I recently joined the Red Dot Yacht club (yes, that one is green) and am now tasked with delving into the world of dot optics on sidearms. Task one will be zeroing the optic properly to the pistol. Zeroing a dot to a pistol can be done the easy way ala shortcut, or it can be taken and done properly.
What is this… easy way?
‘Slaving’ is the easy way. It’s also called lollipopping and incorrectly called co-witness zeroing, or some variation on that. The iron sights on the pistol are shooting the correct point of aim/point of impact (POA/POI). After you mount the optic of choice, with the sights that can co-witness through the optic, you just adjust the dot onto the front sight while looking through a proper sight picture.
This works… to a degree.
Just as with rifle optics, a XX meter or XX yard zero is done at that XX distance. It is done so independently of other optical systems. Does this take longer? Yes. Does it assure a proper zero? Yes.
You use your eyes differently and you aim differently when using irons vs. using an optic. Linking the two methods might be a “close enough” solution for certain situations but it is a half measure, you need to do more.
Properly Zeroing the Optic
Zero the pistol optic at the proper distance, just like a rifle optic. I like 25 meters for a pistol and 50 for rifles. Whatever your set distance is for various personal or professional policy, you zero there.
Despite the math and the phrasing there is not actually a spot on “theoretical zero”. It’s phrasing popular in the military. The Armed Forces utilize a close zero for convenience but those 25 meter or 36 yard zero’s are exactly that, 25 meter or 36 yards. They can be used at greater distances but refining a zero at a greater distance is a new, more accurate zero.
A 50 meter zero is not a “theoretical” 200, it is a 50 meter zero. It can be used at 200 meters, provided the firearm and optic are up to that task too. The distinction is important. Saying you have a 25/300 or 50/200 optical zero is not stating two zeroed distances. The first number is the zero distance and the second is an effective range for point of aim and point of impact being in the ballpark for effective hits based on ballistic trajectory.
We’ve drifted off into general zero operations here so let me wrap this up.
You can lollipop your dot to make zeroing it easier. But, you must shoot at the proper distance for your purposes to have an actual working zero.