Whether you are tightening down the mount on your first scope or confirming the seating of the optic of your favorite hunting rifle, understanding scope ring torque is essential.
My first time tightening down my scope rings was done with the mindset of the tighter the better, and crank it until it doesn’t turn anymore.
However, this is the wrong way to look at setting up your scope in its mounts.
Torque is vital because loose rings cause the scope to move after each shot because of recoil. This will cause your optic to lose zero and cause you to miss shots without realizing your scope is off. Alternatively, if the scope rings are too tight, the scope can be damaged or screws stripped, making removal impossible.
However, there is much more to properly torquing down your scope rings than we’ve covered so far. In this article, we go over why properly torquing your scope rings is essential, how to torque down your scope rings properly, and a few helpful tips to keep your scope intact and zeroed.
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Scope Ring Torque Basics
Before we go any further, it’s important to answer the question: what is torque?
Torque can be defined as the force used to twist an object on an axis. In a screw, the torque is the force applied to turn the screw into the wall. Torque is measured in inch-lbs or feet-lbs.
Because torque is defined as twisting an object around an axis, it can apply to everything from swivel desk chairs to securing scope rings. In this article, we define it as the amount of force used on the bolts or screws to secure a scope ring or base in place.
Although we previously mentioned the consequences of failing to torque your scope rings properly, let’s take a deeper look into what can occur if done incorrectly.
Several things can occur when you under-torque your scope rings or scope bases.
- A shift in zero
- A loose scope
- Damaged scope
- Repeated recoil damaging a shifting scope
Over time, scope ring screws and bolts that are not checked or Loctited will loosen, and in the most extreme cases, I have seen scopes fall out of the mount and break.
Because most amateur hunters and shooters assume the tighter the better for scope ring mounts, a common mistake is to over torque your scope mount screws, which can lead to several issues.
- Stripped screws
- Tube bends
- Damaged scopes
- Water and fog entering the scope
Before we delve into torquing down your scope rings, you will need a few things.
While a torque wrench is not required to mount your scope correctly, it is the most accurate way to secure it.
Alternatively, you can use other wrenches or bits to tighten it down, but these often lead to over or under-torque.
There are two main styles of torque wrenches.
1. Driver-style torque wrenches: These resemble a screwdriver and can be set to a specific torque. When you use this torque wrench, you can turn it until it reaches the designated torque, at which point it will stop turning.
2. Lever-style torque wrenches: These resemble a socket driver and feature a torque setting gauge. Though these torque wrenches are more common in the automotive industry, smaller bottles can tighten your scope rings or base.
Popular models of torque wrenches used to torque your scope rings down include.
- Vortex Optic Torque Wrench
- Weaver Gunsmithing Torque Wrench
- Wheeler Firearms Accurizing Torque Wrench
When purchasing a torque wrench, there are several things to look for.
- The torque value is inch-lbs
- It’s labeled for gunsmithing
- It’s accurate
- A clear, readable display
While the first two are self-explanatory, accuracy is paramount when torquing down scope rings. Most models of quality scope ring mounts have a designated torque level for you to reach. Exceeding this by even the slightest margin can cause damage to the scope’s integrity.
For the same reason, an easy-to-read display is essential so you know where you are in the torque process. Over or under-tightening due to misreading the display can lead to a loose mount or damaged scope.
Best Scope Ring Torque
There is no one size fits all torque for all scope ring mounts. As I said, most manufacturers explicitly state the intended torque to their scope base and scope rings.
Below is a chart of common torque numbers you will see on common scope rings.
|Brand||Scope Ring Torque||Base Torque|
|Vortex||20 inch/lbs||20 inch/lbs|
|Leupold||15 inch/lbs||14 inch/lbs|
|Badger||15 inch/lbs||65 inch/lbs|
|Nightforce||15 inch/lbs||68 inch/lbs|
|Warne||25 inch/lbs||25 inch/lbs|
|Nikon||20 inch/lbs||35 inch/lbs|
|Hawke||16 inch/lbs||30 inch/lbs|
|Talley||15 inch/lbs||20 inch/lbs|
|Meopta||23 inch/lbs||40 inch/lbs|
|Riton||18 inch/lbs||45 inch/lbs|
WARNING: This chart is not all-encompassing, and you should check the guidelines for your specific model of firearm, scope, and rings as listed by the manufacturers before starting the mounting process.
Scope Base Torque
Torquing down your scope base is a little different from your scope rings. For bases, you should always follow the recommended torque specs from the firearm manufacturer, not the mount or scope manufacturer.
The type of metal used to make the receiver may require different base torque specs. For example, steel receivers generally demand greater torque than aluminum.
The suggested torque for scope bases is often much higher than that of the scope rings. Additionally, you want to ensure your base is level and evenly spaced for your scope model.
Despite the frequent difference in inch-lbs torque between base and scope rings, the process is similar when mounting a base to your rail or gun.
