Affordable bench rest optics with Andy McLachlan

Shooters can easily spend more than £1,000 on a quality target shooting optic, but Andy McLachlan reckons he’s found one for a lot less cash

The Sightron, BKL and Walther LG400 combo could prove to be a match made in heaven for Andy’s benchrest campaign

I have been recently considering the vast numbers of serious airgunners who much prefer to shoot indoors rather than put up with the inconvenience of a naughty wind and the fact that targets can be placed at all sorts of weird distances and not just the standard 25, 40 and 50-yard lengths of the average indoor range.

Outdoor airgun sport can be enjoyed in many ways, from hunting to either FT or HFT competition, which also has thousands of serious adherents who are prepared to take on the challenges of steering those tiny and relatively slow pellets onto all sorts of targets in any conditions. 

Overall though, I reckon that there are far more “bench-type” shooters who simply enjoy their time shooting either official benchrest competitions or just plinking away at whatever takes their fancy within the confines of an approved range facility. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the shooter using their gun in any way at all as long as it is legal and does not threaten anybody else.

Shooters like this are sometimes described as “average plinkers”, meaning they wish to turn up at an approved range with their outfits where they can spend a few relaxing hours shooting. They do not have the same urge to try to compete at everything, and are happy to just plink away to their heart’s content – while those of us who take things too seriously worry about items such as new pellet brands not performing, or if our gun and scope combinations can match the top shooters’ latest equipment change.

The majority of these “average plinkers” are quite happy to use their middle-of-the-road equipment which, let’s face it, is far more capable than we are as shooters most of the time. 

However, occasionally an item of equipment that would assist the non-too-serious shooter without breaking the bank appears on the scene that can boost their enjoyment and make their time at the range even more fulfilling.

The scope I am looking at here is a perfect example of an item of equipment that is top quality, does not cost the earth and performs well. It would also assist a vast number of shooters to reach the next level of shooting standards as they start to take their sport more seriously and gradually get dragged into the competition scene.

The full description of the scope is quite long-winded, so here goes: Sightron SII 36×42 SFP BRD MOA Non-IR Rifle Scope. This is a specialist optic designed for confirmed target shooters who cannot afford to spend over a grand on a more widely recognised target-specific scope. 

In saying that, I am aware of many shooters who use this scope who just prefer it to the usually more expensive brands.

This is not a scope that could in any way be described as an all-rounder. The fact that it is a fixed 36x magnification optic tells us that it has been designed with target shooting as its primary purpose. 

As a reminder, most “average-priced” scopes are manufactured in China, but the standard of these is now approaching that of the traditional top optics manufacturers that have traditionally been based in Japan, Germany or the USA.

Tommy Frith inspects a fellow shooter’s new Anschutz 9015 benchrest rifle with the fixed-mag Sightron on board

However, an optic that has been designed and manufactured in Japan will be of such quality that it will usually cost at least a grand, and often very much more than that. 

The Sightron fixed 36x scope is made in Japan and offers all the quality we would expect from something with Japanese knowhow and quality at a price that I would argue many currently non-serious target shooters could afford if they wish to take their benchrest shooting to the next level in terms of their glass.

I originally noticed this optic on board some of my friends’ long-range benchrest rigs. Both Dave Pilkington and Paul Ray had invested in examples of the scope, with Paul going on to buy another once he had been impressed with his first. 

Having an example of a Leupold fixed 45x magnification competition scope as my own frontline optic has spoiled me since I purchased it second-hand from my son as an FT cast-off. The Leupold suits me perfectly and I have been lucky enough to place well in a few of the local long-range competitions that have gripped us all so seriously over the past year or so.

Anyway, I finally got round to taking a peek and more than a few shots through Dave’s competition setup of his new Walther LG400 complete with the fixed-mag Sightron. I was so impressed that I got onto those helpful chaps at Optics Warehouse straight away, cadging one for immediate review. However, I did not have to wait too long as just after Christmas the Optics team sent one out and it was received, as usual, the very next day. I kid you not when I say that the Optics Warehouse team understands what the term “high quality customer service” stands for. 

So, finding a set of 25mm silver BKL mounts in my scope mount storage box (I must admit to preferring the silver colour when matching the silver of the Walther’s action) I set about mounting the lightweight optic to my own gun.

At just over a pound, the optic doesn’t load up the gun, unlike other scopes I reviewed recently. Once the correct eye relief was identified, I waited for the next opportunity to shoot with the Sightron/Walther combination at the Leigh 53-yard indoor range.

A few days later saw me lining up on the first 53-yard target card once I had adjusted the objective lens’s front parallax collar. For those more used to sighting in a traditional 30/30 or mildot-type scope finding the target dot the first time could be described as attempting to spot a blackhead on an elephant’s bum. 

In other words, it’s tiny! The reticle has a very faint vertical and horizontal line that assists the eye in finding the target dot. 

Once this has been found, it is merely a case of using the 1/8 Minute of Angle (MOA) adjusters in order to perfectly zero the optic to the gun.

These move with Japanese-like precision and allow extremely fine adjustment to the placement of the shot as is required for serious benchrest shooting. The eye relief was comfortable and allowed swift gun mounting without excessive up and down head positioning upon the stock.

To summarise, the Sightron fixed 36 is a high quality scope for the shooter wishing to purchase their first target optic. 

The lenses and superb scope image combined with the fine adjustments that were allowed by the smaller-than-usual MOA turrets allow this scope to perform well above its price bracket. 

This scope model is currently on sale at Optics Warehouse for the sum of £419.95. Believe me when I say that represents an absolute bargain for a genuinely high-quality scope that will hopefully allow developing benchrest shooters the opportunity to use superior quality glass with a reticle designed to improve performance.

The only problem with doing reviews like this is that sadly, you do have to send all these great items of equipment back to the retailer once you’re done with them. Well, I’m sorry to say, but this one is staying right here. Yet more expense for my pocket! But well worth it. 

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