The Best Zero for Your Rifle is Maximum Hangtime?

Trajectory (1)

Conventional wisdom for a modern sporting rifle is to set the zero either at 50/200 or 100 yards. This is especially common with standard military sights, which have built-in clocks for bullet drop at extended distances. However, with the advent of red-dot sights (which cannot move for distance (yet), shooters are stuck with a single POA.

The New Rifleman thus contends that one should set their zero for “maximum hangtime” or commonly, the lowest that the optic will go. This gives the shooter the most distance that the bullet will be above the dot and not requiring any compensation for bullet drop. This is particularly interesting as the bullet can only go so high compared to the red dot while drop happens quickly.

Tasco_PDP2

Hit the link to read The New Rifleman’s detailed thinking. 

What do you think? Go for a “standard” zero or push to maximum hangtime?



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


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  • Tom – UK

    It’s a red dot, it is suited for short to medium ranges. 200m is a long way with a scope when in an active firefight let alone a red dot. Stick with the conventional.

  • Bobble

    I agree with Tom. I also think that maximum point blank range is far more useful than this method.

  • Kris

    Completely agree with the commenters below. While American’s tend to “over-magnify” (e.g., 4X is plenty out to 500M and beyond), a 1X RDS is a 300M-and-in optic. You want to have a “hold center and forget it” zero…which means BSZ. The 50-200 zero achieves this…the bullet flight out to 250 means that you will never be more than 3-4″ above/below your POA. Get out to 300-350 and you aim at the head to hit the COM.

  • Hellbilly

    50/200 BZO fan here, red dot or not.

  • iksnilol

    I use 300 meter zero on 7.62×39 AK.

    At 100 meters you hit in the upper chest area, at 100 you hit belt bucke/belly (that’s where you aim) and at 400 you hold over about a meter.

    This is with 40 cm barrel on AK. Short barreled AKs have a bit more holdover (2.6m instead of 2.1 at 400 meters if zeroed at 100 meters).

    • Para

      Same on 5.56 M4. If you zero with a 300m target @ 25m, the hold is center mass from 25m-300m. As long as you aim center mass, you’ll hit.

      • iksnilol

        Did not know that. Might come in handy if I get a 5.56 rifle… I will probably have to get one eventually.

        Was thinking something with 14.5 inch barrel with a pinned flash hider. That should be short/handy while being useful. 7.62×39 you can go with way shorter barrels. Like 7.5 inch short without losing much efficency (having to hold over half a meter more is worth it for all the handiness you get out of it).

      • nadnerbus

        This is the zero I use, as shown to me by an Army friend. Even in the middle the bullet is only something like six or eight inches high, so shoot center mass, and you are going to hit anywhere from close in to 300 meters. Shooting out past that, four or five hundred meters. just use a hold over of a couple feet. At that range though, the error in the shooter is larger than the error in zero.

        Red dot sights are simple. Put the dot on the target, squeeze the trigger. It only make sense to use a simple zero that allows the shooter to do the least amount of mental calculation.

        With a 100 yard/meter zero, the bullet is falling off ever faster after that zero. Using a simple red dot, you have to use increasing, impractically large hold-overs to hit the target.

  • Sianmink

    prefer a Battle Sight Zero, especially for a no magnification red dot. Decide what your target area is (6″ circle is good) and zero for the longest range that your round is never more than 3″ above or below the dot.

  • Darkpr0

    Zero @ 100 with a 7.62×39 POSP 400m optic. Three chevrons at all times for 100, 200, and 300m respectively. Who needs a giant debate when you can just make it conscript-proof?

  • Jack Morris

    Am I the only one that thinks it’s impractical to take 300 meter shots with an unmagnified RDS?
    I wouldnt even be able to clearly make out the target, let alone make consistent hits using a 2 MOA glowing dot as a reticle. I love my Aimpoint, but I didn’t put it on my rifle to take sniper shots with it.

    • nadnerbus

      You would be surprised. Go prone, get a decent support and put ten rounds of controlled fire on a 300 meter man sized target. I bet you hit with at least three rounds. That is useful accuracy. Doesn’t have to be bulls-eye every time, just has to be minute of man.

      • Jack Morris

        Sounds reasonable enough. In full disclosure; I don’t even have access to a range that goes past 100 yards. I really need to join a private range…

    • HSR47

      In my experience, the key to reliably getting hits at 300-400 yards with a non-magnified optic is being able to correctly correct for bullet drop.

      At those distances, you only need magnification if you don’t know your hold-overs. Even so, the limited FOV of many magnified optics can make it difficult to spot where your rounds are landing anyway.

      In the end, your best bet is probably to figure out the theoretical ballistics of your chosen load/rifle, and then take a buddy and a good spotting scope to the range to verify the theoretical bullet drop and required hold-overs at various distances.

      • Jack Morris

        Sound advice, thanks!

    • New Rifleman here:

      Hits out to 400 yards are easy with a red dot. I have hits at that distance on YouTube. I had a 2 MOA comp M4 and found it far easier to hit the target out to 400 consistently than with iron sights.

      Use your target as a reference for holdovers. At the time I used a 50 yard zero and aimed for the chest, head, and “knock off the hat” to hit out to 400 consistently.

      Let your target be the bullet drop reference for your RDS.

    • I’ve been able to shoot the rifle “Ivan” course at a National Guard range. My AR-15 has an EoTech zeroed at 50 yards. I am able to see and hit each of the targets out to 250 meters, aiming for upper chest. For the 300 meter shot I have to make the adjustment to aiming at the top of the head. One of our guys uses an Aimpoint, and he’s had similar results.

