It doesn’t matter if you have the best scope in the world if it is held on by duct tape and good intentions. Scope Rings are the structural support for your scope. If they are canted, misaligned, or flimsy your rifle can be MOA all day but not achieve its accuracy potential, and you will pull your hair out looking for the problem. Sick with our brands of recommended scope rings to build your best setup.
Finding the Best Scope Rings for your rifle isn’t as simple as buying the brand and mounting them to your rifle. It can be a complex mathematical process to find the optimal point of rest for your scope to sit fitting to you like a well-tailored suit, or you can grab the average height and get close enough. Personally, I prefer a well-tailored suit but you have to be willing to spend the time, energy, and money to fit your rifle to your shooting. I’ll give you a quick rundown of the process, if you want more information you can take a look at Long Range Shooting, by Jon Gillespie-Brown. Full disclosure I was the technical lead.
- Finding Your Scope Fit
- The Best Scope Rings
- The Other Options
- Badger Ordinance and Seekins The Fight For Best Scope Rings
- So Which Do You Choose?
- Which Scope Rings Are Best For You?
Torque Settings and Scope Level
The number one problem I see isn’t that you didn’t choose a scope on the list or that you aren’t using $500 scope mounts, but that your scope isn’t level and your entire rifle isn’t properly torqued. I’ve taught long distance rifle shooting for 5 years and the first thing I do every class is walk down the row of rifles and 90% of rifles used are canted or loose in their mounts. This is both unforgivable and easily solved.
Vortex Optics Torque Wrench is able to be set to most torque settings needed while being small and solidly build.
Wheeler Reticle Leveling System is made so you can level any scope no matter your rifle or scope just clamps it to the barrel and start adjusting. Once your scope is level and you have proper eye relief torque it down to manufacturer specs and it will hold and more importantly hold at a repeatable torque. Allowing you to remove the scope and rings for cleaning or maintenance.
The first step is narrowing down your options; sadly not all manufacturers make rings for every type and height of scope. Scopes have several diameters of tubes 1inch, 30mm, 34mm are the most common with 1 inch and 30mm slowly being phased out because the larger the tube the easier it is to create bright images. 1-inch tubes used to be the standard for hunting because of the smaller size and reduced weight until several Scope manufacturers decided that weight could be saved in other areas.
The first step is finding your tube size. For example, the Vortex Venom, one of our most recommended scopes uses a 34mm tube.
You will also want to note your objective bell diameter and your height above your barrel from your scope mount. http://www.mil-rad.com/scope_ring_calculator
Cheek weld is a term that gets thrown around a lot when shooting. A cheek weld is shouldering the rifle in your shoulder pocket, allowing your head to fall naturally onto the buttstock, and “welding” it to as many points of contact as you can. Adjusting your scope through your scope rings and fitting the rifle to you instead of fitting your to the rifle is essential for pure, accurate shooting. The reality of a solid cheek weld is at least three points of contact, ease of repeatability and a consistent view through the scope. Finding your natural cheek weld and measuring the distance from your eye to your optimal scope placement is essential. Luckily with adjustable buttstocks, cheek risers and cantilevered scope mounts you can form a rifle to nearly anyone.
Eye relief is the distance from your eye to the eyepiece of your scope. Generally eye relief is around 3.5 inches, and most scopes can be moved in their rings by around 2 inches while in the scope rings and by moving the scope rings on the Picatinny rail you can have more adjustment. Buttstock adjustments are often used to pick up the slack from heavy clothing and body armor. Setting your scope with the proper eye relief means you won’t spend any time trying to find a proper sight picture, instead it will be automatic and consistent each time you shoulder the rifle.
Finding Your Scope Fit
There are a thousand of different ways to fit a rifle to a shooter. Generally, the easiest is measuring after finding the natural fit of a rifle. Shoulder your rifle a thousand times and find your comfortable relaxed hold. Mark where your eye sits with a pencil on the stock and have a friend measure how high off the rifle your eye is compared to the scope attachment point. Subtract half your scope tube diameter from the height and that is the best ring height for you. If it fits buy a set of rings that height and shoot.
