All beginner shooting enthusiasts know the struggle of not having precision and missing your shots over and over.
When I was first starting out, I would be so frustrated that I wouldn’t touch my shooting gear for weeks!
That is, until I discovered how to properly level my scope! This is an art that you must master to achieve precision of your point of aim.
But how should you level your rifle scope and make it work?
I’ll teach you how to level a rifle scope in three ways below.
- What You Need
- Pre-Steps on How to Level a Rifle Scope
- Technique #1: Using a String Line Level
- Technique #2: Using a Segway Reticle Leveler
- Technique #3: Using Wheeler Professional Reticle Leveling System
- Why Level a Riflescope?
- Should You Worry About Leveling a Rifle Scope?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Case and Point: Conclusion
What You Need
Before jumping right onto leveling the scope, first things first.
Let’s discuss precision scope leveling using the following levels. Make sure you have the levels you need, such as
- Spirit levels/bubble level
- String line level
- Reticle leveler
- Barrel clamp level
- Plumb bob
These tools will help you as we go through the steps later. Don’t worry. Let’s take it easy.
Have your gun clear and UNLOADED with bullets to avoid it from going off.
Top-shooter note: You can also remove the bolt from the rifle.
Also, point your gun in a safe direction. The sight should be clear and safe from anyone who might be in front of it to reduce any accidents.
Pre-Steps on How to Level a Rifle Scope
Now, it’s time to estimate and set up that rifle scope off the bat.
Ready? Let’s get those rifle scopes ready in the steps below!
Scope Leveling: Estimate How Everything Fits
Leveling your scope is easy; that’s undeniable. But the process can be a slight hassle.
REMEMBER: Positioning the levels properly achieves precision.
To be more specific, estimate the right amount of rig spacing you need. Why? It affects the placement of the scope onto the rifle.
I had to practice several times to achieve top performance.
For example, if your Picatinny rail is shorter than your first focal plane optic, estimate where to attach your scope rings.
The first focal plane scope has a shorter front scope tube and a long back scope tube. With its structure, you might have to space out the scope rings.
What’s the proper way to attach your scope to the rings?
The front ring should be against the turret housing to ensure it’s squarely mounted with the turret housing.
You might accidentally compromise your eye relief (which I did). Make sure you still have enough!
Otherwise, you better ready yourself to get smacked in the eye by your rifle scope, like I was.
Also, it provides you with the stability of your scopes, which is crucial for leveling.
BONUS TIP: Taking into account parallax adjustments is also vital to remember, but isn’t directly related to leveling your scope.
Installing the Riflescope
Scope rings are usually halved horizontally into two parts.
The bottom part is attached to the rail mount, and the upper part, the ring caps, are attached to the bottom scope rings.
- First, start off the process by setting the scope on the bottom rings.
- Adjust the scope body until it gives you leeway on how you can set up your firearm.
- After that, you can now install and tighten the ring caps with a torque wrench.
- Tighten the scope ring screws alternately to avoid the rifle scope from moving by itself, but be sure you can still rotate the scope.
Technique #1: Using a String Line Level
String line levels are tools commonly used for masonry and carpentry.
A string line level is useful for leveling two reference points and is usually used with a chalk line or a plumb bob, also known as a plumb line.
I like using string lines because they are cheap and effective in leveling my scope!
FAST FACT: It’s already been used since ancient Egypt. If that makes you more excited, let’s dive into how to use a string line level.
You don’t need to buy an actual plumb line. You can customize a DIY string line level.
Don’t know how? Watch this video for a tutorial:
If you know it already, then you’re set! Let’s level your riflescope using the string line level technique.
1. Secure the Rifle in Place
Sit your gun upright in a gun cradle, either on a rare bag or gun vise.
2. Attach the Scope Mount/Scope Base
Screw down the mount, also known as scope base, onto your rifle by using a removable thread locker.
You don’t want the screws to hit your bolt. I always manually inspect my receiver and prevent it from any obstructions.
3. Project the Reticle Through the Eyepiece
Use a torch to aim and project the reticle through the eyepiece.
Once done, you will see the shadows of the reticle cast on the backdrop. The shadows should be dark enough so that you can easily trace the reticle.
4. Level the Scope Reticle
You may have to adjust the scope body by rotating it a bit sideways. Do this until you see the reticle parallel with the string line.
If it doesn’t work, adjust the screws instead.
Remember to adjust them alternately in crossways to keep the scope body secured in place.
5. Relevel the Gun
After verifying the reticle’s level, let’s re-level the rifle.
Torque the rifle on a rare bag or on a gun vise until your scope is level. The bubble level should be popping exactly in the middle of the vial.
6. Check and Test
While adjusting the rifle scope and its screws, check the firearm gun level. Always have it secured on its cradle.
Also, ensure that the rifle levels with the scope. In short, ensure everything is level.
After checking everything, test the scope.
First, aim and then project the reticle through the eyepiece. The string level should be perpendicular to the reticle’s lines.
And that’s how you use the string-level technique. Let’s hop onto the next one.
Technique #2: Using a Segway Reticle Leveler
This method is what I usually use as I find it the easiest and most useful!
A Segway reticle leveler has two rectangular plastic wings connected with a brass rod at the bottom.
Each wing has printed horizontal lines, which are used as a reference level. One of its wings has a level useful for leveling the scope and the rifle.
The whole piece comes with a rubber band that wraps around the firearm and compresses the two wings in place.
