Back To Basics: The Absolute Zero

Richard L.
by Richard L.

When obtaining an absolute zero fundamentals are essential. Not fully applying the proper fundamentals will decrease the accuracy of the data gathered through the impact on the grouping. There are also some tips and tricks that will significantly improve the precision of our zero.

What is an Absolute Zero?

An absolute zero is when we create as stable a firing position as possible to take out as many variables as possible. This can be done through the use of bipods, bags or other devices used to stabilize the firearm.

Why is it Important?

Even when not zeroing a precision rifle an absolute zero is very important. Without a perfectly stable platform, the size of the grouping will grow. Having a good absolute zero centers the grouping providing the most precise zero. As a result, the reticle will most accurately represent where the rounds will impact. Then when less stability, a moving target or other variables are added, the dot or reticle will still be able to provide the best representation of where the rounds will impact. The variables will simply increase the size of the group.

Shooting off of two bags can help substantially in reducing movement and perfecting an absolute zero.

Ammunition Selection

Up until recently I simply assumed it was best to zero with the ammunition that you most commonly shoot. However, shooting with standard ball ammo produces larger grouping. This does not give as fine of a reference for the center of the zero. It is better to get a highly refined zero with match ammunition and check how it groups at a variety of distances. After you have this information, again shoot at the various ranges. This allows us to see the difference in groups with the standard ball. This will give the shooter the most refined information on the performance of their setup at each of the distances tested.


Get the most stable position and use quality match grade ammunition for your absolute zero. While it takes time, money and patience to get the data and achieve an absolute zero, it pays off when distances increase.

Richard L.
Richard L.

Richard lives in southern Indiana and has a strong interest in training, modified pistols, optics, and low profile gear/tactics. Some may consider it hoarding or some form of addiction, but he never tires in his pursuits as a stamp and lumen collector!For any corrections, input, or interest in posts, you can reach him at

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  • Oh really???????

  • FLdeepdiver FLdeepdiver on Jul 01, 2018

    “Even when not zeroing a precision rifle, an absolute zero is very important.” Grammar, please use it. We have no idea what your saying here. And were are the tips and tricks on improving the accuracy of our zero?

    I don’t know how this “article” even got past the editor. So much regurgitated misinformation. Also loved the picture pulled straight from Sentinal Concepts post on zeroing. You would do best to seek some additional training on weaponcraft and writing in general.