Sightron SII416X42MD Tactical Riflescope

5 September 1999
By Graysteel


This review was orignally sent to Sniper Country in July/August 1998 but got lost in the shuffle, only to be rediscovered recently. We have tried in vain to contact the author, but assume that he still wishes to have the review posted. We do not know and thus can not vouche for the author but decided to post it irrespective of this, since it can only be to the benefit of our visitors.

I recently had an opportunity to evaluate the Sightron SII416X42MD. This is the first of Sightron's offerings with a mil-dot reticle. This is the first time I have had a chance to review one of Sightron's products.

Although Sightron is not a company one normally thinks of when referring to makers of tactical optics, the addition of the mil-dot reticle in a $325 US (approx.) scope caught my interest.

Sightron is a Japanese company, though they maintain an office in North Carolina. Although my initial contact with the stateside folks showed them to be friendly, the fact that most of their engineering staff is located in Japan made getting technical information somewhat challenging.

The Sightron SII416X42MD is a 4-16x 42mm target turret scope that is available with the mil-dot reticle. The scope has a once-piece aluminum body with a separate 6-inch aluminum sunshield that can be screwed onto the objective housing. The scope comes in both 30mm and 1-inch models. The 1-inch tube body was used for this evaluation.

On first impression the SII416X42MD is a well-built scope with very nice optics. Though I was unable to obtain exact numbers on the resolution of the optics, subjectively speaking they are comparable to any of the high-end scopes I've worked with.

I found the unit to be well made and well finished. The tube itself is nitrogen-filled to prevent fogging and other such problems. The body is covered with very fine concentric rings that cause the scope to grip tightly in any standard set of scope rings. I mounted the scope on both a Savage 110 long action and a Springfield M1A third-generation mount, and found there to be plenty of room for placing the mounting rings to allow for proper eye relief. The interior of the sunshade contains small ridges to prevent glare or reflections.

Though there are certainly stronger and heavier scopes on the market, the Sightron is adequately built for field use. Overall, the body of the scope is excellent.

As I noted before, the optics on the Sightron are very good. They are all coated optics, and though I could not get exact specifications on them, I found the scope to be very bright and clear for a 42mm unit. The magnification ranges from 4 to 16 power, changed by rotating a ring on the ocular lens housing. The ring has a small lever on it, so it is very easy to manipulate even with gloved hands. The eye relief is 3.5" which I find to be about ideal, but this is a personal preference.

The placement of the parallax adjustment is again really a matter of personal preference. I find the objective mounted adjustment works best for me; you might prefer something else. Turning the objective housing makes parallax adjustments. The bell of the housing is marked clearly with ranges from 50 to infinity. I was unable to confirm if the adjustments are in meters or yards, but that makes no real practical difference, as everyone's eyes are slightly different. Overall, the optics are excellent.

The main problems I found with this scope are related to the reticle. It appears to me that Sightron's engineers' understanding of the mil-dot leaves something to be desired. From what I can tell, they simply redesigned the mil-dot system rather then following the existing one. And, yes, before you say it, I know that you can't reinvent a mil-dot system and still have it be a milliradian system. Rather, the issue seems to be that when they went to put the mil-dot reticle on an adjustable-power scope, they decided that since the system would only work at one power setting, it was better to redesign the system.

What they have done is set the system up rather like the one many hunting scopes used for range estimation. These systems work by having you adjust the optical power setting so that marks on the reticle bracket an object of a known size. The way Sightron's system works is to start with the known size of an object in inches, then look at a chart to find the measurement that most closely matches. Personally, I don't think the system is workable at all.

The engineers really missed the boat on this one. Not to mention their documentation of this issue is almost completely lacking. However, after mulling it over for several hours and playing with an Excel spread sheet (who said geeks aren't dangerous?) I came up with a system that I feel works as well as the mil-dot system on variable power scopes. I have worked out the details for anyone interested at the end of this review.

You should also be aware that the dot in the mil-dot pattern aren't quite those of a standard mil-dot system. So that it would be impossible to use as a standard mil-dot even if you fixed the power setting at 12.5 (which happens to make the rest of the pattern work the way it should). My overall view of the reticle system on this scope is that the company did a poor job of understanding the intended use, and an even worse job of documenting their system.

I think it is just dumb luck that another very workable system exists for the pattern they have chosen. As it turns out, I really like the alternate system suggested above, and I included the table mentioned above in case someone might be interested in employing it. The elevation and windage adjustments are the next point to consider. The turrets are unusual in that they are 1/8 minute of angle, not the standard 1/4. This allows for a bit more precision, but requires turning the dial more. To be honest, it is questionable as to whether that level of precision is of any real use tactically. The knobs have a good feel and audible click as they turn.

