1. Not zeroing it like you shoot
This is a popular notion that a ransom rest or some other highly restrictive and heavy rest is the way to zero your rifle. Which is valid, if you intend to carry all that equipment with you in the bush.
When you shoot your rifle differently, unsurprisingly, it shoots differently.
Bipod on/off, using bags, standing, sitting, prone – we should understand that both how we shoot the firearm, and what is attached to it is going to affect the harmonics of the barrel and in turn, where the bullet lands.
People justify using heavy bags to zero a rifle saying that they want to remove the ‘shooter’ from the rifle zero. The problem with this is, the shooter is present when you actually want to shoot the rifle during hunting. Often, this is also because people might consider themselves a good enough shot to zero the rifle – but – sorry guys – but how well you shoot (or don’t) needs to be factored into the rifle zero.
If you don’t shoot well enough to zero a rifle, then maybe you need a reality check about how ethical you shooting at an animal is as well.
Maybe it’s simply a case of more practice, or maybe you might consider some actual training – to ensure you are getting the most out of your firearm and doing all you can to ensure you are an ethical, responsible hunter shooting at live animals.
Regardless, it’s always best practice to zero your hunting rifle in the most stable position you are likely to actually use while hunting. For most this will be over a backpack or bipod prone. Certainly, I am not suggesting you zero a rifle off-hand standing.
2. Adjusting the scope after each shot
I have watch a lot of guys go through a pack of ammo at the range chasing the last round they shot. Shoot one, adjust the scope, shoot again, adjust the scope – no matter what they do, they never seem to be able to get that shot to land in the middle of the bull.
We need to understand, that very few of us (or our rifles) shoot one ragged hole at 100. As a result, we may have a 1 moa (or more) group size. Each shot has the potential to land anywhere within that group – and if we are using just a sample size of one (that is, one shot) – then we are simply chasing that inherent group spread.
You should be shooting a minimum of three round groups, averaging the centre, and using that for any adjustments. Center off the group, not simply the last round shot.
3. Not using your hunting ammunition
‘Oh, I am just using my plinking ammo’.
Each combination of hunting rifle, ammo and shooter will result in a different result. Therefore, it makes little sense to zero with one ammo type (the cheap stuff) then hunt with the premium ammo.
You are better (if you need to) – to get on paper with the cheap stuff (though maybe just come out with us and we can show you how to easily zero your rifle) then confirm your final zero with your hunting ammo.
Sure, use cheaper ammo for a fun day at the range, but don’t adjust your scope to suit it – zero your hunting rifle for the ammo that you will be using when it counts!
Bonus – software that makes it easy!
Ballistic-X is a great app that makes the zeroing process easy.
Once you are close to a known point, simply shoot a group of three or more, snap a photo, enter in the details and click on the point of aim and shots and it gives you the correction. Meters or Yards, MOA or MIL – it’s actually a really simple process and one I use for most my setups these days. It’s also a great way to record the zero for clients.