Is the Free Cabelas Scope Mounting Service Any Good?

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I recently received the following email through the site and thought it was worth sharing (with the sender’s permission, of course):

“I need an honest opinion! I’ve never mounted a scope to a rifle before and am thinking about heading over to my local Cabelas to let them do the mounting and bore sighting. It’s free, so I really don’t see where I have anything to lose? Do you have any experience with the Cabelas scope mounting service? Or do you suggest I pay to have it mounted by a gunsmith?”

Is Cabelas Scope Mounting Service Any Good

Since this is not the first time I’ve had a Cabelas scope mounting-related question asked, I thought it might be worthwhile to put my general thoughts in writing for others.

Before I get too far along in this post, let me clarify that in no way am I bashing or speaking poorly of Cabelas or their sister company, Bass Pro Shops. Instead, I’m merely trying to answer a question based on my experience working in the sporting optics industry for many, many years.

Mounting a Rifle Scope

For starters, mounting a rifle scope on a rifle or shotgun is not all that difficult, but it does require some tools and a basic understanding of the process.

However, related aspects of the actual mounting process are more complicated and require some skills and/or experience. Those scope mounting elements include the following:

  • Setting the Eye Relief
  • Leveling the Scope
  • Leveling the Reticle

Since all three of those conditions are directly impacted by the mounting process, the experience and skill of the scope mounter really come into play.

Boresighting a Scope

Once a scope is mounted, most shooters also like to have the scope bore sighted using a bore sighting device.

Boresighting is a process where the optic, scope, or iron sights are visually aligned with the bore of the firearm. In most cases, the firearm is a rifle or shotgun with a rifle scope or optic mounted.

Boresighting can be done with the naked eye (which is also called “eyeball sighting”) or with a specialized device called a boresighter. Modern-day boresighting devices use a laser beam that emits a beam out of the muzzle to a target in the distance. The scope mounter can then adjust the optic or scope to match the laser point of impact on the target.

The laser boresighting process aims to speed up the actual sighting-in process at the range.  In theory, the boresight process already has the scope relatively close to being on target, so the shooter can begin to finalize the sight-in process.

It’s very important to understand that boresighting merely gets the mounted optic “near” the target, not on target. Therefore, the shooter or hunter will still need to fire some live rounds to complete the sighting in process.

I’m only touching on the topic of boresighting here but will do a separate post about the ins and outs of boresighting a rifle.

Rifle Scope Mounting Set-up

Cabelas Scope Mounting Service

Cabelas still offers a scope mounting service, but it’s changed a bit over the years.

Before Bass Pro purchased Cabelas in 2017,  the scope mounting was a free service that Cabelas offered for anyone who needed a scope mounted or bore sighted.

Now that Cabelas is owned by Bass Pro Shops, scope mounting and boresighting are still offered but the terms have changed a bit.

Although it seems to vary a bit store to store, if you purchase a scope from Cabelas (or Bass Pro), they will do the mounting and boresighting for free. However, if you didn’t purchase the scope from Cabelas, they will still mount the scope and do bore sighting, but some stores charge for those services. The cost for those services seems to be $30 to $45 for the scope mounting and $25 to $40 for boresighting.

When mounting scopes and boresighting scopes, the effectiveness and accuracy of the mounting are primarily dependent on the skill level, knowledge, and experiences of the person doing the mounting.

And that’s where things get a bit murky with the Cabelas free mounting service. Some employees are very good at that job and care about the quality of their work, while others may not be very good and are just collecting a paycheck.

I’ve had the opportunity to work on several rifles that had the scopes mounted for free at Cabelas, and here are just a few of the things I’ve personally dealt with:

  • The screws were mounted with red Loctite. This is a no-no with scope mounting as it’s extremely difficult to break the adhesive during the screw removal. Blue Loctite is a much better choice.
  • The eye relief was not correctly set for the customer. I guess the eye relief was set to the person mounting the scope. It should be set for the customer.
  • The scope rings or bases were not correctly mounted. For example, I’ve seen situations where the rings were built for a Picatinny rail but mounted on a Weaver Rail, and also seen vice-versa. A knowledgeable scope mounter should know to mate the proper rings to the right rail or bases.

