Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ballseye's Gun Shots 85 - Mounting A Riflescope Or Two The Ballseye Way

There I Was Waiting For My Son...expecting to take a ride upstate to get in some deer scouting today and maybe even see the bear(s) in the area. Really though, I wasn't all that hopeful because someone got home at about 0415 this morning and was slurring his speech just a tiny bit. You can safely bet - it wasn't me. When he came in, I was awake with another bout of insomnia. I had already gotten a few hours sleep but it was still lucky for him I was already awake when he made a bit too much noise coming in the side door. I had thought it was one of the dogs pushing on the bi-fold door, between the kitchen and side entrance, wanting to get out - but it was Brendan just floating in. His slight slurring was more than enough to clue me in that the trip was all but cancelled. I asked him why he had been out so late and drinking too much at that and he said - "No doubt, I'll be up by 7, just make me some coffee and wake me when it is ready". 'Okay - right' was something along the line of my reply and he again insisted he would be ready, willing and able to go at 0700. I let him float upstairs to go to bed.

Come 0700, I was feeling crappy. I finally got back to sleep at about 6 or so and was in no mood to get up realizing Brendan would never wake up at that hour because he was sleeping like a rock. I decided to sleep another half hour. I was rudely awakened at 0730 by the alarm on my phone. I set it yesterday for yesterday and guess I set it for multiple days instead of just one. It went off every five minutes two more times before I killed it. I finally crawled out of bed to get up at about 0830. I tried to wake Brendan by pounding on his door - no reply. All I heard was his alarm clock going off. I came back 15 minutes later and he was still asleep with the alarm clock buzzing. I banged again and rattled the door - he was out of it. I did this a couple more times, then at about 0915, just after my wife had started cooking breakfast, I went up, unlocked his door with my secret unlocking tool and scraped the bottom of his foot with it. Steel on the arch of a foot has an amazing effect, it wakes the almost dead. He rolled over and grunted - he was alive after all. I asked if he was going to go to the range with me since it was now too late to go upstate. He said yeah sure. He said he would get up soon and come down to eat. About 20 minutes later, just after I sat down to eat, I remembered Sleeping Beauty. I went up again and into his room to ask him if he was getting it in gear and he said yeah.

I went back downstairs, sat down with my wife and daughter and enjoyed a breakfast of blueberry crepes a la Linda. They were delicious. Still no Brendan so I went out and puttered around in the yard a bit. Then I went down into the basement and decided to mount the scope on my Marlin 336 and also put another on my Marlin 25MN. I had taken the scope off of the 336 after hunting last year to give the rifle a good cleaning. Happy I did, because the top of the receiver under the scope rail was pretty rusted. I cleaned it and took off almost all of the bluing on top of the receiver. Oh well - would have been worse had I not cleaned it when I did get to it! As for the 25MN scope, I removed that one because it had somehow become covered with black sticky goo of a rubbery nature. I do not remember if this scope was rubber armored. If it was, then something degraded the rubber into a black sticky film that took a lot of cleaning to remove. If it wasn't then I have no clue what got all over the scope and scope rings but not at all on the rifle! Over the past couple to few months, I tried to dissolve/clean that gunk off with various cleaners and solvents such as: Hoppes #9, Breakfree CLP, Windex, Mineral Spirits, Paint Thinner, Rubbing Alcohol, Lighter Fluid, soapy water and was just about at my wits end when I came across a can of denatured alcohol in my shed a few days ago.

Well, before I could mount that one it would have to be cleaned up so I decided to get that out of the way first, then mount both scopes. Even though the rubbing alcolhol had not worked, I figured I would try giving the denatured alcohol a shot at it. The rubbing alcohol I had used the first time was isopropyl alcohol and the stuff in the can is ethanol mixed with methanol. Both types are alcohol but the stuff in the can worked like a charm where the rubbing alcohol did not. Maybe one type of alcohol was a better solvent for this particular gunk, maybe it was the combination of ethanol and methanol in the can that did the trick, I don't know for sure and I don't care. Whatever it was, it had me getting the cleanup done in about 2 hours of wetting and rubbing and wiping today. Considering it had already taken me several hours over the course of my other attempts, I figure this indeed worked like a charm. Once it was cleaned up, I decided to mount both of the scopes.

