QD Or Not QD Scope Mounts?

That Is The Question. Answer It Before Your Hunt!
; .

Wayne has only to flip two levers to “clear the deck” for open sight use of
this CZ 550 in .416 Rigby. It is scoped with a low-power variable in Alaska Arms rings.

Open sights on a Savage rifle in .338 Winchester sufficed for a 27-yard
shot at this Australian buffalo. In some cover, scopes are superfluous.
That’s partly why QD mounts appeared.

He had zeroed carefully. Checking at hunting camp two weeks later made little sense given the thick, dense foam in the case whose hard carapace would have endured a drop over Niagara. No baggage gorilla could defeat its envelope. But our professional hunter wanted proof so my pal settled in behind his Winchester, its fore-stock over a bag on the bench. The target was just 100 steps downrange.

The Shoot-N-C bulls-eye would have registered a hit instantly, so PH’s silence after the blast was unnerving. Unbelievably, the paper was clean. No hole anywhere.

“How did you feel?” purred PH, therapist of the moment. Soft diplomacy is arguably more useful than bellowing, “How on earth could you miss that? My kid could drill it with a slingshot!”

The second bullet also whiffed. PH rolled his eyes to the heavens.

My pal peered accusingly at his scope. He then noticed the front ring’s thumb lever had relaxed a quarter turn. It wiggled to his touch.


The Weaver rail under these four-screw vertical rings also accepts rings
that can be detached quickly — but return to original point of impact isn’t certain.

Elegant, and so tidy it seems barely adequate, this rail mount for a Blaser
scope fits it to a Blaser R8 by engaging notches in the hardened barrel surface.

In The Beginning

Quick-detachable scope mounts were common on hunting rifles when internal fogging, broken reticles and wayward W/E dials ensured a steady demand for iron sights. I’ve had QD mounts from Echo, Jaeger, Bausch & Lomb, Griffin & Howe and other popular post-war brands. Leupold hawked a Detacho Mount in the 1950s. Redfield had a Quick-Switch Mount that let the scope pivot on a pin-and-bushing hinge to the left, to clear the deck for iron-sight aim. Weaver’s Pivot Mount, which I’ve used, is similar.

Instant — or at least quick — options appeal as back-ups and fail-safe alternatives, but also because they afford us a choice. Instead of making do, we can have just the right sight. During my youth, scope mounts permitting use of iron sights and scopes were welcome comfort for both reasons.

Carry the logic forward and you get variable-power scopes, illuminated reticles and arc-matched elevation dials. Who doesn’t like choice?

“I don’t want a sight to move until it cries ‘Uncle’ under my screwdriver. Even W/E dials should resist. Why would anyone want to fret over a dial, screw or nut that might move unbidden?” Verily, no hunter has said this to me. I made it up. But plenty of hunters, I bet, have kicked themselves for installing QD or pivoting scope mounts. As when loading a pickup bed for back-country travel to hunting camp, you’re smart to assume anything on a rifle that can shift will, sooner or later.


The QD levers on these Alaska Arms rings lie horizontal after a quarter-turn
to lock position. The slim but sturdy rings are made to fit the receiver of Ruger’s
flagship Model 77 rifles (here an Alaskan).

Alaska Arms offers low QD rings for Ruger receivers. They match the stock and
natural alignment of iron sights on this Ruger Alaskan in .375 Ruger.

Tighten ’Er Down!

When long ago I cinched 40-ton loads to the bunks of a ’63 Peterbilt, I heaved mightily on the chain tighteners. The logs would squirm and shuffle and settle as the 335 Cummins tugged the tag axles over bumpy forest roads. A few miles on, and certainly before the pavement, I’d exit the cab, slip a pipe over the binders for leverage and give them another bite into the pine.

Checking those loads made driving more pleasant. Likewise, confidence in your rifle, sight and ammunition affects your shooting. You’re more relaxed when you’re sure those elements will perform as expected so you can focus on the target and shot execution.

These days, with most bolt rifles devoid of iron sights, QD mounts might seem pointless. On the other hand, irons still make sense on rifles for dangerous African game, and scopes help aging eyes aim those rifles at antelopes far across the veldt. Detachable scopes, even take-down rifles, can be easier to transport by air to distant game fields. And, scopes on some switch-barrel rifles ride the barrel so a QD mount lets you fit one scope to multiple barrels in the field.


The fiber optic bead on this Sauer rifle in 9.3x62 is adjustable for
windage but securely fixed for the hunt. An excellent sight for a big
game rifle when the QD rings come off!

Riding The rails

Picatinny rails have made scope attachment easy on AR rifles and come standard on a growing number of turn-bolts. In my rack, a QD mount by Wilson Combat straddles the rail on a Wilson AR in 6mm Creedmoor. But the twist of a knob loosens its grip, and in seconds I can secure it on another rail.

You’re always smart to check zero, but I’ve found steel rails and machined steel rings help return shots to or very near the original point of impact. Alloy rails and stamped metal can be less faithful and the more parts in the attachment, the more shift is possible.

QD rings by Talley, Leupold and Alaska Arms have short levers lying tight inside the curve of the scope rings to prevent hanging up in brush or a scabbard or getting bumped loose. I much prefer these to levers with longer wings.

Talley and Leupold QD rings are widely hailed not only for their handsome form, but their close-tolerance machining. Alaska Arms rings are also CNC-cut from steel bar stock to fit scopes snugly. Skin-tight contact ensures the tube won’t slip when recoil from your .465 Rimless Mastodon compresses your eye socket and sends hairline fractures through your clavicle.

