View Full Version : Have you ever lost your ZERO in the field?

Jon Carter
December 26, 1999, 02:41 PM
Hi All.
One of the reasons I am dead-set on having fixed sights on my first hunting rifle is that it seems imprudent to depend on the precision of a scope set up while trekking through the woods. I am not (at this point in my green shade) interested in hanging out for long periods of time in a stand when I can learn to stalk on the ground. So after I get my feet
wet, in a stand I would like to learn to hunt with Bow or Gun on the ground.

I mean, 'how hard could it be'? hee heee

Anyway it would seem as though one bang of a tree or a drop to the ground and your
hunt is over. (scope out of line)

So, I am wondering: Has this ever happened to any of you experienced hunters? How common is it?
Do you ever have problems with condensation in or on the scope lens? What about rain?

Thank You.

Jon Carter

Robert the41MagFan
December 26, 1999, 03:01 PM
If I am not mistaken, read somewhere that 90% of ALL white tail deer are taken by hunters in tree stands. Grew up in white tail country, hunting from a tree stand is all I know. Live now in the Pac NW (stalker heaven, so they said) and still all I do is hunt black tail and elk from tree stands. Been hunting since I was a young man, a long time. I have never failed to harvest big game. That is how effective the tree stand is. Learning to sit patiently and pre season scouting is the key to a successful hunt.

There are tons of different scope in the market today, one for just about every need. Most of your modern scopes are weather proof and fog proof. If you can put one on your rifle, do it. It is added precision and will improve your odds of terminally hitting your game.


[This message has been edited by Robert the41MagFan (edited December 26, 1999).]

Art Eatman
December 26, 1999, 04:21 PM
I can tell you for sure that a Leupold Vari-X II 3x9, and a Simmons 44Mag 3x10 are unaffected by severe bouncing. Both have ridden in my truck for years over some of North America's roughest roads, and the Leupold has accompanied me in several non-deliberate "trips" down some mountain-sides.

The drawback to a scope in the sort of hunting you describe is the limited field of view. Even three-power magnification at 10 to 30 yards can have you losing your shot because of the lost time in getting the crosshairs: 1. On the animal; and 2) In the right danged PLACE on the animal. BTDT, and it's frustrating. A scope works best from fifty yards on out to the limits of you and your rifle.

But you're going to have to bang a scope on a tree pretty danged hard to knock it off its zero.

Will Fennell
December 26, 1999, 06:34 PM
Yes, I have 'knocked' my rifle 'out of zero' a FEW times over almost 30 years of big game hunting. I've done it to scoped rifles and 'iron sighted' rifles. Hell, when I was a kid, I even fell on a rem 870 barrel hard enough and 'bent' it so that it didn't shoot point of aim!

I've seen rifles knocked off zero with the slightest bump, and others get the -CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED--CENSORED- banged out of them, and remained zeroed. the best insurance is a well bedded stock, good, secure mounts[low as possible], and a well made scope. And check you zero often.

Our deer season in South Carolina lasts from August 15 till Jan. 1. I hunt usually at least once a week, and check my rifle's zero AT LEAST every couple of weeks. ALMOST NEVER any deviation, but I sure have more confidence in my gear when the big buck walks out ;).

Spend at least as much money on your scope and mounts as you do on your rifle, and you should be fine. Check your zero often, and you will gain confidence in your rifle. Besides, a little practice is good for you!

Stay Sharp!


Al Thompson
December 26, 1999, 10:31 PM
Hi Jon,

I agree with all that's said. Will's suggestion to check zero often is an invaluable one. I agree completely.

I've lost zero twice. Once my .375 with a Redfield scope lost zero and once my mount got lose. Both times were out of country. A close friend had a 1.5 x 5 Leupold break (at the range) and I've seen someone inexperianced with one of the old Nightforce scopes inadverdantly crank on the elevation as opposed to the rheostadt for the reticle. No shooting with that scope until we rezeroed.

The best solution is two scopes. Both zero'd for your rifle/ammo. (you did know that different rounds shoot different places?) I use the Lepold QR mounts for that reason, but it looks like I'll be moving to a different system as Leupold has discontinued the QR series.

One friend always takes two rifles with him when out of country - this is also a good idea.


"I don't make enough money to buy cheap stuff" - Mark Manning

December 27, 1999, 04:52 PM
I recently (ok, a couple of years) went thru some of your deliberations. First I checked what the group I went deer hunting with used. Answer: almost exclusively .30-06!
I ended up acquiring a used pump .30-06 (left hand) and spending just as much on a Leupold Vari-X III 3.5-10x40mm, since I can only afford one scope, one time. I used iron sighter mounts, (for close shots I can see thru the iron sights. question my ZERO, well use the iron sights. Problem solved.)
The result? in 3 years of hunting Wisconsin Whitetails I have taken 5 shots and brought home 4 deer. I did take it to Texas wild russian boar hunting. (didn't see much) I am planning to try a Wyoming elk hunt next fall.. with, yup you guessed it the same rifle.
I had one other factor influence me. One of the guys I shoot with reloads .30-06. I am able to reload with his equipment, and get many more shots for the dollar. I practiced
almost 100 rounds thru this rifle before the first time I went hunting with it.
I recommend you practice practice practice. A good tip is to try to hit in a hunt situation, i.e. if you aren't going to have a handy bench/or some other rest in the woods then don't use one at the range, (after zeroing with scope/ammo/etc) try offhand, 50-100 yards, try prone if you can. (ask range officer first...) Try a lifesize target once, so you know about what sight picture you are looking for. (but don't get too hung up on this, deer move, targets don't)
If not for the commonality of .30-06 ammo, high percentage of use, and the ability to use it out west for larger game,

