Why I zero my handguns at 25 yards

Most modern pistols come from the factory more-or-less, kinda-sorta zeroed for 7 yards with generic ammo.  Most shooters live with that.  Of course that often means that the gun shoots high, often significantly, at 25 yards, and the windage is often way off, too.  I recall a post on some forum is which a poster said that most shooters don’t care if their gun shoots to a POI different from POA at 25 yards.  He was corrected by a subsequent poster who pointed out that most shooters don’t even know where their gun shoots at 25 yards.  I do know, and I do care, and if I need to I send my slides to Dawson to get sights that match POI at 25.

If that’s impractical, or with a gun that I don’t carry often, I at least know where the gun shoots at various distances and mentally note any change in tactics that that may require (like not taking a shot that I can’t make).  That information is written down in a dope notebook and on a 3×5 card that lives underneath each gun in the safe.

If a gun is zeroed at 7 yards, it will usually shoot inches high at 25 (because the gun is in recoil as the bullet travels down the barrel).  By contrast, if a gun is zeroed at 25, it will usually shoot only an inch low at 7 yards, which is perfectly fine.  Which would you rather have?

Do I think I’ll have to make a 25 yard shot on the street?  Well, I know that it’s unlikely, but not completely improbable.  In particular, I worry about long shots in an active shooter situation.  I know that one of these is unlikely to happen on my watch, but if it does I’d likely be the only armed and trained person there to do something.

Besides, all great shooters advise the rest of us that long-distance shooting is a key to achieving proficiency at closer distances.  If my gun is zeroed at 7, is off 5-inches at 25, than how the hell am I supposed to practice at 25, say, on a plate rack?  I’d have no way of knowing if I was missing or the gun was.

So why not a 50 yard zero?  Because you have to pick something, and a 50 yard zero 1) puts the zero out to a statistically zero real-life engagement distance, and 2) starts to require too much of an offset at the likely 7 yard distance…and there’s simply no time or mental bandwidth available when the bad thing happens to think about offset.

Finally: I’ll hit this point often and hard: if you carry a gun for self-defense, you have to know the law. Invest the money you’d spend on shaving a tenth of a second off your splits with Andrew Branca’s book or seminars — it’ll pay far greater dividends. Visit this link to learn more, and use the discount code “streetstandards” for a 10% discount.


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