Sightron SII 3-9x36mm AO Riflescope

By Chuck Hawks and the Guns and Shooting Online Staff

Sightron SII 3-9x36 AO
Sightron SII 3-9x36 AO. Photo by Randy Wakeman.

The Sightron SII 3-9x36mm AO riflescope is packaged in an attractive black and gold Sightron box protected by bubble wrap and a cloth pouch. Packaged with the scope is an instruction manual, warrantee registration card, lens cleaning cloth, and a deep sun shade that threads into the front of the ocular bell. The latter is a much appreciated bonus.

Unfortunately, lens caps are not included. Why are some of the best scopes not supplied with lens caps, while cheaper models routinely are? This remains a mystery to me.

SII scopes are covered by Sightron's written Lifetime Replacement Warrantee. This warrantee provides that Sightron will simply replace any scope found to be defective due to workmanship or materials with brand new product. There is no time limit and the warrantee is not restricted to the original owner. Sightron has earned a good reputation for prompt and courteous warrantee replacement in the unlikely event that it is needed.

Sightron promotes this scope for air rifle, rimfire rifle, and centerfire rifle use. It's at home on the target range and in the field. It would be an excellent choice for a .22 LR, .17 HMR or .22 WMR small game or varmint rifle and, with its fine crosshair reticle, perfectly suitable for centerfire sporter/varmint rifles from .22 Hornet to .25-06.

Like all SII scopes, the 3-9x36 AO is finished in an overall satin black. This finish is good looking and has proved more than satisfactory on the Sightron scopes owned by Guns and Shooting Online staff members. The SII 3-9x36 AO, like the other Sightron SII scopes we have reviewed, has the look and feel of quality.

Unlike some scopes, the only advertising on an SII scope is a red dot and the name Sightron in small gold letters on the left side of the adjustment turret. The tiny "Made in Japan" legend is printed in black on the black ocular bell and is hard to even find. Today, with so many scopes assembled in less technologically advanced countries, "Made in Japan" is a mark of quality on a riflescope, as is "Made in Germany" or "Made in U.S.A."

The other markings on the 3-9x36 AO are functional and include the gold and white distance scale around the focusing front objective bell and "3-9x36" plus the magnification settings in gold on the zoom ring. I find the austere SII scopes a pleasant change from some of the gaudily marked scopes on the market today.

The metal zoom ring itself deserves special mention, as it incorporates a raised square. Set the ring against the minimum power (3x) stop and this tactile bump is at 3 o'clock (as seen from the shooter's position behind the scope). Just one half turn in the counter clockwise direction and the zoom ring is against its maximum power (9x) stop. The square is now at the 9 o'clock position. Thus this raised square provides a rough visual and tactile indication of where the zoom ring is set. The zoom ring is fluted to provide a suitable gripping surface for gloved hands.

Also deserving a brief description is the front parallax adjustment. The Adjustable Objective (AO) ring is marked with both white and gold numbers, and makes about 1.5 turns from stop to stop. The index mark is also two-toned, white and gold. This is necessary because the Sightron 3-9x36 AO focuses to an exceptionally short 10 yards.

The white scale applies to distances from less than 10 to beyond 15 yards; the gold scale is marked for distances from 25-500 yards and infinity. When the white part of the index mark is visible, refer to the white distance scale. When only the gold part of the index mark is visible, refer to the gold distance numbers. Unusual, but once you understand the intent, simple.

Since we shot at 25 and 100 yards in the course of this review, we were always in the area covered by the gold scale, as would be most rimfire and centerfire rifle shooters. The close focus (white area) is principally for air rifle shooters.

In the field, most small game hunters with .22 LR rifles could pre-set the AO for 50 yards. Those with .22 WMR rifles would be well served by an initial 75 yard parallax correction, while hunters with .17 HMR or centerfire rifles might choose to pre-focus for 100 yards. The adjustable objective makes this compact scope unusually versatile.

Sightron's proprietary ExacTrak windage and elevation adjustment dials are protected by screw caps with very fine threads and rubber seals to keep out moisture and dust. The 1/4 MOA click adjustments are designed to be turned by means of a coin or something similar. Fingertip adjustments would be nice on a scope of this type, since varmint hunting and target shooting are among its most likely applications. There is a gold index mark to provide a reference point, and the concentric outer calibration scale is marked in inches at 100 yards. The latter feature can be turned independently should you wish to re-set it to "0" after your rifle is sighted-in.

ExacTrac is Sightron's patented windage and elevation adjustment system. To quote the Sightron web page, "This simple yet innovative advancement features an exclusive erector tube that keeps a positive, flush point of contact from zero alignment through even the most dramatic adjustments. In other words, you'll never experience drift."

