Basics - How to Determine Actual Zero\'s Downrange
How do you accurately determine your actual scope settings when the target is way out there? There are probably two options that work best - shooting at paper or shooting at steel. Paper is self-explanatory, as long as you have a big enough paper target to provide a good aiming mark and to catch rounds. This usually requires many trips back and forth to look for bullet impacts if you do not have access to a military type range where the targets are manned.
If a large steel target is available (a hanging gong is optimum) you simply give it a fresh covering of white spray paint, estimate your elevation, and shoot until you start making splats on the steel. Estimate your elevation - there are several ballistic programs that will give you an excellent starting point, plus Ballisticards which will do the math for you.
You MUST have a spotter for doing this as recoil will remove your sight picture. You won't be able to see bullet impacts off the steel caused by wind, improper elevation or - you. Shooting steel plates is an excellent method of determining zero's as you can see your bullet impacts from great distances - well past 1000 yards.
Optimum plate size is BIG - at least the size of military man-sized targets. You cannot measure group size nearly as accurately as from paper but you can easily work with the central impact marks. Steel plates should be hanging or leaning at an angle forward to deflect bullets down into the ground. We use 1/2 inch plate but lighter plate can be used if it is angled as the bullets energy is deflected.