Sightron’s Silhouette Scope

Sightron S2 Big Sky 6-24×42 Silhouette

I have used this scope in a couple of comparisons already, but I figured it was worth a short write-up exclusively dedicated to it.

I make no secret that I like Sightron products along with a couple of other scope lines.  
For midrange scopes, 90% of the time, I find myself recommending Sightron S2 Big Sky or Bushnell Elite 4200 or Vortex Viper.  
I have had good luck with all of them and I think they offer a lot for the money.

To the best of my knowledge, all Sightron scopes are made in Japan and Sightron’s two core line-ups of 1″ tubed scopes: S2 and S2 Big Sky are offered in an ungodly number of combinations of reticles, finishes, magnification ranges, and objective sizes.

One thing I always wished Sightron would do is get away from using 1/8 MOA clicks in their high magnification variable scopes. Historically, all Sightron scopes with Adjustable Objectives and top end magnification above 12x had 1/8 MOA clicks with 10MOA per turn.  I always thought that was not optimal for long range shooting and coarser clicks would work better.
A while back when Sightron introduced 1″ scopes with Side Focus they built them with 1/4 MOA clicks, to my delight.  Still, those scopes have 3x erectors (4.5-14×44 and 6.5-20×50) while the 4x erector 4-16x42AO and 6-24x42AO scopes soldiered on with 1/8 MOA clicks.
More recently, apparently after a barrage of complaints, Sightron made a version of 6-24×42 scope with 1/4 MOA clicks.  Since this version of the scope is called “Silhouette” I must assume that most of the pressure came from Silhouette shooters.
If you would rather have finer 1/8 MOA clicks, all other 6-24×42 S2 Big Sky scopes are equipped with those.
The Silhouette scope comes with a fine “dot and crosshair” reticle:
The dot size (A) looks to be about 1/2 MOA at the highest magnification, but I did not bother to check it specifically.  It is small enough for very precise aiming, and that is really my primary concern.  This is not a low light hunting scope.  It’s best use is for target shooting.  Sightron reticles are made of wire (as opposed to the more popular glass etched designs).  While that limits the reticle selection somewhat, I have not had any problems with Sightron reticles failing.
Here are some specs of the Sightron and its competitors (all 1″ tube scopes with 4x erectors):

Bushnell Elite 4200

Nikon Monarch
Sightron S2 Big Sky 
6-24×42 SIL
Length, in 16.9 15.5 15
Weight, oz 20.2 20.5 17.6
Field of View, ft@100 yards 18 – 6 16.8 – 4.2 15.7 – 4.4
Eye Relief, in 3.3 3.6 – 4.2 3.7 – 4.0
Side Focus or Adjustable Objective? AO SF AO
Click Value, MOA 1/8 1/8 1/4
Adjustment Range, MOA 26 30 60
There are other scopes that compete with the three above (Burris Signature Select 6-24×44 comes to mind), but these are fairly representative of the market place.  In terms of specs, there is nothing really exceptional about the Sightron except the adjustment range, which is unusually large for a 1″ tube scope of high magnification.  Field of view is a bit narrower than Elite 4200 (another one of my favorites), but eye relief is longer.  Still, the most notable conclusion is that if you want to shoot long range and use knobs to dial in your shots, with Bushnell and Nikon you pretty much have to upgrade to the heavier and more expensive 30mm tube models.  With Sightron you can make do with a 1″ tube S2 Big Sky in reasonable comfort. As a matter of fact, it has more adjustment range than quite a few competing 30mm tube models, such as Bushnell Elite 4200 6-24×50 and Burris Black Diamond 6-24×50.

I used it on three different rifles: Savage 12FV in 22-250, AR-15 chambered for 6.5Grendel and my ’98 Mauser chambered for 308Win. Here is the Sightron sitting on the Mauser, where it spent most of the time:


In the picture above, it is mounted in Warne rings on top of a Ken Farrell base.  The base is a bit higher than I would have liked, but this is an intermediate (Yugo M48) Mauser action and there aren’t any other one piece bases available.  Still, with the adjustable Karsten cheek piece, scope height was not a problem.  

