Home » Scopes and Optics » How to Mount a Scope on a Rifle Without a Rail [Easy]

How to Mount a Scope on a Rifle Without a Rail [Easy]

Dakota Potts | Updated December 1, 2023 | Why You Should Trust Us | How We Earn Money
How to mount a scope on a rifle without a rail with a scope mounted on a hunting rifle

Mounting a scope on a rifle without a rail can be a daunting challenge, especially for those new to the world of firearms.

But it’s not impossible to do it yourself. 

With this step-by-step guide, you’ll be mounting your optic on a rifle with no problems and reliably shooting targets with accuracy.

Key Takeaways

  • Ensure the right mount type is chosen for your specific rifle
  • Consult a professional gunsmith for significant modifications
  • Familiarize yourself with scope rails, rings, and factory-drilled holes for a successful DIY project

And once you’re done, our guide to the best scopes for the 6.5 Creedmoor is ideal for those looking for a new optic.

What to Know Before You Start

So, the process requires knowledge of the various types of scope mounts, including rings, bases, and other mounting options. 

It’s crucial to select the right mount for your specific rifle to ensure it remains accurate and safe when you use it.

“Every time guns fall into the wrong hands and are used to intimidate, injure, or murder women, it erodes the rights of responsible gun owners everywhere.”

Gabrielle Giffords

For serious modifications to your rifle, including adding a scope, consider having it done by a professional gunsmith. However, if you’re interested in learning the process for DIY scope mounting, this article will give you the guidance you need.

With the proper materials, an understanding of scope rails and rings, and knowledge of factory-drilled holes, mounting a scope on your rifle without a rail can be straightforward.

Warning: Use a Gunsmith If Making Modifications

When considering mounting a scope on a rifle without a rail, consulting a professional gunsmith is the ideal step you would want to take. A gunsmith is a trained professional who can help with all aspects of firearms, including attaching a scope.

A rifle scope mounted on a camo rifle with a bubble level on top

For any responsible gun owner, safety should be the top priority. You could easily damage your rifle or the scope if you attempt to modify your gun without the proper knowledge and equipment.

A gunsmith will not only ensure that the job is done correctly, but they’ll also be able to assess your rifle for any potential issues you might not notice. Additionally, an improper modification can negatively affect the accuracy of your shots, defeating the purpose of mounting a scope in the first place.

By visiting a gunsmith, you can avoid complications, protect your investment, and ultimately, increase the performance and safety of your rifle. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind and professional quality work regarding firearm modifications.

That said, if you want to learn to do it yourself and get your rifle sorted without heading out to the gunsmith, the steps below will be what you’re looking for.

“One the most efficient ways to combat gun violence is to prevent criminals from obtaining guns in the first place.”

Conor Lamb

DIY Scope Mounting Step by Step Guide

1. Drill The Holes

Before starting, ensure you have all the necessary tools and equipment, such as a vise, calipers, high-carbon drill bits, and thread taps.

Caliber measuring the top of a rifle

Carefully measure and mark the receiver for hole placement using the calipers and jig. Then, take your time drilling the holes, ensuring they’re straight and debris-free.

2. Install the Base Plate

Next, attach the base plate to the drilled receiver using the thread taps. Make sure it’s secured tightly and aligned properly with the receiver. It’s essential to double-check this step, as any misalignment or looseness could cause issues when mounting the rail and scope.

Thread tap in a receiver

3. Mount the Rail

Now, proceed to mount the rail, applying a bit of Loctite on the scope base before doing so to keep moisture out and prevent rust from developing. Apply Loctite to the fasteners as well before tightening them down.

Red Loctite being applied to a scope base

Though many modern rifles come pre-drilled or with easy-to-use jig setups, make sure you have the correct tools and accessories for your specific rifle.

4. Install the Rings and Scope

With the rail mounted securely, install the rings onto it, taking care to choose the correct size for your scope. Place the scope into the rings, then tighten them snugly, ensuring the eye relief is correct and the optic is level with a bubble level.

5. Sight in Your Scope

Finally, use a bore sighter or laser bore sighter to sight in your scope. This helpful device allows you to accurately align your scope with the rifle’s bore, making the sighting-in process much more straightforward.

Hands inserting a laser bore sighter into a muzzle

Once completed, test out your newly mounted scope at the range for accuracy and make any necessary adjustments.

Necessary Materials to Mount the Scope

Rifle

First off, have your rifle ready to install the mounting setup. Check to make sure it’s unloaded and compatible with the scope and rings you’ve chosen.

Scope and Rings

Next, you’ll need a riflescope and a set of compatible rings. The rings should be the correct size to fit your rifle and scope so they can be attached securely.

Tools

Here are the tools you’ll need:

  • A torque wrench to tighten the screws and prevent over-tightening, which can damage the scope or rifle
  • Some Loctite to keep your screws in place after they’re tightened
  • A screwdriver or Allen wrench for tightening screws, depending on what your rings require
  • A vise to keep the receiver in place
  • Calipers to precisely measure out the holes that’ll be drilled
  • High-carbon drill bits and thread taps to drill and tap the receiver

Remember, using the right tools and securing materials will make mounting your scope much easier and more secure.

