Rifle Scope Turrets Explained

A rifle scope is a complex system featuring several components allowing a shooter to place accurate shots. One of these components is rifle scope turrets. These adjustable knobs allow shooters to fine-tune the point of impact based on various factors such as windage, elevation, and, occasionally, parallax. When you understand how these turrets work, you can facilitate precise adjustments, enhancing your shooting accuracy, especially over long distances. 

What Are Rifle Scope Turrets?

Rifle scope turrets are the adjustment knobs located on the rifle scope. Using these turrets, you can adjust the point of impact of your bullet. Typically, they are located on the top and side of the rifle scope. These turrets allow you to compensate for windage (side turret) and elevation (top turret). They are vital for achieving accurate long-distance shooting.

Different Types Of Turrets

There are many different types of rifle scope turrets that serve different purposes. Here are some of the most common types of turrets:

Types of Scope Turrets

1) Capped/Hunting Turrets

These turrets are usually found on hunting scopes. They are low profile and typically have a protective cap, preventing accidental adjustments through collision or accidentally snagging on the brush. Adjustments are easy to make – you can use either your fingers or the back of a cartridge case, depending on your specific elevation and windage turret.

However, these types of turrets for different hunting scopes may not be as precise as some other turret types. This is because hunting is generally done over shorter distances where wind and bullet drop is less of a concern.

2) Target Turrets

The windage and elevation knobs may or may not be capped in target turrets, depending on personal preference and the brand. Target turrets are much higher and easier to adjust than hunting turrets. These turrets are designed for precision shooting at longer ranges. Hence the windage and elevation adjustments are pretty precise, allowing for extremely fine control over the point of aim. Target turrets are popular amongst competition shooters.

3) BDC Turrets

Bullet drop compensation (BDC) turrets are a type of elevation turret that is calibrated to a specific type of caliber and ammunition. They are used to compensate for bullet drop at different ranges, allowing the shooter to adjust quickly for different ranges without needing to calculate bullet drop. The shooter simply adjusts the turret to the desired range, and the scope automatically compensates for bullet drop. Many of the Top Muzzleloader Scopes have BDC turrets.

Common calibers that have a bullet drop ballistic turret include the .223 (5.56), .308 (7.62), and 6.5 Creedmoor. However, it is important to note that BDC turrets are less flexible than others because they are tailored to specific ammunition and can be inaccurate when the scope is used on a different caliber or even a different load.

4) Tactical Turrets

Tactical turrets are commonly found on tactical, military, and long-range scopes. The windage and elevation turrets are designed for rapid and precise adjustments in the field. Tactical turrets are often uncapped and have large, easy-to-read markings, allowing quick adjustments. Most of the Best AR10 Tactical Scopes have these style adjustment turrets.

Tactical turrets often have features like “zero stop,” which allows the shooter to quickly return the turret to the zeroed range after making adjustments. These turrets are perfect for situations that require on-the-fly adjustments.

How To Make Scope Adjustments

To make a scope adjustment, you need to adjust the windage, elevation, and parallax turrets. Doing so ensures your aim aligns with the bullet’s point of impact. Here’s how you can make these adjustments.

How to make scope adjustments

Windage Adjustment Turrets

The windage adjustments move the scope’s point of impact on the horizontal axis (left to right). It is typically located on the right side of the scope. To use it:

  1. Remove the cap from the windage turret.
  2. Turn the turret left or right to adjust the horizontal path of the bullet. If you are missing to the left, you need to move the point of impact to the right, so adjust the turret in the direction market “Right” or “R.” Typically, windage turrets turn clockwise to move the right and counterclockwise for the left.
  3. Note: Each click of the turret corresponds to an angular measurement (MOA or MRAD), and the number of clicks you need to make will depend on your zeroing distance and your scope’s specifications. Follow our handy guide on how to zero a scope to learn more about how to precisely adjust a rifle scope.

Elevation Adjustment Turrets

The elevation turret adjusts the scope’s vertical point of impact (up or down). You can find the turret on the top of the scope. To use it:

  1. Remove the cap from the elevation turret.
  2. Turn the turret up or down to adjust the point of impact. If you are missing low, you need to move the point of impact up, so adjust the turret in the direction market “Up” or “U.”
  3. Note: As with the windage turret, each click corresponds to a specific movement at a specific range, typically measured in MOA or MRAD.

