How to Mount a Scope?

Understanding how to mount a scope on your rifle is one of the most important gunsmithing tasks to master. It is something that will suit anyone looking to extend their firearms knowledge. Another benefit comes once this work has been successfully completed through a real sense of achievement at a job well done!

With this in mind, let’s first take a look at why mounting your own scope is the way to go. From there, I will get into the equipment needed and then combine two scope mounting methods. These will be for the two most popular attachment types, a scope ring and base setup, or a rail and scope ring setup.

how to mount a scope

Mounting Your Own Scope is The Way To Go!

All those who are serious about shooting will want to improve their rifle performance. While there are a variety of ways to do this, one method stands out above all others. That is to ensure your rifle scope is correctly mounted.

Of course, this work can be given to your local gun store, but why outsource such an important task? Fitting your own rifle scope is surely the way to go. As well as expanding your overall firearms knowledge, you will be determined to see the job completed exactly as it should be.

There is also one fact that is bandied about far too often, which is how difficult and tricky it is to mount a scope correctly. You may hear that it requires special skills and can be very time consuming.

This is really not the case at all. Yes, preparation, patience, and precision are necessary. However, with the correct tools and a positive attitude, you can be sure that it will give you the opportunity to up your distance and accuracy shooting game to no end.

The Right Tools for The Job

You will have heard variations of “Use the right tools for the right job.” The saying and meaning here are certainly not original, but they do press home a very important point. By making sure you have sufficient working space and the necessary tools, you will be off to a flying start.

So, let’s take a look at some of the most important tools required. If you need to purchase any of these items and have your own favorite brand or supplier, stick with them. If not, I have included links to brand models that have received very good reviews from myself and other firearms enthusiasts.

Wheeler Fat Torque Wrench Screwdriver with 10 Bit Set – Model-553556


Wheeler Engineering offers an extensive range of gunsmithing tools. This Torque Wrench Screwdriver Kit is their entry-level set. It will suit those shooters who carry out basic level gunsmithing tasks. For those who own a selection of weapons and need additional sized bits, there is a good choice of larger kits. These stretch right up to their 89-piece Deluxe set.

Made from rugged S2 tool steel, this FAT torque wrench comes with ten different size bits that cover the most common screw heads. Torque adjustment ranges from 10 inches/lbs to 65 inches/lbs. The wrench allows screw tightening throughout your firearm (including those for riflescope rings) to the correct specification.

Tipton Ultra Gun Vise

Tipton Ultra Gun Vise
Our rating:4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)

Next up is something to stabilize your rifle. There are a variety of DIY methods using bits and pieces from your workshop or garage. For example, some imagination and a collection of sandbags can play a prominent part in holding your weapon securely!

However, by far the easiest option is a quality Gun Vise. This is a piece of kit that really will make your life easier. Not just for mounting your scope but for many other gun jobs, maintenance, and cleaning work. Due to the repeated use you put it through, a well-designed Vise will pay for itself time and again. The Tipton Ultra Gun Vise certainly comes into that category.

The best of the best…

The company’s ‘Best Gun Vise’ model has been (and still is!) a huge favorite with firearms enthusiasts. The ‘Ultra Gun Vise’ is Tipton’s latest release, and once again, shooters are taking to it with enthusiasm.

Measuring in at (LxWxH) 32.5 x 11 x 10.5-inches, it has a durable steel tube frame structure. As for the glass-filled nylon vise/clamp construction, this will ensure no weapon marring. Ease of use and versatility are yours from a vise designed to take a wide range of different style weapons.

Stay level…

The four non-slip feet are independently adjustable and offer leveling on all corners. This is particularly useful for scope leveling work. As for the ball and socket articulating clamp pads, these come with front and rear clamps. Both are length and height adjustable and will adapt to any surface.

You also have removable tool and accessory trays, and it is possible to mount the vise to your benchtop (hardware not included).

W WIREGEAR Scope Leveling Tool

W WIREGEAR Scope Leveling Tool
Our rating:4.6 out of 5 stars (4.6 / 5)

A scope leveling tool is next in line. Once again you have a wide choice with prices that also vary. Those looking for a model that is excellent value and is easy to use should take a look at this lesser-known model from W WIREGEAR.

The correct scope alignment will make or break shot accuracy, and a reticle leveling system allows you to achieve that. This scope mounting level has a heavy-duty design, offers real accuracy, comes with a storage case, and is fantastic value for money.

To reach precision accuracy, the reticle of your scope must be precisely aligned with your rifle. The word here to note is “precisely.” This is because crosshairs that are only slightly off to the left or right will impact both windage and elevation, causing bullet impact error.

This scope leveling kit is adjustable to fit most types of guns and is made using precision-machined aluminum with an anodized finish. It comes with bubble levels on both the reference level and your barrel clamp level. In addition, the magnetic bottom reference level can give additional weight and stability during the measuring process.

Other Tool Considerations

The list of tools needed could go on. It really depends on your level of DIY scope mounting and other gunsmithing activity, as well as the methods used. For example, many will find a scope ring alignment bar handy, and some will go for a laser bore sighter.

