Rifle Hack: Sighting for 100 Yards at a Distance of 25 Yards

sighting-in a rifle AR-10

In these days of shortage and panic buying, those of us who enjoy shooting and testing firearms are at a disadvantage.

We need to conserve ammunition. There has always existed a difficulty in some areas in finding a proper range for sighting-in a rifle.

A 100-yard range sometimes requires considerable travel from the home. Indoor ranges and shorter 25-yard ranges are much easier to find.

Most of us like to use a 25-yard position to ‘get on paper.’ We may not be exactly on the zero at 100 yards, but we will be close.

Close enough that when we have the opportunity to zero the rifle for 100 yards, we will be able to do so with a minimum of shots fired.

Today, that is what it is about, using less ammunition!

man sighting-in a rifle on range
Find a good firing position and the rifle will hardly move when you touch-off a round.

Sighting-In a Rifle

When sighting-in a rifle, the first goal is to understand the likely range for the game we are going to be taking.

As an example, the Ruger .22 Magnum rifle I use for small game is best sighted for 25 yards.

I like to know where it would hit at 50 yards, but I have never taken a shot past 25 yards with this rifle.

With the .308 rifle, I like the zero to be about 1.5-inch high at 100 yards, giving me a sure chance of hitting the game animal in the vitals at 200 yards, since the point of impact will be just a couple of inches low.

There is no ideal set range for sighting-in a rifle for everyone, we must be aware of the likely range at which we will be using the firearm.

No rifle cartridge is a laser beam. Bullets behave in a predictable manner. They rise above the muzzle, then they drop at longer distances.

A .223 Remington is a flat-shooting cartridge by many standards.

The .308 Winchester is superior to many, and the .30-30 Winchester and .35 Remington are woods cartridges with greater drop.

I have a friend that has hunted from the same stand for many years. He looks out over a field that is perhaps 150-yards wide.

He has taken shots close to the stand and at the very edge of the clearing with good success because he knows his rifle.

Some of us are not so lucky. We may encounter shots that vary to a greater extent. We may encounter shots at the end of our sure-hit zone.

We must understand the rifle and its accuracy potential and our own limitations.

Hornady Ammo
Quality ammunition is demanded for long-range accuracy and helps when you are sighting-in a rifle.

Know Your Zero

I have sighted in my rifles at short-range distances for many years, and in the end, I have ended up with rifles that are useful from 25 to 250 yards, with the same zero.

I don’t have to turn a turret and reset the zero. Those who are good shots and have excellent skills may be able to turn the turrets at longer range and keep on top of things.

That isn’t me, but I have good confidence in what I am doing with my personal rifles and the zero. Sighting-in a rifle for the load and the range is important.

Different bullet weights strike to a different point of aim. A 150-grain and a 180-grain .308 bullet strike to different points of aim.

The same goes for 55 and 69-grain .223. You have to understand this, as well as the likely distance to you will be engaging the target.

Don’t let the traditional 100-yard zero set your goals, judge the zero you need by the likely chore to be performed.

The advantage of the zero should be that you will hold the sights on the target and not be out of the kill zone of the game between 25 and 200 yards.

(Given a modern relatively flat-shooting cartridge.) It also depends on whether you prefer the high-shoulder shot or the heart shot on deer.

A deer has a six-inch sure-kill zone. I prefer to err on the side of caution and hold closer.

Just the same, this is a generous kill zone within perhaps 200 yards of possible shots.

If you aim for the center of the target, you may strike three-inches low or three-inches high, but you will be in the kill zone.

You will still have to calculate, but you will not have to calculate as long — taking the rifle up and thinking about the shot will take less time.

I have fired the Springfield Victor, my go-anywhere do-anything .308, and found it accurate, reliable and capable to center hits on deer-sized game from zero to 220 yards.

It stays in the deer-sized kill zone at that range. This is assuming you can shoot.

If you don’t have the practice in, then the range may be limited to 100 yards until you attain more skill.

