written in October 2017
Since I was putting together a progress report of sorts, I also realized there are several scopes I have wrapped up with, but havn’t yet written anything about. Among them are the two Styrka S7 scopes that I looked at late in 2016.
First, a couple of words about the company. Styrka is, apparently, a Swedish word for “strength”. It is also a Russian word for “laundry”. Since I do not speak Swedish, but do speak Russian, I find the name highly amusing. If you visit Styrka website, it is positively littered with the word “strong” and its various conjugates. However, all I can think of when when I visit their website is “strong laundry”… That is probably my personal failing.
Since I mentioned their website (https://styrkastrong.com/), I might as well give a little background on the company. From a marketing standpoint, they are very good. Considering how young the Styrka brand is, they have an unusually clear and coherent message aimed at the hunting market (and it is probably quite effective since most people do not think “laundry” when they hear Styrka; OK, I will wrap up with the whole laundry business). The reason their presentation looks so polished is that Sytrka is, apparently, Celestron’s new attempt to play in the hunting market. With Celestron behind them, Styrka has every opportunity to do well. I have not tested their binoculars and spotters, but I suspect they are very well worked out since Celestron has been marketing those forever and a day. My interest was with riflescopes and their, Styrka has some work to do.
I looked at two of their higher end scopes, both from the S7 product line: 1-6×24 and 2.5-15×50. I tested the 1-6×24 on my 10mm carbine and on a fairly conventional AR. The 2.5-15×50 spend some time on an AR and on a 308Win bolt gun. Neither scope came with exposed turrets, so I did not spend a whole lot of time exploring tracking. I did a rough check and since nothing objectionable was found, I did not dig into that further.
The 1-6×24 had their plex reticle (non-illuminated), while the 2.5-15×50 had Styrka’s BDC-style reticle.
Optical quality was quite respectable and good for the money. Both scopes, once zeroed, stayed zeroed. However, I did not do an extremely thorough test and the reason for that is reticle design. Best I can tell, Styrka does not have a whole lot of people with background in sighting devices, so whoever makes the decisions there really does not understand reticles. For the record, I explained all of that to the very nice gentleman who was my contact there during SHOT 2017. I have not heard a peep from them since, so I can surmise that they are either hard at work re-working their reticle or they got all poochy-faced because I dared to tell them they made a few mistakes. Either way, I am too lazy to fig into what they are up to further, so I will keep checking on them every few months to see if they did anything about their reticles.
As they are right now, their reticles are what I would call “designed to fail”.
The plex reticle in the 1-6×24 has a very wide opening and is way too thin for a low range variable. You can’t really use the thick bars for bracketing anything and without illumination, the reticle really vanishes in low light. On the flip side of the coin, during the day, it does not stand out either so it does not aid in speed. If you look at a veritable horde of 1-6x scopes out there you will notice that everyone does something to aid the visibility of their reticle. Styrka decided to go with a simple hunting reticle (it seem like they are trying to avoid the AR market like the plague, which in itself is a huge mistake), but then they sized it wrong for a scope of this type. Illumination helps a bit, but not enough.
The reticle I looked at in the 2.5-15×50 is their SH-BDC and, comparatively speaking, it is even worse. It has a few holdover hashmarks, like many modern holdover reticle, but it skips on the thick outer bars entirely. You can imagine what it does to low light visibility and speed of acquisition. With all lines being about the same thickness, the eye is not naturally drawn to any spot, so it is not built for speed. Line thickness is cleverly selected in such a way that it is too thick for precision shooting, but too think to see in low light.
I have been looking at riflescopes on a fairly consistent basis for about 20 years now. One of the biggest differences between now and 20 years ago, is the evolution of and ever increasing sophistication in reticle design. Styrka went ahead and soundly ignored these last twenty years of practical experience and decided to go their own way (most likely drawing on expertise of people who have never fired a gun).
All that is the bad part, and, as you may imaging, I do not think I made any friends at Styrka headquarters. Frankly, I can live with that. Be that as it may, there is a silver lining.
First of all, while the S7 scopes are made in China, they appear to be made exceedingly well. Best I can tell, the S7 deisgn is related to Athlon Midas and Hawke Frontier which appear to be made by the same OEM. That is not a bad company to be in. If my guess on the OEM is correct, basic optomechanical quality of the S7 scopes should be quite good and my impressions from using the scopes support that. Now, that also means if you want a scope like the S7, but with a more modern reticle design, you can go to Hawke or Athlon. That is generally true, but not for all situations. Athlon’s reticle designs are at their best in FFP scopes (so consider Athlon Ares if you want a more sophisticated reticle in FFP from the same OEM). Hawke reticle in the 1-6×24 Frontier is excellent, while the LRD dot in the 2.5-15×50 Frontier is also a very good hunting reticle. What is worth noting though, is that both Athlon and Hawke supply their 1-6×24 with fixed parallax.
The Styrka S7 1-6×24 is one of the few low range variables with adjustable parallax. While generally adjustable focus is not necessary on low range variables, it is a pretty good idea if you want to a scope of this type for a rimfire or an airgun. For that application, it is a very respectable option, just make sure you get the model with illuminated reticle. I am considering one for my 10/22.
With the 2.5-15×50 S7, while the BDC reticle is basically useless, Styrka makes a version with a low tech, but very familiar classic mil-dot reticle. To be entirely honest, I do not like complicated holdover reticles in SFP scopes. As much as I like Athlon’s APLR in FFP Ares, I do not think the SFP Midas is a good platform for it.
Simple mrad-graduate reticle, like the classic Mil-Dot, on the other hand, is quite usable if you know what you are doing without being particularly complicated. Also, since this reticle is pretty well established, Sytrka’s crack engineers did not go to town on it. It is a bit old school, but it works and works well for a variety of applications. Here is a link to the specific model on Adorama.
Considering how harshly I spoke of Styrka earlier, you are probably wondering why I am providing product links. The answer is simple: I usually see the S7 priced lower than Athlon or Hawke offerings from the same OEM. If you can live with the options I outlined, this is a pretty cost effective way to get your hands on a very nice scope from the standpoint of optics and basic mechanical quality.