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Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope

Sightron will still be a new name to many, but as you will see if you read on, it’s one worth taking seriously. The scope under the spotlight here is the model at the top of Sightron’s new SIII range, now being imported by AIM Fieldsports, whose line of shooting mats, drag bags, and other shooting accessories has already won over target shooters and hunters alike.

The whole package

First impressions are of an imposing and solidly-constructed optic, finished in a sober but elegant slate grey set off by discreet gold detailing. Made in Japan, and based on a one-piece 30mm alloy tube, the SIII features target turrets with zero-able dials under screw-on covers, side-parallax, and a quick-focus ocular bell. It also comes with “bikini” type see-through lens covers, a 3” sun-shade, an Allen key for resetting the turret dials, a lens cloth, and a protective fabric cover.

Dimensions are 15.35” overall, with 2.28” of mounting space ahead of the saddle and 2.13” behind it, 3.6” - 4.0” of eye relief, and a weight (without the sunshade) of 24.7 oz. For comparison purposes, this last figure is almost 4 oz heavier than Nikon’s 8-32x50 ED SF but over 9 oz less than Nightforce’s 12-42 x 56 NXS.

Controls and focusing

Adjusting the scope showed controls that were as smooth and restrained as its looks, with no unnecessary complications. Indeed, the design is well-focused towards its primary purpose: long-range target shooting, and – albeit to a lesser extent – varminting too.

Thus the side-focus knob is only as big as it needs to be to make it easy to focus the image and eliminate parallax error, both of which it does very well, with no added embellishments for range-finding such as a numerical scale or extension wheel, not to mention that the minimum parallax distance is about 40 yards (firmly confirming that this is primarily a firearms scope). Similarly, the zoom ring shows no intermediate detents at X10, etc., since whilst these can be very helpful in conjunction with a mil-dot or other range-finding reticle, they are all but superfluous in conjunction with the SIII’s Target Dot. Although you can use the dot and crosshairs to measure distances at the target - the former subtends 1” and 0.25” and the latter 0.12” and 0.03” at X8 and X32 respectively - the scope’s design assumes a known distance to the target, either because you’re shooting at a standard range or because you’ve lasered it beforehand.

Consequently, any adjustment of the point of impact is made, not by aiming off, but by dialling-in your corrections. The turret covers then are just for protecting your settings in transit. Underneath, the ample turrets are clearly marked and equipped with turn indicator lines – an essential insurance against the calamity of finding yourself a turn adrift, but not as foolproof as an indicator button or a zero-stop system.

In operation, the turrets move with muted clicks and just enough feel to let you keep count without having to look. Both the elevation and windage dials are marked from 0-14 (giving 15 M.o.A. per turn) and provide a total of 70 M.o.A. of adjustment (35 M.o.A. either side of centre). This compares favourably to the 65 M.o.A. of elevation and 45 M.o.A. of windage offered by the NXS, and even more so to the Nikon which offers just 40 M.o.A. of adjustment on both axes.

The SIII’s click values proved gratifyingly precise and reliable too, enabling effective adjustments to be made shot after shot without losing the original zero, thanks to Sightron’s patented ExacTrack adjustment system. My only quibble here is that Sightron have opted for one-quarter-inch click – i.e. one click shifts the point of impact a full 1.5” at 600 yards - rather than the more precise one-eighth-inch standard. Quarter and even half-inch clicks are fine on tactical and hunting scopes, but to my mind a scope built for deliberate long-range target work should offer finer adjustment.

Set-up and zeroing

My plans for the SIII didn’t involve much paper-punching, however, as I had been asked up to the Yorkshire Dales to try my hand at some long-range varminting. I’d shot my .204 Ruger there previously, and had excellent results out to 400 yards with some success out to 500, but beyond that the wind was blowing my bullets all over the place, so I decided to put the Sightron on my trusty .243 Tikka stalking rifle to see if it could be persuaded to act as a Varminter for the weekend.

The first job, of course, was to get it zeroed, so it was off to one of my local shoots with an assortment of ammo, some paper targets, and one of Champion’s excellent Dura-seal prairie-dog spinners. Even while bore-sighting I was impressed by the image produced by the scope, which was satisfyingly bright and sharp right up to the edges, with plenty of contrast and good colour saturation right up to full power. The only oddity was a violet aura visible around pale objects, though as it didn’t affect the clarity or colour of the object itself, it wasn’t a real problem.

I also found the Sightron pleasantly accommodating as regards eye-relief, even at full magnification, which made it easy to get the scope set up for comfortable, consistent alignment.

It wasn’t long before I was happily dialling in to 300-yard targets (the longest good backstop I’ve got on my local shoot) and repeatedly spinning the little 7” orange gopher. Helpfully, the 6mm bullet holes were easily visible on paper at this distance. A little work fine tuning Quickload and Quicktarget with my chrono readings and target data and I’d be ready to try my hand at some long-range Yorkshire bunnies.

Varminting

So it was that a week or so later I was lying prone on a grassy knoll, as a balmy summer’s day crept towards nightfall, looking through the Sightron at a warren on the far side of the dale. With the wind metered, my corrections dialled in, and a round in the chamber, I laid the dot on a big buck rabbit’s shoulder, controlled my breathing and released the shot. When the bullet struck, my host turned away from his spotting scope, extended his hand and congratulated me on my first 600-yard rabbit. And it was still only Friday evening. The rest of the weekend saw plenty more bunnies bite the dust and confirmed my respect for the big Sightron, which had single-handedly transformed my box-standard stalker into a viable varminter.

Consequently, I thought I’d return the favour by taking the Sightron out after a deer. As luck would have it, I didn’t get a chance at a buck, but an evening spent scrutinising the rides from a high seat did serve as a useful confirmation of the SIII’s excellent light-gathering abilities, and even the tiny dot at the centre of the reticle remained visible long enough for me to take an 80-yard fox just a quarter of an hour before the image itself became too dark to use.

In conclusion

The Sightron is a handsome and well-made scope, designed for the long-range target shooter, and almost as well suited to the Varminter, and one whose optical performance not only belies its price but also puts it very much in the first division. I’d love to see a version equipped with one-eighth-inch clicks for extra precision, and an illuminated dot for use when hunting, but it’s still going to be very hard to send the SIII back to AIM.

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Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope
Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope
Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope
Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope
Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope
Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope
Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope
Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope
Sightron SIII SS 8-32x56 LR D scope
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