So you’ve finally decided to replace the stock rifle scope that comes with your ol’ reliable sharpshooter and try scope mounting.
Maybe the old rifle scope started conking out, maybe you just happen to get a great new scope on a deal. Nevertheless, getting a new scope is an exciting time for hunters and sharpshooters alike.
As such, we hope to help you through the basic steps of getting your new rifle scope set up with your rifle. Keep reading for tips on how to mount a scope.
- What You’ll Need to Mount a Rifle Scope
- Mounting a Rifle Scope: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Additional Set-Ups: Sighting
- Final Thoughts
What You’ll Need to Mount a Rifle Scope
Preparation goes a long way when modifying anything regarding firearms and learning how to mount a scope.
So before you get started fiddling with all the different base screws and start to mount a scope, you’ll need the following basic tools and additional attachments.
Basic Tools & Mounting Hardware
The standard tools for any gunsmith who wants to mount a scope are as follows:
- Torque screwdriver
- Gunsmithing screwdrivers set
- Electrician’s tape
- Scope Level/Bubble Level
- Gun cradle/Gun vise/Gun Mount
- Removable thread locker (avoid using Loctite)
Why you need these parts to mount a scope:
- The torque wrench, along with the gunsmithing screwdrivers, will definitely help tighten the ring screws.
- The dowel rods will help torque dovetail rings to place while rosin will keep the scope in the rings without too much movement.
- The Gun cradle/vise/mount is important to stabilize your rifle while working on it. Make sure you find a flat spot to work on to properly get your scope leveled.
- Lastly, a thread locker for screw threads is useful to make sure that the screws remain secure in the screw holes. However, make sure you use a removable thread locker, as permanent ones like blue Loctite can be a headache to remove when you need to make some adjustments.
Once you’ve collected all the following, you’ll also need the following key parts alongside the scope proper: the scope base and the scope rings.
The Scope Base: One Piece vs. Two Piece Types
A scope base is basically the foundation of your rifle set-up.
If you are spending all your time picking out a quality scope, you’ll need to make sure you’ll have a quality scope base as well.
Most bases come in two variants: one-piece and two-piece bases.
- A one-piece base is, as the name suggests, a rifle base that comes in a single continuous construction. Because it’s a single body, you’re guaranteed more stability with each shot; useful for long-range shots using heavy rifle scopes and/or heavy-calibered rifles.
- Two-piece scope bases, on the other hand, are more versatile when it comes to dealing with a bolt-action rifle.
Normally these would have the bolt cartridge positioned near where the scope would be, so a two-piece base for bolt-action rifles would allow you to leave that area clear while mounting a rifle scope.
After you get your scope base, make sure to get some quality scope rings that FIT just right with the scope you have.
Want a good point of reference?
Pick rings with the right circumference and height that position the scope body closest to the rifle body.
This will help you keep sighted accuracy, especially when sighting a new rifle scope.
For added assistance, you can look to get a scope ring alignment lapping kit. This will make sure that your scope rings are properly aligned to keep your scope tube aligned.
Mounting a Rifle Scope: A Step-by-Step Guide
Now it’s time to see how to mount your new rifle scope.
We’ll be explaining how riflescopes work and will walk you through the basic process of mounting your rifle scope (as well as the additional steps you’ll want to take to make sure your scope is accurate for rifle shooting.)
Step 1: Rifle Mount and Scope Base Installation
First things first.
Position your rifle on a gun mount on a flat surface. Make sure your rifle is unloaded for extra safety.
SERIOUSLY. Check it ahead of time.
Install the scope base on your rifle.
Again, depending on your rifle, you’ll be using one-piece or two-piece scope bases (i.e., you probably have a one-piece mount if you’re using M1A scope base mounts)
For this quick guide, we will assume you’re using a one-piece scope base.
Gun oil can be useful to help lubricate any contact areas.
RECAP: We mentioned that a thread locker would be useful in keeping the screws from going loose through long use or heavy recoils, so make sure you have some on hand now.
Next, follow this guide:
- Secure the screws (especially each base screw) to the rifle body and secure it more with your removable thread locker.
- Tighten the screws and ensure they’re all flush so no protruding screws will affect your scope level.
- Use a bubble level to make sure your base is installed level and flat. This starting foundation is key to get right as it will dictate all the additional parts that will follow.
Once you’ve gotten your scope base installed, you can move on to the installation of the scope rings.
Step 2: Scope Rings, Installation, and Test Fitting
Now the scope rings are the key parts that hold in your chosen rifle scope. Most height rings would have in regards to their scope about 1 to 3 inches high.
Make sure to get the proper scope ring height for best results!
It’s also best to have a matching scope mount to the respective scope rings.
These can be a direct mount on the base as a singular piece or a two-piece separate dovetail ring that you can adjust to alignment using the scope ring lapping kit.
Test fit the scope in the rings to see how well it fits.
If everything is good, secure the scope properly in the rings using rosin to keep it from shaking around while in use.
Double-check that the rifle scope is level before tightly securing the tube to each ring.
Pro-tip: We recommend using the torque screwdriver to easily secure the scope ring screws to the base. Don’t tighten these ring screws too much as you may need to adjust these for their horizontal position in regards to your chosen scope’s eye relief.
Step 3: Setting the Horizontal Position for Proper Eye Relief
Before diving in, you might be wondering “What is Eye Relief?”
Eye relief is a common term that indicates how far your eye needs to be from the main ocular piece to get a clear and focused image.
A black hazy ring, known as a “scope shadow” will surround the image and indicate a mispositioned scope.
Luckily, this is easy to fix.
Just don’t ignore this as you may end up experiencing more bad neck strain from the constant repositioning to get the right focus (often because you’re not familiar with the eye relief of your new scope).
