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How to Mount a Scope: A Step-by-Step Guide

How to Mount a Scope A Step-by-Step Guide

Knowing how to mount a scope is one of the prerequisites for ensuring accuracy when shooting.

You can zero your optics all you want, adjusting your reticles or crosshairs until they are perfectly aligned, but unless your scope is mounted securely on your rifle, all that effort will go to waste.

Utilizing the proper method of mounting a scope on a rifle will help ensure more accuracy, precision, and consistency, not to mention safety, ensuring your scope does not go flying, giving you scope eye.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about mounting a rifle scope correctly and consistently, the importance of proper mounting, and tips on ensuring accuracy and secure mounting at all times.

What Does “Mounting a Scope” Mean?

Mounting a scope entails attaching an optical sight (in this case, your scope) onto mounts compatible with your weapons platforms, which is a rifle in this case.

Man mounting scope on rifle

Mounting a rifle scope securely ensures proper alignment, stability, and accuracy whenever you aim. It allows you to zero and boresight your scope without worrying about the scope going flying due to your weapon’s recoil.

You will often attach your scopes to the base or mounting rail of your rifle using scope rings, accessories designed to cradle your scope, allowing you to make adjustments without worrying about shaking the entire optic.

When mounting your scope onto your mounts and then attaching those onto your rifle, you must use the right tools during the initial attachment and subsequent maintenance phases.

These will also allow you to mount your scope on a different rifle or use a different scope on the same rifle, as the process will often be the same across brands and scope models.

What Do You Need to Mount a Scope?

The mounting process requires specific materials and tools to ensure accuracy and proper mounting that is repeatable and sustainable. These tools are listed below.

  • Torque Wrench – a tool for adjusting the torque setting of bolts or screws on your scope rings.
  • Leveling Kit or a Scope Leveler – tools to keep your scope perfectly aligned throughout the installation process
  • Gun Stabilizer, Gun Vice, or Gun Cradle – devices or mounts that keep your gun in place, allowing you to adjust and mount a rifle scope with increased certainty.
  • High-quality Rings and Mounts – scope rings are compatible with your scope base and optic for more straightforward attaching on both ends.
  • Degreasing Agents and Cleaning Swabs – cleaning agents are meant to dissolve excess oil as you mount your scopes, ensuring a firm fit and the longevity of your equipment.
  • Thread Locking Compound/ Thread Locker – an adhesive that keeps screws in place, such as Blue Loctite.

How to Mount a Scope

The steps below will show you how to mount a scope onto a rifle.

You will simply have to follow them to ensure that your rifle scope is mounted correctly and will remain secure once you start firing.

Step 1. Choose Scope Mounting Hardware

When scope mounting, you must select the appropriate scope rings for your scope (the standard being 30mm or 1″ in diameter).

The ring and base setup is the most common method on rifles, wherein you attach your two rings to the rifle’s mounting base.

The rail and ring setup is most often used on a Picatinny rail, which is the standard on AR and military-style rifles. This setup is used primarily by tactical and long-range shooters, ensuring your rail and rings are aligned on the same plane.

Mounting scope rings on a bolt action rifle differs from ARs, as you will often not have Picatinny scope mounts and will have to attach your rings in the space between the ejection port, which requires a different mounting system.

That said, scope mounts on bolt action rifles are often lighter, provide better chamber access, are more affordable, and are easily swappable.

Step 2. Stabilize Your Gun

Position your firearm onto a gun vice or another stabilizing setup parallel to the ground. Take this opportunity to use degreasing agents to remove residue from your base screws, nuts, and pre-tapped holes.

rifle stabilized on gun vice

After degreasing, reassemble your components to see if they still fit.

Step 3. Mount Bases or Bottom of Rings

When you mount the bases or the lower half of rings onto the firearm, follow the manufacturer’s torque instructions using the torque wrench. You can also use a thread locker to ensure every base screw remains tight.

Align them with the rifle’s receiver using the pre-tapped holes as guides.

Tighten your ring screws in a crisscross pattern for more pressure on the base, and stop when you hear a ticking noise.

Properly mounting the ring bottom halves to the base allows for clearance and free operation of the bolt and a sight picture unobstructed by the rifle muzzle or barrel.

