How To Mount a Rifle Scope on a Picatinny Rail: A Beginner’s Guide

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Mounting a rifle scope correctly can be the difference between hit and miss.

For a beginner shooter, mounting a scope may appear difficult, but it is actually pretty straightforward.

You’ll find that the weak point for most scopes is the mount, so most people use Picatinny rails.

They’re a great mount, especially since they’re compatible with a wide variety of scopes.

If you are just getting started with this mount, below are things you need to know on how to mount a rifle scope on a Picatinny rail by yourself.

It will help ensure you don’t destroy your rifle and Picatinny rail.

An Overview of Picatinny Rails

A Picatinny rail is a type of attachment integrated into a pistol or rifle and has specific groove and notch dimensions.

It’s also known as a “Pic Rail” and identical to a MIL-STD-1913 rail.

The prototype has been tested at Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey once it was completed.

After the testing, the design was awarded the MIL-STD-1913 designation and issued a military standard.

On February 3, 1995, the United States Military accepted this standard.

Main Features

In contrast to other types of mount, it features a broader and deeper slot.

Also, since it has an ejection port relief fitted at the bottom of the base, it is generally thicker than a two-piece mount.

You can find a standard spacing of the slots on a Picatinny rail running the length of the mount.

Top Benefits

There are many bases for which you can mount up your scope, but a Picatinny Rail edges over them in that it’s easier and faster (semi-automatic) to mount.

The rails don’t slack or get loose with time or use, and they have a locking bar that avoids more friction due to surface contact, which most rails do not.

Most scopes that use a Picatinny rail are lightweight, so your rifle will not be too heavy.

The rails also allow adjustments on them without the need to detach and reattach them every time.

That gives improved visions and makes hunting or shooting range expeditions easier and simpler.

With its large size, large bearing surfaces, and the one-piece-of metal base secured to the receiver by four screws, the Picatinny rail is perhaps the strongest among all mounting systems.

The rail allows you more front-and-back positioning versatility than anything else when installing a scope.

The Picatinny will get your ocular lens bell far away enough, close enough, or accept oddly spaced adjustable turrets and lens bells that no other mount can.

These rails are so common and widely used today because of their lightweight.

Aside from that, many types and models make them versatile for many rifles and guns.

Many makes and brands of rifles even come with a pre-mounted sight on a Picatinny rail which saves you time from manually mounting the scope.

Main Drawback

One shortcoming of Picatinny is the lack of in-built windage adjustment.

If you have a gun with an out-of-the-line barrel and receiver, aligning your scope might prove difficult or impossible.

Where Can You Use Picatinny Rails?

The manufacturers created this design to make mounting a sight on high-powered hunting rifles easier.

The famous M16A2 and M4 carbine versions of military rifles were upgraded to include the Picatinny rail as standard accessories with the military standardization in 1995.

Rails for the front handguard of these rifles can be constructed in various positions, either top, bottom, or both sides.

It is suitable for the numerous accessories you can add to AR-15 model rifles such as scopes, laser sights, tactical lights, night visions, and foregrips.

Beyond rifles and shotguns, the Picatinny rail is also present on some pistols.

A Picatinny rail runs along the top of the slide of many pistols, especially rimfires, permitting a red dot optic to be mounted.

In addition, a Picatinny rail is integrated into the bottom front section of the frame on most medium to full-size handguns.

Other most popular accessories affixed to pistols utilizing this rail system are weapon lights and laser sights.

how to mount a rifle scope on a picatinny rail

How To Mount a Rifle Scope on a Picatinny Rail

The Picatinny rail is the best base to which you can mount a scope easily.

That said, to succeed in mounting your rifle scope on a Picatinny rail, you need to have the right items on hand and follow the correct procedure.

What You Need

Some things need to be available so that the mounting process is as elegant and as easy as it can be.

Below are the most important items you need to prepare.

1. A Rifle With a Picatinny Rail

First, you need to get a rifle with a Picatinny rail, and fortunately, most rifles already have a Picatinny rail because they are lightweight.

You can also get a base for your rifle with a Picatinny rail to mount your scope.

2. A Rifle Scope

After you get your rifle, you need a scope that aligns with your budget and your rifle.

