Missing and Zeroing
Let’s be honest - we all miss (even if we take great care not to). I remember telling that most experienced of hunters, Paul Roberts, about someone - a well known figure in the shooting world - who claimed never to have missed a wild boar, Paul’s pithy answers was: “well, he’s not shot many then.” Amen to that. Now, let me own up, I missed a roe doe the other day. It does not happen to me often - I try to take care - but, if you shoot a lot it will happen on occasion. Happily, I did not wound the beast in question, and connected with the next shot (from a lever action Sako), and took another with the third (all courtesy of my pal Fred Ward of the excellent Sika Deer Unit in Dorset).
The first miss set my mind racing, though. What on went wrong? The shot was perfectly in line with the shoulder but high. The range was no more than 130 yards. The beast, however, was on low ground, and I was aiming down. This has some very slight ballistic effect - when you shoot down (or up) hill bullets tend to shoot a fraction high because they are not fighting gravity to quite the same extent (effects become more significant at long range with slow, heavy, bullets and very steep angles).
There is also a psychological effect that comes into play when you aim below the horizontal. There is natural reluctance to go down far enough in my experience. It’s as if there is an invisible hand pushing your barrel up. Then we come to the really important question of zero. I had my rifle zeroed a little high at 50 yards - printing about 1” high. This was a bit too high, but, critically, it was in my head - the psychological factor again.
One must have absolute confidence in one’s zero (and the accuracy potential of one’s rifle). I will come back to zeroing, but I will also note a comment of our editor - and a rather wise one: “you know, If I ever miss, it is usually because I was not sufficiently focussed on the beast, perhaps because something or someone has distracted me. If you are not hard focussed on the point you want the bullet to strike [and we are assuming the use of optical sights] if the beast is a brown blob, rather than well defined, you are inviting failure.”
My roe was not the focus of sufficient attention and the reason was that my mind had wandered back to the gun because I was worried about the gun. O.K. let’s return to that subject of zero. The first thing to say is become aware and understand exactly what your bullet does at different ranges. It is not just about calibre, but about BE (Ballistic Coefficient) and bullet weight as well (and charge of course). Keeping it simple, though, check your zero regularly. Guns get knocked, screws come lose and guns that were spot wander off the mark.
If you zero a .308 firing a 155 grain bullet at 2,700 fps at 100 yards (the ideal) to shoot 1“ high, it will be 2” low at 200 yards. This means that you will not need to aim off at all practically speaking. If you cannot find a 100 yard zero range, you may zero at 25 or 50 yards. In those cases, you will need to be .4” low at 25 and .4” high at 50. This will still give you your 1” high zero at 100 as well. The bullet crosses your sight line precisely a 36 and 165 yards. The 1” zero at 100, means, practically speaking you can forget about point of impact inside 200 yards (the sensible limit for prudent lowland stalkers). That’s the theory.