What Distance to Zero an Air Rifle Scope? (2024 Guide)

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Zeroing a rifle scope is very important to get an accurate shot.

There are many factors you need to consider while zeroing your air rifle.

Now, as a new hunter you may be confused about zeroing distance your air rifle’s scope. I’m here to help.

So, how far away should you zero your air rifle?

A medium range of 30 yards is ideal for most shooters. For indoor shooting you should zero at 20 to 25 yards. For long range shooting or hunting you might set the zero at 40-50 yards.

You can use the metric instead of the imperial system if you feel more comfortable with meters instead of yards.

Related: Types of Air Rifles – Which Type is Best for You?

Understanding Zeroing Distance Factors

First, you have to understand the term ‘zero’ correctly.

What does zero mean?

Zeroing, also called sighting in, is when you align a weapon’s sights so the point of aim matches the point of impact[1].

Without zeroing a scope, you can’t achieve a perfect shot.

The most significant factor about zeroing is the distance. A zero applies at a specific range because projectiles have a ballistic trajectory.

In other words, the pellet falls in an arc once it leaves your air gun.

You need to know how far you are zeroing your air rifle.

Without knowing the distance you’re shooting, you can’t set the zero properly. As a result, rifle pellets won’t strike the target.

They’ll go too high or too low.

So, you have to zero at a distance close to where you’ll be shooting.

Distance is only one of the factors that goes into zeroing your scope and they can affect how far away you’ll zero your optic.

So, let’s look at the rest of the process.

What distance to zero air rifle scope Tasco Truplex

Pellet Selection

Whether you’re shooting a firearm or an airgun, different projectiles work best in every individual rifle.

Some air rifles prefer diabolo pellets and others prefer domed pellets. Acquire several types of airgun ammo before going to the range.

Also, clean your barrel before going to the range so you start off with a clean slate.

Some barrels need to be leaded to be accurate. You can lead your barrel by firing twenty times before starting your serious shooting. This is a good warmup for you, too!

Now you have to find out which pellet type works best in your barrel.

To determine this, shoot a group at a small point on a large target and check the resulting group size.

I’d fire at least a 5-shot group with each pellet type. Make sure each group is against a fresh section of the target.

Don’t worry if the group is not next to where you aimed. The goal right now is to determine the most precise pellets, not to be on-target.

It’s also a good idea to shoot a group of each pellet type three times to reduce random error.

The pellet shape that provided the smallest group is the one you should use to zero in your air rifle.

However, if you need to use a specific type of pellet because you’re shooting for a specific purpose then you can skip this step.

Related: .177 vs .22 Air Rifles – Which is Better?

Zero at Short Range and Adjust at a Longer Range Later

Setting an initial zero at a close range is easier than trying to sight in your rifle at long range.

My recommendation for setting an initial zero is 10 yards.

Take your shot now. If you can see where the pellet strikes, great!

If you don’t, take another one. If you still can’t see the strike, pull your target closer until you can.

Now it’s time to set a zero at that particular distance.

Most of scopes usually provide elevation and windage adjustment in 1/4 minute of angle (MOA) increments.

That means the point of impact will move one-quarter of an inch at 100 yards by each click of the turret.

(Technically, one MOA is equal to 1.04 inches at 100 yards[2], but counting one MOA as one Inch is good enough for most purposes.)

Some scopes have 1/2 MOA increments instead. Check your scope’s manual!

If the shot strikes 1 inch low at 100 yards, you would need to bring the point of impact (POI) up by 1 inch. It takes four clicks of the turret.

However, since we’re shooting at 10 yards, each click is effectively 1/10th of that rating. Which means a 1″ low POI at 10 yards would require 40 clicks to come on target!

What distance to zero air rifle scope tips guides for sighting in airguns

Dialing in Your Air Rifle’s Zero

Now that you have your air rifle zeroed at 10 yards, it’s time to move your target out to match your proper shooting distance.

Shoot five pellets, note the average POI, and then adjust the zero accordingly. Keep doing that until the average POI matches where you’re aiming.

It’s helpful to use a paper target with multiple bullseyes so you don’t have to overlap groups.

At this point, make only a few clicks at a time. It’s better to undershoot the adjustment than to overshoot.

You’ve now zeroed your air rifle at your chosen distance with the most accurate pellet.

Here’s how to use that zero when hunting in the field.

Then typical vital organ kill zones for .177 and .22 air rifles range are about 1″.

Though most people consider point blank range (PBR)[3] to just be “close,” it’s actually the range at which you can hit a target of a certain size without having to adjust elevation to compensate for pellet drop. 

Depending on your zeroed range and the distance between the bore of the barrel and the scope’s centerline, you have to aim higher or lower (typically higher).

To find out how to maximize your PBR without delving into math, shoot at several different distances, both closer and farther than your zero.

Note down the impact points and how high or low they go relative to your POI. Then adjust that POI higher or lower so those stay within your target’s size.

For example, with that 1″ kill zone, you can hit 1/2″ below the POI then 1/2″ above then 1/2″ below again and you’ll be within the target for that entire distance.

When you get outside of your PBR, the things get complicated. You’ll have to compensate for the projectile’s drop.

You can learn how far your pellet will drop past the point of aim at specific ranges and hold the reticle above the target accordingly.

Using a scope with marks on the reticle can be a better solution to this problem. Use the dots or hash marks on the reticle to aim instead of the cross hairs.

Either use a ballistic calculator to figure out your projectile’s ballistic trajectory or practice at multiple distances so you know which mark corresponds to what distance.

Related: First Focal Plane vs Second Focal Plane: What’s the Difference?

Final Thoughts

If you want to make an accurate shot, knowing how to zero a rifle is compulsory.

It doesn’t matter what kind of shooting you are involved with.

Whether you are a hunter or target shooter, you have to know how to properly zero an air rifle scope.

Start close, get on target, then make fine adjustments at the distance you’ll be doing most of your shooting.

A properly zeroed air rifle will ensure an accurate shot every time, so long as you do your part!

Resources

  1. https://tpwd.texas.gov/education/hunter-education/online-course/shooting-skills/sighting-in
  2. https://www.nssf.org/shooting/minute-angle-moa/
  3. https://www.hunter-ed.com/muzzleloader/studyGuide/Understanding-Maximum-Point-Blank-Range/222099_88863/

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