This post is covers the scope mounts and scope rings the best precision rifle shooters used in 2014. The data is based on a survey of the top 50 shooters in the Precision Rifle Series (PRS). The PRS tracks how top competitors place in major rifle matches across the country. These are the major leagues of sniper-style competitions, with targets typically in the 300-1000 yard range. For more info on the Precision Rifle Series and who these guys are scroll to the bottom of this article.
Scope Rings or One-Piece Mount?
This year we added a couple questions to the survey about what type of scope mount these rifle shooters were using. First, I was interested to see how many were using a one-piece mount compared to traditional scope rings. Here are the answers from the shooters that ended up finishing in the top 50 for the 2014 season:
2 out of 3 guys preferred scope rings over a one-piece mount.
Next, we asked what brand scope mount they used. Here is what the top 50 were using:
You can see Spuhr mounts were the most popular among these top-tier shooters, with the majority of those being their one-piece mounts. In fact, if a shooter was using a one-piece mount, there was more than a 60% it was a Spuhr. Another way to say that is if they weren’t using a Spuhr, it was a good bet they were using scope rings. Of all the shooters who finished in the top 50 for the 2014 season in the PRS, over 25% were using a Spuhr mount. That is a strong representation for such a diverse crowd, especially considering Spuhr has only been around a few years. They’ve certainly earned some respect in the precision rifle community, and have made a lot of believers.
Badger Ordnance was right there at the top as well, with 24% of the guys in the top 50 opting to use a Badger scope mount. Almost all of those shooters preferred Badger’s scope rings. Honestly, Badger being right at the top shouldn’t be a surprise. Badger has a reputation for making best-of-class precision scope rings for two decades!
Spuhr & Badger combined to represent 50% of the scope mounts at the Precision Rifle Series Championship Match. There are a lot of other outstanding mounts out there, but these two representing the majority makes quite a statement.
The next most popular scope mount was Seekins Precision scope rings. 7 competitors out of the top 50 were running these scope rings.
Nightforce scope rings were next on the list, with 5 of the best 50 precision rifle shooters in the country using either their rings or their one-piece Unimount. 4 out of 5 were using Nightforce rings.
After those, there were several others quality companies represented among these shooters, including:
- US Optics Scope Rings
- Vortex Scope Rings
- American Precision Arms (APA) Scope Rings
- TPS Products Scope Rings
- Bobro Engineering Scope Mounts
- Desert Tech Scope Mounts (formerly Desert Tactical Arms DTA)
- Global Defense Initiatives (GDI) Scope Mounts
Here is a little more info on the 3 most popular scope rings and scope mounts:
Spuhr is a fairly new company, which founded in 2007. Their most popular product in the precision rifle world is the Spuhr Ideal Scope Mount, and the patent on that product was filed in September 2010. Although that was barely 4 years ago, these mounts have already gained a sizable following. I remember a friend of mine stumbled on their website in 2012, and after he showed me … I’ve been personally using a Spuhr mount ever since.
From an engineering standpoint, they are brilliantly elegant. It is so well thought-out, with a ton of features packed into a streamlined and rugged product. Their Ideal Scope Mount System is a one-piece mount that is precisely machined from a single billet of aluminum, which means there is no need to lap the rings. The rings are perfectly aligned, which ensures more surface contact with the scope tube and also prevents stress on the scope tube, which can dent the tube, distort the reticle, and cause adjustment problems.
A level to check your rifle cant is required to achieve consistent hits at long-range. The Spuhr mount has a bubble level integrated into the rear of the mount that is easy to see from behind the rifle, yet doesn’t add any bulk. I personally don’t like the idea of attaching a ring-mounted level to my scope, because those typically need to stick out away from the scope to be visible, and if it gets hit or caught on something … it essentially becomes a lever that is applying mechanical force on the scope tube. Scopes are too expensive to be damaged by a cheap bubble level. This is a beautiful solution.
The rings on the Spuhr mount are cut at a 45 degree angle, which keeps the mount from obscuring the knobs. This makes it easy to see your exact adjustment with very little head movement.
The Spuhr mount also has built-in extensibility with attachment interfaces covering it for mounting accessories directly to the mount. This could include reflex sights, lasers, cosine indicators, picatinny rails, nightvision equipment, flashlight, etc. There are really no limitations to what can be attached. I’ve even seen an action camera mounted to a Spuhr. This just provides a lot of flexibility.
The clamping surface of the Spuhr mount is very wide. This helps ensure a solid grip, but also means they won’t work with every scope out there. They definitely work with most scopes, but if you have any doubts you might contact Spuhr directly and they can help you out.
