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."