• EGW Hunter Scope Base and Keystone Rings


    For many years now I have been a regular user of picatinney scope bases (or rails if you prefer) from Evolution Gun Works, aka EGW, and often would recommend them to others as they have proven to be an excellent product offered at a reasonable price. However, my one and only complaint with their rails has always been that I didn't particularly like how they extended out over the recoil lug and barrel nut. Depending on the scope being mounted and the fitment requirements of the user, this extension often prevented one from being able to properly set the eye relief for their scope as the objective bell on the scope would come into contact with the front edge of the rail before the scope was back far enough to give proper eye relief. My solution for this interference problem has always been to just cut off the extension with a hacksaw or bandsaw and then dress it up with a fine file.

    Fortunately for me (and I presume many others out there) EGW has been listening and earlier this year launched a new line of rails that do not feature this extension.

    The Details:
    The new line of rails is dubbed the "Hunter" series which is made of the same high quality 7075 T6 aircraft grade aluminum on the same precision CNC machining centers as their other products, and feature the same matte black hardcoat finish. The new Hunter series holds true to the 1913 picatinney MIL-STD and will accept both picatinney and Weaver-style rings. A T10 torx bit and screws are included, along with an extra screw just in case you should happen to drop and lose one during installation. EGW lists the torque spec for the base screws at 20-in/lbs. and recommends using blue loctite on them.

    [Authors' note: I don't typically advise using blue loctite on smaller scope mounting screws as it typically results in stripped heads if/when you ever need to remove them. Instead I recommend using purple loctite (Loctite Threadlocker 222 or Permatex Threadlocker Purple) which is specifically designed for smaller fasteners under 1/4-inch.]

    Given the absence of the front extension the Hunter rails have a shorter overall length and are claimed to be 15% lighter than their standard and HD line of rails. The edges of the rail have all been chamfered to lessen the possibility of snagging on clothing or other gear when in the field. Like their standard and HD lines, the new Hunter line features an ambidextrous design for use on both left-hand and right-hand rifles. EGW is offering this new line in both zero (0) and 20 MOA tapers to accommodate the needs of both standard (0-500) and long-range (500-1,000) shooter. EGW also offers the option to special order a custom taper of 30 MOA or 40 MOA for an additional cost of $25 and a 3-week lead time for those shooting even longer distances. The bases come drilled for the standard 6-48 screw size, but EGW also provides an option on their product pages to have it drilled for the larger 8-40 screws that are now the standard size needed for several Savage rifles. At the time of this writing EGW has the Hunter series bases listed on their website for $69.99.

    In addition to the new Hunter series of bases, EGW has also released an all new line of scope rings under the Keystone name. Located in Pennsylvania, aka "the Keystone State", it doesn't take a stretch of the imagination to figure out how they came up with that name for this new line.

    The new Keystone line of rings are machined from 6061 aircraft aluminum to exacting standards and feature an anodized matte black finish. The rings are horizontally split with the ring caps being secured by four T15 screws. The lower half of the rings secure to the rail via a chromoly crossbolt with 1/2-inch nut. The rings will fit both picatinney and Weaver style rails and EGW claims the weight to be 4.8oz. per the set.

    At present EGW is offering the new Keystone line of rings in 1-inch, 30mm and 34mm sizes, though I suspect 35mm may be added at a future date as well. The 1-inch and 30mm rings are offered in low (0.850"), medium (0.990") and high (1.275"), while the 34mm rings are offered in medium (0.990"), high (1.275") and extra-high (1.5") heights - all measured from the top flat of the rail to the center of the ring. Torque specs from EGW are 65 in/lbs. for the crossbolt and 15 in/lbs. for the cap screws.

    Pricing on EGW's website at the time of this writing starts at $69.99/set, and they've proven to be extremely popular as most every size/variation is currently showing "out-of-stock."

    Hands-On:

    In early September EGW was nice enough to send me one of the new Hunter series rails for a round back Savage short-action with zero taper and a set of the new Keystone series 30mm Low rings to check out. The package arrived just two days after putting in the request, so kudo's to EGW for their speedy shipping.

    Both the rail and rings come in clear plastic clambshell-type packaging with full color insert that's easy to open (meaning the edges aren't welded requiring a lengthy fight using scissors and a lot of swearing to get the product out). The insert provides all the necessary information one would need to determine firearm fitment as well as the key features and measurements of the product - including torque specs. In short, the packaging is very well done.

    Looking the rail and rings over I was impressed with overall finish and quality of the machining. While not mentioned in the marketing material, even the rings feature chamfered edges which is a nice touch.

    Mounting the base to the rifle (a 110 Ultralite in .308 Win.) I first test fitted it using some plasti-gauge just to see how well the curvature of the rail matched that of the receiver. Given production tolerances this will never be 100% perfect, but I found the Hunter rail to be much better than most with the worst spot being just a fudge over 0.0015". No sense in bedding it so I proceeded to reinstall the rail and torqued the screws to the recommended 20 in/lbs.

    With the rail mounted and properly torqued I moved on to the rings. Given the rings are designed to work on both picatinney and Weaver style bases, the crossbolt is smaller and thus allows for some fore/aft movement in the slot compared to a dedicated picatinney ring. This isn't a negative, just something one needs to be aware of when installing the rings as you will want to firmly push the ring against the front or leading edge of the slot to ensure solid contact and prevent movement when the rifle recoils. Again, torque spec for the 1/2-inch nut on the crossbolt is 65 in/lbs.

    The rings were checked for proper alignment once mounted to the rail and all was good there, so the next step was to break out the ring lapping gear and very lightly tighten the cap screws to see if there were any high spots and if the rings would need a proper lapping or not. Apparently EGW is doing things right as the light scuffing was uniform across rings with no noticeable high or low spots.

    From here it was just a matter of installing the scope, setting eye relief and leveling the crosshairs before torquing the cap screws to the recommended 15 in/lbs.

    Final Thoughts:

    When it comes to scope mounts and rings you can spend a little or you can spend a lot - it all boils down to what you can afford, what you're willing to spend, and whether or not you believe all the marketing hype some of these companies put out there these days. I've bought and used some super cheap no-name mounts and some pretty high dollar specialty mounts over the years, and in 99% of the cases I've never had an issue with any of them. That said, I typically budget $125-150 for base and rings for any centerfire rifle I'm putting together as I have found that gets me very good quality products that will reliably do what they're supposed to do, are well machined, have a good durable finish and come from known companies who stand behind their products. Over the years EGW has proven to be just such a company that offers such products, which is why their rails have been my go-to rail for nearly a decade now.

    The new Hunter series rail is exactly what I've been wanting to see from EGW for a number of years now, and I'm sure I will be purchasing several in the coming years as new rifles follow me home or I update current setups. The new Keystone rings check all the boxes as far as rings go and I couldn't find any fault with them so they should prove to be a great option for those looking to spend less than $75 on high quality rings. The fact that both the rail and rings are Made in the USA is just extra icing on the cake.

    At current prices you're looking at $140 or a little more for the Hunter rail/Keystone ring setup if purchased separately (price dependent on ring height/diameter and whether you want a custom rail taper or not). However, at present if you order direct through EGW's website and order both the Hunter base and Keystone rings at the same time you will qualify for a 10% discount. No promo code or coupon required, the discount will automatically be applied in your shopping cart.


    Evolution Gun Works (EGW)
    52 Belmont Ave.
    Quakertown, PA 18951
    www.egwguns.com



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