All I know is that ExacTrac seems to work. For the technical details, visit Sightron online at:

The aiming point that the ExacTrac mechanism adjusts is the aforementioned fine crosshair. In this day of incredibly complex reticles with multiple aiming points, windage marks, and range finding gizmos it is easy to forget just how simple and natural it is to aim with a plain crosshair. No distractions, no calculations, and best of all no delay. It is easy to concentrate on the target, as one should, not the scope reticle.

Sightron scopes are shipped focused for 20/20 vision (0 diopters). The scope is focused to the eye by loosening a knurled locking ring and rotating the ocular bell on its fine threads until the crosshair is sharp. Then re-tighten the locking ring. This system has worked fine for decades, and still does. However, "European" style eyepiece focus, which is similar to focusing the eyepiece of a binocular, is faster and easier to accomplish and would be a worthwhile upgrade on the deluxe scopes of the Sightron SII line.

SII riflescopes are built on 25mm (1") diameter one-piece main tubes made of aluminum alloy. They are nitrogen charged and sealed to make them waterproof, shockproof, and fog proof.

The optics are fully multi-coated using Sightron's proprietary "ZACT-7 Revcoat" 7-layer multi-coatings. The view through our sample 3-9x36 AO is exceptionally sharp and clear from center to edge. Contrast is very good. Optical aberrations and flare are well controlled, as we have come to expect from Sightron SII scopes. These are deluxe scopes, and the price is fully justified by the optical and mechanical quality delivered.

The following specifications pertain to the Sightron SII 3-9x36mm AO riflescope reviewed for this article.

  • Item number: SII 39x36AO
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Objective diameter: 36mm
  • Field of View at 100 yards: 11' at 9x, 33' at 3x
  • Eye Relief: 3.5-4.2"
  • Reticle Type: Fine crosshair
  • Parallax: Adjustable from 10 yards to infinity
  • Click Value: 1/4 MOA
  • Windage/Elevation Travel: 80"
  • Weight: 14.3 ounces
  • Length: 12.32"

For this review we mounted the SII 3-9x36 on our "scope test rifle," a NEF Synthetic/Stainless Handi-Rifle in caliber .223 Remington. Mounting was straightforward. The bell to adjustment turret spacing is fairly tight on this scope, so a base/ring combination that is flexible in terms of ring placement is a pious idea. The one-piece Weaver base and Weaver rings used on the NEF is just such a mount. We used a Bushnell magnetic boresighter to align the scope sufficiently to get on the paper at 25 yards.

At the range, the preliminary sighting-in of the SII 3-9x36 at 25 yards was easily accomplished. It required only four shots to "walk" the final bullet into the "10 ring" with the scope's windage and elevation adjustments. (I always fire single shots at 25 yards to avoid unnecessarily heating the rifle barrel.)

At 100 yards, the first 3-shot group showed that the rifle was hitting several inches high, but pretty much on in windage. I dialed-in the appropriate elevation correction, then fired another three shot group. The bullets hit about 1/2" low. I made the minor correction required and the third group hit in the 10 ring.

To check the accuracy and repeatability of the windage adjustment, I cranked-in 3" (12 clicks) of right correction. No surprise, the next group centered approximately 3" to the right of the point of aim. I then went the same number of clicks back to the left. The final group was back in the 10 ring. That, my friends, is how sighting-in a reasonable accurate rifle with a superior quality scope is supposed to be. No muss, no fuss, no unexpected surprises.

The Sightron SII 3-9x36 AO seems directly comparable to the Leupold VX-II 3-9x33mm EFR previously reviewed by Guns and Shooting Online. Both are deluxe scopes offering exceptionally close focus, a 3-9 zoom range, fine reticles, fully multi-coated optics, precise 1/4 MOA click adjustments, compact size, and a transferable lifetime warrantee to any owner, not just the original purchaser. Their specifications and operation are very similar, and their application is identical. They are the two best scopes of their type with which I am familiar

So how do the two scopes compare? Interestingly, the members of the Guns and Shooting Online staff that weighed in with an opinion were evenly divided. Half preferred the Sightron and half preferred the Leupold. I have reviewed both scopes and been sufficiently impressed to acquire both for my personal use. Let's just say that you can't go wrong with either, and it would be a mistake to buy any other brand without at least taking a serious look at the Sightron SII 3-9x36 AO.

The deluxe Sightron SII line is very competitive in terms of both performance and price. The SII 3-9x36mm AO reviewed here simply reinforces that impression.

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