1. Secure Your Rifle
As usual, sit your gun upright in a gun cradle.
2. Attach the Scope Mount
Screw down the mount onto your rifle by using a removable thread locker. Don’t let the ring screws hit your bolt!
Manually inspect your receiver and prevent it from any obstructions.
To learn how to mount a scope on AR 15 with iron sights, check out this guide!
3. Assemble the Reticle Leveler
Remove one of the wings and insert the brass rod under the scope and on top of the mount.
Slide the other wing back onto the rod until the two wings touch the scope.
After that, hook the rubber band onto one of the wing’s hooks. Pull it and pass it through under the gun, then hook it to the other wing’s hook.
4. Ensure the Brass Rod Isn’t Tilted
Check the position of your brass rod. It should sit upright on the base and not tilted to either one of the sides.
You need to make sure everything is PARALLEL and level so you can achieve the precision of your point of aim.
While adjusting the brass rod and the wings, verify that the rifle is properly aligned by using the reference level in one of the wings.
The rifle should always be secured in the gun cradle.
5. Square Your Scope with the Axis of the Rifle
Align the horizontal lines on the leveler with the horizontal axis of your rifle scope.
After ensuring the lines are parallel, adjust the screws on each ring.
Top-shooter tip: Tighten each screw alternately one at a time (this prevents the rifle scope body from shifting).
While adjusting, check the reference in the leveler and its horizontal lines to verify everything is in place.
6. Re-Level the Gun
With the torque wrench, torque the gun on a bipod or a rare bag until your scope is level.
The bubble in the spirit level should be popping exactly in the middle of the vial.
Once done, you deserve a round of applause. Congratulations!
Technique #3: Using Wheeler Professional Reticle Leveling System
This leveling system is on another level (sorry, pun intended).
Wheeler Professional Reticle Leveling System has a metal reference level and barrel clamp level.
Although the reference can be recalibrated, you SHOULDN’T calibrate its set screws unless… you want bad accuracy.
There are two aluminum metals mounted. The bigger one is the barrel clamp level and the smaller one is the reference.
1. Secure the Rifle in Place
Sit your gun upright in a gun cradle, either on a bipod or on a rare bag.
2. Attach the Scope Mount
Screw down the mount on your rifle by using a removable thread locker. As mentioned in the previous techniques, don’t let the screws hit your bolt.
3. Set up the Upper/Top Part of the Barrel Clamp
Set the upper/top section of the clamp using its adjustment knob.
The top/upper section should be approximately parallel to the lower section of the clamp
This will allow you to have enough adjustment range late.
4. Attach the Barrel Clamp
Slide the clamp toward the fore-end of the barrel. After that, tighten its thumb screws evenly on each side.
The clamp should be perfectly aligned with the rifle. Make sure it’s secured and attached tight enough.
Do this now since you’ll adjust it later without the adjustment knob.
5. Place the Reference Level
Find an even surface on the receiver to use as our reference surface.
If the receiver doesn’t have a flat surface, use the mount rifle scope base instead.
Remove the cap of the elevation adjustments knob and place the reference on top of the elevation knob.
Two important things to consider:
- Be sure the reference is centered on top of the elevation turret
- It should be perpendicular to the rifle and action.
6. Level Everything
Adjust the riflescope until the bubble level pops right in the middle of the vial. Be sure the clamp still levels the rifle.
Adjust the thumbscrews on the scope rings alternately to prevent the riflescope from turning.
Furthermore, the clamp and the reference levels should be parallel throughout the process.
Why Level a Riflescope?
Leveling your rifle scope is a surefire way to ensure your aim is as precise as can be. How does it determine that?
When you are ready to zero your scope and rifle, all the adjustments work to make sure rifle and scope are optimized before you start shooting.
The windage and elevation adjustments work in the proper plane with the rifle.
Plus, it ensures your reticle locked onto the target or wherever you want the bullet to land.
Both the scope and rifle work nicely in unison, resulting in clean shots only!
Should You Worry About Leveling a Rifle Scope?
Yes. I advise you to take the extra time and effort to level your scope as even the tiniest misalignments have heavy consequences at any distance.
Failing to level your scope would result in your windage and elevation being inaccurate as you adjust them.
You want to avoid these adjustments being canted on one side.
You also would not be able to properly sight your rifle scope if it is not properly leveled, meaning your reticle would not align with the target.
Your shots will be all over the place!
Frequently Asked Questions
Does a Scope Have to be Perfectly Level?
As much as possible, yes. A scope that is perfectly aligned is ideal to have little to no error.
Any sort of canting (or tilting to one side), no matter how big or small, can make or break your shot.
Does It Matter How High Your Scope Is?
Height does matter in some cases, especially when shooting long distances.
A higher-mounted scope is advantageous as it allows you make more adjustments over extreme distances since the barrel is steeper.
Do I Need a Bubble Level on my Rifle Scope?
A bubble level is extremely useful for longer distances.
With this on your scope, you can prevent any canting and ensure that your rifle is perfectly leveled.
Case and Point: Conclusion
Once you’ve mastered all these steps, you’ll be able to use your rifle scope correctly!
Don’t worry; I thought this whole process was a hassle to back then, but I learned that they are super necessary if you want to land precise shots.
From scope rings and your elevation turret down to the spirit level and elevation adjustments knob, leveling your scopes is MUST!
Whether it’s semi-auto precision or bolt action rifles, proper levels ensure you knock down wild game with fulfillment.
Now go out there and test it out!