The Ideal Scope Mount
As a shooter you can spend 100's of man hours drooling over top-end gear like the lightest Proof carbon fiber barrels, the new $3000 Schmidt & Bender scope (and so on and so on, it never ends)...
What’s amazes us at Tier One is how many people then strap on a set of cheap scope mounts and wonder why they don’t get consistent accuracy out of their setup.
The fact is, if you’re not spending that same effort and attention on the glue that holds your setup together – your scope rings or mounts - you’re going to end up with tolerances all over the place, a loose setup and poor accuracy down range or on a hunt when it matters most.
In this guide we’re going to take you through the considerations you need to make to find the perfect scope mount for your hunting setup, bench setup etc – one that allows for consistent repeatability, tight groups, and reliable performance after a 10k trek across hard country for that one shot.
What makes an ideal scope ring? We think the basics are:
1. Light weight:
Pretty much everyone can benefit from a lighter setup.
Maybe if you’re shooting .50 cal off of a bench you don’t care so much, but a heavy lump of ugly steel still isn’t as cool as a finely milled piece of aerospace aluminum.
2. No lapping required:
The inside bore of the rings SHOULD be precisely milled so that they can be anodised and so you don’t have to remove that anodising with abrasive compounds, exposing bare metal and reducing the lifespan of your rings.
Selling an incomplete product is unacceptable in our eyes – would you buy a lump of metal that you had to turn into a Ruger Precision yourself?
We mil spec anodise everything to 30microns and we expect that coating to last a long, long time.
3. The rings should match each other:
This is a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many rings are stamped out in bulk, and the tiny variations between each one mean you can never achieve a perfect alignment.
This can potentially lead to issues with your optic as well if the tolerances are out too much.
The perfect scope mount should also;
4. Provide the right amount of recoil security for the calibre of your chosen rifle.
5. The rings shouldn’t shift out of alignment ever.
You need to take into account calibre, size of recoil and how often you fire the weapon, transport and general bumps and nudges that you might encounter in daily use.
Form Follows Function
If you care enough about looks then the ideal mounts will match your setup aesthetically.
But here's the thing, often if it looks better it's because it works better.
For example, a slimmed down hunting rifle generally looks nicer with a set of lightweight hunting rifle scope mounts and you'll benefit from the weight reduction.
An AR setup looks better with a rugged AR scope mount like a unimount, or 3-screw tac rings, or maybe a cantilever mount.
It also functions better because it can withstand the kind of knocks and bumps that tactical operators experience in their line of work.
With all the above in mind, here’s our guide to choosing the right scope mount for your application:
There is no universal solution.
You’ll have to assess each setup individually based on things like, what rail you're using, where it's placed, whether you're shooting extreme long range at 2000yards, or hunting deer at relatively close range, etc.
But don't worry we've got you covered - let's start with rails:
There are several mainstream rail options available so it’s totally up to you (or perhaps your manufacturer if they integrated a rail system to your firearm).
Picatinny - The standard MIL-STD-1913 picatinny rail is a great option – most accessories are built to attach to these rails, or include a picatinny adapter option in the range.
It’s standardised so all rails should be the same, allowing you to switch one mount between firearms quickly and easily.
The keyword here is STANDARD - meaning it's repeatable.
This rail is what we recommend 9/10 times. We make our own picatinny rails to the same super high spec as we make our rings, check them out here.
Weaver – A little like a Picatinny rail but narrower recoil grooves and an older standard.
Looks similar to a picatinny and is partly compatible with one.
Pretty common in your local sporting goods store, you probably already know this one well.
KeyMod – Open source, universal interface system designed originally by VLTOR Weapon systems. Allows you to fit a 1913 picatinny rail anywhere on the KeyMod system.
Improves forend grip and can reduce weight. Quite a nice system.
M Lok – Designed by Magpul as a competitor to the KeyMod. Again, allows you to fit a picatinny rail wherever you like without having to have full length rails running down the forend and making the firearm heavy or reducing barrel ventilation.
This one is not open source however, so only registered manufacturers are allowed by Magpul to make accessories that fit them.
In summary – if you ask us what the best mounting methodology is, we’ll say picatinny rail most of the time. It’s standard, it’s solid, and it can be fitted to just about any firearm.
Crucially, most manufacturers make rings for the picatinny rail, and all our picatinny fitted rings are guaranteed accurate and come with a lifetime warranty.
Optic Tube Size
As you probably already know, a larger tube size has more adjustment in it and is better for long range and extreme long range shooting.
Bombshell Two: If you’re just hunting whitetail at 200 yds you really don’t need a super long range scope.
In fact, you’re more likely to hinder yourself as you restrict your field of view at close range, and if you miss your shot because your magnification was too high, well, you just made a very expensive noise.
So, long range shooters might want to go all the way up to a 40mm tube, and will need medium or high height on your scope rings if it’s a bolt action, or if the objective lens is over 56mm you definitely want high.
It’s important to get enough clearance over the fore-end so you don’t foul the optic, while maintaining a good optic over bore height.
Our medium height rings will fit up to a 56mm objective lens on a standard hunting rifle.
If you're using an AR platform you will need a high configuration in order to clear the handguard, quad rail or whatever you have on the front looking like the terminator made it.
AND, more importantly, enough room to get your face down behind the optic for good eyeline and field of vision.
