How far should you sight in a 223? This is a popular question for many people.
To save you time, try standard zeroing distances for 25, 50, and 100 yards first for 55gr bullet. Be sure to check out the 36 yard zero at the end of the article too.
How Far Can A .223 Shoot Accurately?
A standard .223 or 5.56 NATO 55 gr bullet can shoot accurately up to 300 yards with a magnified optic.
100 yard to 200 yards are definitely doable, and 300+ yards is where skills are required.
7 yard - Best For CQB
Holographic sight like the EOTech with 68 MOA ring helps ALOT! Aim with bottom ring hash mark to offset the holdover for headshot accuracy at around 7 yards
- The 25 yard zero is the most common and it also closely approximate a 300 yard zero with about a 4-5 inch spread.
- The bullet starts to hit high at 50, 100, until the bullet drops at around 300 meters
- The shooter has to aim low for targets sitting around 50 - 220 yards. The shooter really has to know his/her hold when using this zero.
- A average tight 5" shot group [25 - 300 yrd]
- Point of aim & point of impact
- High chance of center mass hit without thinking about holdover at all.
- The 50 yard zero is much tighter than the 36 yard zero for targets sitting from 25 to 250 yards, but there is about a 4" drop from 250 to 300 yards.
- If not shooting anything beyond 250 yards, then the 50 yrd zero is the best option for most people.
Magnified optics recommended
- Tight grouping from 50 - 250 yards
- Fairly flat trajectory up to 100 yards before the bullet starts to fall,
- A significant amount of hold is required for shooting past 250 yards.
Total, it's about a 12" spread from 25 to 300 yrds.
Generally speaking, with a 100 yard zero, the shooter can place a 1 or 2 MOA size reticle on the center mass of a human size target and expect an effective hit.
- Requires holding low for anything between [25 - 150]
- The shooter has to hold the reticle lower than the expected point of impact about 3 - 4 inches.
- This zero might sound great for point of aim and point of impact at 200 yards, but it's a pain in the butt when engaging targets at other distances.
- Recommended for a dedicated 200 yard zero
Zeros for Heavier Bullets
The recommended barrel length to squeeze the most performance out of the 223 or 5.56mm caliber bullet are 16" and 18".
Changes in barrel length, barrel twist rate or the bullet weight, can change point of impact.
For 55 gr 223 bullet, you can follow the most popular zeros listed above.
The 65 gr bullet is slightly heavier and it will start to fall faster than a 55, so to match the zero for a 55 gr bullet as much as possible, you have to hold just a 2" higher.
The 77 gr bullet is rare to find, and it's best for a short barrel with a twist rate of 1/7 like the MK18.
Based on testing, a 50 yard zero with a 77 gr bullet with various barrel length (10.5" - 18") does the best, where all shots land within A and B zones on a USPSA target, except for 10.5" where most shots land on A zone, and 300 yard shot lands in the D zone.
Still... not bad for a 77 gr heavy bullet
Most Effective 223 Zero For Short Barrel Rifle
The 10.3" barrel seems to be the optimal barrel length for 223 before it loses its intended performance.
A 10.3" rifle is mostly geared towards close distance shooting. Yes the bullet can still reach 300 yards, but the shots will be outside the D zone of a USPSA target.
The best zero distance for a 10.3" shooting a standard 55 gr bullet is 100 yards. The Trajectory is fairly flat and the shot groups are tight just like a 16" barrel.
This works pretty good for 62 gr and 77 gr bullets.
The 14.5" retains more bullet velocity than the 10.3" barrel, so your 300 & 400 meters shot will be packed closer with in the D zone of a standard USPSA target when you aim at the center mass.
For more information, Arma Dynamics has done a great experiment, which you can check out here.
A red dot sight can hit most 25 yard targets with a 223 rifle. To hit further, a LVPO or a red dot magnifier scope is recommended.
As the content creator of badassoptic.com, My background in the firearms industry and shooting sports gives me the experience to recommend tried and true products and keep away subpar ones.