June 17, 2020
One question Firearms News frequently receives from readers is, “How do you properly zero an AK rifle?” The AK was designed in the 1940s in a foreign country so its understandable new owners may not be sure of the right way to zero it. The good news is zeroing an AK is not a difficult procedure if you understand there is a straight-forward method to go about it. In this case the place to start is the original Soviet Army rifle manual issued by the Ministry of Defense of the USSR. The Soviets designed, issued and trained millions of conscripts in its use, and they developed a straight-forward method. However, before we delve into that, let’s first discuss how to adjust the sights on an AK rifle. Keep in mind, when zeroing all adjustments for windage and elevation are made to the front sight.
Adjusting the Sights
The front sight of an AK47/AKM is screwed into a round steel piece base which is set horizontally into the triangular front sight assembly. Windage adjustments are made by drifting the base left or right. The Soviet Army issued, and numerous US commercial companies make, an AK front sight adjustment tool. This acts like a C-clamp attaching to the front sight assembly. A threaded shaft is used to push the sight base in the required direction to adjust windage. This is a handy item to have but not absolutely required. A field expedient method, otherwise known as a hammer and an empty cartridge case, will suffice. Place the spent case on the round sight base and tap gently, because one millimeter of lateral movement will adjust the point of impact 10 inches (26 cm) at 100 meters.
Elevation adjustments are made by screwing the front sight in and out. A front sight tool specifically made for this purpose is included in the cleaning kit normally stored in the rifle’s butt-trap. One complete revolution of the front sight will move the point of impact approximately 8 inches (20 cm) at 100 meters. Screw it down (lowering the front sight) and the Point of Impact goes UP, raise the front sight and the Point of Impact goes DOWN.
Soviet Zeroing Target
The Soviet Army issued a specific “confirmation” target for zeroing a 7.62x39mm AK47/AKM rifle, and it is very important to use a target of these dimensions for best results. It consists of a black rectangle 14 inches high by 10 inches wide (35 cm by 25 cm) centered in a white background. The white background measures 39.3 high by 19.6 inches wide (1 meter by .5 meter). Aiming point is the middle of the lower edge of the black rectangle. This target is specifically sized for to match the width of the AK front sight post at 100 meters and provides enough contrast for easy sighting.
Official Soviet Army Zeroing Procedure:
- Place a confirmation target at 100 meters (109.4 yards). The Control Point, or required Point of Impact (POI), shall be 10 inches (25 cm) directly above the Point of Aim (POA).
- Set the rear sight to 300 meters. Set the rifle for semi-automatic fire.
- From the prone position, with the forearm supported on a sandbag, fire four aimed shots at the center of the bottom edge of the black portion of the confirmation target. Do not move or break cheek weld between shots.
- The group must not be larger than 5.9 inches (15 cm). One called flier is permitted, optionally.
- The center of the group must be no farther than 1.97 inches (5 cm) from the Control Point. If the group is not within this distance, adjust the sights and repeat until the center of the group is within 1.97 inches (5 cm) of the Control Point.
- Set rear sight to 100 meters. The rifle is now zeroed.
The reasoning behind having the Point of Impact (POI) 10 inches above the Point of Aim (POA), with the sights set at 300 meters, is to match the trajectory of standard 7.62x39mm M43 ball ammunition. The result is a true 300 meter zero. By placing the rear sight on 100 meters POI should now be the same as POA at 100 meters. All the rear sight settings should now be able to be used at their designated distances.
This method below seems to have been developed in the US to simplify zeroing, especially for those locations where a 100-meter range is not available:
- Set the rear sight at 100 meters, and the sight-in target at 25 meters.
2. Fire a 5-shot group and move the Point of Impact directly to the Point of Aim. Your rifle is now zeroed.
The problem with this method is it does not take into account cumulative error in the tangent rear sight. Although it works well for short range use, a rifleman using this method may find considerable error in his POI when firing at extended distances. Due to this, this method is best reserved for when you only have a 25 meter range available.
Properly zeroing an AK, such as outlined here, will allow a rifleman to get the most out of it. If you are looking for a zeroing method for your AK, consider how the Russians teach it. They have been using them longer than anyone, and know a thing or two about it.