Some content borrowed from the most excellent “Savannah Arsenal Project”

(They make some corrections in the comments; Great write up. Link Below)

How To Zero The Kalashnikov AK-47 & AK-74

This is my condensed version of the best portions of their write up. I trimmed a bit of fat with some tricks I have learned shooting over the years. Buy some bright post-it notes in 4×4 size. Use a glue stick to put the post-it notes on some printer paper. Put the 4″x4″ “post-it” in the center of the paper rotated 45 degrees; Like a diamond, and make some with the diamond on the bottom of the target. Make these the night before. The standard AK zero target isn’t that great. You’ll want to make a bunch of these for future use. Just in case. You can never have enough targets. Or you can purchase some paper targets that work in a similar way. Like the one linked below.

Let’s print the AK Marine Corps manual. There is great intelligence, and technical specs, in the USMC “AK” manual. Including various National Markings. Good for identifying foreign operators…

(U//FOUO) U.S. Marine Corps AK47 Operator’s Manual


I know the AK fairly well, but not personally; I don’t own one. And I have never used one on a known distance range past 200 meters. I know the AK-47 is a great weapon, especially those sweet RPK’s. The AK works fine for about 90% of engagements and action. The other 10% of engagements are only filled by various specialty weapons like Machine Guns, Bolt Action Rifles, DMR’s, and Anti-Material Rifles. Those weapons exist for a reason, but alas, if you can only choose one. The AK is the “Brush Gun” of assault rifles thanks to it’s impressive cartridge’s performance in dense woodland and jungle flora. The AK is a fine choice. Damn Fine.

You can use some tricks to compensate for various short comings of the AK weapon system, of which there are very few. The first trick is a perfect zero. A second trick is co-witnessing your iron sights and red dot. Or simply adding a quality scope using a quality mount. There are dedicated AK optics that provide the Soviet version of the ACOG. They look crude, but are actually quite nice. And they are considerably lighter in weight compared to stacking the unused and unneeded aluminum and steel mounts and rings as they are a dedicated unit. Rail mounts rarely return to zero; So don’t remove it for no reason. The scopes are quite a deal for $300-500… Why don’t you own one? Make sure you buy the right one. Do some research.×42-bdc-pro-optical-sight.html

The POSP-6x42BDC Illuminated(Below)

Daytime BDC. There are lots of different reticles; Even RDS/Laser/Light combos.

The same reticle at night (Illuminated in red)

This is what foreign troops will have… Good luck.

All weapons are a compromise between one feature or another. Knowing these compromises, and understanding your limitations makes for a much, much more effective weapons system. More confidence increases morale, and thus a higher likelihood of mission success. They also balance the weapon nicely, and the added weight helps tame some recoil.

There are cheaper options for nighttime iron sights as well. There is a front and rear set.

About the round, the legendary Soviet 7.62×39…

The stout 7.62×39 round does a number on mud brick, cinderblocks, and brick buildings. It blows right through stick houses. Something the 5.56×45 can’t do very well, especially at long range. That’s considerable, it’s a real hammer compared to the 5.56×45. It also has more mass to disable various mechanical, glass, and electrical gear. Increasing the odds of whacking something important directly, or by ricochet and spalling; Which could be as simple as a small wire or line. The difference between 7.62×39 and 5.56×45 is obvious when shooting steel targets. The 7.62×39 also punches through every tree I have ever tested it on; We made sure to test every tree that we considered “cover” at 100 meters. Trees are concealment, not cover, when utilizing the standard FMJ AK round at 100 meters. Every round went straight through and hit the berm with considered energy. It made a hole in the dirt the same size as my 9mm from the exit. There are brands of rounds with steel jackets that create some nice sparks, on occasion, when hitting ferrous metals. Mil-spec AK ammo shoots 3-4 MOA and this is basically true across all mil-spec infantry platforms. There are also commercial brands of Hollow Points(HP), Soft Points(SP), and Ballistic Tips. The Mil-Spec Full Metal Jacket(FMJ) rounds are the best general purpose bullet on the market.  Check out our other articles on AK ammo

The following information should work for SKS, AK-47, AR-47, VZ58, and 7.62×39 bolt action rifles. Yes, they make several 7.62×39 bolt actions; They shoot dimes with premium ammo.

Let’s get started.

First, You need 18 Meters. Which is an 18/250 meter zero; Depending on the gun/ammo. And a sight tool, linked below. You want to zero your irons, even if you have a red dot; Especially if it “co-witnesses”. Even if it only co-witnesses on the 300-400-500 meter setting. Like my buddy’s AK and red dot combination. That way, you can hammer targets at short and medium range…

The impact at 250 meters isn’t exact on at 250. It’s just easy to remember. It’s more like 247 meters. Depending on the gun and ammo. The reason for this range? You should be pretty close on the 100 meter marker for your rear sight. Which will help you zero. You can skip to 100 meters if you like.

