In the world of marksmanship, more specifically, precision rifle, there are a million different opinions on how to do things. “I’m an NRA shooter and this is how I do it”. “My grandpa fought in WW2 and he said this is the best way to do this”. “I read the blog of a guy who says he’s a Delta-Ranger-SEAL and he says to do this.” We all know those guys; the guys with more opinions than brain cells, the guys that hassle the fuck out of you and your wife at the range because he wants to have the biggest dick on the firing line. Even worse is the guy behind his keyboard, trolling the forums and articles, claiming his trusty Mosin Nagant is a sub-MOA rifle, and he regularly places in thousand yard matches. Fuck that guy. I’m going to give you a quick piece of advice here that you can take and use, or you can tell me to go eat a big bag of you know what. It’s just another tool for your toolbox.
The basis and foundation of hitting any target with your rifle is all about your zero. If you have a shit zero, you’ll have shit shots. It doesn’t matter if you’re just plinking targets with a 600$ AR or if you’re truly passionate about a precision rifle and you need sub MOA accuracy out past 600 yards. I can write an entire essay about proper fundamentals, but I want to be more specific here. So, let’s just assume that you can keep all of your bullets within about an inch of each other. When selecting your zero targets, there are a multitude of them on the market, thousands actually. You don’t need to waste your money on that nonsense. Prior to range day, I just snag some 8×10 sheets of paper from my printer and I sit down with a ruler and draw as many 1”x1” squares on the sheet as I can. Make sure that they’re about 4” apart from one another. Fill in all the squares to make them black, it doesn’t matter how you do this. Make sure that the squares are parallel to the borders of the paper so that they’re not crooked.
The key to having a dead-on zero is having the same point of aim for every single shot you take. With some of the mass-produced targets, they’ll print a big ass bullseye in the center. If you’re shooting a pistol, that’s all great and dandy, but when you’re trying to get the best shots out of your rifle, that leaves a lot of guessing room as to where your last point of aim is. You don’t want your crosshairs floating in the circle or the box (see above image), you need the smallest, most precise aiming point possible. The quote from The Patriot comes to mind, “aim small, miss small.” Human error is the largest contribution to having bad shots, so with this tip, we’re trying to eliminate all human error possible.
What I do is I take the 90-degree angle made by one of the corners of a drawn square on the sheet of paper and I match it up perfectly with the 90-degree angle made by my crosshairs (see above image). This gives me two separate reference points for my point of aim. I know that I can break the shot only when my horizontal and vertical lines are completely flush with the drawn square. When you get ready to take the shot, make sure that you are solely focused on your reticle, not the target square. You want to shoot a 5 round group, using the same point of aim every single time; this will establish where you need to move your turrets so that your point of aim, becomes your point of impact. Adjust your scope accordingly and shoot another 3 rounds. You should be shooting out the corner of the square on the paper; you’re not trying to get your rounds in the box. Once you’re dialed in, annotate the environmental data at your location and slip your scope turrets back to zero. The reason for annotating environmental data is because the temperature, elevation, barometric pressure any number of other factors will change our POI (point of impact) the next time you shoot.
I hope this article was of some use to you, and I hope that it will allow you to get the most out of your gun. Like I said earlier, this is just another method of getting your zero spot on. If you settle for a 2” group at 100 yds, you’re running the possibility of having 20” of error at 1000 yds. That’s a pretty big margin of error. Many other factors can affect your zero, such as cheap ammo, a dirty barrel, loose scope, etc, etc, etc. Give this a shot next time you hit the range and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.