By Shane Adair
One of the most important pieces of a good shooting rifle setup is the selection of a good pair of bases and rings. This can be the make or break of your rifle. Don’t try to save $10 or $15 dollars by buying a lesser set of rings. First, make sure they are the type that have two screws on both sides of the top rings (quite often a screw head will snap at the machining point where the threads meet the head of the screw). Second, try to buy rings and bases with the least amount of moving parts as possible. The more screws and joints going in and out, the more chances you will have of failure at some point in time. Thirdly, buy the ones that have done the alignment for you. Trying to align your rings perfectly takes special tools to get it to that point. There are many good options out there that won’t break the bank, but you will need to spend $55 to $75 to get a good quality ring and base combo.
When installing the bases to the top of the action you must always use a thread sealant. It only takes a little bit, but this will dampen the vibration between the action, base, and screws. I personally like the red gel Locktite. The liquid usually gets under the base and creates a small thin layer of Locktite that the base is now rocking on. If you have ever pulled off bases with Locktite you have seen it. The gel stays where you need it to stay without running. You only need to put this on the bases, not the top rings.
Ok I can hear it now, what if you want to change bases later and can’t get the screws out. I have rarely had that happen, but here’s the trick if it does; put your screwdriver or Allen wrench in the head of the screw and use a small plumbing torch to heat up the shaft of the tool. The heat will transfer down through the screw and soften the Locktite and the screw will come right out without hurting any bluing on the rifle. Believe me, it always works.
If possible, use a torque wrench to properly tighten the screws on the base and the ring tops. This usually requires 25-30 inch pounds of torque. Most people don’t have a torque wrench, but the good ring manufactures usually provide you with a tool inside the set of bases and rings to allow you to do the job. Another benefit of some thread lock is that it allows you to get proper torque, while also acting as a lube. Metal to metal never allows you to get proper torque.
On the upper ring screws I don’t use a thread lock. Instead, I use an anti-seize which allows me to get proper torque and it also helps to keep them from getting rusted. This also creates a barrier for vibration dampening during recoil of the rifle. The tension of the tightened rings will not let the screws back out or loosen up.
If you want to take your ring mounting one step further you can buy a lapping kit. This is a straight bar that allows you to sand the rings from the inside out using a 220 grit paste. It trues them up so you get more grip on the scope. It’s fairly simple to do, but it’s a kit that will cost you $75-$100. When or if you trade out scopes, know that it will mar your scope tube a little bit where the rings are.
Finally, two more crucial steps before final ring torque is done. Make sure the scope is mounted level. There are several devices that are available and work well to level the scope. Remember, if you have cant in the scope, the further you shoot the more your bullet will drift in the direction of the tilt in the scope. And lastly, make sure your scope has the proper eye relief. You don’t want to have to stretch too far to see a full view in the scope. Conversely, you don’t want it so close to you that you bounce the scope off of your forehead. Most new scopes, medium price points and up, have some great eye relief and this is no longer much of an issue.
If this is more than you want to take on yourself, most gunsmiths will charge between $50 – $100 to do this for you. The nice thing then is you don’t have to worry about any fancy tools, gadgets and chemicals. Once again, this process is equally as important as any other part of the rifle. So do it right the first time and then you can rest assured that you are ready for the sight-in process and accuracy in the form of knowing your scope will stay in place.