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Thread: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

  1. #1
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    Arrow How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    Conventional wisdom has long held that scopes should be mounted as low as possible on hunting rifles. If fact, it is often intimated that lower-is-ALWAYS-better with scope mounting. Get the scope bell practically touching the barrel. With low-as-it-will-go scope mounting, so the story goes, cheek-weld will be better and sighting much faster.



    However, over many years and after working with many rifles set-ups, I’ve come to disagree.

    I have gradually come to believe that the lowest scope height possible is not always the best for everyone. Variations in individual physique and shooting style, as well as stock design better dictate scope-mounting height than the single-minded decree that says that super-low is the only way to fly.

    What I believe I see is that every shooter’s neck length and shoulder shape, as much or more than anything else, dictates how a particular rifle feels to that individual in the firing position. Those two things, along with stock shape, seem to strongly impact how the shooter’s head is most comfortably positioned in relationship to the scope. To force a long-necked shooter to crush down onto the rifle’s stock to get a clear sight picture is just as bad as expecting a short-necked shooter to rise up to peer through the optics.

    What I’ve come to prefer is to have the shooter shoulder the rifle as naturally as possible, resting the cheek comfortably and consistently on the stock without either abnormal scrunching or stretching to see through the scope. The trick, I believe, is to find that natural, unstressed head position and then adjust the scope height to that position.

    The best way to do that seems to be to shoulder the rifle with your eyes closed, settle your check firmly onto the rifle in a comfortable and repeatable manner and then open your eyes to discover if the scope is too high or too low? This is the type of full field of view you should see through the scope when you open your eyes:



    The other thing I find is that rifles vary tremendously as to how they seem to naturally position the shooter’s head, and that combines with neck length and shoulder shape to subtly alter head position. Kimber Montana rifle stocks, for example, are very straight. As a result, a long-necked person with such a stock may well be significantly more comfortable with higher scope mounts. However, that same shooters may find a lower mount is more comfortable with a different rifle, say a Remington SPS or a Winchester Featherweight.



    Furthermore, I find that a shooter with a more comfortable (and therefore repeatable) head position tends to enjoy shooting more, tends to shoot better, tends to shoot faster and may also have less problems with the scope contacting the eyebrow during heavy recoil.

    At least that’s what I’ve observed.

    What scope-mounting height seems to work the best for YOU on your hunting rifles? Is that height affected, do you think, by your physique (particularly your neck length)? And does the most comfortable scope height vary for you from rifle to rifle?

    Also, what happens with your favorite hunting rifles when YOU try the "eyes-closed" test?

    It may be interesting for all of us to compare notes.
    "Don't let the things you can't do, stop you from doing the things you can do."

  2. #2
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    Default Re: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    Having a history of mounting a variety of different objective bell sized scopes gives a shooter an idea of where the scope needs to be relative to her natural cheek weld. Objective diameter puts some limitations on how low a scope can be mounted. A short squat no neck may want to re-consider using scopes with 50mm objectives. Ichabod Crane types could mount 60mm scopes and still have room to slip a finger between barrel and scope. Hit and missing bases can get expensive. If one is careful with packaging they can be returned but lots of folks, rather than return and fine tune will shrug it off and live with the first arrangement they come up with. A correct setup is worth the patience and effort of "sizing", even when mail ordering. There's something to be said for sticking to one system for all your scope mounting; as that makes having a variety of different height bases in inventory easier. I'm really not a fan of integral bases like the Ruger and CZ, it makes doing anything "out of the ordinary" a frustrating exercise. My method mirrors yours, shoulder the rifle a dozen times or so, eyes closed, good comfortable position, then open eyes and see what you've got. In the end, it's a relationship between your rifle and your body. The low as you can go argument is really rather meaningless.
    "A Patriot Must Always Be Ready To Defend His Freedom Against His Government"- Edward Abbey

  3. #3
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    Default Re: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    Not saying I am getting old, but had to look twice to see the dot in the second pic! And at 6'7" I can honestly say that what might work for one, won't fit for another. Kind of like shotgun fit as far as I am concerned. So I don't go with the low is always better either.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    I think the "low as you can go" came from an era where people began experimenting with the addition of scopes to their ol' standby open sighted rifles - that might have been passed down through a generation or two. Point being the while the cheek weld on the rifle whose stock was near perfect for open sights, it didn't allow for a very good weld, if any, once a scope was mounted...unless it was mounted very low. It's damn hard to throw up a rifle and shoot it well, consistently, if the ergonomics are't right.

    Take a look at a lot of the high-end trap guns out there today...the length of pull and comb height on their stocks can easily be tweaked to perfectly suit the person. Same goes for long range precision rifles whose combs are invariably PERFECTLY aligned parallel to scope such that the shooter can be in a completely relaxed state whether he's laying down or on the bench. Scope height and any built-in base MOA adjustment is easily factored into range calculations....so scope height or ring height essentially becomes irrelevant so long as one's cheek weld is comfortable and repeatable.
    Last edited by Bushcraft; 04-26-2010 at 08:33 PM.