Sight tool linked below. You need this. Don’t borrow your buddies; You need one per AK.

Use your Post-it notes. Get a nice, solid, perfect zero. 4 inch post-its are 4 MOA at 100 meters just like your 3-4 MOA ammo. Make sure your rifle is squared up with the target and group on the post-it note. Don’t “cant” your rifle. This changes your point of impact. Line your irons up with the left/right points on the post-it “diamond” for accuracy. Take your time. Relax, Breath, Stretch, Dry fire. You want to zero a hair high. so your rounds lollipop on the iron sights. The example below on the far left, grouping halfway between the irons, is a hair too low for my personal tastes. You want to be able to see as much of your target/impact effect as reasonably possible. This helps at longer rangers. You want a level to make sure your paper target is squared up. This helps with precision.

Or else this will happen, but in reverse…

Don’t cant your sights, or hang a crooked target. This is a scientific process.

The Rear Sight “P”, “N”, or “S” Battle Setting Demystified

  • The Cyrillic “P”, “N”, or “S” rear sight setting is considered the “battle setting”. It is considered a properly zeroed AK’s “set-it-and-forget-it” sight setting for combat shooting.
  • The battle setting is an 18 meter / ≅250 meter zero
  • The battle setting provides about +/- 7″ from your point-of-aim out to 300 meters.

Some Tips and Tricks…

  • Shooting at a distance of 100 meters, rotating the front sight tool one complete turn moves the point-of-impact 7.87″ Or double the height and width of the Post-it note.
  • Use the acronym F.O.R.S. when adjusting any weapon’s sights. Front Opposite, Rear Same. Want it to move right? Push right. Left? Push left. The AK sight tool only pushes the sight in one direction or the other.
  • For Red Dots, If you only have a 25 meter course available at a public range, it’s about 200 meters; And 25 yards is about 200 yards. (This isn’t 100% accurate, the 200 yard/meter zero is easy to remember…) The farther out you can confirm zero, and adjust zero for a better point of impact or POI, the better. AK’s can be a little “Crooked” by design, distances will expose the offset.

You can zero at 18 meters on the battle sight setting for a 250ish impact zone. But remember, it’s much better to get a proper 100 meter zero. Why? Because then you can use that great sight the AK comes with. And it is a great sight. The ability to know your volley sights are zeroed is force multiplier. Confirm at the maximum known distance range you can find. Long range zeroes are better than short range. Check your short range offset. It can change quite a bit. Sometimes the front sight post on the AK is not perfectly plumb; Therefore the front sight post is not square to the target or level.

Once you zero at 18 meters on the Battle Sight Setting, you want to move that marker to “1”, for 100 meters, and dial it in at 100 meters from the end of the barrel. Take your time, this is a scientific process. Use 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, and full turns for the Front sight tool. That’s basically 1 inch, 2 inches, 4 inches, and 8 inches of adjustment at 100 meters respectively. And then fine tune it a hair pin turn at a time. This all depends on how far off your sights are. A “dirt zero” helps you get dialed in a little faster, if your range has a berm, and you want to start at 100 meters. Clay pigeons work great for dirt zero targets. You can quickly get your sight pretty close in the dirt, and then switch to the paper target for precision. I have used a “dirt” zero countless times. Aim for a rock or clump of dirt; Or clay pigeon. Observe impact. Adjust. Repeat. Switch to the paper target for precision adjustments.

The relative width of the front sight post is 25cm (9.8 inches) at 100 meters, 50cm (19.7 inches) at 200 meters, 75cm (29.5 inches) at 300 meters, 100cm (39.3 inches) at 400 meters and so on and so forth… You can use this to measure your target. On average, a man has 18-20 inch shoulders plus or minus a few inches.

Ten inches at 100 meters? That’s about the size of a printer paper(8-1/2″x11″) at 100 meters.

Almost like I do this stuff on purpose. Almost… BTW, yellow post-its can be hard to see on white printer paper. Maybe pink, green, orange “Post-it” notes are better..

Let’s talk trajectory, The Savannah Arsenal Project put in some hours on these charts. Let’s take some time to observe them. They are gorgeous. HD graphs are available on “The Savanah Arsenal” Website; Click the graph for a HD picture. (Screenshots?)

This is the 100 meter setting, Or, “1” on the rear sight. Chart in Yards NOT Meters.

(100M is 109Y)

And the Battle Sight Setting; Note, this is in Yards NOT Meters.

