Best AR-15 Battlesight Zero Distance

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

Tested Long Range Scopes
All the best optics in the world won’t help you if they aren’t zeroed correctly!

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. 

Ya’ Boy with an ACOG equipped M249 Helmand Province Afg 2009
Ya’ Boy with an ACOG equipped M249 Helmand Province Afg 2009

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

Place the reticle on the target, pull the trigger, simple!

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. 

straight line of sight and trajectory
Straight line of sight and trajectory

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. 

shooting truck hood
A harsh lesson in height over bore, Sootch00

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. 

bullet trajectory vs line of sight
bullet trajectory vs line of sight… Um, not to scale.

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. 

Elmer Fudd
We love Elmer, but not fudd lore.

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. 

Drawn MPBR graph
Drawn MPBR graph – if your zero is the middle line, these are where your hits will be at range. At least I didn’t use crayons, right?

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. 

Emp New Groove Just Right
When the zero is Just Right

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?

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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. 

Freedom Huddle

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. 

Best ACOGs, article and video!

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. 

Moon meme

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.

Hangover Math Gif

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, 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!

A Couple AR-15 Optics
A Couple AR-15 Optics

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22 Leave a Reply

  • Guy Moore

    Perhaps I'm dating myself? The U.S.M.C. taught me to zero an M16A1 at 1000 inches (27.7 yds.) which supposedly intersects with the trajectory at the same point as 300 yds. (which the M.C. always said was Battle Sight Zero). I believe those were 55gr. FMJs, but I just used that method with a new rifle build and 62gr. and it seems to work. I certainly have no problem hitting at 200 yds. with this same dope (just a tad high).

    3 weeks ago
  • Lou

    Thoughts on sighting in a red dot and scope combination, where the red dot is for close range and scope for long range?

    3 months ago
  • SClark

    I was surprised not to see the 100YD zero listed; a lot of sights with integral BDCs call for it. Using 55 or 77 grain out of a 10.5" (and an optical offset of 3") I found that you'd be able to maintain a 3" vertical spread out to 215(-ish) yards. Similarly, a 16" maintained a 3" vertical spread out to 235(-ish) yards. For civilian/law enforcement/home defense use, that's a pretty tight vertical for a respectable range.

    3 months ago
  • Walter

    Hi Travis, I follow you from Italy and use the translator to read your wonderful service. I save the link, read it on another occasion, to refresh my memory.

    7 months ago
  • E6H

    Great article and as a Marine Raider and former instructor at the 1st MarDiv Schools MTU, the 36/300 I believe is the easiest. Most folks can find 36 yards to fire. It’s simple as the round meets the line of sight at 36 rising then 300 as its falling. Again, great tip brother.

    7 months ago
    • Rafael

      Normally we see outdoor ranges with 10/25/50/75/100 yards. How do you find the 36 yards in those ranges that don't have markers?

      2 months ago
      • Johnny

        Search for Vigilance Elite 36 yd zero. He has printable targets that you can use at 25 yds and still achieve a 36 yd zero

        1 month ago
    • SE6

      All of the different zeros intersect at two different ranges... I've never seen a 36 yard range, maybe the marines own them all?

      7 months ago
  • John Klingenberg

    Hornady ballistic app is free. JBM is excellent and free. I started zeroing my 22s at 70 yards. I did the same with my 300 blackout. It works well with the 220s and 124gr bullets.

    7 months ago
  • Kona Golden

    Hunting for decades. Sight the .30-06 2" high at 100 yards and your good out to 250 without holdover. From 250-300 yards, place the crosshairs on the animal's back. Anything longer, be a hunter & move your ass closer.

