How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle In 6 Easy Steps

Interested in finding out how to mount a scope on a rifle? Keep reading for step by step instructions.

I think we can agree that a rifle with an improperly mounted scope won’t shoot very accurately. The problem is that most people, regardless of whether they are paying someone else to mount it for them or doing it themselves, are shooting a rifle with the scope mounted incorrectly.

There are a number of factors that go into the accuracy of a rifle, but improper scope mounting is a leading cause of accuracy issues. No matter what some people might think, there is more to mounting a rifle scope than putting it in some rings and tightening the screws.

For many years, I was like most other hunters and shooters and just paid a gunsmith to mount my new scope for me. However, after I discovered that my gunsmith was doing a crummy job, I decided to start doing it myself. Since then, I’ve seen a significant improvement in accuracy proving that sometimes the best way to get a job done right is to do it yourself.

In today’s post, I’m going to provide you with step by step instructions on how to mount a scope on a rifle so you can get the best possible accuracy out of it without being dependent on someone else to do it for you regardless of whether you’re using an inexpensive optic or a high-end scope like a Leupold VX-5 HD.

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How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle: Prepare Your Work Space

The first step in mounting a scope on a rifle is to prepare your workspace and ensure you have the proper tools and components.

In addition to the scope and rifle (a bolt action Ruger M77 Hawkeye and a Leupold VX-3i in this case), you’ll need a scope base, the right size and height scope rings, a work bench, a gun cradle/vice, a level, good quality screw drivers, a degreasing agent, and potentially some Blue Loctite (or other thread locking compound).

This list of tools can vary a bit depending on the specific rifle and scope rings you’re using. For instance, some bolt action rifles (like the Ruger M77 Hawkeye) have bases built into the receiver and may come from the factory with a set of scope rings. Additionally, most scope rings also come with the appropriate Torx wrench to tighten their screws.

Make sure you use the right sized screwdriver or wrench to tighten the screws on your scope bases and rings. Do not over tighten any of the screws either. Using the wrong sized tools or overtightening the screws can strip the screws or break off their heads.

Consult the instructions that come with your scope mounting system for information on exactly how much you should tighten the screws. A torque wrench is not required, but can really help with this process.

Depending on the type of scope base you’re using (Weaver, Picatinny, etc.), you’ll need to make sure your scope rings match. Also, ensure that you’re using the right sized and right height rings for your scope. Scopes and rings typically come in one of two standard sizes: 1″ or 30mm. If you have a scope with a 1″ tube diameter, then you need to use a set of 1″ scope rings. The same goes for a 30mm scope.

The proper height of the scope rings depends on the objective diameter of the scope and the specific rifle you’ll be mounting it on. Generally speaking, you want to mount your scope as low as possible without having it touch the rifle anywhere but the mounts.

Once you have all of your tools and components together, you’re ready to get started.

How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle: Secure Your Bases

How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle In 6 Easy Steps base

Before doing anything else, ensure your rifle is unloaded, remove the bolt, and keep the rifle pointed in a safe direction. Then, place the rifle in a gun vice or gun cradle. Using a degreasing agent to remove all traces of oil and grease from the base, rings, and screws, and screw holes in the rifle’s receiver.

If you have a rifle with bases already built into the receiver, like a Ruger M77 Hawkeye or a flat-top AR-15 with a Picatinny Rail, then you can move onto the next step.

Otherwise, after you’ve degreased everything, you’ll need to mount your scope base to the receiver of your rifle. Align the scope bases with the mounting holes on the receiver then tighten each base screw individually. Some manufacturers recommend against using Loctite on the screws, so consult the instructions that come with your bases. If it’s recommended, put a drop of Loctite on the screws.

Remember: only tighten the screws to the specifications listed in the instructions.

How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle: Mount Your Rings

How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle In 6 Easy Steps rings

Once you’ve mounted the scope bases, attach the rings to the base.

If you’re using a dovetail ring, use a metal or wooden dowel to pivot it into position.


Just like with the bases, tighten the screws according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer. For what it’s worth, Leupold recommends tightening the base screws on these particular rings to 45 inch pounds using a torque wrench.

Once you’ve securely mounted the scope rings, remove the top half of the rings and put them (and their screws) in a safe place.

How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle: Adjust Eye Relief

Now, lay scope in the rings, replace the top half of the rings, and lightly tighten screws. Take the rifle out of the cradle or vice and hold the rifle as you naturally would when aiming at a target.

Move the scope forwards or backwards as necessary to adjust eye relief. Position the scope as far forward as possible while still having a clear picture (with no black around the edges) when you look through the scope.

Remember: move the scope, not your head to adjust eye relief.

