Top 5 Riflescope Mounting Systems

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posted on May 29, 2024
Top 5 Riflescope Mounting Systems Lead

Nearly all of today’s hunting rifles wear a riflescope; the benefits of the magnification, single focal plane, and improved shot placement are irrefutable. Yes, there are times where I prefer an iron-sighted rifle, namely the largest dangerous-game species of Africa, where distances are usually inside of 50 paces, but the vast majority of my rifles wear glass. Modern optics are much more reliable than nearly anything we’ve seen before, with even our entry-level riflescopes having a clarity and integral strength surpassing much of that which was produced a half-century ago.

But if the means of attaching that riflescope to the rifle is lacking, nothing else really matters; you won’t hit what you’re aiming at. So, the mounting system is just as important as the rifle, ammo, and optic; all must work in concert to deliver a repeatable system. Here are my top five scope mounting systems.

Tally detachable ring mounts on rifle.

1. Talley Manufacturing Steel Rings and Bases
Talley’s rings and bases have long been a rock-solid means of attaching a scope to a rifle, one I’ve used on rifles ranging in caliber from .22 all the way up to .505, without issue. Machined from solid bar stock steel, the bases are simple little rectangles which have a small footprint, while maintaining a classy look. The steel rings—precisely machined with the aid of CNC technology—are split vertically rather than the traditional horizontal break.

Tally split rings on riflescope optic.

Available with one screw or a pair for added strength, the Talley rings are offered in a fixed configuration, or in a detachable configuration, for those who like to have access to their iron sights, or who opt to carry a second scope, pre-zeroed in the event that their primary scope is damaged on a remote hunt. I have used Talley’s steel rings and bases on four continents, on a number of different rifle platforms, and they have never let me down. If I could choose only one system, it’d be this one. Screw them to the proper torque specs and your scope will “go to sleep,” giving you a lifetime of dependable service.

Picatinny rail for mounting riflescope on rifle.

2. The Picatinny Rail
Let me get this out of the way up front: I’m not a fan of the Picatinny rail, especially on a traditionally styled hunting rifle. Quite often the sharp edges can pose an issue upon loading a non-detachable magazine, and I've seen them hinder the ejection of spent cases in some instances. But few other systems offer as much mounting flexibility, and the Pic rail can be a lifesaver when you’ve got a long action, and a scope that is short on tube length.

Zeiss optic on Picatinny rail.

So very common among the MSRs, the Pic rail has certainly crossed over into the bolt-action hunting rifles, with some manufacturers like Montana Rifle Company building a Pic rail into the receiver. Perhaps I am old school, preferring a two-piece base of smaller footprint, but I do have to pay respect to a system that offers such flexibility. Nearly every company who manufactures rings will make a set suitable for a Picatinny rail, I like the Vortex set which print the torque specs right on the rings, so there is no confusion.

Leupold dovetail optic mounts.

3. Leupold Dual Dovetail Mounts
Leupold’s scope mounting system usually involved a front ring which dovetailed into a recess in the base, and a rear ring which was held in place with two large screws. It has been that rear mount which has been my bane in too many situations, but someone at Leupold saw the wisdom of using a pair of the front dovetail mounts for the ultimate in rigidity. Where the rear screw-type mount can come loose at the most inopportune time, the Leupold Dual Dovetail will not move, and if they are set up properly, offer a lifetime of worry-free service.

Leupold dual dovetail optic mounting rings.

The main secret is to find a dowel or screwdriver which fits well in the ring when tightened down, and doing your best to turn the ring as close to right angles as possible. The closer to right angles, the better the contact in the scope tube, and the better the scope’s performance. One more tip: each time you turn the ring into the base, you’re cutting metal. I like to turn that dovetail ring in once, and leave it be. If you don’t need access to iron sights, the Leupold Dual Dovetail system is a rock-solid choice.

Warne rings on Ruger rifle.

4. Warne Bases and Rings
Warne has been a good source for reliable bases and rings for over three decades, and I've had nothing but positive results with them, once you get used to setting them up. I’m a fan of the Maxima rings, as they aren’t radically different from the Talleys, in that the rings clamp onto a separate base, with the exception that the Warne design uses a steel spacer in between the two halves of the vertically split rings. It is very important to get the spacer to align properly; if you don’t you may begin to hear a clicking sound after the recoil of a few shots, and that would be the spacer rattling in between the halves of the rings.

Male hunters with aoudad.

It doesn’t happen often, but I've seen it more than a few times. That said, if you torque a set of Warne bases and rings to the proper specs, you’ll have a friend for life. I prefer the vertically split rings, as they seem to have less moving parts, and to my mind, less equals better. But Warne does offer a number of different designs; should you prefer the horizontally split rings, they are offered. Warne offers rings in diameters ranging from 1-inch to 40mm, including 34mm, 35mm and 36mm.

Smithson Detachable Mounts on Ramirez rifle.

5. Smithson Detachable Mounts
If you appreciate the finer things in life, and you extend that sentiment into the world of custom rifles, Joe Smithson’s scope mounts will check all the boxes for you. Using a spring-loaded tab which sets a round ball into a detent, Smithson’s gravestone-shaped base slides into machined slots in the rifle’s receiver, and they do not move. I had the pleasure of using the Smithson system on a Todd Ramirez bespoke rifle on safari last year, then bringing it home to spend deer season with the rifle.

Smithson blued detachable mounts.

A Leupold VX-5HD 2-10x42mm scope was cradled in those mounts, and despite 20,000 miles in travel, the Smithson mounts never moves—at all—though the scope was removed and re-installed several times over the course of the hunts. If you are building a custom rifle, have your gunsmith take a look into the Smithson mounts; you won’t be sorry if you spring for the additional expense. Among the detachable mounts I’ve had the pleasure of working with, these reign supreme.

For any of these systems, a proper set of tools will immediately show their worth. I have a set of Fix It Sticks scope mounting tools, and can’t recommend them enough. They provide a couple of torque wrenches designed for use with the most common mounting systems, and in the tool kit there is almost any bit you could ask for, from Torx to Allen to fillister and Phillips-head. This set prevents the marring and stripping of your mounting screws, as well as the over-tightening of base and ring screws. With a quality mounting system and the proper tools to install them, you’ll be able to concentrate on making the shot rather than being concerned about your gear.

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