April 9, 2012 | Author Brian Samson
Deciding on a zero range for your crosshairs seems to be a question that comes up quite often from newcomers to HFT. Firstly I don’t believe that it matters all that much, after all the crosshairs of your scope are just one aim point, once you’ve zeroed your scope for all the distances you’re going to be shooting at you’ll have aim points for every distance. Choosing a zero range for your crosshairs is going to be a personal choice, based on personal preferences and experience, the specifics of your scope and the height it’s mounted above your barrel, choice of pellet and any number of other factors will influence the decision.
Having said that, there are 3 ranges that most people choose for one reason or another : – 35 yards, 30 yards, or 25 yards.
If you don’t already have a strong preference for one distance then I’d recommend going with a 25 yard zero to start with because it gives you less to think about on the small killzone targets and it also means that since your pellet will never strike higher than your cross hairs, you’ll never need to aim low (known as hold-under). That isn’t a huge factor, again it just gives you less to think about when you’re shooting a competition and that normally pays dividends especially when you first start out.
When using the ranged mildot targets to plot and record your holdovers, it’s only a 30 minute job to change to a different crosshair zero and record the holdovers for all the other ranges so it’s easy enough to change at a later date if you’re not happy with your initial choice.
What are these ranged mildot targets?
I have produced a set of accurately calibrated zeroing targets. The calibration is only accurate when the targets are set out at the exact range marked on the target. It might sound like a lot of hassle to pick the correct target for the correct range and indeed it’s by no means the only way to record your hold-overs/hold-unders but as with all things in this guide, they’ve been carefully produced to help you to eliminate mistakes and reduce the chance of inaccuracies creeping in, so it will save lots of time and frustration in the future.
Each target has an accurately sized representation of a mildot reticle with ½ mildot markers between each dot and a 9mm bullseye in the centre. In addition, each target also has a number of killzone circles of a diameter commonly found on HFT courses at the marked distances. The line of killzones at the top of each target are the smallest legal killzone size for that distance.
How do I print them out?
First things first then, you’ll need to print the targets out and make sure that they’re printed to the correct size.
Click HERE to download the targets. In the print options, make sure that you set the pages to print at full actual size (100%) and not ‘Print to fit’ on A4 paper, the targets are designed in colour, but they print just as well in black and white.
Start by printing just one page and carefully measure the 150mm line at the bottom of the target. If it doesn’t measure 150mm +/- a couple of mm then play around with the print settings until you find some settings that will print them out at the correct size.
Setting the targets out
The targets are marked for the following distances in yards : 8, 10, 13, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 42, 45 and they need to be set out at the exact distance, if you have a long tape measure that will help, if you don’t you could buy a cheap 5m tape measure and mark out 5 yard intervals up to 45 yards. I’ve found a couple of cheap 50m measuring tapes on Amazon for around £8 including delivery which is about as cheap as I’ve seen them anywhere.
Next you’ll need something to pin the targets to, making sure you have a safe backstop behind. I designed and had a special target holder made for the job. You’ll also need a spirit level or plumb line to ensure that the targets are set up on the level. This might seem excessive, but success in HFT is largely down to setting your rifle up correctly in the first place.
Start by setting the ranged target out at your crosshair zero distance and checking that your rifle is zeroed. If you make sure the target is level (either with a plumb line or spirit level) then this will help to eliminate errors due to rifle ‘cant’.
You should also make sure that your rifle is filled with air and in the sweet spot of it’s fill pressure range if you have a non-regulated rifle. Keep a check on the number of shots taken and re-fill your rifle when your shot count takes you outside of the sweet spot fill pressure for your gun.
Some of the targets may be very blurred in your scope, especially the 8 yard target. Don’t be tempted to adjust your parallax or magnification so you can see it better as this may cause inaccuracies.
Take around 5 good shots at each target
The procedure for each distance will be the same –
Set the target out at the exact distance marked on the target.
Ensure that the target is level.
Ensure that your mildots line up perfectly with the mildot reticle printout on the target.
Take around 5 good shots, with your crosshairs lined up with the crosshairs on the target.
If you have enough spare air in your tank, you could also take a few practice shots at the printed killzones on each target for a bit of fun.
Once you’ve shot at all of the targets, you’ll have a complete log of all the holdover’s you’ll need for HFT.
Get to know your mildot reticle
Once you have your holdovers, you need to decide how you’re going to record them so you can refer to them when you’re shooting in a competition.
If you think of a mildot reticle as a sort of ruler without numbers you should be able to log your holdovers as decimals of a mildot without too much trouble. Mildot reticles aren’t completely without reference points. The first thing you should know is that the distance between the centre of one mildot to the centre of the next dot is exactly 1 mil, likewise the distance between the top of a dot and the top of the next dot above it is also 1 mil. Each dot is 0.2 mils high and wide and the gap between two dots is 0.8 mil. If you have a ½ mildot reticle similar to the reticle printed on the targets, then you also know your ½ mildot point, but if you don’t it’s not too difficult to judge the centre point between two dots to give you a ½ mil reference point.
Record your aim points
Armed with that knowledge you should be able to look at each target and come up with a holdover value expressed in decimal points of a mildot. As an example your holdover chart for a typical .177 rifle zeroed at 25 yards might be :
Your holdovers are likely to be slightly different in places, but probably not by much.
If you decided to make your crosshair zero 30 yards or 35 yards, then you’ll find that at the 20 and 25 yard distances the pellet will strike above your crosshairs in which case you’ll need to aim low for those distances. This is known as hold-under and you’ll need to come up with some notation that reminds you that you’ll need to aim low for those distances. I normally prefix holdunders with a minus sign ‘-‘ and holdovers with a plus sign ‘+’ but this can become confusing, and I’d by lying if I said I’ve never given holdover instead of holdunder at a competition. (You’ll be surprised at your capacity for making really stupid mistakes in the heat of a competition)
There are other methods of recording your aim points, you could for example draw a mildot reticle on a piece of paper and mark lines against the reticle with zero distances written by the side. Personally, I find that can become a bit crowded but it works for some shooters, so it’s best to experiment and see what happens.
In practice you may not need to refer to your aim point chart when you’re shooting in a competition, but it’s a handy thing to have in your pocket or laminated and hung round your neck should you need to double check in a competition.
Putting it into practice
Once you have your holdovers, It’s time to practice using them. Start by using another set of the zeroing targets and practice shooting at the yellow killzones instead of the centre of the target. If you’ve got your holdovers correct you should be able to put a pellet into the centre of each killzone.
Once you’re happy with your holdovers, it’s time to start practicing on some real knockdown targets.
You may be able to borrow some targets from your club (if you’re a member of a club) or you can pick them up fairly cheaply online. Amazon sell a cheap knockover target with interchangeable killzone sizes for less than £16 including free delivery at the moment which is excellent value for money and well worth the expense in my opinion. You can pick up a cheap scrap car drum brake from a breakers yard for less than a couple of quid, and these make an excellent base to bolt your practice knockover target to.