Three lesser mentioned items that can be highly useful are:

Blue Loctite: Make sure to use the Blue Loctite if you intend to secure screws even further. This medium strength glue keeps screws tight but also allows screw removal later. But do check scope manufacturers’ advice before using it.

For example, Vortex Optics do not recommend the use of any glue. Even more important! Do not use any kind of glue on the ring screws, as this could easily mean you over tighten them.

Cleaning patches and rubbing alcohol: Using these will ensure mounting parts and rifle are cleaned before, during, and after scope attachment work.

Choose Your Scope Mounting Hardware

You have a wide choice of different mount types to choose from, with some being variations of others. However, the two most popular types for rifle users are a scope ring and base setup and a rail and scope base setup.

Let’s concentrate on these two options and give a quick explanation of each:

Scope Ring and Base Setup

This is the most common setup seen on hunting rifles. Originally this mounting hardware was a 2-piece design consisting of a base and a scope ring with the scope ring being screwed into the base.

However, I would recommend going for one of the Talley base/ring alloy mounts. These American-made mounts are purpose-designed for individual rifle models. Choose the one for your rifle, and you are getting a lightweight variation of the classic base/ring setup.

The design sees the bottom half of the scope rings and bases as 1-piece instead of 2-piece. There are good reasons why hunters opt for Talley products. Quality, durability, keen pricing, and a guarantee that lasts as long as your rifle are just some factors worthy of attention.

You will also find that using these rings means “lapping” is not required nor recommended. That fact alone takes a step out of your scope mounting process.

how to mount the scope guide

Rail and Scope Ring Setup

With this setup, you use a single rail (such as a Picatinny rail). This mounts into your gun barrel, and then scope rings are attached to the rail. It is a method that long range and tactical shooters often go for.

This is because both the 1-piece scope rail and the scope rings are mounted on the same plane. That being the case, it should mean perfectly aligned scope rings are yours, and they are not torquing the scope at different angles.

Two other benefits are seen in adjustability and an easier rifle scope leveling process. Adjustability comes with you having a choice of where rings are positioned on the rail. As for the leveling process, this setup makes reference level setting very easy.

However…

Some shooters may feel the downside of rail and scope rings comes with added weight to their rifle. However, there are some very solid lightweight options now available.

NOTE: Whichever method you choose to mount your scope, please be sure to purchase the correct size of scope rings. They are usually either 1-inch or 30 mm, but 34 mm are growing in popularity.

An Effective Scope Mounting Process

There are a variety of ways to mount a scope. The following steps explain the use of both scope ring and base setup as well as rail and scope ring setup. This process is relatively straightforward and proven to be effective:

Step #1 – Secure & Stabilize your rifle

Always double check your rifle is unloaded and then stabilize it using your gun vise or preferred securing method. You should be looking to have the rifle parallel to the ground. It is also crucial that your gun remains stable even when pressure is placed on it during scope work.

Step #2 – Base or Bottom piece/Half of the ring attachment

Whether using the rail or base/ring method, you should apply a very light oil coating to the underside of the rail/base/ring. This will prevent corrosion. Just make sure you do not get any oil on the mounting screws. With some mounts, it is recommended you apply Blue Loctite to the base screws. But please check if this is recommended with the type of mount you have.

If using a rail, torque the screws to the manufacturer’s recommended specifications using your torque wrench. If using a base and ring combo, follow the same procedure but only mount the lower half of this combo. By doing so, it will mean you have the horizontal part of the bases to set your reference level on.

NOTE:

Those using the base and ring combo set up will often hear that this method causes scope rings to be mounted at slightly different angles. If so, this will cause scope torquing problems and mean the scope is not correctly set.

Two ways to get around this issue. The easiest is to use the Talley precision-made rings mentioned above (or other high-quality rings). These quality rings will mount at the correct angles – Problem solved.

The alternative is to carry out Lapping of your scope rings. This is a process designed to ensure the rings you choose do not torque your scope. Lapping is a full procedure in itself, and various tools are necessary. Those who intend to Lap should understand the procedure and then carry this out.

how to mount scope

Step #3 – Leveling

Once again, there are various ways of leveling a scope. Some people swear by one method; others are adamant their way is the best.

Should you use a plumb line or bubble level to align your crosshairs?

The truth is, accurate leveling is possible in more ways than one. However, in the above “tools needed” section, a bubble level was recommended. Using this method is straightforward and relatively fast.

The aim is to make sure that your rifle scope is on the same horizontal plane as your rifle’s action. It is really important to get this right. Scope rotation just a couple of degrees left or right will cause barrel canting, which in turn will mean shots are slightly off target.

Step #4 – Mounting your index/reference levels

For those using a rail and scope ring setup, ease of index level setting was touched on earlier. Here’s how:

It is possible to use your rail to set the index level. For this, you need a level that is designed to sit on top of your rail and underneath your scope. With the level on your rail, adjust your rifle until the level bubble is perfectly centered. You then place a second level on your turret cap. Adjust your scope to ensure the turret cap level matches the rail level. This is a fast, easy process for those using a rail mount.

