Welcome to Optics Trade debates. In each episode, we talk about a different topic and try to answer the most common questions we receive about it. Today we are going to talk about the differences between aluminum and steel mounts.
In the past, all mounts were made out of steel. Steel mounts are still really common in the hunting segment of mounts. Aluminum mounts dominate the tactical sector and are also used in other categories.
It’s really hard to determine which material would be better for which purpose because there are so many aluminum alloys that have different characteristics. Cheap aluminum mounts are usually made from really bad aluminum and break easily. But premium manufacturers use high-quality alloys which can surpass steel in all compartments.
We only sell middle and high-class mounts, so bad material shouldn’t be a problem.
It’s a mistaken belief that steel mounts are stronger just because they are heavier.
The main differences are the weight and usually, steel mounting rings are narrower than the aluminum ones. Aluminum rings are at least 20 mm wide while the steel rings are usually about 10-15 mm wide. Aluminum rings have a bigger gripping area so there is less tension on the scope in comparison to the steel rings. The clamping force should never exceed 2.3 Nm of torque on aluminum or steel rings.
Steel rings look better because manufacturers are able to get a better surface finish on steel than on aluminum.
If a rifle has an aluminum receiver, aluminum mounts are more suitable, but if the rifle has a steel receiver, steel mounts are the better choice. This is mostly due to the fact that the same metals function in the same way at high temperatures. There is an exception to this rule if a mount is mounted on a Picatinny rail, the better choice is an aluminum mount.
Steel mounts corrode if they do not receive proper maintenance. Some aluminum mounts even come with titanium screws which don’t corrode, so that the scope can be exposed to water for an unlimited time.
Some mounts, especially from the east (Russia), are even entirely made out of titanium because titanium is widely available in Russia. There is also an Italian producer that makes all titanium mounts.
All pivot mounts are made out of steel because the needed repeatability can’t be achieved with aluminum mounts.
The most important factor is the quality of the material and the manufacturing process.
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Aluminum mounts: https://www.optics-trade.eu/en/mounts/shopby/material-aluminium.html
Steel mounts: https://www.optics-trade.eu/en/mounts/shopby/material-steel.html