« Useful? You Bet Your R.A.S.S. | Main | Bourjaily: The Browning Wish List Roundup »

April 21, 2008

This page has been moved to http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut

If your browser doesn’t redirect you to the new location, please visit The Gun Nut at its new location: www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/gun-nut.

Bases and Rings, and Other Bad Things

Here are two ways to cause trouble: Yell "Incoming" at a Hillary Clinton rally. This will be intensely funny to the people who watch it next day on You Tube, but after you are Tasered by the Secret Service and sentenced to 10 years in prison for being a Public Wiseass, it may not seem like such a good idea.

The other way is order a rifle from one of the top gun makers around the country and offer to mount the scope yourself. Probably he will just hang up. Or he may make a noise like a choking chicken, and you will hear a thump and his wife screaming his name in the background. These guys know that in all the realm of riflery, nothing causes so much sorrow, pain, and woe as the average shooter mounting his own scope.

Mostly this is the fault of the people who make scope mounts. They assume that the people who buy their stuff have a modicum of common sense and mechanical ability and write their directions accordingly. They are wrong on both counts. Often, people don't even read the instructions. I think it was scope-mount maker Maynard Beuhler who said, "When all else fails, read the directions." Beuhler's mounts, by the way, were handsome and very strong, and a real pain in the ass to get on a rifle properly.

Some mounts are perverse. The old Weaver mounts are cheesy and cheap looking, but they're very light, very strong, and put the scope very low over the receiver. The problem is that as you tighten the ring screws, they torque the scope clockwise. So before you tighten them, you have to guess how much out of whack the vertical crosshair is going to move, and position it slightly counterclockwise to compensate. It usually takes six or so tries before you get it right, and you are powerfully motivated not to swap scopes on that rifle.

Putting a heavy scope on a hard-kicking rifle is a prescription for trouble because of Newton's First Law of Motion, which states that an object at rest tends to stay at rest. (Newton, in addition to being one of the great geniuses of all time, was an odd duck. He once ran a knife blade around his eye socket to see what would happen. Nothing did.)

The heavy scope wants to sit where it is; the rifle insists on moving. So, if the scope weighs enough and the rifle kicks hard enough, the scope will either edge forward in its rings, or it can yank the rings out of the bases, or it can shear the base screws. (To Be Continued)


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bases and Rings, and Other Bad Things :



Brownell's scope ring alignment tool (http://www.brownells.com/aspx/ns/store/ProductDetail.aspx?p=833&title=SCOPE%20ALIGNMENT%20RODS) is a real help with Redfield-style rings.

Dave, in your opinion, how much magnification does a hunter need in a scope? I've found that with my 2.5 x 8 power Leupold I never crank it up past 4x. I remember reading an article by G. Sitton advocating fixed power scopes of around 4x, and part of his argument was weight. I know varmit hunters and target shooters have different needs than big game hunters, but by and large they aren't shooting hard-kicking rifles, either.


By and large the fewer parts involved in mounting a scope the better off you are in the long run.
Hence I like the Ruger or Sako type systems by eliminating bases (except for old Redfield/Sako type) if the scope happens to fit. Lapping the rings might help. I have some that are lapped and some not and can't really swear that one way is preferable to another. From the pure esthetic point of view the old Redfield rings with the screws inserted from the bottom are hard to beat. Generally the wider rings seem to hold the scope better and stay away from aluminum, I don't care who makes them. Maybe some of the newer alloys are superior to the older steel rings but I have not tried them. Are custom or semi-custom rings worth the extra cost? For the most part I figure they are not but know people who prefer them from various makers. I also have not been fully persuaded that larger screws hold better than standard sized ones. I have had more screw failures in large magnum pistols than on scope rings.
With twist-on scope rings like some Redfield and Leupold mounts DO NOT use the scope as a pipe to install the rings. Wheeler makes a nice kit. A 1 inch or 30 mm, depending on ring size, round piece of wood will work (dowel or broom handle). Properly torque the screws alternating the pattern of tightening. Use a Level-level-level to be sure the crosshairs are absolutely in line with the bore. Redo this about 6 times per scope installation and you most likely will get it right.


