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The Scope that would be King

21 Aug 2017
@ 07:36 pm (GMT)

Mark Whitaker

For many years the ubiquitous 3-9 power scope has ruled on hunting rifles. 3 power for brush and close range work and 9 power for longer shots or smaller targets.... Minute of Rabbit Head.

But now in the 21st century, new shooting disciplines and the associated marketing for these disciplines has broadened everything for hunting, some good, mostly just marketing.

New Rifle Stock design, far greater range of Projectiles from more manufacturers. Ballistic apps on our smart phones that with practise allow longer range shots to be taken with confidence and of course Scopes.

In the late seventies I bought my first real scope, a Leupold Vari-X II 3-9. I have retired this scope from service. Its been back twice to Leupold for free servicing, fantastic customer service which has set the benchmark for other Manufacturers to follow.

I upgraded from the Leupold about six years ago to what I call the King of Scopes, a Nightforce NSX 3.5-15x50 Zero Stop. A Bullet proof, tough, repeatable scope with the NP2-DD reticle.

This scope still has the close range capability of 3.5 power, but now I have greater long range capability of 15 power so its much more versitile than the ubiquitous 3-9.

A scope has to have 3 attributes that to me are non negotiable:

It mush have long eye relief, at least 95mm for obvious reasons.

It must be repeatable, that is when you dial up your elevation to take a shot, then dial back to Zero, it must be Zero, and it has to do this for the life of the scope.

And the glass must be good.... good coating, no distortion, focus shift from centre to edge.

The Nightforce NSX has all of these attributes in spades and it was happy living on my Remington 700 SS Mountain Rifle in 7mm-08. The weight of the scope balanced the lightweight rifle well, taming the recoil to very manageable levels.

All was well until I bought a Lithgow LA101 in 22lr. I went to the range with Lithgow, Remington, Nightforce, ammo, lunch, all proud as punch with my new rifle.

I had a great day at the range, shooting multiple 5 shot ½ inch groups at 50 yards with the Lithgow and Nightforce installed. Then I realised I had the perfect Rabbit combination. Lithgow 22lr, Nightforce 3.5-15 NP2-DD reticle. Illuminated dot for spotlighting or low light situations.

Now I had to find another Scope for the 7mm-08.

For a number of years I have been reading Nathan's Terminal Ballistic Research web site and have bought all his shooting books. Even though I have been shooting and hunting for 50 years, I realised how much I did not know about this sport and I have learned a lot from this humble Kiwi. Nathan recommends Sightron Scopes, components built in the same factory in Japan as Nightforce and they also have the 3 attributes I required.

Sightron has just released a 3-16x42 with their MOA-3 reticle, so I took a punt and bought one having never seen any Sightron scopes.

So why the Sightron and not another Nightforce. Well you can but three of these scopes for the price of a single Nightforce. It is slightly lighter in weight but still of sufficient heft to tame the lightweight 7mm-08 and slightly shorter and a smaller objective lens. What is missing is illumination and Zero Stop, but it does has turret caps.

I like to set may target on a dot and the Sightron MOA-3 has a dot, finer than the Nightforce NP2-DD but large enough for day time shooting.

Why do I say it “Would be King”, well it is no good for spotlighting or shooting in natural light at sun set. It's just too fine and gets lost. What the reticle needs is centre dot illumination or the heavy posts at 12, 3, 6 and 9 like the MOA-H, this modification would make low light target acquisition much better.

The glass to me has no discernible difference to the NSX, the same with the repeatability of the turrets, whats not to like.

If you are shooting more in low light, get the duplex version.

Another down side of the Sightron is purely cosmetic, the coating is not the Diamond like finish of the Nightforce and you will get ring rash if you slide the rings over the body. You get what you pay for.

As "Molly" would say...."do yourself a favour"

Would I buy another one? Definitely, the 4-20x50 MOA-2 will be going on my Mauser 98 6mm AI.

Thanks Nathan for the advise and teaching this old dog new tricks.


