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At what distance should I zero a .223 bullet, 69gr Sierra?

1331 Views 15 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Wood
I bought a new Tikka T3X Super Varmint .223 with 1:8 twist barrel. Am in the process of building loads for it. I'm still experimenting with bullets and powders. A new acquaintance of mine, very knowledgeable about long distance shooting, suggested the Sierra 69gr. Only one I could find was the Sierra 69gr HPBT. This new acquaintance also recommended zeroing the rifle at 300 yds for that bullet. My purpose in buying this gun is to make it my long distance prairie dog and coyote rifle for distances out to 500yds. I would like some opinions from you guys who may have much more experience in this type of shooting. I'm no stranger to shooting lots of prairie dogs with my Rem 700 VSF .223 with 1:12 twist, shooting Sierra 50gr BKs out to 300 yds. , but have always zeroed at 100 and practice at 200-300 yds But, this is the first time it has been suggested that I zero the rifle at 300 yds. What are your thoughts, taking into account the heavier bullet and longer distances? I'll appreciate your help
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For a place to start with your new rifle, zero near 200 yards. Then, do a search and study some about "maximum point blank range". You'll figger out what you want to do with it over time.
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What is the average distance you expect to shoot? That's where to zero and learn hold-over, as you do now, for closer and further. Just my opinion and personal preference. I have two coyote rifles next to the door. One zeroed at 225 and one at 400. Both have killed coyotes on both sides of their zeros.
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69gr. matchking is a target bullet, not designed as a varmint bullet, there isn't a 69gr varmint bullet. Normally I would recommend using Strelok pro ballistic app but it's been banned by the administration in DC. If you tell me the details of your load/gun I'll put it in Strelok on my phone and tell you where to zero.
A 60gr Hornady V-max would be a better choice, with the small capacity of the 223 your limited to shooting range without either using a graduated reticle or dialing.
Target shooters use the 69gr MK because of the high bc/better performance in the wind, they always make adjustments to the scope/sights or use a Christmas tree reticle.
Typical zero for almost any 223 is 270yds with a 335yd maximumum point blank range, that's with a + or - 2.5" parameter. You could make that bigger but you have to account for field position sighting errors.
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The SMK numbers are extremely explosive above a certain velocity, there is a reason snipers use them aside from accuracy....
That bullet won't be fast enough for very long, to be explosive. So, are you wanting to watch your targets wallow and die sometime, or quickly dispatch them?

You should zero it, wherever you want to. Pay for Hornady's 4DOF ballistic calc, or Shooter by Sean Kennedy, and play around with things.

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There are a lot of factors involved in selecting a zero distance.

- If you will be using a scope where you will be adjusting the elevation on the turret, then a 100 yard zero is fairly standard.

- If you are using a scope with non finger adjustable turrets and will be using a fixed zero, it really depends on the use and or the target. If so you want to get familiar with the concept of “maximum point blank range“. For small critters it’s common to use a 3” point blank range height. That then man’s a zero distance where the maximum distance of the bullet trajectory above and below the line of sight is no higher than +3” and no lower than -3”.

Let’s say you have a muzzle velocity of 2,850 fps with a 69 gr SMK and a 2” sight height (height of the center of the scope above the center of the bore). A 235 yard zero would give you a maximum mid range trajectory of +3” at 140 yards, and would leave the bullet 3” low at 275 yards. That gives you a “point blank range” of 275 yards, meaning you can hold on the center of the target and not have he point of impact be more than 3” from the point of aim.

For larger game a 5” distance is used for the point blank range. In that case the zero for the same load would increase to 285 yards. It would provide a maximum mid range trajectory 5” high at 160 yards and be 5” low at a maximum point blank range of 330 yards.

- If your average shots will be taken a ranges beyond the point blank range, then you select an appropriate zero range and then develop hold overs and hold unders for the ranges you intend to shoot at. For example, if you were hunting antelope out on the plains where a 400 yard shot would be the norm, you’d zero at 400 yards, and have a “point blank zone” where you’d be within 5” of point of aim from 365 to 425 yards, which would also account somewhat for range estimation errors.

- The reticle you have can also come into play. For example, way back in the day before scopes were used where the elevation for a specific range was dialed into the scope, but a mil dot reticle was used, USMC snipers normally used a 500 yard basic zero with the M40 and the M118 round. They did that as taking shots at under 500 yards increased the potential for detection which was not conducive to long life. Since the effective range was about 900-1000 yards, they’d zero for 500 yards as they rarely shot under that (and could hold under if they did) and memorize the hold overs for ranges over that. For example you’d hold over 3 mils at 725 yards and you’d then use the reticle to establish the proper hold over on the target.

