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How to Level a Rifle Scope Properly: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Level a Rifle Scope Properly - A Step-by-Step Guide

Having trouble with shot accuracy or consistency, no matter how correct your aiming fundamentals are, might be a sign that your equipment is at fault, as your rifle scope may not be properly level.

In this case, you must return to your workbench and level your rifle scope the right way.

This guide will cover the steps needed to perform two essential methods that can give you the perfect scope and reticle level: the bubble level method and the plumb bob method.

Follow the instructions below for scope leveling made easy as I discuss everything you need to know when leveling your rifle scope.

What Does “Leveling a Scope” Mean?

Scope leveling is the process of ensuring that both the scope and the reticle are perfectly aligned with the ground and the vertical axis of the firearm.

Leveling a scope will help you achieve balance and precision with your rifle, ensuring your aim is true and not canted. This is why utilizing a gun level tool will likely increase your ability to perform accurate and consistent shooting.

Creating that flat spot is vital, especially when zeroing your weapon. Any tilt or misalignment can throw off your shots, making shooting success a matter of chance rather than skill.

Moreover, scope leveling also plays a pivotal role in adjusting elevation and windage. When your equipment is leveled, these adjustments work precisely as intended, allowing you to make the shots that count.

What Do You Need to Level a Scope? (Plumb Bob Method)

The plumb bob method is a way to level a scope using a plumb bob, a weight suspended from a string hanging vertically. This will act as your scope-leveling tool.

With this method, you are essentially using gravity to reveal a perfectly vertical line. The “plumb line” it reveals is used as a reference point to determine whether the scope is level or not.

example of the plumb bob method to level a scope

NOTE: If the vertical stadia of the crosshairs/reticle does not perfectly align with this plumb line, then the scope is not level and needs to be adjusted.

Using this scope leveling tool is best for shooters who want to ensure their reticle is totally level using simple gravity.

You need to gather a few materials and tools for this process.

  • Rifle
  • Scope
  • Level surface
  • Wall a few paces from your chosen surface
  • Sturdy string in contrasting colors to the wall
  • Plumb bob or any heavy object you can tie to the end of a string
  • Gun cradle or vise
  • Torque wrench

If you find that your suspended string keeps swaying or proves to be unreliable, you can use a chalk line alternative. A chalk line is a thin string coated in chalk used to mark a straight line, which can be used as a reference.

You can also watch this video for a tutorial to help you out:

FUN FACT: This type of method has similarly been used since ancient Egypt.

How to Level a Scope (Plumb Bob Method)

The plumb bob is the oldest technique for leveling a scope and is widely considered the most dependable way of leveling a rifle scope.

That said, it is fairly time and tool-intensive to do. This tedious method may not be the easiest to perform, but I think it is worth it when you see how level your scope can get.

When asked how to level a rifle scope using a plumb bob, I almost always recommend the steps listed below.

Step 1. Establish a Solid Foundation

First, ensure your gun is unloaded and positioned to avoid putting anything in the line of fire.

a rifle scope secured on a gun vice

Then, ensure that the surface where you will mount your gun is level.

a rifle scope mounted on a gun vice

I personally like to perform the bubble level method on the rifle itself before using the plumb bob method to ensure that my foundation is reliably leveled for the next stage of the process.

Once the rifle is level, secure the rifle to prevent any shifting.

Step 2. Set Up the Plumb Bob

Setting up the plumb bob correctly is essential when leveling a scope as it establishes a precise vertical reference line, aiding in the scope’s perfect reticle alignment.

To achieve this, start by determining an appropriate distance to hang the plumb bob from your gun, typically across a yard or garage.

Next, hang the plumb bob from the string and ensure it is perpendicular to the ground.

setting up a plumb bob

Creating a vertical reference line is the key to this method’s success, so ensure the plumb line falls in the center of the scope (which is not necessarily the center of the rifle’s bore).

Step 3. Align Crosshair and Plumb Bob

To continue plumb line leveling, gently place the scope on its base.

