36 Yard Zero – Which Distance Is Best?

Zeroing your weapon sights is a MUST. Without calibrating your optics, there is no way you will be able to shoot reliably on the range or in a combat situation. But which yardage should you zero from? In this post, we’ll make the case for a 36-yard zero and why you should consider it.

Is 36 Yard Zero The Best Distance For Assault Rifles?

In my experience, 36 yards is the sweet spot for zeroing assault rifles. At this distance, you can shoot accurately from a wide range of yardages without memorizing holdovers. The 36-yard zero is probably the best 5.56 battlefield zero that produces tight groupings from realistic yardages. So if you’re looking for the best all-around distance for your AR-15, zeroing from 36 yards is your best bet.

What Is The Purpose of Zeroing Your Rifle?

The purpose of zeroing your rifle sight or scope is to align the point of aim (POA) with the point of impact (POI). In other words, your bullet will strike the target where your scope is aiming. When you purchase a new rifle scope, the first step is always to zero your optic. Here is a list of some of the main benefits of zeroing your scope.

  • Accuracy
  • Consistency
  • Compensation for Bullet Drop
  • Sight Picture Alignment
  • Confidence and Familiarity

3 Benefits of A 36-Yard Zero

results of a a 36 yard zero

1) Accuracy From 0-300 Yards

The main benefit of a 36-yard zero is the accuracy it produces over a wide range of distances. From my experience, you can expect 5″-6″ max groupings on shots ranging from a point-blank distance up to 300 yards.

Being able to produce a smaller spread or grouping for up to 300 yards makes them very reliable for home defense or combat situations.

2) No Holdovers From 50-300 Yards

There is less thinking involved with a 36-yard zero. This is due to the fact that there is no need to calculate hold overs. In the heat of the moment, there isn’t exactly the time to whip out the ballistic calculator. The last thing you want is to waste time thinking about your bullet drop when the pressure is on.


Another way to say this is that there is less D.O.P.E. This refers to the gathering of information to adjust for a shot.

3) Produces repeatable combat-effective hit

A 36-yard zero provides the shooter with a repeatable point of aim that produces consistent hits on target. In other words, if you can hit a target at 36 yards, you can hit it at almost any range.

Realistically, most combat situations take place inside 300 yards. This makes zeroing from 36 yards optimal for real-life situations.

Dot Size For 36 Yard Zero

Some shooters swear by small dots, while others prefer larger ones. Most people end up going with 3 MOA or 6 MOA red dots.

Ultimately, it depends on personal preference. I even use this distance when I’m focusing on how to sight a scope without shooting a shot. Some shooters find that small dots are easier to align with the target, while others find that larger dots are more visible in low-light conditions. If you shoot from longer ranges, go with a smaller dot size.

If you are trying to learn how to sight in a red dot on a pistol, you’ll likely want to pick a distance closer to 10 yards!

Downside of 36 Yard Zero

There are many different yard lines that you can zero your rifle from. 36-yard zero is NOT the best option for every situation. In fact, there are some basic downsides to picking this zeroing range.

  • Limited Range Size – Many shooters don’t have access to a 36-yard range. Lots of shooting ranges are built for 25 yards.
  • Not The Best For Close Range – Many people won’t encounter situations where they need pinpoint accuracy from 300-350 yards.

What is the Maximum Point Blank Range Method?

The Maximum Point Blank Range Method is the distance a bullet can travel without rising or falling at a predetermined height. In order to find the MPBR, you first need to consider a few factors.

calculating the max point blank range method

  • Bullets ballistic coefficient
  • Target distance
  • Bullet speed
  • Bullets shape

This equation will give you the distance at which your bullet will neither rise above or fall below when looking through open sights.

25 Yard Zero (36 VS 25)

A 25-yard zero is the most common for new shooters because it is the easiest to achieve. Most shooting ranges can easily accommodate a 25-yard setup.

This yardage ensures that the shooter is accurate for close-range shots, which are most common in self-defense situations. However, it is not as precise for 150, 200, and 250-yard shots. If you are a shotgun owner, you could even consider going closer. Learn how to aim shotgun & get it calibrated from the proper distance.

50 Yard Zero (36 VS 50)

The 50-yard zero feels very similar to a 36-yard zero. But more importantly, it results in tighter groupings between 25 and 250 yards. For an AR 15 50 yd zero is absolutely perfect!