Badger scope rings are recommended by a long list of precision rifle gunsmiths, including GA Precision. Think about it, if you worked really hard to build a tack-driving precision rifle … you want to ensure the customer gets the full benefit from it. If they use cheap/faulty scope rings, they often blame the resulting poor performance on your rifle! So I always put a ton of weight on the products the best gunsmiths recommend. GA Precision produces rifles “clinically proven” (and guaranteed) to shoot 3/8 MOA with factory match ammo … a bold claim about serious precision! GAP only sells one brand of scope rings … Badger Ordnance. Here is what GAP’s website says about Badger rings:
“Badger Ordnance Rings come in serialized sets and are some of the finest rings available. Specifically designed for use on weapons have the potential to get knocked around in tactical situations, at competitions, or while hunting in extreme environments.” – GA Precision
Badger scope rings are machined from steel barstock as serialized matched pairs. This assures that both rings are identical, and eliminates the damaging effects of mismatched mass produced rings.
You’ve probably heard of Seekins Precision. They machine a lot of high-quality products for precision rifles, but I was interested to learn that their rings are their flagship product. Here’s the story:
A 2004 deer hunt that was unsuccessful due to broken scope rings spurred Glen Seekins to develop a concept for rings that could withstand the elements of the Idaho mountains while weighing less than tactical steel rings. Drawing upon his mechanical design background, Glen returned from the hunt, fired up his CAD program, and spent the next few evenings designing Seekins Precision’s flagship product: SP Scope Rings. He took his design to the machine shop that employed him at the time, and together they manufactured the first set of rings. The design of the SP Scope Rings has not changed since it was first mounted on Glen’s hunting rifle.
When the rings became extremely popular in the local shooting community, Glen’s entrepreneurial spirit immediately went into overdrive. He continued to work as a mechanical designer by day, and by night, he trained himself on a rented Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machine and built scope rings. A few months later, Glen and his wife, Katie, took a leap of faith and purchased the machine, which they housed in their garage. By November of 2005, business had increased enough for Glen to leave his design job, and Seekins Precision became a full-time operation.
Seekins rings are precision CNC-machined from 7075-T6 aluminum billet, with the center lug of the picatinny mount machined in place. Seekins explains “this integral, flat recoil lug is far superior to cross bolt lug designs and fits precisely into Picatinny slots with minimal clearance.”
These rings are sold in serialized pairs “to the most exacting standards in the industry,” according to Seekins. They’re so confident in their precision, they tell customers their rings never need to be lapped or altered in any way. The Seekins rings are .8” wide (4 screw cap) and 1” wide (6 screw cap) to provide more clamping surface area than most other rings on the market. All edges are smoothed and radiused to make the ring snag free.
Overall, the Seekins Precision scope rings is a very clean and unique design, devised from the ground-up to be one of the most durable set of rings you can find.
Meet The Pros
You know NASCAR? Yes, I’m talking about the racing-cars-in-a-circle NASCAR. Before NASCAR, there were just a bunch of unaffiliated, regional car races. NASCAR brought structure by unifying those races, and created the idea of a season … and an overall champion. NASCAR identified the top races across the country (that were similar in nature), then combined results and ranked competitors. The Precision Rifle Series (PRS) is like NASCAR, but for rifle matches.
The PRS is a championship style point series race based on the best precision rifle matches nationwide. PRS matches are recognized as the major league of sniper-style rifle matches. At the end of each year, the scores from around 15 different national matches are evaluated and the top shooters are invited to compete head to head in the PRS Season Championship Match. We surveyed the shooters who qualified for the finale, asking all kinds of questions about the equipment they ran that season. This is a great set of data, because 50+ shooters is a significant sample size, and this particular group are also considered experts among experts. It includes guys like George Gardner (President/Senior Rifle Builder of GA Precision), Francis Kuehl, Wade Stuteville, the GAP Team, the Surgeon Rifles Team, shooters from the US Army Marksmenship Unit, and many other world-class shooters. Thanks to Rich Emmons for allowing me to share this info. To find out more about the PRS, check out What Is The Precision Rifle Series?
Other “What The Pros Use” Articles
This post was one of a series of posts that look at the equipment the top PRS shooters use. Check out these other posts:
- Calibers & Cartridges
- Tactical Scopes
- Scope Mount
- Rifle Actions
- Rifle Barrels
- Custom Rifle Stocks
- Reloading Components (Bullets, Powders & Brass)
- Muzzle Brake & Suppressor
- Shooting Bags
- Rifle Sling
just wondering, aren’t the Vortex rings rebadged Seekins rings?