(100M is 109Y)

Study these charts, because things can change quick if you have the wrong setting on your rear sight. Observe below…

Wild right? Good luck with that… puts the AK-74 in 5.45×39 into perspective…

A comparison of all  BSS, 100m setting, and 200m setting in Yards

Remember, these trajectories change if you are shooting at an angle.

Let’s zero this Red Dot Sight.

Zero at 18 meters for an 18/250 zero, cradle your RDS in the top, or bottom, of the post-it note. Make sure you have a clean barrel between groups. You may need to remove your RDS to zero your iron sights if you have a certain type of mount. You should 100% zero the iron sights first, then, remount your RDS and zero the RDS. This may change the point of impact of the iron sights because you have changed the harmonic balance of your barrel.

How to fix this…

Test your groups using the iron sights on the 400, 500, or 600 meter setting once you have zeroed at 100 meters on an 18 meter “printer paper post-it note on the bottom target”. I recommend using the max setting for maximum ranging if you have the proper range. Fire the group at 18 meters, using the printer paper and the post-it note as a target once you have zeroed your Iron Sights at 100 meters. Don’t forget to make sure your rear sight is on the correct setting. Observe, mark, and record the group. When you remount the RDS, and have successfully put an 18/250 meter “Battle Sight” general purpose zero on it, test your max co-witness range on the irons again. If it needs a hair of adjustment to the left or right, adjust so you “keyhole” inside the original “control” group. Bingo, you have returned your irons to zero to accommodate for the harmonic difference after remounting your RDS. You can also simply test this at longest range available.

Example of a cowitnessed Ironsight/RDS combination(Below). You can adjust those sights out to medium and long distances. If zeroed correctly, they function as designed with considerable accuracy. Which is why you should zero both…

This method still works if the optic is mounted behind the rear sight.

Likely this will only work at the maximum ranges. Which is perfect. 18/250 and 400,500, or 600 meters? Yes…

The 18/250 meter zero is not perfectly zeroed at 250 meters; But it’s close. It could be a little low, or high, depending on your mount and sight combination… Observe the BSS chart(In Yards) posted above.

Was that clear? You are testing your iron sight groups using a scientific control group. You want to make a couple targets that have the post-it note diamond glued to the bottom of the paper. This will compensate for the increase in elevation after adjusting your co-witnessed iron sights through your RDS. Do a good job making your targets using a ruler, square, and some pencil marks. If you have a side mounted RDS or scope, you most likely do not have to compensate for this. But you never know, some weapons are quirky and can be picky when you mount stuff to them. This is why you test, and confirm, because this is a scientific process. Longer distance the better. But this method should work fine.

Remember to take your time, relax, and polish your barrel between groups.

At the very least, zero your BSS Irons and RDS at 18/250.

Range Estimation Training. The [Shooter] can use several different methods to determine range to the target to include the 100 meter “unit-of-measure” method, range card method, front sight post method, appearance of objects method, and the combination method.

A)   100-Meter Unit-of-Measure Method: To use this method, the [Shooter] must be able to visualize a distance of 100 meters on the ground. For ranges up to 500 meters, the [Shooter] determines the number of 100-meter increments between the two objects he wishes to measure. Beyond 500 meters, he must select a point halfway to the object and determine the number of 100-meter increments to the halfway point, then double it to find the range to the object.

B)   Range Card Method: The [Shooter] can also use a range card to quickly determine ranges throughout the target area. Once a target is detected, the [Shooter] determines where it is located on the card and then reads the proper range to the target.

C)   Front Sight Post Method: Another method to estimate range is by using the front sight post as a scale. Generally, if a man-sized target is 1/2 the width of the front sight post, then he is approximately 300 meters away. If the target is 1/4 the width of the front sight post, then the target is approximately 600 meters away. This method can be used for a quick estimation and engagement.

D)   Appearance of Objects Method: This method is a means of determining range based on the size and visible characteristics of an object. To use this method with any degree of accuracy, the [Shooter] must be familiar with the appearance and visible detail of an object at various ranges. However, some common guidelines can be used in relation to a human target to determine range.

  • At 200 meters a human target is clear and details can be seen.
  • At 300 meters the target is still clear, but no details can be seen.
  • At 400 meters the target’s outline is clear; however, the target itself is blurry.
  • At 500 meters the body tapers and the head disappears.
  • At 600 meters the body resembles a wedge shape.

Good stuff… I prefer the Front Sight Post Method or the 2 MOA Red Dot Method

Red Dot Sight Measurement Method.

Your 2 MOA dot is…

2 inches at 100 meters, AKA, The size of someone’s eyeball at that distance.

4 inches at 200 meters, AKA, The size of someone’s fist or palm/rifle magazine/Goatee zone.

