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What Are Scope Rings and Why You Need Them [Full Guide]

1_What Are Scope Rings and Why You Need Them

Got a new riflescope?

Great!

At a loss on how to mount it onto your rifle?

Oh, deer.

To be able to catch that deer dancing away at the thought of you being unable to use your scope with your rifle, you’re going to want to think about scope bases and rings.

So, What Exactly Are Scope Rings?

Rings are the attachments used to affix the scope onto the firearm.

While you can connect some ring mounts directly to the scope, others require a special mount to be mounted to the firearm.

In such a case, you’ll need a special attachment known as a base. Scope bases are mounted to the firearm to allow rings to be connected.

How Do Scope Rings Work?

Rings and bases work as the points through which scopes attach to the firearm.

The scope can shift with every shot or movement if the ring or base aren’t attached securely.

Types of Mounts

There are many different mounts from many different manufacturers. Here are just some of the most popular types:

Weaver

The Weaver mount is one of the ORIGINAL mounts. It is a cross-slot type mount with cross-cut slots in the base.

Rings may be attached to these slots by clamping onto the sides of the rail.

Additionally, a bolt on the bottom side of Weaver-style rings helps keep them from sliding.

Weaver bases can come in either one or two pieces. They either have evenly spaced slots throughout the rail’s length or just one or two slots at the front and back.

Weaver mounts are recommended for those who want cross slots for their hunting rifle.

Picatinny

These are basically IMPROVED Weaver mounts. As such, it works in the same way but with different dimensions.

The Picatinny rail is common for a flat top AR 15 rifle.

If you have a military or precision rifle for long-range shooting, you will likely have a Picatinny rail.

Generally, the most robust mounts use this interface. These types of rings and bases are recommended if you’re mounting a scope on a target or tactical firearm.

Additionally, this type of rail CAN accommodate Weaver rings! It is also the best scope mount for the AR 15.

Dovetail

Dovetails are a straightforward mounting system. Unlike the abovementioned systems, dovetail mounts have NO cross slots.

Instead, the rings just hold on to both sides of the rail.

For example, you can sometimes find a rifle, the Tikka bolt action rifle, with a built-in dovetail rail that allows dovetail rings to be attached without a base.

This is recommended if you have a rimfire rifle that doesn’t require a lot of strength.

While it isn’t the strongest system out there, its strength is that it allows for rings to be mounted anywhere along the rail.

This is the best scope mount for you if you have a 22LR or a plinking rifle.

Types of Mounting Options

Here are some other options and terms that may help you determine the best mounting system.

Take note that these are not specific interfaces but options available within a specific interface.

Quick Release

Quick release rings refer to rings that can be quickly released regardless of their interface.

Take note, however, that this also refers to a specific Leupold product that allows for rings to be removed quickly with a lever on the side of a base.

This is commonly used on a safari rifle.

Off Set

As you can probably tell, this type is offset from the rifle’s center. This mount allows a second optic to be attached to the rifle.

These are commonly used for a tactical rifle that needs an LPVO working with a red dot.

One Piece

This ring or mount is typically used with an AR-style rifle. The great thing about this is that it has two rings in one unit.

This makes it easy to transfer between rifles and also makes a good platform for QR systems.

One of the best one-piece mounts is the cantilever mount.

What to Look for in Scope Rings

There are so many variables in play when selecting scope rings.

However, regardless of your optic or firearm, there are two very important things to look for to ensure you get the right rings: width and height.

Get either of these two wrong, and the rings will be incompatible and practically useless!

Scope Ring Width

Ensure that the rings correspond to the scope’s tube diameter.

Thus, if you’re using a 1-inch scope, you’ll need 1-inch scope rings.

If you’re using a 30mm scope, you’ll need 30mm scope rings, and so on and so forth. 

While the most popular tube diameters are 1 inch and 30mm, there are a lot of other diameters available, such as the 20 mm (for a short-range scope) or the 34 mm (for a long-range scope).

Scope Ring Height

Scope ring heights determine how high the scope will ride on top of the firearm’s bore.

The closer the scope rides to the bore, the fewer adjustments are needed. As such, you’ll want the scope mounted as close to the bore as possible. 

