How to Mount Your Dot Sight on Your Rifle

After purchasing a red dot sight its typically left up to the shooter to install it on their rifle or carbine. This usually isn’t a hard task for anyone to complete, but there is some important things to keep in mind when doing it. The end goal is a solid mount that holds the sight’s zero and positions it in the perfect spot. Below we’ll discuss what it takes to achieve this.

Getting Familiar With the Components

When talking about mounting optics it helps to first be familiar with the two main components involved in the process – the rail and the locking mechanism.

Any modern tactical rifle should likely be outfitted with a rail system that runs along the top of the upper receiver and sometimes through the fore end. Rails act as the anchor point that accessories like sights can be attached to – They consist of repeating spacing slots and ridges that the accessories’ locking mechanism can catch onto for a solid connection. There are two industry standard rail systems typically in use today – Picatinny rails and Weaver rails. Both share a common design but there are slight variations in spacing and standarizations between them, so they’re not fully compatible. Sights designed for Weaver rails generally will fit on Picatinny rails, but the opposite isn’t true. So when shopping for a sight, be sure to find one that matches your rail system.

Mounting Location

Figuring out the best spot to place your sight on the gun’s rail is key to good shooting performance. The trick is to find a location that isn’t too forward or too rear, but is just right for optimal aiming.

One mistake shooters commonly make is mounting their optic too close to the rear of the gun. This may be holdover behavior from being used to running a magnified optic, where eye relief often determines where they can be placed – typically a few inches in front of they eye.

However, since a red has infinite eye relief, meaning it remains in focus at any distance, there’s no need for it to be cramped up in your field of view. In fact, placing it too close to the shooting eye makes for poor peripheral vision and situational awareness when scanning for targets. Similarly, if you’re utilizing a tandem magnifier, then the sight will have to be placed more forward as well.

At the other extreme, some shooters prefer to have the sight mounted as far forward on the rail as possible. While this does work for some people its typically not recommended. Especially if you’re running a non-monolithic upper receiver – the sight is more prone to lose its zero from the slight shifting that happens to the fore end while shooting. The other downside to this location is that it makes the sight the last thing to come into your sight picture as you raise the gun up into your sight line.

With all this in mind, the best location for mounting becomes the forward portion of the upper receiver – its a balanced spot that alleviates the issues caused by having it at either extreme. Here the sight will give you an un-obscured field of view, and its also the most rock solid part of the platform, so you won’t lose a zero. The front of the upper is also the natural balance point that the gun rotates around when raising it into sightline, so the optic is in the perfect position to be the first thing your eye catches.

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