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There is no shortage of problems and the list seems to get longer on a daily basis. When it comes to shooting sports, one problem is the availability of ammunition and reloading components. However, problems may also arise when trying to get the right combination of rifle and scope.
The vast majority of centerfire rifles on dealers’ shelves have no sights. The use of scopes has become so prevalent that manufacturers do not bother to install open sights on the barrels of most rifles. Although I recognize the advantages of a scope, I still like for my rifles to have sights because I do not always want to use a scope.
Well, scopes have changed. For one thing, the vast majority of scopes sold today have variable magnification. On most models, that means that there is a ring in front of the eyepiece that can be rotated to change the magnification. The result is that there is less room between the turret and the power selector where the rear ring will be attached.
There is also a great trend toward scopes having larger objectives in order to admit more light to give a brighter view of the target. Such larger bells are generally tapered toward the rear and the larger the bell the longer the tapered section. That means that there will be a shorter distance between the rear portion of the objective bell and the turret with the result that there is less available space to place the front ring on the tube. Moreover, the so-called Euro-style scopes have become quite popular and they feature large eyepiece bells. On bolt action rifles, that means that higher rings must be used to provide the necessary clearance between the bolt handle and the eyepiece. As shown in the photo, older scopes most of which were of fixed power seldom presented such problems. The result of all these factors is that it may be difficult to mount a specific scope on a particular rifle and have it placed so that the rings can fit the locations where bases are attached on the rifle action. Moreover, with the rings attached to the bases, it may be difficult to get proper eye relief. Normally, the rear end of a scope should be approximately two inches behind the trigger to position the scope properly.
There are solutions to most problems and scope mounting is no different. In order to make it possible for scope rings to be mounted in various positions on rifles, the use of scope rails has become popular. Such rails generally provide numerous transverse slots in which the bolts that attach the rings may be placed. In many cases this makes it possible to place the rings well away from the scope turret but still have them separated from the objective bell and eyepiece. Incidentally, for some variable power scopes, it is a good idea to have the rear ring a short distance in front of the magnification selector ring. When the rear mounting ring is tightened on a scope tube, especially if the ring is very tight ant the tube is made of aluminum, it can compress the tube an infinitesimal amount which can inhibit the movement of internal parts that must change positions during the zooming process. If the rifle has iron sights, a scope rail also may make it possible to position a scope so that the open rear sight can remain in place.
A type of scope mount known as an extension mount is a useful device for solving some scope mounting problems. One of the two rings in the set attaches to the rifle in the usual way but it provides an extension so that the ring is displaced somewhat from the lateral groove in the base. With such a mount (shown in a photo), the scope ring does not attach directly above the scope base. A useful feature of such a mount is that the ring with the extension can be used as either the front or rear ring depending on where more distance is needed to provide clearance. I have such mounts on some of my rifles that have rather long actions (but not necessarily more distance between the scope bases attached to the action) to mount scopes that have rather short distances between the turret and the rear portion of the objective bell. One of the photo shows a Savage Axis with this type of mount that proved to be necessary to attach a Swarovski 3-9X scope to give appropriate eye relief.
Scope rings are available in heights that range from low to extra high. Normally, I like for a scope to be mounted as low as possible and still give clearance for the bolt handle as the action is operated. That reduces the overall height of the scoped rifle and also means that when a blow or some other force is applied to the scope there is less torque on the mount.
Rifles such as lever actions and single shots that have an external hammer may require a hammer extension that protrudes to one side so that the thumb can cock the rifle. That approach is preferable to mounting the scope so high that the thumb can be used under the scope to cock the hammer.
Although there are frequently issues to be addressed when mounting a scope, they can generally be overcome to arrive at a suitable combination of rifle and scope. It is fortunate that this is the case because it is clear that the majority of centerfire rifles are intended to be used only with a scope mounted. However, I still prefer my rifles to wear iron sights.
Older scopes such as the Leupold 4X (top) or Tasco 4X (bottom) have a lot more flexibility in positioning than does the compact variable shown in the middle.
The difference in diameter of the eyepieces of these scopes may present a problem in attaching the scopes with some types of mounts.
A scope rail makes it possible to attach scope rings in several positions to give proper eye relief.
An extension mount made it possible to mount this Swarovski 3-9X on a Savage Axis .223 Remington.
Although this H&R Handi-Rifle has a rail, it has only two slots for attaching rings.
In the case of rifles that have external hammers, a hammer extension makes it convenient to cock the rifle.