To make certain the scope remains in place and unmarred, Alaska Arms furnishes friction paper liners. Trim, with clean detailing reminiscent of old Tilden scope bases, each Alaska ring hugs the tube with a split band .700 wide snugged by four Allen screws. Levers on the rings secure or release the scope with a quarter-turn. “No loss of zero.” Credit 35 years machining parts for aerospace and medical application, as well as the shooting industry. Semi-gloss black finish complements brushed stainless or blued steel.

Low, medium and high, for 1″ and 30mm tubes, Alaska Arms rings are built to fit recessed Ruger and CZ receivers. Given the stocks on Ruger and CZ rifles — and the slender scopes I prefer — rings from Ruger and CZ seem to me a tad high. Low Alaska rings on my .375 Ruger Alaskan rifle put a 1-4x Nikon Monarch a smidge above iron-sight line. Perfect!


QD levers should be short and snag-resistant. Here Alaska Arms rings grip the
1" tube of a Nikon variable. Alaska rings are furnished with friction paper inserts
to protect and secure the scope.

Top Of The Heap

The most remarkable QD scope mounts I’ve seen are made by the German firm of Blaser for its R8 and previous R93 straight-pull rifles. The rings are joined by a slim bar below, which is clamped to small dimples or notches in the hammer-forged barrel. Plasma nitriding makes the barrel’s exterior very hard. Instead of levers, the base has folding tabs snugging it to the barrel. Tucked under the scope, these are almost impossible to snag.

Blaser rings fit so precisely, I was told: “You can remove the scope and replace it without losing zero.” Given the rings’ modest barrel contact, I doubted at first they would even hold a scope on barrels bored for the R8’s stoutest cartridges, which include the mighty .500 Jeffery!

A test seemed in order. I’d been firing an R8 in .300 Winchester at a pail filled with chalky Texas rock 600 yards distant. After a series of hits, I removed the Zeiss 6-24×56 — a heavy scope with plenty of inertia. Then I set it back on the barrel and snugged the mount using only my finger and thumb. With the hold I’d used before in the light 9-o’clock breeze, I pressed the trigger. Blam! A jet of chalk dust from the pail preceded the smack of impact. Two more 600-yard hits proved this return to zero was for real!

As with bases and rings secured by multiple screws turned by wrenches, much more is asked of QD scope mounts now than was the case when the standard scope was an 11-oz. 2-½x Lyman Alaskan.


Folding tabs on Blaser’s thumb-screws dodge anything that might snare them.
Hand-tightened, they defy even magnum recoil.

Supersize Glass

Over the last five years, shooters have flocked to 50, 52 and 56mm front lenses, on tubes grown past 30mm to 34 and 35mm. In 2017 the Zeiss Victory V8 appeared with a 36mm tube. As a 4.8-35×60, it weighed 34 oz. Schmidt & Bender’s P/M 5-25×56 with 34mm tube scaled 37, as did Leupold’s Mark 8 3.5-25×56, with 35mm tube. Nightforce’s 40-oz. Beast, a 34mm 5-25×56, was half a pound lighter than the 34mm 4.5-27×56 Vortex Razor HD.

Custom rifle-makers have endured with mixed response the onslaught of heavier glass. It’s borne much more ably by beefy long-range rifles — for which it’s arguably appropriate — than by svelte walnut-stocked sporters and the carbon-fiber clan of “mountain rifles.” D’Arcy Echols has told me his customers can be hard to nudge toward lighter, more useful scopes on his exquisite bolt-action hunting rifles. “Cost and power seem deciding factors,” he says. “The more expensive a scope and the higher its magnification, the better it must be.”

Clients with bottomless pockets but limited field experience have insisted on scopes weighing nearly half as much as rifles as light and trim and well-balanced as D’Arcy’s skills and modern components can make them. “Rings obligingly move with the rifle when jerked by recoil. A heavy scope, however, wants to remain where it is — especially when recoil is sharp as a karate blow from Zeus. Recoil can slip the rings on the tube, or test the union of rings and base, or base and rifle. The higher and more complex the mount, the less enthusiasm I have for installing ponderous scopes. And I have little enthusiasm for them to begin with.”

Besides, he agrees, hunting rifles handle better and are easier to shoot accurately with scopes of modest weight and magnification.


Wayne found return to zero adequate for 600-yard hits on an 8" target! This
excellent aperture sight by New England Custom Gun quickly replaces a QD
ring in the machined pockets of a Ruger 77 receiver.

High Point

Scope weights may have hit a plateau, even as “digital intelligence” comes to optics. Swarovski’s dS, introduced in 2019, is a 5-25×52 scope with a heads-up display and a 40mm tube — but weighs “just” 38 oz. You program the dS, adding load data with your smart phone. Press a button to read the range. The illuminated aiming point is then also correct for the power setting, temperature, atmospheric pressure and shot angle. And wind speed, should you care to add it.

A scope like the DS would seem oddly paired with iron sights, or perched on an interchangeable barrel. I’ve yet to see one in a QD mount, other than atop a Pic rail. But the lean to more powerful, more sophisticated sights is inexorable.

Still, there’s a place for smaller scopes and iron sights, and for mounts that make both quickly available. Mostly, this place is where you’ll find big game hiding from the hunters peering through big glass at empty meadow and veldt.

Just take a moment, now and then, to check those QD levers.

Subscribe To GUNS Magazine

Purchase A PDF Download Of The GUNS Magazine April 2023 Issue Now!