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Rifle Magazine
January - February 2003
Volume 35, Number 1
ISSN: 0162-3583
Number 205
On the cover...
The BAR lightweight with Burris 1.7-5x scope in Browning rings and bases is shown with the Browning Grade V BAR. Clair Rees discusses spotting scopes on page 28. Rifle photos by Stan Trzoniec.
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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 don’t. 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 you’re paying several hundred dollars a day for the hunt. The quickest, easiest solution is another scope in detachable mounts, already sighted in.

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 rifle’s “main scope” and replace it with the test scope in another pair of rings. When the test’s over, I clamp the old scope back on.

Consequently I’ve had a long and varied experience with detachable scope mounts and discovered many things. First, they don’t 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 they’ll 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 they’re 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 they’re 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 they’re all-steel and very good-looking. They’re also very precise. Weavers are as precise as you’d 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 doesn’t always happen, but if you find optically centered crosshairs pointing in a very different direction than the barrel after mounting in Talleys, the problem’s 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 isn’t unimportant. Scopes that must be adjusted to the limits of their settings often exhibit severe parallax problems or erratic adjustments. It’s much better to have the scope line up correctly, using its adjustments for relatively minor tuning.

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 action.

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 it’s 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.

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