Written by Sierra Bullets Ballistic Technician Rich Machholz
It’s fall and time to get ready for opening day, the first shot or the overall experience.
Several years ago I was preparing for my first out of state hunting trip with my friend Lloyd in Montana and I asked him what kind of shots I might have. We came to the conclusion that they would be pretty long, maybe in excess of 300 yards. So I zeroed my 7×57 Ruger M77 for 300 yards here at home, did some practicing and ultimately arrived in Montana ready willing and able for that big Mulie. It didn’t take long for my opportunity to come. Late the first morning a nice 5×5 came strolling out of the cedars and I promptly shot over him at about 150 yards. It should have been an easy shot but my zero was way too long with entirely too much mid-range rise. We came back to town for lunch and promptly went to the local range where I changed my zero to 2 inches high at a hundred which put me pretty much dead on at 200.
By mid-morning the next day my first ever Mule Deer was on the ground. We had sneaked into a small basin and spooked a nice buck with three does that were bedded in the thick cedars. As they made their way around the rim of the basin I had the angle on them so I hurried across the bottom of the basin and cut them off on the other side. As they came by above me they crossed an opening and stopped. That’s all I needed, one shot and done. So how far was the shot after all that you ask, about 80 yards on a steep uphill angle. The 7mm 140 grain SBT GameKing (#1912) entered low in the brisket and we found it in the offside shoulder. He never took a step.
Over the years I have found that a solid 200 yard zero is more than adequate for 90 percent of all my needs and the majority of the cartridges I shoot. But I have to admit that there are times when a 264 Win Mag, STW, one of the big 300s or other flatter trajectory cartridges can use a more generous zero if you will be hunting out in flat country or other terrain requiring very long shots. My little 7×57 and its modest velocities was way too high at mid-range with a 300 yard zero. As a result I missed. Plus, I have decided it is much easier to hold over for a leisurely longer shot than it is to hold under on a rushed close shot.