Is 36 Yard Zero The Best Combat Zero?

One of the most common questions shooters ask is: "At what distance to sight in AR15?" There are a lot of different information out there for various reasons, and one of them is the 36 yard zero.

So... Is the 36 yard zero the best combat zero for fighting rifles?

In this article, we are using the most common 55 grain 5.56mm ammo while using a standard 16" barrel for answer this question, and we will add more results to this article when using different bullet weights and barrel lengths.

You will learn what the reasons are to use a 36 yard zero, how it compares to other zeros, and how it can benefit you.

3 Reasons To Use A 36 Yard Zero

For all intent and purposes, the 36 yard zero is the optimal battlefield zero for high speed point and shoot accuracy, and expect all rounds to hit within a BC zone size target including targets sitting up to 350 yards without too much thinking. 

The top 3 reasons to use this zeroing distance are:

  • ~5" shot group for anything between 25 - 300 yard
  • Eliminate mental processing for holdover at unknown distances within 300 yards
  • Increased probable combat effective hit every time

It's the ultimate hybrid zero among 25, 50 and 100 yard zeros where the highest trajectory over the point of aim is about 4" high at ~150 yards, and just about 2" low at 300 yards when the bullet starts to drop.

Overall it keeps the shot group as tight as a 5" circle (size of a CD) for CQB & mid range distances.

Zero Comparison - 36 VS 25

36 yard zero vs 25 yard zero

The 25 yd zero is the most common go-to zero for most shooters, but as you can tell by comparing these two zeros, the 36 yd zero has a much tighter group for most engagement distances.

Meanwhile the 25 yd zero works well for 25, 300 and 400 yds, but it falls short for 150, 200, 250 and 450 yds where the shooter has to be cognizant of proper holdover compensation in order to get on target accurately.

Zero Comparison - 36 VS 50

36 yard zero vs 50 yard zero

The 50 yard zero actually gives the shooter a even tighter shot group between 25 and 250 yards, but it falls short when shooting past 300 yards where the bullet drops almost 5" down from the point of aim with a total shot group size around 9", and the holdover is required at that point.

Zero Comparison - 36 VS 100

36 yard zero vs 100 yard zero

The 100 yard zero gives the shooter a even tighter shot group than the 50 yard zero between 100 and 200 yards, but the bullet begins to drop significantly at 250 and 300 yards with a total 12" shot group.


Common FAQ

Who Can Benefit From 36 Yard Zero?

People who can benefit from a 36 yard zero are:

  • Military
  • Competition shooters
  • CQB Home defense
  • Great for multi purpose rifles

How Do You Zero For 36 Yard In A 25 Yard Indoor Range?

Most indoor ranges have only 25 yards, and if you don't have access to a 50 yard range to freely place targets at any distance you want, please download this calibrated 36 yard zero target for a 25 yard range. Just download it here and print it out.

Note: You MUST scale image to 100% for accurate results

How Does A 36 Yard Zero Perform For CQB Distances?

For any CQB distance targets within point-blank distance up to 25 yards, the 36-yard zero assuming normal optic height over bore setup (1.5"), the shooter has to aim high over the desired point of impact to get a well placed shot.

This is where the bottom hash mark of a 68 MOA ring reticle from the EOTECH or something equivalent from Holosun and Trijicon MRO helps a lot by providing a holdover aiming reference point for engagement distances up to 5 - 7 yards.

Which Reticles Aid With A 36 Yard Zero?

The standard 1 MOA and 2 MOA size reticles on most reflex red dot sights definitely work, which can cover up to 1 - 2" size circle at 100 yards. 3 - 6 MOA size reticles would work too, but they cover up too much of the target past 250 - 300 yards.

Any ACSS chevron tip reticle also works great with its fine aiming tip that doesn't cover up most of the target.

If you can't see the target past that point, please consider using a red dot magnifier, a 3X or a 4X magnifier from Vortex Optics works very well so be sure to check them out.

Can 36 Yard Zero Work With Christmas Tree Reticle?

The 36 yard zero is optimal for high speed point and shoot carbine applications, and it's useful for holographic and reflex optics.

Meanwhile, the Christmas Tree reticle like the Horus H59 or Tremor 3 are designed for extreme long range shooting with precision in mind.