The WORST that can happen?
- You might end up with a bad case of scope eye if you try to position your eye too close to the rifle scope and get whacked with the rifle’s respective recoil.
- Not only will you get a nasty case of a black-eye, but you’ll also probably walk away with a bruised ego as well.
Adjusting for Eye Relief
Luckily for you, a horizontal adjustment of the scope rings position is fairly easy (provided you paid attention to us and avoided tightening the scope ring screws too tightly.)
Here’s how to do it:
- Set up your shooting position as if you’re aiming at a target, either on the gun vice or carried on your shoulder. (A good trick to keep in mind is to do this with your eyes closed).
- Rest your cheek on the rifle stock and open your eyes. Depending on how clear or if there is a scope shadow, you’ll need to adjust the scope rings position.
- Repeat this process until you’re comfortable with the distance of the scope comes out clear.
Now that you’ve done this part, you may have noticed that your cheek placement may not be the most comfortable when looking down your sight.
This may mean you’ll need to adjust the height of your rifle scope.
Step 4: Adjusting your Scope’s Vertical Height
Neck strain is definitely an issue when out hunting, especially if you need to keep your target for a long time before firing.
We hate it. You hate it. Everyone hates it.
To ease your neck while out on the field, make sure the height of your scope is JUST RIGHT in relation to your scope and the size of your head.
Admittedly this may be more of a DIY fix than anything else.
You can check if the scope ring is more or less set in the right height by doing a similar test to the eye relief:
Close your eyes on the cheekpiece on the stock and opening them once ready. Now…
- If you can easily see through the scope, your scope mounting is done well.
- If not, it may be time to replace it with higher scope rings or a cheekpiece stock pack.
These stock packs basically act as padding to allow some more height to your head placement with respect to the scope rings.
If you don’t want to have the added weight of a stock pack, you can opt for some lightweight insulation padding (or any other appropriate spare fabrics), to act as a layer of height in a similar way.
Step 5: Adjusting Scope Level (Elevation Adjustment)
Don’t think that once you set up the scope base, rings, and tube you’re done with your scope mounting.
But hey, YOU’RE NEARLY DONE.
Beyond finalizing the mount with level measurement tools like the classic bubble level, you’ll need to properly adjust for bullet drop.
What is bullet drop?
Bullet drop is the basic physics of a bullet that dictates: bullets don’t fly in a straight line (like Wesley Gibbons or Morgan Freeman) but rather in an arc.
So the various turrets found on the scope tube can help adjust for this. And now…we’re going to ask you to curve the bullet.
Jokes-aside, you’ll have two main turrets for this job:
- One that adjusts the scope reticle placement horizontally and;
- One that adjusts for it vertically
Each turret may have a turret cap that normally keeps you from accidentally adjusting the reticle when you don’t need it to.
The vertical adjustment turret is probably the most important one for accurate firearm shooting.
Once you’re positive that your rifle scope is level, you’ll want to adjust the optic to compensate for the bullet drop over distance.
You can easily do this through test range firing over your estimated distance.
From here, you can see how off your reticle would be from the target and where the bullet eventually made contact.
This is especially important if you have special kinds of sights like scopes with red dot sights attached on top.
If you find that your bullet hit above or below your reticle optic, adjust your turret to compensate for that.
The horizontal adjustment turret is, admittedly, rarely adjusted by shooters who find themselves on the move while out on a hunting trip.
Still, it can be useful.
This adjusts the reticle for the effects of windage on the bullet line trajectory.
But because the wind changes constantly, the horizontal trajectory line your bullet would travel may change very rapidly.
Damn it, wind.
Hence what more experienced shooters do is simply adjust their shots with respect to the reticle optic rings.
Some scope optics even have indicators next to the main reticle to indicate reference shots in respect to windage adjustments.
Additional Set-Ups: Sighting
Scope rings, bases, tubes, level, shot line, bubble levels; you’d think that you’re done with adjusting your rifle scope once you’re done with your main set-up.
But slow down there.
You’re missing out on key information that will help you keep your firearm system level and accurate for the long-haul: sighting.
Manual Target Bore Sighting
The bore-sight method works on a bolt-action rifle shooting.
These rifles have removable bolts that allow you to see down the barrel (hence the term “bore-sight”).
- Simply prepare your rifle on its respective mount with an appropriate target roughly 25 yards away.
- Look through the scope and test fire to the chosen target you set up.
- Remove the bolt from the rifle and look through the rifle. If you find that your bullet is exactly where the barrel is looking towards, then your rifle is properly sighted.
- If not, adjust the reticle optic through each turret ring that compensates for vertical and horizontal shot placement.
- You can repeat this process through different distances to ensure you have a properly mounted scope.
Picking a new scope, whether it be from Vortex Optics, Nikon Optics, or any other brand, will definitely need some attention to make it work well with your trusty old rifle.
Adjustments to the level and different ring-type attachments will be necessary, especially for people who get used to shooting with one particular type of scope.
But that shouldn’t stop you from experiencing the different rifle scopes available on the market now.
Rifle scopes come in a variety of mounts and system set-ups, so paying attention to details like screws and eye relief will definitely come a long way.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on how to mount a rifle scope.
Despite the different ways of mounting a rifle scope, this quick instruction should give you a base understanding of what you’ll need to tackle the different scope mounts and variants out there.
If you think you won’t be able to do a good job of mounting a scope yourself, you could always consider going to gun shops instead.
FINAL TIP: It would also be helpful if you know how to remove front sights correctly when the situation calls for it.
CHANGELOG: May 17, 2022 - Added 1 new article link May 13, 2022 - Made minor updates to content February 22, 2022 - Added 2 new article links January 14, 2022 - Added 1 new article link September 16, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links