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How to Measure Scope Height?

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Did you know the height of your scope is important to calculate DOPE?

Wait, what?

DOPE stands for Data on Previous Engagement and is often used by military snipers when shooting long-range to set up your rifle and scope correctly. 

Consider it a field manual for quick and easy windage and elevation calibrations.

But first, you need the scope height. And measuring scope height isn’t as easy as using a measuring tape, well, at least not if you want pinpoint accuracy. Thankfully, it isn’t too tough either.

After working with 100+ scopes across various brands in a career that has spanned over 25+ years, here are my favorite techniques to measure the scope height correctly and accurately. 

Ways to Measure Scope Height

Method 1: Using a Measuring Tape or Caliper (Ideal for Beginners)

Let’s start with one of the easiest methods on the block that works well if you need a rough estimate. That’s because it isn’t 100% accurate (something I already mentioned above)

Simply measure the distance between the center of the scope or the scope rings to the center of the barrel using a measuring tape or a caliper (for more accurate readings) and voila, you’ll have an estimate in less than 15 seconds.

But I’d say an estimate only because it lacks the accuracy that you get with the other methods and thus, should not be used by professional snipers.

Another good and slightly more accurate method for beginners and semi-professionals is the next one.

Method 2: Cleaning Rod Method 

The cleaning rod method isn’t 100% accurate either but will give you a much closer estimate than the first method. 

Firstly, detach the bolt of your rifle. Now, using the cleaning rod find out the center point of the barrel. 

Once you know that, you just need to measure the distance between the center of the cleaning rod to the center of either the scope or the scope rings. I’d say it’s about 90% + accurate.

If you do not have a cleaning rod I‘d suggest you get the Hoppe’s Bench Rest Stainless Steel cleaning rod. That is because it is a universal cleaning rod that is compatible with most rifles and shotguns. Plus, it will cost you less than $10. 

And lastly, even though cheap, its stainless steel build makes it pretty durable and if used carefully, it will easily last you for years not just helping you measure scope height but also keeping the barrel clean and tidy for accurate aims.

Now let’s dig into our third method which is the most accurate of all but keep in mind, it does require some calculations and all. So put on your thinking caps and get a calculator if you are as bad at math as me. 

Here’s what you need to do

Method 3: Using the scope height formula (Most Accurate)

For professional snipers, this is the method I’d most recommend due to its accuracy but yes, it isn’t the easiest so make sure you give it ample time and practice it regularly to get better and quicker with the calculations.

Step 1: Firstly, you need to measure the bolt diameter and divide it by 2. That’s because we only need half of it for the calculations. Don’t try and measure half straight away as an inaccurate reading can lower accuracy. 

Step 2: Next up, measure the scope diameter. Once again, we only need half of it so divide even this with 2.

Step 3: Now measure the distance between the bottom end of the scope to the top of the bolt.

Step 4: Lastly, add all the figures from steps 1, 2, and 3.

Let’s say, for example, the bolt diameter is .25 after dividing it by 2 and the scope diameter is .50 while the distance between the bottom and top of the bolt is .75.

That gives us .25 + .50 + .75 = 1.5 which is the height of your scope. This method works well especially with Remington 700 and the Leupold Mark 4 M1 ( a combination worth your money). 

You want all the measurements to be accurate, right? Then a measuring tape isn’t going to cut it here. I’d suggest you use a digital caliper like that from Mitutoyo Store

Their standard model is priced at less than $150 and is one of the most accurate calipers on the market with an LCD screen showing you all the measurements. 

One of the reasons for its accuracy is the use of an electromagnetic inductive sensor along with an advanced onsite sensor. These sensors are also protected from dust, dirt, and oil to ensure the caliper continues to deliver accurate results even after years of use.

If you have a higher budget, there are also plenty of other combinations to opt for rather than just the caliper so don’t forget to check it out. Do not opt for cheap calipers as accuracy in measurements is the deciding factor here and cheap calipers aren’t always accurate.

What Scope Height Do I Need?

What Scope Height Do I Need?

This is another question a lot of you ask when it comes to scope height. I’d say anything between 1.5 inches to 1.8 inches is good enough with1.5 being the ideal height. 

Yes, less is more here except for some tactical applications that require more height (I’ll mention a few below). 

The reason being that a lower mounted scope gives you better picture quality, in turn, making your shots more accurate.

Another reason for mounting scopes lower is that it makes usage for long hours more comfortable due to the placement of cheek rest. An uncomfortable position can also impact accuracy as you fatigue. To prevent this, the more premium scopes feature an adjustable cheek rest that gives you more flexibility.

One of the times you need the scope to be mounted higher or have more height is when you are using a powerful round and a scope that isn’t too long as it will have a stronger recoil. This, in turn, can seriously damage the scope rendering it useless.

Scope diameter also impacts the scope height. 40mm is the diameter you will commonly come across. These scopes come with low mount rings that give you the freedom to mount the scope at lower height, except for when you use heavier barrels that render low scope rings useless.

50mm scopes are the next most popular scopes. And while they give you better light transmission for better visuals in any lighting condition, they have to be mounted higher. 

The lesser the diameter, the lower the scope can be mounted.

But whatever the height, the one thing you need to ensure is that there is no contact between the scope and the barrel of other parts of your rifle or shotgun.

My Final Verdict

That’s pretty all there is to measuring the scope height correctly. Using calipers and formulas is hands down the best technique on the list in terms of accuracy (something even professional snipers use).

You can use methods 1 and 2 if you are a beginner and just need a close estimate. If you don’t have a caliper, use a measuring tape or a ruler but calipers are the more accurate choice and worth investing in if you are serious about upping your game.

In case you have any questions on how to measure scope height, hit me up in the comments section below. You can also write to me via the contact page for more details.

Also, feel free to let me know if there are other techniques to measure scope height.

About Author

James Towndrow, a NRA-certified Firearms Instructor. During a career of 18 years had won several shooting competition including major leagues. Taking all those experience down the road, is now a successful Shooting Instructor in Texas, US.


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