Hunter aiming his riffle to a blur forest

It is easy to underestimate the value of a rifle scope, but learning how to mount a scope is crucial.

A properly installed rifle scope can be more important than a good rifle. A run-of-the-mill rifle can still hit its target with an accurate scope. An inaccurate scope, however, will cause a hunter to miss shots even with a high-quality rifle. Therefore, you must know how to mount a scope accurately.

Together, a quality rifle and accurate scope are still going to miss the mark if the scope is improperly installed. We will teach you how to mount a scope in six easy steps.

Understanding Your Scope

Marine Sniper holding his riffle with scope

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Most scopes are fairly similar, aside from a few extras here and there. It is important for a good scope to be simple so you can use it quickly and quietly while on the hunt. It must also be sturdy enough to endure the woods and elements of bad weather.

Scopes are rated by power, and their power can be a fixed or variable measurement. A scope will usually have a power of 20 or less. A military scope is usually between 8 and 10, so anything beyond 20 is probably more than you need. The scope's primary job is to aim through magnification.


Rifle scopes magnify, so you have to understand how much magnification you need. After all, your scope will only be accurate at the magnification you used when sighting your scope. Changing the magnifications after the scope has been sighted will leave it unreliable.

Remember, a more magnified scope will be less bright, and even the military rarely uses more than 10 power magnification. It does no good to choose a high magnification if you do not have an objective lens with the size and coating needed to provide the appropriate light.


A scope has two primary lenses: the ocular lens and the objective lens. The ocular lens is the one closest to your eye, and the objective lens is the on the target end of the scope.

The objective lens is actually the more critical piece of glass. A large objective lens allows more light into your scope. This is important because magnification will naturally make your scope dim. A large lens doesn't increase magnification, but it is needed whenever you have increased magnification so that the scope lets in proper light.

Brightness can also be affected by the coating your lens. A good lens coating can also provide clarity by manipulating light spectrums. A coated lens is one with a layer of coating on the objective lens. Others will be labeled as a fully coated lenses, meaning that all the lenses are coated.

Multi-coated lenses have multiple coats applied to the objective lens, and fully multi-coated lens all lenses are coated with multiple coats.


Reticles are the traditional cross hairs of your scope. From the simplest cross hairs to the most advanced high-tech reticles, they come in many types.

Some cross hairs have no additional markings. They are the simplest of the simple. If your scope is properly adjusted, this is often all you need. Other reticles have partial distance markings similar to hash marks on a football field. These are generally used to estimate bullet drop; meaning they account for gravity's force on a traveling bullet.

More advanced scopes have can have any number of extra markings, all the way to military style cross hairs. But if they are beyond your individual purpose, they are little more than a distraction.

How to Mount a Scope in Six Steps

Sniper Riffle displayed in a blue floor

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The best rifle scope is rendered useless when not properly installed. Gunsmiths will mount your scope for a fee, but many shooters do not want to pay for this service.

Looking through the ocular lens on the eyepiece, point the scope at a clear, flat target just a few meters away until you can clearly see the entire reticle.

1. Secure the Base and Rings

Align the base so the mounting holes are in line, and be sure the distance between ring areas fits without interference from the tube space on the scope.

Tighten the screws individually until the base is secured tightly. It is important not to under-tighten or over-tighten the screws, so cinch them tightly without going overboard. Fifteen to 20 pounds of torque is recommended.

Many hunters also add a locking agent to the threads of their base screws, such as Loctite.

2. Check Your Rings

Check your rings carefully, especially if you tightened the rings with a machine. Lightly file away any burrs. Consider lining the inside of the ring surfaces with electrical tape or rosin to prevent scraping your scope tube.

If you do that, trim the excess tape with a utility knife.

3. Check Alignment

Be sure the bases and bottoms of the rings are in place to mount your scope. If the rings do not precisely align, the scope can bind. A binding scope can end up permanently damaged.

When you are sure the ring edges are parallel to the main tube, you can use pointed alignment rods to ensure precision alignment.

The scope must be level to the bore. The longer you plan on shooting, the more important a level scope becomes. You can use a professional leveling kit, but a small carpenter's level can also be effective.

Once the scope is level, be sure all the aspects of the rifle, such as the bolt and safety, function properly with the scope in place.

4. Consider Eye Relief

Properly mounting a rifle scope involves understanding eye relief. How far your eye is from the scope affects your ability to have a proper view through the scope.

Just like a pair of binoculars, you need to have your scope in focus, This is usually accomplished through a rotating eyepiece or an extra knob. This moves your ocular lens into position for clear focus.

