Tactical Rings

Heavy construction “tactical” style rings for Weaver and Picatinny bases have become popular, partly because of the perception that these rings are fabricated to tighter tolerances and therefore have benefits compared to lighter weight rings. The tactical “look” usually includes Picatinny or Weaver rail mounts, thicker cross sections, four or more screws per ring, flat outer surfaces, hex nuts on the cross bolt, and matte black finish.

Fabrication processes include both machining from bar stock and aluminum extrusions. Machined rings indeed have tighter tolerances. Scope tubes, however, do not have such tight tolerances. In most cases, all tactical rings still must be lapped to match ring and scope diameters to each other, maximize ring contact area, and minimize stress.

Technical:

As long as the ring cylindrical mating surface is turned using the appropriate cutting tool and speed, matching the ring and tube diameters to within +/-0.005” is sufficient to achieve uniform contact over the entire diameter. Surface treatments and thermal effects will cause minor dimension changes and warping of any machined aluminum ring. Tighter radial machining tolerances provide little benefit and add unnecessary cost. If the diameters differ by more than 0.005”, the thick cross sections of most tactical rings may be too stiff to conform to the scope tube, forcing the tube to conform to the ring.

While the extruded aluminum tactical rings tend to have tighter dimensions, no extrusion process can match the accuracy and radial uniformity of machining. Surface smoothness is important only if you do not lap the rings. Lapping extruded rings removes surface non-uniformities, rendering them essentially equivalent to the more expensive machined rings. Note that the die used for the extrusion is expensive to fabricate. Extruded rings therefore don’t come in uncommon tube diameters, such as 34 and 35 mm.

Here we discuss some of the myths surrounding this type of ring design. While some of the myths are true some of the time, none are true all of the time. Some tactical ring designs are too rigid and will impart stress on the scope tube if the ring and tube diameters are not matched. Unless you have 34 or 35 mm scope tube, you have other options that cost less.

Myth #1: Precision tactical rings eliminate stress on the scope tube

This statement may be true for machined rings, but less so for extruded rings. Regardless of how precisely the rings were machined, the base can still cause the rings to be misaligned. For example, improper installation can produce a bent or twisted base. Lapping these rings is strongly recommended and will prevent mechanical stress from being imparted to the scope tube, even if the base is not straight. The premium cost of some of these precision machined rings is not justified when the rings are going to be lapped anyway.

Myth #1: Precision tactical rings eliminate stress on the scope tube

This statement may be true for machined rings, but less so for extruded rings. Regardless of how precisely the rings were machined, the base can still cause the rings to be misaligned. For example, improper installation can produce a bent or twisted base. Lapping these rings is strongly recommended and will prevent mechanical stress from being imparted to the scope tube, even if the base is not straight. The premium cost of some of these precision machined rings is not justified when the rings are going to be lapped anyway.

Scopes rings don’t need to be either steel or have thick cross sections to hold a point of aim (POA) to within ¼ MOA. Rings with lightweight construction can hold POA well if the bases are installed properly to minimize stress, and rings are well aligned and lapped. If the scope were subjected to a force large enough to bend the rings, for example by dropping the rifle, then it is likely the scope itself would be seriously damaged. Such POA shifts are far more likely to occur because of bending stresses applied to the scope tube. In all cases, lapping the rings is an essential step that insures the scope mount is stress-free.

Myth #2: Precision tactical rings hold point of aim better than standard rings

Myth #2: Precision tactical rings hold point of aim better than standard rings

Scopes rings don’t need to be either steel or have thick cross sections to hold a point of aim (POA) to within ¼ MOA. Rings with lightweight construction can hold POA well if the bases are installed properly to minimize stress, and rings are well aligned and lapped. If the scope were subjected to a force large enough to bend the rings, for example by dropping the rifle, then it is likely the scope itself would be seriously damaged. Such POA shifts are far more likely to occur because of bending stresses applied to the scope tube. In all cases, lapping the rings is an essential step that insures the scope mount is stress-free.

Myth #3: Precision tactical rings grip the scope better than standard rings

This is true to the extent that tactical rings are longer and use more screws to clamp the scope tube. The friction between the ring and scope tube is proportional to the contact area between the ring and tube, and the force applied by the screws. The contact area will be increased with precision rings as the rings are aligned properly. However, the same contact area can be achieved by lapping standard rings (assuming the rings have the same length).

