Newbie Hunter? Here’s Your Ultimate Guide On How to Mount a Rifle Scope

Are you nervous about mounting your scope? Here’s how to mount a rifle scope in plain English, for beginner hunters like you.

You’ve got some time as the winter comes to a close to sharpen up on your marksmanship and your gunsmithing before the next hunt. Setting up your gun provides an intimate knowledge of how everything works. This results in extra satisfaction when you make an incredible shot.

One of the trickiest bits of gunsmithing is learning how to mount a rifle scope. The process has a few hidden pitfalls and relies on your understanding of the mechanics to make your shots line up.

It takes some practice to complete the process with the least amount of tweaking. Fortunately, even for beginners, it’s barely an afternoon project.

This guide will walk you through everything from the setup to being ready to take to the field.

How to Mount a Rifle Scope in Five Steps

The process of mounting a scope, like most projects in life, benefits from proper starting conditions. You want to have all the tools on hand and then read an overview of the process. Finally, you want to test and tweak to ensure precision.

Tools and Setup

While it’s possible to cut some corners and get the task done with some jerry-rigging, whenever possible start with the right equipment.

You’ll want a rifle, a scope, and the proper rings for your intended scope. Ring choice differs based on the type of mount your rifle has and the size of the scope. Generally speaking, you will have either a Weaver-style with bases and rings or a Picatinny rail.

In this case, you want a gun vice to give you room to work and keep everything easy to level and adjust.

Aside from that, you will need a set of screwdriver bits, a torque wrench, and some Loctite for the screws.

For adjustments and testing, you want a set of bubble levels and a dial caliper.

If you don’t already have rubbing alcohol and some rags, gauze, or cleaning patches for general maintenance on your gun, get some for this as well.

With all the proper tools on hand, you’re ready to begin the mounting process.

Mounting Process

Scope mounting is a straightforward process with five steps.

1. Ready Your Rifle

This includes taking out the bolt and magazine and completing a cleaning before you begin. Remember that a firearm should always be considered loaded.

Once cleaned and ready, mount your rifle in the gun vice.

2. Mount the Base

For a Weaver, you start by matching the bases to the top of your gun. You want to check that the holes line up and that there’s no residual oil in the holes or along the top of your rifle.

Gun oil and grease will interfere with your screw mounting which can lead to a loose scope or over-torquing the screws. You will add a drop of Loctite to each screw hole but don’t tighten and torque things down until step 5.

For a Picatinny rail, you want to measure and mark the areas along the rail where you will clamp the rings.

In both cases, leave some room on your mounts for the objective and ocular bell. You don’t want them right up against the rings to avoid damaging them.

3. Attach the Lower Ring

With the bases in place, screw in the lower half of your rings. These are attached already in the Picatinny setup. For Weaver rings, you may have dovetailed that spin into place or a clamp.

Use a wrench to spin in the dovetail rings, never use the scope as a lever to avoid damaging the shaft and bending it so your optics misalign.

Rings come in different sizes, so make certain you haven’t mismatched your upper and lower rings and that they are the right size for your scope.

4. Level the Scope

Before you start tightening everything down, you want to make certain that the scope is level and that it’s aligned across both lower rings.

Leveling a scope can be tough and takes practice to use the bubble levels and calipers to get a clean fit. You may want to use a lapping bar to check the rings but this practice is going out of style.

Place one level on the back ring and the other on the barrel. Depending on the rings you use, this step can go quickly. Items like these 40mm scope rings come with bubble levels built-in, making this step a breeze.

5. Tighten Bit by Bit

With everything level and straight, torque down the screws to the manufacturer’s specs. Do each screw a bit at a time to keep your alignment in place. Don’t tighten everything down on one side or the other or you’ll have to redo it.

With the lower rings torqued down, insert the scope and attach the top rings. Tighten them down in the same fashion, bit by bit.

Sighting Tweaks

With the scope, itself mounted you are nearly done. You want to make certain that your alignment is straight and that your scope is sighted in.

You also want to check that your eye relief is comfortable. Shoulder the rifle as if you were going to take a shot. Start with the scope all the way forward (which is to the gap at the ocular bell and then move it back until you can see the objective easily.

If you hit the objective and are still straining, you need to adjust your mounting.

To sight in your scope, take it to a range and mount it to a table. Take a few shots and dial in your objective. For this, it’s good to both know and understand your particular rifle’s minute of angle (MOA).

No matter how steady the rifle is, you will still end up with a shot grouping.

Set Your Sights

With everything ready to go, you can set off to the range or your next hunt with confidence and take your gun on a road trip if you want. Knowing how to mount a rifle scope involves a lot of understanding of the minutia of your shooting process and trajectories.

The more you learn, the better off you are when the moment comes. To learn more, keep coming back here for hunting and gear tips.

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