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

sighting-in a rifle AR-10

In 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.

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

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.

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? Do you have any other tips or hacks to help your fellow shooters? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December of 2020. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and clarity.

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 (27)

  1. Been using Savage slide chart (1961) to do the 25 yd. to ca.2 inches high at 100, with 150 grain ammo in my scoped, Model 70, 30-06 since I was 19 (some 60 years ago). Always works for me. I agree with Bo, use the cheap stuff first at 25 yds. Depending on range, I follow my grandfather’s advice: “touch hair” i.e. crosshairs on top of back, “dead on” i.e. “boiler room”, “pull daylight”, i.e. how much depending on how far the target is. I seldom shoot over 250 yards, in order to ensure “boiler room” shots.

  2. An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker
    who was doing a little research on this. And he in fact bought me
    dinner due to the fact that I found it for him… lol.
    So allow me to reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending time to discuss
    this topic here on your internet site.

  3. I do not believe the bullet drops when leaving the muzzle. It shoots low at 25 yards because is hasn’t risen to the scopes point of aim yet. It will rise to a certain distance then begin to fall. And at two times during it’s flight it will cross paths with the scopes cross hair zero.

  4. @glenn Green; You seem to have a faulty understanding of the ballistics of the 5.56 cartridge fired from the M16A1. My credentials for that weapon, I am an Army vet who qualified expert with that weapon, and others, in 1971. In order to do that, I fired from prone position, from a foxhole, kneeling supported, sitting supported, and standing position, shooting at silhouette targets ranging from 25 to 300 meters (328 yards). If the bullet dropped two ft before reaching the 10 ft distance as you describe, none of the shots that I made from a prone position or the foxhole would have made it past the 10 ft distance because it would have hit the ground directly in front of every man shooting as the muzzle of our weapons were less than a foot above the ground. I was hitting those targets at 300 meters while prone and in the foxholes.

    Now, I am not a physicist, but I do have a BS (Bachelor of Science) degree. And I have spent a good deal of time learning about the dynamics of a bullet’s flight. There is no data to support any possibility of a bullet that rises and falls, rises and falls several times out to 400 yards when fired from a rifle of any kind. If the bullet starts to tumble, usually at the further extremes of its arc, there can be an erratic flight path but nothing such as you describe. Another comment, the M16A1 round of the 1970’s was nothing close to being the deadliest round in the world. Two rounds that are far more deadly than the M16A1 were the 7.62 NATO fired from an M60 Machine Gun, and the .50 BMG round fired from a weapon we affectionately called “Ma Deuce”, the M2 or the Browning 50 machine gun. The Ma Deuce will vaporize heads, evacuate skulls, and even remove arms or legs. It is possible that people have been shot with the “Ma Deuce” and survived, but I have never seen that happen.

    You mention pulling left to right with trigger pull. The Army taught us trigger control when we were learning to shoot and that was covered. The most potent weapon any soldier has is his mind. We were properly trained with a knife and one thing we were told was it was to a last ditch, nothing left to use when deployed as a self-defense weapon. And one must be prepared to be cut when using a knife as a weapon. I have been cut with bayonets and knives. It hurts like hell but when the adrenaline is rushing like that, one does not really feel it until later. Your understanding of what goes on in those situations is faulty at best.

    As far as Rambo goes, being a vet and having talked with other vets from when I was in, the character as portrayed by Stallone could only survive in the controlled confines of a movie set. In real life, we gave him about 15 minutes in a firefight at best. None of us believed that he could have made it through the real thing and he certainly did not give a realistic portrayal of what really happens in those situations.

  5. Ok not going to give the gold away.but m16 a1 when fired bullet drops almost 2 ft before reaching 10 ft then it climbs falls climbs falls several times before 400 yards acording to rifling. The reason the bullet is not just roatimg but fallimg end over end.makimg it the most deadly round in the world.
    2nd trigger control pulls left to right 3rd breathing up and down.3rd atmosphire easy inside outside wind humidity. Heat and cold 5 th experts habe fired so much we can see the shock wave made by bullet so thetes not one weapon. The same. 7th the 2 most deadlyest wepons the human brain and a knife properly trained you can come home with more wepons then Rambo. Shhhhh.

  6. If your rifle has been bore sighted already you can do your final adjustment with 1-3 shots. Read this technique in a gun mag decades ago. Get your gun into a gun rest and shoot one shot on paper with your scope aimed at dead center. Your round will obviously be off unless you are extremely lucky. Next comes the part two. Take off your adjustment caps and sight again at dead center. You’ll see your shot somewhere on paper. Now you must hold your rifle rock steady. You will proceed without moving your rifle to move your reticle to the bullet hole. DO NOT MOVE YOUR RIFLE TILL AFTER YOU MOVE THE RETICLE! Once you’ve done this your rifle is sighted in. If you wiggled a little bit do it again. It works on 22 cal and up. I’ve never had to shoot more than 3 rounds. You must be steady while moving the reticle. Wind must be near dead still too. Basically once you fire the first shot at center you are just matching the reticle to your bullet hole. Easy peasy @

  7. An old gunsmith told me to look at the lot numbers on boxes of ammo and try and find matching ones. That’s hard to do anymore with boxes sealed and ordering on line. I do know different manufacturers bullets shoot a lot different. Some way better than others.

