You’ve come here to learn how to zero your new night vision scope, or maybe you are just curious and want to see exactly how hard they are to use. Well, the first step after any night vision scope purchase is going to be sighting it in.
This is the process of mounting the optic to your gun and then making sure what you aim at is where the bullet will strike. Different types of rifles have different firing patterns, and a gun has to be zeroed to any optic or sighting system.
A precisely zeroed optic is a happy optic, and one that will strike where you want it to, when you want it to. So let’s dive into zeroing a night vision optic.
Night Vision vs. Standard Day Scopes
If you’ve zeroed a standard daytime scope, you are likely familiar with using turrets and rotations to make adjustments and zero the gun. These turrets are not the industry standard when it comes to night vision, however.
More than likely you will have a number of buttons to press to make adjustments to the reticle. The reticle will probably still adjust in an MOA or MIL variation, but turning turrets is uncommon.
While the industry standard is often sighting optics in through buttons, this is not always the case. Many optics utilize turrets, like the Night Owl Nightshot, which makes the transition easier for new night vision users. However, this is uncommon.
Zeroing During the Day
A general rule of thumb is never turn on your night vision unit during the day. For some units (most, actually) you’ll cause severe damage to your night vision scope. In some conditions, night vision can be zeroed during the day. But digital night vision scopes can be safely used during the daylight, so they are easier to zero.
Some night vision scopes come with a lens cover that features a pinhole. This cover is designed to allow you to use the scope during the day for things like zeroing. That tiny pinhole will admit just a hair of light and makes it possible to use the optic safely.
In these cases, you can zero during the day. When in doubt, don’t risk it and just zero at night.
Good Targets Help
If you are stuck sighting in at night, your life will be a lot easier by modifying a few targets. Most targets aren’t going to show up well under NV devices, so you need to make a quick modification.
If possible, find targets with square-shaped markers differentiating the degrees of the target. Then apply reflective tape to the target and follow along with the squares.
If you can’t do that, a nice reflective tape bull’s eye is all you need. Reflective tape is cheap, easy to find, and can be purchased on Amazon for next to nothing. It makes shooting at night easier.
What Range to Zero?
With night vision devices I like a nice 100 yard zero. At 100 yards most rounds don’t experience very much bullet drop, if any. Some shooters might even experience a slight rise at this range. It can be tough to zero a night vision scope at 100 yards right away.
It’s much better to do an initial zero at 25 yards and then move back to 100 yards. This will make things quicker, believe it or not, and save you some ammo and frustration. If you do a 25-yard zero and still have trouble at 100 yards, move to 50 yards and then go to 100.
If you desire an even greater zero, help yourself—just set common sense milestones to get to that range, i.e., a 25-yard zero, a 100-yard zero, and then a 200-yard zero.
Choosing the Right Night
Selecting the right night is something that will make zeroing a night vision scope so much simpler. The right night will be bright with plenty of moon and starlight. This will make things not only easier, but safer.
You are zeroing a scope that could potentially be off target, and you want to be keenly aware of the world around you.
A bright night will make the target easier to see and will make it easier to find and measure your holes for proper zeroing. Plus, it’ll mean less stumbling around in the dark just to set up and get ready.
You as the shooter want to achieve the most stable position possible. This will mean either a prone position or a position with a bench or table that you can rest your gun on.
Having a bipod or serious of sandbags will also make life a bit easier when it comes to setting up and getting into a good firing position. These items will stabilize your gun and help remove the human error factor.
The more stable your platform, the better zero you will achieve. Keep this in mind. You also want to zero with the ammo you will be most commonly using. So if you are hunting, use the exact same load you’d use to hunt with. This will create the most perfect zero you can have when it comes time to perform.
Down and Dirty with Zeroing
At this point, zeroing is pretty easy. It’s the same process during the day or night, and you just may need a flashlight at night. Once you’ve achieved a reliable and stable position, take your time with each and every shot.
When you zero, fire in three round increments. When firing these three rounds, it’s critical that you do not move the gun. Just shoot the three rounds and exercise the fundamentals as much as possible
After you achieve a solid and stable position, fire your first three rounds. Now unload, show clear, and get ready to head downrange once it’s safe.
Once you are down range, you need to observe your target and, if possible, measure the distance from your three-round group to the bull’s eye. Measure on straight vertical and horizontal lines.
I typically measure vertically first, and then horizontally to the bull’s eye. I measure in inches and then, using the knowledge I have about my particular scope’s adjustments, I adjust the reticle appropriately.
I then fire three more shots and repeat the process until the scope is reliably zeroed to the bull’s eye.
Finally, after I have a solid zero, I fire a final three rounds to confirm my zero. If I’m satisfied, I can unload, show clear, and call it a wrap.
Night vision scopes are technologically complicated devices, but they aren’t hard to use or to zero. A properly zeroed optic takes a little patience, but the payoff is significant. Without an adequately zeroed scope, you are just pissing in the wind.