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Three handguns placed next to each other on a wooden table. Two optics sit in front of the handguns

Optics Mounting For Your Firearms

When you want better accuracy from your weapon, mounting optics that improve your precision offer a fast, easy upgrade. Gun optics can help you find your sight picture faster, offer an easy reference point for more precise aiming, or magnify the field of view to bring the action closer. In order to work well with your weapon, however, there needs to be a secure connection linking the two. This juncture is both one of the most vital points on a customized weapon and, far too often, one of the weakest.

The Evolution of Optics Mounting

Before there were reflex sights and prism scopes, your options for improving aiming amounted to aftermarket iron sights or the addition of a telescopic sight. Ghost rings, also known as peep sights, worked well enough for handguns and short-range firearms to allow for faster target acquisition. For rifles that needed to make the long shots, adding a scope gave you better precision but at the expense of mid-to-short-range utility. These early scopes weren’t just bulky, blocking out much of the area surrounding the field of view in your scope, but more delicate with their carefully aligned lenses. Both were also difficult to install or change, often needing custom milling by professional gunsmiths.

As more and more gun owners sought to improve accuracy, however, optics and mounting technology evolved alongside the guns they were serving. Mounting systems were designed to allow laymen to install and zero in their own optics. Iron sights became easier to swap out, scope mounts were designed to allow for a more universal experience, and gun optics, in general, changed to be more user-friendly. Now, anyone with a free afternoon and some basic tools could improve their weapons. 

Woman shooting a firearm at a shooting range

Modern optics mounting designs take it even further. Firearms are rolling off the assembly line ready to accept standardized mounting options, while universal systems allow for the retrofitting of almost any weapon to accept modern precision optics and benefit from their technology. From standardized pattern to rapid-takedown features and flexible installation options, there is a custom optics setup that’s perfect for almost every gun owner, whether they carry in the line of duty, concealed for their own personal defense, or want to shoot better at the range.

Optics Mounting Considerations

  • Mount Type – Most weapons and gun optics manufacturers only engineer their products to be compatible with a few select types of mounts. While adapters are available to bridge the gap in some places, you will want to make sure you are matching your weapon with optics that will actually fit.
  • Height – In general, you want your optics to sit as low on the weapon as possible. In the case of scopes, you want the barrel and ends to be as close as possible without touching.
  • Stability – You need solidly mounted optics that don’t wobble, rattle, or shift. These can negatively affect accuracy and could end up damaging the optics.
  • Flexibility – Modern gun optics come with a lot of features and options, and that includes your optics mounting options. Some offer multiple types of connections to the weapon, allow for more customized positioning, or can be attached at different heights to allow for cowitnessing options.
  • Take-Down Speed – Despite advancements, some optics mounts are meant to keep the optics firmly in place while others offer easy take-down options that let you temporarily remove the optics for travel without completely uninstalling the mounts. 

Optics Mounting Types

  • Weaver/Picatinny 1913 – These two systems aren’t identical, but they are related. The Weaver Mounting system was one of the first mounts available for rifles to move the industry away from custom milling and professional-only installation. Consisting of a narrow rail with grooves along its length, once installed, scope rings that help the scope were then attached via recoil lugs or screws that fixed the position and absorbed the shock of firing the weapon before it could cause the scope to migrate. 

The related Picatinny 1913 design was adapted for high-powered weapons and military use, featuring larger, more robust recoil lugs. Products branded as compatible for both are, in fact, weaver optics mounting equipment, as the weaver lugs will work with Picatinny rails, but the converse is not true. These two rail-based systems remain popular with rifles, carbines, and a few large-frame pistols

  • DoveTail – Designed to replace the rear iron sights on the weapon, this mounting style was a popular way to avoid the custom milling that used to be prevalent for handguns. The optics slide into the dovetail slot on the frame, where they are securely held. This system has largely been replaced by more modern optics mounting options.
  • Factory Milling Patterns – As aftermarket gun optics became more popular, manufacturers began offering pre-milled slides and receivers straight from the factory. This gave gun owners more utility right out of the box and helped add value to their firearms. While long guns will frequently feature pre-installed rail systems that were nearing a universal status, handgun mount patterns tended to be almost tribal in nature, featuring a brand’s preferred footprint, screw hole, and socket patterns. Some, like the Trijicon RMR footprint or Glock’s MOS configuration, have seen wide adoption among manufacturers. 
  • Adapter Plates – In order to help bridge the gap between the gun you have and the footprint your preferred sight offers, adapter plates offer a firm connection, excellent accuracy, and the flexibility to make a variety of optics mounting patterns work on a single gun. 

Can We Get a (Co)Witness

Non-focusing optics, like both open and closed emitter reflex sights, offer you the ability to cowitness, which is where height configurations for your weapon can play a big role. Cowitnessing is the act of mounting optics in such a way that your iron sights remain visible in the field of view as an aid to aiming or as a backup in the case of sight failure. 

Four Gideon Optics products on a wooden shelf

Some reflex sights give you the option of absolute cowitness, lower ⅓ cowitness, or no cowitness depending on the placement of your gun optics in relation to the plane created by the top of your slide. The lowest mounting height allows absolute cowitnessing, which places your iron sights in line with your red dot reticle. The highest mounting option allows for no cowitnessing due to moving the iron sights completely out of your field of view. Finally, lower ⅓ cowitnessing places your sights in the bottom half of your red dot’s lens, available if needed and out of the way when not.

The Sights and Mounts You Need For Better Shooting

We don’t make your pappy’s gun optics because you ain’t shooting your pappy’s gun. Our innovative designs are made for modern firearms, and that includes making the most of the optics mounting options that let you do more with your weapons. Get the sights and scopes you need to shoot better when every round counts. Order your precision aiming devices and accessories from Gideon Optics today.

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