How Does Recoil Affect Accuracy On A Rifle Scope

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Having a quality rifle scope has a direct relationship to accuracy, so how does recoil affect accuracy on a rifle optic? Recoil forces do put wear and tear on the frame of the rifle, and it also adds stress to other components such as rifle optic.

Most rifle optics supposed to be recoil proof. I was curious to find out how exactly recoil affects the internals of a rifle optic after each shot. I did tons of research and here is what I found:

Recoil and Counter Recoil could affect the accuracy of a rifle optic through violent recoil impulse, which results in internal damage and loss of zero.

  • The bad erector tube assembly can throw off the zero of an optic when experiencing recoil
  • Shooting heavy recoil caliber rounds using poor quality scope will cause damage
  • Improper mounting of a rifle scope can have a negative effect on accuracy

How Does Rifle Scope Behave Under Recoil

Recoil is the rearward force momentum equal to the forward momentum of the projectile and gas exiting the barrel. Per Newton’s third law, every action has an equal and opposite reaction; the recoil momentum is transferred throughout the entire rifle system. Under slow-motion footage, you can see the scope vibrate and flex during a recoil cycle.

What Does Counter-Recoil Do To Optic

Counter recoil is momentum needed to halt the rearward motion of the gun. For a bolt action rifle or a pump shotgun, the shooter’s forward-leaning act as the counter-recoil. Another example of counter-recoil is semi-automatic firearms such as the AR15. The buffer spring counters the rearward motion of the bolt, and it resets.

How Erector Tube Affects Optic Accuracy

The erector tube contains the magnification lenses and reticle elevation and windage adjustments assembly. It’s between the focus lens and the objective lens.

It is held against the elevation and windage adjustment screws, and the turret knobs directly move the assembly when the shooter makes the click adjustments. The optic’s ability to hold elevation and windage zero heavily relies on it.

Recoil force can knock the erector tube loose or shift. This is why recoil can kill a low-quality scope the majority of the time.

Pay attention because if this part is low quality, then the accuracy of the scope will have a negative effect under heavy recoil.

4 Important Scope Qualities That Maintain Accuracy

Modern optics are well built, and some of them are rated to handle the hardest recoil force. Unlike cheap optics where they get destroyed easily, and that’s why people buy expensive scopes, and you can read about it by clicking on the link here.

Precision optics require microscopic tolerance absolutely perfect alignment and delicate components.

Tiny screws that hold internal components together are critical in the longevity and reliability of the optic.

If a click adjustment is 1/8 MOA, that means it has to be certain it’s precisely 1/8 MOA no matter if it’s freezing cold or super hot, after thousands of heavy recoil shots, or even after years of hard use.

A durable optics can confidently deliver that performance and reliability with no problem. Check out what best long-range scopes under $1000 that professionals are using here

  1. Four-point, dual-spring system for precision alignment of the erector tube
  2. The specialized bulge on the erector tube, to create broad pressure ridge, maintain contact at the center of the adjustment screw
  3. Two-spring design to maximizes forces uniformly throughout windage and elevation adjustment range.
  4. High-quality materials to withstand heavy recoil

Loss Of Accuracy Indicators Due To Recoil

  • Loose Coarse threads due to repeated heavy recoil. Eventually, you will hear something rattling in your rifle scope
  • Inconsistent shot groups even if you have a solid mount.
  • The position markings of the scope or the mount have shifted

How Does Scope Mount Help Prevent Recoil Damage

We briefly talked about the importance of optic quality and the erector tube assembly. First, you need a high-quality optic, the next thing you need is to pair it with a durable mount. The optic mount is the first contact point between the optic and the rifle’s mounting platform.

When the projectile leaves the barrel, the kinetic energy behind it will create the rearward momentum. The greater the overall weight of your optic setup, the greater inertia (the mass, aka the tendency of a body to resist acceleration) it will have.

Depend on the weight of your optic setup, the entire optic system including the mount will resist the sudden rearward movement. Therefore a lightweight, super stronger mount is the best way to combat unwanted scope movement during recoil.

The tremendous recoil force produced by large caliber is transferred directly to the optic, and the mount can absorb some of it before the optic does. This is often overlooked because people underestimate the importance of the scope mount.

Remember: you must pair your optic to a durable and precision mount

Which Scope Mounts Can Hold Zero 

Good mounts from Geissele, American Defense, LaRue, Barrett, Scalarworks, Spuhr, Badger and many more can do the job. All of them have super tight tolerance constructions and high-quality machining, where every part of it ensures the optic is held tight and centered to the bore.

How Does Recoil Shear Lug Help Hold Zero

Recoil shear lug fits in between the Picatinny rail sections to prevent the mount from sliding. That’s the reason why some low tolerance mount requires you to push it all the way forward before tightening them down.

Torque Down The Scope Mount Correctly To Ensure Accuracy

The torque on the optic mount matters! The biggest problem with critical gun parts is things getting loose. The accuracy of an optic relies on things to be mounted tight and secure. Many mounts have their own torque specifications. If you want that information, I have created a list of torque value reference for scope rings here please check them out.

Get the precision torque wrench here. You can set the torque value, and it will stop when you reached the torque value preventing you from over torquing. You can get the manual ones or the digital ones.


Recoil forces do a lot more things to the weapon system under our naked eyes. A good weapon system can handle it as long as you pair it up with a durable optic system. The optic must be paired with a durable precision made an optic mount to ensure tight mounting. The most important thing is that the erector tube assembly holds the reticle that gives you the zero, and the windage and elevation adjustment knob assembly must be strong enough to hold it in place during repeated recoil.

Read more: Can Airsoft Optics Survive Sharp Recoil Force On Real Guns?