Scope mounting used to be a mystery to me, first of all maybe because I had no need for it. My eyes used to be wonderful with 20/15 vision, yep - better than 20/20 so who needed a scope. Not me! In addition, I had heard horror stories from people who had done the job on their own while not minding advice they had been given to let an expert do it for them. Some of the stories were that scopes had come loose and a range day was ruined, others had actually gotten so loose (or maybe never tightened in the first place) to have fallen of of the rifles on which they had been mounted and some had broken because of that. The worst stories though were those of the ones that got away. No, the scopes did not get up and run away because they were not happy with how they were put on the rifles nor did they fly off the rifle when it was fired. It was the deer, or the bear, or the moose that had run, some almost seeming to fly, after the shot fired at them hit a barn in the next county. Why? Because the scope had been improperly mounted and had, after bouncing around in the trunk of the car or bed of the truck on the way to the hunting grounds, gotten all discombobulated this way or that and was no longer zeroed in when it counted. The shot went wide and the game escaped to see another day - probably even another hunting season because I imagine a deer missed like that, with all the hunter's invectives that must have followed, most assuredly has learned something from its mistake of letting a hunter get that close to take a shot. Hopefully those guys who did not mount their scopes right also learned and got it right the next time. That would mean doing it themselves without paying someone $25 or $50 to do it for them. I know some of them didn't learn a thing and got it wrong the next time too, and some others just paid someone else to do and thus learned nothing either. All that was enough to deter me from even considering using a scope even for a couple or few years even after my excellent eyesight had started to wane.

Soon enough though, my eyes were at the point where I needed not only glasses for reading but also for distance. It was harder to see at night or in dim light. Sighting in a rifle in the oft times dimly lit woods where I hunt was becoming a real pain in the ass eyes. So, I bought a couple of Tasco Scopes, I guess that was at least a few to several years ago by now. I figured I would give them a try. They were not low end Tascos, but certainly were not high end Nikon, Leupold or Zeiss scopes either. I am pretty sure was was on closeout sale at less than $100. If I remember right, maybe the other was $125, certainly not more than $150. They were good enough for me for first scopes and over time they have proven themselves to be of pretty decent quality even though Tasco went out of business and was replaced by another company that bought their name but decided not to honor the lifetime warranties that came with each of my scopes. A sort of in with the new and to hell with the old sort of a thing much the same as I imagine health care will soon become. Lucky for me though, neither of these scopes has never lost focus, never fogged up, never broken, never lost zero (even after a trip to Maine with them bouncing in my trunk). They are both in fine operating order (despite the one that had to have all the gunk cleaned off of it). The one time one of them was called upon for the shot of a lifetime, it did its job. Brendan shot his first bear right through its heart - a one shot virtual instant kill - using the scoped Marlin 336.

So why is it that these fairly low priced, run of the mill, Tasco scopes have performed so well even though I have never had them mounted professionally - always choosing to do the job myself? I do the job completely by hand, with hand tools and do not even mount them in a gun vise to make sure they are level when I put the scopes in place. I don't line up a wooden dowel first to check level either. Nor do I use a spirit level. I place the bottom half of each ring onto the scope rail or other mount that is already securely on the rifle (or in the case of the 25MN into the groove on the receiver). Then I tighten the screws to secure the bottom half of each ring. Then I place the scope into the depression of the bottom rings and gently screw the top half of each ring in place, just enough to hold the scope in place but loose enough so I can still wist the scope left or right. Once aligned properly, I tighten all the screws with a simple screwdriver or Allen wrench working each one in evenly a bit at a time on one, then moving to another and so on, until I reach the point where each seems about evenly screwed in and all are tightly screwed in place. By eye, I check to see that the space between the top ring and bottom ring is about equidistant on the left and right side. If not I back off the screw on the side that is screwed down further, then screw in the other side a bit more, until each side looks even. It has worked every time.

