The Pros and Cons of Turret Dialing

By Ron Spomer published on in How To, Hunting, Optics

Turret dialing is a great way to aim precisely at extreme range targets—But it’s not perfect. Before you wed yourself to a turret dialing scope, you should consider your targeting needs and how they balance with the pros and cons of turret dialing scopes.

Hunter shooting at an upward angle

Combining turret dialing with maximum point blank range zeroing prepares you to take quick, dead-on-hold shots out to 300 yards, sometimes as far as 400 yards, without needing to dial. Useful for most hunting situations when game can pop up quickly.

Turret Dialing Advantages

  1. The center crosshair will always be your aiming point. You don’t have to get confused by multiple reticle bars and lines. There is no cluttered “Christmas tree” to obscure the target. You cannot select the wrong aiming line or dot.
  2. Change loads or even rifles, and you can still dial to precise aiming points. The numbers may change, but the versatility of the turret system adjusts perfectly.
  3. Dialing to precise ranges is easy with a custom turret matched to your pet load. Large, clearly marked numbers such as 1, 2, 3, etc. correspond to 100-yard intervals. Intermediate lines match 25-yard or 50-yard intervals. Fast, obvious, simple.

Turret Dialing Disadvantages

rifle scope with custom turrets

Custom turrets can be built to number-specific, dial-to distances. Easy to see and select. Swarovski Z5.

  1. Generally, you must take your eye off the target, focus on the turret, dial, then refocus on the reticle and relocate the target, which might have moved.
  2. When hunting, the time you take to dial could cost you a shot. Fortunately, long-range shots usually mean your game will be calm, so you’ll probably have the time.
  3. You could forget to return dials to your zero distance. They can be accidentally bumped, too. Well-designed turrets have locks to prevent this.
  4. The erector tube/turret screw connection and the erector tube springs could wear, stick, or otherwise malfunction. Buy top quality.

Turret dialing isn’t necessary for big game hunting/shooting out to roughly 275 yards, perhaps as far as 400 yards with most modern, bottlenecked cartridges and spire-pointed, low-drag bullets. The trick is to zero 2 to 3 inches high at 100 yards. Mid-range trajectory peak shouldn’t exceed 3 or 4 inches. The bullet shouldn’t drop more than 4 or 6 inches. Some cartridges/bullets will reach 400 yards before dropping out of the kill zone. For shots beyond this maximum point-blank range, start dialing. Turrets add precision and boost confidence. Practice extensively with any turret scope until dialing becomes almost second nature.

What is your preferred method for aiming at distance—turret adjustment, hold over, multiplex reticle, or WAG? Share your answer in the comment section.

Veteran outdoorsman Ron Spomer began writing and photographing about wildlife, hunting, guns, optics and all things wild and wonderful waaaay back in 1975. He’s been privileged to have hunted on six continents for small game, upland birds, waterfowl, big game mammals, and—no croc—even some reptiles. From the Arctic to the equator, from mountain tops to ocean marshes, Spomer celebrates our hunter-gatherer heritage. You can see him on his YouTube channel at RonSpomerOutdoors.com.

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Comments (11)

  • archangel

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    All my rifles have cheap, no, make that inexpensive Tasco variable scopes as I doubt I will ever need to make a life or death, in their face, shot over 100 yards, and doubt I will ever need to make a generic center mass kill shot over 300 yards.
    That said, all my rifle calibers are “human center mass” accurate out to 300 yards.
    I do intend on getting an affordable tiborasaurusrex approved turret scope for my model 70 in 30-06 for someday sniper shooting if EOTWAWKI happens in my lifetime.

    Reply

    • OldGringo

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      I have a $2,500 Weatherby Mark V, that came from the custom shop. Originally it had a state of the art ranging Redfield on it, Today, I have a Tasco 3 x 9 x 40 on it. But I do not take shots over about 500 yards anymore, so an expensive scope is not needed. You are well aware that those little World Class scopes which are only about $60 now, were state of the art only 20-25 years ago. Also as you know, the only real value of better glass is during the first and last 15 minutes of the day. I only shoot bigger deer and do not shoot them in the minutes before dark, well I do, but that is never a plan. And the first 15 minutes of the day, you have lots of time to get closer to the game. I do have some Sheperds and other better scopes on my 17 hmr and 17 WSM so I can headshoot snakes. Now I am not bad mouthing people who are disabled and cannot get closer to game, just saying long range shooting just takes the real sport out of it for me. That is why I am so impressed by people who use bows to kill coyotes, any fool can shoot one from an adjustable tripodat 200yards with a 223 or better. I have a 5 year old great grandson who could do that. But try and shoot a coyote with a bow, especially a long bow, an open sighted revolver or a flintlock. Those guys are the real deal. Just my 2 cents. Love those cheap little Tascos. I have been using those same scopes for about 45 years, about a dozen of them and never had one go bad. I have had better scope go bad. FWIW

