How to zero your red dot sight thumbnail image

How to zero your red dot sight

5D Tactical - 12th Jul 2022

What do people mean when they need to “zero a red dot sight” exactly? Zeroing a red dot sight means fine-tuning your optic to be accurate and to be able to place your shots exactly where you want them to be. It’s not as easy as just slapping on a optic to your firearm and being able to immediately accurately hit targets at varying distances right afterwards.

That’s because there’s what is called a point of aim and point of impact. These factors come into play when we work on zeroing our red dot, or any other optic so let’s have a look at a few different methods to do this. 

Zeroing Techniques

There are a number of ways to zero your red dot or optic The same principles will apply to any firearms optics. Let’s have a look at a few to get you on the paper so you don’t have to waste a ton of ammo in these times of ammo shortages.


Boresighting involves taking the upper off your AR15 and keeping it steady on a bipod or rifle clamp. Aim at the target by looking through the rifle bore itself and then we use our optic’s elevation and windage dials to adjust the red dot to get as close to our target’s center as possible.

Proper bore sighting technique ensures you will at least be on paper with your shots saving ammo and time. After boresighting, re-assemble your rifle and then fine tune your red dot optic zero with several actual shots on paper. It’s an old school method which can save you some rounds but if you make a mistake it’s very easy to still end up spending more rounds than necessary for this task.

Laser Bore Sights

Laser boresighting is a great way to save even more ammo! A laser boresight comes in the shape of the caliber you choose and fits right in your firearm’s chamber. Close the chamber and aim at the bullseye on your target then simply adjust your red dot or reticle to align perfectly with the laser dot on the target.

We recommend firing the weapon like normal after laser boresighting, to ensure you are perfectly zeroed. Consider using sandbags or a bench rest for maximum stability as you fire off your confirmation shots.

Using MOA Targets

Freedom Gun Targets

Photo Credit: MOA Paper Target from Freedom Gun Targets.

Regardless of which technique you choose to use, you should always be using MOA paper targets to shoot on when zeroing any optic for your firearm. MOA is an acronym for “Minute of Angle”. Think about it this way - MOA is a consistent angle from point of angle to point of impact. 1 minute of angle is measured as roughly 1 inch at 100 yards. When you hear that a rifle is capable of 1 MOA the claim actually is that the rifle is capable of shooting a grouping where all rounds hit within 1 inch at 100 yards.

We use MOA paper targets because they are extremely useful when zeroing your red dot optic due to their marked increments of 1 MOA. You can utilize this with your optic to know how many clicks to adjust with your elevation and windage dials.

If you take a look at the MOA paper target above, it’s calibrated for ½ MOA adjustments per click. Every optic is different. Some optics are 1MOA per click while others can be 1MOA per 2, 4, or even 8 clicks. It depends on the optic! So keep that in mind when you are downloading targets like this to be printed out if you are buying them online.

What Distance should I Zero my Red Dot Sight at?

Any decent gun content creator online will tell you that when we think about red dot sight zero distances we have to consider what our intended application is. Do you plan on running a 3x magnifier? Will you be using any night vision or thermal/infrared devices? Once you answer these questions, the zero distance that is best for you becomes quite clear. Here, we’ve provided some basic examples of who might be using these zero distances.

15 or 25 yard zero

For pistol shooters with red dot sights the 25 and 15 yards zeros are most popular due to the chances of using the gun outside that range is very slim. If you zero for 25 yards you will notice the same shots will be hitting in the same place on the target due to a lack of bullet drop.

25/200 Meter Zero

25 meter zero is what the U.S. Army uses for their rifles. If you zero at 25 meters the point of aim and impacts will be the same at 300 meters. Due to the size of the Army’s Infantry they had to come up with a quick and efficient way to train their riflemen. This is an excellent way to zero your rifle if you need it in competitions or to be versatile when engaging targets at further distances.

50/200 Yards Zero

In general, this is quite possibly the most popular red dot sight zero distance for both civilians and law enforcement officers. Again, what this means is that if zeroed properly - a target at 50 yards and at 200 yards will require no holdovers or holdunders when aiming at it to get a bullseye shot. Conversely, if you aim at targets below 50 yards you might need to use a holdunder. Targets further out than 200 yards would require a holdover to get your shots on target.

Zero Your Next Build with 5D Tactical!

Don’t forget to bring a spotting scope, binoculars or a rangefinder when you head out to zero your red dot optics. Think about what ranges you will be using your weapon at and go from there! Remember to always train with your weapon or none of this actually will matter! Once you get your build zeroed and dialed, why not start on another build? Check out our 80% build kits here! Until next time.