3 Tips for a Tighter Zero

by Warrior Poet Society

Complexity is the enemy to precision shooting, and mastering the basics through good training, proper technique and repetition can make you a better precision shooter than the guys out there with the fancy calculations. John Lovell covers three critical skills for mastery.

There are many, many skills you could learn and master to become an all-around good shooter, but precision shooting starts with getting the basics down cold and second nature.

Zeroing Tip #1: Sleepy Position.

In this shooting position you could darn near fall asleep in. As an old Army ranger, I could fall asleep doing just about anything. I've fallen asleep while walking and carrying a loaded down rucksack. Anyway, I want you to find a position that you can fall asleep in while you're shooting, not because I want you to fall asleep but because you don't really want your muscles doing a lot of work keeping your shot on target. You want your gun and stable platform to do that work.

So whether you're using a bench rest or you're prone, lying in the dirt, or you've got your gun up on some barricade, your body and neck and head and arms should all be able to relax as you focus your red dot and gently pull the trigger.

The point is, you just don't really need to interact with the gun at all beyond pulling the trigger.

PRO TIP: Even rest your gun on a rucksack or using a sling for stability can give you a resting, "sleepy" position so that your gun does the work and your muscle tremors don't through you off target. In fact, Ryan Cleckner nearly always uses a pack of some kind to stabilize his rifle from a prone position.

Zeroing Tip #2: Clear Sight Picture

For you guys used to running and gunning with a red dot and nearly-full size, this is perhaps going to seem antithetical, but for precision shooting you need to dial that red dot to the lowest readable level. To find this level, click it all the way to gone then click it one up to visible. That's it. This allows you to get a really sharp picture of your target. When your dot is dialed up, it really plumes out and you can't really tell where that hot center is for a target far away.

Another enemy of clear sight pictures is eye strain. When you are shooting that red dot, or even using a reticle, your eyes can start to strain pretty darn quickly. You're taking aim, you can feel that strain, and what was sharp just a moment ago starts to get just a little bit blurry. This is when it's important just to reset your eyes a bit by gently closing them, resting them for a few seconds and then refocusing. As you know, I'm not a big fan of closing any eyes when it comes to CQB gunfighting, but for long range you need to give your eyes a break at times. If you're trying to make that one crisp long distance shot, you want to do whatever gives you the best shot possible.

Magnification is not your friend. This comes from Ryan Cleckner who wrote the Long Range Shooting Handbook. You can also learn this in our Rifle 1 Class. Magnification is not your friend. When you over magnify, you think you're on target when you're not. Trust me. Try it.

Zeroing Tip #3: Consistent Pressure on the Trigger

I want you to say "easy" not "NOW." In some ways, with long-range precision shooting you should almost be surprised when the shot goes off. Ideally you're in a nice comfy and cozy body position with a good, clear picture. You put the gun on "fire," exhale slowly and gently while applying consistent pressure to the trigger. A slow, consistent applying of pressure, and somewhere right when you start to run out of air, that shot should break. This is called shooting in the respiratory pause. That's the ideal.

Don't forget to breathe. While holding your breath might keep your body still for a while, it also sets off a bunch of involuntary responses in your nervous system. Your sight starts to blur, your fight or flight starts to set in, and your relaxed, steady position is sabotaged without you even realizing. So you need to keep breathing, but hitting that respiratory pause and trigger break at the same time is the ideal. Press cleanly through and you will see your groups are just going to tighten, you're going to look like a hero.

Train Hard. Train Smart. Don't Forget To Breathe.