I would have looked long and hard at .270 or .308. Best part is if you actually do go once and decide you need to go back with more gun you have FIRST hand experience to tell you what you need. There are people who say you NEED a .338 magnum just for Wisconsin whitetails. Sheesh, that is overkill. ok, a .30-06 is overkill on a deer, but at least some of the meat survives the shot.
The theory I subscribe to is being able to hit with a .308 at a limited range beats not being able to hit with an expensive BIG gun, especially if you have limited funds.
Sorry this is a long post, but FWIW my $.02

p.s. to date I have not used the iron sights in the woods, but I had the option!

Al Thompson
December 27, 1999, 06:34 PM
Jon something occured to me today - I don't do it but it makes sense.

Get a collimater and after (!!) you zreo your rifle, use the collimater to figure where your crosshairs are now. Record this info somewhere and you can use it to verify that your scope is still on. Note - you do not adjust your scope in any way, shape, or fashion - just check where the cross hairs are after zeroing.

I have covers (Butler Creek) on my scopes to ward off the rain. It usually works well. But a lot of us have rain rifles for wet days. Mine for years was a Marlin .30-30.


"I don't make enough money to buy cheap stuff" - Mark Manning

December 28, 1999, 03:02 PM
If the inside of your scope fogs up you have lost the gas seal and its time to get a new scope.

I loaned a rifle to my uncle one year and it fogged on him and alas I had taken the sights off the rifle the previous season.. silly me.
My new rifle doesn't even HAVE sights, just the scope so I usually take a back-up rifle with me in then woods, behind the seat of the truck, etc. I ended up bringing the sights to camp, rezeroing the rifle's iron sights in 5 shots at 75 yards on a pie-plate.

I've also found that using scope covers in the field is a waste.. they can fog up, get glare, etc.. best to use those to keep dust/road dirt etc off the lenses while the rifle is in transport in your rifle rack or in your safe.

the BEST thing to have is a back-up rifle of some sort.

I've been known to switch off which rifle I carry depending on terrain/weather situation I'm going into. The only danger in doing this is ending up someplace you didn't intend with the wrong gun for the terrain because you are chasing elk.

My main rifle: savage model 116 fsak 30-06 with a tasco scope and burris mounts (burris mounts won't shoot loose when properly loctited), no sights. Shoots half inch groups all day.

Back-up gun is a 12 guage remington 870 with a deer barrel and a rifled tube the sights are zeroed at 50 yards and I can shoot a two inch group with it at that range.

There is also usually a 30-30 in camp and my brother ended up carrying THAT when he took a header off a rock face and whacked his rifle/scope/stock in an attempt to stay upright. The good news is he wasn't hurt.. the bad news is his old savage rifle got marred up pretty good.. scratches in the steel, gouge in the stock and a BIG ding on the scope.. rather than attempt to re-zero in the field and shoot up the woods doing so.. we just assumed the zero was off and took out a back-up gun.

I kinda wish now that I had bought a rifle with iron sights "just in case" but my back-up gun is never too far away in the truck so I don't worry too much.

Hope it helps,


December 28, 1999, 10:37 PM
I know for a fact that both of the scopes that Art named can lose their zero. My brother's Leupold on his Ruger .270 went "off" on a deer hunt 4 years ago. He "rolls his own" ammo and had his setup tuned just how he wanted it. Somehow, between the time he checked zero at camp the day before and the time the buck followed a doe across in front of him about 10:30 the next morning (the rifle had spent the intervening time cased and laying on the back seat of his Bronco) the point of impact was about 12 m.o.a. high and left and of where he thought he was aiming. He never had another chance at a buck during that hunt after rezeroing back at camp. Accessible iron sights could have salvaged that hunt for him.
The Simmons I HAD on my synthetic stocked Savage 110 .270 started acting up late last summer, it absolutely would not hold a zero from one range session to the next (kept in a hard case only transported on a couple of 12 mile roundtrips) then the top crosshair broke when I shot it again. The recoil from hot handloads (they really are only what factory loads USED TO BE but no longer are) in that rifle just shook it apart. I don't have iron sights on my Savage at all so if this had happened on a hunt I would have been s.o.l. Yes, Simmons scopes have lifetime garauntees, but that wouldn't helped if the reticle had broke in the field rather than at the range. This happened about 4 weeks before season opened. I sent the scope back to Simmons, and they told me it would be about 2 weeks, I worried about delays so I went out and bought a different scope. They repaired it at no cost (besides $7.00 s&h) and did get it back in 2 weeks but I no longer have faith in it and it now lays in one of my junk drawers, maybe I'll put it on my new Rem. .22 I got for Christmas, but I won't ever put it back on my Savage.
p.s. I have been thinkin hard about fitting sights on my Savage and getting quick detach mounts for my scope. With a good scope in good mounts problems really are rare, but a backup plan never hurts.

