What do you use to aim your AR-15?
Iron sights? A red dot? Variable optics, an LVPO, a fixed power option?
It doesn’t matter. Okay, well, it does, but it doesn’t matter in regards to this article. Today we are talking about zeroing a weapon sight.
More specifically, the specialized “battlesight” zeroes you can use with AR-15 style rifles. These zeroes are specialized zeroes designed to maximize the efficiency of your AR-15 rifle.
The concept can be applied to any rifle or cartridge, but these are designed for the AR-15 shooting 5.56/.223 Rem.
Before we dive into these, we are going to cover how they work and why you should consider a Battlesight Zero.
Table of Contents
Any Range Zero
Let’s say you want to hit a target at 300 yards, and that’s it.
Do you have access to a 300-yard range? Well, then go out to 300 yards and zero your gun.
Or you can start at 100 yards, then move to 200 yards, and then finally 300 yards to get the zero straight. This zero method is effective but does require a long-range to zero your rifle effectively. You also only know that the gun is zeroed to 300 yards.
There is a more efficient and effective way to zero your rifle.
Maximum Point Blank Range
When I was a slack-jawed 18-year old, I remember someone explaining Maximum Point Blank Range (MPBR) and Battlesight Zeroes to me and nodding as if I understood.
I kind of did, but it wasn’t until I got behind a rifle and saw it in action that it clicked.
MPBR is an interesting concept that’s used widely by the United States military, but was not invented by the military.
Hunters were likely the first to use MPRB in old school scopes. These days we have fancy scopes with Mil-dot reticles and bullet drop compensators that will allow us to reasonably compensate for bullet drop.
They allow you to zero at a specific range, often very short, but the zero holds up to hundreds of yards. The military calls them Battlesight Zeroes.
Imagine you have a target that is a 12-inch square. If you can aim at the middle of the square and have the bullet’s trajectory not exceed 6 inches up or down up from 25 to 300 yards your MPBR would be 300 yards.
If the bullet drops more than 6 inches at 300-yards or elevates more than 6 inches at or on it’s way to 300-yards you can’t hit your target and therefore do not have a 300-yard MPBR.
MPBR is the max range you can aim at a specific sized target and still hit it without making adjustments for holdover.
The Line Game
Before we had fancy optics, hunters used MPBR, and to better understand MPBR, we have to talk about ballistics and how a round flies through the air. If you were too set your gun down and look at the sights and barrel and imagine straight lines coming from both.
The lines would be parallel and wouldn’t intersect, and this is because of sight over bore factor with AR rifles. The sights are roughly 2.7 inches above the bore.
I learned about height over bore the hard way in 29 Palms California training for my first deployment.
I watched a Marine with an M16A4 topped with an ACOG get in the prone and start firing.
He immediately decimated a rock in front of him and promptly missed his target. As he aimed at his Ivan target with his ACOG, he couldn’t see the softball-sized rock a few feet in front of him and shot it twice without even realizing it.
He couldn’t see the rock because the ACOG was mounted 2.7 inches above his bore, and he couldn’t see it.
Now, this comes into play because bullets don’t fly perfectly straight from the end of your barrel.
When you add sights or an optic to your AR-15, they are positioned to be aimed slightly downwards. This causes your barrel to be somewhat inclined.
Are You Inclined?
The reason is twofold.
First, it ensures the trajectory of your round’s point of impact meets your point of aim. Go back to your straight lines.
Incline the line from your barrel, and it will cross the line from your sights. This is where the point of aim meets the point of impact.
When we zero, we are connecting your point of aim with your point of impact.
Next, it maximizes the range of your weapon. If I said, the bullet rises as it comes out of the barrel, I’d be passing on a bit of fudd lore. The bullet isn’t magically drifting upwards. You are aiming slightly upwards.
As soon as you fire your weapon and the bullet leaves the barrel gravity starts to have its effect. The sighting system on our AR-15s allows us to maximize our range by aiming it slightly upwards. The bullets go up and then come down in an arc.
As a round travels, it does not stay entirely in line with your point of aim. It can go below, or above it depending on the range of your target. We know that if we zero at 200-yards where the point of aim meets your point of impact.
Heres the thing, your point of aim and point of impact can coincide at two different ranges. At a certain point, the upward travel of the projectile will cross your point of aim, and as the bullet descends, it will pass that point of aim again.
Two Ranges, One Zero
That’s why we have Battlesight Zeros represented by two numbers. For example, the 50/200 zero means that the point of aim coincides with the point of impact at both 50 and 200 yards.
Fifty yards is our initial intersection, and 200 yards is our true zero.
I can zero at 50 yards and know I can still land a shot at 200 yards. Using an MPBR zero, you can also zero at shorter ranges. You may not have access to a 300-yard rifle range, or even a 200-yard rifle range.
Fifty yards, or 36 yards, or 25 meters are typically quite accessible. This makes zeroing a lot easier.
What about the ranges between 50 yards and 200? What about ranges closer than 50 yards and further than 200 yards? Man, you guys are asking all the right questions.
So at ranges closer than 50 yards, you’ll likely be hitting a little low on the target. Maybe a few inches, but close quarter’s combat, this won’t be a big deal. You’ll still be punching his clock. At 300 yards, you’ll be hitting low as well.
Now we can circle back around to Maximum Point Blank Range zero I started addressing at the beginning of this whole mess. The 50/200 zero is an MPBR zero. MPBR typically takes target size into account when planning.
