How to Sight in a Red Dot Scope Without Shooting (Explained in Plain English)

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Red dots are perfect for close-range targets, but sometimes you want to shoot farther. The red dot scope offers magnification that allows for both, with the efficiency of the red dot.

However, maybe you don’t want to waste ammo to figure out where your rounds will land.

If you want to know how to sight in a red dot scope without shooting, you’ve come to the right place! We’ll go over the information and steps you’ll need to do just that.

Let’s get started!

Sight vs Scope

Before we begin with the zero, a common question is the difference between a red dot sight and a red dot scope. Red dots aren’t ideal past 25 yards. The scope uses a sight with a magnifier to shoot farther, so it can do both.

This magnification increases the MOA size of your red dot for better accuracy at long-distance. Now, once sighted, your red dot should line up with the barrel.

Red dot scopes are relatively inexpensive compared to other long-range optics. You can find a high-end scope for around $300 or less, which is significantly less than other scopes like the ACOG.

How to Sight in a Red Dot Scope Without Shooting?

It’s important to understand the way a red dot works in order to use it correctly. The red dot uses the reflection of an internal mirror to create a dot reticle in your sight picture.

To function, you have to line up this reticle with relation to your barrel. While you can zero your red dot by judging where shots land, it can be done pretty easily without using ammo.

Enter the Boresighter

The best way to sight in your red dot scope without a shot is with a tool for bore sighting. There are 3 main types that you should know about, with the difficulty being minimal.

If you’re new to shooting or want the easy way, the laser boresighter is the most common one. Carefully attach this bullet-shaped tool to the rifle’s barrel.

The laser boresighter will direct a laser dot onto your target, which you can then line up with the red dot in your scope. Make small adjustments in your gun scope to line them up perfectly and you should have a zero with your laser boresighter.

If you’re using a bolt-action rifle, you can remove the bolt to try visual boresighting. This is an older method of zeroing your sight picture, but visual boresighting functions the same as the laser light once it’s on.

A more-advanced tool is the optical boresighter. This one uses an etched grid on a lens that you attach to your gun barrel. Once it’s secure and centered on your target, you’ll direct your red dot scope to go through the center point of the lens.

If you’ve done both right, regardless of which boresighter you went with, your red dot should be sighted properly without a single shot fired.

Balancing Act

You’re not done, though. To line up your shot, you’ll need to be able to gauge distance with both eyes open. This means balancing your vision to properly sight in your red dot scope.

It’s easier to do if you’re an experienced shooter, but a beginner can learn through research. Essentially, the idea is to be able to line up your shot between your peripherals. Being able to balance your vision on the center of your target is crucial to zeroing your sights.

Going the Distance

To know how to sight in a red dot scope without shooting, you’ll need to understand shooting over distance. Because the red dot scope is capable of close-range and long-range shooting, you’ll need to know the latter better.

Close-range is a target inside of 25-yards, so it’s not as difficult. For longer distances, however, you might need to do mental math or draw a map.

Use the distance to your target as one number. Most veteran shooters will use 100 yards as a reference, because one click of adjustment in an MOA red dot scope is usually per 100 yards.

The Minute of Angle, or MOA, is the time it will take your bullet to impact. Make adjustments accordingly based on how far out your target is and if it will be moving, like when hunting.

Again, the red dot scope will have magnification so your MOA dot will increase for distant targets. Most of these scopes can go all the way to a 4 or 6 MOA red dot to help with accuracy.

Mount Your Red Dot Scope

Now that everything is adjusted and ready, all you have to do is mount your red dot scope. Before you do anything, always unload your weapon and double-check that it’s unloaded.

Don’t forget to clear the chamber twice. You might also need tools or equipment to mount it, like with a mounting plate. Secure your scope to the rifle’s receiver and tighten it until it doesn’t move. If done wrong, it could create a parallax with your red dot and throw off your aim.

If you’ve mounted it right, your red dot should line up perfectly with the front of your barrel. If you’re planning to shoot long-distance, you can also mount your red dot sight behind a reflex scope to get even more magnification without paying for an ACOG or a full scope.

Once you’re mounted and lined up correctly, you should know how to sight in a red dot scope without shooting! Take it out to the range and give it a shot, literally. Keep in mind that your first shot might require an adjustment after, but it should land pretty close to the center of your target.


Can you sight in a red dot without shooting?

Definitely. You can use your eyes to zero your red dot on the sight picture, but most people make use of a boresighter tool. You have 3 options, but they all have the same result. Just line up your red dot scope with the laser sight of the boresighter.

Do red dot sights turn on automatically?

Not all red dots do, but some can. The ones that do, like some red dot sights from Leupold, use one of two technologies, usually. A Shake Awake sensor can detect movement or vibration through your weapon to know when to turn on.

This also has a timed auto-off function in case it misread the situation. There’s also tilt technology that’s similar to Shake Awake. Tilt sensors know when to turn on by your optic’s relation to gravity. When you raise your rifle to fire, it knows the vertex has shifted.

Can I use a laser bore sight to adjust my red dot sight?

Absolutely. This is the most-common of the boresighter tools and provides great accuracy when attached to the front of your barrel and lined up with the red dot in your scope.

You can also use an optical boresighter or go for visual boresighting if you’re more experienced.

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