What are the Best Methods of Rifle Scope Installation?

Lori Kilchermann

The best methods of rifle scope installation are those that allow the shooter to obtain both a comfortable shooting position and easy target acquisition. There are certain variables that must be examined and explored when beginning a rifle scope installation. To maintain user comfort, the height of the mount risers as well as the eye relief must be determined prior to the rifle scope installation. The intended use of the rifle must also be identified so that the most useful optic sight is mounted onto the rifle.

The height of the scope over the weapon is often the most important factor.
The height of the scope over the weapon is often the most important factor.

When a rifle has had a scope installed correctly, the rifle is easily pulled up onto the shooter's shoulder and in line to deliver a perfect sight window when looking through the scope. Often, a shooter fails to make a good shot due to an improper rifle scope installation for one of many reasons. The height of the scope over the receiver of the weapon is typically the most important feature of a properly handled rifle scope installation. Once the scope is set at the proper height by trying several different riser heights from low to tall, the shooter will be able to pull the rifle up quickly into a shooting position without having to search for the sight window.

When installing a rifle scope, it's important that the device be positioned at a proper distance from the shooter's eye.
When installing a rifle scope, it's important that the device be positioned at a proper distance from the shooter's eye.

Once the scope has been properly positioned to be quickly and easily placed in the shooter's line of sight, the next step in the rifle scope installation is to obtain a clear and focused sight window. This occurs when the distance from the shooter's eye to the scope has been correctly adjusted. The eye relief, or the distance from the scope to the eye, is adjusted by moving the scope forward or backward in the scope rings until the picture is clear and focused to the shooter. With the adjustments made, the scope can then be tightened into the scope mount.

As a best practice, many professional gunsmiths will alternate tightening the scope ring screws in a criss-cross method similar to tightening the lug nuts on a vehicle wheel. Doing this in any rifle scope installation will ensure the screws are tightened evenly and squarely. Depending on the rifle's recoil, a thread-locking agent may prove valuable in a rifle scope installation to ensure the fasteners remain tight even after many shots have been fired through the rifle. Attention to each detail is critical in every rifle scope installation in order to obtain and maintain an accurate firing rifle.

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Discussion Comments


@Terrificli -- Good point, but I have always found siting a scope to be no more or less difficult than installing the thing so it is comfortable. Where siting gets difficult is when you have a shooter who follows natural tendencies and jerks the trigger, thus pulling the barrel of the gun over a bit so the bullet doesn't go where it is aimed.

Of course, a gun that is high powered tends to jerk the barrel up when fired and that can lead to a whole other set of problems.


While getting the scope installed correctly can be difficult, the really tough part (and perhaps the most important) is adjusting the scope so the shooter can actually hit what he or she is aiming at.

You might get the scope installed so that it is comfortable and feels perfect, but that does not mean it is sited in correctly. If you can't hit the broad side of a barn because the scope is not sited well, then the scope is pretty much worthless.

The problem is that making the necessary adjustments to site the scope in right might interfere with that comfortable setup. It is a fine line that drives shooters nuts.

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