Mounting Solutions for Red Dot Sights on Rifles

Chris G.

The method of attaching your red dot sight to your rifle can significantly affect your comfort and shooting precision. How your sight is mounted to your firearm is not a minor detail to overlook; it’s a key component that can significantly impact your shooting accuracy.

A well-structured and robust mounting system can ensure that your sight remains steady, enhancing your accuracy no matter the conditions. Several mounting solutions exist, each with its own set of advantages and potential disadvantages.

This is what this article is all about; I’ll help you understand the different mounting solutions and their merits. Not only will this help you make an informed decision, but it can also improve your overall shooting experience.

Types of Red Dot Sight Mounts on Rifles

There are several types of mounts for red dot sights on rifles. These mounts can accommodate different rail systems and firearm types. Let’s check out some of the most common mounting solutions

1. Picatinny Mounts: Picatinny mounts are designed to attach to Picatinny rails, which have evenly spaced slots. They are prevalent on modern rifles and provide a secure and standardized mounting platform.

  • Widely compatible with various rifles
  • Standardized spacing for easy installation
  • Available in different heights for co-witnessing options

2. Weaver Mounts: Similar to Picatinny mounts, Weaver mounts also attach to a rail system with closely spaced slots. The slots on Weaver rails are slightly narrower than those on Picatinny rails.

  • Compatible with Weaver rail systems
  • Suitable for firearms with Weaver-style mounting options

3. Quick Detach (QD) Mounts: Quick-detach mounts feature a lever or mechanism that allows for rapid attachment and removal of the red dot sight without the need for tools.

  • Convenient for users who frequently switch optics
  • Enables easy removal for transport or storage
  • Maintains return-to-zero capabilities

4. Cantilever Mounts: Cantilever mounts position the red dot sight forward on the rifle, providing additional eye relief. They often come with a single or offset mount arm. Check the mount’s height and ensure compatibility with your preferred cheek weld.

  • Extended eye relief for improved comfort
  • Allows for mounting additional accessories like magnifiers

5. Low-Profile Mounts: Low-profile mounts keep the red dot sight close to the rifle’s rail, minimizing height and maintaining a streamlined profile.

  • Reduces the overall weight and bulk of the optic setup
  • Suitable for users who prefer a minimalist design

6. Absolute Co-Witness Mounts: Absolute co-witness mounts position the red dot sight at the same height as the rifle’s iron sights. This allows the user to use both optics simultaneously. Check whether the mount provides the desired co-witnessing height.

  • Seamless transition between red dot sight and iron sights
  • Helps maintain consistent sight picture

7. Lower 1/3 Co-Witness Mounts: Lower 1/3 co-witness mounts position the red dot sight slightly higher than the iron sights, providing an unobstructed view of the lower portion of the sight picture.

  • Maintains a clear sight picture with the lower portion of the optic
  • Compatible with a variety of iron sights

8. Riser Mounts: Riser mounts elevate the red dot sight to a higher position, providing a more comfortable sight picture and improved clearance for larger objective lenses.

  • Enhanced sight picture and field of view
  • Useful for accommodating additional accessories

9. Offset Mounts: Offset mounts position the red dot sight to the side of the rifle, allowing for a backup magnifier or other accessories to be mounted directly behind the sight.

  • Enables the use of supplementary optics without obstructing the primary sight
  • Useful for transitioning between short-range and magnified optics

Mounting a Red Dot Sight on a Rifle

mounting red dot to a rifle

After choosing the perfect mount for your red dot sight, it’s time to get down to the business of attaching it to your rifle. Mounting a red dot sight on a rifle is a straightforward process, and it typically involves securing the sight to the rifle’s rail system. 

