Sightron has has been in business for over 20 years now and they offer some nice higher end hunting and tactical scopes. But it was one of their scopes on the lower end of the price spectrum that caught our eye this time around. We are always on the lookout for affordable scopes that may not offer all of the features of the high end tactical scopes, but that do still offer good solid performance on the features that really matter. The Sightron S1H-Tac in 3-9x40mm is priced right and looked like it could be a nice little scope for an affordable tactical rifle. It doesn’t have all of the frills of other high end tactical scopes, which can actually be a good thing, as we’ll explain below. So we thought we would bring one in and put it through our full battery of tests to see how it performs, especially when compared to the other lower priced, but usable, tactical scopes like the Bushnell Elite Tactical 10x40mm and Redfield 3-9x40mm Revolution/Tactical.
The S1H-Tac arrives in a fairly typical box with some instructions and a small allen wrench used for slipping the elevation and windage knob. The packaging is nothing fancy, but it is a low priced scope so we do not expect anything fancy either. The scope also comes with some really cheap flip up rubber/plastic scope caps, but they are not worth using and we just took them off and tossed them. We’d rather Sightron just lower the price of the scope by a few bucks and not bother including the caps as they really are not usable in the field. After looking at the box, packaging, included items and the quality of the instructions, which were not too bad in this case, we then flipped the scope over to examine where the scope was made. As we all know, the market is flooded with low priced and poorly made Chinese scopes that do not do well when serious used, but in this case the scope is made in the Philippines where a lot of the modern mid range scopes are made. This gave us hope that the scope could perform.
The S1H-Tac is a just a basic Sightron S1 3-9x40mm hunting scope with a mildot reticle and some tactical knobs and other minor features. That is about it and for a lower cost scope, we much prefer that the manufacturer provide just a basic scope with good quality instead of a scope with tons of features but poorly made. This is where a majority of the cheap Chinese scopes end up going, trying to sell based on features and not quality. The 3-9x40mm scope is perhaps the most popular and common scope made today so it is likely about the least expensive one to manufacture and therefore makes a good scope to build an affordable tactical scope from.
The eyepiece of the S1H-Tac is a fast focus design that will cover its entire diopter adjustment range in about 1.3 revolutions. The full range is only from -2.0 to +1.0, which is less than other scopes out there but typically enough to cover most eyes. There is a thin rubber ring on the end that will help protect the shooter in the event of a scope kiss, but it is slick and there is not much surface on eyepiece itself for which to grab, so it can be a bit difficult in certain circumstances to rotate the stiff diopter adjustment in order to focus the reticle. That stiffness does help keep it in place once it it is set. There is also no indicator mark anywhere on the eyepiece to help track particular settings for individual shooters, so if you change users and want to fine tune the reticle sharpness, it’ll have to be redone for each operator when they take over.
Directly in front of the eyepiece itself is located the magnification power adjustment ring which has an individual number mark for each magnification setting from 3x to 9x. The area of the ring where the markings are located is flat and not canted toward the operator so they can be hard to see from behind the scope and requires lifting your head a decent amount to see what power the scope is set at. It is a 2nd focal plane scope, so it does matter what power the scope is set to when getting your mil measurements, but the good thing is that the correct setting is at 9x. This makes it easy just to crank the zoom power all the way up until it stops, which can be done without looking at the markings, and then you know you are at the right magnification. The ring itself has a nice serrated style knurling on it that provides a good gripping surface on which to grab and make your zoom adjustments. It rotates smoothly through the entire range and has just about the right amount of stiffness to keep it in place while not making it too difficult to easily adjust.
There is 2.25″ of tube length between the eyepiece and the shoulder of the scope for which to locate the rear mounting ring. This is a good amount and should be plenty especially if using a picatinny rail for scope mounting. The one piece aluminum tube is the old traditional 1″ diameter, which nowadays is abnormal on a tactical scope and usually only found on the lower priced ones. The tube is nitrogen purged to prevent fogging and comes with a lifetime warranty on the entire scope.
