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How High Should a Scope Be from the Barrel?

How High Should a Scope Be from the Barrel?

You’ve just purchased a new rifle, and you can’t wait to take it out to the range to see what it can do. How accurate will it be? The answer to the question depends significantly on how your scope is installed. Is there a standard height that gives you optimal accuracy? Can your scope allow you to comfortably see through it without sacrificing precision?

The two most important considerations for the height of the scope from the barrel are cheek weld and recoil. A rifleman should tailor their scope to aim and shoot with their face in the cheek weld. The scope must also have enough separation to prevent it from bouncing off the barrel for rifles that possess significant kick.

The height for the right cheek weld and recoil is essential. We’ll discuss these and how you can ensure that your scope is perfectly optimized to fit you and your rifle.

Can a Rifle Scope Be Mounted Too High?

The height of your scope means the distance between the bottom of the front bell of the scope and the highest point of the barrel. As a result, no uniform height standard exists because the eyepieces of scopes can vary based on three factors:

  • Size of the scope – Scope size is measured by diameter (most often in millimeters). The larger the scope, the larger the eyepiece.
  • Differing mounting attachments – Virtually all modern rifles have a prefabricated mounting attachment for the scope. However, the attachments are not uniform. For example, some rifles have attachments that allow for bases that sit further down in the barrel, while others might naturally sit a few millimeters higher. When a few millimeters can affect your comfort level, make sure you know how the base sets on your barrel.
  • Ring size – Rings connect your scope to the base you attach to the barrel. Rings come in three standard sizes: low, medium, and high. While you get a sense of how high the scope sits based on which ring you use, the prior two factors must be considered as you decide which size ring you want to use.

From this definition, the height can be as small as 0.6 mm (just enough to slide a credit card or dollar bill between the front bell and the barrel). But the only point of contact between the scope and barrel needs to be at the connecting base. If the bell is touching the barrel, you can easily damage the scope from recoil when firing (not to mention have an extremely uncomfortable shooting experience).

At the other end, there is no set max height for your scope. The proper height is determined by what works best to produce a comfortable feel with your rifle. 

Setting the Scope to the Cheek Weld

Ideally, you should set the scope at a level on the rifle where your face rests snuggly in the cheek weld as you aim. Shooting accurately also means shooting comfortably. If your scope forces you to move your face out of the cheek weld, several things can take place:

  • You tense up – A relaxed shooter has greater control of their rifle because they let it do its job. One of the characteristics of a good rifle is that it feels right when you set it on your shoulder and against your face. All you need to do is aim and pull the trigger. Conversely, when your scope forces you into an uncomfortable position with your rifle, you will tense up. A tense shooter is more likely to miss because, in straining to aim off the cheek weld from a misplaced scope, their rigidity will easily pull the gun out of balance.
  • Your eye level is off – When you aim, you want to look through the scope with your eyes level to the center of it. The scope should be aligned to where your face is in the weld looking dead center into the scope. If the scope is too high or low from the weld, you will look through the scope at an angle. This will cause you to shoot above or below the target frequently.
  • Twisting the gun – Another potential issue that can occur when you are not resting in the cheek weld is slightly twisting the rifle as you fire. Your face will naturally want to rest in the cheek weld. If it is not aligned, you will subtly turn your head to compensate. Turning your head can lead to slightly twisting your arms and, as such, the rifle. A slight turn can cause a major miss.

Higher Scopes and Recoil

As a general rule of thumb, high recoil rifles will require higher and larger scopes. This is not because higher scopes somehow improve recoil. But due to their size, larger scopes necessarily will rest higher than smaller ones. In addition, these larger scopes typically have greater magnification that can help compensate for the rifle’s recoil which can negatively affect the accuracy.

A higher scope gives you the ability to add hardware such as a recoil reduction scope mount that can help reduce the problem of the gun’s kick when firing. But the comfort test also applies here. Make sure a scope mount or any accessory does not affect the comfort level you have established with your scope.

In Conclusion

The height of your scope all comes down to what works best for you and your preferences. As long as you account for a good facial fit and accounting for potential recoil problems, use a scope that allows you to use your rifle to its maximum enjoyment!