Fun Fact

In 2014, Namibia raised over $350k by auctioning off the right to hunt one endangered black rhino. The rhino was past breeding age and detrimental to the rest of the herd. The money was used to protect endangered animals.
Source: kickassfacts.com

A Brief History of Scope Rails and Rings

Scope rails and rings have come a long way since their inception. 

In the early days, scope rings were the primary method to mount a scope to a rifle. The rings would be attached directly to the rifle’s base mount, creating a firm connection between the scope and the firearm. This system dominated the market for quite some time.

Scope rings on a rifle receiver

As rifles evolved and became more versatile, new mounting systems were needed. That’s when scope rails were introduced. They were a game changer, providing more flexibility for scope placement and eye relief.

Currently, the two popular scope rails are Picatinny and Weaver. Picatinny rails are the more recent of the two and feature wider, evenly spaced slots, while the Weaver rails have narrower slots with varied spacing. But both of these options offer more stability and customization compared to the older methods of mounting scopes.

Man holding a torque to a scope ring mounted on a rifle

These advancements have allowed shooters to customize their rifles to their exact preferences, making using the right scope for different situations easier. With the many different mounting options available today, it’s become less challenging to mount a scope on a rifle without a rail.

Factory Drilled Holes

I recently mounted a scope on my rifle without a rail, and one method I used was taking advantage of the factory-drilled holes. 

My rifle came with pre-drilled holes, which saved me a lot of time and effort. I simply had to align these holes with the ones on my scope and attach it with screws.

Factory-drilled holes in a receiver of a rifle

When you don’t have a rail, factory-drilled holes can be the next best thing when you don’t have a rail. 

First, you need to find where these holes are located on your rifle. Most rifles will have them on the top of the receiver. Do a quick check to ensure the scope and the holes are compatible.

Remove the plugs in the receiver and use a degreaser or acetone to degrease the receiver mounting holes (a pipe cleaner comes in handy here) and the fasteners for the rail. Dry the holes and the fasteners out, then mount the rail (or rings) with Loctite, like in step 3.

Pipe cleaner inside a receiver screw hole

Always use the proper screw size and torque to prevent damage. It ensures that your scope is mounted securely and your shots are accurate.

During the mounting process, be sure to adjust the scope to be perfectly level with the rifle.

A quick tip: use a bubble level to determine the perfect level before tightening the screws. A tool like this will help you achieve precise alignment without any guesswork.

Close-up view of a bubble level

To sum it up, using factory-drilled holes is a practical, straightforward method to mount a scope without a rail. With the right tools and patience, you’ll have a secure and accurate setup in no time.

Different Types of Scope Rails and Rings

One of the crucial aspects to understand when mounting a scope on a rifle without a rail is learning about the different types of scope rails and rings. Here I’ll cover three popular types of rails: Picatinny, Weaver, and Dovetail.

Picatinny Rail

Hands holding a Picatinny rail on a rifle

The Picatinny rail is very popular among gun enthusiasts. Probably the most popular, in fact. Its versatility comes from the evenly spaced slots that offer many mounting options. 

Over the years of working with these rails, I’ve found they work well with most scope bases. Picatinny rails are durable and designed to withstand heavy recoil, which keeps your scope secure even in tough situations.

Weaver Rail

A Picatinny rail and a Weaver rail on a white background

Another rail option I encounter often is the Weaver rail. While similar to the Picatinny rail, its main difference is the narrower slots. 

When it comes to scope bases, most Weaver-compatible bases can fit on a Picatinny rail, but not the other way around. That’s a crucial difference you should keep in mind.

Dovetail Rail

Scope ring on a dovetail rail

Now, let’s talk about the Dovetail rail. These rails are more common in air rifles and rimfire rifles. The unique feature is the angled edges that create a tight fit for the scope rings. 

This design choice makes for a very secure mount, a detail I always appreciate. But know that Dovetail rails come in various sizes, so picking the right scope rings is essential.

Fun Fact

Researchers believed early humans waited in trees for their prey to pass underneath, rather than chase after animals the way hunters in the classical and Renaissance periods generally did. Source: www.factscrush.com

For more reading see our guide to which type of scope is the most accurate and gives the best views of the target and guide to the different parts of a rifle scope.

FAQs

Do you need a rail to mount a scope?

No, you don’t necessarily need a rail to mount a scope on a rail-less rifle. There are other options, like using specialized scope rings or adapter mounts.

Can you mount a scope on any rifle?

You can mount a scope on most rifles, but it may require additional hardware or modifications. It’s essential to ensure compatibility between the rifle and the mounting system.

Do I need a Picatinny rail?

You do not need a Picatinny rail, but it’s a popular choice due to its versatility. Alternatives like Weaver rails or direct-to-receiver mountings can also work for mounting a scope.


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