Do not fully tighten the scope rings yet to allow for adjustments.

Next, get into position behind the scope and look through it. Try to get the vertical crosshair of your reticle perfectly parallel to the plumb line.

plumb bob line aligning with the crosshair

Step 4. Fine-tune the Alignment

This technique can take a while, so be patient with trial and error.

Keep adjusting until the reticle is consistently aligned with the reference point.

Step 5. Secure the Alignment

While making adjustments, ensure the gun cradle is stable and the rifle stays level.

Tighten the ring screws in small and measured increments, keeping the reticle aligned as you do.

Step 6. Double-Check the Alignment

Continue plumb bob leveling by closely monitoring the level and its alignment with your reference point.

Before fully securing the scope onto the rifle, make sure that any changes in the alignment of the reticle are corrected.

Step 7. Finalize the Scope Leveling

When you are confident that the rifle is appropriately leveled and the reticle is consistently aligned with the reference line, fully and evenly tighten the screws on the scope’s rings in a crisscross manner.

Do it slowly to avoid overdoing it, as this can cause damage to your equipment.

What Do You Need to Level a Scope? (Bubble Level Method)

The bubble level method is another way to level a rifle scope, this time using a small bubble level. This tool (also known as “spirit level”) is a tube filled with a liquid, such as alcohol or (previously) mercury.

When the scope is level, the bubble will be perfectly centered in the tube. If it is not, the scope is not level and must be adjusted accordingly.

Bubble level attached to a rifle scope

Some rifle scopes come with a level attached, though these are typically more expensive ones for long-range shooting.

If yours does not come with this scope leveling tool, you can easily find a bubble level at most sporting goods stores.

The bubble level method is best for people new to leveling scopes or who do not have access to a plumb bob. It is also a good option for people leveling a scope in a hurry.

The materials needed for this technique are few and are items you probably already have as a gun/rifle owner. Here are the commonly used tools.

  • Rifle
  • Scope
  • Scope-mounted bubble/spirit level
  • Level surface (e.g., table, workbench)
  • Torque wrench
  • Sturdy shooting rest or gun vise

How to Level a Scope (Bubble Level Method)

If you search “how to level rifle scope,” many experienced shooters will refer you to the proper way of bubble leveling to get the main tube level with the horizontal axis.

This is because it is a straightforward and beginner-friendly technique.

Learning how to level a scope on a rifle this way is an excellent skill to have, though some scopes may not respond as well to this style, which I will discuss below.

Step 1. Secure Your Rifle

Firstly, follow all safety precautions. Treat the rifle as if loaded and remove the bolt from bolt action rifles. Point the rifle in a safe direction, and position yourself behind the scope with proper eye relief.

Once you have done those, the next step is to prevent rifle movement to get an accurate reading.

Secure the rifle in a gun vise or gun cradle on a flat surface. Do not attach the scope itself yet, but you may attach the scope base to ensure it is level with the firearm.

If the vise or cradle does not have built-in leveling features, use shims to level the rifle. Scope shims are small, thin pieces of material that can be placed under the rifle to level it.

Step 2. Attach the Bubble Level

Attaching the bubble level correctly when leveling a scope using the bubble method is vital for precise shooting.

The level must be placed perfectly to ensure an accurate reading.

Bubble level being attached to a rifle scope

Start by making sure the rifle is securely placed on a flat and level surface.

Then, position the level on the rail of the rifle, ideally above the receiver or handguard attachment points.

Once the level is firmly attached, make the necessary adjustments to the rifle and its cradle until the rifle is parallel to the ground.

Step 3. Position Your Scope

Achieving a perfectly centered bubble may require a few tries, but this meticulous positioning will allow you to experience accurate mounting and precise shooting.

To do this, place your scope in the corresponding mount or rings while ensuring the rifle is level.

The scope base has to be secure on the rifle, but make sure your scope rings and scope tube are a bit loose so that you can adjust the scope.

Next, place the level on top of the elevation turret. This will serve as your reference point for leveling.