Think about how close to the comb you can realistically get your eye, and allow for that in your ring choice.
Choosing The Right Ring Diameter
This follows nicely from tube size and is less an art and more like 100% science.
If your optic tube is 30mm, you need a 30mm ring.
Nice and simple.
If you use a couple of different optics don’t worry: we also offer ring reducers on our most popular ring sets.
The distance from your eyepiece to your eye.
If you end up with a black eye you need more eye relief.
This won’t affect the mount too much unless you have a pre-existing neck issue or something preventing you getting right down on the comb or the cheekpiece.
In that case, and especially if you’re using an AR with a flat plane from comb to barrel tip, you might want a cantilever mount and turn it around to point at you, allowing you to sit back further and not crane forward.
This is a rare thing though, most will want the regular cantilever configuration (we have cantilever monomounts on the way, you're the first to hear that).
Choose a rail and mount combination that will allow you to get the correct eye relief from your scope.
There is huge variety in firearms these days so it’s impossible to say X will fit Y every time, so just use your common sense and go with what feels right and allows for repeatable accuracy.
Receiver/Forend/Handguard Clearance – Ring Height
This is critical, you need to make sure you have enough clearance by your objective lens (the end you point at stuff you want to kill) over the fore-end of the firearm to prevent fouling or damage to what is probably an extremely expensive piece of glass.
I'm $4000 - for the love of God, don't drop me
Aesthetically right now it’s very trendy to have a gnat’s hair distance between your optic and the forend, which brings us onto the 3rd and final Bombshell: most people choose things because they look good.
In reality, a super low optic mount isn’t entirely necessary in all conditions.
If you like it, go with it. Just be damn sure you’re not getting any contact under firing between the optic and the firearm.
Some firearms (ARs or modern sporting rifles mainly) have a pronounced fore-end or handguard that could potentially protrude upwards and make contact with either the scope, or just prevent you using flip covers.
See the image above (of the Christensen Arms rifle) for what I mean, where the rail actually climbs up above the height of the receiver where you mount your scope.
Obviously if this is you, then you want to hook up a higher set of mounts.
In general terms you want to make sure that, under recoil, your optic is not going to impact or make contact with the firearm at any point.
AR/Carbine Scope Mounts
Is the butt stock or comb at the same level as your receiver?
This is a common setup on AR platforms and you’ll likely need a higher mount to give you enough space to actually get behind the optic, and get your cheek down on the cheekpiece or the stock.
It’ll give your optic clearance over the handgrip and, if you use flip covers, it’ll give you plenty of space for that as well.
Ok it's not an AR, but you can see the same potential issue with a raised rail in front of the optic
The Tier One Monomount in short saddle or long saddle configurations will give you a really solid, recoil-resistant platform for your optic that can withstand all the kind of lumps and bumps your rifle will take in transit and in use.
It’s the most solid rifle scope mount that we make and it’s pretty much nuke-proof.
A lighter option would be our Tactical Rings – these are not monolithic like the monomount but they have 6 screws per ring giving you massive security.
Hunting Rifle Scope Mounts
These rifles are lightweight, streamlined, mainly bolt actions - they get treated a lot better than your standard AR.
Generally on this kind of setup your buttstock or comb is lower than your receiver to allow you to take the bolt out for cleaning, so you need to compensate for that dropped eyeline with a lower set of mounts.
There are aesthetic reasons that people choose the lowest possible rings too (we covered this ad nauseam by now - they look pretty cool).
Slimline rings on the R8 - gun porn
How Low Can You Go?
We have had people request even lower rings than we currently make but eventually you get to a point where it’s impossible without compromising the structural integrity of the rings.
If you really, really can’t get low enough consider raising the adjustable cheekpiece (if possible) or add a cheekpiece to get that additional height.
There are a bunch of great options out there in leather, neoprene etc.
As I covered earlier in this guide – you should not need to lap your scope rings if you have paid for a premium product and are using a high quality picatinny rail.
Doing so will only damage a very finely manufactured piece of precision equipment, so even if you enjoy the process (which is fine, it’s fun to play with guns), please resist the urge with your Tier One rings.
If you bought cheaper rings however, it’s a different story and you will probably need to lap them to get a decent match.
Too Long; Didn’t Read?
Don’t lap them rings – just buy quality.
Pick a mount with enough clearance over your fore-end, quad rail or handguard, and the right height for your eyeline:
AR/Carbine setups need higher rings
Hunting rifles or bolt actions need lower rings
If you are using big calibre then consider a 3 screw set of mounts for extra security.
Hunting rifles look nice with streamlined, lightweight hunting scope rings.
ARs and sniper rifles like chunky, heavy duty scope rings, and they take more punishment.
Worried about weight? We manufacture all of our rings out of 7075T6 aluminum alloy so everything is super lightweight, even the chunky mounts.
Tier One Quality Guarantee
Every set of rings we make at Tier One is done with our "One Hit" machining method, meaning that the most important dimensions are machined in a single setup.
We offer a lifetime warranty on all our rings.
Additionally, we use only high-quality, lightweight, durable materials that are tough, have competitive strength to weight ratios, and we make our own screws to match our gear.
Everything is done with precision in mind.
In addition to scope mounts, we also offer class leading bipods, optic levelers, and much more. Check out the range and see you in store.