One of life’s hardest choices is selecting the perfect rifle for your scope. But with research and forethought, you can get this right and not waste your scope’s potential.
For you scopemen new to the concept of adding a projectile launching device to a telescope, let me assure you this is a practical, useful, exciting, and even fun way of extending the functionality of your scope. No longer must you merely gaze at mouth-watering deer, elk, sheep, and moose. With the addition of a rifle to your scope, you can invite those walking steaks and burgers home to meet the family!
But be careful. If you don’t select the perfect rifle for your scope, you could end up with an albatross. Yes, a too-long, too-heavy, and too-bulky rifle could make your scope unpleasant to pack around the hills. A comfortable 2- to 4-pound scope can be transformed into a 10- to 13-pound anvil with the wrong rifle hanging beneath it.
There’s no way to shorten or squeeze an oversized rifle any smaller. It will catch on limbs and brush, bang into car doors and windows, and make a nuisance of itself in general. After you’ve carried your scope over miles of fields and mountains with a too-massive rifle clinging stubbornly to its belly, you’ll understand the cumulative effect. But if you truly do want to bring home the bacon, as they say, tying a rifle to your scope is almost essential. Not many of us have the patience or stalking skills to get within scope bonking range of a deer!
Now, let’s consider a few important things so we get this rifle purchase right!
Form Follows Function
What do you want to shoot? A 1,500-pound moose or 200-pound deer? Or are you hoping to collect some all-natural, organic, free-range coyote furs? Are you shooting in terrain and cover that limits vision to 100 yards or a clear view to 1,000 yards? While your scope is fully capable of seeing the man in the moon, no rifle you tie to it can reach that far. It’ll be many years before rifle technology catches up with scope technology. But we’re working on it!
Be aware that rifles exhibit an odd behavior known as “trajectory.” The rifle doesn’t really have much trajectory, but the bullets it emits do. Depending on how they’re shaped and how fast they are spit from the barrel, they may fly a relatively short distance before hitting the ground — or a surprisingly long distance (for this primitive technology.) Of course, your scope has all the necessary adjustments and reticle options to modify any bullet’s landing point by compensating for its propensity to fall. Still, there are limits.
Perfect Historical Rifles Provide Clues
Because we haven’t room to list all options, let’s just detail what’s known as an “all-round deer rifle.” That should get you in the ball park and give you an idea of what to look for. In the old days there were lots of old fashioned rifles like 243, 25-06, 270, 308, 30-06, 7mm Rem. Mag., and 300 Win. Mag. Millions of hunters used these to shoot millions of whitetails and mule deer and more than a few elk, caribou, sheep, pronghorns, goats, and even bears.
In the early days, hunters screwed these rifles to their scopes for the purpose of aiming more precisely. Clever concept. Believe it or not, minuscule, primitive, fixed power scopes of 2X, 4X, and 6X (yes, they actually made those!) were used with some success. Emboldened, hunters hung their rifles under 3-9X zoom scopes. Success mounted. This suggests one of those antique rifles could stand as an example of the “general purpose” projectile launcher suitable for affixing to today’s superior telescopes.
The Perfect Rifle for Your Scope
Of course there is no one perfect rifle for your scope, but you get the idea. Modify it as you need. The old general purpose rifles in the aforementioned calibers weighed 7 to 8 pounds on average. A peculiar subset geared toward finer precision went as heavy as 13 pounds while another subset intended for extreme action (hiking and climbing) were carved as light as 5 pounds. Barrels stretched from a rare 16.5 inches to 28 inches with most 22- to 24-inches long.
These are still reasonable options for clamping to your scope IF you plan to perhaps try to shoot one of the aforementioned meat animals. However, if you also anticipate, on rare occasions, intercepting a prime pelt carried by a coyote, good news! These same rifles will suffice. A slightly smaller caliber in the 22- to 24-caliber range would be better, but you can “gun down” and specialize later if this rings your bell.
Mounts Make the Difference
After you’ve selected your bullet tossing tool, you’ll have to figure out how to wire it to your scope. Obviously you don’t really want a wire. That’s just a figure of speech. No, you want a solid, tough, durable metal clamp of some kind. They’re called “rifle rings and bases.” The bases are small projections carved into or screwed onto the rifle. They are engineered for the rings to clamp or screw to. The rings themselves, as you might imagine, are built to clamp around your scope.
Get at least two rings, one for in front of your scope turret, one for in back. For extra security you might want four, but this adds weight. Make certain the ring diameters match your scope’s tube, i.e. 34mm, 36mm, 38mm, 40mm or the new 50mm. Be certain bases are tall enough to hold the rifle far enough down to clear your scope’s objective bell, zoom ring, and any operating handles, bolts, or levers on the rifle. Rings generally come in short, medium, and long so you can partially customize. CAUTION: be aware that some rifle barrels are so fat they might interfere with your scope despite a long ring base. Always measure carefully before you buy. Some scopemen have made the mistake of screwing a too-fat rifle to their scope only to belatedly discover the barrel is marring the scope bell, even putting enough tension on the scope to compromise its function! You don’t want that! Rifles are nice add-ons, but not if they interfere with the scope!
How to Carry the Perfect Rifle for Your Scope
Once you’ve mounted a rifle beneath your scope you’ll notice the extra mass and bulk. A pain in the butt! But a necessary evil if you wish to get this “extra mileage” out of your telescope. Remember, you can always dismount the rifle after your hunt and return to using your scope for its most important jobs. (They even make quick-detach rifle mounts to make this easier!) Nevertheless, while the rifle is aboard, you can ease the chore of carrying it with something called a “rifle sling.” This is essentially a glorified rope attached to two points of the rifle that enable you to sling it over a shoulder or across your chest/neck. The most comfortable of these are flat on two sides, leather or nylon, and adjustable for length. A nice, light, 3-pound scope with a 7-pound rifle attached weighs what seems like a reasonable 10 pounds, but you’ll be surprised and a bit dismayed to discover how this weight multiplies as the miles and elevation add up. Suck it up, buttercup! This is the price you pay if you want the added value of “rifling your scope.”
The author has been known to hang some really light rifles under some ridiculously small, low-powered scopes. It’s all in the interest of science.