The external elevation knob is elevated on the shoulder of the scope and as is fitting for the size of the 3-9x scope, is not huge in size but still large enough to have clear markings all the way around. At the top of the knob is the same serration style knurling as is found on the magnification ring and it works equally well here. There are 15 MOA of adjustment per revolution and the factory indicates there are 70 MOA of adjustments available on the scope. Though when we checked our test scope there was only 60 MOA of total elevation adjustment. That is a decent amount less than factory specifications, which we found interesting, but became clear as to possible reason why later in our tests. When testing the scope with a 20 MOA canted base, there were still 46 MOA of up elevation after the rifle and scope were zeroed at 100 yards, providing enough up to take M118LR style ammunition beyond 1000 yards. There are hash marks for each .25 MOA click and the clicks themselves have an audible click with a slight tactile feel. There is a bit of slop before each click, which we do not like, but it is less than the typical Chinese built scope and the reticle does not appear to move when the knob is moving through the slop, only when it actually clicks. There are also horizontal hash marks under the elevation knob to help track how many rotations the knob has been rotated. This will be important information to track as the scope does not have a zerostop. There are three small Allen set screws in the knurling portion of the knob which need to be loosened to slip the dial to zero. There is a wrench provided to do this, but the small size of the screws makes slipping the dials a bit tedious and slow.
The windage knob is the same size and shape as the elevation knob and it also has the same 15 MOA of adjustment per revolution. The numbers count up in only one direction, right, which will require diligent tracking of where you have your knob set when the windage adjustments get high. There is a direction indicator marked only at the zero, which is okay, but it would not hurt to have the same marking on the back side of the knob as well. The clicks are exactly the same as the elevation knob with the same audible indication with only moderate tactile feel. Unfortunately the same slop is found on these clicks as well, which did not come as any surprise as the internal mechanical mechanisms would be the same. There is no adjustable objective on this lower powered 3-9x scope, which is the common practice for scopes with lower magnification ranges. The scope is set from the factory to be parallax free at 100 yards, this means when using the scope at longer distances, the operator will need to insure their cheekweld is the same, and solid, with each shot to try and prevent any parallax distortion that may throw your rounds off. It is not as nice as a scope with an adjustable objective, but the controls are super simple, and the issue can be worked around with proper shooting technique.
The forward tube area has slightly more length in which to place the forward mounting ring than did the rear portion, up around 2.4″. At that point the forward bell begins which houses the 40mm objective lens. The bell is fairly small and short and it is threaded for the use of a sunshade, which the scope does not come with but is available from Sightron for about $30. The matte finish on the scope is a bit more rough than a higher end scope as the tube appears to be a bit more aggressively bead blasted before application. It looks decent and the finish should be durable. There are limited markings on the scope, except on top of the control knobs where there is some large and somewhat distracting markings. All of the markings are done in an off-white color and is at least not a bright white. The small SI logo on the left side of the scope is silver and has some shine to it, but is fairly small and can be covered up with a sharpie, tape, or paint if desired.
The overall shape of the scope is very traditional without much to comment on besides that it is small for a tactical scope, which can be good! It is just under a foot long (11.97″) and with the 1″ diameter tube it makes the scope light, weighing under 1 pound (15 ounces). The exterior quality is certainly not up to the standards of a high end scope, but it appears to be well made for the price point, though the sloppy clicks and 10 MOA less max adjustments than factory specs give us some pause.
The scope has a mildot reticle which has all of the normal dimensions associated with this classic reticle. The dots themselves are the normal US Army size mildot (.22 MIL diameter) so all of the normal methods of using the US Army mildot to become more accurate at measuring mils applies. As was mentioned earlier, the reticle is on the 2nd focal plane meaning it does not grow or shrink with the zoom power, so insure you are on 9x before measuring the target with the reticle.
The optics on the scope are actually better than we expected. About ten years ago we had handled and played with a Sightron S1 and the optics were noticeably yellow tinted and quiet poor. This S1H-Tac showed none of those traits. This is likely a testament to how far even the lower end optics quality has come over the past 10-20 years. The picture is bright with good contrast and it is sharp all the way to the edges. We would say the optics are right in line with the other tactical scopes in this category.
