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Today I am going to cover scope mounting and bore sighting. At the end of this article you will be ready to select some ammunition and plan your first trip to the range. Being properly prepared for that is vital. The ranges I use have fairly small “danger areas” (dead land behind the targets). If you shoot above your target and the butts then your bullet will continue on its way up into the air. Eventually it will hit the ground. If the bullet strays out of the danger area behind a range then you have a serious accident waiting to happen. Not only would it ruin someone’s day/life it would also cause huge damage to all shooting sports. Politicians would be falling over themselves to abolish the evil gun menace.. If you buy a new rifle and take it to the range without proper forethought you might easily send a few rounds over the top. It is your responsibility to prepare your equipment and be utterly sure you can predict the outcome when you pull that trigger. With safety in mind we should ensure we are confident and happy with each step in our preparation. If it feels wobbly or stiff or unusual and you have doubts.. Stop, check, start over. If you can’t sort it yourself then consult with someone who can (gunsmith).
So far we should have a rifle, a picatinny rail, some scope rings, a scope, a bipod or front rest and a rear bag. You can see such a set up in the picture above. The first job we have to do is mount the rail.
Mounting the Picatinny rail
I would seriously urge the new rifle owner to select a rail as a factory option. That will save you the bother of mounting it yourself. I was able to spec a 20moa rail when I ordered my Remington 700. Failing that then I would suggest buying a pre-drilled rail made for your rifle model. The money you save buying a blank rail will soon be lost in sweat as you try to accurately drill holes to match perfectly with those on your action.
The rails usually come with screws supplied. Read the manufacturers manual and look for the recommended torque setting for these screws. If you can’t find it then ring/email and ask. You will need to buy or borrow a torque wrench which covers the torque range required by your rail. A torque wrench allows you to adjust the amount of energy applied when turning something like a screw. If you tightened every screw on your rifle down as hard as you could then you may snap a screw, slip and scratch the rifle, and worst of all damage components and reduce accuracy. The parts of your rifle have been machined to a precise tolerance. They perform best when tightened to factory settings. With torque wrench in hand and correctly set you can now start screwing your rail in place. Make sure both areas of contact are clean of any dirt. Start the screws in reverse until you feel the thread click over. Then begin to turn the screw clockwise, paying attention for any increase in tension which might signify cross threading. Most screws have Allen or star type heads. Make sure you order a good selection of those with your torque wrench (£50-£150 will get you a reasonable one).
Select a torque wrench with a variety of heads and a torque range that applies to your kit
There are many people who recommend “bedding” the rail. The term bedding refers to using a compound which sets hard (epoxy being a popular choice) to fill gaps between contacting surfaces. In the days where machining was less than accurate bedding had benefits. A rail may not have been perfectly flat, the surface it was mounted on may also have been uneven. Screwing two uneven surfaces together leaves room for movement and therefore inaccuracy. It became popular to lube both surfaces and then apply a layer of epoxy or similar. Simply screw down to desired torque and leave to dry overnight. You are left with two surfaces which sit totally flush, no movement. The lube allows you to remove the surfaces from one another should the need arise. Personally I don’t bother. Modern technology and better quality of parts and kit have made it unnecessary in my mind. There are plenty of guides to bedding rails on YouTube should you wish to try it.
If you took my advice in earlier articles you will have purchased some horizontally split scope rings. You will of course have selected rings which are high enough to accommodate your scope without touching the barrel!
For the next job we want to be able to adopt the shooting position which will be used when shooting. For most this would be prone. Adjusting the scope position to your eye while in position is important. If you just screw it on without bothering to check it then you may find you are either to far away from the scope and you can’t get a picture or to close and it will cut your eye under recoil.. Not pleasant. Obviously you must double check the rifle is not loaded before doing anything with it. Remove the mag and look into the bore to ensure it is safe. Get your rifle in position using your rest/bipod/sandbags and get behind it. When you have a comfortable and repeatable position, place the lower half of the rings on your rail. You can the lay the scope across the rings. Be very delicate, it is easy to scratch the scope with the rings or drop the scope. Get into your position and check the sight picture. You should not adjust your head to get a clear picture but rather reposition the rings/scope until it works for you. The distance between your eye and the scope is called “eye relief”. All scopes and eyes are different so there is no right or wrong, only what works for you.
A clear view to the target with correct eye relief
Before you screw the tops of the rings on you must consider cant. If the scope is mounted but not level then you will struggle when shooting. The shots will string diagonally as you dial in windage. The easiest way to level it is to have the rifle on a level surface to start with. Hang a plumb line up which will give you a perfect vertical. Then just aim at the line and adjust scope until the verticals align.
Some scopes will not give a clear picture at anything less than 50 yards. You may find if you have limited space that you have to do this at the range. Once you have the scope in place you can screw the tops of the rings on. Torque screws down to manufacturers recommendation. Over tightening could crush your scope tube. Make sure it all feels solid. Now we are ready for bore sighting.
Bore sighting is a pretty simple way to get your bolt action rifle zeroed. I set my zero at 100yds, you may have a different preference depending on application. Whatever range you choose you need to set a target up that is easily visible (a plate sized black circle). Set your rifle up to point at the target from the firing point. You need it to be steady. Remove the bolt. Now you can look through the barrel. Align barrel to the target. DO NOT MOVE THE RIFLE ONCE ALIGNED! Carefully look through your scope without jogging anything and use your windage and elevation adjustments to move the cross hairs over your target. If you did this correctly the scope and barrel have the same point of aim. When you come to shoot for the first time you will at least hit the target. Then you can fine tune.
That is all for this article. Next we look at ammo selection and the fine tuning process at the range.
Take care and keep shooting!!