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  5. #5
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    Default Re: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    As low as possible works best for me, with every factory stock I've tried. I think it has a lot to do with your anatomy. Your zygomatic arch (cheekbone) is what "anchors" your check to the stock. If you have a high cheekbone, the scope will need to be lower. If you are bobbing your head around trying to find the light pencil in the scope, your scope is WAY too high, and parallax will bite you in the a$$ on a long shoot. Like Bushcraft said, the tactical guys have stock combs parallel to the barrel, and most have a checkrest that can be raised to get the eye behind the dead center of the light pencil, thereby minimizing parallax.
    Last edited by Take-a-knee; 04-26-2010 at 07:43 PM. Reason: spelling

  6. #6
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    Default Re: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    I'm in the "as low as possible" camp. For bolt action you have to check clearance.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    Another note...I've found that I'd much prefer to have a "head's up and facing forward" position to my cheek welds as it puts A LOT less stress on my eyes. Pretty much like when you throw up an AR with the butt tucked in where it ought to be. I've found that, for me, if a hunting/target/tactical scope is mounted too low, I end up turning my face into the comb more and tilting my head more so as to get a good full field of view. The result is that my eyes end up strained from looking hard to the left and I have a touch of double vision that can only be remedied with some time and eye exercises. Not good if you are going to be doing as much practice shooting as one ought to be doing, or if you have to lay down behind a rifle for a long time.

    I'm convinced that parallax is the primary culprit behind a lot of poor groups at the range. When you can anchor a guy's rifle in some sandbags and show him how the crosshair sweeps around a lot on the target (sometimes as much as 3-4 inches, or more, at 100 yards) PURELY because his eye is moving behind the scope...the light-bulb goes off and he immediately gets why consistent cheek weld and centering up before taking the shot is so critical for making smaller groups. I'd bet that almost anyone can dramatically improve their shooting with proper comb/ring height and length of pull - all of which allow for a comfortable, consistent cheek weld...and a good scope level. I can't emphasize that last one enough for longer range stuff.
    Last edited by Bushcraft; 04-26-2010 at 08:35 PM.

    It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't, everyone would do it. The hard...is what makes it great.
    Failing to prepare is, generally speaking, preparing very well to do the wrong thing.
    Liberalism is the philosophy of Western suicide. - James Brunham
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    You have to define what you want to do with the rifle, and how good a shooter you want to become. For slow-fire stuff, you can get away with a lot of things that you can't if you want to be accurate at speed. Take-a-knee started down the road, and I'll add to it. Neck length has very little to do with proper scope position. Cheekbone position is much more critical. If you want to be "comfortable" behind the rifle, you probably won't get to be very good (barring some long term, tactical considerations). If you want the gun to fit you, you probably won't be super comfortable, but you'll be able to learn to shoot much better. Fit is what matters, not comfort. There are tons of guys out there who buy guns based on how they "feel", rather than how they fit. If your scope is too high, you will not be able to be as consistent as if your scope is lower. The lowest possible may not always be right, but it will probably always be better than too high. Also, height over bore starts to affect things like maximum point blank zero, as well as offset, so again, depending on what you want to do with the rifle and how good you want to become, a low mounted scope will usually be better than a higher mounted one. More rugged, too.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    Fit is what matters, not comfort.
    I don't agree with this statement at all. The two are not mutually exclusive. A rifle is not going to be comfortable and gain a high level of proficiency in a reasonable amount of time if the fit is off. The vice versa is also true.

    However, I'll give you that maybe we might be arguing semantics.

    EDIT: I'll also give you that some guys can get carried away with scope/comb height, which can affect the utility of a hunting rifle over maximum point blank range. Then again, most of them don't even know what that means.
    Last edited by Bushcraft; 04-26-2010 at 09:26 PM.

    It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't, everyone would do it. The hard...is what makes it great.
    Failing to prepare is, generally speaking, preparing very well to do the wrong thing.
    Liberalism is the philosophy of Western suicide. - James Brunham
    Reviews are only as good as the crowd reviewing them.
    Illegitimi non carborundum!

  10. #10
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    Default Re: How Low or High to Mount a Scope?

    BTW, any chance we could get some steel out to 700-800 yards on that hillside at the CO Rondy?

    I heard that Huntsman22 and Singleshot are bored with making tiny groups at the 600.

    It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't, everyone would do it. The hard...is what makes it great.
    Failing to prepare is, generally speaking, preparing very well to do the wrong thing.
    Liberalism is the philosophy of Western suicide. - James Brunham
    Reviews are only as good as the crowd reviewing them.
    Illegitimi non carborundum!

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