6 inches at 300 meters, AKA,  Inside of the face.(Test this on the 25/300 meter zero target…)

8 inches at 400 meters, AKA, On their face/ the size of their head or slightly larger.

10 inches at 500 meters, AKA, Looks like they are holding a basketball.

Let’s talk about wind, and the 7.62×39 cartridge.

Don’t shoot the 7.62×39 in the wind. Your round moves quite slow, at 2400 FPS, and thus it is blown off target quite far, fairly quickly. Getting the wind to your back can help, but your groups will open up. Think like a Middle Ages archer; You want the wind to your back during an engagement. I looked for wind graphs and wind charts for the 7.62×39 and I couldn’t find anything worth while. The wind charts I saw on the various forums were not good for two reasons. First, the data was useless and second, they are basically nonexistent. There is a reason they didn’t bother to put windage adjustments on the rear sight for the AK…

I always wondered why and now I know.  I suspect the AK-74 in 5.45×39 is deployed to areas of operations with wind considerations; Unlike the jungles of Vietnam. A lesson they must have learned in Afghanistan or Africa. The RPD has a windage adjustable rear sight leaf, but it appears to be something you would adjust during an engagement after observing your tracers. Don’t buy an RPD rear sight, the offsets are likely not the same relative to an AK because of the sight height.

Let’s talk about long range; The AK’s Achille’s Heel

Enter, The Volley Fire Technique, for use with your ‘Volley Sight”

 I have no doubt the rear sight adjustments line up quite nicely for the AK at those distances. However, with weapons like the M4/M-16 and the 5.56 cartridge, the 5.56 is fairly aerodynamic at max range because of a slight boat tail design. The flat base of the 7.62×39 is not conducive to long range performance.

Below, The accurate 5.56 curved “Boat Tail” design. Works like a sports car… or speed boat…

The flat base 7.62×39. Works like a little parachute…

This isn’t much good past 500 meters, when environmental effects and bullet design really come into play. However flat bases can have a nice “Vortex” or “Bullet Trace” so bring your buddy and some binoculars or a spotting scope. Walk your rounds in. Calling the Point of Aim and Corrections using the agreed target as a reference. Work as a team.

So what does that mean? Purchase some Boat Tail 7.62×39? Good luck with that… It’s pretty rare and pricy. You are better served using a concentrated volley firing method. Volley fire is a party, the more the merrier. Bring a friend or a fire team.

The 7.62×39 loses steam pretty quick compared to some cartridges you might be used to, and the slight differences in the flat base can cause the round to veer of course. How can you compensate? By firing lots of extra bullets; 3-4 MOA holds straight and true to about 500 meters, but then things begin to change with the round.  Different gun at 500-1,000 meters. Which means that you need to fire A LOT of extra rounds using your weapon at 500-1,000 meters. Some rear sights have 800 or 1,000 meter markers on them. You are looking at a tactical decision of firing almost an entire magazine to hit your targets at long ranges for the AK. The dedicated Soviet era scopes, linked above are only ranged for 300-400 meters. There is a reason for that. And the SVD scopes? They only have a BDC out to 600 meters. Again, there is a reason for that. The flat bottom bullet. Research your Soviet scopes before purchasing…

What purpose does the “volley” sight serve at long range? Well.. that’s a good question, you can suppress a house, or harass that squad chasing you, or the mob marching up the road. It’s a “Minute of Mob”, “Half a House” weapon at those ranges. But you will eventually get one on target. Assuming no wind…

Observe the cone of fire effect below. You can still be “on target”, but the round misses it’s true mark; Landing somewhere, randomly, in that circle zone. Keep firing, holding onto the same point of aim. Machine Guns use this principle to make incredible shots out to very long ranges of 1,000-1,500 meters. Despite using a standard FMJ cartridge. 

Know your weapon system, and double check everything. Torquing your mounts to spec. Also, don’t drop your weapon or smack it on a wall during a scaling or climbing exercise. When you switch ammo lots, you need to check your zero.

If you own a scope for the AK, don’t expect much past 500 meters. If you do attempt those ranges, your groups will open up considerably past 500 meters due to the flat base design of the bullet. Again, fire more rounds, and eventually you’ll get one on target. Don’t chase your rounds all over the place unless you see them consistently impacting in one direction or the other. But that would be after several rounds. Aiming a 1/4 target, 1/2 target, or one full target low, and walking into the target is best, if the ground cover and composition will show impact markers. Assuming you have some dirt to test on. In the vegetation, this becomes very difficult to observe.

Thanks for reading. Share this with your friends.

The AK-74 in 5.45×39 is the same process to zero, use a 25/350 meter zero, but the graphs are closer to M-16 trajectories. You can substitute an M-16 chart for an AK-74. It’ll be close enough to get you started. Confirm on a known distance range.

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