According to letters from Rifle
readers, quite a few hunters are interested in detachable scope mounts. These letters
often contain a couple misconceptions - that detachable scope mounts are somehow better
than fixed mounts and repeatable detachables cost a lot.
I generally answer such letters with
a question: Why do you need to take your scope off and on? Most hunters dont. Modern
scopes are so reliable that a quality fixed mount is a fine solution. Mount your scope
semipermanently and forget about it.
But there are valid reasons for
detachables. Even with scope caps, wet weather can make iron sights a sensible backup
choice. I hunt a few timbered areas of western Montana where wet snow or even rain often
falls during the prime hunting month of November - and even when the sky quits leaking,
water keeps falling from the trees. Rather than worry about keeping the scope clean, I
sometimes pull it off and hunt with irons.
If you travel much, a backup scope
makes sense, especially when youre paying several hundred dollars a day for the
hunt. The quickest, easiest solution is another scope in detachable mounts, already
I use detachable mounts a lot
because I test a lot of scopes. Instead of taking apart a fixed mount and replacing the
scope (a tedious and time-consuming process), I unclamp the rifles main scope
and replace it with the test scope in another pair of rings. When the tests over, I
clamp the old scope back on.
Consequently Ive had a long
and varied experience with detachable scope mounts and discovered many things. First, they
dont have to cost as much as the scope itself. One good detachable on the market
runs about $25: the old Weaver mount.
The trick to using Weavers is
actually a good idea with any screw-mount detachable. Most hunters screw one mount down
tight, then the other. Instead, tighten each screw alternately, a little at a time.
Also, replace the scope with the rifle tilted
downward. This shifts scope and mounts fully forward, where theyll end up anyway
after a big game rifle is fired a few times. Replace a Weaver-mounted scope using those
two tricks, and it will shoot where it did before - unless you put the scope in your
day-pack and took a nap on top of it.
The main trouble with Weavers is
theyre down-deep ugly; other than that they work fine. You can buy better-looking
rings that fit on Weaver bases from several manufacturers. These work, but I generally
prefer Weavers because theyre much lighter than any of the substitutes, some of
which weigh up to .5 pound (as do a lot of other detachables on the market).
For a more elegant, lightweight
detachable, I prefer the mounts from Talley Manufacturing (PO Box 821, Glenrock WY 82637).
These set you back about $100 for bases and rings, but theyre all-steel and very
good-looking. Theyre also very precise. Weavers are as precise as youd expect
for $25, which means they work pretty well on most rifles, but Talleys are something else.
The first set of Talleys I tried were used to attach a new 1-4x Leupold on my .375 H&H
Mark X Mauser. Leupold scopes come out of the box with the reticle optically centered, and
when I put mount and scope together and then stuck a collimator in the muzzle, lo and
behold the crosshairs were right on! Of course, because of machining variations in
different rifles, this doesnt always happen, but if you find optically centered
crosshairs pointing in a very different direction than the barrel after mounting in
Talleys, the problems with the rifle or scope, not the mounts.
If you have a rifle with a poorly
machined action, the folks at Talley can machine the bases so your scope is parallel to
the bore. This isnt unimportant. Scopes that must be adjusted to the limits of their
settings often exhibit severe parallax problems or erratic adjustments. Its much
better to have the scope line up correctly, using its adjustments for relatively minor
The strongest detachables in the
world are not super-expensive European claw mounts (which, despite being precise and
quick, are not exceptionally rugged) but scope mounts that clamp directly onto dovetails
machined into the rifle action. These eliminate the weakest link in the scope-mount
system: the dinky 6-48 screws attaching the bases to the rifle. You can perform all sorts
of tricks to make this connection stronger, from epoxying or silver-soldering the bases to
using bigger 8-40 screws, but none are as strong as clamping scope rings directly to the
Unfortunately, few rifle companies
use this system. Ruger is one, the reason I often carry Ruger rifles on rugged hunts.
Ruger rings are very stout yet reasonably priced, and several other companies make good,
affordable substitutes, so its easy to carry a spare scope already sighted-in.
Sako has also used this system, and
another recent import, the Czech-made CZ rifles, also feature direct-clamp rings. I have a
couple CZ rifles, which are becoming so popular that Talley is making mounts. The CZ scope
mounts are rugged but rather homely and very high, probably to accommodate big European
scopes. I took a spare Weaver scope in the CZ mounts on a recent horseback hunt but used
Talleys for the main scope on my 9.3x62 CZ 550. They not only placed the 4x Leupold very
low, but point of impact never shifted in 10 days of travel by bush plane and pony - and
even if it had, there was another sighted-in scope to back it up, without firing a shot in
game country - a fine reason to use detachable mounts.
One final note: Most experienced hunters have
found the nifty, little levers on many detachable mounts catch on every darn thing in the
woods. This is why the same hunters prefer rings attached with coin- or wrench-head
screws, which also create a firmer connection than finger-movable levers. Talleys come
with both levers and Torx-head screws, while Weavers can be detached and remounted with
any two-bit piece, even Canadian.