How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle: Level Scope ReticleHow to Mount A Scope On A Rifle In 6 Easy Steps level

Once you have positioned the scope for optimum eye relief, carefully put the rifle back in the gun vice/cradle.

Now you’re going to level the scope reticle. To do that, you must first ensure that the rifle itself is level. I use a scope leveling kit made by Wheeler Engineering, but that’s far from the only good choice out there.

Regardless of the specific scope level you use, put it on the receiver and adjust the rifle itself so that it’s perfectly level. Then, put the scope level on the top of the scope and adjust the scope until it is level as well.

If the rifle and scope are both level, then the reticle in the scope will be perfectly level as well.

How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle: Tighten Screws

Now it’s time to tighten the ring screws. Very carefully, tighten each screw a little at a time until all are snug, just like how you tighten lug nuts when changing a tire. As you do this, make sure the rifle and scope remain level.

Make sure the space between the ring halves of both rings is the same.

Just like when attaching the bases and rings, do not over tighten the rings screws as this can damage your scope tube. Leupold recommends tightening the ring screws on these particular rings to 28 inch pounds.

After you’ve finished tightening the screws, verify that the scope is still level and check the eye relief one last time. If everything checks out, then you’re done mounting your scope and you’re ready to start bore sighting and then head to the range and zero it.

I hope you found my description of how to mount a scope on a rifle useful and interesting. Are there any other tips or tricks out there that I might have forgot to mention?

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5 thoughts on “How to Mount A Scope On A Rifle In 6 Easy Steps”

    • If you can’t find a flat spot on the rifle to put your level after adjusting eye relief with the scope, then you’ll need to take a slightly different approach. I like to use the “Wheeler Professional Reticle Leveling System” to help with this. First, place one level on a flat part of the scope mount and use it to level the rifle. Then, place the other level on the barrel and adjust it as necessary so that it is also level. Remove the level from the scope mount, but leave the level on the barrel to ensure that the rifle itself remains level throughout the rest of the process.

  1. Hi don’t you think its important to check to see if your scope is level with your barrel length ways?
    I always use my gun vise/rest and level the last 6 inches of my barrel and than once thats level I also want to see if the scope is not only siting level vertically but also horizontally, maybe its a waste of time but i always felt the more parallel your scope is to your barrel the more accurate it will be over different distances. Please correct me if iam wrong!

    • I certainly don’t think that you’re hurting anything by leveling the scope in both dimensions. Making sure the scope crosshairs are aligned perfectly is the most important, but ensuring the scope tube is parallel with the barrel probably helps a little bit as well. A good set of bases and high quality rings will do a lot to ensure the scope tube is aligned with the barrel, so I wouldn’t worry about it too much though.
      Thanks for your comment,

  2. Leveling the reticle is a giant pain in the butt on every rifle I own.
    Even ARs are not so straightforward, but they are easier than most other rifle types, at least for me. Would it kill the manufacturers to put some sort of level indicator or some other reference system or a dedicated “flat spot” on the bottom or top of a rifle? In 2021, can’t they have figured this out yet? I have that Wheeler level tool that you use, and I have a few other types/brands too and none of them works as well as people make out that they do. Either you are just a lot smarter than I am (maybe) or 99% of people who pay money for those tools do not let themselves admit that those tools do not work well at all.
    Yes, I read the directions! And, yes I watch Larry Potterfield videos where he makes it look as easy as biting into a cookie, and no it never really works for me. Leveling nice hunting rifles is like leveling a canoe for crying out loud.
    And a major point that most of those tools ignore is that there is no reason to think that the crosshairs of a scope reticle are actually lined up perfectly with orientation of the turrets. They are not always lined up, and that holds true more so for the more expensive scopes than for the cheaper ones where they actually can be lined up more often. So, there’s that.
    And, another thing, The scope rings are not always set up so that you can plop that Wheeler level across them and get a precise level across the arms of the bottom half of the rings. Sometimes, the places where the arms end (i.e, the surfaces where the screws go in) are not actually half way up, and sometimes those screw hole surfaces (for lack of a better term) are on a sloping angle.
    And, yes, in case it is not obvious, I just came up from the basement where I spent a frustrating amount of time (generally wasted) trying to mount a Leupold VX-5HD scope on a Browning x-bolt. All I can say is nothing in the final analysis beats holding the dang rifle up in your hands, looking through the scope (ideally at a weighted string hanging down from the ceiling) and just getting it as close to pretty darn good as you can. And then take the dang gunsmith screwdriver set with the 98 bits with you to the range.
    Keep up the good work, John. I do enjoy your articles and your podcast. Best wishes from another left-handed native Texan!


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