Over the years, I have been involved in a few arguments on whether Side Focus (SF) or Adjustable Objective (AO) is a better way to take care of image focusing and parallax correction.  Generally, I find Side Focus a little more convenient, but AO has its advantages as well.  For example, when I practice shooting left-handed, AO is easier to reach.  Also, due to a larger diameter of the objective adjustment, it is often easier to make a fine adjustment.  Hence, I can certainly see why many target shooters prefer AO, while tactical shooters side with the more convenient and, seemingly, more robust Side Focus adjustment.  Whether SF is, indeed, more robust or not, I have no way of telling, but from a design standpoint SF is easier to make very durable.  In practical terms, if you plan to use your scope to pound nails, go with Side Focus, otherwise, it should not make much practical difference once you get used to one method or the other.
This scope has medium height target knobs as well as screw-on covers.  Here is a look at the knobs:



As I have expounded above, each click is 1/4 MOA, with each full revolution allowing for 20 MOA of adjustment.  There are revolution counters as well, so if you have to adjust beyond one turn you know where you are.  Clicks are fairly light but crisp and repeatable. Had this scope not been equipped with covers, I would probably be a little concerned about accidentally bumping them off adjustment. Still, this scope is unlikely to be carried through brush a whole lot, unless someone decides to use it for a walking varminter.  I ran the knobs through a standard box test and spent some time shooting at targets near and far.  Adjustments were accurate and repeatable to within my ability to shoot.

Optically, Sightron S2 Big Sky is very good.  The image is bright and clear.  Resolution is very good as is the contrast.  I recently compared this scope to a few of its competitors: Leupold VX-3, Vortex Viper and Hawke Frontier SF.  Sightron performed very well and slightly out resolved others in good light.  In low light this particular scope is a bit bothered by bright light sources outside of the field of view and about 2 o’clock position.  I have not seen this on other S2 Big Sky scopes, so I suspect it is unique to this one.  Still, it is not particularly objectionable.  There is no tunnel vision to speak of, and eye relief is both long and fairly flexible.
The magnification range of 6-24x, while pretty common, is somewhat ambitious for a moderately sized 42mm objective lens.  On a warm California day, the highest magnification was only useable fairly early in the morning when it was already quite bright, but there was still not enough heat on the ground to cause serious mirage.  At 24x, the exit pupil is only 1.75mm in diameter and that is only usable in the best of conditions.  I ended up mostly using the scope somewhere between 10x and 16x, depending on how hot it got. As the sun was setting I slowly dialed down to 6-8x.  The image remained bright and clear, but the thin target reticle was never designed for low light.
I have spent a fair amount of time in the past with Sightron’s (as well as other makers’) scopes equipped with 1/8 MOA clicks.  Dialing in was quite a bit simpler with 1/4 MOA clicks.  The range where I shoot only goes out to 700 yards, but while shooting 175gr SMKs, I was able to get to the furthest plate on the range within one revolution of the elevation knob and with a lot less click counting.
Ultimately, within Sightron’s line-up the side focus 6.5-20×50 S2 Big Sky is probably still a better choice for longer range applications owing to a larger objective lens.  However, now those who prefer finer focus adjustment with AO or simply want to have 24x at their disposal have an option with 1/4 MOA clicks.
On balance, I think this scope competes well against other mid/top-end Japanese glass like Elite 4200, Leupold VX-3, etc.  
I look at quite a few scopes every year.  Some are virtual copies of their competitors.  Personally, I always wonder what the manufacturer was thinking when they came out with a particular scope, and what was intended to be the differentiating feature of a particular model or line-up.  I think Sightron’s S2 Big Sky and S3 scopes make for very compelling line-ups both optically and mechanically.  Still, there are numerous competitors who are as good or almost as good and available for similar money or less.  Where Sightron has an advantage is in the adjustments: the knobs are very repeatable and the adjustment range is typically more generous than that of the competition.

ILya Koshkin, July 2009

 Posted by at 11:42 pm