Wheeler Engineering Professional Scope Mounting Kit Combo
By Rocky Hays
This very complete Wheeler Scope Mounting Kit Combo contains a torque wrench, 10 screwdriver bits most commonly used on scope bases and rings, a magnetic action level, scope level, small tube of thread lock, two scope ring lapping bars (1" and a 30mm) with a handle for the lapping bars, two scope ring alignment bars (1" and a 30 mm), an instructional DVD and lapping compound. The kit carries a 2009 MSRP of $149.99.
The name of this kit implies that it is put together for professional gunsmiths, but it also provides amateurs the tools to produce professional results. I have been mounting scopes on rifles for over 40 years and I know that some of those scopes early on were not mounted optimally. I always managed to get the scopes on and make them work, but over the years, things have changed. People began paying me to mount scopes for them and when you are being paid as a professional to do the work, it has to be done correctly. In addition, the long distance accuracy of rifles has increased and the quality of scopes produced today is far superior to those of yesteryear. In summation, this requires a more precise scope mounting technique than the old "eyeball" method.
It is important that a scope be precisely mounted. The reticle should be perfectly perpendicular to the bore and the scope rings must be accurately aligned with the scope tube and the bore. Even if the scope is being mounted on a factory made gun with CNC-drilled & tapped scope mounting holes and CNC-produced rings and bases, many variables can affect the alignment of the scope. What you actually have is a whole bunch of separate parts that are machine-screwed together and must line up perfectly. Out-of-the-box, perfect alignment is extremely unlikely. The purpose of the Wheeler Kit is to correct the imperfections and make the parts line up perfectly. It includes the tools to correct for all of the induced variables.
Here is an illustration of how important it is that the scope be properly mounted: If you have a scope with an outside diameter of 1.75 inches and you induce 1 degree of angle into the scope that equals 0.0152 inches on the circumference of the scope, which is less than 1/64th of an inch. That 1 degree of angle equates to a 6 inch error at 1000 yards. Having your scope angled also affects the adjustments of the scope. If your scope is canted to the right and you make windage adjustments to the right, you are also inadvertently lowering the point of impact.
The set includes a Wheeler “Level-Level-Level” (previously reviewed on Guns and Shooting Online--see the Scopes and Sport Optics page), which consists of a magnetic action level and a scope level. These levels work well for leveling the scope, but it should be noted that they will not work on every gun. I recently mounted a scope on a Browning T-Bolt and there was absolutely no place on that action that was level.
It is also very important that, when you are using two levels, you make sure those two levels match each other. When I removed the levels from the box, the first thing I did was check them for this. I found that they were not matched. However, the nice thing is that Wheeler did not glue the level vials into the holders, so it is very easy to pop the vials out and put a paper shim under one end to make them match. Every time you use a set of levels, check them beforehand.
The thought may be that since all the parts--bases, rings and gun--are precision-machined, it is not important to lap the rings. Wrong. They are not precise when assembled. I always lap the rings after they are on the gun. I check rings for alignment before I mount a scope by using PermaTex Prussian Blue on my lapping bar and tightening it into the scope rings. Then I remove the lapping bar and check the pattern that the Prussian Blue leaves inside the rings. Since I started checking scope rings, I have never found a set that did not need lapping. There should be at least an 80% contact between the ring and the scope and they need to be straight so you are not inducing stress into the scope tube. Internal stress can create problems just as severe as canting your scope.
The Wheeler Kit comes with lapping bars, a great little handle for the lapping bars and a vial of 220-grit lapping paste, which works very efficiently. When the rings are lapped, bare metal is left on the inside, which should be re-blued. At the minimum, use cold blue (Birchwood Casey Instant Blue, etc). Otherwise, that bare metal will start rusting and leave a rust ring around the scope.
The Wheeler Engineering Adjustable Torque Screw Driver is fantastic. It is extremely easy to adjust, consistent and the best thing is that when it reaches its set torque limit, it releases; it does not continue to tighten. I previously used an automotive-type inch/pound torque wrench of the clicker type. After it clicked, it would not release, so if you went just a little too far too fast, the screw would over tighten or break.
This Wheeler screwdriver will not do that if you adjust it properly. It will uniformly torque all the screws in the scope rings and bases, eliminating another source of stress to the scope tube. My biggest complaint is that this Kit doesn’t come in a molded plastic box, because all the parts need to be kept together and the cardboard box it comes in will not last too long.
After I used the Wheeler Kit to mount three scopes, I decided I would definitely keep it and use it on a regular basis. Over the years, I have managed to put together my own scope mounting kit that, while not as integrated as the Wheeler Kit, includes similar tools. However, as soon as the Guns and Shooting Online Staff found out I was keeping this Kit, they started stealing my old tools.
In summation, the Wheeler Professional Scope Mounting Kit Combo is great for properly installing scopes. If you want to mount a scope correctly, you really should invest in one of these Wheeler kits.
Copyright 2009 by Rocky Hays. All rights reserved.