Most ring manufacturers offer three different heights:

  • Low (also known as standard)
  • Medium (the medium height is typically the most popular!)
  • High

Sometimes, low rings are referred to as low-profile scope rings. Other high-end scope brands offer other ring heights, including extra low, medium, and extra high heights. 

So why can’t you just slap your rifle scope directly onto the firearm with gorilla glue?

You can’t do this because the lowest possible setting for the height for rifle scope rings is the ocular bell size.

The ocular bell comes in different sizes and is measured in millimeters (mm). A larger ocular bell needs high rings so that the scope won’t touch the barrel.

Bolt action rifles, for example, need a high enough scope for the bolt action to work without hitting the scope.

So how do you know which of these different heights you should get?

First, you will need to get three measurements from your scope (in inches):

  • Rail height – Distance from the top of the barrel to the top of the scope base
  • Ring height – Distance from the centerline of the scope ring to the top of the rail
  • Ocular bell diameter

Once you have all of these measurements, you can use this formula to find the right height:

(rail height + ring height) – (Ocular bell diameter x 0.5) = ideal scope ring height

For an easier way to figure out scope ring heights, you can just find the measurement of the widest point on the riflescope.

Get a ring mount height just a little over half of this measurement to ensure that the riflescope steers clear of the barrel.

Other Factors

The two abovementioned factors are just the two most important ones. However, other variables determine whether your rings and bases are appropriate, including:

  • Rifle/shotgun model – Some rings are specific to the firearm.
    • For example, bolt action rifles in the Ruger 77/22 series require special Ruger brand rings.
  • Desired eye relief – Some rings limit eye relief.
  • Price
  • Manufacturer

How to Install Scope Rings: Step-By-Step Process

Now that you know the different factors to consider, let’s proceed with how to install these scope rings correctly, starting with the required tools.

Tools

Before you begin, gather all the necessary tools, as this will save you lots of time and energy later.

You will need:

  • Torque wrench
  • Leveling kit
  • Gun vice/stabilizer
    • While it would be best to get a gun vice, what’s really important is that you have something to keep your rifle stable with no moving parts while mounting a scope.

Process

Now that you have everything you need, let us move on to the actual process of mounting a scope.

1. Get Your Rifle Stable Ready.

Prepare your rifle.

MAKE SURE THAT IT IS COMPLETELY UNLOADED BEFORE STARTING.

Put it in the stabilizer for an easier time.

If you don’t have one, you can use a set of bipods with sandbags. You can also use several 2×4 chunks connected.

Whatever method you use, ensure that the rifle won’t be moving around during the mounting process.

Be sure as well to keep the rifle roughly parallel to the ground. 

2. Mount the Bases or the Bottom Half of the Rings.

The process for mounting a scope varies depending on whether you’re using a rail or rings and bases.

If Using a Rail:

If you have a rail such as a Picatinny rail, start by putting a very light coat of oil on the underside of the rail.

Be sure not to get any oil on the mounting screws! This is VERY important to prevent corrosion.

Following manufacturer specifications, torque the ring screws on the bottom half of the ring with the torque wrench.

You can apply Blue Loctite for extra security if you want to.

If Using Rings and Bases:

Do the same as above, but with your rings’ base and lower half.

If using rings and bases, take note that you are more likely to mount your scope rings at slightly different angles.

This can cause scope torquing issues, which therefore cause scope malfunction. To ensure against this, some people do a process known as “lapping.” 

While it is commonly advised always to lap your rings, high-quality rings don’t usually need lapping.

3. Lay on the Rifle Scope

Now that you have mounted the lower part of your scope rings, lay your rifle scope on them.

Be careful while doing this step; only place your scope if you are sure the lower half is stable.

4. Attach the Upper Half of the Rings

Carefully put on the upper half so that you “sandwich” the scope between the two rings. Only screw it in when you are VERY SURE of placement.

5. Level the Rifle Scope.

Leveling ensures the scope is on the same horizontal plane as the gun’s action.

This is important as an imperfectly leveled scope can result in a barrel canted to the opposite direction you are aiming

This can really affect your accuracy and prevent you from hitting your target!

There are many ways to level your scope to improve accuracy, but the easiest way for us is to use a leveling kit.

Luckily, many different types of leveling kits are available on the market.

6. Adjust the Reticle.

Once you have properly mounted and leveled your scope, it’s time to adjust the reticle focus. Take note that the reticle’s focus affects the quality of the reticle image.