If you improperly mount your base onto the gun, no amount of scope ring torque will be able to fix what is probably a canted base.
How to Torque Down Your Scope
After seeing all the specifications, tools, and disclaimers about over or under-torquing your scope, you are probably wondering why anyone would do this themselves in the first place.
However, it doesn’t take a gunsmith to torque down your scope correctly. Below, we take the guesswork out of the equation and will walk you through the torquing process.
Step-by-Step Process to Torque Down Your Scope
- Clear and safe your firearm.
- Place your rifle in a rest where it is sitting in the same position you would shoot in (trigger down, rail, and barrel up.)
- First-timers must install the scope base onto your rail. Then you must follow the rest of the process to ensure the scope base is ready for use. (For more on this, see our “How to Install a Scope Base” article.)
- If the scope is inside the rings, with the top halves on, insert the screws into the holes.
- Most new scope rings come with an L-shaped hex key. Stick the long end of the key into the screw head while holding onto the short end of the hex key.
- Begin to tighten down the screws until you feel resistance. It’s essential not to continue tightening at this point and instead switch to your torque wrench.
* Note: If each ring has one screw on each side, tighten them evenly, as tightening one side more than the other can pull the scope or rings off center. If there are two screws on each side, tighten them crisscross to avoid pulling the mounts one way or the other.
- Using your gunsmithing torque wrench, set the torque level to the manufacturer’s prescribed number.
- Tighten the screws down according to the manufacturer’s suggested inch-lbs. (DO NOT immediately Loctite after tightening!)
- Check all the screws again.
Once you have successfully installed your scope rings, I suggest taking your gun to the range and zeroing it. If you can successfully sight it in without any issues from your base or scope rings, take it home and then use Loctite if you choose.
While this takes up more time, another trip to the range, and spending ammo on sighting in your weapon, it allows you to check your work and correct any errors before making them permanent.
Should You Put Loctite on Scope rings?
Can you? Yes.
Should you? In my humble opinion, no.
Loctite is an anaerobic adhesive that, when applied to screws, hardens into a thermoset plastic on the threads of screws. It drives out the air bubbles and any moisture in the screw hole and solidifies the screw in place.
To be removed, regular Loctite must be treated with chemicals or heated to somewhere in the range of 500°F. Both of these methods can damage a scope badly.
While regular Loctite can help you retain the right torque on your scope rings, there are a few reasons I don’t recommend using it.
- If you mess up the torque, it’s permanent.
- Swapping scopes is complicated and messy.
- If your scope breaks or needs repair, it’s a pain to remove.
- Loctite acts as a lubricant when first applied and can often cause over-torque.
Instead, I recommend regularly checking your torque after every couple of range sessions or after each hunt. If you notice a shift in zero or licenses in the scope, it’s a good idea to grab your torque wrench and give everything a once over.
According to Warne, however, some scope ring bases may benefit from a small amount of blue thread locker in some cases. This may apply in cases where you intend for the bases to remain on the rifle permanently and the screws attaching the bases to the receiver are short and few in number.
Though it is not a good idea if you are using a single piece, direct mount scope rings are made to fit your particular rifle.
Which Loctite to Use for Gun Sights?
If you insist on using it, Loctite’s product is designed for scope rings and bases that avoid much of the mess and are much easier to remove. While I don’t use it, I’ve seen it used and heard zero complaints about it.
Loctite Purple Threadlocker (222) was designed to be used on and around scopes without the complicated removal process. Its non-wicking formula is easy to install, and the screw can be removed with a screwdriver, the same as if you had never applied it.
Blue Loctite may be used for scope bases, though confirming with the firearm and base manufacturers is recommended.
Never use red Loctite on riflescope rings.
If you plan on installing a new scope on your rifle or purchasing a new base and set of scope rings, it’s essential to know about torque.
How it affects your scope, how to use it properly to secure your optic, and what tools you need are all vital information for any shooter or hunter looking for a well-mounted optic.
Ensure you don’t over or under-torque your scope rings, as this can lead to misses and scope damage. Before you torque your scope rings down, purchase a torque wrench and follow the above steps to ensure your scope is on target and not going anywhere.
Do I need a torque wrench to set up my scope rings?
While it’s not required, it provides a more precise torque level to ensure you meet the manufacturer’s recommendation. Removing the guesswork on this will not only keep you from having a loose scope but also prevent you from over-torquing and damaging your optic.
Will Loctite keep my torque the same?
Maybe not the same, but it will keep it relatively close. Make sure to use the Loctite Purple Threadlocker (222), which was explicitly designed for scope rings and mounts.
However, I prefer to keep most chemicals and adhesives away from my scopes at all costs, so I check the torque every few range sessions, which usually takes less than a minute to confirm.
Which head or bit do I use to torque down my scope rings?
Some companies will send a bit with the scope mount, but most screws can be torqued with standard bits.