That’s a great question. That is the first I’ve heard of that, but I don’t have experience with Vortex rings. After looking at the pics online, some of them look similar to Badger rings, some look similar to Seekins rings, and others look different.
The “precision” Vortex rings that look like Seekins rings are made by Seekins. So, in reality Seekins is right up there with Badger and Spuhr.
Well, some Vortex rings are made by Badger, some Seekins, and some another company. You can’t assume all of the Vortex rings were made by Seekins, but even if you did … It still would be less than those other two.
Just to be clear, I’m not saying Seekins aren’t as good as the others. Just trying to make sure your remarks didn’t confuse anyone. I’m sure they’re fantastic or NONE of these guys would use them. Very cool design for sure.
Thanks again for the excellent research and useful information. This is the best information on high end scopes and mounts on the internet. Keep up the great work!
Thanks, Tom! I enjoy looking at this data as much as anyone else. It’s like walking down the line at a match to check out everyone’s rifles, or walking around at a car show … just fun to see what everyone else is doing.
Are you going to touch on bases also? Love all of the articles.
The survey didn’t have any questions about what kind of base they were using. I believe most of these guys are using actions that have integral rails like the Surgeon or Defiance (aka GAP Templar). Those have 20 MOA of slope or cant built into them. I know a few guys use Bagder rails, but I’m not sure what percent or what other brands are represented. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.
Hey Cal, another very informative article, thank you. Do you have any info to hand on weights of the various ring/mount options. Yes I could track the information down on the manufacturer sites but you might save me some work 🙂
Thanks, George. Unfortunately I don’t have info on weights. I actually only own a couple Spuhr mounts and then USO rings, so I’d have to just look all that stuff up in the websites too. It’s not that I have any doubts about the others, I just personally prefer the one-piece Spuhr mount with the integral bubble level. Sorry I couldn’t be more help!
No problem Cal, thinking of a build in the new year and weight is one of my main areas of focus.
I hear you. I have every component of each of my rifles weight down to the ounce! Did all that before I ordered each of them. Constantly trying to strike the right balance between something lightweight I can carry and something with benchrest accuracy. Definitely competing design characteristics!
FYI: Vortex rings ARE Seekins rings.
Are you sure all Vortex rings are Seekins rings? Here is a screenshot of their rings:
I’m sure Seekins provides some, maybe most of the rings that are stamped Vortex … but are a positive that they are the only person that supplies all of those different rings?
Rings in the upper left are complete sh..t. Trust me, I’ve learn that hard way. They are heavy as hell, sharp on the edges to scratch my scope and kinda brittle — insert that fixes that ring on Picattiny rail just broke in half at me one day. Never have this problems on any rings before.
Wow, thanks for the tip.
hi Cal … question indicates barrett 35 inches / lbs… rings ….torque is very high….can break the tube of the scope?
That sounds excessive, but the mention of Barrett makes me think you’re shooting something bigger than what I’ve got. Nightforce recommends 25 inch/pounds, but most other scope companies are less than that. Leupold suggests 15-17. I bet it wouldn’t be too much, but I wouldn’t bet my Schmidt & Bender on that!
Seeking and Vortex and recoil of a 50 caliber rifle
Scope Mounts – What The Pros Use
Scope Rings or One-Piece Mount?
if you could know
steel, aluminum or alloy?
Sorry, I didn’t gather that when I was doing all the research this year, but I’ll try to remember to do it in next year’s comparison. You might just have to contact the manufacturers. Sorry I couldn’t be more help.
One thing to keep in mind when thinking of the Spuhr mount is it includes a level at the back of the mount. This can be good or bad. Good because you get that feature with your mount. Bad if you are using special bifocal contact like me with the close focus on the right eye and far focus on your left eye. With this setup, the bubble which is at the back of the Spuhr mount is too close for your left eye to focus on. Mounted a level on the scope as far forward as possible made the difference.
I also like the Seekings for their smooth snag free design. Not a fan of the AI, Badger, or NIghtforce design with the large nob on the side.
Thanks for the perspective Ed. I appreciate your comments.
Before I read this study I all but dismissed Badger rings for a silly reason. Every photo of Badger rings makes it look like the top and bottom don’t line up. Its like the top and base were made for two different sized tubes. Honestly, it’s enough to keep me from ordering online, which is my preference. What am I missing?
You got me, Pete. I’ve never noticed the top and bottom not lining up. Badger is a really well respected company, and their rings are widely used … even among the top shooters in the world. I believe the military may use Badger rings as well. They seem basic, but extremely durable. That is kind of Badger’s MO it seems. They don’t do a lot of innovative or complex things, but what they do is typically simple, durable, and executed really well.