By Steve Felgenhauer
The styles of bases and rings are almost endless. The purpose bases and rings serve is to hold the scope in place under the most adverse conditions. Your objective when choosing bases and rings is to keep the scope as close to the bore as possible while finding the bases and rings that best fit your needs. Not an easy task, especially when you consider the range of calibers offered today, from the little pip-squeak .22 Hornet on up to the .375 H&H Magnum and beyond.
Before rushing out to buy bases and rings, first consider the use of your rifle. A light recoiling varmint rifle chambered in .17 Fireball, a deer rifle chambered in the popular .300 WSM, or even a dangerous game rifle chambered in .505 Gibbs can certainly use the same type of base and rings. However, the bases and rings used for the varmint rifle may turn to mush under the heavy recoil from a dangerous game rifle.
Bases: The Foundation to Scope Mounting
Bases come in many styles and materials, from the Weaver-style base and its clone, the Picatinny, to the new quick-detach rings that utilize a lever to tighten or remove the ring. The strongest bases are made of steel; however, aluminum is utilized by many manufactures. Unless weight is a factor, use steel. Aluminum is acceptable for bases, and Weaver bases have been used for many years with little trouble. However, most manufacturers have taken notice of the popularity and strength of the Weaver-style base and now produce it in steel as well.
The rotary dovetail and windage mounting system is one of the oldest methods used to hold a scope in place. These bases and rings, deemed the Redfield style due to the patent granted to John Redfield in 1931, have held up to a generation or two of heavy recoiling rifles such as the .300 Winchester Magnum , the .338 Winchester Magnum and the .375 H&H Magnum. These rifles of yesteryear were not lightweight, and the extra heft did plenty to soak up recoil -- a scoped rifle's arch enemy.
Today's short-action rifles chambered in the newest wonder cartridges (think WSM and Short Action Ultra Mag) may weigh two to three pounds less than their 30-year-old counterparts, which is good for the hunter carrying his rifle up a mountainside. However, this light weight wreaks havoc on the windage screw on the back of the Redfield-type base and ring combination. To combat this, manufacturers developed the dual dovetail. A derivative of the Redfield type ring, the dual dovetail is quickly gaining popularity with shooters of hard recoiling rifles and is sturdy enough to stand up to nearly anything a rifle can dish out.
Keeping 'em Tight
Before installing any base, first examine the base and screws. Check to ensure the screws protrude through the base, but not so much that they impede the action from operating properly.
Most manufacturers recommend using steel bases and rings with Torx-head-type screws. When tightening Torx screws, many gun enthusiasts utilize a torque wrench that tightens screws to a predetermined setting. However, the L-shaped screwdriver that is furnished with the bases will get the screw as tight as (and perhaps even tighter than) it needs to be. The L-shaped wrench was designed to be held with the thumb and index finger and will easily surpass the recommended torque specification. Don't use a larger handled wrench, though it may get the screw tighter, you also stand the chance of cracking the screw as the screws are usually only surface hardened.
Most gunsmiths "chase" or run a tap into each of the base holes to clean out any debris or metal chips that may remain in the hole from the manufacturer. A Q-tip or compressed air is then used to clean any loose debris. Dry install the bases and each of the screws to ensure each screw engages threads in the hole. On some one-piece bases each screw must be started into the threads before they can be tightened or the base will ride up prohibiting the other screws from engaging the threads.
This is also a good time to check the screw length with all the screws installed and engaged into the threads. Do the screws bottom out in the hole, or does the base move after tightening the screw? If so, the screw is too long and needs to be trimmed. A bench grinder or belt sander will make this a quick job, but the screw will get very hot -- too hot to touch, so use a good set of pliers or a screw holder to hold the screw while trimming. Be careful not to get the screw so hot that it loses its tempering. Quenching the screw in water helps cool the screw while trimming.
Rings: Holding it All Together
Like bases, rings come in many styles, with the conventional horizontal split being the most popular.
Rings can be over tightened causing denting to the scope tube, which can limit the amount of light the scope transmits back to your eye. Utilize the same amount of common sense when tightening ring screws. Leupold recommends tightening the ring screws to 15-20 in/lbs for each ring screw. The windage screw should torque to 45 in/lbs.
Loctite should never be used on ring screws. Use a small piece of black electrician's tape over the bottom of the ring if the scope is moving inside the rings. If a more severe case persists, Burris's signature series rings utilize a nylon bushing inside the steel ring. Once tightened down, the scope will not budge.
Many shooters prefer the steel Weaver or Picatinny or tactical rings. Each ring is machined to fit the base. The crossbolt at the bottom of the ring serves as a recoil lug preventing any movement. Leupold recommends tightening the crossbolt to 65 in/lbs. The fiercest recoil poses no threat of these rings from coming loose.
Determining What You Need
Most optic manufactures produce bases and rings and offer several styles. When shopping for bases and rings, look in the manufacturer's catalog for a guide to the right combination. Most manufactures have this information in their catalog and on their websites.
Let's say I have a Burris Euro Diamond scope with a 56mm objective, the outer bell part of the scope that I am going to mount on a Remington 700. According to the Burris catalog, using a one-piece base, I am going to need high rings to allow the objective to clear the barrel. Another consideration to take into account before choosing bases and rings is the length of the scope. An unusually short, compact scope may necessitate the need for a one-piece base; whereas a long scope may require a two-piece base, or even extension bases or rings or both, to clear the knobs and dials on a particular scope.
View all Scope Bases and Rings.