Everything old is new again, which is part of why pistol caliber carbines, or PCCs, are more popular than ever. With that popularity comes a host of questions, one of which is what’s the best distance to zero a PCC?
PCCs for Competition, Hunting, and Plinking?
Multiple factors influence the distance selected to zero a PCC. These include what ammo you’re using and the type of optic you’ve selected. The most important factor is what your PCC’s intended use is. Zero a casual/fun use PCC at whatever distance keeps it on paper at your local range. 10 yards, 15 yards, whatever’s available. Competition PCCs for IDPA and USPSA benefit from a 25 yard zero. This ensures that the gun hits where you need it on longer shots. Lever action rifles in magnum revolver calibers used for hunting should be zeroed at the longest range you’d be comfortable taking a shot. That could be as far as 100 yards if you have that available.
The case for the 50 yard zero
Restricting the conversation to semi-automatic 9mm competition rifles gives us to effective effective zero distances: 25 or 50 yards? The action shooting sports that have PCC divisions are designed around shooting pistols, but will sometimes have shots past 25 yards. A PCC zeroed at 25 yards will have around 1 inch of bullet drop at 50 yards, which is well within the A-zone of a USPSA target. However, if you zero at 50 yards, you’ll hit around half an inch high at 25 yards, and be dead on at 50. Plus, PCC specific matches will often push the range of shots out further than 50 yards. A 50 yard zero is better when you know there are longer shots to make.
But what if you want to zero a PCC that isn’t a semi-automatic AR style rifle? Lever-action rifles in pistol calibers are used for competition, hunting, and personal protection all the time. The zero distance for these is going to be entirely dependent on the rifle’s purpose and its use. A Cowboy Action rifle can be zeroed at an appropriate distance for that sport with its iron sights. A dedicated hunting rifle in a magnum caliber with a magnified scope? That seems like a good match for a 100 yard zero. With a 100 yard zero, a Hornady 140 grain FTX .357 Magnum hunting round will have minimal rise at ranges shorter than 100 yards, and will not require a hold off if you’re trying to make that 100 yard shot. Again, that zero is dependent on your scope, rifle, and bullet selection.
But what’s the best range to zero a PCC?
If there is one “general purpose” distance that will get 95% of the shooting tasks accomplished for 95% of the pistol caliber rifles, a 25 yard zero seems like the best bet. This takes into account the number of ranges that have 25 yards readily available, because time spent zeroing is time not spent doing more fun types of shooting. There are certainly good reasons to zero a PCC at other distances, but as a good general purpose distance, 25 yards seems like your best bet.