With the level in place, carefully adjust the positioning of the scope until the bubble is centered. If you need to use shims, make sure they are evenly spaced.

Step 4. Mount Your Scope

Mounting a scope properly is crucial in ensuring both accuracy and safety. It is less likely to shift when it is securely and levelly mounted, which is essential for precision shooting.

Begin by tightening the scope mount around the positioned scope evenly and incrementally, following a crisscross pattern. This distributes the pressure evenly.

A person mounting a rifle scope

Use the level to verify that the scope remains level throughout the process. If it shifts, make the necessary adjustments to realign it.

For added assurance, you can occasionally reposition the level back onto the rifle to confirm its levelness.

Once you have verified that the scope is level, fully tighten the scope ring screws.

Step 5. Check the Alignment

After mounting your scope, perform a final alignment check to ensure it remains level and has not shifted during the mounting process.

NOTE: Improper alignment can lead to inaccuracies and danger when using your firearm.

To perform this check, first examine the scope’s reticle and sight picture. Then, glance at the attached level. If the bubble is not centered, either the rifle or the scope has shifted during mounting.

To correct any misalignment, re-level the rifle, the scope, or the scope rings until the bubble is centered again when placed on the right spots (rail, elevation turret, etc.).

Alternative: Using an Angle Cube

Angle cubes are digital levels that can be used to level a rifle scope. They are more precise and easier to use than bubble levels.

Angle cube leveling tool

They work by emitting a laser beam reflected off the rifle’s rail, digitally displaying its angular readout.

Angle cubes can be used to zero a rifle even on surfaces that are not ideally level (though it may result in a less precise measurement).

The tradeoff is that they are more expensive and can be damaged if dropped.

How to Use an Angle Cube for Scope Leveling

To use an angle cube to level a rifle scope, place the angle cube on a flat section of your secured rifle’s rail. If the angle displayed is not zero, adjust the position of your rifle until it is.

Then, place the angle cube on top of the scope’s elevation knob and mount the scope. As you do this, adjust your scope until the device shows a zero angle, which means your scope has no more cant.

Finally, check the alignment and adjust the rifle and the scope until the angle cube displays zero for both components. You may then secure the scope base.

Tips and Troubleshooting on Leveling a Scope

Make sure to keep the expert advice below in mind to avoid committing a leveling error.


  • Choose the proper technique. The best technique for you will depend on the type of scope and tools you have.
  • Use a quality level. Make sure to use a level that is in good condition.
  • Double-check your setup. This helps you correct any missteps before firing shots.
  • Check for parallax. Parallax is a phenomenon that can cause crosshairs to shift when the shooter’s eye position changes. To check for parallax, view a target through the scope and then move your head slightly. If the reticle does not stay on target, you must adjust the parallax setting.
  • Secure your rings. This will prevent the scope from moving and ensure it remains precisely level.
  • Reference your manual. If you are having trouble leveling, consult the manufacturer’s manual. It may contain special instructions that can help you optimize your scope.


  • Inconsistent alignment. If the scope is not aligned consistently, it may be due to loose or damaged rings.
  • Uneven tension. This can cause misalignment. Make sure that the rings are evenly tightened with the proper torque.
  • The base is not level. This also causes the scope to be misaligned. You can adjust your vise or use shims to level the surface.
  • Parallax errors. If your scope has an adjustable objective, you can use it to correct parallax errors. Opt for a higher magnification setting or a laser rangefinder if not.
  • Crosshair rotation: Crosshair rotation occurs when the reticle in a scope rotates independently of the rifle. This can be caused by loose or damaged scope rings, improper mounting, or a defect in the scope itself. Address these issues to fix crosshair rotation.
  • Bubble level misalignment. This happens when the level is not level, if it is damaged, or if it is not correctly calibrated. If accurately leveling the surface does not correct this, you may need to have the level repaired or replaced.

Why Level Your Own Scope?

Here are the key benefits of knowing how to mount a rifle scope on your own.


Accuracy is all about aligning your rifle scope’s reticle with your intended point of impact, keeping them together in the proper plane.

