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Q: What’s the best distance to zero your rifle at?
A: Like many things this is situation dependant. When I trained on a .50 cal sniper rifle, an Accuracy International AW, we used to zero at 500m. This was because it was a long-range tool and that zero gave us greater elevation capacity for the scope. For my hunting rifle I used a zero of 200yd for many years on my .270 Win. This meant I was 1.5" high at 100yd and it worked well.
I then switched to metres and it meant a 200m zero was 5cm (2") high at 100m. That would be enough to cause a miss at small targets under 100m. Many people zero at 100m and that might work very well if you only hunt in small spaces where all your shots are at a short distance. I prefer a slightly more optimised approach – a happy median of the situations above.
I now zero at 150m, which puts me 2cm high at 100m, spot on at 150m and 6cm low at 200m. This means I have a variability of 5cm or less from 200m in. Each calibre is different, so get a ballistic calculator on your phone and play with the zero range. This will give you an indication of drop at different ranges.
Remember that your corrections grow as range increases – a 1cm click is 2cm at 200m, 3cm at 300m but only 0.5cm at 50m. Beyond 200m I like to click in the precise drop. I sometimes hold over, but it’s on a reticle and is precise. Practice and become familiar with your setup. Practice at really close range, such as 25m, and at the limit of your range or equipment. Lastly, check your zero on a regular basis; it helps confidence.
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