A Guide to Getting DOPE

By GunSpot
Posted in #Skills
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A Guide to Getting DOPE

June 12th, 2022

6:29 runtime

Putting DOPE on the scope sounds super cool and to the layman it makes you sound super smart and technical. too. Is it hard to DOPE a scope, though? If you have the proper equipment and the data, it’s actually simple.

So, what is DOPE? DOPE is actually an acronym that stands for Data On Previous Engagement. It’s as simple as it sounds. Basically, you shoot based off of data that has been collected beforehand.

Man demonstrating how to DOPE a scope
Is it hard to DOPE a scope? The author walks you through the process, and it’s easier than you might think.

In its most perfected sense, if you have the same rifle and the same ammunition, then every time once you have your DOPE it will shoot the same. Is this ever how it works? No, but it’s all about having the best starting place possible. The more variables we can eliminate the better.

Dialing in a scope based on DOPE card
Understanding your DOPE and scope’s function will help you set up and use a scope DOPE card in the field.

We have things at our disposal called ballistic calculators, which run an algorithm based on a variety of parameters like your bullet weight, shape, barrel length, zero distance, etc. It runs all those together and spits out a solution to tell you what your elevation would need to be to shoot the target.

Man setting up scope on a rifle
When setting up a scope, you want to get it sighted in at the range. This will be the beginning of building your DOPE information.

So, in that instance, you are getting DOPE from a computer without ever having to fire a bullet. This will get you close but not exact, so it’s your job to actually shoot and fill it in with hard data.

How to DOPE a Scope in the Real World

How do you put DOPE on the scope? First off you need to have a scope meant for doing this. If you have your standard BDC reticle hunting scope, this isn’t going to work for you. I mean, it can, but it’s best to not.

Man showing how to DOPE a rifle scope
When setting up your rifle system, it is important to understand the kind of adjustment system your scope employs.

Scopes have adjustments in two forms — MOA and MILS. MOA stands for Minute Of Angle and MILS stands for Milliradian. MOA is kinda like the standard version, and MILS is the metric version. In our minds, MILS is the way of the future and the most popular method, so we think you should just start out learning in MILS. Comparing MOA and MILS can be complex, so we’re not going to dive into it. We suggest a scope with turret knobs that has MILS for adjustments to get started.

Now, if we have a ballistic computer and we range our target distance at 900 yards, we punch that distance into our calculator and it computes that we need 7 MILS of adjustment on our elevation. As long as we have turret knobs with our MIL marks on the outside of the turret we just move the turret to the 7 MILS mark and in theory that is the correct DOPE to hit our target. So that is how you apply DOPE on the scope.

Man figuring rifle scope DOPE
Once you develop DOPE for your scope, you can make calculations in the field on the fly.

That scenario is clearly made up, because all the numbers worked out evenly. It is highly possible you will range a target at 913.5 yards and the solution will call for 7.23 MILS. More than likely, you will not have a 7.23 MILS line on your scope, so you might have to put it at 7.2 MILLS and just hold extra for that 0.03 MILS.

Rifle scope
Knowing your DOPE is as important as understanding the adjustment controls on your scope. One without the other is not very useful.

Okay, so let’s say you shoot that target at 900 yards and your next target is ranged at 367 yards away. Let’s pretend the solution, according to the computer, calls for 2.82 MILS. Now, you might think that this means you have to subtract 2.82 MILS of your previous adjustment, but that’s false. You also don’t have to come back to 0 MILS and then back to 2.82 MILS. It is as simple as taking the turret and setting it to that 2.8 mark and holding it a tiny smidge for that extra 0.02 MILS like we did previously.


This really can be that simple with modern tech. It’s when you start diving into the math manually and looking at what a MIL is at distance that it can get complicated. But with modern technology, working like it should, it makes this easier for the people who can’t do physics, trigonometry and conversions on the fly, like the vast majority of us. In the most basic sense, that is how you put DOPE on the scope.

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