So you've made the jump into night vision, and you've got all your gear. NOD, mount, helmet, IR laser, and the rifle to put it on. And now you're wondering, how the f*ck do I zero a PEQ-15, or zero a DBAL, or whichever laser you happen to be running? Depending on your unit, you may not have a visible laser, or the visible laser may not be slaved to your infrared laser, so what's the deal?
There's a few different methods to zero an IR laser, and they all have their own pros and cons. In fact, there's actually two things we're talking about here. What TYPE of zero you want for your laser, and HOW to actually zero the laser for that method. For the purposes of this article, we're assuming you know how to zero a rifle as it is. If not, holy sh*t did you really jump in quick to night vision...
Also, we are assuming you will zero with your visible laser for any of these methods. If you don't have one, or if it isn't slaved, go ahead and jump down to the Gloom Group Zero section, because that's going to be the easiest method for you.
By far the most common way to zero your IR laser, it's called the "Parallel Zero" because your laser zero is going to be parallel to your optics zero, by an offset of the lasers distance to the bore.
- Fixed Offset: Your hold will always be the same distance away from your zero, and will never change. This is usually about 1.5" at a 45* angle upwards and to the right.
- Tried & True: This is the military method for zeroing a laser, and plenty of dudes have been put in the dirt with it. If someone who scored a 40 on the ASVAB can make this work, so can you.
- Fixed Offset: Yeah, it's a con too. Always have a consistent hold still means you always have a hold. It's an easy one to train for, but it can tougher to account for on small targets at distance (like a small fox)
- Difficult: It's not hard, but it is the most difficult of the bunch. If you don't have a slaved IR/Vis laser though, this one does get to be a pain in the d*ck.
How to Parallel Zero your Laser
Make your own zero target out of anything. You don't need to buy expensive zero targets from someone. Thank us later.
- Step One: Get a piece of paper, draw a 1" black circle on it. That's your impact zone.
- Step Two: Put the paper flat on the table, and stand your rifle up on it with the muzzle on the black dot. Turn on your slaved visible laser, and mark where the laser is on the paper.
- Step Three: Put the paper at the distance of your optics zero, whether that's 25, 36, or 50 yards. Hold your laser on the marked laser dot, and shoot. Adjust your laser's zero until your rounds are impacting the black circle when the laser dot is on the marker.
Shoutout to the ARFcom user in this thread on Zeroing IR Lasers for this amazing illustration on why converging zero sucks...
We'll be up front, this is our least favorite way to zero an infrared laser. While this is the easiest method, we feel it really only has a place on sub-guns, and those which will be used at very short range. A Converging Zero means that you are converging on your bullets impact at 25/36/50 yards (bullets are impacting exactly where your laser dot is).
- It's Easy: You just zero like you would any other optic. And you will have no hold at the distance you zeroed your laser at. This is also a little easier than parallel if you don't have a visible laser to help.
- Ridiculous Holds: Apart from the exact distance you zeroed at, you're going to have a hold at every other distance, and these get ridiculous fast. You zeroed at 36 yards, but now you're shooting at 100? Ok, now instead of a 1.5" constant hold up to the right, you have a 3" low left hold.
How to Zero your Laser with a Converging Zero
- Step One: Put a target at your desired zero distance
- Step Two: Adjust your lasers zero until the impacts are exactly where your laser dot is. Just like zeroing anything else. Simple.
The Gloom Group Zero
Our favorite zero. In fact, we don't understand why people run anything else really. It's worth noting, we are sure we didn't invent this, or that we are the only ones using it. But we don't see anyone else talking about it, so we're branding it. We figured this out the first day we had an infrared laser & night vision, and wanted to attend a night shoot that night. There was no way to zero before the event, so we converged our laser with our optic at infinity. That's the Gloom Group Zero.
- The Easiest: You can slap a laser on your rifle and be zeroed 30 seconds later. It can't get easier than that.
- No Ammo: You don't even have to waste ammo zeroing if your main optic is already zeroed.
- Holds: Your holds will always be essentially the same as your primary optic, getting closer and closer until infinity. After about 30 yards, the difference isn't discernible.
- No Vis Laser Needed: As long as you have a NV compatible optic, you can do this with the IR laser just as easily as you can with the visible laser.
- Close Range Holds: Up close (within 20 yards or so), you may have a "hold under" instead of a "hold over", depending on your optic height.
How to Zero your Laser with a Gloom Group Zero
- Step One: Point your rifle at something very far. We recommend about 250 yards. Turn on your visible laser (or just do this under night vision if you only have an IR laser to zero)
- Step Two: Turn your optic brightness down as low as you can while still visible, and adjust your laser until the dot is overlapping your red dot center dot. Now you're zeroed.
- Step Two (Alternative): Put your laser on full power and (under night vision), point it up into the sky. Adjust the laser until it seems to converge on your center dot at true infinity. We've found there is no noticeable difference between converging at infinity and converging at 250+ yards though.
The Best Way to Zero your IR Laser: Summary
Listen, if you can't shoot, it's not going to make a difference which zero you use. And a good shooter can make any of these work (although we still hate converging zero). But we're an advocate for the Gloom Group Zero, and it's what we use on all of our rifles. We've shown our zero method to new night vision shooters at many events, and it seems to be hands down the easiest and most practical zero for most shooters to use.
But listen, we don't care if you use our method or not. We aren't selling any special laser zeroing targets like other guys. The important thing is that no matter what zero you use, you've gotta train with it and practice shooting with a laser at night. And luckily, that's the fun part.
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