I forgot, check the eye relief a dozen times before you fully tighten the screws. Even then you can convince yourself that it is not right. If all else fails just have your smith install the scope the way he wants it. I have always had to readjust any scope installed by the local gunsmiths because I am too particular.

Dr. Ralph

A poorly mounted scope is responsible for 90% of the misses 50% of the time by 75% of all hunters... Leupold one piece steel base and rings work even for those among us who are less than mechanically aptituded.


I may be missing something, but I consider putting rings and bases on a rifle to be a no-brainer.

I think some Mauser actions have weird receiver’s heights, front and back, and need split bases and maybe schims. However I never thought this was high-tech stuff.

Rings???? I’m glad I’m not the only poor sob that has to play around fiddling with the scope to have the crosshairs not canted when I was tightening the ring screws.

ps: I really like the old Redfield one-piece mounts.

Dr. Ralph

Amen on the Weaver rings rolling the scope... it was always a Kentucky windage kinda thing. Guess where the screw stops so your horizontal reticle lines up with the horizon.


Never found mounting scopes and rings to be all that difficult been doing it since I got my first rifle at 12


Hey if ya buy a Ruger M77 its a no brainer. They do all the work for ya. However, I don't own one and Im personally a M70 Featherweight fan(I don't own one of those yet either lol.)

Clay Cooper



I bought my first rifle a couple of months ago. I've been shooting most of my life (using mostly my father's guns) so I've had some experience with this stuff, but prior to that I'd never mounted a scope before.

So when the guy I bought the rifle from offered to mount the scope for me, I said yes, and then clarified that I wanted to watch someone else do it so I could learn how to do it myself. That really made the guy's day. Now I kind of understand why. He gave me quite a few good pointers.

Bernie Kuntz

I haven't mounted a scope in many years, but did manage to mount a number of them without misshap.

Those Buehler ("Buehler"--not "Beuhler", Dave) mounts and rings were attractive and strong, but like you say, a real ass-pain to mount. I my gunsmith do both of mine--one on a 7 X 57, the other on a 7mm Weatherby. Buehler rings came with thin, steel shims that had to be installed and then the overall ring was "miked." Just watching a gunsmith go through the motions gave me a headache!

Too many riflemen put too large a scope on too light a rifle. Then the scope is bound to "shoot loose" or suffer other indignities.

I haven't used Weaver rings in more than 40 years because I too got tired of guessing how much the dratted scope was going to move while I tightened the rings. They were as rugged as they were ugly though.

Jim in Mo.

Dave P.,
There is another thing about rings & bases that has never been addressed with instruction manuels, and that is proper torque. I've been told often enough in gun mags to tighten action screws at least 40 inch lbs. but what about bases and rings?


Dave, how do you feel about "rail" mounts? Also, what happened to the good old 3,4 and 6X scopes? Did anybody ever make a fixed 5X?

I've seen guys come in with all sorts of ideas on DIY mount jobs.
One guy used Lok-tite, another, nail polish. One fella had a sure fire cure for a base that shot loose. One drop of salt water into each screw hole. Once rusted in place, "...it ain't never comin' loose!" He was correct, but you should have seen the result!
As far as the old Weaver rings, simple, if you have a collimnator!
Set the scope vertical with the bore sighter, then tighten the scope, completely! Note the position on the bore sighter, loosen scope, adjust scope counter clockwise the same amount and retighten! Wah-lah! Vertical!
Try it!


Clay Cooper

Dave, I’ll bail you out on this one.

I have never seen a 5x, perhaps it makes as much since as a three dollar bill. There are some 1.25-5x and a couple 5-20x scopes out there and other variations of variable scopes starting at 5x-?x power but not a fixed 5 power scope.

