Popular with sportsmen throughout continental Europe, but usually sceptically kept at arm’s length by British rifle shooters, riflescopes with integral rails have become a great deal more user-friendly in recent years.
In the bag old days, fixing a rail ‘scope to your rifle involved extreme accuracy – not in shooting, but in drilling holes through the solid rail to enable attachment of the mounts. If done properly, this was a pretty strong anchoring system, that usually guaranteed correct horizontal and vertical alignment of your reticle. You might have a problem though, if you decided to move the ‘scope to a different rifle. Chances are the holes wouldn’t line up….
Well that’s all changed. Nowadays ‘scopes have hollow rails with no need to drill. Not only does this mean that fitting a railed ‘scope to your rifle is very much simpler, but there is a broader range of lower mounts available, and switching to another rifle isn’t so much of a issue.
To illustrate the latest rail system, we can take a look at how I recently fitted a Swarovski Z6i 2.5-15×56 SR (Swarovski Rail) to a Sauer 202 in .300 Winchester Magnum. Discussing mounting systems with my customer, we settled on the excellent quality of Reknagel.
Although this German company offers a good variety of dedicated Sauer 202 bases, I started off by fitting one of their flat Picatinny rails to the Sauer’s action. For the standard 202 action there is a choice of rails: either flat or 20MOA. Once the four grub screws had been removed, the revealed holes were thoroughly degreased with neat alcohol. After air drying, drops of Loctite Threadlocker were applied. You can see from the photographs that I insert absorbent paper into the action, to soak up any Threadlocker that seeps through. After that it was time to fix the Picatinny, using the supplied Torx key, before checking screw tightness with a AFT wrench.
In that last picture, you will see me using the finger test to ensure that no Loctite is present in the action, and no screws are protruding. I was confident that there wouldn’t be, but force of habit is hard to break.
As the ‘scope was going on a magnum rifle, we elected to fit the ‘heavier duty’ style of Reknagel SR bases. In the slide series below, you can see:
1/ the chunky bases lying below the Swarovski hollow rail to which they will be mounted, along with Reknagel’s supplied ‘spanner’ for tightening the bases to the Picatinny rail.
2/ the grommets from the bases sliding into the hollow of the rail
3/ the ‘teeth’ on the base, which will interlock with those on the rail, and be held tightly in place by clamping the grommets 4/.
5/ Before attaching the second base I roughly set the bridge using a calliper. This will mean absolute minimum in the way of alterations when finally installing the bases on the Picatinny.
6/ Having finally and carefully adjusted the bases to exactly the right bridge, and absolute alignment with the teeth, the bases are firmly tightened to the rail.
Swarovski provides a rubber cover that can be appropriately cut and fitted to the underside of the rail, filling in the gaps between and either side of the bases. This helps prevent dirt and water building up within the rail. Before you start cutting the cover, make certain you have your base bridge settings right.
7/ At long last it’s time to fit the ‘scope to the rifle. Doesn’t that look the business!
If you are worried about being able to find the correct mounts to fit a rail ‘scope to your rifle, there are plenty of options available. I used Reknagel in this case, and I have a combination of Reknagel and Optilock for a Swarovski 2.5-15×56 SR mounted on my .260 rifle – a Sako action. Reknagels SR fittings plug directly into the Optilock bases where, usually, the Optilock rings would be inserted.