What Distance to Zero an Air Rifle Scope?

Consistent accuracy is something that all keen airgunners should strive for. Good weapon maintenance and regular practice are certainly key to your shooting success.

But there is another factor that will give you the edge. That is through the addition of a quality scope. Once installed, you then need it to perform in the most effective way. The first step in that process is understanding how to zero your scope.

The steps below will guide you through the zeroing process and will also answer one of the most important and commonly raised questions: What distance to zero an air rifle scope?

Other related topics will also be touched on in order to enhance your airgunning knowledge and prowess.

So, let’s get started with….

what distance to zero an air rifle scope

Just Zero In The Same Way as Long Gun Rifle Owners Do

If only! The fact is that all long gun owners have a wealth of information at their disposal. One such topic that is regularly published for them relates to zeroing distance. This is generally set at 100 yards.

Trying to zero your air rifle scope at such a distance would prove as useful as buying a chocolate fireguard! This is because that distance is simply not practical for air rifle pellet use.

These pellets bring into play several factors that limit shooting distance. To be consistently accurate across the full range of your air rifle, the variable scope zeroing distances need to be correct.

What is The Real Meaning of “Zeroing a scope”?

Zeroing a scope of any kind is often referred to as “sighting-in.” The goal is to align your rifle scope with the point at which your pellet strikes over an intended distance.

Regardless of scope build and configuration, there is one sighting-in fact that does not change, and that is that correctly zeroing a scope on any type of rifle will greatly increase your chances of hitting the target you are aiming for. And, don’t let anyone tell you that this is different with an air-powered rifle. It is not.

Factors to Bear in Mind

Let’s take a look at some important factors that need to be taken into account before you begin the sighting-in process. Once that is done, there will be steps and tips to help you correctly zero in your chosen air rifle scope.

Type of Pellets and Air Rifle Model Used

Always bear in mind that performance can vary depending on the type of pellets and the air rifle model you will be using. It is clear that some pellet types are more effective when used with certain rifle models than others. Rifle manufacturers and airgunner forums are good resources for such information.

The alternative is a very valid one – Pellet type trial and error! There is a good choice of pellet brands out there, and costs are reasonable. This means you should test different pellet types from different brands and compare results. By doing so, you will understand which pellet types work best in your barrel.

The reason for such variances in pellet types is that they are not made from pure lead. They are made from a variety of different lead alloys. This means that different pellet brands work better with certain barrels than others.

Try, Try and Try Again

If your first zeroing attempt does not produce the results you require, there is a straightforward solution. That is to start the full zeroing process again with a different brand of pellet. By testing a variety of pellet brands, you will soon find the types that best match your air rifle.

It is quite likely that once you find a suitable pellet brand, this is the one you will stick with. While that makes absolute sense, it should not stop you from trying other pellet brands. Reasons for trying other pellet brands include such things as your usual brand is out of stock, other brands are on special offer, or new style pellets are released.

The main thing to remember when changing pellet brands is that you should always go through the complete scope zeroing in process again. This is certainly no big hurdle. As will be seen shortly, the zeroing in of an air rifle scope is a straightforward task.

what distance to zero air rifle scope

Wind Variations

You then have to consider how any level of wind strength can affect the scope zeroing-in process. If it is at all possible, try to carry out the task indoors, which is best be achieved at an indoor gun range. Alternatively, you may have access to a large outbuilding. Large outbuildings are generally only found on farms and ranches, but it is worth a mention.

By carrying out the zeroing-in procedures indoors, you are likely to benefit from a more reliable and consistent result. Once indoor zero has been achieved, you can head for an outdoor shooting session. If the wind conditions demand, you can then make any necessary scope adjustments to account for this.

Not everyone will be carrying out the zeroing process indoors. This is quite understandable, and those who want to complete the task outdoors should have no real issues. Just remember that you should be prepared to make necessary windage adjustments as the weather conditions demand.

That’s some major considerations taken care of. Now let’s get down to the practicalities.

Initial Preparation

You have just come into possession of your new scope and can’t wait to get out on a shooting session. While that is totally understandable, you should first take a step back.

This is because the first thing you should do is carry out a thorough cleaning of your air rifle. When doing so, please take particular care over barrel cleaning. A ’pull-through’ is ideal for any type of air rifle barrel. However, if you happen to be zeroing-in a break barrel rifle, then a BoreSnake is even better.

Once cleaning is complete, it is time to install and mount your new scope. Take care while carrying this out, and pay particular attention when checking the head position and eye relief.

Pellet Selection and Leading The Barrel

The next step is to select the type of pellet you think works best in your barrel. You should then fire around 20 shots into the backstop behind your pre-set targets. Indoor shooting ranges will already have backstops in place. If you are carrying out the zeroing in procedure elsewhere, make sure you have a good backstop behind the targets you set up.

The reason for firing those 20 shots into the backstop should not be seen as wasteful or unnecessary. It is simply to ensure your barrel rifling is leaded. This will help you achieve optimum accuracy. Those 20 shots will do the trick. You are now ready to start the zeroing process.

what distance to zero air rifle scope guide

There is No ‘one-size-fits-all’ Zeroing Distance!

