How To Mount a Scope On a Rifle Without a Rail [Answered]

how to install a scope on a rifle

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There are so many rifle mounting systems that involve the use of the Weaver / Picatinny standard base rail that it would seem as though any other scope systems have just gone away.

For many years the basic taped and screwed down base plate and secondary rifle scopes rings were a gold standard in most sporting mounting systems.

Modern Innovations in Rails and Scope Rings

As time progressed however there were changes, and when the Picatinny rail mount caught on and as designed by Weaver and others became an almost new standard, and the drilled and tapped scope mounting system dried up to a large extent among commercial over the counter options, and long range specialized rifles as well. But if you want to know how to mount a scope on a rifle without a rail, read on.

how to mount a scope on a rifle without a rail

Scope rails come standard almost everywhere nowadays

It's not impossible to find a rifle without a rail, of course. Exceptions to this are system like the one used on Ruger firearms.

Ruger has developed an attachment system that makes use of a unitized base and scope ring setup all in one and is machined to match the unique Ruger machining on both hand gun rails and rifle receivers alike.

This Ruger system is close to a base mounting screws in receiver design, without requiring more holes to be drilled and tapped for installation.

Machined steel is a far better solution, and is fail safe as far as possible mount / base failure.

Other scope mount such as the Tip Off design used on 22 rimfire rifles can be regarding as a separate development from drilled and tapped ring bases setups.

This amounts to two grooves cut by machining the grooves along the length of the upper receiver.

The rings have in internal locks that claw into the grooves and tighten, thereby holding the scope securely.

how to mount a scope on a rifle

Even vintage-style firearms have rail options

Factory Install

In many cases modern rifles and old rifles alike used pre tapped holes pre drilled as standard for scope bases.

These as stated were standard sized among the industry and scope base manufactures were able to adjust base and ring designs to fit these varied brands, but work with the same pre drilled thread patterns.

Remington and their Model 700, Winchester and the Model 70, and commercial Mauser's by example will pre drill the holes and the buyer needs only to have each base plate installed, or do it him or her self.

When buying bases for these factory scope systems all that is required is to use chart offered by the manufacture and select the exact base plate number set listed for the firearms your going to put the scope on to.

About all the manufacture will not offer the buyers it the screw driver to use for the install.. However, in some cases the Allen wrench is offered for just this element regarding an install.

A Word of Warning

If you're looking for a more permanent attachment and you're thinking of doing the installation process yourself, my advise is simple and direct.

Unless your a machinist with a full shop of the tools needed to work with, don’t do it.

You'll need a special jig at hand to pre mark the exact measurements and make sure they're properly aligned, and even a very small error on a single drilled hole will make for a nasty outcome regarding your project.

Leave this work to the pros - especially if you're dealing with an older rifle or antique rifle that has sentimental or collectible value.

You don't want to be the guy who ruins Grandpa's Cooey Model 60 with a jury-rigged scope job.

mounting a scope on a rifle

Try not to go too overboard

The DIY Option

However for those that don’t take my advise and want to install a scope base plate and scope rings on their own here is the setup required to mount a scope on a rifle with no rail. First of all, you'll need a good drill press.

Then buy a set of high carbon drill bits, and very high quality thread taps, because receiver steel is not pot metal to be sure and drilling it is no simple task.

With the drilling equipment and tapping tools be sure you have a good accurate set of calipers, and related measurement devices.

Now with the special jig setup to hold the receiver in line correctly you can mark the hold positions using the desired base brand and type desired. Remember any error scraps the receiver right there and then.

Why an I so carful in this case? Because I do not want any reader coming back and saying you told us it was not a major problem doing this job. Believe me, in my mind it is just that: a problem.

The Professional Route

If you decide it is better using a good gunsmith to mount a scope, start your search early. These guys in this throw away age regarding products are not easy to find.

I use Satterlee Firearms in Dead Wood South Dakota when possible, or if he has a small niche of time to work me in because I want the very best for this class of scope work when it is one of my one mile long range guns, or a new Mauser setup for a wildcat or new release cartridge.

In my part of the world firearms are king and we do have folks that can get this work done.

how to mount scope on rifle

Drill and tap work is a dying breed

If it requires sending your rifle out for drilling and tapping believe me it is worth the extra investment to pay for a good gunsmith instead of going the budget route with your scope needs.

Rifle Scope Installation

how to install a scope on a rifle

Whatever route you choose to take, you still have to go about properly installing your own rifle scope and mounting rings as usual before you're finished.

If you're reading this, I assume you know the basics, so I'll skip the step by step process.

Suffice to say, cover the important bases and double check everything: make sure you haven't made a big mistake like setting adjustable rings to different heights, check the rail and all of the ring screws and tighten up anything that feels loose, make sure the scope is mounted in the proper position to keep your objective bell from contacting the gun barrel and that you've got enough clearance to keep the scope tube or the bottom half of the rings from getting in the way of smooth bolt cycling (especially on high magnification optics with a bulky form factor).

Test it Out

Treat it like you would treat any new gun with a new scope. Give it an accurate bore sighting with a laser bore sighter and the help of a solid rest, do a quick box test to make sure the tracking on your windage adjustment and elevation adjustment are good to go.

Basically, just get out and shoot it and make sure everything is securely attached and in the proper position, and adjust as needed until you're getting the precision you expect.

Other Considerations

There is something else to consider when planning to mount an optic to a gun that wasn't originally built for it - sometimes the ergonomics of the gun simply don't provide a good shooting experience even if everything is perfectly drilled and tapped by an expert.

What may be an awesome gun when shooting with irons could become a nightmare when trying to sort out a comfortable shooting position, get proper eye relief, achieving the right field of view for your reticle, etc.

Parting Shots

Today we have the development of the 1918 model rail platform in the Weaver or picatinny rail style base plate that  has never gone away. 

The rail allows the shooter to arrange many varied types of sights, scopes, tube lengths, ring designs, and any related elements of a custom setup in the area of sighting a target with a high power, or rimfire rifle.. What’s not to like here?

That stated however there are the times when bringing together that special base plate setup is necessary, and in most case involves a military conversion, or custom designed rifle based on a large or small ring Mauser pattern for hunting or target shooting.

When that happens yes, it is time to start researching your options in having that rifle drilled and tapped for scope bases.

Whether you're dealing with a vintage C&R rifle that isn't  pre drilled or just an older rifle without a rail, we hope this article has helped you figure out the best option for mounting a scope on a rifle without a rail. And remember: if you shop with out affiliate links, your purchase helps support future gear articles like this one.

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