How to Zero Iron Sights – Step-By-Step Guide

If you have a high-quality set of iron sights, you should be set for a really long time: they will be durable and accurate. However, you will most likely not hit your target reliably until you take the time to zero them in. 

When shooters speak of zeroing iron sights, they simply mean adjusting your sights so that you will hit your target with a great level of accuracy. Your sight comes with several different adjusters and you have to set them at the right level before you can shoot in the field. This is best done by spending some time performing test rounds and adjusting your weapon accordingly.

It’s generally necessary to zero your sights before you use your weapon for the first time or if you notice that your rifle is not aiming at your target well. Most people don’t do this often enough, so if you’re in doubt, head to the range and zero in. In this post, you’ll learn all the steps you need to go through to adjust an iron sight competently and ensure greater accuracy when shooting. Make sure to read it carefully and ask an experienced shooter in case you need more help.

Key Terms: Angular Measurement and Minutes of Angle

Before we begin, let’s briefly discuss Minutes of Angle, or MOA, which are crucial to understanding how your sights work. Sights actually work in angular measurement, and each MOA is one-sixtieth of a degree, which allows for great accuracy. At a distance of 100 yards, one MOA corresponds to around one inch.

When adjusting your sight, each click will correspond to either one, one half, or one-quarter of an MOA, with the latter most common in newer models. Before starting to zero your iron sights, double-check your sights to see how big of an adjustment each click is.

Step 1: Get Your Target and Weapon Ready 

Now that you know why you need to zero iron sights, let’s learn how to get both your target and your weapon ready to do some test rounds. Most shooters, especially when they are new, will choose a distance of 25, 50, or 100 yards for this process. However, it may be better to choose 25 or 50 meters, which correspond to the most common maximum point blank zero. If in doubt, don’t worry about this and start at a distance of 25 meters.

Next, choose a target that will make it easy for you to complete your sight adjustments. If working at 25 meters, a great one to use is the US Army 25 meter zero target, which provides you with squares that are 1 MOA wide and tall so that you can easily correspond them to your clicks.

Loading Your Weapon

The most important thing to consider when loading your weapon is that you use the correct ammunition. Since your zero factor is affected by rifle, shooter, distance, conditions, and ammunition, it is crucial that you always use the same ammo you plan to shoot with when in the field.

Step 2: Perform Your Test Rounds 

Once you’ve set up your target and loaded your rifle, you can start to perform your test rounds. Make sure to assume the same position you’ll be using later on to keep the conditions as constant as possible. Although this may seem like a detail, it’s actually very important to ensure your zero is accurate.

In theory, you should be able to shoot just once and then adjust your sights, but this is not recommended. It’s best to go for five rounds so that you get a better average and a more accurate picture of what’s going on.

Step 3: Make Vertical and/or Horizontal Adjustments 

After shooting your test rounds, you can interpret your results and adjust your sights. This will be difficult if your shots are all over the place, so make sure that you have tight clusters in order to make accurate adjustments. There are two main changes you will have to make: vertical and horizontal adjustments. It’s best to take them one at a time.

The Horizontal Adjustment

 In most cases, it’s recommended that you start with your horizontal adjustment, which is also called windage. You will have to adjust your front sight in the desired direction and the back sight in the opposight direction. Thus, if your shots were trending to the left, you adjust the front to the left and the back to the right. Remember to do angular MOA adjustments by using the clicking knobs.

The Vertical Adjustment

In most cases, you should do another test round before performing the vertical adjustment, or, the elevation. If your shots were fired above the target, you will have to adjust your rear sight lower and the front one higher. If they were below, you do the opposight.

Step 4: Reassess 

When you’re done, you’ll need to reassess to see whether you’ve correctly adjusted your iron sights. Do another test round, and if you’re happy with the results, you’ve successfully completed the procedure. Remember that you’ll have to confirm your zero again if you want to shoot at a different distance. For example, if you got an iron sight zero at 25 meters, that doesn’t automatically hold at 50, 100, or 200 meters.

What’s more, any distances greater than 100 meters will also be impacted by the wind conditions. A weapon that has an iron sight zero on a windy day won’t necessarily be similarly accurate on a calm day, so you must keep this in mind. If you don’t want to zero every time the conditions change, you can use it as your baseline and compensate for these outside influences.

Getting an iron sight zero is an important step that shouldn’t be skipped. However, it doesn’t have to be difficult or tedious and can serve as shooting practice at the same time. When learning how to zero iron sights, make sure to consider all the different aspects: rifle, shooter, distance, conditions, and ammunition. Doing so ensures that you get the most accurate shot possible, allowing you to fully enjoy your shooting experience.

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox

Joseph Fox writes on a variety of topics ranging from reloading ammunition to gun cleaning. He has been featured on various publications like thetruthaboutguns, Sofrep & many more. Joseph is also the founder of Gunloading, where he reviews different types of reloading & firearm products available on the market.