Clay Cooper

As having someone mount my scope? NO THANKS! I’ll mount my own thank you!! Even if I had the world greatest gun smith, I’ll mount my own.

I like my vertical crosshair to be exactly vertically in line with the bore. I don’t tilt my rifle like some shooters do. When you’re shooting variances of ranges from point blank to as far as 700 yards like I do, having your rifle and scope perfectly plumbed does makes a difference!

Clay Cooper

Putting bubble on top of the receiver and scope does not work as some may think when mounting a scope!!

Jack Ryan

Does a person who isn't competent to even mount scope on a rifle have any business being in charge of the trigger?

Clay Cooper

Jack Ryan
All due respect Sir,
That is the most ignorant rant from a Sportsman I’ve ever heard!
Some of the best Sportsmen I’ve hunted and fished with are better than anyone I’ve ever witnessed. Just because they can’t turn a wrench, does not make them a lesser of a Sportsmen than you or anyone else.

Del in KS

Clay Cooper,

Are you sure your name isn't really Natty Bumpo or Matthew Quigley?

My scoped guns all have Leupold VXIII scopes and Leupold rings and bases mounted by me for me. Never had any problems regardless of size scope or caliber of rifle.

Clay Cooper

Del in KS
Leupold VXIII ? Check out the Sightron line, you’ll find that dollar per dollar they are a better scope. I’m no Natty Bumpo or Matthew Quigley, but I have competed on the same firing line with those like Davis Tubbs. Never learned anything from him though, keeps to himself down on target #2 at all the matches. Match organizers like to put us the Air Force High Power Team that is made up mainly of NRA instructors, on target #16 to help with the new shooters. I grew up in the southwest, being trained by my Father and his Friends shooting Big Bore with an endless supply of 30-06, unlike those raised with BB guns.

By the way, Quigley down Under, the first part of the movie is hilarious! I tried to pick that movie apart on the timing of the pull of the trigger to the impact of the bullet and they mastered it perfectly in recreation of the real thing.

Clay Cooper

Winning is one thing
Sitting your personal ambition to win aside
You teach those how to win
Is something you’ll never know
Unless you done it yourself
Nothing is more gratifying than this

Clay Cooper
Crusty Ol’NCO

Clay Cooper

By the way Mr. Petzal
Any competent Gun Smith or anyone else with true experience mounting a scope knows that you must have the person present to fit and adjust the scope and other equipment to their own personal specifications

Del in KS

Clay Cooper,

Sightron looks like good stuff but Leupold has never failed me and there is no Sightron dealers in KC. Quigley is one of my all time favorites and I have a beautiful 45-70 Shiloh Sharps rifle with Montana vintage arms Vernier tang sight with spirit level bubble (not the Quigley but a No 2 sporter w/30" barrel) What I don't believe is that any human without a rangefinder could look at a bucket 7-800 yd out, adjust sights and make a first shot hit with a BP cartridge gun. Offhand or otherwise. The trajectory on even a 45-110 Sharps is so steep if he is off only 10 yds he will almost certainly miss even with a perfect sight picture. The guy in the buggy was a tough one to believe too but the ending was the best. "Said I have no use for handguns never said I didn't know how to use one" haha.

Stranger things have happened, Del in KS!

Without laser calibrated rangefinders, you HAD to know your "bidness", AND, some of them oldtimers had "methods" for figgerin' range even "afore the was range finders"!

Scopes!? I've had folks with "experience" tell me that as far as "hunting" goes (whitetail), 4X was the perfect power! Another swore by 6X. In the E. Texas thickets where I grew up hunting, 4X or iron sights were the ticket. I've never seen or heard of a fixed 5X, but who knows, it might be "just the ticket"!
I shoot a Leupold VXII. I keep the scope set to 4X in the blind. If something shows out where I need magnification, it probably won't see me twisting around in the blind. The 4X setting also gives me enough magnification to pick out shooting zones, little patches of hair without the shakes!
I might just try 5X next year!


Our Blogs