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Beginner’s Bench - Mounting a Scope

by Bob Brownell

Even though I grew up around firearms and the family business, I never really learned much about gunsmithing work and the products that we sell. If you didn’t read Frank’s article this month, you might be a little confused that Bob Brownell doesn’t know a lot about gunsmithing.

Well . . . Grandpa knew a lot and so does Dad and I probably should have paid more attention but . . . I had other things to do (for those of you who survived adolescence and made it into your thirties, you all know exactly what I mean!)

After having been with the company just a few months, I thought that many of our newer customers, like me, might not know a whole heckuva lot about gunsmithing or firearms work. Part of the reason I wanted to work on Beginner’s Benchwas so I could learn about gunsmithing and also to help out those of you who have taken an interest in this great pastime, and like me want to learn more.

Most of the articles in WebBench™ are geared towards folks who have quite a bit of experience both in working on firearms as well as using the thousands of products that Brownells carries. Beginner’s Bench is a new regular column aimed specifically at those of you who own guns, but just don’t have a lot of know-how when it comes to doing some simple work on them.

Luckily, we have a staff of professional gunsmiths here in our Tech department at Brownells who all have many years of experience working on guns and owning their own shops. After asking them for some help and explaining our new article, they stepped forward and agreed to help out with this project.

For my first undertaking, I decided to learn how to mount a scope on a Ruger® 10/22® rifle that I've had for many years. To get started, you need to do a little research in order to determine what sort of scope base is required as well as what kind of scope rings you will need since all guns and scopes require different combinations of rings and bases.

When installing a scope on a Ruger 10/22 you’ll notice that on the top of the receiver there are two factory-drilled and tapped holes with setscrews in them. This looked pretty straightforward and gave me a clue as to what to begin looking for. Bringing up Brownells web site was my first stop; simply type in “Ruger scope bases” and you’ll get a list of all Brownells products associated with this topic.

Part of the way down on the list is the heading Ruger 10/22 Action Scope Base. I clicked on this and carefully read the product description and determined that this is the base I need. To double check, I asked one of our gunsmith techs, Mark Hudson if this was correct and he agreed.

The next step was to find the right rings to hold the scope securely on the base. This proved to be a little more time consuming given the huge number of scope related products that Brownells carries. Since the scope I have is fairly small and exceptionally lightweight (a gift from my wife years ago), Mark suggested that I go with black Burris Zee Rings which will keep the scope mounted lower to the receiver on the rifle.

Whenever you’re doing any sort of gun work at all, always keep safety in mind – first and foremost. This isn’t just important; it’s critical. Always make sure the firearm is unloaded and the receiver action or bolt is open before beginning any work, or even handling a firearm! Removing the magazine and checking the chamber and are always the first thing you do. This way you’ll know for sure that there are no shells left in the gun. I can’t stress this enough. Also, never, ever, point the muzzle of the gun at anything you don't want to destroy. Keep it pointing up, or down at the ground.

The Proper Tools for the Job

Before you begin, make sure you have the proper tools and equipment to do the job correctly is just as important as observing safety. Ideally, when working on your guns, it’s nice to have a clean, well-lit area in which to do your work as well as a good sturdy surface to work on. This can be a corner in the garage, the basement, or even the dining room (if your wife doesn’t have any complaints!)

If you have a bench vise (I really like the Brownells Multi-Vise™, this will greatly help the entire project as you can hold the gun securely while installing your scope. Just make sure you have a way to pad the jaws of the vise before you clamp the gun in it to avoid marring the finish and crushing any parts.

My favorites are the Leather Vise Jaw Pads. Next, you’ll need a 1” wooden dowel, large and small screwdrivers, some cleaning solution; I prefer Brownells TCE Cleaner Degreaser, some heavy grease, and some Torx and Allen wrenches. The Brownells 58-Bit Magna-Tip® Super-Sets™ has all of the screwdriver and Allen bits you need. Just add the Torx® Bit Set and you’re good to go.

When you have everything you need, it’s time to begin! First of all, take the base and scope rings out of the packages and take great care not to lose the little wrenches that come with them. You’ll need these in a moment. Read the instructions carefully and thoroughly to make absolutely sure that you do everything correctly; there's nothing more aggravating than messing up your gun, scope, tools, or anything else of value.

Next, I carefully removed the setscrews on the top of the rifle and put them in an empty baby food jar in case I need them later on. Make sure to use a screwdriver that isn’t bigger than the heads of the setscrews. If you use a screwdriver that’s too big you run the risk of marring up the tops of the threads which would make putting the scope base screws in near impossible. That’s where the Magna-Tips are great because they come in so many sizes, designed specifically to work on guns!

Okay, now for the base. I simply put it on the top of the receiver and lined the screw holes up. Once I was satisfied that there is no real front or back, I simply put the screws in the holes and gently ran them down just barely snug, taking care not to cross thread them. Again, it’s a good idea to use a screwdriver tip that is the size of the heads. Once everything was in place, I tightened them on down, starting with the two outside screws and worked my way into the middle two. I had to be careful though not to really “crank” them down as tight as possible. Remember tight is good, but not so tight that you strip the threads or break the screws off.

With this done, I moved on to the rings. When taking the screws out of these prior to installation, I set an old towel on the bench in front of me to make sure that they wouldn't hit the surface and fall into one of those dark black holes that small parts always seem to find. Using the supplied Torx wrench, I took out the setscrews that hold the two halves together and then I used a standard straight screwdriver to take out the longer, slotted screws in the bottom.

