How to Zero a Red Dot on a Pistol the Right Way

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Do you know how to zero a red dot on a pistol?

Is it necessary to have one installed on your handguns?

New shooters think it is a complicated process, while others don’t want to bother.

Fortunately, as the USPSA community grows, many shooters are starting to find ways to do it efficiently.

What Does Zeroing a Red Dot Sight Means?

Zeroing is a process for the red dot in which you create predictable and desirable points of aim and impact.

To understand it better, the spot on your target zone where the dot is showing is your point of aim.

Alternatively, your point of impact is the striking spot of your bullet.

The keywords for zeroing in an optic are predictable and desirable.

Technically, zeroing a red dot optic requires fine-tuning and making it as accurate as possible.

However, there will be instances where your point of aim will not translate to your desired impact.

Types of Mechanical Sighting Processes

Different methods of zeroing a red dot may exist, but they all use the same principle.

You can also choose between two mechanical sighting processes in fixing your aiming device: supported and unsupported.

Supported Sighting In

In the supported process, it is preferable to eliminate as much human error as you can when deciding on your point of aim or impact.

A shooter typically uses a bench rest or anything stable to reduce gun movement.

In an ideal setup, the trigger should be the only gun part that should be moving.

Theoretically, if you fire a three-round group in this setup, each shot should hit the same point of impact.

Eliminating any outside factors that may affect your point of impact, you will feel confident in making the necessary adjustments to your device.

Unsupported Sighting In

Conversely, most advanced shooters try to zero their pistols unsupported by firing as they would when shooting a target.

As they say, they don’t use support when firing defensively or during practical purposes like sports or competitions.

The shooter must be able and confident to fire from their chosen sighting distance.

Thus, this sighting process is unsuitable for new shooters since they have not mastered the basics of grip, trigger control, and sight alignment.

Zeroing Without Shooting

Not everyone has access to a firing range to fine-tune an aiming device, and that is not an issue because you can do it at home without firing a shot.

You can bore sight your pistol at home using a laser pointer.

That said, choose one with a back magnet for attaching to the muzzle.

Set up a shooting distance of about 25 yards to start the process, attach the bore sight to the gun, then turn on the laser.

Point the laser to your target and adjust the red dot, ensuring it’s aligned with the pointer.

Remember that bore sighting is a temporary solution. You still need to shoot to ensure you fine-tuned the red dot correctly.

Nevertheless, bore sighting is an excellent way to tweak your red dot optic while saving time and ammo.

Sighting With Co-Witnessing Iron Sights

Another quick and effective way of sighting a red dot is by co-witnessing iron sights.

Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Set the Irons

A critical aspect of zeroing a red dot on a pistol is setting a chosen distance suitable to your shooting type.

Most defensive shootings occur around seven yards; thus, you can start from this distance.

If you are into competitive shooting, you can opt for a longer distance as long as it suits your needs.

One tip to make co-witnessing easier is to ignore the red dot.

Use the iron handgun sights as you try to shoot a group and find out if they are on target.

A consistent grouping means the irons are on target, which is a good sign.

Step 2: Get on the Dot

After confirming a reasonable distance, you only need to fine-tune the red dot accordingly.

Set your red dot according to your preference. For example, if you want it at center mass, then do so and align it with your iron sights.

This setup means you align your front and back posts while the red dot is halfway on the front notch.

Ensure a stable rest as you place your pistol to check if the dot placement aligns with iron sights.

You only need a stable rest to remove the shaking of your hands and confirm the proper placement of the dot.

Step 3: Shoot and Compare

As a final step, fire a few rounds after confirming everything is aligned correctly.

Try to compare your first group to the second to see the difference in your results.

The next time you shoot, you only need to find the red dot and point it at your target to know where the bullet will hit.

You can shoot accurately and get a quick sight picture using the red dot sight.

Tracking your point of aim also becomes easier during recoil if you have an optic.

Most Commonly Used Zeros for Handguns

Having a red dot sight on your pistol has become famous for personal defense and competitive shooting.

Many shooters ask one essential and valid question: what is the best distance to zero a red dot?

Since a red dot reflex sight sits higher than the iron handgun sights, you have to make adjustments for them to intersect at one point.

That means that whatever the intersection point is or sight in distance chosen, the red dot sight is not constant for all distances.

Here are some of the commonly used zeros and why:

15 and 25-Yard Zero

15 and 25-yard zeroes are the most popular for handgun shooters with a red dot sight because anything more than this distance rarely happens.

It doesn’t matter if you are a competitive shooter, a law enforcement officer, or carrying a concealed gun for self-defense.

These distances will work for most users because the shot grouping distribution is close.

25/300 Meter Zero

The US Army is commonly known to zero its weapons at 25 meters.

When they set their red dot sight center at 25 meters, their points of aim and impact are constant at 300 meters.

Since the Army Infantry is large, they had to think of a method to train the soldiers quickly and efficiently.

Setting this optimal zero helps soldiers in engaging their targets at various distances.

50/200 Yard Zero

Civilians and law enforcement officers commonly use the 50-yard zero.

When zeroed at this distance, their points of aim and impact are fixed at 200 meters.

This distance became famous because hitting a target accurately below 50 yards and 200 to 300 yards away only requires minor adjustments.

Civilians and law enforcement officers are less likely to face human threats beyond 200 yards.

As well, this zero is often used in shooting competitions like 3-gun events.

36/300 Yard Zero

The 36/300-yard zero is suited for the United States Marine Corps’s tactics and skill sets.

The Marines typically engage in close-quarter combats in urban environments or long-distance battles in rough terrain.

They are the smaller branch in the military compared to the Army and need to be more independent and self-sufficient without a definite supply line.

Therefore, this zero will help the Marines take on targets from close up to and as far away as 350 yards.

How to Zero a Red Dot on a Pistol

Learning how to zero a red dot on a pistol will significantly help your accuracy in hitting your target.

A red dot sight lets you focus on your target displayed in your field of view instead of concentrating on the front notch.

This aiming device is a versatile and useful accessory to guns and having it zeroed lets you get the most out of the red dot optic.

Spending a few minutes to fine-tune a red dot optic will make a significant difference in your shooting experience.

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