      Reply

  • Josh

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    In all honesty, most all people should leave long range shooting to paper targets. Hey, if you have the money, time and equipment to load and practice long range shooting, apply that to hunting, and consistently make ethical shots…well, by all means, do it.

    I live in Oregon and I’ve lived in Pennsylvania. The difference is 100 yards was a decently long shot(unless you hunted farm land) in pa. And, a relatively close shot here, in Oregon, is maybe under 200. We all zero our rifles (.30’06, .270, 7mm rem mag, and 300 win mags) at 200 and know our drops for our shots. Our shot to recovery success is high because we strive to limit our range by stalking our closing the distance as much as possible. The avid shooter/hunter is not capable(even with the equipment) of closing the deal with a well placed round at varying ranges depending on their skill set. Too many variable. The concept of hunters launching lead because they have the latest and greatest is pure BS. And assuming that a new hunter can evaluate all these variables with technology is even more so.

    Learn your gun, be willing to spend time at the range, know your limitations and learn to hunt so you can provide yourself with high success rate shots. I’ve passed before because I was uncomfortable. My group of friends and all I have also dealt with the hardships of losing animals rarely (hunt the PNW and you’ll understand) and it’s a horrible feeling. But, we minimize this because we’ve spent time to learn how to hunt and give ourselves better opportunities. I’d rather watch a stud animal walk away then think it’s mortally wounded and we lost it. Period. Bottom line. Buy what you can afford. Sp nd money on optics and a range finder. Spend more money on ammo and range time and keep practicing over and over. People have killed animals for years shooting under 300 yards. Why can’t we do that. When does precision shooting become that over actually hunting?

    Reply

  • GDean

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    Big difference between hunting game short to mid range, PRS or using a ballistic calculator to place an accurate shot long range. The long range “hunter” will have his zero set to the anticipated range of his target, then be able to add minor Mrad or MOA range and windage adjustment rapidly. Usually the windage can be laid with the reticle..The choice of scopes should be tailored for your intended use.

    I agree with the author, the average hunter should follow his advice, or a similar system. I’ll continue to rely on my Kestrel 5700 Elite, laser range finder and Kestrel Link on my iPhone for maximum fun.

    Reply

  • 70's Ops

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    Truthfully, I’ve never hunted anything but humans.
    My rig now consists of an Anderson 6.5 grendel, with a 3-9×42 scope. I’m zeroed at 150 yards. With the sniper reticle, its not hard, for me, to make small adjustments for windage and bullet drop, just with the sight picture, all the way to around 550-600 meters. In rough conditions I have “dialed things in a bit”, but really its not an issue, once you’ve sent a thousand or so shots down range. Of course, now, I’m shooting at static targets. Milk jugs, pie pans, etc. I just can’t find any volunteers to be a target. The way things seem to be headed that may not be an issue much longer.
    I am a head shooter by trade, but will, at extended range, settle for center mass. Its nice to be very accurate, but a kill, is a kill. No gadgets, no gizmos, no spotter. Just patience, good breathing, and familiarity with both the weapon and your chosen round.

    As always
    Carry on

    Reply

  • Leon

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    Kinda like trying to play a US Open at Pinehurst #2 or Bethpage Black with clubs made by Old Tom Morris, or driving the Indy 500 in a Model T … why bother with buying new tech tools if you don’t mind being embarrassed by the comments about your antiques, right?! Try reaching a 575-yard par 5 in 2 with a hickory-shafted persimmon-headed driver and a ball made from a leather sack filled with feathers!