Leveling with your scope ring and base setup (and another method for rail and scope ring setup) is a little more involved:

Your first step is to attach the level. Don’t initially be worried about exact leveling. Take the barrel clamp level and place it on your rifle’s barrel. You need to get it levelling as close as possible to the rifle’s action. Tighten down well.

Put the smaller reference level either on your rail or base mounts or the bottom half of your scope rings. Make sure the level is at 90 degrees (perpendicular) to your barrel. To achieve this, you need to mount the rail or bases and bottom half of scope rings to the torque specs given by the manufacturer.

Then adjust your rifle right or left until the reference level (either on your rail or rings) is level with the bubble (between the two lines).

Once that is done, use the micro adjuster to adjust the barrel clamp level. This should match the small reference level. Once the two levels match (Barrel clamp level and bubble on your reference level), this means your barrel clamp level is indexed to your rifle.

Take good care not to bump or knock the barrel clamp level once this indexing is complete.

If using a ring/base setup…

Place your scope in the bottom half of the rings, then place the top half of the rings on the scope and lightly screw in the ring screws. You need the screws to be resistant but loose enough to allow movement/rotation of the scope. You also want approximately even spacing on both sides of your upper and lower rings when they are fully tightened.

Then slide your scope forward/backward just to make sure you feel an even contact with the rings.

Those using a rail/ring setup should mount the bottom half of rings and then torque them to recommended specs. When doing this, make sure the rings are spaced with enough room to slide the scope backwards/forwards. The reason for this is to allow you to adjust for eye relief.

Step #5 – Eye relief adjustment

If your scope is variable magnification, place it on the middle power setting. Carefully remove the rifle from the vise and shoulder it (your normal shooting stance). Move the scope as far forward as possible, then slowly bring the scope back until you can see the scope’s entire field of view. When this is done correctly, you will have no scope “shadow” in view.

Once you find the correct eye to scope distance, hold it there. That is it for fixed magnification scopes. As for variable magnification scopes, then turn up the power to maximum magnification. You are doing this to make sure the entire field of view is correct.

Once satisfied, you should carefully replace the rifle back into your vise or stabilizer and position it, so the level on the barrel clamp is perfectly level. Remove the turret cap (if necessary) and place the reference level directly onto the turret.

Keep adjusting the scope until the reference level bubble matches the barrel clamp level bubble. Also, confirm that the reference level is perpendicular (90 degrees) to the barrel.

how to mount the scope

Step #6 – Tighten/check carefully

We are nearly there! Once satisfied with those levels, you can then begin to slowly tighten the ring screws. Do this in an “X” pattern (diagonal – top/bottom – bottom/top) around half a turn each time. While doing this, keep an eye on the spacing between the upper/lower halves of the bases. These should be roughly equal. Also, watch the reference level as the screws are tightened.

Very important: In terms of tightening the ring screws, do not over-tighten them. Stick to the manufacturer’s inch/pound torque specs. Overtightening can very easily affect scope performance.

You need to check and then check again that the index and reference levels on your scope match. If they do not, you will need to unscrew the ring screws and readjust. You also need to check the gap in the scope rings is about the same on both rings and each side of the scope.

That is it! Give your rifle and scope a once-over, and then prepare to sight-in and shoot out accurately!

Looking for a Quality Scope to Mount?

Then check out my in-depth reviews of the Best Air Rifle Scopes, the Best Low Light Rifle Scope, the Best Scout Scopes, the Best Mil Dot Scopes, the Best Deer Hunting Scopes, as well as Best Mini 14 Ranch Rifles on the market in 2022.

Or, take a look at our in-depth reviews of the Best 300 Win Mag Scopes, the Best 308 Rifles Scopes, the Best Scopes for M&P 15-22, the Best Scopes for AR15 under 100 Dollars, or the Best Rimfire Scopes you can buy.

Final Thoughts

Understanding the best way to mount a scope is a gunsmithing task that really is worthwhile. It is certainly not as difficult as it is often made out to be and offers two major pluses. You will be increasing your firearms knowledge, and you will be far keener to get the job done exactly as it should be.

Once that scope is properly mounted, you are also opening up a whole new world of shooting opportunities. These come through extending shooting range and increasing accuracy.

Such precision will not come overnight, and regular practice is needed. However, having a correctly mounted scope on your favorite rifle is a huge step in the right direction.

Happy and safe shooting.

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About Gary McCloud

Gary is a U.S. ARMY OIF veteran who served in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. He followed in the honored family tradition with his father serving in the U.S. Navy during Vietnam, his brother serving in Afghanistan, and his Grandfather was in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Due to his service, Gary received a VA disability rating of 80%. But he still enjoys writing which allows him a creative outlet where he can express his passion for firearms.

He is currently single, but is "on the lookout!' So watch out all you eligible females; he may have his eye on you...

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