Home » How To Adjust & Zero Iron Sights‌?

How To Adjust & Zero Iron Sights‌?

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If you’ve made the tough decision of choosing iron sights in place of optics or you’ve decided to use the two intermittently, you’ll need to know how to adjust and zero your sight to get absolute precision from it.

Iron sight is a lot different from optics in both working mechanism and build. Iron sight is like the mechanical version of an optic, and this is not a slight. In fact, this is the major reason its teeming users are growing tremendously. You can argue that it is the more reliable version of the two, less prone to disappointments.

It doesn’t even matter if you use optics for your shooting; it is important you learn how to use iron sights too. Not only does this provide you with a variety of knowledge, but it also gives you an option to use in place of an optic. You may be faced with a situation where you can only access an iron sight.

The question of how to adjust and zero an iron sight will always come up when people make the switch to using iron sights for the first time. Knowing how to adjust and zero a scope is not only limited to new users alone; some more experienced users may still be struggling with zeroing the sights correctly.

Zeroing your sight ensures the accuracy of your shot, saves you ammunition, and a whole lot more. In this guide, we’ll not only see how to adjust and zero your iron sight, but we’ll also see how this affects you, its advantages, and everything in-between.

Adjusting Iron Sights

Iron Sights Adjustments

What are iron sights adjustments? These are every movement you can make with your iron sight. There are four adjustments to make in iron sights; these adjustments guide the bullet and ensure you get the optimum precision the iron sight can give.

The iron sight might not be the most precise of the two, but even at that, many people are not using up all the accuracy it gives. They have not been able to make the necessary adjustments to the room sight to get the maximum accuracy.

There are four adjustments available to make in an iron sight. These are upward, downward, right side, and left side adjustments. The upwards and downwards change is called elevation. You change the elevation when your bullet hits below or above the bull’s eye. The right side and left side movement, on the other hand, is called windage adjustment. You’ll need to make a windage adjustment if your bullet is to the right or left off your bull’s eye.

Depending on the type of weapon you have, some have fully adjustable front and rear sights, some are only partially adjustable. Also, the type of weapon will determine the part of the sight that controls elevation and windage adjustments.

In the case where the front sight makes the elevation adjustments, you’ll need to turn the dial in the opposite direction from where you want your point of impact to move. If you want to move your point of impact down, you’ll need to turn the dial upwards.

This is not the case when the rear sight controls the elevation. Here you move the dial in the same direction where you want your point of impact to move.

This rule also applies to windage adjustments. When the front sight controls the windage, you’ll need to move the dial in the opposite direction to where you want the point of impact to move and vice versa.

Bear in mind that in the case where your bullet is off the bull’s eye both in windage and elevation, you’ll need to make both adjustments before you can get accuracy.

These are all the adjustments that guide your point of aim to the point of impact.

Let’s see what point of impact and point of aim means when it comes to adjusting your iron sight.

#1. Point of Aim

If you take your rifle, mount your iron sight and look through it, what you see when you look through is your point of aim. This is the first step to shooting.

A shooter will have to aim at a target, after aiming. That moment you’ve decided, okay, I’ve gotten the desired target, what you see through the iron sight is your point of aim.

#2. Point of Impact

Just like point of aim, point of impact is an integral part of shooting. It is the concluding part, the result of all your adjustments and aiming.

The point of impact is the point where your bullet hits.

The point of intersection between the point of aim and point of impact determines the accuracy of your shot. If after aiming and pulling the trigger, the point of impact is exactly your point of aim, the shot is said to be accurate. When there is a variation of where the bullet hits to where you aimed at, adjustments need to be made to the iron sight. These adjustments are called zeroing.

#3. Angular Measurements

It is common to find users making adjustments to their iron sights in linear measurements. And while this can give you a decent level of accuracy after several trials, you’re hardly scratching the surface of all the precision that iron sight can bring.

Iron sights are adjusted more accurately when angular measurements are used. Angular measurements can reduce the deviation to the barest minimum.

It is calculated in the minute of angle (MOA), which means it is divided into 60 parts to represent the minutes. This creates a good deal of accuracy for when you’re making adjustments. But when it comes to getting absolute accuracy, just good is not enough. You need the absolute.

It is in the quest for even better precision than the seconds of angle was created. This means one minute of angle (MOA) was further divided into 60 parts, one part for one second. This way, you can adjust to the absolute best possible.

Because seconds of angle is so fine, it’ll take almost forever to adjust. Because of this, a better form of measurement was created. A form that will give you the desired accuracy but not require too much time to adjust. In this method, the MOA is divided into two, four, and in rare cases, eight parts.

This means your measurements are now ½ Moa, ¼ MOA, and 1/8 MOA. Zeroing your iron sight will depend on the MOA gradient used for that particular sight. The level of accuracy you can get may also vary depending on the MOA; typically, 1/8 MOA gradients will be more accurate but will also take more time to set.

#4. Aligning Your Sights

Since there are typically two parts in irons sights, the front and rear sights, it becomes even important to align properly. A slight deviation in the alignment and any adjustment you make on sight will have no effect.

The sight needs to be aligned properly first before you can start adjusting for zero.