But then this means a perfect shot and off-hand skill is another matter. A factor that isn’t part of the equation is the zero.

You have already done the work in this area. I love a scope with hash marks.

Memorize the zero and use hash marks for hold-over or hold-under.

Grouping on target
This group is a little high at 100 yards, aiming for the tilted square. This is nearly perfect for most rifles.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Once you have the zero, then practice at every opportunity. Fire at small targets at both known and unknown ranges.

Shooting paper is important, but so is consistently striking the target at known and unknown ranges.

An inch-wide target is a nice small target you should be able to strike consistently with practice.

This must occur on a regular basis at 100 yards with the .308. With the Ruger American Rifle in .22 Magnum, several shots in an inch at 25 yards is easy.

The limiting factor here is the cartridge and its power. If you miss the target at shorter range — say by a half-inch — you will be much further off at longer range.

Sight the rifle in at 25 yards and then confirm the zero at 100 yards and you are in like Flint.

bolt-action rifle
The 7mm-08 is a fine all-around rifle that shoots flatter than most. It benefits from a fine-tuned zero.

Scope Turrets

The windage turret is on the right side of the optic. This turret is used to adjust horizontal point of impact. This turret moves the point of impact either right or left.

The elevation turret is on the top of the scope. This is used to adjust the vertical impact of the rifle scope. The up or down impact is adjusted using this turret.

While horizontal must be dead-on, you may wish to set elevation higher in order to be able to fire accurately at longer distances.

Set the rifle to fire high at a certain distance and it will be on-target at longer distance.

How do you sight your rifle in? Let us know in the comments section below!

About the Author:

Bob Campbell

Bob Campbell’s primary qualification is a lifelong love of firearms, writing, and scholarship. He holds a degree in Criminal Justice but is an autodidact in matters important to his readers. Campbell considers unarmed skills the first line of defense and the handgun the last resort. (He gets it honest- his uncle Jerry Campbell is in the Boxer’s Hall of Fame.)

Campbell has authored well over 6,000 articles columns and reviews and fourteen books for major publishers including Gun Digest, Skyhorse and Paladin Press. Campbell served as a peace officer and security professional and has made hundreds of arrests and been injured on the job more than once.

He has written curriculum on the university level, served as a lead missionary, and is desperately in love with Joyce. He is training his grandchildren not to be snowflakes. At an age when many are thinking of retirement, Bob is working a 60-hour week and awaits being taken up in a whirlwind many years in the future.

Published in
Black Belt Magazine
Combat Handguns
Rifle Magazine
Gun Digest
Gun World
Tactical World
SWAT Magazine
American Gunsmith
Gun Tests Magazine
Women and Guns
The Journal Voice of American Law Enforcement
Police Magazine
Law Enforcement Technology
The Firearms Instructor
Tactical World
Concealed Carry Magazine
Concealed Carry Handguns

Books published

Holsters for Combat and Concealed Carry
The 1911 Automatic Pistol
The Handgun in Personal Defense
The Illustrated Guide to Handgun Skills
The Hunter and the Hunted
The Gun Digest Book of Personal Defense
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911
The Gun Digest Book of the 1911 second edition
Dealing with the Great Ammunition Shortage
Commando Gunsmithing
The Ultimate Book of Gunfighting
Preppers Guide to Rifles
Preppers Guide to Shotguns
The Accurate Handgun
The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (9)

  1. I recently bought a browning medallion 30-06 and put a vortex scope on it. The machining was so good the rings needed no polishing and it bore sighted perfectly out of the box. My first 3 shots were taken at 100 yards and were on paper only 3” low and left. I was so impressed with the quality and workmanship of these products. I did learn something from this article and will definitely start at 25 yards going forward.

  2. Many years ago, when I was in the Army, we sighted in our M16’s on the “1,000 inch range” (essentially 25 meters). It was called “Battle Sight Zero”. Once it was sighted in at that range, one could expect to hit a pop-up target out to whatever range we shot at (I forget what that was – 40 years is a long time).

