How far should you sight in a 223? This is a popular question for beginners and even the experienced people.
In this optic zeroing guide, you will learn a list of effective zeroing distances for 223 or 5.56 NATO. In our testing, the 36 and 50 yards are our favorites for a red dot or magnified optic, which we will cover below.
For shooters using different grain bullet or shorter barrels, we gonna cover that too in this guide.
Different shooting applications have different zeroing requirements, so please grab a pen, a piece of paper, turn off Facebook, and let's get to the lesson!
.223 Effective Zero [ 7 - 300 yards]
The typical zeroing distance for a 223 for people mostly shooting AR15, Ruger Mini 14 or other bolt action rifle are around 25 yards, 50 yards and 100 yards.
These distance are common at your local shooting ranges and you can zero your rifle without any problem.
All these zeros are tested with 55 gr bullet using a standard 16" barrel
7 yard - Best For CQB
When using a Holographic sight like the EOTech with 65 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 allows the shooter to engage targets up to 300 yards with about a 10 inch spread.
The interesting part with this particular zero is that the bullet starts to hit high when engaging targets sitting at 50, 100 and beyond. As the bullet drops around 300 meters, the 25 yard zero point of aim is close to the point of impact at 300 meters.
So the shooter has to aim low with a 25 yard zero reticle for targets sitting beyond 50 - 200 yards. The shooter really have to know his/her hold when using this zero.
The 25 yrd zero requires a lot of thinking when hitting targets at unknown distances, but there are other zeros available without tons of thinking such as the 36 yard zero
A tight 5" shot group [25 - 300 yrd]
The 36 yard gives the shooter a very tight effective hit 5" group from 25 to 300 yards.
It is honestly the easiest, point of aim & point of impact type of zero for most shooting distance up to 300 yards.
A 5" group is as easy as it gets for hitting center mass, and you can zero your optic to 36 yards and use it for any situation without thinking about holdover at all.
If you only have access to a 25 yard range and you want a 36 yard zero, you will zero for 25 yard first, then dial the reticle above the point of impact about 1.3" higher, which is about 10 clicks up for a 0.5 MOA/click adjustment optic.
Or you can download this target here to make your life easier.
Tighter than 36 yrd Zero [25-250 yrds]
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.
So if you're not going to shoot anything beyond 250 yards, then the 50 yrd zero is the best option for most people.
Tighter than 50 yrd zero [25- 200 yrds]
The 100 yard zero allows the shooter to engage targets accurately with point of aim and point of impact from 25 to 200 yards.
It has a very flat trajectory up to 100 yards before the bullet starts to fall, but as soon as you want to shoot at something sitting at 250 to 300 yards, a significant amount of hold is required.
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]
Anytime when you're shooting in between 50 and 200 yards, 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.
This zero is recommended for dedicated 200 yard
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". Even though new calibers hit the market to replace the 223, but the 223 is still very effective and economical choice for most people.
When you change the barrel length, barrel twist rate and the bullet weight, your zero will shift especially at longer distances. So let's talk about it!
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
In the case of the .223 Remington (M193), the bullet loses or gains about 25.7 ft/sec for each inch of barrel length, while 5.56×45 mm NATO (M855) loses or gains 30.3 ft/sec per inch of barrel length.
The barrel length matters for a specific cartridge's muzzle velocity. A longer barrel typically yields a greater muzzle velocity, while a short barrel yields a lower one.
The speed of the bullet matters for maintaining a flat trajectory and stability, which is why the new 224 Valkyrie can do so much more and you can learn more about it here.
As AR pistols are becoming more popular, people are buying them, so it's important to understand the zero for a 16" barrel will perform differently with shorter barrels.
The 10.3" barrel seems to be the shortest length before the 223 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.
Try Different Reticles
Have you ever felt confused when picking a red dot reticle size?
1 MOA or 2 MOA?
Some red dot sights on the market today offer 3.25 MOA, 5 MOA and even a 8 MOA dot.
If want to shop for a red dot sight, please check out the guide below:
A bigger dot helps the shooter to pick up the sight faster and it also gives the shooter the confidence that the bullet will land within that dot size coverage area.
- 1 MOA represents a 1" diameter target coverage at 100 yards, 3" diameter at 300 yards (Great for precision)
- 2 MOA - 2" diameter circular coverage at 100 yards, 6" diameter at 300 yards (Great for most shooting applications)
- 5 MOA - 5" diameter coverage at 100 yrds, 15" dot size at 300 yards (Great for up to 50 yards aim, but anything beyond the dot covers too much of a target and the shooter can't see)
Once you know the tighest shot group size at a known distance, you can pick the reticle size that covers the center mass, and anytime you place the dot on the target you know all your hits will be within the effective hit zone.
Also try a ballistic drop reticle that will give you some aiming reference, but they're not always calibrated for your rifle setup.
The 223 caliber is a 300 meter capable bullet, and all bullet exhibits the same characteristics in flight. It will react to wind, pressure and gravity.
- For home defense, a 7, 25, 50 and 100 yard zero works great.
- For minimum hold over between 0 - 300 yards, the 36 yard zero is the best
- For the tighest shot group with in 25 - 200 yards, the 50 yard zero is the best
Bottom line - Each zeroing distance has its own advantages and benefits, it's not a one zero fits all type of deal. So you have to pick what makes sense to you.