How Do You Determine Level?

I will admit that the title of this post may seem a little odd. These photos originated out of the UK. When I saw the pics at first, it was confusing. Initially it was relayed that the owner was, “leveling his scope”. But after looking at this contraption for a bit, I have come to think he was…maybe…trying to mount his scope AND level…his…levels? Not sure. The device is a new one for me. But it gives me a great opportunity to correct a common misconception about rifle scopes.

Standard Bubble Level on a scope.

Standard Bubble Level on a scope.

I will put it in terms of my own personal scope mounting experience.


1. Regardless of make, reticles don’t always match up perfectly with scope bodies and turrets. Think about that for a minute.

2. If looking though the glass at a crooked reticle, would you shoot it that way or naturally straighten it out in your grip?

Scope leveling and offset from barrel.

Scope leveling and offset from barrel.

3. Two shooters fire a scope that is crooked in the mounts and both hold them level when firing, what is the deviation between the point of impact for both?

4. The answer to point 3 is None. No deviation. Both will impact at the exact same place. This is true for 100 yards or 1000 yards.

Side view

Side view

5. If you are confused by 3, consider this: both reticles are level. And gravity doesn’t change.


You can hold the reticle level irrespective of what the bubble says.

You can hold the reticle level irrespective of what the bubble says.

Conclusion. I’m as OCD as the next shooter. And in my past I have been known to mount and level and remount. And level. And measure. And tweak scopes to a small level of madness. But here’s the deal. The only thing that matters is the reticle. NOT the scope body or turrets. Not the tools or bubbles. And once you achieve “level” in your mind’s eye, it can’t get, “more better”.


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Marky Mark

Marky Mark

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Writer for Co-Host of the John1911 Podcast. Video content provider for John1911-TV.

Areas of focus: Defense and National Security, Modern Light Weapons, Analysis of the Geo-political / Military Relationship in the Context of Strategic Goals.
Marky Mark

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  • Scott Mayer

    “4. The answer to point 3 is None. No deviation. Both will impact at the
    exact same place. This is true for 100 yards or 1000 yards.”


    • You are taking into account barrel / scope offset and angles which is obviously true. Especially when compared line for line on a mathemtaical drop table.

      The point I am making is if a shooter mounts a scope and manually confirms (shoots) his dope, on his rifle on that scope, out to 1000 yards, while holding the scope level; that dope is repeatable if someone picks up the same rifle rifle and shoots it while holding the reticle level.

      It may not match 100% what they think it should be compared to other rifles and typical drop tables.

      It is also a good idea to wring out some of this data by shooting ladders and box drills before one gets 1000 rounds deep into data building process.

      But I have seen too many instances where a shooter shows up with a moderately shot rifle and a usable DOPE set and a instructor looks through his scope and determines the reticle is slightly crooked and wants to start fiddling with the level.

      My argument is don’t F. with that person’s rifle! If he has confirmed dope, knows his dope including windage clicks, and holds the reticle level there is no problem.

      If the shooter knows HIS rifle, and HIS dope, and can get repeatable first shot hits on demand, there is no problem. This same concept is why organizations who issue precision rifles to individual users make them build their own personal confirmed DOPE set and not rely on the dope chart of the previous user.

      And in closing, we aren’t discussing a 15 degree cant are we? What’s level to one person, his hold, body type and brain is 1.5 degrees off for the next.


  • Daniel, God is my judge

    I recently mounted a scope with a bullet drop reticle and when I shouldered the rifle the verticle line on the reticle was canted. At that point my OCD kicked into high gear. I tweaked that scope probably a dozen times till It looked right when I shouldered the rifle. When the rifle was put in a perfectly verticle position the reticle was actually off a little, but when I shouldered the gun it was OK. Guess I’m just a little twisted.

    • Yes and no. Important points to consider. As much as companies try to have turrets cosmetically match the reticle, there is always some deviation. Think about numbers as infinite absolutes. How level is level? If zero cant is level? Then what about 0.1? Or 0.01 degrees?

      What I would do is focus on the reticle. Get THAT level. And get it level for YOU. Then shoot some ladder and box drills with it. Does it stay true? Or does it veer off the perpendicular? If the adjustments say vertical and horizontal and MATCH The reticle when held level, screw that turrets. They’s just knobs.


  • Joseph Ramon

    Saw an interesting thing on FB the other day.

    The guy used a light, shined it through the objective to project the reticle out the back on a wall.

    Level the rifle, plumb bob the reticle.

    It was interesting.

    • That is interesting. Never heard of that. Not sure why you can’t use look through your scope at a level without a flashlight?


  • Somebody on Facebook isn’t happy with my observation.

    When you compare the cost of that device to this item at the hardware store, you’ll be even less impressed.

    “An independent vertical reference for the reticle, independent of the scope body…”



    • Somebody is asking how to use a plumb level to mount your scope. Here is the answer:

      Get a thick string.
      If you want, paint it safety orange.
      Tie something very heavy to one end of string like a sand filled bag.
      We have used a big hunk of metal from a local hardward store.
      At any 100 yard range with a target stand, hang said string to a nail.
      Boom. Perfect vertical level to match your reticle on.

      PRO-Tip: May not work during a hurricane.

      PRO-TIP2. Pretty effective for the home user in his CASA.

      You’re welcome. —Marky

      • Outlaw

        I have seen the same method using a drink bottle filled with water, sand etc. for weight and a string. Anything that would help to hold the string vertical should be OK. As you mention Marky, firearm OCD is a bitch. I have it too sadly, or maybe happily, LOL.