While different manufacturers require different means of adjusting reticle focus, here is the general way of adjusting reticle focus:

  1. Adjust and mount the rifle as if you were shooting.
  2. Point the scope at a wall (preferably a light-colored one)
  3. Close your eyes while keeping the rifle in shooting position.
  4. Open your eyes and note how the reticle immediately looks. 
    • Check if the reticle is crisp before your eyes have fully adjusted.
    • If it isn’t crisp, adjust the reticle focus.
  5. Repeat the above steps until you have a crystal clear reticle.

Tips to Help You Get Your Scope Mounted

Here are some more helpful tips to help you make sure your scope is mounted properly.

Be Sure that Your Rings and Bases MATCH

For example, Talley rings will not match with a Leupold base. You should get them from the same ring manufacturers.

Check for Plugs in the Base Holes

If your firearm has any, be sure to remove them beforehand.

These can usually be removed with a flathead screwdriver, but base mounting screws will need Torx tools.

Use Even Pressure

Use even pressure when you screw on rings and bases.

Most manufacturers will provide a pressure range on how tight the screws should be.

Take Your Time

Don’t be too eager when tightening your scope rings and bases!

Be sure that everything is properly aligned before you screw in everything. This saves you a lot of stress and energy if you have to make adjustments. 

Use a Wooden Dowel

You can use a wooden dowel to line your scope rings straight over the receiver. 

To do this, simply put the dowel through both rings. Adjust the dowel until it is positioned evenly over the barrel and receiver.

When working on a bolt action rifle, it is best to start behind the buttstock and shift your view between the rings and the open bore

While you can’t see the bore from this position, it still gives you a fair view of whether or not your rings are properly lined up and centered.

Additional Tips:

  • If you see shadows in the sight picture or you need to move forward or backward to see a clear picture, move the scope forward or backward in the rings. 
  • If you need to roll the rifle one way or another to get lines perfectly aligned with the horizon, loosen the screws and gently rotate the scope in the rings. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Difference Between Scope Rings and Bases?

RINGS are the attachments that actually mount the rifle scope onto the firearm.

Meanwhile, BASES are attachments mounted to the firearm for the scope rings to be attached.

What About Quick Detach Scope Rings?

Many shooters have differing opinions on quick detach scopes. Some say they work well, while others don’t recommend them.

Unfortunately, we are on the side that wouldn’t recommend them.

The idea behind them sounds wonderful in theory: imagine one scope that you can just quickly move around!

However, this “quick detachment” is also its caveat.

Because it’s so quick to detach, it can be difficult for a quick detach scope to maintain zero/when you sight in.

How Tight Should Scope Rings Be?

Before we answer this question, we need to lay out some definitions.

The amount of force used to tighten ring screws during the scope mounting process is often measured in inches/pounds.

This quantity is usually known as torque weight and refers to how much in/lbs is needed.

Torque settings depend on the ring/base manufacturer and the ring model and material. Different ring manufacturers typically have different recommended torque settings.

The usual recommendations go from 15-20in/lbs to 30 in/lbs.

As an example, here are the recommended torque settings for Talley rings:

  • Lightweight rings: 17-20 in/lb
  • Steel fixed rings: 30 in/lb on the bottom screw, 20 in/lb on the top screw.
  • Picatinny rings: 20 in/lb on the ring, 65 in/lb on the locking nut.

What are Tactical Scope Rings or Scope Mounts?

Tactical scope rings or mounts connect optics on AR-based firearm platforms.

This usually refers to an AR-15 or AR-10 type semi-automatic platform.

Since most tactical mounts are made for the AR platform, tactical scope rings or mounts usually work best with Picatinny rails.

Where is the Best Place to Buy Scope Rings?

While it is possible to buy a ring online, you can’t be too assured of the quality as you don’t get to see or feel it before handing in your hard-earned money.

As such, it might be best to purchase from your local gun store instead to be safe.

If you plan to buy online, ensure you get it from a TRUSTED supplier. 

Final Thoughts

We hope that we have helped you figure out how to use scope rings so you can use your scope with your firearm.

Remember to ensure that everything is affixed securely to guarantee accuracy and precision!

Now, go and catch that cheeky deer!

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