How To Mount A Scope [Basic Rifle Scope Mounting Steps]

So you just bought a scope that you believe is the proper fit for your beloved rifle. Now you need to mount that scope. Mounting a scope is relatively easy, given you have the right tools. But it is very easy to make a simple mistake that can cause decreased performance or, worse, damage to your rifle and scope. This article will help you mount a rifle scope by guiding you through all the steps and providing some extra knowledge about the different types of scopes available. 

7 Steps On How To Mount A Scope

picture of rifle scope being mounted onto firearm

1) Gather Tools & Materials

My father always taught me if you want to do something, do it right. Thus to mount an LPVO rifle scope the right way, you will need a specific set of tools to make the mounting process easier. And also to ensure that the scope will be properly mounted. Here are the tools you will need:

  • Allen Keys
  • Scope Leveling Tool
  • Wrenches and Screwdrivers
  • Torque wrench (Makes the process much easier)
  • Loctite (Thread Locker)

2) Match Your Base & Scope Rings

Finding the right base to match your rifle’s design is crucial – the wrong one won’t fit, or it will compromise your rifle’s performance.

Some rifles come with a scope base attached (Picatinny rail with the AR platform). But most often, your rifle won’t have a scope base. Therefore you can look online or pay a visit to your local gunsmith for the right base.


Once you find the right base, you will need to review the different scope ring sizes to find one that will be compatible with the base. Also, the scope rings should accommodate the rifle scope’s position and design. Otherwise, you won’t be able to mount your rifle scope. If you are worried you won’t choose the correct rings for the base, you can always choose an integral base – the rings and bases are combined into one unit.

3) Mount Your Scope Base

picture of different rifle scope options

Okay, here is where the fun begins! Remember I mentioned the integral scope mount? If you choose that option, you can skip step #3 and move on to the next step. So without further ado, let’s start mounting:

Preparation is Key – Make sure the surface of the base and receiver that will come into contact with each other is super clean. After cleaning both surfaces, apply a thin coat of some of your favorite gun oil to both surfaces – rust and rifles don’t mix well! Most gun shops will have gun oil available if you do not have gun oil. If you skip this step, you might not mount your .338 Winchester Mag scope correctly!

Attach The Base – Next, we will attach the base. Orientate the base correctly and tighten the base screws – not too tight! Maneuver your bolt action a couple of times to make sure the base screws are not interfering with your bolt.

Apply Loctite – Now, to ensure a proper mount that will last, apply some Loctite. Remove one base screw and apply a small drop of Loctite into the base screw hole. Tighten the screw again and move on to the next base screw. Apply this process until all base screw holes have received Loctite.

Expert Tip: Don’t exceed 24-inch pounds when using the torque wrench.

4) Attach Your Scope Rings To The Base

You might wonder if it is easier to clamp the rings onto the .450 Bushmaster scope and then attach it to the base. If we do it in this order, we might mess up the position of the rings and cause damage to any delicate part. So that said, let’s start:

Attach Your Rings to The Base – The first step is to attach the rings to the base by using the adjustment mechanism located on opposite sides of the ejection.

Expert Tip: When tightening the rings to the base, make sure the rings are in the most extreme front position possible. Newton’s Third Law (Inertia) will cause the rings to remain forward relative to the rifle upon firing. Attaching the rings in the most forward position reduces their chances of moving.

Insert The Scope Into The Rings – Place your scope into the attached bottom half rings. Next, loosely tighten the screws to still allow free movement of the scope.

5) Check Eye Relief

Eye relief is the distance of the scope from your eye. When you move the scope, it adjusts how clearly you can see the optic picture. We want to move the scope until the eye relief is perfect for you and the visual picture you see is clear and fills the entire optic lens. To do that, we need to:

Move The Scope – First, place your head and shoulder in the position as if you were taking a shooting position. If you can easily see a full visual picture, filling the entire optic lens, then you are all set. However, if not, you will need to move the scope. You should first attempt to slightly move the scope forward or backward as this maneuver is the easiest to perform.

If the horizontal movement is not enough, simply adjust the rings’ position, repeat step #3, and recheck your eye relief. Vertical adjustment is a bit more tricky, you will need to purchase different rings, which are either taller or shorter, or you will need to adjust your stock’s cheek-piece.