When I get to the range and fire them to sight them in, they never come loose. When I take them afield they stay tight and aligned properly. I never even use lock-tite or anything similar. Despite at least one of them having a set of really cheap and crappy scope rings and that one is the heavier caliber of the two, a Marlin 336 in .35 Remington, the other one is in .22 magnum, the screws always stay tight and the scopes always stay aligned - at least so far. I guess the answer to why they do not come loose and get messed up is because I followed some simple directions, I found online, on how to do the job. I would give the link but it seems to not being working. Oh heck - here it is anyway, in case it gets better: If it does not work, I am sure you can find some other simple directions. Now, back to why this works for a veritable klutz like me - I took the time to do an online search, found some directions, realized it was a simple straightforward job, also paid attention when I was told that the screws should all be about evenly tightened but not so tight as to damage the scope body (which is pretty thin aluminum on most scopes) and there I was - an amateur scope mounter.

Today, it took me all of 10 minutes to get the scope mounted on my Marlin 336 to where I thought it was just right with the reticle (also reticule but not recticle as I used to call it) in the scope looking level each time I raise the rifle to my shoulder. Putting the scope on the Marlin 25MN took me about 20 minutes today. I was not satisfied with how it was sitting but finally got it to the point where it looked just right each time I brought the rifle to my shoulder and then looked through the tube at the reticle. Note, I did not say either scope looked or was actually precisely level in relation to either rifle that I had mounted and perfectly leveled in a gun vise. I do not use a gun vise to hold the rifle. I hold the rifle across my lap when I mount the scope. Then I then adjust the scope, to where it appears to be level, with the rifle up on my shoulder as if firing. I have always had an excellent eye for levelling pictures I have hung and for arranging or rearranging other things that need to be straightened out or levelled. I seemingly do pretty good getting my scope mounted right just by eye too. It may be off a tiny bit from level on the horizontal plain, or even from the vertical plain (which I tend to doubt) but when I hold my rifle to my shoulder and only then look into the scope, it seems level to me and when I shoot my scoped rifles the bullets hit their marks.

Is my scope mounting method absolutely correct? My scope mounting jobs may not be good enough for the likes of a military sniper who needs to take shots at several hundred yards or more nor for the prairie dog hunter who does likewise on small game but it is good enough for my purposes such as deer hunting and squirrel hunting. It should be good enough for general hunting purposes at least here in the northeast.

Is the procedure of mounting a scope something shrouded in mystery or difficult to accomplish? Only if you listen to a gun shop guru who is trying to suck some cash out of your pocket and deposit it into his own. It is not a big mystery at all and directions easily can be found online. It does not require an expert to accomplish, does not require specialty tools in most cases, and is done well enough in just minutes plus the time to sight in the rifle once the scope has been mounted. Adjustments are also as easy as pie (and pie is pretty darned easy to make). If you have a gun vise, or other device to hold the rifle in place when mounting a scope, use it. If you have a level to help you - use it. If not and you are like me and have just the essentials, well use the essentials and get the job done well enough.

Does my scope mounting method make sense? Probably more so than depending on someone else to do it, paying them to do it, and never learning how to do it for yourself. About the only guys it will not make sense to will be the one who is trying to get you to pay him to do it or that one other guy, the guy who knows it all and who knows you can't possibly get it done right without and expert to help you. Of course, he knows all the experts or is one himself.
I'll do it my way. As I said, my method has not failed me yet.

Did I create this method, after all I keep calling it my method. Heck no, I am sure I did not - there must be thousands of other shooters who do it likewise. I just call it my method because it is the way I get it done. I like that, the part about 'I get it done' especially when I know how klutzy I can be yet this always works once I have done it. And yes, it works well. As I said, my method has not failed me yet.

All the best,
Glenn B