The internal scope adjustments have an unusual design that Sightron claims makes the scope more consistent at the extremes of adjustment. The real limiting factor here is that the range of travel is only 56 MOA. This particular limitation may well be related to the special internal design these scopes have to ensure there is very little variation in point of impact even at the extremes of travel. This still presents a bit of an issue, because for military use with the .308WIN round, you need a minimum of 44 MOA worth of adjustment.

For me, this issue almost made the scope a no-go until I talked to the good folks at Burris. Now, I don't like to make unqualified statements, but the Burris Signature Series scope rings with offset bushings are absolutely wonderful. These rings allow you to very securely mount on a weaver base and set the scope at whatever initial angle suits your purposes. Using Burris rings allows one to decrement the scope turret 90% of the way and zero it using the rings. This allows you to use the full range of travel for elevation adjustments. Once that was done I found the turrets to work very well.

The only other complaint I have about the turret system on these scopes is that the change in elevation per full rotation of the turret is 7.5 MOA. This forces you to think a bit more then you should have to in order to make an adjustment in elevation.

For example: to make an adjustment of 23 MOA, you must first turn the turret three full turns to get to 22.5, then make your last 0.5 adjustment from zero. I would much rather see the turrets turn 10 MOA per rotation, that way you could just rotate them 2 turns then make your last adjustment of three.

I would say that the turrets and adjusting system on this scope are good quality, but difficult to operate. In my opinion, the Sightron SII416X42MD is a good scope but a little mis-designed. They essentially took an exceptional hunting scope and added a different reticle pattern. Though I feel that while the overall quality of the scope is excellent, there wasn't enough consideration given to the needs of a tactical shooter to make this scope a serious contender.

Alternate ranging system for the Sightron SII416x42MD

For those of you who are interested, what follows is a description of the ranging system I worked up for use with the reticle on the SII416X42MD.

Most of us are used to having to divide fractional mils to get to the range, so having a calculator in the field (at least a watch-style one) is generally accepted as the norm. With that in mind, I came up with another chart that allows one to convert the height or width of a known object to the range of the object. The process is actually very simple.

First, pick an object of known size, then focus the scope on the object and adjust the power setting of the scope until the object fills the distance from the center of one dot to the center of an adjacent dot. All you have to do then is multiply the size of the object in inches by a number from the chart and that gives you the range in yards. That way, there is an only one number you have to multiply by another.

The chart has only 25 numbers in it, so it would be easy to memorize -- though I still prefer to have it taped to the rifle stock. The table follows:


While at fist this table may look a bit intimidating, it really is quite easy to use as illustrated by the following example.

If you want to determine the range of an object you know to be 36-inches tall (1 yard), you must first focus on the target and adjust the magnification until the target just fills the distance between the center of two dots (personally I prefer to use from the top of one dot to the top of the next dot).

You then look at the power setting (for this example, say the target is bracketed when the power setting is at 11).

Finally, you multiply the height of the object by the number that is next to the 11 on the chart. In this case we would use 24.44 because that is next to the number 11.

With this method, the only math you have to do to get the range in yards is 36 X 24.44 = 880. The reason I say I like this system better in some circumstances then the mil-dot is because my guess at how large the target is in inches is often better then my guess at how large the target is in fractions of a meter.

The disadvantage of this system is that you have a greater margin for error when you read the power setting, because you need to take the closest number. I recommend guessing to the closest quarter power, i.e. 7.5, 7.75, 8, etc.

Personally, I find the increase in accuracy in estimating the size of the target more than makes up for the loss in reading the power setting. Again, all this is personal preference. The other issue here is that when measuring objects that are at very close range (closer then 300 yards), they often appear larger than the space between one dot to the next even on the lowest power setting.

While this may not be an issue for military snipers, police-style shooters would experience a problem until they simply convert to using the distance between a greater number of dot-to-dot spaces to bracket the target. In that case, you just have to remember to divide your answer by the number of dot-to-dot spaces you are using.

For example: if using three dot-to-dot spaces instead of one for a 36-inch target, you have to divide your answer by three.

The other option is to make a little chart where you have already divided the "multiplier" numbers from my chart by 2, 3, 4 and 5. This way, it just becomes a matter of using the multiplier that matches the number of dot to dot spaces you are using to range the target. I am certain all this seems rather complicated, but then again, so did the mil-dot system when you first heard it.

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