However, you can encounter significant bullet drop with shots 300 yards or longer.

100 Yard Zero (36 VS 100)

The 100-yard zero is another great option as it is more precise than 36-yard zero up until about 300 yards. But for the longer shots of 250-300 yards, you can experience significant bullet drop. This makes it less reliable for long-range combat or shooting situations.

Different Scope Options

When it comes to picking the best scope for your tactical needs, there are several sighting system options. The best optic for you depends on your specific needs and use cases.

  1. Iron Sights – Type of weapon sight that uses a front and rear sight to line up with the target. The front sight is typically a post or bead, while the rear sight is either an open notch or aperture. Iron sights are often used on pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Today, iron sights are considered outdated compared to modern red dot optics.
  2. Red Dot SightRed dot sights are a type of sighting device that allows the user to see a red dot on the target. They are quick, easy to use, and they provide an immediate point of reference for the shooter.
  3. Reflex Sight – A type of optical sight that mounts on top of a firearm and uses a set of mirrors to bounce the image of the target back to your eye. The Best Reflex Sights allow you to keep both eyes open while shooting, which gives you better situational awareness and can help you line up your shots more accurately.
  4. Holographic Sight – Optic that offers a much wider field of view. With holographic sights, the image of the target is projected onto a glass window in the sight, as opposed to being projected onto a reflective metal surface as with traditional red dot sights. This also eliminates problems with “parallax”, which can occur when the shooter’s head moves off-axis from the sight’s optical axis.
  5. Prism Sight – A prism sight is a type of optical sight that uses a prism to expand the field of view. They provide a wider field of view, greater clarity and detail in the expanded area of view, and enhanced situational awareness.

Types of Scopes

FAQs – Zeroing Your Weapon

What does DOPE mean in shooting?

D.O.P.E is a term made popular by military snipers that stands for - Data on previous engagements. Essentially, it means taking information from previous, shots, range sessions, or engagements into account for a future shot.

What is a holdover shooting?

A holdover shooting is when you aim over your target in order to hit it. For example, if you're shooting at a target that's 100 yards away, and the holdover for that distance is 2 inches, then you would aim 102 inches above the center of the target in order to hit it. This is because bullet drop increases as distance increases. Barrel length and optic height are also factors in hitting center mass at longer ranges.

At what distance should I zero my AR?

Most shooters today choose to zero their AR from 100-200 yards. However, zeroing from this distance is only appropriate for people with longer ranges. If you only plan to shoot from short range or medium range, then I suggest zeroing your AR from 20-50 yards. I personally prefer using a 36-yard zero for my assault rifles.

What is the range of 0 556?

The 5.56 is a popular cartridge for both military and civilian use. Its popularity is due in part to its relatively light recoil, which makes it easier to control for most shooters. The 5.56 also has a fairly good range for a rifle cartridge, with a maximum effective range of around 547 yards.

What range does the military sight in rifles?

It depends on the weapon. For example, the M1 rifle has a 200-yard zero. Other weapons might have different ranges at which they are sighted in. It's important to remember that what matters is not the actual distance at which your rifle is sighted in, but rather the distance at which you are most likely to engage your target.

Do you need to sight in pistols?

You should absolutely zero your pistol with the sights. This will help ensure that you are as accurate as possible when shooting. There are a few different ways that you can sight in your pistol, and if you want to learn more check out our article on how to sight in a pistol.

How accurate is bore sighting a red dot?

Bore sighting a red dot is extremely precise. It is considerably more accurate than sighting with your eye alone. Lasers bore sighters are even more accurate because they emit a precisely directed laser beam that can help you align the sight with great accuracy.

Should you co-witness a red dot pistol?

If you want to improve the accuracy of your red dot pistol, you should co-witness it. For your handgun, I would recommend using a 1/3 co-witness with 2 MOA or less. This will help you line up the sights faster and more accurately. It's a good idea to do this if you're serious about competitive shooting or self-defense.

The Bottom Line

Now you know everything there is to know about sighting your handgun or rifle in at a 36-yard zero. The 36-yard zero is a great choice as it provides a tight bullet grouping from a large range of distances. However, there is no perfect zero distance for everyone. I recommend that you experiment for yourself and see what works best for your needs!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

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