  8. Great article! Well written and easy to understand. ( bullets dont rise above the bore though) I am a gunsmith and this is a common thought in the gun world.

  9. Back when I was doing the NRA highpower shooting over the course this worked really well and it still does.
    600 YARD COME UPS –By: Master Po — This formula works
    for .223, 7.62mm and .30/06. It will get you on paper and a lot of the time
    in the black. Caliber, bullet or velocity doesn’t matter.
    >From a 100 Yds. zero come up 2 minutes for 200 yds.
    >From a 200 Yds. zero come up 3 minutes for 300 yds. (1-1/2 minutes for 250 battesight)
    >From a 300 Yds. zero come up 7 minutes for 500 yds.
    >From a 300 Yds. zero come up 11 minutes for 600 yds.
    >From a 500 Yds. zero come up 4 minutes for 600 yds.
    You may have to touch up the elevation at 600 yds. but the 200 and 300 come
    ups are usually in the 10 and X ring no matter what rifle is

  10. New scope on your rifle? Bore sight first. You’ll “be on paper”. Most indoor ranges nowadays have ballistic calculator programs. Just tell them caliber and bullet weight and it will tell you how high at 25 yards to be dead on at whatever range you want to be zeroed. My .257 Roberts shooting 115 grain RNSP is 5/8 high at 25 to be on the money at 100.

  11. Some of you fellers know nothing of physics. Bullets will NOT NOT NOT rise unless the rifle end is raised above true level. Place your guns in clamps so their is no recoil rise then plot it with equipment. OK…when zeroing on certain ranges, the farther away it is, the more UP you will have to raise the barrel to get there. Technically, thats not the bullet rising on its own but its path is an arc up and down. So if you wanted to shoot anything at any distance with a truly leveled gun barrel, you would not be able to shoot anything with accuracy beyond the first point of impact after considering physics pull toward earth—weight etc.

    To subject though. I dont zero anything other then zero. That may be different if , of course, you commonly shoot at 300 yards or 25 yards. I zero to common but usually 100 And KNOW the ballistics. I dont need something set to shoot high or low on its own at that point, I make the raise or drop it based on my knowledge of the cartridge capability. Dont know if that makes sense to you but I know my guns well enough, if sticking with same ammo, to take the eye out of a gnat anywhere I please. Been doing it 60 years that way. Just zero it at a certain figure and really learn its UPS and DOWNS pun intended. You guys who jumped on CRAY have to bite your tongues. His comment at the end about hitting at the same time is common physics

  12. C Ray I have lean with Tim an Joseph B’s thoughts on this one. You failed to take in the time of flight of the two bullets you think will strike the
    ground at the same time. BC of a bullet has a great bearing of time of flight. Higher BC means longer flight time which means greater distance.

  13. Wow, C Ray doesn’t know what it’s talking about at all does it? It doesn’t know anything about centripetal force, trajectory rise or anything? I mean C Ray shouldn’t be allowed to comment on anything gun related because it’s obviously a moron!

  14. “Bullets behave in a predictable manner. They rise above the muzzle, then they drop at longer distances.”

    Bullets do not “rise.”
    Bullets travel in a trajectory based on the angle of the muzzle. If the muzzle is at 90°, the bullet will *immediately* begin dropping below the muzzle due to gravity.
    If the muzzle is at an angle higher than 90° the bullet will travel for some time; how long depends on the angle.
    Another point to make here is if two bullets of different weights traveling at different velocities (one twice as fast as the other) exit the muzzles of two barrels -both of which are situated at the same height and at 90°- at precisely the same instant, will hit the ground at the instant.
    The faster bullet will have traveled twice as far…but both still fall at the same rate.

  15. You wrote “They rise above the muzzle, then they drop at longer distances.” The drop part I understand, but the only reason a bullet will rise out of the muzzle is if the muzzle is pointed at an incline. The arc of the bullet’s trajectory and the straight line-of-sight will intersect at a point downrange (the point where the sights are “zeroed”). The inclination of the barrel is required to bring the trajectory of the bullet up to intersect with the line-of-sight. If the barrel and the sights were perfectly horizontal the bullet would never hit where the sights were intersecting with the target.

  16. Agree always sight in at close range.

    – Takes the wind out of the equation
    – less walking
    – Errors are 4x worse at 100 yards. If are off 4″ at 25 yards you hit paper still at 100 yards you are 16″ off and likely have no idea where it hit missing the target completely.

    At 10 yards expect to be low a little less the height of you scope above the bore. 25 yards around .5 to .75″ low. 50 yards dead on to .25″ low.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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

  20. 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

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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!).

  24. 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

  25. 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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