For a Picatinny rail, you put a thin coat of oil under the rail before you mount a rifle scope. You can then apply Blue Loctite and set the rings to the manufacturer’s torque specs with a torque wrench.

For a base and ring combo, repeat what you did with the Picatinny rail, but only on the lower half of the combination.

Step 4. Level Your Rifle Scope

After setting the bottom half, you can then install your scope, tightening the top half just enough to lock the optic in place. Double-check your horizontal and vertical leveling to see if your tightening is effective.

Be sure to place a reference level on the rail, bases, or lower rings, and adjust the rifle until the reference level bubble is centered before torquing it.

bubble level on rifle scope

We want our rifle scope to be on the same horizontal plane as the point of impact of your bullet. This means your scope is perfectly level, ensuring accuracy.

Step 5. Adjust Reticle Focus

Adjust the reticle focus for a crisp, crystal-clear image as you set your rifle scope to the highest magnification.

man adjusting reticle focus on scope

While looking through the scope, open and close your eyes to see how the reticle looks in multiple conditions. As your eyes adjust, see if the sight picture is clear and the reticle is perfectly visible.

Then, adjust the focus of your image or reticle until your sight picture is clear and crisp.

Step 6. Attach Scope Rings and Place the Optic

Attach the scope rings to the base with the recommended torque while maintaining proper spacing to avoid any interference points.

attaching scope rings on rifle scope

You want to ensure a balanced attachment of the bottom and top halves of the rings.

Step 7. Adjust for Eye Relief

To account for eye relief, or the space needed between your eye and the scope to not get hit by recoil, adjust the scope’s position as far as possible while still getting a full-sight picture with a more natural head position.

man adjusting eye relief on rifle scope

Set your high-magnification rifle scopes to a medium setting. Then, carefully shoulder the rifle as if you are shooting.

Start moving the scope towards or away from you until you see the full view of the scope. Stop when you no longer see a scope shadow, a dark ring around the reticle.

Once you find the right distance, secure the scope and fasten the rings around it. Then, place your scope on the highest magnification.

Step 8. Do Initial Leveling

Place a level on a flat spot of the scope, such as the base (right under the scope). As your rifle is set to the highest possible setting, set the adjustable parallax to your desired distance and remove your rifle from the vice.

bubble level horizontal alignment on scope

This will allow you to verify that you have achieved horizontal alignment for accurate leveling.

Step 9. Continue with Turret Leveling

Remove the turret cap for more precise and accurate adjustments.

Match your reference bubble level with the bubble on the clamp level.

bubble level turret leveling on rifle scope

The reference level needs to be perpendicular to the barrel.

Step 10. Tighten Scope Ring Screws

With a screwdriver, gradually tighten the ring screws on the top half with the recommended torque. Be sure to maintain even gap spacing for rings split horizontally.

man tightening scope rings on rifle scope

For rings split vertically, you must adjust them carefully to consider each side’s tightening. Be careful not to over-tighten your ring screws, as this can affect scope performance.

After you fully tighten screws in place, look over your scope and see if everything is in a proper fit by checking if the gaps and reference levels are equal.

Tips and Troubleshooting When Boresighting a Scope

When bore-sighting, follow the tips listed below for better results.

  • Use the Right Equipment: Utilizing a gun cradle, boresighting laser, and easy-to-see targets allows you to make more accurate adjustments.
  • Clean the Mounting Surfaces: This ensures that no debris gets into your barrel and no oil gets on your workbench when boresighting.
  • Maintain Proper Eye Relief: You avoid accidents or injuries as you adjust your rifle and ensure barrel and sight alignment at the distance you will typically be using your weapon.
  • Leveling is Key: This ensures proper calibration and equipment installation at every stage.
  • Check for Alignment: Your reticle’s “point of aim” should perfectly meet the “point of impact” of the laser on the target.
  • Verify Zero after Mounting: This will ensure your boresighting is effective.
  • Work in a Well-Ventilated Area: This will allow you to avoid inhaling chemicals, residue, or degreasing agents.
  • Avoid Blue Loctite on Ring Screws: Blue Loctite can over-lubricate the screws, causing you to over-tighten and pressure the screws.

