By Chuck Nottingham
Zero is more than Beetle Baileys clueless buddy its moving hits to center target.
Parents remain our childrens closest and best teachers, even when not certified firearms instructors. But a few zero clues are good review. Nothing frustrates and disheartens youngsters more than misses not their fault.
After we help our young shooter make sure the guns safe and clean, its important to confirm sights are tight. Loose sights cause more than a few zeros to go awry. Correct screwdrivers or allen wrenches are as vital as ammo, targets and sandbags.
Dont forget eye and ear protection.
Parent/coaches need to be both proactive and reactive with guns. Remind kids before shooting and make tactful but firm on-the-spot corrections:
Always point the muzzle in a safe direction. Zero tolerance here!
Always keep fingers off the trigger until ready to shoot. Never let idle fingers wander inside trigger guards!
Always keep guns unloaded until ready to shoot. Insist shooters check every time before every movement!
Always be sure of our target and beyond. Exactly what are we shooting? Where will bullets go past our targets?
Coach your shooter into a comfortable position. Bench or prone shooting are best for rifle zero.
Prone is shooter-eze for on stomach and elbows. Rifle rests or sandbags help produce best zeros, but shouldnt replace good positions. Even with supports, make sure the shooters elbows are firmly planted on bench or ground to steady arms and hands.
Upsides of telescopic sights make targets seem bigger, and both target and cross-hairs at the same focal-plane make sighting easier.
Downsides: Optics need focused to the shooters eye, not the coachs. First-timers often need a little practice to see through the tube. Eye-relief the distance from soft eyebrow to hard, sharp metal tube is crucial. Especially with center-fire rifles, at least one inch eye-relief per caliber helps prevent half-moon gashes between the eyes.
Iron sights require extra coaching.
Always illustrate sight alignment for young shooters like how the front bead lines up in the rear notch below. All sights look different, and even crude drawings help visualize.
Next draw out sight picture the right relationship of rear sight, front sight, and target. Prompt focus on the front sight while holding all three images lined up.
Train shooters to suspend breathing 4-8 seconds while applying gentle rearward pressure with the pad of the trigger finger. Avoid gulping air needed to dive to the bottom of a pool. That makes pulses thump and rifles jump. Just delay normal breathing long enough to squeeze off a shot without disturbing sight picture.
Three to five careful shots from a rest should form a small group of holes the first step to zero.
Kids are disappointed if all shots are not dead-center, so be sure to keep pointing out tight groups come first. Then we move hits to the bulls eye.
Next time: Moving Sights to Zero. E-mail questions or comments are welcome at email@example.com.