The use of RingTrue™ tape, however, provides substantially higher contact area between the scope and tube. Even with heavy (30 oz) scopes in relatively thin (0.62”) rings on 50 BMG rifles, we’ve found that RingTrue™ tape prevents slippage when the rings are tightened to the proper torque value.

Myth #3: Precision tactical rings grip the scope better than standard rings

This is true to the extent that tactical rings are longer and use more screws to clamp the scope tube. The friction between the ring and scope tube is proportional to the contact area between the ring and tube, and the force applied by the screws. The contact area will be increased with precision rings as the rings are aligned properly. However, the same contact area can be achieved by lapping standard rings (assuming the rings have the same length).

The use of RingTrue™ tape, however, provides substantially higher contact area between the scope and tube. Even with heavy (30 oz) scopes in relatively thin (0.62”) rings on 50 BMG rifles, we’ve found that RingTrue™ tape prevents slippage when the rings are tightened to the proper torque value.

Our Top Picks:

If you have 1” or 30 mm scope tube, we recommend you buy quality extruded or machined aluminum tactical rings, and then lap the rings after mounting them. Lapping extruded rings makes them generally superior to machined rings. So why pay extra for machined rings? If you have a 34 or 35 mm scope tube, you have no choice but to buy machined rings. All machined rings should be lapped as well because the base could be bent or twisted.

We recommend aluminum rings of at least 0.62” length that use at least four screws to clamp the scope tube. The cap should have no large holes or slots to reduce weight. Instead, weight should be minimized by removing excess material in the lower half of the ring. The thicker cross sections of some tactical rings means that they will flex less when clamped around the scope tube. If the ring diameter is smaller than the scope tube diameter, the rings should be lapped even more to open them up a bit. Best results are obtained with rings that do not have excessively thick cross sections so that the ring will conform to the scope tube, and not visa versa.

Tactical rings vary in price from about $50 to $250. We feel it is unnecessary to spend more than $150 for a good pair of machined rings, and several machined tactical rings are available for around $100/pair. Select a manufacturer that supplies rings in a variety of heights.

Extruded Tactical Rings

A few tactical style, extruded aluminum rings meet our design criteria and offer good value (<$60/pair). They are available only for 1” and 30 mm scope tubes, however. They should be used only if they are lapped to remove surface striations from the extrusion process.

Examples include the Burris Xtreme Tactical and Weaver 6-hole Tactical models. The Burris Xtreme rings have a very thick cross section in the lower ring half and the tube diameter is slightly oversized by about 0.010”. The use of RingTrue™ tape reduces the oversize to about 0.005”, which nicely matches a wide variety of scope tubes.

While the Weaver 6-hole Tactical ring is 1” long, it has only 0.75” length of clamping surface on the cap. These rings run very close to 1.000” diameter and will not easily fit over scope tubes that are over 1.002” diameter. These rings must be lapped to insure a stress-free fit, especially if RingTrue™ tape is used.

Extruded Tactical Rings

A few tactical style, extruded aluminum rings meet our design criteria and offer good value (<$60/pair). They are available only for 1” and 30 mm scope tubes, however. They should be used only if they are lapped to remove surface striations from the extrusion process.

Examples include the Burris Xtreme Tactical and Weaver 6-hole Tactical models. The Burris Xtreme rings have a very thick cross section in the lower ring half and the tube diameter is slightly oversized by about 0.010”. The use of RingTrue™ tape reduces the oversize to about 0.005”, which nicely matches a wide variety of scope tubes.

While the Weaver 6-hole Tactical ring is 1” long, it has only 0.75” length of clamping surface on the cap. These rings run very close to 1.000” diameter and will not easily fit over scope tubes that are over 1.002” diameter. These rings must be lapped to insure a stress-free fit, especially if RingTrue™ tape is used.

Which machined tactical style rings do we like? Rings that come in a variety of sizes and heights and provide good value include, PRI Tactical, TPS HRT, Warne Mountain Tech and Seekins Precision.

Machined Tactical Rings

Machined Tactical Rings

Which machined tactical style rings do we like? Rings that come in a variety of sizes and heights and provide good value include, PRI Tactical, TPS HRT, Warne Mountain Tech and Seekins Precision.

Leupold Mark 4

 TPS HRT

 PRI Tactical

Valdata IOR Heavy Duty Tactical

Leatherwood Max-Trac

Warne Tactical