The history of the development of rifle scope rings


It wasn’t until around 1837 that telescopic sights (commonly known as scopes) were first being used in small numbers on military and some sporting rifles. These early designs were very crude compared to the rifle scopes of today. The magnification was very low and the clarity was somewhat misty. At the same time these early designers had to think about developing a system which could attach the scope to the rifle. This lead at the same time to the development of early scope rings. Some form of mount had to be fitted to the rifles first but then different size scope rings for different body tube and objective lens diameters were commissioned.


Modern scope rings are typically 1” (25.4mm), 30mm and lately 34mm in diameter. (Please note that rifle scopes with a 25mm body tube are actually 1" which is 25.4mm) One particular German manufacturer has recently started producing rifle scopes with 35mm and even 36mm so scope rings in these sizes are now in demand. Rifle scopes with a large objective (front) lens will require high scope rings so that the objective lens of the scope doesn’t foul the barrel of the rifle concerned. It is not documented what size body tube and therefore scope rings the early telescopic sights used. Some were even tapered so a specially machined mounting system would be required. Standard parallel scope rings would just not be suitable for these early scopes.

As well as developing the size of the scope ring the mount that fitted to the rifle had to be considered. Rifles varied considerably in design as they do today so a universal base system could be produced. The scope rings could be universal in a similar way the weaver / picatinny scope ring system is today. It is unlikely that the scope rings of 1837 were as robust and solid as the latest European versions available that are manufactured using high tech computer numerically controlled (cnc) machining centres.  The choice of good quality scope mounts available today is much better than in those early years.  Scope mounting systems have evolved and popular systems now include ringmounts, fixed scope mounts, tip off rings and quick detatchable mounts.  If you know where to look an affordable solution is available at a reasonable price.


Scopes were mounted using two rings which is the most common system and still widely used today. However early scope rings didn’t always align the rifle scope correctly which did cause accuracy problems. Early rings also were prone to damaging the sights body tube as they were not machined as accurately as todays scope mounting systems.

Once the 1980’s and 90’s came along rifle scopes and mounting systems had improved considerable from those early days in the 1800’s. Below is a brief guide about choosing the best scope and scope rings set for your firearm.  It wasn't until around the same period of 1970 / 1980 that 11mm scope mounts could just be fitted to the integral dovetail grooves on the receiver of the majority of air rifles and rimfires.  One of the first rifles with integral dovetails was the Czech made Brno model 1 and 2 which had dovetails much wider than the more common 11mm size.  The dovetails were 15mm and much wider than the later .22lr rifles from the same manufacturer.  Another popular Czech manufacturer from this era is CZ who continue to make rifles with integral dovetails at different widths.  Standard tip off scope mounts are a common choice of scope mounting solution for this manufactuers rifles. 


What is the difference between a 1” and 30mm scope ring? 

The numbers just refer to the diameter of the hole in the centre of the ring. A 1” scope ring will fit all rifle scopes with a 1” diameter body tube. It is worth knowing that 1” is 25.4mm. So this means that a 30mm scope ring will fit all rifle scopes with a body tube diameter of 30mm.


How do I choose which size rifle scope / scope ring is best ?

A 30mm rifle scope will require a 30mm scope ring. The advantage of the larger size is that the scope will have more turret adjustment. This is ideal if you want to shoot at long range. If you shooting is never further than around 200 yards then the 30mm scope may not be necessary. Some people just prefer 30mm scopes but they do tend to be more expensive but generally better quality. 30mm scope rings are also generally more expensive than 1” versions.


Does a 30mm scope offer better light transmission?

With some rifle scopes the answer is yes but the increase in light transmission is minimal. Unless you are hunting in low light conditions it is probably better to go for a 1” scope as the cost of the scope and the scope rings will be less than a 30mm set up.


How do I choose the eye relief dimension on the rifle scope I want?


It is better to choose a rifle scope with a regular length eye relief of around 3 inches. Longer rifle scopes in particular that also have a larger than regular eye relief will require extended scope rings to ensure the ocular lens is positioned further forward and away from the hunters eye. Extended scope rings can also be used to position the rifle scopes eye piece (ocular lens) closer to your eye.


Can you use the same scope rings for 1” and 30mm scopes ?

No, they will each need a set of rings with the appropriate size bore.


How do I choose the width of the dovetail on my scope rings?

Its is best to go to the manufacturers website to choose the correct size for your rifle. Most bolt action hunting rifles in the US use a picatinny / weaver scope ring system where the base may already be installed on the rifle. 22’s commonly use a 3/8" dovetail / grooves which is an itegral part of the rifles receiver and the same system is usually used for airguns. Please note that Europeans often refer to 3/8" scope mounts as 11mm.  Many .17HMR rifles also feature a grooved 3/8" receiver or scope rail as they are often built on the same action as .22's.  One of the few manufacturers that does use  wider than standard scope grooves is BSA.  Scope mounts are available to properly fit this popular range of British airguns.