    7 months ago
  • MacII

    As was mentioned early on, this was the method of shooting used in hunting for quite a few years. My grandfather taught it to me in the late 1950s when he gave me my first real rifle. My grandfather was a large animal vet (small animals were not treated, they were disposed of and replaced) and he traded treatment of a "haywire " cow for a really old cavalry carbine, saddle ring and all, along with a couple of boxes of old, lead bullet cartridges. It was an 1873 Springfield trapdoor carbine in .45-70 and it kicked an 11-year-old kid like a Missouri mule. It also had a trajectory about like a mortar. However, we were hunting eastern whitetail deer in the northern Michigan woods and nobody was shooting at more than about 225 yards max. Even so, the .45-70 still had a very appreciable drop from the old carbine. However, when it hit a deer, it left little doubt about the result. Hitting the deer was the issue. I missed several at first before my grandfather took me in hand and explained about trajectory and holdover. Then he taught me how to judge range using apple trees in the orchard at various distances with old lard cans suspended on strings. Ammunition was too expensive to waste on missed critters. Shooting the rifle was an adventure. Every time I fired it, I had blowback in my eyes and sometimes a black smudge on my forehead. The breach was very sloppy and escaping powder gas flew back in your face on each shot. No one thought much about it at the time and it was even a source of some amusement in one of my uncles. As soon as I could, I traded that carbine and $10.00 I earned helping my grandfather for a 1903 Springfield and thought I had died and gone to heaven. Wish I had either old Springfield now. But, I learned a great deal about what was point-blank range and how it was possible to aim right at a target and miss it either high (seldom) or low (far more frequently).

    7 months ago
    • owtkazt

      Macll, your post is the beginning of an excellent book the world needs to read. I urge you to finish what you’ve started here.

      7 months ago
  • Terry

    On Apple store neither the StrelokPro nor Strelok are free.

    7 months ago
  • Michael

    Great job! Thanks for breaking this down.

    7 months ago
  • Robert Cenname

    I love your writing style bro. It’s hilarious! My question is with a Trijicon ACOG BDC being in meters it sounds like I have to do math for BDC accuracy if I use the ‘Merica system. Is this the case? Say it ain’t so...

    7 months ago
  • Clark

    I have a Ruger precession rimfire with a 3x9 scope and a 10/22 with a HS507C reflex optic. I'm trying to zero them at the range next weekend. I live in an urban environment and shoot at an indoor range 30y max. Should I go to an outdoor range to get a nice zero or would 25y do? Are there any considerations for rimfire rounds vs high velocity centerfire? I've had problems trying to zero the 10/22 with the 3x9 at close range (10-15y) before, but after reading this article it makes perfect sense. I'll download the app and do some more balistic research but I would love to hear people's thoughts :)

    7 months ago
    • Steve

      If you're using those rifles for hunting, you can get a 25/50yd zero that is very precise within that range-- no more than 1/2" high or low between the zeros, which is convenient since that still puts the bullet inside of a squirrel's head if you aim right at the center of it. Full disclosure those numbers aren't 100% exact-- the near zero is actually like 24.89yds or something like that. Anyway, I like to use Nikon's online calculator: If you choose the "ProStaff Rimfire 3-9x40 150 BDC" it'll be similar to your Ruger's sight in terms of distance from center of bore / center of sight, and it'll pre-populate the ammo dropdown with basically all the common .22LR ammo you could buy in a store, so you don't have to look up the ballistic coefficients. If you're looking to practice precision marksmanship you can still use that calculator, but I'd recommend a farther-out far-zero.

      6 months ago
    • Terrynet

      Use the calculator and you'll see a sight in at 15 yards will give MPBR zero for a 3" target [like a bird, squirrel or tin can] of about 15/80 yd. You're not really trying to use a .22 further than that for hunting, right?

      7 months ago
  • Pierre Saint Remy

    Great article.

    7 months ago
  • Marty

    36/300 is my preferred. It’s engrained in me. SFMF.

    7 months ago
  • Matthew

    Great article. The price of that app on iOS is like $12. Did they just bump the price up?

    7 months ago
    • David, PPT Editor

      Our bad! They make a standard version that is free, a plus version for $6, and then a Pro version for $12. We accidentally linked their pro version. Here is the free version for andriod Andriod. I don't see their free version on Apple anymore though, just the plus and pro versions :( Apple Link

      7 months ago
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