If you’re using a peep sight, place the front sight in the middle of the peep sight. For an open sight, the rear sight should be placed in the middle of the two rear posts.

With this, you are ready to zero your sight.

How to Zero Iron Sights?

Now to another huge part of your weapons accuracy using iron sights – zeroing. How do you zero your sight the right way?

You must zero your sight because bullets do not travel in straight lines, it moves in a parabolic motion. There are also external factors that affect the direction of the bullet, like wind and pressure.

It is also critical you know that contrary to popular belief, bullets do not rise either. What happens is that since the front sight is shorter than the front sight, you are forced to tilt the sight and, in turn, the nozzle of the weapon slightly upwards so you can see through them. This gives the bullet the initial angle that seems like it is moving up.

Here are the steps to zeroing your sight:

steps to zeroing your sight

Choose your shooting range

You should select a range and calculate the distance you want to zero over. It is common to find shooters zeroing at 25 and 50 yards. Depending on your range and space available, you can choose the distance you want to zero your sight.

Zeroing at 25 yards is easier to get than when you’re zeroing at 50 yards. Nevertheless, you would want to zero over several distances in equal proportions, like 25, 50 yards. This reinforces the accuracy and removes tiny errors and deviations in your calculations.

When you’ve chosen your range, you can go to the next step.

Place Your Weapons on a Stable Surface

Place your weapon on a bench rest, sandbag, or anything that will ensure it doesn’t move easily. You want your weapon to be firm when you’re zeroing, as a small shift can distort all your previous calculations.

Place a target with bull’s eye at your intended distance

If you choose 25 yards distance, place a target with a bull’s eye at that distance and the height of your weapon.

Fire 3 Rounds, Measure and Adjust

Fire a group of 3 rounds at the target. Take your measuring rule to the target and measure the point of impact and point of aim.

Check for the difference. Is it upward or downwards of the bull’s eye? Or is it sideways from the bull’s eye? Remember to adjust upward and downward differences. You need to adjust the elevation.

If the bullet is 2 inches upwards of the target, you need to adjust the elevation.

Assuming the front sight controls the elevation, you’re shooting at a distance of 25 yards, the MOA of the sight is ¼ MOA, and the MOA is set at 100 yards; you need to move the bullet 2 inches downward.

To do this, turn the elevation dial 32 times downwards to move 2 inches.

If it differs sideways from the bull’s eye, you need to adjust the windage.

Shoot and Measure Again

After making the first adjustments, aim and shoot again. Another 3 rounds again at the target and measure.

Do this till the bullet is consistently landing on the bull’s eye.

Choose your shooting range

You should select a range and calculate the distance you want to zero over. It is common to find shooters zeroing at 25 and 50 yards. Depending on your range and space available, you can choose the distance you want to zero your sight.

Zeroing at 25 yards is easier to get than when you’re zeroing at 50 yards. Nevertheless, you would want to zero over several distances in equal proportions, like 25, 50 yards.

This reinforces the accuracy and removes tiny errors and deviations in your calculations.
When you’ve chosen your range, you can go to the next step.

Place Your Weapons on a Stable Surface

Place your weapon on a bench rest, sandbag, or anything that will ensure it doesn’t move easily. You want your weapon to be firm when you’re zeroing, as a small shift can distort all your previous calculations.

Place a target with bull’s eye at your intended distance

If you choose 25 yards distance, place a target with a bull’s eye at that distance and the height of your weapon.

Fire 3 Rounds, Measure and Adjust

Fire a group of 3 rounds at the target. Take your measuring rule to the target and measure the point of impact and point of aim.

Check for the difference. Is it upward or downwards of the bull’s eye? Or is it sideways from the bull’s eye? Remember to adjust upward and downward differences. You need to adjust the elevation.

If the bullet is 2 inches upwards of the target, you need to adjust the elevation.

Assuming the front sight controls the elevation, you’re shooting at a distance of 25 yards, the MOA of the sight is ¼ MOA, and the MOA is set at 100 yards; you need to move the bullet 2 inches downward.

To do this, turn the elevation dial 32 times downwards to move 2 inches.

If it differs sideways from the bull’s eye, you need to adjust the windage.

Shoot and Measure Again

After making the first adjustments, aim and shoot again. Another 3 rounds again at the target and measure.

Do this till the bullet is consistently landing on the bull’s eye.

Increase the Distance

After hitting the bull’s eye consistently, at a distance, say you started at 25 yards, you can then increase the distance to 50 yards.

Make the increase in distance, adjust the bull’s eye, shoot and make the necessary adjustments till you zero at this distance again.

Final Verdict

With these steps, you can now adjust and zero your iron sights without issues and be able to get the maximum level of accuracy that the sight can give you.

Ensure to check the MOA gradient of your iron sight and the part controlling the elevation and windage adjustments before proceeding. You should also bear in mind that some sights do not allow you to fully adjust both the elevation and windage. If this is the case with your sight, it may affect the level of accuracy you can get.

About Author

James Towndrow, a NRA-certified Firearms Instructor. During a career of 18 years had won several shooting competition including major leagues. Taking all those experience down the road, is now a successful Shooting Instructor in Texas, US.


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