You can choose almost any of the available scope since Picatinny rails are compatible with many models.

3. The Right Tools

Lastly, you will need tools to help you mount your scope and make it fit perfectly and aim precisely.

You need torque drivers to help screw in the rings in place with the base.

It would be best to have the perfect torque, so the scope does not slide while in use.

It would also help if you had a workstation or a vice to secure the rifle uprightly and leveled while fixing the scope.

You would also need a bubble level for adjustments made to check the alignment of the scope and the rifle at the same time to get an exact precision.

With all these ready, you can mount your chosen scope on a Picatinny rail.

The Steps

There is a recommended process to follow for mounting a scope on a Picatinny rail efficiently, especially if you’re doing it for the first time or doing it by yourself.

Below are the right steps you need to take.

1. Place the Gun on a Workstation or a Vice

Remove the ammunition in your rifle and place it on the vice for new rifles.

For used rifles, we suggest you try cleaning them first from dust and oil residues that may have accumulated over time.

Ensure the rifle is leveled on the vice and secured so there is no turning while working on it.

2. Loosen the Rings on the Rail

The Picatinny rails consist of rings with an upper and lower part that is attached to them.

It would be best if you labeled each side so as not to mix them up.

Now, place the lower rings on the rails and screw them loosely since you might need to adjust them when you place the scope.

3. Mount the Scope

Place the scope on the ring and adjust it carefully so it rests on the rails perfectly.

Next, check if you have eye relief when you shoulder the rifle.

If you don’t have perfect eye relief, adjust the rings by moving them forward or backward until you have the mount perfectly aligned vertically and horizontally until you get a clear image.

4. Adjust the Scope Power

You can set the scope power adjustments. Increase the power to the maximum and see if you can still see clearly or if the image is skewed.

You must make all the necessary adjustments you need to do to get the clear, crisp image you want from the scope.

Ensure that the rifle is still placed in an upright and leveled position.

5. Tighten the Rings

Once you are satisfied with the scope adjustments, set it aside and begin tightening the loosely ring screws with the torque driver.

Make sure it is perfectly screwed to avoid any future issues with the scope.

6. Ensure the Rings Fits Perfectly

You have to make sure that the ridge of the rings fits accurately to the rails of the base.

This is important to maintain accuracy and when firing the rifle because the scope tends to thrust towards the back.

7. Double Check Everything

After the rings are screwed down perfectly, you need to test with the scope again to check the accuracy and detect any mishap while screwing down the rings.

You need to check for eye relief and the power of the scope. Make a thorough check of everything and make sure it all works perfectly.

8. Screw the Rings

The upper part of the rings now needs to be placed on the rail in the correct sequence for the perfect result.

This will be the final work on the rings since there shouldn’t be any need to move any part of the scope anymore.

9. Make Another Check

After the top part has been screwed tight, make another check with the scope to ensure you don’t need to make any adjustments.

There should be perfect eye relief, and the scope will be firmly in place with no sliding or lousy alignment.

10. Adjust the Scope Position

You can adjust the scope position either forward or backward.

The position should be where the scope is most convenient to use, magnifying and aiming to ensure you hit your target.

11. Do a Final Check

Turn the magnification to the maximum and minimum and set the scope so that the vertical crosshair is always to the gun’s bore.

Then with the torque driver, make sure the screws are fitted perfectly and correctly to avoid sliding off when firing the rifle and making all necessary checks.

If you’ve done all this, then you have successfully mounted your scope on a Picatinny rifle gun.

You should take the rifle out to a range or a hunting ground to use your scope to meet the target.


Mounting a scope might not be the most fun activity to do with a rifle, but with Picatinny rails, it’s easier to do.

It is also for the best result when you go out hunting or to the range.

You don’t need to be a gun expert to mount a scope. If you follow the outlined tips above, then you’ll be fine.

Still, you should know that becoming an expert at this does not magically happen overnight.

You will get better with time, and if you do this frequently enough, you can even devise your own or even better way of mounting not just scopes but other accessories on the Picatinny rails.

This guide is just to teach you the basics of how to mount a rifle scope on a Picatinny Rail.

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