How To Level A Scope On A Rifle

Most people spend the time sighting in their rifle. Taking shots, making the adjustments, and taking more shots and so on. But there is a step that a good number of people leave out when they put a new scope on a rifle. Leveling.

The process of leveling a scope refers to adjusting the height and angle of the scope and the mounts. Because no matter how well you zero in your sights, if the scope isn’t level, it won’t perform properly. Why is it important? When shooting at distance, if your reticle isn’t properly aligned and your scope is at an angle, you could run into small problems with accuracy. For those who are shooting at really long distances, you will find your problem to be even bigger.

How To Level A Scope On A Rifle

Image by huntingmark | CC BY 2.0

For scopes that are severely incorrectly aligned, you might even find that you are missing out on a full MOA. Causing the reticle to not be on target, especially at very far distances. Any scope with multiple attachment points or that attaches via a ring needs to be leveled. This is due to the fact that they easily can become misaligned.

Keep in mind that while close distance shooting may not require you to have your scope perfectly level, you need to level your scope properly for long distance shooting. After 100+ yards you will start to notice problems, especially with getting your sight on. Not only that, but your windage and elevation knobs will not provide the proper adjustments.

A Quick Note

An important quick note is that you only need to level an optic that has multiple mounting points. Most red dot sights and basic optics do not need to be leveled because they are attached to their mounts. Two point and higher end scopes are what you are going to need to level.

Your scope will require leveling whenever you remove it from the gun. It will also be required if the scope received a bump or has been loosened. A quality scope will help to keep your scope from needing releveling. This is because quality scopes typically have better parts and are less likely to be knocked off kilter.

How To Level Your Scope

In order to take a perfect shot you need to have a scope that is pointing in the exact same direction and angle as your weapon. But in order to do it, you will need a couple of basic things. Here is what you will need:

  • Rifle
  • Scope
  • Scope Tools
  • 2 Levels
  • Something To Hold The Rifle Level

The first step is to ensure that your rifle is clear. Remove the magazine, pull back the bolt, and check the chamber. Make sure that any ammunition is removed from the room, or at least the workspace, so that you can be sure not to have an accidental discharge.

Then you want to set up a level platform to rest your rifle on. A bipod or sandbags will work for this. As will a cradle or other armorer’s station. The basic idea is that you want somewhere to keep your rifle stable while you work with it.

Next you will need to install the base part of the scope mount or the lower half of the rings. In order to ensure that they are going to properly hold your scope, tighten them as evenly as possible and ensure that they are going on as visibly straight as possible.

Now place the scope inside the rings. If the lower rings are not in the proper orientation, fix them now. It will be far easier at this stage than any other. Once that is done, place a level on the rifle so you can find its orientation. This level should be placed so that it is left to right. Make sure that the rifle is level.

Place another level on the top of the scope. The best option is the top of the elevation knob. Or knob cover if it is flat enough.

Do your best to level the scope now, then carefully place the top rings on as to not mess the orientation. Now tighten the rings to secure the scope in place. Read through your manufacturer’s manual to determine what the recommended torque is for your mount. This will tell you how far to tighten the scope. You do not want to over tighten or risk damage.

Recheck the leveling on your rifle and scope using the methods mentioned above. This will help to make sure that nothing has changed since. In addition to checking the levels you will also want to shoulder the rifle and ensure that everything checks out. The scope’s reticle should appear to be aligned properly and the elevation knob typically should be straight up and down.

If something isn’t right, you will need to loosen the mount and turn the scope, and tighten the screws down again. Repeat this process over until the scope is perfectly level to the rifle.

We recommend asking a friend to help. With two people, one person can hold the scope in place while the other works on the mounting. This way, you are less likely to need to redo the process.

Two Other Options

There are two other options for leveling your scope. You can bring it to an armor and have them install your scope. While a professional may charge you a fee in order to have your scope leveled, you will be positive that the scope is level when you are done.

Armorers can be found at gun stores and most ranges. Just make sure you pick a trustworthy location as they will have your gun. Another thing to consider when having a professional level your gun is the time.

A number of leveling tools have also been created that you can buy to help expedite the process. One popular option is a level that attaches to the rail of your rifle. The level itself then sticks out to the side of the rifle so it can easily be seen. This type of level is typically easier as it attaches to the rifle and you know it is placed in the orientation of the rifle as opposed to just laying a level over the top.

Another purchasable option is a leveling tool that attaches around the rifle and holds the scope in place until the mounts have been screwed into place.

While these options are all nice, they are just that, options. It isn’t hard to learn to level your scope by yourself. It doesn’t require any specialized equipment, said equipment is just optional.

Many new shooters hear about sighting their scope but not leveling. Thus they lose out on having their scope function as efficiently as possible. Even just a small amount of error in the level can cause problems, especially when shooting at distance. Now that you know how to do it though, you should be able to level your scope in less than an hour. Most people learn to do it even quicker than that.

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