Written by ILya Koshkin In January, 2017
Sig Sauer Electro Optics Tango 6 3-18×44
Well, this is one article where I am going to eat some crow, figuratively speaking.
I make it a point to try to get my hands on some representative samples from more or less every new riflescope brand. I know that there are differences between models and product lines. However, since I have a day job, I can’t do a thorough test of everything out there. I do what I can and only recommend products that I have reasonable hands on time with make it to my list of recommendations.
When I select which products to test, I often ask some of my friends in the industry whether a particular product is worth my time. I do not always follow their suggestions, but I have to use some sort of a filtering scheme. When I test a scope, I spend a LOT of time with it and fire a fairly significant number of rounds with it mounted on a gun. I invest a lot of time and money into it. I remember I was once talking to a guy who is an avid hunter and he claimed that he practices a lot with his rifle. Well, after a little digging it turned out that I fire more rounds while testing a single scope than he does in a year with all of his rifles together. Now, simply firing a lot of rounds by itself does not necessarily mean all that much, but it is still reasonable representation of the time and effort spent.
When I was first looking into testing a Sig Tango6, a couple of people I talked to said that they are decent, but unexceptional and might not be worth my time. Sig being a pretty big name, I figured I should test one any way, but my expectations were pretty low. Digging through the specs was not terribly encouraging either.
Actually using the scope turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. This scope is the case where the whole package turned out to be more than the sum of the individual parts (forgive me for this overused terminology, but it truly is applicable).
Here is the spec table of the scopes I think represent the Tango6’s competition. I can come up with a few more, but I think this is a good cross-section of what’s out there. I tried to stick with a similar magnification range and a 42-44mm objective lens. I did include the Steiner T5Xi in there which is a 3-15×50 design largely because it is the most direct competitor to the Sig price-wise. I was able to compare the Sig directly to the Nightforce, Leupold and Steiner since I had them here. I have not looked at the IOR for a bit, but I have spent a lot of time with it in the past. While it was a pretty groundbreaking design when it was first introduced (especially for the money), in the modern marketplace and in this price range, it is not terribly competitive. The Bushnell LRHS is a little less expensive, but looks like a very competent design, that I plan to test thoroughly.
ATACR F1 4-16×42
Long Range Hunter
|30 (31.9 w/caps)
|29.8 (31.5 with sunshade)
|Main Tube Diameter
|Eye Relief, in
|3.35 – 3.54
|3.8 – 3.9
|3.5 – 4.3
|26.9 – 6.9
|36.8 – 6.3
|35.3 – 5.9
|36 – 7.3
|31 – 7.5
|23.5 – 6
|Exit Pupil, mm
|10.3 – 2.7
|11.4 – 2.4
|12 – 3.4
|9.2 – 2.5
|E: 26 mrad
W: 18 mrad
|E: 29 mrad
W: 14.5 mrad
|E: 34 mrad
W: 15 mrad
|Adj per turn
|12 mrad, double turn
|10 mrad, double turn
|8 mrad, double turn
|12 mrad, double turn
|FFP or SFP
|$2200 – $3200
Looking at the specs, the Tango6 looks like a reasonably well conceived scopes, but a little behind the pack in a few key areas: it is significantly longer than others, a little heavier than others, has the least adjustment range and the least adjustment per turn. Field of View is on the low side of things, although eye relief is adequately long.
Based on the specs, it is pretty easy to lose interest in the Tango6, but I think that would be a mistake. I found it to be a very well executed scope in most ways.
Mechanically, I had exactly zero problems with it. All controls were repeatable and well weighted. Turrets tracked true (while the scope is available with both MOA and MRAD clicks, the version I looked at had 0.1mrad clicks). SIde focus did not exhibit any hysteresis that I could see and there was no discernible POA shift with side focus adjustment that I could find. A couple of times when I thought I saw some POA shift while adjusting side focus, it turned out to be parallax error.
The turrets come with zero stop, which I have really learned to appreciate over the years, and with a locking feature: push down/left to lock and pull up/down to unlock.
The 8 mrad per turn is a little low for this price range, but in practice it is not terribly limiting. I figured that this scope might be at its best on a gas gun, so it mostly sat on the my large frame AR chambered for 308Win:
On the 308Win, 8mrad gets me out to about 800 yards. To go further, you need to tap into the second turn. Since the turret has a zero stop, it is pretty difficult to get confused where you are. The clicks themselves are widely spaced and very tactile, which I liked. In terms of overall shape, the turrets are fairly tall and not very wide. They are easy to grasp, but honestly I prefer turrets that are a little lower and wider. Still, I was not in any way limited by this design.
Windage and elevation turrets are similar in size which, ones again, is not really my thing. I can’t think of the last time I dialed for wind. I always hold for wind, so I would have preferred a covered low profile windage turret that does not stick out that much. Still, with the Tango6, the turret locks down, so after zeroing in, I pushed it in and never touched it again.
The elevation turret and the side focus/illumination turret I exercised quite a bit and came away pretty happy.
