Use Sniper Spotting Scopes

Proper use of a spotting scope is vital to a successful sniper team.

The spotting scopes used by sniper teams are generally no different than their civilian counterparts; however, having a mil-dot reticle in the spotting scope is ideal for sniping as it allows the spotter to calculate adjustments independent of the shooter. When sniping, the spotter uses the spotting scope to find targets, calculate windage and elevation adjustments based upon wind, range, and movement of the target if the scope comes with a reticle. It also allows the spotter to provide the shooter with follow-up adjustments after a missed shot.


1. Position yourself as close to the shooter as possible without disturbing their firing position. This allows for a truer view of bullets in-flight which is critical to giving an accurate adjustment after missed shots.

2. Use your non-dominant eye while spotting. Doing this keeps your shooting eye fresh in case you need to take over the rifle.

3. Scan for targets by searching on a low magnification if the spotting scope has variable power settings. If the scope only provides high magnification then the shooter uses his rifle scope to scan and you use the spotting scope to search out likely target locations.

4. Calculate range using the mil-dot reticle by using the following formula: range to target in meters = (size of target in inches x 25.4) / size of target in mils. To determine the size of the target in mils measure from the center of one mil dot to another, dividing the distance between them into tenths.

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5. Use the spotting scope to estimate wind along the length of the bullet’s flight. The Beaufort Wind Scale is a standard tool for estimating wind speed in a vegetated area. Reading the heat waves off the ground, also called mirage, is another method for determining wind speed with a spotting scope.

6. Determine the speed of a distant target by estimation or comparison of their rate of movement against a known length.

7. Watch the bullet in-flight with the spotting scope and note the place of impact. The shooter will probably not have been able to see the bullet’s place of impact due to weapon recoil. In the event of a missed shot give the shooter an adjustment to get him back on target based upon where you saw the shot land.

8. Care for your spotting scope so that it will provide clarity and precision when it is needed. Use a soft-bristled brush or lens wipes to clean the lenses, taking care not to grind dust particles into the glass. Close lens caps when the scope is not in use and take care not to drop or jostle the scope.