    Using the following calculator, you can calculate the approximate height above your 25 yard impact so that you can shoot out to whatever range is practical for your weapon.

  3. Great, basic info. ANYONE should be able to follow, and “rough” zero a hunting rifle. Thanks for posting.

  4. Back in1972 we sited in our M16s to be 3 inches high at 25 meters which gave us dead on shots at 300 meters…That was the basic rule

  5. The only caveat that the author didn’t mention is that
    the height of you scope is going to affect the arc/distance above and below
    your point of aim. This another reason to get the scope mounted
    as close as possible to the barrel.

  6. I have been utilizing this practice for decades. Every year, when I take my guns to the range to verify that they are zeroed in, I always start at 25 yds, using the cheapest ammo I have in that caliber. If I start at 25 yds, I am walking a much shorter distance to the target to check my groups and change the targets. When I am comfortable with each group and its placement, I take the target out to the 100 yd mark. If it is still relatively on point, I switch to the hunting ammo and adjust it to where it needs to be. I don’t like using my good ammo for sighting in.
    I first started doing this with my .270 and was good out to 300 yards without having to compensate for bullet rise or drop relative to line of sight. Now, using Hornady 130 gr Superperformance, I will be sitting about 3/4″ low at 25 yds, and 1.8″ high at 100. It will be a little over 2″ high between 125 and 150 yds. At 250 yds, dead on and just shy of 3″ low at 300 yds.
    A number of years ago, I found a ballistics program online so I knew could track where the bullet was relative to line of sight every 25 yds out to the maximum distance at which I would consider shooting whatever I happen to be hunting. Then, one day that program was gone, never to return. I did some searching and found an app for my phone called BulletDrop. You input the data, which includes the bullet weight in grains, ballistic coefficient, muzzle velocity, sight height, zero distance, wind speed, wind angle, and the shooting angle. You enter the data for your particular round and hit calculate and then you can set the maximum distance and the range increments. I found that it matched the other program down to tenths of an inch.
    I have since used this app to make small cheat sheets for all of my other rifles. After I printed them out, I laminated them and attached to the appropriate rifle. If I have any question about the particulars on that specific rifle, all I have to do is look at that card.
    Years ago, at work (it was long before I retired) when I was asked about my deer season, I related that I made a 285 yard shot and had taken a nice buck. Then, a co-worker, another hunter, no less, had the idea that that distance was too far for most people to attempt and make. He shut down when I told him that back in the very early 70’s, when I was in Army Basic Training, we were shooting man-sized silhouettes at 300 meters (328 yards) with iron sights and I had scored Expert, in the top five of my entire company. I went on to add that in the twenty plus years since then, I had upgraded to a 3-9 X scope and that distance did not pose a problem. I will add that the last scope I put on that rifle is a 4-12 X and have taken deer at distances a bit more than 400 yds with it mounted on that rifle. Gotta love that gun!

  7. I just did a similar zero last week – 1.9″ low at 10 yards put me pretty close at 50 yds with a .223. I usually zero at 50 which puts me a couple inches high at 100 and on at 200 (if I remember correctly!).

  8. back in the 1960s Outdoor Life ahd a ‘slide rule’ like chart that had various calibers on it. it listed different bullet wts velocity and the opptimum range to sight in at short ranges. most were at 20-30 yds. and gave the long range zero with these. just like what you are writting about. i always found ita quick way to get my rifles zeroed with out having to start at 100 yds. couple of inches high at 25 yds with my .270 130 gr bullets made me on target out to nearly 400 yds

  9. I have known at least 3 weekend warrior deer hunters who bought an economy bolt action high-powered rifle—-mounted/bore sighted scope included….So they just think it’s ready to go hunting. They had no intentions of actually shooting the rifle before a hunt. “Oh no, not this rifle. It says on the box that it’s already bore sighted.” —-Just remember this the next time you are sitting on your deer stand and you hear someone fire their deer rifle, especially U.S. forestry land. PRESET, Lol.

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