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Dovetail Vs Picatinny Mounts for Airguns: Should manufacturers move to the new standard?

Updated: Oct 7, 2023

We love this industry but getting stuck behind could see the end of many historic manufacturers. So as the end users of a lot of these products let's take a look at Dovetail Vs Picatinny Mounts for Airguns.

Of course, there are those that started off in a modern mindset but were not talking about those who have already done it, we are aiming this at those manufacturers who probably wouldn't even consider reading this.

Airgun manufacturers have always struggled to keep up with the times; many of them see the industry as a traditional one that was perfect 30 years ago and therefore everything new they come out with is either a shared platform from an older gun or something very different that ends up not working because it wasn't tested and was doomed to fail from the start (I'm sure you all have your own opinions as to what gun fits this one).

The most dangerous phrase in our language is "We've always done it this way" - Quote by Grace Hopper

There was nothing really wrong with these rifles but there wasn't anything really advanced about them. Yes sure some involved electronic triggers or new cocking mechanisms, but they were still using a traditional mindset or at least trying to sell to those who prefer a "Traditional Rifle". As such they appear to become a bit of a commercial issue and seemingly scare off the development of these platforms

So then we see more guns come out with:

  • No QD-sling points or the use of swivel mount sling points that cannot be used if you wanted a bipod.

  • Heavy chassis or wood stocks

  • Experimental/unreliable features

  • and our personal favourite issue with new guns... Dovetail Rails

You see over on this side of the fence, manufacturers have been adopting a simple and pretty much universal rail system developed by NATO... The Picatinny Rail Integration System.

For the non-PlayStation generations, Picatinny Rail Integration System or simply RIS is a standardised and modernised Weaver rail.

Many traditional Airgun Manufacturers are now re-tooling to try the features seen with the new breed of Airgun manufacturers. The main method of this appears to be by swapping Dovetail mounts for the newer standard of Picatinny mounts.

Air Arms S510 Tactical Air Rifle Promotional Image

Companies like AirArms have already done this with their S510 Tactical. Although it is very similar to their S510 Ultimate Sporter with similar performance, the addition of the tactical stock and Picatinny Rails have catapulted it to win the "Airgun of the Year" award at BSS 2023.

Dovetail Vs Picatinny Mounts for Airguns: So why is Picatinny the options manufacturers are now moving to?

Well as a manufacturer, when it comes to choosing a mount for your airgun, there are two main types to consider: Picatinny mounts and dovetail mounts. Both types have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Dovetail Mounts

Dovetail Rail with scope mounted

Let's start with the original. Dovetail mounts.

Dovetail mounts are the older of the two types, and they do have a number of advantages over Picatinny mounts.

Dovetail mounts are typically less expensive than Picatinny mounts, and dovetail-mounted scopes and accessories are also arguably easier to install. Dovetail mounts simply slide into the dovetail grooves on your airgun's receiver (provided it is clear at the ends. While due to Picatinny mount's built-in anti-recoil design, they require the mounts to be opened to be installed into the groves.

The other main advantage of Dovetail mounts is that they tend to be more compact than Picatinny mounts. This makes installing the dovetail rail a good option for airgun manufacturers that have designed limited space on the receiver. This is why you will quite often find Air Pistols that have Dovetail rails to allow for a narrower build.

Picatinny Mounts

Picatinny mount with scope mount

Now we will cover the more modern of the two types of mounts. Picatinny RIS.

After being developed as the NATO standard of Rail Integration System (RIS); Picatinny RIS are now the most used rail standard in the world. they show up on a wide application of guns whether that is real steel powder burners to their replica airsoft counterparts.

Picatinny is regularly installed as it offers a number of advantages over dovetail mounts. Chiefly Picatinny mounts are made from a single piece of metal, which makes them stronger and more durable than dovetail mounts, which are traditionally made from two pieces of metal welded together.

Picatinny mounts also have a wider rail, which makes them more stable and less likely to shift when you're shooting.

In addition, Picatinny mounts are more versatile than dovetail mounts. Picatinny rails can be used to mount a variety of accessories, including sights, lasers, and red dot sights. Dovetail rails, on the other hand, are only compatible with a limited number of accessories.

Finally, with the use of the Picatinny made to the NATO standard 21mm wide. One of the major issues of the Dovetail mount, the non-standardised sizing across manufacturers (BSA's 13mm and Walthers 10mm) is overcome.

But let's put you in the driver's seat here. If you were a manufacturer would you still consider using the old dovetail or would you design to the new standard?

What would you install?

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