There are some days when I love my side job. Getting to review interesting and useful equipment has its advantages. In this case, I had just ordered a new scope for my old .22-250 varmint rifle and needed to mount it. There in the mail was a product for review that was going to help me do it and from the looks of it, do it with out any guesswork or hassle! Timing could not have been better and I didn't even ask them to send me this product for review. I think the word is serendipity but I'll be damned if I actually know how to use it. Whatever the proper use, this discovery was certainly fortuitous for me.
This particular rifle is a Remington 700 VS with an IOR 20 moa M1913 Picatinny rail and 30mm Tactical Rings. The scope replacing the old unit is a new Bushnell Elite 4200 6-24x with a mil-dot reticle. I had mounted the tapered base in anticipation of needing the extra elevation, since the Elite 4200 6-24x only has something like 26 moa of internal adjustment. Fine for bench rest but a bit wanting for field use. As I do for all my rifles, I lapped the rings in and thankfully, very little was needed . In went the 1" inserts and on went the scope. Now for the fun part.
Much ado has been made about leveling a scope to a rifle for precision shooting. I am neither an expert on this issue nor even remotely knowledgeable. I can only repeat what I am told by the rocket scientists who happen to shoot. I will leave it to smarter minds to state specifically just how having the reticle slightly off center can effect your shot at long range. All I know is that to leave a reticle unleveled means the bullets will walk left or right of point of aim at long range and we cannot have that now, can we? I make every effort to make sure my reticle is as level to the rifle as possible. Both in the vertical (centerline of the bore) and horizontal. I have several gadgets for this chore but all of them lack one thing. A way to verify your effort via a true vertical plane somewhere in the field of view downrange. I can recall sitting in a hotel in 1998 at the Prairie Dog Conference, setting this rifle up by using the wall of a gas station a few hundred yards away. It worked in a pinch, but I always wondered just how true that wall ran and if I got my rifle really level sitting in the rest.
In steps PPA Manufacturing Company of Kenton Ohio with the Precision Three Axis Scope Leveler . At first glance one instantly and intuitively understands how this setup functions. Being a typical guy, I didn't even bother reading the directions and in a minute had everything set up. Realizing I am a typical DUMB guy, I THEN went over the direction to make sure I had set the system up correctly and sure enough, I missed one important thing. Score one for the NPISA (the national printers of instruction sheets association), who would by now have gone bankrupt if things were as simple as every guy thinks they are.
But I digress. The Precision Three Axis Scope Leveler consists of two major parts. A bubble level that is affixed to the top of your scope base and an adjustable "target" that is placed down range to visually align the reticle. The level placed on the rifle consists of a 4" aluminum bar with a bubble level at one end. To this is affixed a wide rubber band which wraps around the rifle stock. You place the bar on top of the scope base, bring the band down and around the stock to the other side of the bar. You then affirm that the bar is sitting flush and flat on the scope base. If your scope base is mounted cock-eyed, you will have to find another flat surface to affix the bar. But even on a rounded surface you can fudge the bar a bit until you have a level reading by tweaking the rubber band. Once in place, the bubble level is easily viewed off to one side when you take a normal shooting position at the stock. Level the rifle now on a rest. Sand bags or a bench rest work equally well.
The second part of the kit is the down range target. It consists of a 14" long golden arrow shaft with a bubble level on top, mounted to a triangular Plexiglas base. The base has three legs. Two are adjustable. You place the target 15 to 30 feet downrange or further, whatever distance allows you to bring the target into clear focus in your rifle scope. By using one or both of the adjustable legs, and with the non-adjustable leg of the triangle pointing at your rifle, you level the arrow shaft. You now have a perfectly vertical surface with which to align your reticle.
In use, you simply get behind your rifle, making sure that the rifle mounted bubble level is reading level and, looking through the scope you rotate the scope tube until the vertical cross hair is aligned exactly with the vertical target. Carefully tighten the scope cap screws and call it a day. No guessing. No playing around trying to make sure you are seeing what you think you see. Its fast and simple.
What this kit has over every other scope leveling system I have tried is that the target does away with any need for visual interpretation. I have another system that can be considered the industry leader for this kind of work, but it required the user to match what he saw in the reticle with a card of horizontal stripes affixed to the rifle, just forward of the ocular bell on the scope. Your brain can, with fair precision, line up the reticle with the stripes but I never felt I was getting a perfectly horizontal match between the horizontal cross hair and the horizontal strips on the card. Close, not never quite perfect in my mind.
The PPA Mfg, CO. Precision Three Axis Scope Leveler, for only a few dollars more, offers a much more positive alignment system. While it is not small enough to keep in a go anywhere field kit, it is definitely small enough to keep in your range box. The idea behind the product is brilliant in its simplicity and execution and the retail price, at $36.95 is only $9 to $13 more than lesser systems. It is the kind of tool that once you own, you will find yourself using over and over again as you pull out your rifle collection to verify just how level a job you did on the collection prior to the purchase of this system. It's a keeper and has our recommendation.