[This message has been edited by bergie (edited December 28, 1999).]

Jon Carter
December 30, 1999, 10:38 PM

Thanks for all the great information.
My intuitional concerns have been affirmed.

It seems that if you are going to carry only 1 rifle into the woods you
can't depend entirely on a scope to keep its zero. I like the idea of see
through mounts but the general consensus seems to be nay. (not sturdy
enough?) So, I guess the next best thing would be a quick dismount scope.

I have yet to look into exactly what is available for my new Savage scout :^)
but I think that both are available. BTW, I really like the iron sights on the
S.S. I can't wait to get it to the range!
Jon Carter

Art Eatman
December 31, 1999, 11:37 AM
Jon, I think you're focussing on a few horror stories; everybody can think of at least one.

But for every horror-show (like the crosshairs falling plumb off the plane in a Bausch & Lomb 4X), there are a million cases of no problem.

And my uncle's problem happened in the early 1950s. In my 50 years of scope use, I've never had a problem. At all. And that's somewhere over 20 different scopes. Fixed power. Variable power. El cheapos. Expensive critters.

The problem you're worrying about? Well, you've most likely got a higher probability of flopping over dead from a stroke, or getting cancer.

Jon Carter
January 2, 2000, 01:19 AM
Understood, Art. I just like to be aware of
*all* possibilities. I am planning on hunting
GA Whitetail with iron sights mostly. I figure if I have quick detachability, all bets are covered. I like that.
Thank Again!
Jon Carter

Bud Helms
January 2, 2000, 09:01 AM
Jon Carter,

Where in GA are you located?

Email me at [email protected]


Jack Straw
January 2, 2000, 01:16 PM

First off all, greetings from a fellow Georgia whitetail chaser.

I don't know about your hunting spot, but it seems to me that most of the deer in GA are hunted on land leased from pulp wood companies, which means thick pines and short range shooting(less than 100yds, usually much less). If that is your situation, then you could get by with just your iron sights. I would still rather hunt with a scope though. I have never had a scope to lose its zero and my scopes spend a portion of each hunt on the front rack of an ATV. I have used 3x9's and now I use a 2x7; I keep my scopes set on 4x for hunting and use the higher powers for sighting in and the occasional long shot over clear-cuts. My dad did lose zero on a 25 year old Weaver scope, but he should not have fallen in a ditch and rolled around on the thing. IMHO, scopes give an accuracy advantage that is well worth any slim chance of having one go bad on you. Other than wounding a deer, having a deer get away because of a mechanical problem could be looked at as just part of the game! :)

Good hunting,


Long Path
January 3, 2000, 06:17 AM
Jon, ANYONE who has hunted much has lost a perfect zero in the field, whether with iron or glass sights.

I just yesterday held off from shooting a deer at a measily 100 yards with a M-94 trapper .30-30 that I had with nearby, because I had just ascertained that the excelent iron Lyman sights on it had been knocked off so that it shoots 6" high and right at 50 yards! THIS would account for why my father missed a nice buck last year with it at about 75 yards! We frankly never even considered that those foolproof sights could be off.

Earlier in the day, my hunting buddy fired FOUR times at a deer before connecting and dropping the animal at 100 yds. The shots were just skimming over the top of the shoulder. Finally he lowered his aim, and dropped the animal with a spine shot. Turned out his rifle (never hunted before) had shifted its zero from 2.5" high at 100 to 5" high at 100. Rifle: Win M-70. Scope: Simmons 3X9. No noticable knocking...

It happens to the Best of us.

Will Fennell
January 4, 2000, 12:40 AM
Here is how I handle the problem....this is my M70 with Leopold QR mounts and rings, and a custom[Jim Brockman] ghost ring hidden under the rear ring. There is a corrosponding post on the end of the barrel.


I have a Swarozski 6x42mm on the gun, and an extra set of rings that I mount a backup scope in for big[traveling] hunts. The rifle is pre-64 M70[30/06] and the stock is McMillian 'Griffon & Howe' style. I enjoy this rifle ALOT.

Stay Sharp!


January 7, 2000, 02:37 AM
So far, I've never had a problem with having my firearm lose zero. As a precaution, I take a spare firearm. For added insurance, I take a straight four power in rings that fit my QD bases. Then, in a pinch, there's always the fixed sights. RKBA!


Jon Carter
January 10, 2000, 10:25 PM
Much great info. I have learned from you guys that while it may not be a regular problem with quality gear, it doesn't hurt to check the zero on a regular basis. I am pretty new
to all of this so I definitely *can* use the practice!

Man, you guys are a wealth of information...!

Will Fennell: What kind of knife is that
in your photo? I do not recognize it. :eek:

Jon Carter

January 11, 2000, 10:01 AM
I lost a zero once, but the sum total damage was negligible, and I was nonplussed by the event as it represented no net loss to me.
Sorry, I couldn't resist.