Competing and doing well in 3-gun competitions has a lot to do with personal preference of gear and guns. Mind you, training is pertinent, but figuring out what works best for you is subjective. I prefer not having to think about much when I shoot except “See target, see sight on target, pull trigger.”
Most 3-gun competitors use either a 50 yard or 100 yard zero for their rifle. Through trial and quite a bit of error, I have learned that using a 50 yard zero works best for me. I utilize this zero for all matches, whether only short range targets are present or a mixture of both long and short range.
Using a 50 yard zero simplifies my thought process when shooting most distances encountered at 3-gun matches. At most major matches, long rang targets will not go further than 325 yards. The bullet trajectory of most 55 and 77 grain .223 or 5.56 has the same point of impact at 50 yards and 200 yards. This means at 50 yards and 200 yards, I would hold center of the target and would make the hit. During a match, if there are rifle targets at 50, 100, 200, and 300 yards, my thought process is: “50 yards- hold center, 100 yards- hold low, 200 yards- hold center, 300 yards- hold high.” By streamlining my thought process for the rifle portion, I can focus on other aspects of the stage that require more attention to detail.
With a 100 yard zero, targets out to 200 yards can easily be hit. When I used a 100 yard zero, I would hold center on targets out to 100 yards and then start to hold high on further targets. What I did not like about the 100 yard zero is that with no magnification and just a red dot optic, I had to put too much space between the top of the target and the bottom of the dot when shooting past 250 yards. When your hold over a target requires a lot of space, it is easy to lose track of the expected point of impact.
To get an accurate 50/200 yard zero, I zero my rifle at 50 yards first. Then verify the 200 yard point of impact, and I adjust as needed to until my hits are dead center at 200 yards. As a new 3-gun competitor, I have been able to dodge a lot of penalties on long range steel by having a simple approach to my rifle game.
Originally written for: GunUp the Magazine, in April 2014