Zero Tol­er­ance

How do you choose your zero range? Tim Fin­ley ex­plains in de­tail

Airgun World - - Contents -

The word ‘zero’, when it comes to shoot­ing, is a strange one. It refers to the fact that the scope is set to read ‘0’, or zero, on its ver­ti­cal ad­just­ment at the range you shoot the most, or the range most use­ful for your tra­jec­tory. Look­ing at zero shift got me think­ing about the best tech­nique to zero airguns. It’s re­ally a case of ‘horses for cour­ses’ and you need to look at the gun you have, its cal­i­bre, and what you are go­ing to do with it.

Don’t think I am kid­ding when I say it can take months to have to­tal con­fi­dence in your zero, es­pe­cially if you are a top-flight FT shooter, or it was for me, at least. The ac­cu­racy de­manded in that sport drives such lev­els of ex­pec­ta­tion that when you have that con­fi­dence in your zero, you never doubt your­self or your rig if you miss. FT re­ally pushes the en­ve­lope in terms of bal­lis­tics. In real terms, it suf­fers the same level of forces and el­e­ments of change shoot­ing at 55 yards as shoot­ing a full-bore ri­fle at 1000 yards. Yes, that’s right. The prin­ci­ples are ex­actly the same. If you can shoot FT, you can shoot any­thing. I went on to shoot full-bore com­pe­ti­tions af­ter years in FT, and also found suc­cess with the cop­per-jack­eted 155 grain bul­let as I had with the 7.9 grain lead pel­let.


Shoot­ing out to 55 yards in FT, I had a 45-yard zero, and this kept the scope within the av­er­age range of an FT course for the di­alling up and down re­quired. HFT is an­other ball game; there you do not dial at all, and the long­est range is 45 yards so here, the zero you go for is 15 yards. The zero for HFT needs to be ul­tra­p­er­fect for windage be­cause HFT shoot­ers have smaller di­am­e­ter hit zones, right down to

“In real terms, you can set your zero at what the hell range you want”

15mm. The windage part of the zero is cru­cial here and there is an easy way to get this cor­rect. Shoot at 15 yards in­doors, or pick a day with lit­tle breeze, and have two tar­gets set 15 yards apart. Shoot at one and then shoot the other from the same po­si­tion. The pel­let should move the same amount from the aim­ing line in each di­rec­tion. Trust me, this does work. I have used it many times to check windage. You can even push the range out longer and longer, but any vari­ance in the wind will have you sec­ond-guess­ing the dis­tance moved in each di­rec­tion, and that’s not good for build­ing up con­fi­dence in your zero.


Of course, if you only shoot at one range, then make that your zero. I have sev­eral pis­tols for my loft range and all of these are set to six yards. If you shoot at many ranges, then you will ei­ther need to know the di­als for the dif­fer­ing ranges if you ad­just your scope, or know where to aim off your ret­i­cle if you use hold-over and hold-un­der. In­door tar­get shoot­ers only have one range, so zero at that; for hunters it’s a whole dif­fer­ent story.

You don’t know from one minute to the next what the range will be the next time you come across your quarry and have a clean shot avail­able. Hunt­ing ranges can be any­where from 0 to 45 yards, although only 45 yards in ideal con­di­tions. That’s for sub 12 ft.lbs. le­gal-limit guns, of course. My .177 FAC-rated air ri­fle can stretch that range to 60 yards, but only be­cause of its ul­tra-flat tra­jec­tory. I zero that ri­fle at 40 yards and it only drops 40mm at 55 yards, that’s a mil-dot at 10 times mag­ni­fi­ca­tion, so I know I never have to aim up more than one mil-dot. If you are won­der­ing how I know the range when hunt­ing, to keep ac­cu­rate I use a laser set above the scope, but that’s an­other ar­ti­cle in it­self.

Hunters us­ing .22 sub 12 ft.lbs. can zero at 27 yards, which gives them a co­in­ci­den­tal zero of ten yards and only a 40mm drop at 35 yards – the max­i­mum range that .22 hunters should ever go to. The flat­ter fly­ing .177 sub-12 hunter can take it out to 45 yards with no wind to deal with; they can zero at 35 yards to give them a 40mm drop at 45 yards.

In real terms, you can set your zero at what the hell range YOU want, but a clever zero range helps you to get the best out of the bal­lis­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics of the pel­let you are us­ing, and there­fore helps you to miss a lot less of­ten than if you had picked a ran­dom range. Bal­lis­tic pro­grams such as the Hawke BRC2 can help you in this re­spect by in­stantly let­ting you see what hap­pens to the amount of pel­let drop you get at each range when you al­ter the zero range. Happy ze­ro­ing ev­ery­one and re­mem­ber to check your zero of­ten. I

Hunters need a good zero, too.

Zero cards.

Tiny hit zones of 15mm chal­lenge any­one’s zero.

You can use range cards to help you.

An HFT cheat sheet on the back of a scope.

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