Tools and Materials Needed

  1. Red dot sight
  2. Rifle with a compatible rail system (Picatinny or Weaver)
  3. Mount suitable for your red dot sight and rifle
  4. Torque wrench or screwdriver
  5. Loctite or thread locker (optional)
  6. Bubble level (optional, for leveling the sight)

Steps

  1. Select the Right Mount: Your mount should be compatible with both your red dot sight and your rifle’s rail system (Picatinny or Weaver). Refer to the manufacturer’s specifications for guidance.
  2. Clear the Firearm: Make sure your rifle is unloaded and the chamber is clear. Safety should always be the top priority when handling firearms.
  3. Place the Mount on the Rail: Slide the mount onto the rifle’s rail system. Position it at the desired location along the rail, considering your eye relief, cheek weld, co-witnessing preferences, and other factors.
  4. Align the Mount: If the mount has multiple attachment points, align it parallel to the rifle’s bore. Use a bubble level if available to ensure the mount is level. This step helps in achieving a consistent sight picture.
  5. Attach the Mount: Tighten the mount onto the rail using the appropriate screws or levers. If using a torque wrench, follow the manufacturer’s recommended torque settings. If using screws, make sure they are snug but not overly tightened.
  6. Attach the Red Dot Sight to the Mount: Most red dot sights come with their own specific mounting system. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to attach the red dot sight to the mount securely.
  7. Level the Red Dot Sight: If your red dot sight has an adjustable level, use it so the sight is level with the rifle. A level sight helps maintain accuracy and consistency.
  8. Tighten the Sight Screws: If the red dot sight has multiple screws for attachment, tighten them evenly to secure the sight to the mount. Use a torque wrench if specified by the manufacturer.
  9. Check for Movement: Check that both the mount and the red dot sight are securely attached without any movement. Shake the rifle gently and check for any looseness. If there’s movement, re-tighten the screws.
  10. Optional: Apply Thread Locker: To prevent screws from loosening due to recoil, apply a small amount of thread locker (e.g., Loctite) on the screws. Be cautious not to over-apply, as you may need to remove the sight in the future.
  11. Function Check: Perform a function check by shouldering the rifle and acquiring a sight picture. Check if the red dot is visible and centered within the sight window. .
  12. Zeroing the Red Dot Sight: Once the sight is mounted, take your rifle to the range to zero the red dot sight. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for zeroing procedures, making adjustments as needed.

Troubleshooting Red Dot Mounting Issues

Red dot sight mounts can occasionally encounter issues that affect their performance or stability. Here are some common red dot mount issues along with troubleshooting tips:

1. Loose Mount: The mount becomes loose over time, leading to movement or shifting of the red dot sight.

  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Check if the mount is properly torqued to the recommended specifications.
    • Consider using thread locker (e.g., Loctite) on the mounting screws to prevent them from loosening due to recoil.
    • Regularly check the tightness of screws and re-tighten if necessary.

2. Shifted Zero: The red dot sight loses its zero or shifts from the original point of impact.

  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Confirm that the mounting screws are securely tightened.
    • Check for any signs of damage to the mount or mount interface.
    • If using a quick-detach mount, make sure that it consistently returns to zero after removal and reinstallation.
    • Re-zero the sight if necessary, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

3. Cant or Misalignment: The red dot sight appears canted or misaligned with the rifle’s bore.

  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Use a bubble level during installation to ensure the mount is level.
    • Double-check that the mount is correctly aligned with the rifle’s rail system.
    • If the mount has an adjustable design, make necessary adjustments for proper alignment.

4. Broken or Stripped Screws: Mounting screws become damaged, broken, or stripped.

  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Inspect screws for signs of damage or wear during regular maintenance.
    • Replace damaged screws with high-quality replacements from the manufacturer.
    • It’s important to follow the correct torque specifications during installation.

5. Incompatibility with Firearm or Sight: The chosen mount is not compatible with the specific firearm or red dot sight.

  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Verify that the mount is designed for the type of rail system on your firearm (e.g., Picatinny or Weaver).
    • Check the red dot sight’s specifications for recommended mounts and ensure compatibility.
    • Consider consulting with the manufacturer or a knowledgeable professional for suitable alternatives.

6. Loss of Zero During Recoil: The red dot sight loses zero or shifts after firing rounds.

  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Use a quality mount designed to withstand recoil forces.
    • Check that the mount is securely attached to the rail system.
    • Confirm that the sight’s internal components are not damaged.

