Zeroing a Rifle Defines a Rifleman

Zeroing a rifle is one of my favorite activities. It means understanding these 6 elements to rifle zeroing and how they can help or hurt your ability to hit the target.

Aligning The Elements 

The art of zeroing a rifle was first shown to me as a young frogman. I’ll admit it didn’t really soak in then. It took me years before I finally failed enough times I figured it out. I would waste countless hours, a whole lot of ammunition and still not feel like I had done my best. It wasn’t always my shooting, though it has gotten much better. It was understanding the importance behind the great alignment. What I mean is alignment up six very important elements that generate the placement of a projectile exactly where you want.

Slight Changes to These Elements Means a Miss

The 6 elements to rifle zeroing are rifleman, rifle, sights, ammunition, conditions and distance. Change any of these elements and prudence demands you re-zero. I have always maintained zeroing your rifle is a never ending task. It is part maintenance and part experimentation. A lot of times we pay lip service to the change, subtle or not. For me, it has always been about collecting as much DOPE (data on previous engagements) as I possibly can in the hopes of being familiar with the positive and negative impact a change to the elements can make.

How the Elements Affect Your Zero

We are all different and these differences will impact our zero. How we hold the rifle, see through the sights and press the trigger is different and therefore it produces shifts to our bullets impact. Change anything on your rifle from the position of your stock to the type of trigger and it can help or hurt your zero. Even changing the intensity of your reticule potentially can alter your shots. When we are selecting our distance, we need to know at other distances are shots will strike the target in different locations so knowing these various strike locations is very handy. Anytime the conditions change, whether the weather or your location it will impart change.

Zeroing Means Being Precise & Accurate

When we zero in our rifle classes I start by getting them on paper. Then I ultimately want them to achieve the most precise shot group. How tight is their grouping. I find this to be the biggest step towards achieving the best zero because it demonstrates the shooter’s ability. While the shot group may not be accurate, striking the intended target. If it is precise and the rifleman is consistent then its workable.

Rifle Zeroing Is A Maintenance Thing

Something I try to impart upon new rifleman is to develop an insatiable appetite to zero and zero often. To change the conditions to include what they are wearing, whether supported versus unsupported and learn how it all impacts their performance. When they have developed enough data they can almost predict their performance or the impact on their performance if no change is made. At the very least they have past performance to draw on to bridge the gaps and provide insight into what they can expect.

It is more than maintenance, it is the very definition of a rifleman. Knowing yourself and your gear.


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