6) Level & Align Your Scope

This step is probably the most tedious of all the steps and is a classic scenario of one step forward and two steps backward. Scopes come in two different shapes, either flat-bottomed or round-bottomed. The type you have will determine how long this step will take, so let’s get started with the leveling:

Flat-Bottomed: You will have to use the scope leveling tool I mentioned in the first step. First, place the tool’s base onto the rail. Then use the tool’s wedges to align your scope’s flat bottom to the rail. Ensure the scope ring screws are loose enough to allow easy rotation and adjustment of the scope tube. Lightly tighten the screws to ensure the scope cannot move.

Round-Bottomed: Without a doubt, the more difficult of the two types to level. I would suggest you make sure the rifle is level first. Followed by leveling the scope by placing a level on the elevation turret cap. Otherwise, use your gut and eyeball it until you find it proficient – not recommended.

If you still require further assistance on how to level a rifle scope, feel free to read our detailed guide.

7) Tighten Scope Rings Incrementally

At last, the final step! What you want to do is tighten ring screws, but incrementally (X pattern). Doing it with this method allows the gap on each side of the rings to change proportionately.

Most .22LR Benchrest scopes only require 14-16 inch pounds of torque to secure the ring screws. However, if you mount a scope on a heavy recoil caliber, going up to 20 inch pounds might be better.

Applying Loctite is optional. I would not recommend it as I like to switch around my scopes, especially when I test different scopes.

Different Types Of Rifle Scopes

 Iron Sight – An iron sight is simply a sight already present on the rifle and usually requires you to align two sights for an accurate shot.

Red Dot Scope – A red dot scope is a compact scope that projects a red dot on top of the image of the target. Best for semi-automatic rifles, like the AR platform. Unlike a rifle scope, red dots perform best from short to medium range.

General Hunting Scopes – An affordable scope suited for general hunting. It usually comes with a 3-9x magnification range. Providing excellent close-range and long-range shooting performance.

Competition Scopes – These scopes are mainly used for varmint hunting or competition target shooting. These scopes often have finer adjustments and higher magnification than your general hunting scopes. 

Tactical Scopes – Tactical scopes are used by the military’s snipers. These scopes often use variable magnification in combination with fast adjustments to enhance a sniper’s shooting capabilities.

Night Vision Scopes – Night Vision scopes are used primarily by the military and varmint hunters for shooting in low light conditions.

Thermal Scopes – Thermal scopes use thermal imaging to project a picture of an object with a heat signature onto the scope.

Different Types Of Rifle Rails

Here is a list of the various types of bases/ interfaces available to the market:

  • Picatinny
  • Dovetail
  • Universal
  • Standard
  • Quick Release

How To Sight Your Rifle Scope

There are various ways to sight in a rifle scope. The easiest method is to use the bore sighting method. Alternatively, you can shoot a target at a given distance and make adjustments until the crosshairs align with your shot placement.

It might sound straightforward, but if you want to ensure you do it correctly, you should follow our detailed guide on sighting your riflescope at 25 yards away.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I mount a rifle scope myself?

Yes, you can. Follow this article's guide to ensure you properly mount your rifle scope.

Do you need a gunsmith to mount a scope?

If your rifle doesn't have screw holes, then take a trip to the gun shop to ask the gunsmith to drill screw holes and mount the scope for you. Otherwise, follow our guide on how to mount a scope without a rail.

Do you need special tools to mount a scope?

No, but having a torque wrench might help ensure you do it properly.

Do you need to Loctite scope?

I recommend using Loctite on your scope only if you are planning to never remove the scope again.

How many inch pounds do I need for a scope rail?

For a scope rail, should apply 20-25 inch pounds of torque. If you over-tighten screws, you might cause irreversible damage to the screw holes and rail.

Do scopes need to be perfectly level?

Yes, to ensure optimal performance. If you struggle to level your scope, follow our detailed how-to guide.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. Mounting your new scope is as easy as seven steps. Remember to have patience when doing the steps and pay close attention. One mistake might cause damage to your scope or rifle. Remember that you will need to zero your scope after mounting it. This is either achieved by the bore-sighted method or physically shooting it. Enjoy your new scope and happy hunting!

About the author

Patrick Howard

I have been working as a gunsmith for 20 years. Rain, fog, moisture, high temperature, or even snow are all the things a product must withstand in order to be recommended by me.

Leave a Comment