7. Excessive Vibration or Shock: Mount or sight experiences excessive vibration or shock during use.

  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Choose a mount with shock-absorbing features or a design that minimizes vibrations.
    • Tightened the mount securely to minimize movement.

8. Difficulty in Quick-Detach Mechanism: Quick-detach mount mechanism becomes difficult to operate.

  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Lubricate moving parts as recommended by the manufacturer.
    • Check for any debris or obstructions in the quick-detach mechanism.

9. Mount Rust or Corrosion: Mount shows signs of rust or corrosion, especially in humid or wet conditions.

  • Troubleshooting Tips
    • Choose mounts made from corrosion-resistant materials.
    • Regularly clean and lubricate the mount to protect it from environmental conditions.
    • Store firearms in a dry environment to prevent rusting.

How to Choose the Right Rifle Mount for Your Red Dot Sight

two rifles

Ready to choose a red dot mount for your rifle? Here are key things you need to consider:

1. Compatibility: Different firearms and sights may have unique mounting requirements, so check manufacturer specifications and guidelines.

2. Type of Firearm: Consider the type of firearm you are using. Different firearms may have varying mounting options such as Picatinny rails, Weaver rails, or specific mounting systems designed for certain models. Choose a mount that matches your firearm’s rail system.

3. Rail System: Determine the type of rail system on your rifle. Common options include Picatinny and Weaver rails. Choose a mount that matches the specific rail system.

4. Height and Eye Relief: Consider the height of the mount in relation to the red dot sight’s design and your preferred cheek weld. The mount’s height can affect the sight’s alignment and eye relief. Choose a mount that positions the sight at the ideal height for your shooting style.

5. Co-Witnessing: Decide whether you want a lower 1/3 co-witness or an absolute co-witness with your iron sights. Co-witnessing allows you to use both the red dot sight and iron sights simultaneously. 

6. Material and Construction: Opt for mounts made from durable and lightweight materials such as aluminum or steel. High-quality construction ensures stability and longevity. Pay attention to features like robust construction and weather-resistant finishes.

7. Quick Detach (QD) vs. Fixed Mounts: Consider whether you need a quick-detach (QD) mount for easy removal or a fixed mount for a more secure and permanent setup. QD mounts are convenient for users who frequently switch optics or need rapid deployment.

8. Repeatability: Repeatability refers to the mount’s ability to return to zero after removal and reinstallation. Choose a mount known for its repeatability to make certain that your red dot sight maintains zero consistently, especially if you need to remove and reattach it regularly.

9. Brand Compatibility: Some red dot sight manufacturers offer their own mounts designed specifically for their optics. Consider using the recommended mount from the same brand.

10. Adjustability: Some mounts offer additional adjustability in terms of cant, forward or backward positioning, and eye relief. Think about your shooting preferences and choose a mount that provides the necessary adjustments for your comfort and accuracy.

11. Weight Considerations: Pay attention to the weight of the mount. Heavy mounts may affect the balance of your firearm, particularly in dynamic shooting situations.

12. Return to Zero (RTZ) Guarantee: Some mounts come with a Return to Zero (RTZ) guarantee, ensuring that the red dot sight returns to zero when reinstalled. This feature can be important for users who frequently remove and reattach their optics.

Conclusion

The mount is your sight’s connection to the firearm. Thus, choosing the right mount is important to upgrade your shooting accuracy and experience. You don’t want a low-quality mount that falls off, does not align with the firearm, is not compatible with your rifle, and more.

I hope that this article will help you choose and configure your red dot mount. Done properly, you’ll notice a significant improvement in your marksmanship abilities. Enjoy your shooting practice!

About the author

The name's Chris. Just a regular dude who loves firearms. I've been shooting since I was a kid. My old man taught me the ropes.

I'll never forget the first time I missed an easy shot on a buck, thanks to a bum scope. The image was fuzzier than my dog's butt. After that, I got obsessed with understanding scopes. What makes the good ones tick and the bad ones trash. After a few years and a few thousand bucks, I learned what separates the winners from the losers. Once I had a good stockpile of knowledge, I launched this site.

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