Easy DIY Method For Leveling A Scope Reticle

scope level 2

Tony of Kahntrol.com posted a clever method for leveling a reticle in a scope. He goes on to explain that due to errors in assembly the reticle could be slightly off. There could be errors in the machining of the scope body for those who use scope levelers like the Spuhr or Arisaka leveling kits.

Tony’s method is to use a white background and a plumb line. He taped a white piece of paper and hung a plumb line in front of it. He puts the butt of the stock in front of the paper and as close to the plumb as possible without touching it. Then he shines a bright flashlight into the objective of the scope. He focuses the eyepiece to show a crisp reticle shadow on the white piece of paper. Now he can adjust the scope to get the reticle to be parallel with the plumb line.

Go here to read his article.

It is such an easy way to make sure the reticle is straight. I think I will go check my scope now.

scope level



Nicholas C

Co-Founder of KRISSTALK forums, an owner’s support group and all things KRISS Vector related. Nick found his passion through competitive shooting while living in NY. He participates in USPSA and 3Gun. He loves all things that shoots and flashlights. Really really bright flashlights.

Any questions please email him at nicholas.c@staff.thefirearmblog.com


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  • Wolfgar

    I have always used a plumb line to level my scopes. I do it at the rifle range bud it works perfectly. I thought this was common knowledge.

    • ExMachina1

      As do I but the method here is actually quite clever and compact.

    • allannon

      It kinda is, but this is a new way of doing it that might be a little easier if you’re around the house anyway. Projecting the retical onto a backing, that is.

  • derfelcadarn

    This seems a very practical idea and is no doubt effective. The issue is that this situation should not be presenting itself at all. At present I own two scopes from known manufacturers that have this problem, why is it so difficult to build them correctly ? One maker told me to live with it. Nothing screams BUBBA louder than a quality rifle with the scope canted to accommodate crappy quality control. Hell, may as well hold the rifle on it side and shoot like I growed up in the hood. There is a word for this and its initials are BS.

    • Zach Haag

      If your buying guns with scopes mounted from the factory a slight cant is the least of your worries lol

  • Theo Braunohler

    Since this method is based on the assumption that the counter top and bipod legs are level anyway, it seems like a lot less trouble to just point it at a window or door, look through the scope and match the reticle to the window or door’s edge.

    • Sam

      The article linked says he uses a level to make sure the rifle is sitting flat. This seems like a cool way to double-check you work afterwards, but… errors in the scope body or assembly? What brand optic is this guy buying?

      I just use an ultra-cheap level I bought at Home Depot… it was like $3. Check the rifle. Check the scope. Tighten. Recheck. Done.

      • NDS

        Leupold Mk4 scopes (generally considered nice) have up to a 3 degree “acceptable” reticle cant before their shop will RMA for repair… That’s a lot.

        I use the level method as well to square the scope to the rifle, then use a plumb bob to track the optic from min to max elevation. You’d be surprised how many “nice” optics have quite a bit of windage drift!

        • Sam

          Dang I had never heard of this. Interesting.

    • Christian Hedegaard-Schou

      The counter and bipod legs don’t have to be level as long as the rifle receiver is level. With a level receiver, then the scope will be leveled relative to that, and that’s all that matters.

  • SidViscous

    Umm is the purpose of leveling the reticle to satisfy your OCD, or to put the vertical axis in line with the adjustment axis and the drop of the bullet drop due to gravity. All well and good if your reticle is flat to an imaginary line, but nothing in the real world, except gravity, necessarily follows that line, so not much relevance.

    What you want to do is show that the reticle follows the adjustment top to bottom and side to side, now as a user of a consumer scope you don'[t have the ability to adjust that reticle, but if you adjust from top to bottom, find out what the error is (if any) then bissect that error at mid of adjustment you’ll be much better off.

    • Lemdarel

      I think maybe the article is a little hazy on the intent. The goal is to make sure your reticle and scope mounted bubble level are true to each other. That way when you’re in the field or on the range, by using that bubble level, you know that any vertical hold you have is truly vertical.

      Now regarding how true the turret tracks, once the reticle and rifle are leveled you can test it properly. Simply keep the rifle level, and turn the elevation turret. If the motion is straight up and down, then you know the turret and reticle coincide. If the elevation turret also induces movement side to side, then you know to send the cope back to the manufacturer.

    • Sam

      Wait… are you confused as to why you want your scope aligned correctly? It’s not OCD to want your scope mounted correctly. If it’s canted, your adjustments won’t be right/left, up/down. You’d be going in all sorts of weird diagonals.

      • Soless

        That’s not so. Granted it is easier to have everything line up level when using a bubble level so that you’re consistently shooting with the reticle oriented the same way. You can cant the scope however you want. You just have to be consistent while you’re shooting or you’re adjustments are going to be miscalculated.

        • John Daniels

          Sam is right. If your reticle is canted relative to your receiver, when you put on a few clicks of elevation, you’ll also be getting a little bit of accidental windage. Out at long distances, that will cause problems.

          • Soless

            Adjustments are relative to the reticle. If you purposefully mount the scope canted at 30°, you can still aim with a level crosshair but your rifle will be canted. Any necessary adjustments will not be made relative to the receiver. Gravity isn’t going to change its direction of pull because you’re holding your rifle sideways.

          • John Daniels

            I think there must be something fundamental that you don’t understand. If your reticle is canted relative to the receiver, and you shoot with your reticle leveled, then the line of the bore will be both below the scope as normal, and also to the left or the right. This will cause serious misalignment issues at distance.

            There are designs, most from the former Soviet bloc nations, that have the scope mounted above and to one side, which would produce the same effect. These designs are dialed for distance, and then a separate windage compensation must also be used to deal with the X-axis misalignment by either holding off for windage in the reticle, or dialing windage. Essentially, the ballistic chart for such arrangements requires two sets of adjustments for different distances, before bringing in environmental factors such as wind, spin drift, etc.,

            Keeping the scope over the bore, and the reticle level with the receiver requires only one adjustment: elevation.

          • Soless

            You’re absolutely right.

  • Xeno Da Morph

    …..

  • Deon Storm

    Seems to me a lot simpler to just get a Segway Reticle Leverer. I have used it a lot and it works for me.

  • Chuck fin

    If the retical is canted inside the scope the clicks will be off, cause you’ll rotate the whole scope and the reticle will be moving ever so slightly diagonal

  • Markbo

    One thing not touched on in article or comments is bench vs shouldered. For me personaly, they are NOT the same. If I am leveling a hunting gun that I will be shooting offhand or even off the small ledge of a blind window, that is how I adjust the reticule. I see no benefit to buy a tool or even use a level for eiter one. If the receiver is 1-2° off when on the bags (& probably more on the shoulder) the reticule is adjusted to horizontal from there using a plumb line or most often a door jam.

  • Looks like a fairly simple operation. I didn’t realize there were so many issues with scope reticles being out of cant. I am sure this method works, but some of the other suggestions here in the comments seem like they would be much less time consuming and at least equally, if not more, accurate.