’m most interested in the mil-dot feature than anything else.


  14. i was wondering what the best way to clean my crosman 2240 pistol is either with pellets or kit and should i use oil and what type. i also just ordered a weihrauch hw30 and what the proper procedure is.

  15. Airguns really don’t need to be cleaned unless their accuracy drops off. Both your guns have steel barrels so a wipe with a dry patch, followed by a patch wetted with FP-10 or Sheath, and then dried with patches will work for both guns. Always clean from the breech if you can.


  16. Jim,

    Go to this link and read the article.


    You can search this blog by entering search terms in the search box on the most current page of the blog.

    A scope magnifies the target and overlays it with a vertical and horizontal line that intersect at the center. This is the aim point. A dot sight usuall does not magnify the target and projects an illuminated dot at the center of the sight, which is also the aim point. They are two variations of the same type of sight.


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