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The 50/200 Zero

At one of the ranges I help at customers often ask why they need to prove they are sighted in at 50 yard before they head over to the longer rifle range that starts at 230 yards.

Well put it simply that's because of the idea of the 50/200 yard zero. The basic idea is that with a 16" barrel 5.56 if you zero your rifle at 50 yards you will have a very similar shot placement at 200. At that particular range the targets are 18"x24" so your shot placement at all the distances offered you should hit the target each time with out issue with out having to adjust your hold over.

This is why the 50/200 zero is very popular. 50 yards is a relatively easy distance to zero at and allows you to carry that zero out to a few different distances.

To get more into it here is how it works

  1. Initial Setup: To achieve a 50/200 yard zero, you typically start by setting your iron sights or optic at mechanical zero. This means adjusting your sights or optic so they're aligned with the rifle's bore without compensating for bullet trajectory.

  2. Zeroing Process:

  • At 50 Yards: Begin by shooting at a target placed 50 yards away. Your point of aim (POA) should be the center of the target. The bullet trajectory will intersect with the line of sight slightly below the POA, usually around 1.5 to 2 inches low, depending on the specific ballistic characteristics of your rifle and ammunition.

  • Adjustment: Use your sight adjustments (windage and elevation) to bring the point of impact (POI) up to coincide with the POA at 50 yards. This means adjusting your sights or optic so that the bullets hit where you're aiming at 50 yards.

  1. Verification at 200 Yards:

  • Once you've zeroed at 50 yards, move to a target set at 200 yards.

  • Aim again at the center of the target. Due to the trajectory of the bullet, it will have risen from the initial drop at 50 yards and intersect with your line of sight again at 200 yards.

  • The bullet should hit very close to the point of aim at 200 yards, ideally within a few inches, depending on ammunition and other factors.

  1. Fine-Tuning (if necessary):

  • After verifying the zero at 200 yards, you may fine-tune your sights or optic to achieve precise accuracy at this distance.

  • Some shooters prefer to confirm the zero at various distances to ensure consistency and adjust as needed.

  1. Understanding Trajectory: With this zeroing method, the trajectory of the bullet creates a "zero rise" effect between 50 and 200 yards. This means that while the bullet drops below the line of sight initially at 50 yards, it then rises and intersects with the line of sight again at 200 yards, resulting in minimal holdover or adjustment needed for targets within this range.

Overall, the 50/200 yard zero provides a balance between close-range and medium-range shooting, making it a popular choice for AR-15 rifles used in various applications.

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