    Reply

  • Elton P Green

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    I use Shepherd scopes on nearly all my rifles. I have found their ranging and bullet drop system to be extremely reliable and regularly shoot 30-06, 300 winmag and 35 Whelen rifles with them at steel out to 600 yards, which is as far as the range I use will go. The reticle is easy to use, the bullet drop compensation is within +/- 2 inches at 600yds and I can range at any power. I can also adjust for windage and see the adjustment in the scope because it uses a dual reticle system with the ranging circles in the front focal plane and the crosshairs in the back plane. When hunting, I will sometimes laze a rock and shoot out to 8, 9 and 1000 yards, just to see how close it will get, and to practice. It is within the variance of my loads and generally hits within 4 to 5 inches of point of aim. Once I learned the reticle on these scopes, I never needed to dial them for precise hits. I just use one of the many aim-points within the reticle, and maybe dial in the wind, depending on how fast its blowing and at what value. This is not a well known scope to most hunters, but it is, I think, one of the best long-range hunting scopes on the market. And it is very reasonably priced for what it will do.
    Elton P. Green SSG, USA, Inf. (Ret.)

    Reply

  • Bob Stack

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    Hey, for those of us who are not as enlightened as ‘thou’, would you mind giving us, or at least me, a definition of just what the hell “Turret Dialing” is please and what it’s all about?

    Thanks much, Nimrod McGillicuddy

    Reply

  • OldGringo

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    Turret scopes, wind meters, and range finders are really helpful for people just getting into hunting. Once they get to the point where they can make steady reliable hits, then they take the skill out of hunting. I shoot 257 Weatherby for most game, but 243, 308, 30-06 and 300 Weatherby in the past. Shooting with a low drag bullet out to about 325 yards with any of those does not require any skill at all. Simply sight in the traditional 2 inches high at 100 and then if the animal is far, hold higher on the animal. If the animal is 400 yards or so, I hold a couple inches below the hairline, all other shots I hold where I want it to go and will always be 2 inches high or low. Wind is the bigger issue, not a problem about the first 200 yards, but needs a little correction beyond that. That is what we call skill. I have killed well over 100 deer, pronghorn and elk, and never lost one. Now, if you want to scope that 45-70 and make 500 yard and beyond shots, by all means, scope it and use turrets and certainly a better quality range finder. I have killed whitetails out to 460 and antelope at 563. I do not take shots anymore beyond 400 yards, and most at half that range. Think about it. If you cannot get within 300 yards of an animal you are not much of a hunter. People routinely crawl hundreds of yards to take antelope with a hand handgun. You can actually hide behind a big cowboy hat or a backpack in totally open terrain. Scoot a couple feet, move the pack and scoot some more. You get lots of cactus in your belly , LOL, but doing it right. There is of course an exception for older folks and folks who cannot walk or crawl, and all of us will be there one day. Just seems to me, shooting animals at 1,000 yards with a $2K rifle with a $1K scope and $500 range finder, and a tripod with levelers on it, takes the skill out of it. Just my 2 cents.

    Reply

    • 70's Ops

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      OldGringo;
      You got it man. It seems the popular thing now is to AVOID having to learn ANYTHING. Ask a younger person to do anything, they grab their phone. They don’t need to learn math, spelling, grammar, science or how to shoot. All they need is a couple thousand of DAD’S dollars, to buy all the latest gizmos, and tah-dah.
      I have almost completely lost faith in this generation. Boxes of rocks. That’s what most are. Perfect specimens for the dems to fill with crap.

      As always
      Carry on

      Reply

    • OldGringo

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      Yep, I am 70 so, not really into things that take the skill out of hunting. I know a guy who last year showed up with a $2,500 pair of binoculars with built in range finder. He has lost of money so no big deal, but my question was, why? He killed 2 deer, one 10 point black powder at 90 yards and a smaller 8, at about 125 yards. We had another guy show up visiting our hunting group, with a $10,000 rifle once, looked like dull stainless but actually was titanium. He did not kill a deer. With that group I killed 2 per year for about 20 years now, most with a $400 Vanguard 257 and a Model 70 Win, I bought used for $200 about 40 years ago. Scopes on both of them were about $100 each. And, I do know what a Shepherd scope is, I have 2 of them on my 17 HMR and 17 WSM. Too much scope for them, but head shooting snakes and turtles makes them worthwhile. As, I said, I view turret scopes as great for young shooters, the just range it, dial it in, hold steady and shoot. Once they get good at it and have a bunch of success they can move on. Kind of like bow hunting, start the kids with a compound and move them up to a long bow once they learn the basics.

      Reply

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