When we looked at the three most popular removable scope mounts, we found units from Weaver and Warne to be lacking.
Very few riflescopes in use today fog or otherwise fail due to optical prob- lems, especially in comparison to thirty years ago, when most rifle failures in hunting camps or on the firing line were caused by scopes. When scopes fail today, it is usually because they’re damaged in transport. Because optics are fragile compared to the mechanical workings of a rifle, they remain the weak link of any hunting or competition rifle set up. Thus, having the ability to easily remove or change sighting systems in the field or on the line makes good sense.
The ability to remove and replace the scope easily with a minimum of tools allows a shooter to replace it with another pre-sighted scope or to access a backup system such as a peep sight or the factory-installed open sights. It not only provides insurance against scope failure, but allows switching to iron sights during stormy days. Many hunters feel these basic sights are easier to keep clean of snow or water while shooting under adverse conditions. Also, some multi-use rifles may be equipped with more than one power range of scopes. For example you might mount a 3- to 9-power 50mm scope to see deer late in the day. You might then change to a lightweight 1.5- to 5-power glass for hunting with the same rifle in the thick brush.
In any of these cases, removable scope mounts can save the day. Using a detachable mounting system, shooters can ideally remove their optics for transport and not suffer a total loss of zero. They can also switch around scopes on a given rifle, or replace a scope whose optics have gone awry. Permanent mounts don’t offer these conveniences or protections.
With these factors in mind, we decided to compare the three most common detachable systems in a head-to-head test: the Weaver Detachable Top Mount, the Leupold Quick Release mount, and the Warne Removable Scope Mount.
Weaver Detachable Top Mount
The ever-popular Weaver Detachable Top Mount is probably the best known removable-mount system. Uncounted thousands of rifles wear these mounts. Likely the single most important feature to the success of this system is the cost, which is lower by a considerable amount than the competition. Rings for the Detachable Top Mount run $25 apiece. A one-piece base costs $15, and each part of a two-piece base is $3. However, the very factors that make this price point possible are the same that create the system’s faults.
The base is made from extruded aluminum. It is cut to length for the one- or two-piece bases, which are then drilled for the screw holes, and slots are milled to accept the rings. The edges that mate with the rings are not milled but remain in their extruded form.
The rings themselves feature a base section of extruded aluminum. The second section is a stamped sheet-steel ring that is formed into the top ring. There is a lip on one side that hooks over a corresponding lip on the base. The other side has a small flat that is drilled with holes to correspond with drilled and tapped holes in the base, so that it is fastened with two screws on that side.
The ring is held to the base with an integral lip on one side and a stamped steel movable “lip” on the other side. A screw fits through the base and a large nut is fitted on the end. The lips grip a bevel on each side of the base and are held in place as the nut tightens against the movable side. The screw is square under the ring and projects below the groove in the base ring. This is designed to fit into the milled slot of the base.
This is all fairly inexpensive to manufacture and relatively strong, but with extruded and stamped parts, it is very difficult to hold to close tolerances. After removing and replacing scopes using these mounts on dozens of rifles it is evident that they always return close to the point-of-impact, but with the relatively sloppy tolerances necessary for the manufacturing process, there is some variance. It’s usually not enough to bother close range hunting rifles such as muzzle loaders or brush guns, but in precision long range rifles the point-of-impact should always be verified after replacing the scope, since it can vary by as much as 2 or 3 minutes of angle.
A twist of the big knob that serves as a nut and each ring is set free. A quick twist of the scope and it is off the base. To replace them simply reverse the process. The big nuts are designed to put on with strong finger pressure and are slotted for a coin or screwdriver.
The rings are tricky to install because of the design using screws only on one side. As these are tightened, the scope tends to rotate in the rings and allow the crosshairs to become out of square with the bore. The trick is to “pre-cant” the scope a little so that as it twists it comes into alignment. Obviously, how much to turn the scope is an inexact measurement and only experience or frustrating trial and error can make it work. Also, the stamped rings tend to mark the scope barrels, even to the point of bending the metal. For the most part, it is purely cosmetic and probably accounts for much of the ring’s reputation for a good ability to hold a scope against moving under recoil. However, if the damage to the scope tube is extensive, which it can be is the ring is severely overtightened, it can affect the performance of the precision moving parts inside, causing sticking or erratic adjustments and power changes.
With threaded aluminum accepting the steel screws, there is always a higher risk of stripping the threads than with steel. And as the aluminum is softer, any aluminum scope mount will not be as strong as steel.
The rings are available in several heights. Also available are extension rings for use when the scope is too short to fit between the rings.
In addition to the low cost and simple design, I have tested these rings on many guns, including several big-bore muzzle loaders, and on other hard recoiling rifles including a .338 Win. Mag. that weighs only 8 pounds. The mounts have always held the scopes in place with no indication of slipping under recoil and have never failed during use. If you plan to install the scope and remove it only under emergency circumstances, the Weaver basic rings are not a bad choice, particularly when cost is a factor. With short-range woods guns or blackpowder guns, choosing the Weaver system for its removable aspect again makes good sense.
