Zeroing your airsoft optic is actually easy – it just takes time & patience
Now, if you happened to attach a new rifle scope to your airsoft gun, or your BB flight path haven’t been able to hit the mark, then you probably need to zero the scope. You might also want to zero the scope if you suddenly dropped the airsoft rifle (two things can happen here, your hopup adjustment is out or your scope adjustment is out).
The good news is that zeroing your scope isn’t rocket science! It just takes time. You should do this, as even the best airsoft sniper rifle will be no good to you if the scope crosshairs aren’t on target.
We’ve zeroed an airsoft scope over 100 times (no exaggeration) – so take it from us that it’s a tedious, but absolutely needed piece of preparation if you want to be a decent airsoft marksman. Check out additional airsoft sniping tips here.
What Does it Mean to Zero Your Scope?
To ‘zero’ a scope means that you are aligning it to hit the target at a specific distance (most of the time you’re “zeroing” to some sort of generic combat distance. In the case of airsoft that might mean some place between 125 – 200 feet.)
Zeroing the scope means that you aligning the crosshair sights it so it matches the intended point of impact. Because the scope is offset to the barrel, there’s a point at which the BB is actually going to impact higher than the crosshairs indicate (this is when the target is too close), and past a certain distance the impact location will be lower than the crosshairs (this is when the target is too far).
It is a lot like adjusting the plate carrier to make sure it fits your body comfortably. So, if you’re unable to hit what you want, then we’ll walk through all the steps needed to zero your scope.
How to Zero Your Airsoft Scope: The Breakdown:
Zeroing your scope basically comes in 3 main steps:
- Preparation for zeroing
- Actual Zeroing by repeated shooting and adjusting the sights
- Maintaining your zero for as long as you can
Step 1: Preparation
Now even though this may sound technical, the fact is that there is not much to it. Even if you are new to to the game, you can get the job done in record time.
Choose a Good Location to Test
You will have to fire the gun quite a bit to make sure that it is zeroed. To do this, pick a spot to shoot. Make sure it is safe. Ideally, you will want to choose a range where you are familiar with the terrain as well as familiar with the target distance (some people use their backyard). You can set up something like markers or posts to ensure you’re testing at typical engagement distances.
You can do this both outdoors and indoors. The difference is that firing it indoors will give you a more controlled environment, but most indoor range locations don’t quite have a open 150-200 feet to work with (if you do find one, let us know!)
You can print out a target if you must, but really it helps to use a high visibly targets. This save saves a ton of headaches when try to see whether your shots are impacting in the right area.
Remove All External Factors & Human Error
One of the things you want to do is eliminate as much influence over the weapon as possible. Below is a basic list of items you’ll want squared away before starting:
- Your airsoft sniper rifle is well maintained
- You’re using match grade 6mm BB
- BB weight should be the one you plan to use on the field
- Your hop up has been adjusted and locked in placed
- Your scope is properly mounted and has zero wobble
When you reduce human error, it allows you to zero the scope more easily. Doing this you will mean that there is no need to account for wobbles and flinches.
You can DIY a rifle rest using stacked sandbags or even buy a ready made bench. A bench is easier because it offers a secure shooting platform.
Ensure Hop Up is Well Adjusted
Know that your hop up will affect the flight path of your BB. So, you’ll want to ensure that your BB trajectory is all set before you start attempting to zero the scope. Most guns will feature an adjustable hop up – so get to testing your trajectory and intended point of impact as well. See the below diagram to see what is the ideal amount of hop you need for your BB.
You’ll want your BB to try to match a straight line as much as it can.
You will also want to know the range at which you are shooting, i.e., shooting straight directly at the target and that the target should not move. Typically you will find that an effective distance most airsoft guns will be around 150-200 feet.
Learn How Does Your Scope Work
Now before you get frustrated trying to figure out how to adjust the scope, you will want to look it over and then play with the adjustments a bit. Ensure that you know how to change everything and how many clicks of the dial it takes before the crosshairs move.
You’ll want to pay attention to these two main adjustment knobs:
- Windage: This will move your reticle to the left or right. This adjustment knob is usually located on the side of a scope.
- Elevation: This will move your reticle up or down. This adjustment knob is usually located on the top of a scope.
The other thing you should be aware of is minute of angle or MOA. Those are the markings on the turret. Now, this is a measurement that equates to an inch for every 100 yards. That means if you are off by an inch at 100 yards, then that means you’ll be a good 2 inches off a length of 200 yards, etc.
