SCOPE REVIEW: A GOOD ALL-ROUNDER

Created on 14th May 2009

VINCE BOTTOMLEY reviews the latest scope from Sightron - and finds it surpasses his expectations

Sightron scopes have been around Stateside for about 15 years, but until recently they haven't really excited the accuracy crowd. All that changed a couple of years ago with the Big Sky range and Sightrons actually began to appear on benchrest rifles as an alternative to Leupolds and Weavers. These were the S11 scopes in fixed 36 power, using Japanese optics and a build-quality backed up by a ‘new for old' replacement guarantee.

I got to have a look at the 36 power benchrest scope at IWA in 2007, but although Edgar Brothers is the official UK importer, the only ones I have seen over here were personal imports bought directly from America.

At this year's IWA show back in February, the Sightron stand was one of my priority visits. I'd heard about the new S111 range via the internet - their new 8-32 model with 30mm body-tube was causing something of a stir among long-range accuracy shooters in America. Fellow scribe Laurie Holland had also picked up on the 8-32 Sightron and decided it was precisely what
he needed.

Laurie's scope will be mounted on his new 308 Barnard tube-gun, which we are featuring as a ‘project rifle' build for Target Sports, and as soon as the scope arrived, he kindly passed it over to me for review.

At first glance, the Sightron could easily be mistaken for a Leupold. It's very nicely proportioned and clean looking - devoid of any ugly protrusions for illuminated reticles and the like, and is very similar in size and weight to my 8.5-25 Leupold VX111.

Scopes are undoubtedly getting better. We have had satisfactory results in the past from cheap Chinese scopes, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to evaluate the more sophisticated optics. I decided that I would have to mount the Sightron on my 6PPC benchrest rifle to properly put it through its paces.

Fortunately, I had a spare set of 30mm Kelbly rings which would fit the Davidson base on my LV BAT benchgun. This mounting system is one of the best you can get and certainly a good alternative to a Picatinny rail, especially if you are looking to save a few ounces. If you are serious about your shooting, the Kelbly rings are very strong, light and accurate, but not cheap. I normally lightly lap in my scope rings, but with the Kelbly ones it just isn't necessary.

After bore-sighting the Sightron, a couple of shots had me zeroed at 100yd. My target was a 2ft white square with a small red aiming spot in the centre. Test one was to check the ‘return to zero' ability of the scope. Only recently at the Diggle round of the F-Class League, I overheard one shooter claiming that his zero shifted at different magnification settings. I was surprised to hear this, as even the cheaper Chinese offerings will pass this test. The Sightron was no exception, and two of my shots were less than half an inch apart. One shot was fired on full 32 magnification and the other on eight power.

The real problem with this test is finding an aim-point for the lower-powered magnification shot, as the dot in the centre of the Sightron's crosshair is a ¼MOA at full power, but a full 1MOA at eight power meant that I needed to stick a larger aiming-mark on the target for the test.

I would personally prefer a finer crosshair and a smaller MOA dot, as this is what I am used to with benchrest scopes, but some think that this is too fine for general use and I'm sure that Laurie will be happy with the Sightron's reticle for F-Class use.

The next test was ‘round the angles'. This is intended to check the tracking ability of the scope and the accuracy of the windage and elevation adjustment, but before I carried out this one, Laurie was anxious to know how much elevation he would have. As he was intending to use the scope on a 308, he would need about 36MOA to go from 100yd to 1,000yd with a 155gn bullet.

After zeroing, this can easily be checked by winding up the elevation turret while looking through the scope and ensuring that the crosshair moves with every click. The crosshair stopped moving after 144 clicks and, as each click represents ¼MOA, I had exactly 36MOA of adjustment - just enough, though I still needed to verify that a click was indeed ¼MOA.

Now for ‘round the angles'. With the aim-point on the red centre-dot I wound off 32 clicks of elevation and 32 clicks of left windage. Still with my crosshair on the centre dot, I fired the first shot. It impacted in the bottom left corner of the target. Next, I wound on 64 clicks of elevation and fired another shot, again using the same aim-point. Shot two impacted in the top left corner of the target. With 64 clicks of right-wind, the third shot hit the top right of the target. I continued with this exercise until I returned to the first shot in the bottom left of the target. In a perfect world, shot five would go through the same hole as shot one, but this is the real world and the shot impacted just under half an inch away (see picture). This is a good result and well within the limits of rifle, ammunition, conditions and of course ‘the nut behind the butt'! Taking a couple of check measurements allowed me to see how accurate the ¼ minute clicks are. The sides of the square, if you remember, are 64 clicks in length. A click is ¼MOA so each side is 16MOA. Taking 1MOA as 1.047", the sides of the square should measure 16.75". They actually measured nearly 17", which was a very good result. By measuring the diagonals of the square I could also verify that it is a true square - so the windage and elevation adjustments on range can be trusted.

Before the final check, I should comment that there was a fair amount of chromatic aberration or ‘fringing' present. This manifests itself as a yellow-green edge to areas of high contrast - in this case, the edge of the target. Fringing is a product of glass lenses and can only be eliminated by using fluorite in place of glass. However, providing it does not degrade the image, it should not be a problem. In this case, the eye-relief was about 3".

The final test was to check the resolving power of the lenses. Originally, I used a lens test chart for this purpose, but even the cheap scopes became good enough to resolve all the images on the chart. Therefore, I now compare test scopes with the best of my scopes - an 8-32 Nightforce BR scope. The lenses on the older Nightforces were legendary, and if I recall, only the Schmidt & Bender 5-25 power scope has proved superior.

To carry out this comparison, I needed a bright clear day. Both scopes were solidly mounted and carefully focused on the target - an electricity pylon about four miles away. The Nightforce resolves all the cabling and intricate lattice-work on the pylon. I was surprised to see that the Sightron image was just as good, and if anything, was slightly better as it exhibited a little more contrast. I can now see why the Americans are raving about these scopes. Incidentally, the fringing that I experienced at 100yd was totally absent. The lenses have a blue-green anti-flare coating which, combined with the internal treatment of the body-tube, was effective in controlling flare when looking towards (but NOT into) the sun.

The Sightron is finished with a satin black coating which resisted any ring-marking during my review. The turrets come with dust-covers and the adjustment graduations are clearly incised in gold, and the turrets move with a positive click. Clicks are ¼MOA and there are 15 minutes per revolution. Similarly, the zoom-ring and side-focus adjusters have that reassuring precision ‘feel' and are also tastefully marked in gold. Finally, there is no illuminated reticle and there shouldn't be on a pure target rifle scope. We only shoot in broad daylight on high contrast targets - why should we have to pay for an illuminated reticle?

So, this scope proved to be a very good product. It ticks all the boxes and will serve Laurie well in F-Class competition. The Americans will pay about $800 for the Sightron 8-32. With currency rates in flux at present, prices will alter so verify at the time of ordering. Edgar Brothers do import Sightron scopes but not this model, though we hope they may add it to their range. Provided the price remains attractive it would be a competitor to the current market leader in the 8-32 field, the Nightforce. This is currently on sale in the UK for £800. Edgar Brothers are trade only, but you may contact them via www.edgarbrothers.com .

Technical Specification

Model: S111ss832x56LRD
Company: Sightron Inc. N. Carolina, USA
Objective: 56mm
Ocular: 42mm
Reticle: Fine crosshair with ¼MOA dot
Click value: ¼MOA
Body tube: 30mm
Length: 15.35"
Weight: 24.7oz



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