- If you are using iron sighs on a lower velocity rifle with a punkin shooter trajectory and don’t want the target to disappear behind the front blade, you’d zero for your maximum intended range and ”hold under” at shorter ranges. For example with a ,38-55 and a 255 gr bullet at 1500 fps and a BC in the .290 ballpark I’ll zero at 175 yards as that’s about the max range I’d use the rifle at. The mid range is pretty high at about +5“ at 50 yards and +7” at 100 yards but I can easily hold under, and I’m within +/-5” from 140-200 yards, so I can be off a bit on the range estimate out around 150 -200 yards and still aim dead center and hit a 10” target.
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First, trying to whack a prairie dog with a .223 past 300-350 yards is a worthy endeavor with the appropriate bullet(s). As stated earlier by @Kevinbear the 69 grain Sierra is a target bullet and may work well out to say 300 (maybe) it's not going to have the "speed" much past that to do much more than make a hole. I'm not saying prairie dogs are as tough as all that, but we still need to make sure we give them a quick death. Flying parts assures us of that.

I looked on Hornady's website and their 60 grain is the heaviest Vmax. Sierra has a 63 grain Varminter and Nosler has a 62 grain Varmagedon.

Ok, picking a zero has been pretty well covered so I'll leave that alone

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Sierra has a 63 grain Varminter
A very good bullet in the .223. It was developed many years back for 1:14 barrels, and it was/is a very effective fox bullet. I still have about 3 boxes of them left, (not for sale).

When the 1:9's became available, Sierra came out with a more efficient 65gr BTSP, a game bullet the Sierra tech guys assured me, that was rugged enough to hold up on deer size game. It's also a low damage fox/coyote bullet. My Ruger Predator and Mossberg MVP both love the 65gr bullet, and will turn in sub MOA groups with the powders I've tried.

Finding either option, unobtanium :(
The 69 grain Sierra MK is a great all-around bullet... Have been using it with 26 grains of W-748 for decades. Runs well under .5 MOA. It isn't the most explosive bullet going but kills PDogs to 500 yards.

You didn't say what scope you are going to be using. These days if you have a dedicated long range rifle there is little reason to not have either a Ballistic Drop Reticle or target knobs for much more precise aiming...
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I've never been into the long range hunting for big game but have shot at lots of ground squirrels at beyond 300 yds, shoot even hit a few. On zeroing a rifle and then making a drop chart I used my 6.5x06 firing 140gr bullet's and zeroed it to MPBR at a 6" target. Then ran what I had through my chronograph and came up with a drop chart to 1000yds telling my how to adjust the scope. Went out and tried it and it was unbelieveable how close it was in actual firing. If I were to get into the long range stuff seriously after that, I would zero MPBR and from that work up the drop chart.
Welcome aboard tbates. One of my .223 rifles has a 1:8 rot and I've been using Hornady 75gr. BT, with very good results.
100 yds. are my normal distance for sighting. Once zeroed in you can shoot at further distances, keeping track of how much MOA you add at each
The 69 grain Sierra MK is a great aa-around bullet... Have been using it with 26 grains of W-748 for decades. Runs well under .5 MOA. It isn't the most explosive bullet going but kills PDogs to 500 yards.
Same load I use in my 223, which is a standard weight bolt gun set up similarly to my larger hunting rifles. A 1:9 barrel stabilizes this bullet fine. The trajectory of the 69 Sierra is close enough to my larger rifles that I :can practice up to 500 yards without the recoil and expense. My 22-250 is set up for varminting with a more suitable bullet.
I'm no stranger to shooting lots of prairie dogs with my Rem 700 VSF .223 with 1:12 twist, shooting Sierra 50gr BKs out to 300 yds. , but have always zeroed at 100 and practice at 200-300 yds.
Man, you guys are a way better shot than I ever even thought about being. I'm a fair shot at ~100 yds.; not driving tacks by any means but varmint size groups consistently. I don't think I could hit a building at 300 yds. let alone a varmint size target. In my area, we have a lot of woods/brush/small fields so the distances are not usually that far out for say coyotes. They usually stay along the edge of the fields for quick retreat into the woods. Very rarely do you catch one out in the middle of a field around here for a clear, wide-open shot at distances >200-300 yds. IMHO, all of the above is great advice. I also agree with @JBelk about zeroing at the average distance you plan to shoot and adjust from there. I do that very thing albeit at significantly shorter distances than what I have read here.
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You know, about 11pm those coyotes start waltzing around those fields like they own them, just say'in
LOL! They might. At that hour, I'm so far asleep that unless they were to yip outside of my window, I wouldn't hear them. :LOL:
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