Here are some troubleshooting tips to better fine-tune your scope.

  • Scope Does Not Hold Zero: Remove the scope and manually inspect for damages or dirt build-up.
  • Reticle Not Aligned: Adjust your windage and elevation and windage turrets found on the top and side of your scope until your reticle aligns with your target or boresight laser.
  • Scope Will Not Focus: This may be a user issue. You will need to adjust your shooting position and dial in your settings.
  • Scope Touches the Barrel or Bore: You will need to use taller scope rings that raise the scope higher.
  • Uneven Torque on Rings: This imbalance can be due to placing too much or too little torque during adjustments. You will need to tighten or loosen both ring halves.
  • Scope Rings Too High or Low: Excessive elevation will reduce cheek weld, while inadequate elevation makes aiming uncomfortable. You must choose the right scope height for your needs.
  • Parallax Issues: Parallax may result from using higher-magnification scopes, but your scope should have a side focus knob to refocus the sight and reduce parallax.

Why Mount Your Own Scope?

Learning how to mount a scope for yourself will help you improve the performance of your rifle scope and allow you to take direct control of the factors listed below.


An adequately mounted scope ensures you hit your desired target consistently by giving you a clear and precise aiming point, which is vital in short all the way to long-range shooting.

Improper scope mounting will increase shakiness, which makes aiming difficult, to say the least.


A securely mounted optic is stable enough to keep its alignment with the rifle, ensuring a consistent point of impact with every shot.

Increased shot repeatability will make you a better shooter overall, as consistency will allow you to develop your muscle memory and marksmanship fundamentals.

Recoil Management

By learning how to properly mount a rifle scope, you reduce scope shifting and moving, allowing you to recover more quickly from recoil and increasing shot precision.

Scope stability also prevents you from losing your zero or misaligning your point of aim and point of impact due to the shock of the weapon’s recoil.

Ethical Hunting

A stably mounted scope ensures you make ethical, quick, and clean shots, minimizing severely wounding an animal and ensuring a more powerful and humane kill.


A correctly mounted scope ensuring accurate shots can instill more confidence in your skill as a shooter.

This confidence boosts your shooting performance and satisfaction in shooting or hunting sports.

Generally speaking, having another mount your scope on a rifle can risk inaccuracy as they must guess which adjustments suit you.

Although some shooters take it to a gun shop, I highly recommend learning it yourself as you know which adjustments suit you best, even with a new scope.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here are questions frequently asked by beginners on how to mount a scope, as well as the answers to put these burning queries to rest.

What Is the Difference Between a Cantilever Mount and a Traditional Mount?

A cantilever mount is a single mounting system designed to cradle your scope. This contrasts with traditional mounts that are typically two scope rings separated by the length of your scope.

Cantilever mounts simplify the mounting process by making it more intuitive. You simply have to place your scope onto the mount and install the singular assembly onto your rifle. There is no guessing or trial and error required.

However, it does not work as well for longer scopes or those with bigger objective lenses. Traditional scopes are a better option, as you can easily adjust how far your rings should be to accommodate the length of your optics.

Can I Mount a Scope on Any Rifle?

Most scopes and scope bases/rings are designed to be mounted on the most common rifle mounting systems (Picatinny and Weaver rails, etc.).

This means that you can mount your rifle scope on almost any type of rifle, provided that your rings are compatible and your scope is the right size for the rifle you are using (i.e., not too big to disrupt the rifle’s ergonomics).

Final Thoughts on Mounting a Scope

Knowing how to mount a scope can help you secure your scope on a rifle of your choice and efficiently perform adjustments and maintenance.

By utilizing the correct mounting hardware, particularly a good scope mount compatible with your rifle’s Picatinny rail mounts, and securing your scope to it, you can ensure your loadout is good to go and ready for the rigors of shooting.

When in doubt, place your rifle on a solid rest before attaching mounts. Then, install your own scopes, ensuring they are aligned perfectly before adding the top halves of your rings and tightening the screw holes to keep them in place.

I hope that after reading this article, you are prepared and excited for the next time you attach a scope on a rifle, knowing what tools to bring, what factors to look out for, and how to get the most out of your mount.

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