The 50/200 is a defensive MPBR and designed for a torso of a human being. That’s a pretty big target. With the 50/200 zero, I should be able to place my front sight or red dot or reticle in the middle of a target and hit it at ranges between 50 and 200 yards with excellent precision.
Best AR-15 Battlesight Zeroes
I will not have to make adjustments to compensate. I bisect my target in the middle and shoot.
Sure it’s not the most precise means to hit a target, but when you are in combat, you want to be quick and accurate. An MPBR zero allows you to do nothing more than put a sight on the chest of your target and pull the trigger with a better than likely chance you’ll hit your target.
Even with a 50/200 zero, your MPBR isn’t 200 yards. Your max range to hit a man in his torso could be as far as 300 yards, but you’ll be hitting him closer to his belt buckle than his chest.
You probably have questions now with me using 50/200 and know for the above portion of the article it was just an example.
This leads us to examine the different MPBRs and where they have their place.
We’ll talk more about why 50/200 exists, as well as 36/300 and 25/300. All are MPBR schemes with specific purposes.
Keep in mind that these zeros are designed for man-sized upper torso targets. If you want to hunt with an MPBR, you’ll need to rethink these numbers based on the target size and the caliber you’re using.
1. The 50/200 Yard Zero
The 50/200 yards zero is, in my opinion, the best zero for police and civilian shooters. It’s very precise. It does limit you to 200 yards, but that’s perfectly fine for most police and civilian engagements.
If a target is beyond 200 yards in the police world, you may not want to take the shot unless forced to. Beyond 200 yards makes it a lot easier to miss, and if you miss, where is that bullet going? Most police are unlikely to find themselves in engagements beyond 200 yards anyway.
Civilians are even more unlikely to find themselves in this situation. A civilian will also have a much harder time justifying a long-range shot as a self-defense shot.
The 50/200 Zero is highly precise at 50 to 200 yards. With a 50/200 MPBR zero, there is only a 3 to 4-inch difference in point of aim and point of impact from 50 yards to 250 yards. So at 100 yards, it will strike above your 50/200 zero but only 3 to 4 inches above, and at 250 yards again, it will only strike 3 to 4 inches below your point of aim.
This is the most precise MPBR zero, and the downside is the reduced effective range compared to the Army and USMC methods. Best of all, you can zero your rifle and optic to this 50/200 yard setting at 10 yards.
Frank Proctor has a great video on that here.
What’s your take on the 50/200 zero?
2. USMC 36/300 Yards
Do I favor the 36 to 300 yard zero because I used to be a Marine? Maybe, but I also find it to be highly effective and extremely versatile. Plus, to be fair, I’m more to using yards than meters because I use Freedom units.
Although the Marines adopted the ACOG, which uses meters as it’s BDC, we still shoot in yards. It was a point of contention on qual day.
The USMC method has you zeroing at 36 yards for the initial intersection and can get you all the way out to 300 yards. The Marine Corps is obsessed with being riflemen, and the 36/300 fits their skills and tactics well.
From my experience, a 36/300 zero will keep your 5.56 projectile inside of fives inches from your point of aim all the way out to 300 yards. It’s boringly reliable and predictable from M4 and M16 rifles and the civilian equivalents, and this translates well to the torso of a human target.
At 350 yards, you can still hit a man in the belly if you aim at his chest. You have a 5-inch drop from your point of aim. You can still very effectively engage a target out to this 350 yards. The USMC zero is best for more extended range shooting.
At closer ranges, it’s beneficial. At closer ranges, from 100 to 250ish, you’ll be hitting high, but still within 5 inches of your zero.
3. The Army’s 25/300 Meters Zero
The Army made a move to meters, and I guess to make it easy to communicate with our NATO allies and to better coordinate equipment and gears. Whatever reason they have is lame, and NATO should conform to us cause ‘Merica.
Anywho the Army’s zero is similar to the USMC’s and offers very similar range potential to the USMC’s. It offers slightly less range than the USMC’s MPBR zero and is a little less precise.
Between 25 and 300 meters, the zero will give you 6 inches of flight variance compared to the USMC’s less than 5. The Army method is easy to use if meters are your game, and it’s nice and easy numbers for zeroing purposes.
The Army’s zero also allows you to get out to 350 yards, but you can expect a little more than 6 inches of drop.
What About X?
What about my AR in .300 Blackout? Or 7.62×39? What about my Mk 18 with a 10.3-inch barrel?
What if I’m using a 150-grain .223 round made of Vibranium?
Good questions. Well, to figure that out, you’ll need to get a ballistic calculator.
These are easy to use if you have some basic information:
- Ballistic Coefficient of the projectile
- Velocity of the projectile
- Target Size
- Sight height over bore
StrelokPro is free and can be downloaded to your phone (Andriod Link). You can plug your data and come up with your own MPRB and zeroing scheme.
If you’re on a real computer, ShootersCulator.com has a great MPBR calculator. They also have some other fun things, I recommend taking a look!
The above models are designed for AR-15s in 5.56 and .223 in standard barrel lengths. Don’t get crazy with caliber and barrel length and expect the same results.
Making your own MPBR is simple and easy, but always make sure you confirm your zero at the close end and at the far end if possible. Trust, but verify.
So which zero is for you? Do you have a zero you find effective? If so, let us know below. Want an optic to go with your new zero? Take a look at the Best AR-15 Scopes & Optics!