Parallax Adjustment Turrets

The parallax turret corrects parallax error – a visual effect that makes the target appear to move in relation to the reticle when the shooter moves their eye. Parallax adjustment is primarily needed on high-magnification scopes and for long-range shots.

The turret can be located in different places depending on the particular scope. Common locations include opposite the windage turret or as part of the objective lens adjustment on the front of the scope. To use it:

  1. After locating the parallax adjustment turret, you need to look through the scope at a target.
  2. If the reticle appears to shift position when you move your head slightly, you know there is a parallax error.
  3. Adjust the dial until the reticle appears to be on the same plane as the target, meaning the reticle no longer appears to shift when you move your head.

What Is Minute Of Angle?

Minute of Angle (MOA) is a unit of angular measurement used to describe the accuracy of a rifle scope. The measurement is equal to 1/60th of a degree but can be rounded down to 1 inch at 100 yards. This makes it easy to adjust a rifle scope as a 1 MOA adjustment theoretically moves the point of impact by 1 inch when you shoot a target at 100 yards.

MOA is used to measure the size of the area where your shots are hitting (grouping size) and to make precise adjustments to your rifle scope. Here is a basic rule of thumb for how 1 MOA scales with distance:

  • 1 MOA is roughly 1 inch at 100 yards.
  • 2 inches at 200 yards.
  • 3 inches at 300 yards.
  • 5 inches at 500 yards.

If you are shooting at a target at 200 yards and your point of impact is 2 inches to the left of where you aimed, then you need to adjust your scope 1 MOA to the left. Most modern scopes adjust scopes in fractions of an MOA – commonly 1/4 or 1/2 MOA per click. Therefore, you need to make four clicks if you want to adjust your scope by 1 inch at 100 yards if your scope uses 1/4 MOA increments.

Difference Between First Focal Plane vs Second Focal Plane Scopes

Rifle scopes can be classed in terms of the focal plane, meaning how the reticle behaves when adjusting the scope’s magnification because of its location in the scope.

First focal plane (FFP) scopes have reticles that are on the same focal plane as the magnification lens, and the reticle is placed toward the front of the scope before the magnification lens. This placement allows the reticle to correlate with magnification. As you increase or decrease the magnification, the reticle size changes in proportion to the image you’re viewing.

Second focal plane (SFP) scopes have reticles located toward the back of the scope, behind the magnification lens. Therefore, when you change the magnification setting, the size of the reticle remains the same while the image size changes.

For more on the differences between first focal plane and second focal plane scopes and the advantages and drawbacks of each, you can read our in-depth article on the subject.

What Are Scope Turret Caps?

Scope turret caps are protective covers that are placed over the adjustment turrets on a rifle scope. They protect the turrets from damage and prevent them from being unintentionally adjusted.

The caps are made from durable, lightweight materials such as aluminum or high-strength plastic. They are either screwed or snapped on top of turrets – I prefer the screwed version as I have had incidents where my snapped turrets fall off in the field, and I am unable to find them.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the point of custom scope turrets?

Custom scope ballistic turrets are designed to replace factory elevation turrets on rifle scopes. These custom turrets are laser-engraved bullet drop compensators that exactly match the trajectory of a specific bullet load. Hence, these turrets allow a shooter to adjust for range much more efficiently than with a standard elevation turret.

Is there a difference between MOA vs mil turrets?

Yes, they are different systems of measurement. MOA adjustments are not as precise as MIL adjustments. However, MOA adjustments are easier and faster, hence their popular use in hunting scopes. Tactical and military personnel, as well as competitive long-range shooters, use MIL adjustments for more precise scope adjustments.

Do all rifle scopes have turrets?

No, not all rifle scopes have turrets. But most modern rifle scopes do feature turrets, as they form a critical part of rifle scopes, used to adjust the point of impact of the bullet.

Who invented the scope turret?

The invention of the scope turret cannot be attributed to a single individual. However, many individuals, including Christopher Ryan Thomas and Nikolaus Krausz, have filed patents for scope turrets. Still, it remains unclear who invented the first scope turret.

The Bottom Line

Mastering the use of rifle scope turrets is a fundamental skill for any serious shooter and hunter. These knobs allow vital adjustments to compensate for factors such as wind and bullet drop – enhancing your shot precision. While understanding and using these turrets may seem complex, with enough practice, they become invaluable tools for consistently placing accurate shots. Remember, the type of turret, type of reticle system (FFP or SFP), and type of adjustments (MRAD or MOA) will depend on your specific shooting requirements and conditions.

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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