To perform our practical field tests of the S1H-Tac, we mounted the scope to our Remington 700P test mule chambered in 308 Win. The rifle has a steel Warne 20 MOA canted base on it and we used a set of steel TSR four screw tactical 1″ diameter rings to mount the scope. After dealing so much these days with 30mm and 34mm scope tubes, the 1″ tubes feel small, but we had no problems and everything mounted up nicely.
For a detailed description of how we perform and conduct our Scope and Rifle Reviews, please take a look at our “how we test” page. For our shooting portions of our test the day was a bit chilly at 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2.2 Celsius) and the winds were calm with an overcast sky. After bore-sighting and then zeroing the rifle and scope, we began with the box test using a 6 MOA box to test the tracking and repeatability of the adjustments. Beyond the box being a bit large, everything tracked very nice and the fifth group was right back to zero and tracking well.
Next up was our click size adjustment test where we fire one group, then dial in 20 MOA of left, fire a second group and then bring it back to zero for a third group. We were shooting Federal Gold Medal Match 168gr ammo and the rifle was shooting beautifully, even with only 9x magnification. The first group was a one-holer, measuring about .3 MOA and then the second group 20 MOA to the left was not much bigger. We dialed the 20 MOA of right into the scope bringing it back to zero and then fired the 3rd group which was right on top of the first group. If the third group made the group any larger, we could barely tell. So again, the repeatability of the adjustments were right on. When we measured the distance between the two groups, it came to 22.1″, which seemed too far. So we measured it again to verify and our first measurement was correct. 20 MOA should measure 20.94″ at 100 yards, so the distance was over an inch larger than it should be. To award a passing grade for this test we expect no more than 5% error and we prefer to see less than 3%. The doing the math showed us that the adjustments were 5.5% off, which is a failing grade. As an example of why this is an important test, if we were engaging a target at about 675 yards where we would need that same 20 MOA of elevation dialed in to hit, the actual adjustments would be about 8 inches higher than expected. On a man sized target, you may still get a hit if you are aiming at center mass, but for smaller targets, maybe not. If you were engaging at 900 yards, about the max effective range of a 9x scope, you would need about 32.5 MOA in standard atmospheric conditions at sea level. At that range the adjustments would be off by almost 17″, and that would more than likely be a miss even on a larger target.
We were disappointed that the clicks did not measure up as good as we would like and it explained why the scope only had 60 MOA instead of 70 MOA as the factory indicated. Each click was larger than they were supposed to be, sucking up the available range of movement, therefore limiting it to only 60 indicated MOA of clicks. Even with these results, we still needed to finish the rest of the tests. Since the scope does not have an adjustable objective, we did not need to test for reticle drift while going through the focus range, but we still needed to test for reticle drift while changing the zoom power. So using our optical boresighter we zeroed the scope on the grid and went from 3x to 9x and back down several times watching for any movement of the reticle off of the grid point the reticle was zeroed on. We were unable to detect any reticle drifting at all, a very good sign. Based off of the results of this test as well as the solid repeatability of the adjustments, we believe that the internal mechanisms are solid, it just seems to be an issue with the calibrated size of the clicks.
Unfortunately, those click sizes have to be weighed into our final score of the scope. If the scope is going to be used at just one set of ranges, such as on a law enforcement rifle that usually stays zeroed at 100 yards, it does not play a major factor. But if your intended use of the scope is to engage targets at multiple ranges from 100-900+ yards, then the extra large click sizes will be a factor to consider. The slop in the actual physical clicks can be overlooked as it did not appear to have operational impact since the reticle did not appear to move until the click was executed. The rest of the quality of the scope was pretty good for a lower priced optic and it compares favorably with the others in the same category. Unfortunately, it would score higher if it had passed all the tests. Perhaps if Sightron addresses this issue we will revisit the review to see how it does. The scope is still functional, and affordable, for certain mission parameters, but be aware of the limitations.
Sniper Central 2016