Grouping: the Baseline

Judge me by your group size do you?


TC 3-22.9 states “The goal of the grouping exercise is for the shooter to fire tight shot groups and consistently place those groups in the same location.” Many talk of shooting good groups and even more, sadly, talk about their weapons advertised grouping ability. Rarely, do people talk about why they group in the first place.


Whenever we get a new sighting system, change parts, buy different ammo or have not used the weapon we need to align the sights with the point of impact(POI). To find that POI we need to first, consistently aim at very specific target and then fire the rounds without moving the weapon from that point of aim. I prefer to use the new Army Zero target not only for its designed purpose but my bias as being part of its design with a good friend and its implementation into the System. This target gives you a finite aiming point that any range is identifiable.



Getting a stable shooting platform is paramount to shooting good groups. Use every tool at your disposal. Sand socks, bipods and other devices will assist in the initial process. Lock the sights down on to that fine aiming point and prepare to fire the shot. If you fail to do this, you will have to discern what cause the rounds to stray.

Later, once you have taken shooter error out of the equation and know how good your sight, weapon, ammo combination really is, you can remove shooting aids and find your skill level. Once you have zeroed, of course.

Grouped at 100, Not Zeroed



Zeroing is simply finding the center of your group and calculating the amount of adjustment needed to get you to your desired POI based off your Point of Aim(POA). This leads back to that desired target. Without that finite POA those calculations will be off. The adage is Garbage in, Garbage out. Assuming you used a good target coupled with a stable position, you can calculate the adjustment very accurately. Then make those adjustments based of the click value of you sights. You must then fire another group to confirm the adjustments.


The rule I use for zeroing is you are not zeroed at a range until you confirm at that range. I know that 50 yards is close to 200 yards zero with an AR-15 platform, but 50 is not 200. Nor does 25 equal to 300. The variances in velocity, barrel length, bullet weight, twist rate, optic height make these near zeros a theory not a law. Some, not all, prefer closer targets because the pictures look great and I feel better about smaller groups. Not to mention no one believes a small group was fired at distance. Anyway, take the time to zero at distance or just say what range you did fire at. If you fired at 50, say 50.  More on this



There are a ton of people who pay premium prices for weapons with advertised and possibly guaranteed accuracy. They then tell you they have a sub minute of angle weapon. It’s true. I would never say otherwise. I counter with “are you a sub minute shooter?” Can you behind the weapon, running the trigger fire sub minute? This is where the rubber meets the road. Owning the world’s fastest production street vehicle does not make the driver capable of controlling it at those speeds. Many have owned these cars and got to speed once. Once, with a dramatic end to the trip.

Personally, a shooter firing 3 minute groups with a 3 MOA rated weapon is better than a shooter with a sub minute gun firing 3 MOA groups. Comparatively, the first shooter is at or better than his weapons capabilities, whereas the second shooter is moving the sights up to 2 minutes during the shot.



I once talked to Kyle Defoor on an icy range in the Carolinas about group sizes and standards. 4 minutes of angle was decided to be a good overall standard. This allows you to hit man sized targets out to most ranges used by 5.56 weapons. This shakes out to 1 inch at 25 yards, 2 inches at 50,4 inches at 100 yards and 8 inches at 200. If you could maintain this, in theory, 200-yard head shots could be possible not to mention 500-yard body shots on the long end. Keep in mind this is for human sized targets and getting a hit. In competition, you need to be much better. You need to be in the 2 MOA or less area in most of the events I know about. Shooters should attend classes that focus very hard on tight grouping in the beginning of their learning. Being the fastest reloader is awesome, but if you haven’t hit anything with the first magazine you aren’t doing much good.


In conclusion, grouping is something you should be working on. It is tied to most everything about a firearm and the measuring stick against ourselves, our equipment and our peers. In fact, it is the very thing against what a shooter is judged. Be honest, get better, and group more.

Ash Hess for Primary and Secondary, LLC


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