Mounting a Scope – Techniques and Alternatives

Among the many tasks that are sure to perplex and baffle gun owners, is the intricate job of setting up a scope on a weapon. The already challenging task is made even more difficult by the variety and diversity of scopes available with each one requiring specific techniques and management. Mounting a scope is tricky not just for amateurs but also for pros. Here are some thoughts to make this mission a success.

Research & Explore

Before you take up the assignment of buying a scope for your firearm, there are a few things to explore and research. The objective diameter of the scope (found generally at the end of its specifications) should be identified to ascertain the kind of clearance needed for your scope. Further, you need to identify the scope tube and the ring diameter that your scope needs which is generally in the range of 30mm or 1”. The type of railing on your weapon(if present), its receiver grooves, barrel type and contour also dictate the kind of mounting system you need to utilize.


One of the most fundamental systems used is a regular magnified scope on a standard bolt action rifle. The scope is usually connected to the rifle by rings that are fastened around its body and these rings are fixed to a base which in turn is appended to the receiver.

What makes the task even trickier is the sheer number of variants when it comes to parts. While some ways of mounting uses all of these parts, some use just a few. For instance, the EOTech HWS on an AR 15 does not use rings or base.


Scope Bases/Mounts

The base acts as a connection point between the rifle and the rings. Usually the base is fixed onto the receiver by means of a bolt or screw but there are also those rifles which include bases as part of their design. Every brand and model of weapon has a different type of base with the rings being particular to the base they are being used with.

Scope Rings

The diameter of the ring should be identical to that of the scope’s tube as they are fixed on the main tube. A majority of them have a 1” diameter, 30 and 34mm rings are also available for purchase. The rings must also be flexible with the base they are attached to.

Height of the ring

The choices of low, medium and high(extra low and extra high are available from certain manufacturers) in ring heights enables the user to use scopes of varied objective sizes and also aids in the placement of the scope in a comfortable position for rapid use.

It is quite a task to choose the right height but one should know that the scopes need to be mounted quite low and the objective bell housing and front portion of the scope itself should not touch the barrel. Another vital point is that the eye piece and the rear end of the scope should not touch the bolt handle. Beside these one should also keep in mind the fact that the ring height should essentially go with the height of the shooter so that he / she can get a clear view as and when the weapon is shouldered.

Ring heights cannot be a “one-size-fit-all” but Luepold / Weaver suggest few standards that might come in handy, especially for novices.

Leupold suggestions: If the objectives are 50mm, High rings are a reasonable choice while bulky barrels and certain brands and models call for Extra High rings. Medium rings are the best options for 42-45mm objectives but certain makes of 45mm require high rings. Low rings go well with 40mm and 28-36mm objectives except when the barrels have thicker shank or a heavier contour. In such cases medium rings can be used. Depending on the bolt handle clearance, low or extra low rings can be used for 20-24mm objectives. Extra low rings do not go with any Leupold ringscope if it uses a single piece base.

Weaver suggestions: According to Weaver,38mm objectives go well with 1” low rings while 40mm go with medium 1” rings and 44mm works well with 1” high rings. Extra high 1” rings will be apt for a 50mm while 30mm low rings are good for 33mm objectives and 30mm high rings are a sensible choice for 44mm objectives.


AR-15 and M4 with flat top receivers need extra high rings as a rule with very few using high rings. Harrington and Richardson Handi or NEF Pardner requires medium or high rings.

Rails – Mounting systems

The Weaver System

The weaver mounting system is one of the most widely used arrangements. It makes use of flat dovetail rails and crosswise slots that are available on most of the firearms. The bases are 7/8” in width and take in weaver style rings. The bolt locking the ring is located below the web of the ring and fits comfortably into the crosswise slot in the base, thus ensuring that the scope does not move post recoil. The bases made of aluminum or steel come in single or 2 piece configurations. The system is designed to enable the removal or rings from the base while keeping them fixed onto the scope without loss of zero. Weaver system offers flexibility in terms of adding variety of optics on a single weapon or a single optic on a variety of weapons. The optics can be detached from the weapon for cleaning or storage.

The Picatinny and MIL-STD-1913

The Picatinny rails bear a lot of similarities with the weaver system except for the published military standard. The Picatinny rails have crosswise cut slots and have a larger width than Weaver’s (that also result in thicker recoil lugs). Since they conform to set standards, the spacing of these rails are consistent unlike Weavers which differ in accordance with manufacturers. While Weaver rings are compatible with Picatinny bases, vice versa is not true.

22 Rimfire Rings, Tip-Off Rings and 3/8″ Dovetail Rings

Many of the .22 Rimfires and airguns manufactured now come with grooves (with few having 11 or 13mm width) running along the length of the receiver on the top for mounting rings. Rimfire or 3/8” dovetail or Tip Off rings can be fitted to these grooves easily. While few come with 3/8” bases fixed to the receiver, for those without them, Weaver style bases that provide greater stability can be attached.


The Redfield, like Weaver, has quite a number of variants. The bases are tough and sturdy and very sleek. The rings are permanently fixed to the rails system and the upper and lower portions of the rings need to be detached to remove your scope. The front ring includes a dovetail that fits into a slot on the front base. The rear ring is kept in place on the base by two windage screws. The screws can be adjusted one by one to enable movement of the ring on its base and also allows the user to zero the windage.

Dual Dovetail (DD)

DDs are similar to Redfield but do not provide scope for windage adjustment. Yet, it is robust and tough and is a perfect choice for handguns and rifles with heavy recoil.

Clamp-on Mounts

B-Square, S&K, ATI and more produce clamp on mounts that are perfect for weapons which are not drilled for one. These allow use of scopes without any external alterations on the weapon itself, perfect for older and military surplus weapons.

Mounting a ring is tricky but with little research and practice, this task can be as enjoyable as firing a weapon.