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Picatinny vs Weaver: Best Mounting Rail Systems Compared

Hunting is used in many areas of the world. Whether one uses the system of a Picatinny style base or a weaver rail base does not matter, but depending on what you need, specifically, as a hunter, is important to know.

Comparing Weaver and Picatinny Rail Systems: A Hunter's Choice

Although very similar in style, these two mounting systems and rails are very different, bringing specific characteristics to what they can achieve. Each scope mounting system and rail that’s available within the hunting marketplace has two basic parts: the scope mounting base and the scope mounting rings – Best Mounting Tool Kits for Scopes

Both rail systems, Picatinny and Weaver rails, allow to securely attach scope rings and scope mounts to the firearm. You can sometimes find them in a two-piece setup instead of a single rail.

The weaver rail base and Picatinny rails mounting systems can look almost identical at first sight, and they can both be utilized for secure and accurate mounting. They both have recoil grooves (slots) cut into the rail system to securely mount the optics.

Yet, beyond this, what is the difference between Picatinny rails and Weaver-style rails?

Weaver Style Rail Base

The weaver rails style base has shown itself to be quite useful, as it has become very popular over the past decade. Many have declared it as one of the top choices for a mounting platform.

Years back, this idea of scope mounts did not exist as an everyday necessity. Picatinny or Weaver rail systems had not been invented.

When one needed their scope mounted onto their gun, they would usually hire a gunsmith to do the dirty work for them. The scope was attached directly to the rifle. Rings or mounts were not standardized and a gunsmith attached the optics to the firearm pretty much permanently.

This usually made it very costly to get a scope mounted. Precision was also questionable and depended on the ability of the gunsmith to align the scope exactly.

Lastly, changing scopes was a real pain. If a scope broke you had to either get exactly the same scope or run through the whole mounting procedure and cost again.

This, obviously, consisted of attaching the scope to the gun using a mount. As time improved technology, this changed and William R. Weaver decided to mount scopes onto all guns with what is today known as Weaver-style rails.

These Weaver rails were standardized rail systems that allowed to get a consistent mount and positioning of an optic onto a firearm. It also allowed to switch out scopes as the Weaver-style rails and mounts were standardized and easily switched.

WEAVER Multi-Slot Rail
WEAVER Multi-Slot Rail

Thus, altering it all by creating the infamous weaver rail mount. This rail mount has transformed over time, bringing success to the hunting marketplace, changing how hunters as well as gunsmiths work, sell, and purchase.

The Weaver rail mount has slots (recoil grooves) that range around the same dimensions but are not always equal in measurement when they are looked at and compared, side by side. With each recoil groove on the Weaver system not as deep or as wide, the Weaver-style mount rails still hold strong in what it can provide for a hunter.

Mount Picatinny and Weaver Accessories

Picatinny and Weaver-style accessories can both fit this mounting system. The inconsistent measurements of the recoil grooves allow for more than one system to work on these Weaver rails.

The Weaver-style mount is best for hunters who want a low-profile mount, bringing ruggedness to the mount at a nice price that is affordable for those wanting its character.

The Picatinny Rail Mounting Base

The Picatinny rail, on the other hand, provides just as many benefits as downfalls. The Picatinny rail mounting option was tested and evaluated by the military when a consistent military standard mounting system was desired.

Common Rail System for the Military

The military decided to create the Picatinny arsenal mount rail, once this system proved to be a good standard and a common mounting base for all devices that were needing attachment.

Monstrum Ruger 10 22 Picatinny Rail Mount for Scopes and Optics
Monstrum Ruger 10 22 Picatinny Rail Mount for Scopes and Optics

This occurred in New Jersey and was soon called the MIL-STD 1913, or as it’s better known Picatinny rail. At the beginning of 1995, the military officials decided they would use the Picatinny rail mount worldwide, and it was accepted for use.

Its name, Picatinny, specifically comes from its place of origin, which is Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey. The official design spec is the MIL-STD 1913 to which all manufacturers adhere when they offer a Picatinny rail mounting system.

Picatinny Rails compared to Weaver rails

​By Alpha2412 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], ​via Wikimedia Commons​

The Picatinny rail mount gives consistency in the deepness of each recoil groove as defined in MIL-STD 1913. Each slot (recoil groove) in Picatinny rails has the same dimensions for depth and width. This makes it consistent for all the attachments that could potentially be used. The dimensions for each recoil groove on the Picatinny rails are .206″ wide and a center to center width of .394″ as defined in MIL-STD – 1913.

The consistency in measurement of the Picatinny rail gives hunters stability and the option to stay within all Picatinny style accessories, beyond any other mount. All measurements for Picatinny rails are defined in the military standard MIL-STD – 1913.

If any measurement on the Picatinny rails is not perfectly matching these numbers, the mount cannot be used for the military or even be considered as a Picatinny rail base mount.

Device Attachments

It is important to understand what devices can attach to each rail mount. For the weaver rail mount, Weaver and Picatinny accessories can attach, as the inconsistency of measurements within each slot leaves room for both devices to fit. So, in short, you can mount accessories designed for Picatinny rails on Weaver rails.

Yet, only Picatinny rail accessories can mount to the Picatinny rail system because of the strict measurements of each groove. It seems as if flexibility would make the weaver rail mount a likely choice. You cannot mount accessories designed for Weaver rails onto Picatinny rails.

Match with your needs

Depending on what each hunter needs for their skill and gear, either the Picatinny rail or the Weaver rail mount can and will fit a number of specific requirements of each hunter.

Hunting is performed by many people around the world, for many different purposes. Having and choosing a scope mount is important for a hunter’s continuing success.

That need makes the Picatinny rail style mount and the weaver rail mount top choices of consistency within the marketplace. Match the scope rings you have or get to either the Picatinny rails or Weaver rails you place on your firearm to mount the scope.

Historically, created for convenience and specificity, but now, used for all and helpful in many different types of hunting. Any opportunity can end with free-flowing achievement when a hunter uses Picatinny and Weaver rails as mounting systems.

Comparing Weaver and Picatinny Rail Systems: A Hunter's Choice
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Kevin Collins