21 Aug 2017
@ 08:24 pm (GMT)

Mark Whitaker

Re: The Scope that would be King
Another area where the Sightron excel's is the side focus. It is precise, very precise and goes close at 9 yards. I wish the Nightforce went that close, especially for the 22lr.

The Nightforce is ok with its minimum of 50 yards even when shooting closer, but the Sightron is just very, very precise. There is a notable focus difference between distances, you could range find distances on the focus alone!

24 Aug 2017
@ 07:18 pm (GMT)

Brendon Greig

Re: The Scope that would be King
I bought the S Tac 4-20x50 MOA awhile ago and love it had my first hunt with it on the weekend shot the closest goat at about 6 yards longest shot 625 yards and the glass is great
24 Aug 2017
@ 10:04 pm (GMT)

Anon Gibbs

Re: The Scope that would be King
Hi Mark I see we have both inquired about this scope in the past with the same thoughts in mind, I do know I was asking alot for the money. I am yet to mount but first impressions of myself and others when held up was that the ret was missing, it's that fine! I wanted a repeatable scope with bush to medium range power and good optics for the price, to dial for drop and have indicators to hold for wind so duplex was out. IMHO the moa ret would make it almost unusable in low light or deep bush but I am going to give a crack anyhow, that and dials are a little mushy between the clicks compared to SIII. Not sure if this coresponds to POI change? Like you, at the price point I would buy again tomorrow but just think it was SO close to being perfect for my intended purpose at that price point. Shall now go back to hoping for an SIII in this mag range or differint ret in the s tac.
24 Aug 2017
@ 10:08 pm (GMT)

Hamish Gibbs

Re: The Scope that would be King
See I became Anon somehow???
25 Aug 2017
@ 06:37 am (GMT)

Thomas Kitchen

Re: The Scope that would be King
hi mark
i have is this stage
s1 rimfire 2-7 this was my first sightron it was cheap enough for a test into the brand.
bigsky 4-16 mildot
s3 6-24 mil dot
s tac 3-16 moa im with you on this everything is great but the reticle, how ever last time i talked to sightron they did say the custom shop was hoping to be able to change reticle to mildot at some stage this year. that is my plan at some stage the moa is just to fine in low light.
also looking at a 2-10 stac hhr soon that might go on my hack rifle

as you can see im very fond of sightrons now
25 Aug 2017
@ 08:29 am (GMT)

Martin Taylor

Re: The Scope that would be King
Great review Mark & l couldn't agree more!

I have the same reservations about the MOA 3 recticle in the S tac as you guys have listed and have also discussed these limitations with Nathan. Our new 6.5 will be multi-role and has to perform on target, LR & with spotlight (a common requirement hey!!).

I have multiple Sightron mil dots but would also prefer a slightly heavier moa 3 style recticle with centre dot, about the same weight as our Japanese Weaver with EBX.
25 Aug 2017
@ 08:52 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: The Scope that would be King
I think we all have to be careful of brand names, myself especially when giving advice. Sightron make some very nice scopes but there are also a few models to avoid. Most of the SI and SII are now assembled in the Philippines and while I do not wish to stereotype, the assembly is simply poorer than the Japanese attention to detail. The early Japanese models were simply divine.

There are also newer models now such as the S-Tac. This has proven to be a clear optic, correctly calibrated (at least the scopes I have are correct) and repeatable but as mentioned, the 3-16 MOA model lacks a strong crosshair for low light work and can be equally difficult to use under the NZ bush canopy in Winter conditions. The 4-20 is much better in this regard. However, the power ring is large and in some cases, the scope base must be ground at the center to accommodate a low fit. A simple grind with a dremel and poly roll is an easy fix for this- just a small furrow at the rear and centre of the base. The ground area can then either be blued or if the base is ali, left as is (cannot be seen once the optic is mounted).