Unfortunately, many scopes just won’t fit that way, because everyone is built a bit different, and scope objective bells can be too large to fit the amount of space off the bore. Don’t worry your body will find a new natural point in time. For now grab the closest you can to your best ring height.
Rings vs Unibody Mount
Scope rings are a traditional way to attach a scope but the future is now. Most rifles use a picatinny flattop to attach your scope, if you are forced into buying specific rings to mount your scope to your rifle check out the aftermarket parts for your rifle. Unibody mounts or mounts are have few downsides and are much more secure and rigid when mounting a scope. They will weigh slightly more than scope rings, and on very specific rifles it may cause a problem with extraction that will need to be addressed.
Cantilevered mounts allow you to offset your scope a couple of inches to perfect your eye relief. Most common on AR-15 without a continuous rail system or on rifles with shorter length of pulls than the standard 13inches.
Some scope rings and mounts have a feature for additional drop for long range shooting; the standard is 20 MOA of drop or 6 MIL for those on the metric system. It allows for a scope to be mounted 20 MOA higher than center allowing for more drop from your scope.
The Best Scope Rings
Spuhr is the most popular mounting system for optics among long range shooters, even with their hefty price tag. Why, because the mounts are worth it. Spuhr mounts made in Sweden are some of the highest quality mounts I’ve ever seen. They add features to their mounts subtly integrated so perfectly that you don’t realize how much you use them until you don’t have the mount holding your scope.
Spuhr mounts come in nearly every size and height, from scope tube sizes 1 inch to 40mm, mount heights can vary from their low 30mm to high, 48mm, as well as their specialty heights and sizes like the super low rings of 25mm. Each mount is coded so you know exactly what you are getting. The precision and quality are amazing, once locked in the scope feels like it could beat down a Mack Truck and still come out zeroed. The price seems high but quality and precision are worth it, however, that is without even mentioning the features of the scope mounting system.
The Spuhr IDMS is machined from 7075 T651 Aluminum anodized, weighs just 7.9 oz. and uses a diagonal mounting system to keep the scope zeroed through recoil and unlike nearly every other scope ring available does not block your knobs. The diagonal mounting system works perfectly to help hold left to right zero when mounting and adjusting scopes. The IDMS uses a 10degree wedge so that your scope will mount square to the mounting rings every time. This works by mating two perfectly aligned surfaces together to force the scope to be square within the system. Unfortunately, while the system does provide a perfectly trued surface many cheaper scopes are not squared to their base or even their adjustment so it may take a bit of trial and error before you are confident in your scope.
The Spuhr IDMS features a bubble level integrated into the scope to tell you at a glance whether you are level with your rifle. A canted shot will miss by the angular deflection of the cant, this isn’t a large amount over a short distance but if you are looking for precision over long range it will cause misses. Once you learn the system you adjust without even knowing you are doing it.
The Spuhr IDMS also uses predrilled attachment points of a variety of doctor red dots or accessories. Perfect fit when you need it, invisible when you don’t is the best kind of engineering, in my opinion.
Spuhr mounts and rings are so prevalent that a wide majority of long range competition shooters use them; they look amazing and are available in QD mounting for when you want to use one scope for a variety of rifles. It is what every scope on this site are tested on, thanks to the ease of mounting and the elimination of variables when testing a scope. They are the best; unfortunately the price can put them out of range.
The Other Options
Spuhr is far and above the rest of the competition for rings and they are starting to be copied but it is hard to find any mounting system of the same quality. Other scope ring manufacturers are also great, but if you can afford the cost Spuhr is the best choice. Other rings are going to cost less but the quality and features are going to be lacking slightly. We understand not everyone wants to spend the same on their rings as their scope and in some cases their rifle. We looked at hundreds are mounting systems and scope rings and our other options will serve you well, not every ring can hold up to a M14 shooting .308 with two pounds of scope but all of these held up nicely with minimal stress on your scope.