0 MOA vs. 20 MOA
You will see optics that describe the reticle size mentioned as MOA. Now, this is the same concept as we explained earlier, which means the larger MOA number translates to the ability to cover much more distance.
A simple turning of the turret will adjust the crosshair sights down or up, or side to side. So, if you turn what’s called the windage turret by 1 MOA, the scope will shift to the center of the crosshairs, which means you’ll hit an inch to the side of where it was previously hitting. The same goes for elevation.
Traditionally a click of the turret is equivalent to ¼ MOA, at 100 yards. Usually you won’t need to adjust much more than this because airsoft sniper rifles have a maximum effective range of around 200 – 250 feet.
Step 2: Shoot, Then Adjust… Repeat if Needed
Now that we have all of that out of the way, this is the fun part, i.e., lining up the crosshairs and firing. You will want to check where the hits are landing and ask a friend to maybe spot for you.
Make sure to check the target after every shot and then make adjustments. It will take you quite a few shots, but each of your adjustments will get you closer and closer to that perfect zero, and it will probably cost you multiple magazines worth of BBs.
If you see that massive adjustments are needed for the optics, it is quicker to start over. Just remount the scope or use shims to make those adjustments larger so that you don’t need to rely on the turret to make those changes. That way, you are freed up to make slight adjustments, which will make the entire process of zeroing your optics easier.
The first shot is the starting point. If the target is at 100 yards, you see it probably 2 inches to the left and a half-inch higher than it should. You know the windage needs to be adjusted more than the elevation.
Check out this video by the famous Novritch for a 1:47 breakdown on how to do the above.
How many shots will I need to make to zero my gun?
This depends on luck and how well you’ve performed Step 1. Basically, every item we worked on in step from from using a bench rest, deciding on an engagement distance, and removing all potential for human error is to minimize the number of shots you will need to make.
Some people end up zeroing your gun within a handful of shots. (5 – 10)
Some people end up needing 80-100 BB’s to get it right.
Some people just try to get an approximate zero and hope that the RNG gods favor them when the time comes to take the shot.
Parallax is a term you probably heard of last in high school, but we assure you of a non-boring explanation in the context of a scope. Scope Parallax, as it is called, is an inconsistency of what you may see when looking down the scope. If you slightly shift your eyes and see the crosshairs moving with the target, that needs to be corrected because the cross hairs aren’t reflecting where our rifle is pointing.
The parallax tends to change mainly depending on how far you are from the target. So, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with adjusting it.
Adjusting for Parallax
Adjust the rile securely, and adjust the ring until it is the closest to you as possible to the range you’re hitting. You will also want to double-check the distances.
Align your eyes with the sight and aim the scope. Now shift the eyes slowly, and watch the reticle. Do you see it moving? If it does, you need to correct it. If it stays on target, then you’re good.
If it moves, you need to find out why. Shift your eyes to the right slightly. Does the reticle also move to the right? If it does, you will want to increase the distance until it stops. If it is moving to the left, then the distance needs to be decreased.
If it moves with your eye, then increase the distance. If opposite to your eye, then decrease the distance.
Step 3: How to maintain your zero
Believe it or not, your zero can actually be knocked out of alignment meaning that you’ll need to go through the lengthy process of re-zeroing. Review the below steps to ensure that you don’t end up needing to re-zero.
- Ensure your scope adjustment dials are secured
- Lock down your scope – some shooters use something like loc-tite on their scope rings.
- Don’t drop your airsoft gun – or keep a sling on to ensure an accidental drop will be less likely to damage it
- Don’t adjust your hop up needlessly – this will affect the BB flight path and now your previously tuned zero is no long on target
- Create a mark on your hop up unit so IF it does get adjusted you can return it to the place you zeroed at
- Ensure you use the same match grade BB at the same weight everytime you head out to the field.
- Keep your gun clean – dirt can affect BB flight path
- Don’t fire your airsoft rifle canted or sideways – the hop up is designed to work vertically
Conclusion: Zeroing Your Scope isn’t Actually Hard – Just Time Consuming
You don’t need to be a genius to zero a scope. However, it would help if you were patient, as the chances of getting it right on the first shot are slim. So you’ll end up needing to shoot and test repeatedly until your BB goes exactly where it needs to go. You’ll find that this is the same method you would use to zero in iron sights as well.
But with time your airsoft rifle will be zeroed.