Image shows the scallop cut out of the rear of a Warne base to accomodate the S-Tac:

Always check your scope calibration- never take the clicks for granted. Take nothing for granted with any brand of optic, no matter how much you have paid for it or how hard it is to pronounce its fancy name. Also do not let yourself be swayed by my words with any form of permanence. Things change. The companies who make our kit must be held accountable and any warranty send-backs helps to ensure that the scope maker is fully aware of any issues. Putting issues back on the scope maker may be an annoyance for both the customer and the company, but it keeps the company strong long term and keeps future customers happy. It also reminds the scope maker that all the board and shareholder marketing meetings mean nothing if a company cannot continue to build on solid foundations. If your gripe is smaller in nature, such as not liking a reticle, write back and politely say so, explaining why.

I have quite a bit to do with Sightron these days and I very much love their optics and the fact that they are continually working towards improvements. But this does not mean that I believe that they are exempt from making mistakes. Whether we are talking about human nature or CNC machining, there is always the potential for some form of error, regardless of our expectations. In any machining operation, the goal is to minimize error. To eliminate it is often unrealistic. It is very rare to find a technical drawing for a mass produced product with zero error built into the expected tolerances. And so we work with acceptable ranges of error. The trick is to keep it that way, maintaining quality control long term, ensuring products remain within these tolerances.

Mounted and ready to go:

25 Aug 2017
@ 07:44 pm (GMT)

Mark Whitaker

Re: The Scope that would be King
Wise words Nathan.

The point I was trying to make with my review was everything is a compromise!

There is no such thing as perfection. We can strive for perfection and its good to strive for perfection, but it is rarely achieved.

The Nightforce is not perfect, its just too expensive, therefore a compromise.

The Sightron is not perfect, but you work to its limitations , not against them.

Its a great day time scope, as I said in the review if one needs a spotlighting scope get it in the duplex.

Its easy for me to say this because I live in Australia and we can shoot after dark. For those who have last light limitaions your requirements are different, you can shoot to a greater distance which reduces as light fades.

When spotlighting we are limited to the range of the light, 150 yards usually pulls us up. Game is limited to Rabbiits, Pigs, Roos, Dogs and Ferel Cats and the occasional Deer.

My main spot lighting game are Rabbits, 22lr with Nightforce and Pigs, 300 Win Mag with Leopold 1-4 Pig Plex 208gr A-Max reduced load 2650fps.

Day time hunting 7mm08 with Sightron and 6mm AI with Sightron 4-20x50 with either MOA2 or Duplex haven't made my mind up yet.

So I am trying to work with the limitations, but the scope would be better with the thick posts at 9,12 and 3.

Your shooting requiremts will probably differ and I was trying to write a review specifying the limitations so you can make a semi informed choice.

26 Aug 2017
@ 08:27 am (GMT)

Nathan Foster

Re: The Scope that would be King
It's a good topic, very good to bring all of these points up Mark, will help others.
26 Aug 2017
@ 08:58 am (GMT)

Sebastian Shand

Re: The Scope that would be King
I have the 3-16x42 sightron stac with Moa reticle on my 280ackley and on a hunting trip this week i quickly discovered that it's not the greatest for spotlighting after missing two deer at 140yards due to not being able to see the reticle, it was quite frustrating watching them trot off in to the bush while I frantically tried to pick up the reticle in the spot light. The next evening i shot two deer at 100yards half an hour before dark and that was about its limit for quick shooting I think. If given enough time i could find the center dot but it's one more thing to try and do in high pressure shooting positions so I think I'll have to change it out for something abit more hunting low light friendly.
One scope that has caught my eye is the leupold vx5 hd 3-15x44. I'm not a very big fan of leupold but the design and set up of this scope looks fantastic for a compact hunting scope, does anyone here have experience with this unit? I'm contemplating picking one up for my wife's 308 as it's mostly a hunting rifle but she's also interested in doing some longer range target steel shooting and I thought it would be quite a good cross over due to its low profile lay out and dial capabilities with a turret lock to avoid being knocked out of sight. My only problem with it is the lack of reticle options
26 Aug 2017
@ 09:24 am (GMT)