Leupold Quick Release Mount
Leupold makes a Weaver-style mount, but the company also offers another removable mount called the Quick Release mount. It has been on the market for a couple of years now. The base for the Quick Release mount costs $69.30. Rings run $31.90 apiece.
The rings are fitted to the base by way of large pins with a shallow half-circle radius milled in the front of them. The pins are 0.312 inch in diameter and are 0.210 inch long, which provides excellent strength for most applications. The bases have a corresponding hole to accept the pins. There is a pivoting cross-pin in the base that is milled with a radius to match the hole on one side so that it can accept the rings when the pin is rotated to line up the radius with the hole. After inserting the pins from the rings, the cross-pins are turned with the levers attached to them and on the side of the base. The round section of the cross-pin pivots to mate with the milled section of the ring pins, locking them together. Turning the levers in the other direction releases the rings and the scope is lifted off the base.
The process is very easy. Only a strong set of fingers are needed to work the set-up. Because of the close tolerances, it may take a little twisting and turning to free the rings from the base and to re-insert them.
Other than the way they mount to the base, the rings are classic Leupold, all steel construction, and they are available in various heights. Like most other popular rings, they split horizontally. Because of their closer tolerances and more precise manufacture than the stamped Weaver rings, they do far less damage to the scope tubes or finish. Also, there is a single screw on each side of the ring so that it may be tightened evenly without disturbing the scope alignment.
Bases are available in both single and double versions.
I have this mount on a Remington 700 in .35 Whelen with two scopes set in rings and zeroed, a Leupold 2.5 to 8 power and a Nikon 1.5 to 5 power. With them, I have the option of matching the scope to the terrain. I can also have each zeroed for a different load. Extensive testing has shown that the point-of-impact changes when removing and replacing the scopes are detectable, but barely. It is so small as to be completely irrelevant to hunting use and is usually less than a minute-of-angle.
Warne Removable Mount
Warne Manufacturing Company has some of the finest all steel detachable mounts currently available. They make the mounts for both White and Knight muzzleloaders, and I have used them on these guns.
The detachable mounts made by this company are the Premier Series Lever Rings, which run $105.50. Bases for the rings are $12.50 each. I have a set on a Magnum Research Mountain Eagle rifle in 7 mm Rem. Mag. with a Leupold 3.5 to 10 X 50mm scope. This semi-custom rifle is accurate and any point-of-impact changes would be evident if the process of removing and reinstalling scopes was accurate.
However, I’ve not seen any significant changes using the mounts. (It is difficult to assess point-of-impact changes that are less than a minute-of-angle as there are other factors such as atmospheric, temperature or ammo fluctuations that could also account for the small changes.)
In shooting group after group from a bench rest, I can detect a little fluctuation when removing and replacing the scope using the Warne mounts, but as with the Leupold, it is too small to concern myself with in a big-game hunting rifle, which is what these mounts are designed for.
The Warne mounts use an almost petite base that is only 1/2 inch wide. There are grooves along the top edges to accept the rings. Also, a groove is milled perpendicular to the length of the base to accept the recoil lug on the rings.
The rings are attached to the bases with levers that act as wrenches. When you pull them against a spring they can be turned independently of the nut, they tighten. Let them back down and they turn the nuts to loosen or tighten them. The nut tightens a spring-loaded, machined clip that has been radiused top and bottom to match the corresponding milled groove in the base and on the ring. This is basically the same concept as the Weaver system, but with each piece carefully machined, the tolerances are much closer and repeatability is better.
The rings are split vertically and come in two pieces. There are two hidden screws on the bottom and one exposed screw on top. Make sure you are well rested the first time you try to install a set of these scope mounts by yourself, even then, they will likely have you howling at the moon before it’s over. You must fit the two pieces together over the scope and fully tighten the two bottom screws before installing the locking mechanism. The top screw is left loose to allow adjusting the scope for eye relief and alignment. Once you understand how it works, the next set goes easier.
As with the other manufacturers, the Warne system can interchange any like rings with the bases, allowing more than one scope to be used.
Because of the extensive machining work involved in their manufacture and also because they must be held to such close tolerances, these mounts are not inexpensive. In addition, due to the design, this mount will place the scope higher above the bore than what is normally expected from a given ring height. For example, the low rings will actually be as high or higher than most medium rings.
The high rings used to mount the big Leupold mentioned above worked well and gave plenty of clearance where conventional mounts with high rings did not permit the scope to clear the barrel, making mounting impossible.
For most applications, this should pose no problem if you are aware of and allow for it when you order the rings. However, with small objective scopes or low combed rifles you may not be able to get the scope low enough.