Rifle Scope Rails

Rifle Scope Rails

There are many different types of rifle scope rails and bases available on the market, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Table of Contents

Rifle Scope Rails and Bases

There are many different types of rifle scope rails and bases available on the market, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Which type of rifle scope mount is the best for you? This article is designed to give you some information to help you select one that fits your rifle properly and is compatible with your chosen scope. 

Some mounts or rings locate directly to a base manufactured directly into the rifle whilst others attach to a rail or base that is screwed to the rifle.

Picatinny rail
Picatinny rail

Scope Rails

Picatinny Rail

Picatinny rail profile
Picatinny rail profile

The most common type of base is the Picatinny rail, developed from the Weaver rail, it is compatible with a wide variety of scopes. The Weaver has 3.8mm slots compared to the Picatinny which has 5mm slots. What that means is scope rings designed for a Weaver rail will fit the Picatinny but not the other way around. 5mm ring mounts will not fit into 3.8mm slots no matter which way you turn it (people still try!).

This type of rail is also very rugged and can withstand a lot of abuse as it offers a secure, solid connection between the scope and the rifle. This is partly due to the fact it is made in one piece. This causes issues with access to the breech and ejection clearance. Relief is generally cut into the mount for better clearance but top-loading the breech can still be a pain.

The Picatinny rail also is a military standard interface known as the MIL-STD-1913 rail. This design is the base for the upgraded NATO STANAG 4694 rail.


Summary: If you want a robust proven performer that will compatible with the widest range of scopes then this is your go to system.

Weaver Rail

Weaver Rail Profile
Weaver Rail
Weaver Rail
Weaver Rail

The Weaver rail was developed by the founder of Weaver Optics, William Weaver. The older Weaver rails were manufactured in two parts which allowed for good ejection port clearance but made alignment very difficult. Later versions tend to be made of a single part for this reason.  Another issue can be a lack of adjustment to obtain decent eye relief. 


Summary: An older standard system that has limited compatibility. There are better options these days.

Dovetail Rail

European 11mm Dovetail Dimensions
European 11mm Dovetail
USA 3-8 Rail

A dovetail rail, sometimes known as a dovetail base, is a sliding rail system used on weapons that are used to mount telescopic sights. Also known as a “tip-off” mount because of the ease at which the shooter can attach or remove the scope. They come in many shapes and sizes, the Picatinny and Weaver rails are examples. Many manufacturers have their derivatives.

Dovetail rails are very popular, and they are used on many different types of firearms. If you’re looking to install a new scope on your gun, odds are good that you’ll need a dovetail rail.


The rail height is the distance from the top of the rail to the centerline of the scope. Most scopes have a rail height of about 40mm (1.5 inches), but some are as low as 25mm (1 inch) and some are as high as 50mm (2 inches).

Scope Rail Height
Scope Rail Height

There are a few things to consider when choosing the right rail height for your scope.

These factors include:

    1. Size of the objective lens. A large objective lens will require a higher rail to clear the barrel.
    2. Eye relief of the scope. A scope with a long eye relief will also need a taller rail to be used effectively.
    3. The mount of the scope. Some scopes come with low-profile rings/mounts that allow them to be used on a lower rail height. Other scopes come with standard or high-profile rings/mounts that require a higher rail.
    4. Plus MOA/MRAD rails. If you’re going to be doing a lot of long-range shooting, you’ll need a higher rail so that you can use the full range of the scope.

Ultimately, the decision of which rail height to choose will come down to personal preference and the specific needs of your setup.

Steel or Alloy?

When it comes to choosing the material for your rifle scope rail, there are two main options: steel or alloy. 

Steel is generally more durable than alloy, so it’s a good choice if you’re looking for something that will stand up to heavy use. However, it’s also heavier than alloy, which can make your rifle more difficult to handle.

Alloy is lighter and easier to work with, but cheaper versions are usually made from poor-grade aluminium and are not near as durable as their steel counterparts. On the other hand, high-quality alloy composites can outperform steel on every level.

Oooooh. It’s shiny! Yes, steel. They look prettier because the makers can impart a better finish to steel rails. Crawling through the red dirt and spinifex to get the ideal shot on that feral varmint you have been stalking for hours, it’s important to look your best!

Corrosion. Steel will rust without proper care. Keep in mind also that in wet conditions aluminium and steel when joined can be a poor mix due to oxidization. Like steel rail and aluminium rings.

Heat. Different metals do not react to heat in the same manner. Best to keep the choice of metal the same for rails and rings,

A final word. Titanium. Some markets, generally Europe have titanium available, but be prepared to open that wallet wide!


Summary: Steel tends to be tougher but heavier whereas cheap Alloy is prone to getting knocked about but is lighter. High quality alloy may be your best choice.

Scroll to Top