A level scope (tube, rings, and other components) helps with precise aiming.

The slightest tilt can lead to missed shots because the bullet follows a curved path, so ensuring everything is where it should be is one of the best ways of ensuring your shots hit their target.

Errors caused by a tilted scope amplify with long distances because of more significant bullet drops, for example. Dialing in your settings and mounting long before you fire your first shot to guarantee success is better.


Consistency is the ability to hit the same spot on the target repeatedly, regardless of the distance or environmental conditions.

A properly aligned reticle helps maintain a consistent bullet trajectory, leading to a more predictable bullet path. This is why learning how to mount a scope to avoid complications down the road is essential.

After all, tilts can introduce lateral errors, causing bullets to hit off-center, even if you make the appropriate adjustments to your gun scope.

We want to ensure that windage and elevation adjustments work as they should, which is challenging to do with tilted scopes.


When it comes to leveling your own rifle scope, customization refers to the process of fine-tuning the scope to your specific shooting style and preferences.

By making all the adjustments to the reticle, scope rings, and scope mount cater to you, you can reap the benefits below.

  • Enhanced comfort. Matching your shooting posture and eye relief eliminates the need to strain your neck or eyes to align with the reticle, making shooting more comfortable and effective.
  • Improved accuracy and consistency. A level and aligned scope will not require you to compensate for misalignment, leading to more precise shot placement.
  • Enjoyable shooting. Customization allows you to make your setup uniquely yours. You can simply enjoy shooting without concerns about technical aspects.

Learning Experience

When you learn to adjust the scope yourself, you gain increased familiarity with your optic platform and insights that can enhance your overall shooting knowledge.

It provides a deeper understanding of your gun and optic and how their relationship can affect your accuracy, consistency, etc.

Plus, it gives you a sense of accomplishment and confidence when you do it successfully. I find this especially important in shooting, as it goes a long way in keeping shooters returning for more.

Remember, a better understanding of your setup can help you improve your overall execution and outdoor experience, as you can detect problems more efficiently and respond accordingly.


Being able to level your own scope gives you the independence to make the appropriate scope adjustments whenever needed.

This is essential for any shooter, but it is especially crucial for those who spend a tremendous amount of time in the field or at the range.

Another advantage is that it makes you a more versatile shooter. You will be able to perform in various conditions and take your shooting to the next level.

Investing in a few tools to gain this autonomy is only a minor con in my book.

Learning how to do your own leveling will also save you time and money in the long run since you will likely have to pay a fee if you take your rifle to a gunsmith to have your scope leveled.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you are still confused about the impact of a level scope and rifle, read this Q&A for more helpful information.

Does Your Scope Have to be Perfectly Level?

No, your scope does not have to be perfectly level in order to be accurate.

However, when a scope (as well as the rifle) is level, it will help shooters avoid significant errors because even a small amount of tilt can take shots way off-target, especially with long-range shooting.

To look for easy ways on how to level your scope, check out the information listed above.

Does It Matter How High Your Scope Is?

The height of your scope does not matter when leveling it as long as the scope is level with the bore of the rifle.

However, it can affect the point of impact (POI) because the higher the scope is mounted, the farther the POI will be above the bore.

To avoid this, mount your scope at the correct height, which will depend on the rifle, the scope, and your comfort and preference.

Do I Need a Bubble Level on My Rifle Scope?

A bubble level may not be necessary to have on your scope, but it can be helpful depending on your shooting style.

If you are a precision shooter who shoots at long-range targets, then a bubble level can be beneficial in ensuring that your scope and rifle are level to avoid minute aiming errors.

However, if you are a casual shooter who shoots at closer ranges, then a bubble level may not be a must-have for your needs.

Final Thoughts on Leveling a Scope

Take the time to level your rifle scope and reticle so that you can enjoy a better shooting performance and overall user experience.

Whether you decide to use bubble levels or plumb bobs, following these steps guarantees a level setup!

The next time you need to revisit this task, feel free to refer back to the instructions here for an easier time.

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