Vortex Optics Tactical 30mm Riflescope Rings
Vortex makes some of the best scopes for the price that we review, their rings aren’t different, Vortex has several levels of quality from it Hunter, tactical and pro series for under $60 to their precision matched rings and cantilever mounts for $150 and above. I’ve tested out each and every level of their rings and found two solid facts. They have the best customer service and warranty, I’ve used and they’re the best buck for the buck on low cost rings.
The Vortex tactical rings are a bit beefy for most shooters but on the M14 test rifle they were the cheapest set that held up against the abuse. The rings are not small and use a 6 screw torque system but they held their zero as good as could be expected, just a bit loosening from the repeated abuse, nothing some Loctite couldn’t fix. Their Precision Matched rings were very similar to the Badger Ordinance rings even though they were a bit less solid, they would probably work great for a match rifle.
But where Vortex really shines is for AR-15s, Their Cantilevered Mounts are great with a 1-8 Strike Eagle for the AR-15. The Precision Quick Release was able to swap between the AR-15 and the M14 quickly and easily. Though the M14 wasn’t built for the 1.5 inch standard height that the AR is, but it worked well with a bit of a chin weld. Available with a 0 or 20 MOA cant, 8 oz. Cantilever mounts are perfect for any shooting with a precision AR.
Vortex has some of the best AR mounts for the price and good low cost solutions for mounting scopes but they are the cheaper option. Great for some, not enough for others. They are the most popular rings for new shooters and the best low cost option.
Vortex Optics Precision Extended Cantilever Riflescope Mounts
Badger Ordinance and Seekins The Fight For Best Scope Rings
Badger Ordinance and Seekins Precision have been dueling it out for nearly 20 years as the top dog of scope rings. Badger Ordinance are made from steel, machined to perfection, Seekins Precision are made from 7075-T6 aluminum. In the battle of the scope rings the choice between a few ounces of weight might sway you but Badger Ordinance has been the company of choice for the US military when mounting their optics.
Badger Ordnance Scope Ring
Badger Ordinance rings are slightly more expensive, a bit beefier and have a rougher design, but that comes with the experience of being the manufacturer of the US military for large amounts of their scope bases, rings, mounts and other products. They hold the zero perfectly and I would feel comfortable using them to beat the other scope rings on, without losing zero.
Seekins Precision are finely crafted in aluminum, they are lighter, sleek and precision machined easier than the steel of the Badger. More competitive shooters in recent years have been opting to use Seekins when they are using rings because of the quality and lightweight of their scope rings. Just because they are made from aluminum doesn’t mean they aren’t as strong nor will they hold up to the beating that truck guns and hunting guns receive.
So Which Do You Choose?
Of the two Badger Ordinance are more expensive, requires two tools and are heavier. Yet, I will still recommend them as about equal, maybe it is because the shear amount of options that Badger Ordinance has for rings or the idea that the M14 rings we tested nearly beat out the Spuhr mount for quality and ease of shooting. Honestly, pick the one you like the best, the quality isn’t different enough to matter, and unless you are going to bash rocks with your scope, I doubt you will be able to hurt either set.
Which Scope Rings Are Best For You?
The choice of scope rings simple once you find the closest size to fit your needs. After you find the size you need and have made up your mind to buy a quality set and install them properly you will be much happier in your shooting knowing that the mistake you made was because you need to make a correction not the fault of the equipment. Save yourself some time and just go with a Spuhr the first time, they truly are miles ahead.
Andrew Maurer is a Precision Rifle Series competition shooter and gunsmith. Building competition rifles for over 12 years. He works as a big game hunting guide in Iowa, South Dakota and Arizona. He is also a political scientist studying the effects of gun control on society. He teaches youth rifle shooting.