Warwick Marflitt

Re: The Scope that would be King
To be fair I think you need a Scope made for the job Sightron make the 1-7x24 with an illuminated recticle that will be the ducks nuts for spotlighting. Check it out here
26 Aug 2017
@ 09:32 am (GMT)

Warwick Marflitt

Re: The Scope that would be King
Well I just saw that that model is now discontinued and replaced with this one
26 Aug 2017
@ 09:50 am (GMT)

Sebastian Shand

Re: The Scope that would be King
Gidday Warwick
For my 280ackley I need a do everything scope as it's my all rounder go to hunting rifle so shots from 0 to 700yards and low light shooting as well as spotlighting etc. I have a sightron s3 6-24x50 ffp Moa reticle so I might put that on and see how it goes as the reticle is quite a bit thicker then the stac
26 Aug 2017
@ 10:15 am (GMT)

Mark Whitaker

Re: The Scope that would be King
I've just done some more research.

As Nathan suggested above the 4-20 MOA-2 is better.

The Nightforce 3-15 NP2-DD centre dot is 0.3 moa and this size is usable at night without illumination, just.

The 3-16 Sightron is 0.25 moa and is unusable.

THe Sightron 4-20 is 0.25 at 20x, at 16x its 0.31 moa 20% larger physical size within the scope. This size would be usable at night.

I can now see why Nathan suggested the 4-20 would be better.

Also, FOV at 3 power for the 3-16 is 32.3 feet, FOV at 4 power for the 4-20 is 23.6 feet. Usable at night but not the best FOV and its physically larger, everything is a compromise.

26 Aug 2017
@ 02:09 pm (GMT)

Warwick Marflitt

Re: The Scope that would be King
You can have two scopes for one rifle! I have seen them carefully removed and refitted and not loose zero!!!! $$$$ not being an issue of course : (..... Or fit a laser dot and you'll be sorted ; )
27 Aug 2017
@ 04:25 am (GMT)

Bryan Webster

Re: The Scope that would be King
The Nightforce 3-15 NXS scope has a lot going for it. With the MOAR reticle and illumination it should do fine. I like the eye relief and Zero Stop as well. Tough scope, great tracking. Nice.

My Stac 2.5-17.5 with illuminated dot does well enough but I like a good zero stop like the Burris and NF have.
15 Jan 2019
@ 08:32 am (GMT)

bryan long

Re: The Scope that would be King

, how ever last time i talked to sightron they did say the custom shop was hoping to be able to change reticle to mildot at some stage this year. that is my plan at some stage the moa is just to fine in low light.

So will Sightron retrofit and reticule you want? and what kind of cost and time is involved?
Thanks, Bryan
15 Jan 2019
@ 01:05 pm (GMT)

Bob Mavin

Re: The Scope that would be King
I'm now using Tract scopes

I cannot fault them, excellent, I have 3 of them, the last one I bought was the TORIC 30mm 4-20x50 with First Focal Plane MOA reticle for long range, awesome scope. I sold all but one of my NXS Nightforce scopes.

I recently bought a pair of their Toric 10x42 Schott HT binoculars, great design and they're the best I've used.
20 Dec 2019
@ 11:18 pm (GMT)

bryan long

Re: The Scope that would be King
I emailed Sightron during the week, their custon shop can fit a Duplex reticule for $135

I couldn't take 2 shots with a 4-20 MOA2 reticule recently (swapped out that scope now for a 3.5-10 illumintaed)

One shot was on a calf in morning darkness, took a friend's rifle and struggled even with a heavy crosshair, but could make the shot. Second was with a farmer on new permission, again almost black dark and had a Sika stag walking in a dark bog, could see it just enough, but couldn't see anything of the reticule. Option was to take a hope for a hit shot and look a wanker in front of a farmer on new permission, he couldn't see the stag with the naked eye so wasn't too unimpressed with me not taking the shot.

But a hunting scope you can't see when hunting ain't much use.

Grand for summer evenings practice.


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