To be fair, I’ve also seen several scopes that were mounted by Cabelas staff that were mounted correctly (ie: the reticle was level, positioned correctly, etc.).

Again, I’m not saying that all the staff at Cabelas cannot properly mount a scope. I’m saying that you may be rolling the dice in terms of the skill and experience level of the staff mounting your scope at Cabelas.

Cabelas Bore Sight Service

Boresighting is one of those services that sounds relatively easy but ends up being harder than you think. There are three components to successfully boresighting a scope:

  • Quality of the boresighting equipment
  • Knowledge and skill of the boresighter
  • An understanding of the limitations to boresighting

Example of a Scope Mounting Kit

Quality of the boresighting equipment

The quality and cost of boresighting tools vary significantly across the board. For example, a cheap boresighter can be had for under $50, while a set of precision boresighting tools usually costs $200 or more.

Bore sighting tools are loosely grouped into two styles: (1) in-muzzle or (2) in-chamber. The in-muzzle styles are the least expensive but have some pros and cons. I prefer the in-chamber models as they fit in the actual rifle chamber and tend to be more accurate in my experience.

However, since the in-chamber models are caliber specific, you must purchase one for every caliber. Most Cabelas stores prefer to use a more one-size-fits-all style with an arbor that mounts into the muzzle of the rifle.

Whereas most gunsmiths use the individual in-chamber styles that are caliber specific, and a complete set for every caliber can cost a pretty penny.

Knowledge and skill of the bore sighter

A clear understanding of how a bore sighter works in conjunction with a clear understanding of turret adjustment is crucial with bore sighting. This is an area where it may be worth the cost to pay a gunsmith’s fee for this service.

An understanding of the limitations to boresighting

As I mentioned previously, bore sighting is designed to get the rifle/scope combo on paper for the shooter to speed up the actual zeroing of the rifle. The zeroing process must be completed at the range using live ammo to finalize the desired point of impact.

And it’s vitally important that the scope mounter relays that information to the rifle or shotgun owner so they understand the next steps. However, a novice or inexperienced scope-mounting person may not be clear on those limitations.

Here are my thoughts and suggestions about using Cabelas free scope mounting:

  • All things being equal, if your options are using the Cabelas service or a gunsmith for scope mounting, I’d suggest paying a gunsmith to do it. That way, it’s mounted right (at least it should be) and is bore sighted correctly.
  • If money is tight or you don’t want to spend the money having a gunsmith, do it; Cabelas is always an option as you could end up with an employee skilled at mounting scopes.
  • If Cabelas is your only local option, consider waiting until a gun show comes nearby. Most gun shows have at least one vendor specializing in scope mounting for a fee and is usually pretty good at it.
  • If you have an interest, you can always learn to do it yourself as the tools are not that expensive, and there are several good scope mounting kits on the market with almost everything you need. Additionally, there are plenty of good YouTube videos that cover the scope mounting process.


How much does a gunsmith charge to mount and boresight a rifle scope?

The price varies depending on several factors. I’d expect to pay between $25 and $50 to have a rifle scope mounted and bore sighted.

Is a bore sighted rifle ready to take hunting?

No, a rifle or shotgun that has been bore sighted is not completely zeroed in or sighted in. The zeroing process needs to be finished at the range before the firearm is ready to take hunting.

How accurate is a bore sighted rifle?

Theoretically, a rifle that has been correctly bore sighted should be within 36 inches of the desired point of impact. Boresighting is more of a method to get the scope on paper versus on target.

What tools do I need to mount a scope on a rifle?

Typically, you’ll need the following tools:

  • Gun vise (or some way to hold the rifle in place)
  • Screwdriver with various bit sizes
  • A scope level
  • Torque wrench (to set the recommended torque on the screws for the rings or bases.

Those are the essential tools needed to mount a riflescope.