I noticed that when doing this that the rings were kind of greasy and were probably given an oil bath before they were packaged. This needs to be cleaned off very well before you mount the scope. Otherwise, when you head out to the range to sight the rifle in any bumping caused by recoil or handling will allow the scope to move around making it impossible to sight in. Taking an old, clean t-shirt, I dabbed a little of the TCE Cleaner on a spot and thoroughly rubbed all surfaces of the rings. After repeating this step one more time, I then got a bottle of plain old rubbing alcohol out of the medicine cabinet, wet down a clean spot on the rag, and repeated the cleaning process again. Once the rings are clean and dry, you’re in business.

With everything clean and screws removed, I examined how to mount the rings to the base and this proved to be pretty simple. The bottom of the rings just slide onto the base from one end or the other and I then put the bigger, straight tipped screw back into the bottom hole. Again, taking great care not to cross thread it, I gently ran it in to loosely hold it in place. After mounting the second ring the same way, I took my scope and placed it in the rings to find out the best spot for them. The beauty of the Power Custom Base I was using was that I could move the rings in or out to get the best fit for the scope.

One thing to remember when doing this is that you want the rings to mount onto a flat, straight surface of the scope. Don’t ever try to force them onto a beveled or sloped edge. It simply won’t work and could damage your scope. Once I had fiddled around with this and determined where exactly I wanted to rings to mount, I went ahead and tightened the bottom screws down, again taking care not to get them too tight.

Before putting the scope in place, I noticed that my rings came with two little stickers called “friction pads.” Simply affix these to the inside of the rings and they will help keep the scope from sliding around.

Once this was done, I took a 1” wooden dowel that was about three feet long and placed it in the rings. This allowed me to check the line of sight; that is, how well the scope rings and base were lined up with the barrel of the rifle. This proved to be a very tedious process since I had the rings off of center a little. I just loosened the bigger, slotted screws in the bottom of the rings just a tiny bit and squared everything up. It took fifteen minutes, but it worked. If you decide you want to mount scopes more frequently, Brownells offers a great little tool, the Laser Magic Boresighter which saves time, ammo, and is pretty darn accurate.

With this done, it was time to finally mount the scope! Placing it in the bottom rings, I then simply put the top rings on and gently ran the Torx screws in until they were snug. Once again, I had to do a little bit of “eyeballing” on the scope to get it lined up. While I was doing this I also had to slide the scope forwards and backwards a bit to get it where it was going to be the most comfortable, and the easiest to see through.

You may have also noticed, there are two knobs on scopes. I had to be really careful not to mess with these since all new scopes come “centered.” Whatever you do, don’t touch! At least not yet. The top knob is the scope’s elevation; the one on the side is windage. These ideally should be as level and as plumb to the rifle as possible. Satisfied that I had the scope exactly where I wanted it, I tightened the Torx screws in the rings down taking great care not to move the scope.

When I wrote earlier about not “cranking” down on screws, this is the time to really heed that advice. Since these are setscrews, a person can really tighten the heck out of them. They just keep going down getting tighter and tighter. You definitely don’t want to crush the scope by doing this. As I tightened these down, I also was careful to alternate between the two sides of the rings to ensure that I would have fairly even tension on the rings. With everything tight, looking good, and mounted, it was off to the range to sight the rifle and scope in.

Luckily, the day I went out to the range it wasn’t too hot, nor was it too windy. I decided to start out at thirty yards just to see how far off the scope was. With some cardboard and some big targets, I got to work. Ideally, when sighting a rifle in, it’s a good idea to shoot from a good sturdy bench or have something fairly solid and comfortable to rest the gun on. This prevents a lot of unnecessary movement when shooting and allows the shooter to fire a concentrated grouping of shells so that you can see how to make adjustments. With the rifle loaded and ready to fire, I concentrated on the bullseye of the first target. Semi-automatic rifles are nice for this, you can continuously fire a full magazine (in this case, I had ten round magazines for my 10/22) and you can gauge what to adjust on the scope.

After going through the first magazine, I could see that the rifle was shooting low and to the right about six inches. Okay, remember the windage and elevation knobs? Now is the time to move them. Since I was shooting low, I started with the elevation. On the knobs, they generally tell you which way to turn them “up” or “down.” In this case, I turned the knob three clicks “up.” The same thing goes for the windage, it’s either “left” or “right,” so on this one as well, I turned it three clicks to the “left.” When doing this, you’ve got to be careful that you don’t turn them too much. Otherwise you might get the scope so far out of alignment that you’ll be sighting the durned thing in until everything freezes over.

Remember, baby clicks are the way to go. Each time I fired another magazine into the target, I marked out a new spot to focus the scope on so I could see exactly where my bullets were hitting. Again, a few more clicks on the windage and elevation, and then another magazine fired. After about twenty minutes of repeating this process, and one hundred rounds of ammo, I had the rifle and scope zeroed in.

This whole process was a little nerve wracking since I had never done this before, and it was also a little tedious at times, but it was well worth the time and the effort. In my subsequent trips to the range, I have been able to move out to 100 yards with the rifle and consistently shoot groups dead center in the targets from a bench rest. In the future, I hope to mount more scopes on several of my other firearms and see how well, or poorly, I can shoot.

Until next time, don’t be intimidated by your firearms. If you have a question, call one of Brownells experienced gunsmith techs – they’ll help you out or steer you in the right direction.