How To Choose Riflescope Bases, Rings, and Mounts

Scope Bases

No house will stand without a solid foundation. No tree can grow without soil. And no riflescope can function without a proper mounting system unless you’ve decided to settle for using it as a monocular. Even though buying optics might sound like the key element of the deal, scopes are pretty unhelpful when not mounted. We all know of those miracles that duct tape can work, but this case is a rare exception. When precision is involved, we need more accurate and intricate means. Your scope might feature the best quality lenses, but you will keep missing the target if it is mounted poorly. Quality mounts are as important as the scope itself, so, in for a penny, in for a pound.

What do you need to mount a scope? Obvious components include a rifle, a scope, a mount, and you in the flesh. Things are pretty clear with three of those components since you’ve probably already bought a rifle and a scope and always have yourself around. Mounts might seem like a cakewalk to some people and rocket science to others. What are mounts, rings, and bases? Do you need all of them at once to mount a scope? This article will try to shed some light on this low-lit area of the shooting world.

Scope BasesScope Bases

Let’s get down to basics or, to be more particular, bases. Scope bases, also known as rail systems, are straight metal or polymer brackets mounted on the firearm receiver to enable attaching rifle scopes and other rifle accessories. Some guns have integrated bases, sparing you the headache of installing one yourself. In any case, if you want to use a scope, a base is obligatory.

There are several types of scope bases, which have some noticeable differences in design, but at the same time might look absolutely similar to an inexperienced eye.

Weaver Rail Mount

The Weaver scope base is a set of two parallel rails with several perpendicular recoil slots that fit scope rings and mounts. This base style has been around since the 30-s and for a long time has been the most popular one. The first models were 2-piece sets, where one base was mounted on the receiver and the other one at the rear. It took more time to mount them properly, as they should have been perfectly aligned to allow for accurate mounting. But this was a fair trade since it allowed for the comfortable operation of bolt-action rifles.

The defining features of weaver bases are placement, dimension, and the number of recoil slots. Each weaver groove is 0.18 inches in width, but the placement of these slots is not fixed. Manufacturers can decide where recoil grooves are placed. That makes weaver bases not standardized and lacking flexibility. They compensate for these flaws by light weight and low prices. Many Weaver bases are also low profile, which allows you to mount your scope closer to the bore. Such a manner of mounting implies fewer adjustments and is more beneficial than high mounts.

Picatinny Rail Mount

Another popular option, the Picatinny base was originally used for mounting scopes on large caliber rifles. They were designed to fix the drawbacks of Weaver bases and become a new benchmark in the world of scope mounting systems. The military needed standardized base mounts, and Picatinny was the answer to their request. Consistent recoil grooves became their prime advantage over Weaver bases. Whereas previously shooters had to make sure their rings and mounts fit the slot spacing, Picatinny bases offered a more convenient user experience. These rails featured fixed slot width and center-to-center distance, 0.206in and 0.394in respectively. They also allowed for easier switching between scopes.

Picatinny vs. Weaver

These scope bases are often compared with each other since they are the two most common types out there. Their major differences are recoil grooves and everything connected to them. Whereas Weaver bases have from 2 to 6 slots, Picatinny rails feature grooves cut across the whole length of the rail. The latter allows for more mounting options. Weaver recoil groves are rounded, and Picatinny slots are square-bottomed. Slot placement of Weaver bases is inconsistent and may differ from one model to another, while Picatinny grooves are positioned according to the set standard, shared by all items. Since Picatinny bases have wider slots, they can actually fit Weaver style scope rings and mounts, but the opposite is not true: Weaver slots are too small for Picatinny mounts, which won’t fit without additional modifications. Weaver bases are lighter and cheaper, Picatinny bases are heavier and more pricey.

Dovetail Bases

The two mentioned bases are the most popular but not the only ones. Dovetail rails feature a trapezoid-shaped cross-section, with two grooves along the whole length of the rail for mounting scopes. They are an older design, so there is no standard shared by all manufacturers thus compatibility is not their strong side. The most common measurements for dovetail rails are 11mm and 9.5mm. Today they are usually found on air rifles and rimfire rifles. Dovetail bases are also a popular choice among European gun manufacturers.

Scope Rings & Mounts


Now that we have a base for your future construction, we can start laying bricks. Rifle scope rings are circular attachments that secure the scope on the base. It takes two rings to properly affix the scope, so they are always sold in pairs. They are usually made from aircraft-grade aluminum to remain sturdy without adding more bulk to your rifle or steel for more durability.

When choosing scope rings for your rifle, you need to consider the following things:


If you’ve already bought a particular scope base, you need to buy a fitting pair of scope rings: Picatinny, Weaver, or Dovetail respectively. Of course, Weaver-style scope rings can fit Picatinny rails, but we recommend you use matching bases and rings, out of harm’s way.

Scope Tube & Bell Size

Since rings and mounts lock the scope in place, they need to fit it tightly. If your scope tube is 1 inch in diameter, a 34mm scope ring will be too loose to fit it, and your scope won’t hold. That’s why it is vital to know the measurements of your optics. The most common diameters include 1in, 30mm, and 34mm. Product descriptions usually contain this information, so it’s not something you need to figure out on your own.

Ring Height

The ring height shows how high your optics will sit. Scopes should be mounted in a manner so as not to touch the surface of your rifle, so if your scope is endowed with a lens of a bigger diameter, you’ll need higher scope rings. It is usually recommended to mount your optics as low as possible, however, it is also obligatory to think about your own comfort. Leaning too low in order to look through the scope may spoil all fun. Try to find the middle ground between mounting as low as possible and high enough for a comfortable looking experience. Scope rings are usually of low, medium, or tall (high) height. Those are not exact measurements, so just make sure there is enough space between the scope and the receiver. The rest is up to you.

Scope Rings vs. Mounts

If rings are two separate items, mounts come as a one-piece configuration. They are basically the same two rings attached to a single platform. Both types have their strong and weak sides. Scope rings need to be aligned with each other, whereas mounts are factory-aligned and need you only to mount them. However, scope mounts are heavier than rings and can obstruct the ejection port of your rifle if one is present. If you look for a lighter and cheaper option, scope rings are the solution you need.

Choosing a scope mounting system is a very responsible task. Even the top-grade scope won’t be of any good to you if it’s poorly mounted. Pick mounts carefully, and your optics will serve you well.