The question that was asked at the beginning of the piece was: What distance to zero an air rifle scope? The answer is that it depends on where and under what type of conditions you intend to use your air rifle and scope combo.

But I can’t just leave things at that! So, here are the three most common scenarios with suggested zeroing distances.

Indoor Range Shooting

In general, indoor range shooting is carried out at close distances to your target. This means you should sight your scope for between 20 to 25 yards. Any longer, and there is a good chance the pellets fired will be too high and over the top of your target. The reason for that could be through too much bullet drop adjustment.

Quite The Opposite – Long-range Shooting

Airgunners who continually challenge themselves with long-range accuracy will be looking to hit targets between 40 to 50 yards. It should be said that regular success at these ranges is no mean feat. However, that should not deter those who are determined.

At these distances, the key word is “Practice.” Achieving consistent accuracy at short and mid-range distances means regular practice is necessary. For those who seek long-distance accuracy, it is essential. There is no doubt about it; using an air rifle and scope combination for long-distance shooting really is a case of reaping what you sow!

The Most Common Distance Setting – Mid-Range

This is where the majority of airgunners will set their range. The ideal setting for your air rifle scope is 30 yards. This distance offers flexibility by allowing you to acquire and hit both short and longer range targets.

It can also be a highly effective setting when shooting at moving targets. By their very nature, moving target distances change quite rapidly. Airgunners who spend a lot of their shooting time moving around outdoors need to master accuracy at variable distances.

Time to Begin The Zero Set-up Procedure

Now that you have yardage details for the 3 most popular shooting distances, it is time to zero your air rifle scope. Because mid-range shooting is the most popular, this will be used as an example. The process for setting any other zero distance is exactly the same; simply change the distance between you and the target.

Head to your chosen shooting place equipped with your air rifle and scope combo, ammo, targets, and ear/eye protectors. In terms of ammo, a good supply is recommended. While you could take just one type of pellet, it is recommended that different pellet types are included.

This is because, as mentioned earlier, some pellet brands perform better than others with certain air rifle models. This means it is wise to complete the zero process at your chosen distances and with different pellet types.

what distance to zero air rifle scope tip

Please Remember

That you should go through the barrel leading process before each different type of pellet is tried. By trying different pellet brands over your chosen zero distances, you will quickly establish which pellet type is best suited to your rifle and scope combo.

Following standard shooting safety checks, you should fire five individual shots at your target. The intention is to place all five shots in or around the bullseye. Once completed, check your grouping on the target and assess the average point of impact. From this initial result, you should adjust your zero as necessary.

The above procedure should be continued until your five shot group gives an average point of impact in or around the bullseye. Once that is achieved, you will have successfully set zero at your chosen zeroing distance. In the above example, that would be 30 yards.

Why Are You Not Achieving an Acceptable Zero?

Please do not despair if zero is not easily achieved during your initial sighting-in session. There are various reasons for this, with two major factors being that you are only using one type of ammo, and this is not best suited to your rifle and scope combo. The solution is to try again with a different brand of pellets.

Or the wind is affecting your efforts. This only applies to those trying to zero their scope while outdoors. The solution here is to retry the procedure outdoors on a day when conditions mean there is no noticeable wind. Alternatively, head to an indoor shooting range and repeat the full sighting-in process.

Looking for a High-quality Scope to Practice Your Zeroing in?

Then check out our reviews of the Best Air Rifle Scopes, the Best 300 Win Mag Scopes, the Best Mini 14 Ranch Rifles, the Best Scout Scopes, as well as the Best Deer Hunting Scopes on the market in 2023.

Or, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Scopes for AR15 under 100 Dollars, the Best 308 Rifles Scopes, the Best Rimfire Scopes, the Best Mil Dot Scopes, or the Best Scopes for M&P 15-22 you can buy.

Final Thoughts

Airgun enthusiasts looking to get the most from their shooting enjoyment should add a quality scope to their rifle. However, once installed, it is vital that you correctly zero it in.

While zero distances are flexible, the most common settings are 20-25 yards, 30 yards, and 40-50 yards. During the sighting-in process, you should also try a variety of different pellet brands to see which performs best.

Practice, practice, practice…

Combining your rifle, scope, and preferred pellet brand will put you on the accuracy path. From there, consistent practice is the order of the day.

It is also recommended that you regularly carry out the scope zeroing-in process and do so at varying distances. By completing this straightforward procedure, your points of aim will be smack-bang on target. If that does not increase your shooting satisfaction, then nothing will!

Thanks for reading, and happy airgunning!

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About Gary McCloud

Gary is a U.S. ARMY OIF veteran who served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. He followed in the honored family tradition with his father serving in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam, his brother serving in Afghanistan, and his Grandfather was in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Due to his service, Gary received a VA disability rating of 80%. But he still enjoys writing which allows him a creative outlet where he can express his passion for firearms.

He is currently single, but is "on the lookout!' So watch out all you eligible females; he may have his eye on you...

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