      It’s doable, but not really practical.

    • FarmerB

      Probably not desirable but certainly possible – the biggest issue for me is spotting the fall of shot. If you can see where the bullets land at longer range, you’ll rapidly deliver effective fire (also a problem for low-mag optics). But it’s not that hard to be effective on 300 m targets with a CompM4 and SIG 553 (<10" barrel).

  • Rodger Young

    FM 23-9 C4, JUN74, p. 85.

  • I zero at 25. I do this because the vast majority people trying to hurt me will be within 25m. I am not a cop, what business do I have shooting at someone over 100m away? How likely is it that someone that far away will be a direct threat to me?

    Also, with a 25m zero I’m back on target at 265m, and I can zero my rifle at almost any range and still know my dope.

    • Glock Guy

      I am in complete agreement with you. Zeroing beyond that is more for military/LE. Unless your an avid hunter . . . .

    • FarmerB

      Another data point – for me, I believe that if one zeros too close for defence purposes, things get complicated. Better to zero out at 25m or so and understand the bullets are a bit low rather than 5-7m and have bullets not be parallel to your sight path at expected engagement distances (mainly talking about SBR/sub guns here).

  • I think the real dichotomy that the author is not highlighting is: Am I more likely to need to engage a target 3″ tall from top to bottom at moderate range, or one 400 yards away?

    I don’t know the answer for this question, and I suspect it depends on who you are, where you live, and what you do.

  • smartacus

    i saw FPS Russia bore sight his rifle in for 25 yards and said it was good for a couple hundred yards.

  • Cymond

    “The New Rifleman thus contends that one should set their zero for “maximum hangtime” or commonly, the lowest that the optic will go. This gives the shooter the most distance that the bullet will be above the dot and not requiring any compensation for bullet drop.”

    I read the article, and that’s not how I understood it.

    The concept behind the classic 50/200 yard zero is that you’ll be on target at 50 yards, about 1.5 inch high at 100, on target at 200 yards, and low beyond 200. The nice thing about the 50/200 zero is that POI is always within 2″ of POA from 0 to 250 yards. The Army uses a 36/300 zero, but it results in something like being 8 inches high at 150 yards (I consider 8″ excessive).

    “Many of you might have heard of the maximum point blank range method of zeroing. It encompasses a single zero where the projectile is set to a zero that keeps it afloat in a defined vertical zone / arch to match the largest diameter of a target that you want to shoot. As an example, if the vital zone I want to shoot is six inches in diameter, I would zero the bullet path to arch 3 inches high and when it drops 3 inches below my line of site… that is the end of my maximum point blank range.”

    Basically, it’s the same concept as the 50/200 zero, but they’re suggesting a custom zero-range depending on the exact level of accuracy you need from your rifle. The standard 50/200 gives you +-2 inches,but you can stretch that maximum range if you’re willing to accept something more like +-4 inches. Of course, this is slightly different for each rifle and ammunition combination.

  • New Rifleman here.

    The point of the zero discussed in my article is to customize the zero based on the rifle, projectile, and target diameter.

    The point is to increase the probability that you will hit the target with less correction required on the shooters part.

    The maximum hangtime reference is to illustrate a concept of zeroing known as maximum point blank range. It’s using a zero that keeps the bullet alloft in the target defined space for the longest distance reasonable to for your rifle and projectile combination.

    Is your target a 8 inch diameter circle? In theory plus or minus 4 inches should allow you a dead hold on the target and still get a hit. Reality is that shooter and bullet inaccuracy could cause a miss as any deviation from a dead hold could send the projectile high or low.

    So best practice would be to bring in zero to something say 2-3 inches of rise to allow some wiggle room with shooter error. Furthermore, using a heavy match projectile and capable rifle will further reduce the potential of a miss by fighting both wind and keeping bullet inaccuracy reduced in the equation.

    • FarmerB

      I used a very similar approach – moons ago I was doing (largish) pest extermination out in the wilds – Rem 700 with 12x fixed Leupold in .22/250. I used to sight-in at 300-325 meters (used to practise on half-bricks on fence posts). Basically a low-neck hold in the 100-200 meter range would take their head off, anything a bit further away you’d aim for the chest and beyond that, hold for the head and hit the chest. Beyond 400m – forget it. Once you get used to it, you never think about range or holdover – you just seem to know where to shoot based on how the critter looks through the scope. Close = hold under, further = hold on (a bigger target) and further still = hold over a bit on the bigger target area. Only slightly tricky bit was at very close range, but that situation rarely arose. It’s very effective – I used to use about 100 BT reloads a day and normally got 95+ one-shot kills.

  • I currently use a 50 yard zero, but I really like the 25/200 zero for simplicity. I think the 25/200 zero makes things a lot easier to compensate for at greater distances.

    Trying to zero for the “maximum hang time” will likely make shorter range shots less accurate (POA = POI), and will not greatly enhance long range accuracy either. With that zero the shooter will be required to do some guess work on the short distances, as well as the longer distances.

    What do you typically shoot, and why? Answer that question, and you’ll have the answer to what zero you need to use. If you’re target shooting for fun, not as important. If you’re hunting or competing, go with a zero that is tried and true with less guesswork.

  • Glock Guy

    Thanks for posting this video. Saw it a few months ago. It is the best one ever on this subject, period. Its the one I refer friends to for education.

  • Nicks87

    Thank God we have Travis Haley to cure non-operator types of their ignorance. I get tired of correcting people sometimes.