All the markings are bright and nicely visible under almost any ambient condition. The throw of the parallax adjustment is a little short, but I got used to it quickly. The reticle illumination on this scope is easily among the best I have ever seen. There is an off setting in every other position and the dynamic range is very broad. The two lowest settings are for night vision and they are very low indeed. The brightest setting is pretty much daylight bright. What I really liked was that unlike most precision scopes, there are no hard stops of on the illumination control. From an off setting between the brightest and the lowest settings, I can rotate the dial either way continuously. For me that is very convenient.
The illuminated part of the reticle is the whole thin section. Since it can get fairly bright, I found it very helpful even in bright light. Here is a picture of one of the mid-level settings at night:
The picture was taken with a cell phone, so I apologize for the quality. I bumped the illumination level up, so that the autofocus could lock on the reticle. The church in the picture is a bit over 750 yards away and the scope is on 3x. Note that the thick outer bars of this reticle )MRAD Milling in Sig nomenclature) are pretty nicely visible in low light, more so than the picture suggests. Even with a dead battery, I stand a pretty good chance of being able to use the reticle in low light simply by bracketing between the thick bars.
Also, the scope did not have any tunneling at low magnification. The black ring in the picture is an artefact of the picture taking process.
While we are on the subject of the reticle, I liked this one. It is a simple reticle that reminded me of the Gen 2 MilDot except with some additional features: open center and 0.2mil hashmarks in a few strategic spots to aid in range estimation.
Here are reticle pictures at a few different magnifications. I found the reticle easy to pick out in any light.
For comparison, here is a snapshot of Steiner’s SCR reticle at 3x from the T5Xi 3-15×50 that I compared to the Tango6:
In anything but good light, without illumination, the Steiner reticle was much harder to use than the one in the Sig. The SCR reticle in the Steiner, in general, seemed a lot busier. I am sure it is a very capable design with a lot of features desirable for competition use, but I I found that I preferred the simplicity and visibility of the Sig reticle design. This is sort of a personal preference for me. I do not mind complicated reticles (with a strong preference toward Christmas-tree style designs), but I prefer patterns that retain reasonable visibility even without illumination.
Getting the reticle focused was pretty straightforward with the quick eyepiece focus adjustment. Once focused, it stayed that way. One of the quick checks to see if the erector system in a FFP scope is worked out correctly is to carefully examine the reticle in the center of the FOV and at the edges. If the reticle lines remain sharp all the way to the edge of the FOV, it is a good sign. Some early designs with high erector ratios did not do that. No such problem with the Sig.
Parallax adjustment is a touch quicker than I like, but with a little practice, I did not have too difficult of a time dialing it in. The scope has pretty good depth of field, so from the standpoint of getting a sharp image, the somewhat quick adjustment of the parallax knob is not an issue. However, sharp image does not necessarily mean no parallax, so make sure you check.
Optically, I thought that this design was rather well worked out for the money. I had a bunch of 3-15×50 scopes here (all costing more), so I had a chance to compare them to the Sig. Mostly, they were better, but also more expensive. Of the scopes that competed more or less directly against the Sig due to either price or configuration, I choose the first four in the table above: Leupold Mark 6, Nightforce ATACR F1 and Steiner T5Xi.
Overall, Sig did pretty well and about as well as I would expect it to based on price. Optically, it was better than the Mark 6 (which pays the penalty for being compact), but not quite as good as the more compact and more expensive ATACR F1 4-16×42. Tango6 is ultimately a better bang for the buck than either one of these, simply due to being less expensive. In broad daylight, the biggest difference between these three is in apparent contrast. Nightforce has really gotten better at that recently. Both Nightforce and Sig have a touch better resolution than the Mark 6. In low light, the gap between Nightforce and Sig narrowed just a bit, owing to Sig’s excellent flare suppression. Mark 6 suffered in low light a little simply because it lacked an illuminated reticle. Still, the ATACR F1 was the best one of the three once the light got low.
The real problem for all three of these scopes in terms of overall performance for the money is Steiner T5Xi 3-15×50, which has a larger objective lens with minimal size and weight penalty, for about the same money as the Sig. I am not a huge fan of the SCR reticle, but if we take the reticle out of the equation, the T5Xi is a bit better in low light than the other three scopes I mention, has nice low and wide turrets and is pretty easy to get behind. Now that the tracking issues with T5Xi have been resolved, it is a very nice package.
That having been said, for my purposes, I prefer Sig’ milling reticle to Steiner’s SCR, and I generally found Sig to be very usable.
Eye relief is generous and reasonably flexible. It gets pretty tight at 18x, but that is the case with most scopes at high magnification as exit pupil gets smaller. I did not feel unduly burdened by it.
Naturally, as soon as I finally decide that I really like the Tango6, I go to SHOT and discover that Sig has completely re-designed the line-up and the new 3-18×44 is much shorter and a bit heavier, with a 35mm tube and new turrets (12mrad per turn). It looked pretty nice, but I am not excited about the weight. We’ll see how it stacks up. I did like their new Dev-L grid style reticle.
In the meantime, I suspect that there will be good prices on the first generation Tango6 and if I were looking for a scope of this type, it would be near the top of my list.