I try to start out every hunting season with some new gear that I can test and evaluate thoroughly during the year's adventures. Although I've done it, I hate to pass judgment on a piece of equipment based on a few days testing. I'd much rather live with the gear for a whole season, use it hard in all kinds of conditions and then decide if I like the stuff. Last year I was able to do just that with some optical gear from a company called Sightron, and after an extended season of hunting, I'm ready to pass judgment.
I'd seen this company's name in a few places but never having had a chance to look at their products, I arranged the loan of a Sightron SIII 10X42 binocular and a Sightron SII Big Sky 3.5-10X42 riflescope. When they finally arrived, initial impressions were good. Both items looked and felt like well-crafted products and the literature with each, promised Sightron would provide a lifetime guarantee, saying, "We wouldn't expect you to trust our products, if we didn't believe in them ourselves." I wish all companies had a philosophy like that.
The first order of business was to mount the scope on a suitable rifle. An accurate Remington 700 in 243 volunteered, so it got the nod. Bore sighting went smoothly and I really liked the feel of the adjustment knobs as I dialed in elevation and windage. No mush here, just smooth solid clicks with no need for coins or screwdrivers. And I broke into a huge grin when I found I could reset both knobs to zero, just by lifting up, dialing to zero and pressing down. All scope knobs should be built this way. Really. The knobs on this scope have spoiled me to the point where the scopes I own that don't have this feature might not be around here long.
Of course, knobs that look and feel good aren't worth much if their adjustments aren't reliable and repeatable. To test these I took the Remington/Sightron combo to the range and shot what is commonly called "the square." It's a simple matter of using three shot groups to pinpoint the four corners of a square while using the same aiming point and moving bullet impact only by dialing windage and elevation into the scope. If the scope's adjustments are good, the corner you start in is where you should end up, with your last three bullets stacked on top of the first three. That's exactly what happened. Sightron credits this kind of repeatability to their patented ExacTrac? system. All I know is it works.
The adjustment knobs on this Sightron scope are finger adjustable, have
solid repeatable click settings, clear markings and can be reset to zero.
A binocular doesn't require the extensive set up that a riflescope does, so getting this one ready to go just required adjusting the straps, inter-pupillary distance and focus. Using it to look around the neighborhood revealed what appeared to be excellent optical quality. But there's a difference between reading the neighbor's license plates and hunting. Their test would come.
The Sightron SIII 10X42 binocular on the bench and in the field.
In my part of the world, the toughest test of optical gear is cold. When the temperature plummets and the snow piles high, poorly built optics don't last. It appears they can't take the transition from warmth to cold and back again without seals leaking and glass fogging. With that in mind, I dedicated both these items to my winter coyote hunting, hanging the binocular around my neck every time I went out. The scope made about half my outings.
Two of the beautiful northern coyotes brought to ground
with help from the Sightron SII Big Sky 3.5-10X42.
My coyote hunting involves a lot of calling and I can usually get a dozen stands into the short days we get here in the frozen north. That means a dozen times out of a heated truck into minus twenty degrees and back in again. Freeze it, warm it, freeze it, warm it, is the continuing cycle and both of these optical devices survived. I saw no signs of fogging or leakage, just excellent performance.
On one bitterly cold day, my hunting buddy and I were glassing a kill about three-quarters of a mile away from where we sat. Light was low and the ground-drifting snow made visibility poor, so it was tough to tell what, if anything was on the carcass. With the Sightron binocular I was able to distinguish the ravens from the coyotes (four of them) while my friend's optics weren't up to the task.
The riflescope showed similar optical performance on a day when the coyotes didn't follow my plan. We set up on a frozen pond, calling and waiting for one to step out of the spruce and onto the ice, but after twenty minutes, nothing showed. I was about to give up on the stand, when I thought I saw movement in the dark timber across the ice. I eased the Remington to my shoulder and the Sightron scope separated a coyote from the shadows deep in the trees. I tried calling some more, but he wouldn't step out. Instead, he spooked and moved further back. My crosshairs followed him into the darkness and when he stopped, I threaded a bullet between the branches and dropped him. That demonstrated both good optical performance and the scopes ability to hold zero. I never did have to re-zero that riflescope over the entire winter. In November I sighted in and shot my last coyote with it in February at 264 yards?no change whatever. That's solid.
For users of optical gear, this is a great time to be a consumer. I think we have more selection, quality and features available to us than any previous generation. But I'm sure that for the companies trying to earn our optical business competition is fierce. Sightron seems to have the right formulae for success. Build quality products, price them competitively and guarantee them for life. I ended up buying both these items and they likely won't be the last Sightron products I buy. You can download their catalogue at www.sightron.com .
Al Voth is a lifelong hunter and shooter who recently retired from a career in law enforcement. He now splits his time between forensic contracts and freelance writing. Additionally, he is the author of two novels, B-Zone and Mandatory Reload; the hero of which is, among other things, a hunter.