You want to avoid blackness around the edges of your vision, known as parallax. Some scopes also have a parallax focus adjustment to account for eye relief, accounting for how far you like to have your eye from touching the scope.

Glasses are a variable. Shooters with glasses will need extra eye relief to use the scope properly. This also involves recoil. Rifles recoil when fired, so if you do not have enough eye relief this will lead to a hard knock around your orbital socket.

5. A Final Check of Your Scope Position

For a final check of your scope's position, close your eyes, shoulder the rifle, and then open your eyes. You should see a full field of view and a level reticle. Once you are happy with your alignment, level, and eye relief, begin tightening the screws on the rings.

Alternate screws as you tighten, much like changing a flat tire, so they are not secured unevenly.

6. Bore Sight Your Rifle

Finally, you need to bore sight your rifle. To do this, remove the bolt (for a bolt-action rifle) and secure your rifle on a rest or with a gun vice. Peer through the eye piece and center the bore on any small target roughly 25 yards away.

With the rifle remaining still, look through the scope, and, using the turrets, align your cross hairs to the center of the target.

Turrets are knobs on your rifle used to execute your wind adjustments and elevation adjustments. The windage turret controls your left and right movement while the elevation turret controls up and down movement.

Sometimes there is a side-focus parallax turret to focus the reticle, but not always. Sometimes the turrets are easily accessible and other times they are covered with protective caps. One style offers ease of use and the other offers protection. It's a personal preference.

The turrets do nothing to adjust the bullet flight or direction. That is dictated by your barrel, and there are no adjustments for a barrel. Turrets actually move the reticle in your scope. You need the reticle to be aimed where the bullet will hit, but the reticle cannot control the bullet in any way.

With both the crosshairs and the bore centered, fire test shots to measure accuracy. Shoot small groups from your stable position and see if they go where you think they should. If they do, great. If not, you will need to continue making small adjustments.

Adjust as necessary until your point of impact matches the target. Taking your time and making the necessary adjustments will pay dividends in the long run.

Practice Makes Perfect

Learning how to mount a scope climaxes in sighting the scope, sighting your scope and shooting will involve practice. You have to be determined to do more than simply attach your scope and fire. You need to put thought into your scope and make each shot count.

You must know if your inaccuracy is because of the scope or the shooter, and settling for bad shots in practice will muddy the waters greatly. Did you flinch? Was your trigger squeeze compromised? Or is your scope inaccurate? Slow down and take your practice seriously.

Tools to Have on Hand

Set of screwdriver bit tools in the table

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Learning how to mount a scope is not rocket science. However, it can be challenging if you do not have the proper tools on hand. It is always important to have the right tools for the right job.

Appropriate Screwdriver Bits

Depending on the type and brand of scope you are installing, the base and rings can have a variety of slotted screws. You need to know whether your scope has Allen screws, Torx screws, or nuts that require a socket.

Learning how to mount a scope is only one job that could require a variety of screwdriver bits. A good set of bits is a wise investment for scopes and beyond. Cheaply made bits can strip your screws and even damage your rifle.

Torque Wrench

It is useful to have a torque wrench when learning how to mount a scope. A good torque wrench keeps your screws tight and lets you operate quickly and efficiently.

A torque wrench can be used to apply a specific torque to a nut or bolt. The tightness of screws and bolts is crucial when mounting a scope, and a torque wrench can give you precise force.

Loctite or other similar agents can keep your screws tight on your base and rings. These also allow you to remove the screws later if you need to chance optics.

Some scopes specifically advise against Loctite, so be sure you read your owner's manual carefully. Doing something expressly discouraged in the manual could void your warranty.


These can help ensure your scope is level with the bore of your rifle. An unlevel scope will destroy your precision and the overall reliability of your scope. The longer your shot, the worst it will be.

Much like carpenters use levels to keep their structures plum, leveling kits are available to help made sure your scope is level.

Gun Rest or Vice

Your rifle must be still and secure as you learn how to mount a scope, especially when you bore sight your firearm.

Other Materials

You should have pointed alignment rods to ensure a precision alignment. Dial rods can often serve this purpose. Rosin or electrical tape is recommended for the ring surfaces to prevent scratching the scope tube. Your screws and rings should have been included in the purchase of your scope.


Woman aiming on her riffle and hide beside a dog

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Learning how to mount a scope is important if you want to achieve consistently accurate shots. Installing and sighting, the scope is not difficult if you understand the right way to do it, beginning with properly mounting your scope.

Nothing is more important than knowing how to mount a scope because it is most responsible piece of equipment for hitting the target. A well-adjusted scope and some practice can result in precise accuracy that is not possible without a poorly installed scope or with a scope that has not been adjusted and sighted.

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