April 03, 2023
Sig Sauer Electro-Optics has only existed for a few years, but it is a good case study of how the optics industry works and how companies change through time. The Electro-Optics Division launched in 2015 and, at first, did little manufacturing of the products it sold. Like most optic companies, SIG Sauer Electro-Optics designed the products, came up with the specification lists, and outsourced its manufacturing.
Optic companies do this because it allows rapid development, meaning that they can introduce and sell a new product without the up-front costs (such as building and staffing a factory). This strategy allows brands to leverage the experience and manufacturing capabilities of legacy optic-production houses, even though the name on the door is new. This benefits the consumer with lower prices. The downside is that this optics company is limited to what the contractor is willing to produce in terms of the product’s feature set and the level of quality.
A good example of where SIG Sauer has been is represented by the Tango6 5-30x56mm scope [$2,383 (MOA) to $2,476 (MRAD)], sigsauer.com]. This model was born from Japanese production with several unique specifications that make it uniquely SIG Sauer’s design. The features are desirable among today’s precision rifle shooters, but it has been in production almost as long as the company’s Electro-Optics Division has been working. The Tango6 is now a mainstay of the precision optics line. The scope offers the image quality and durability normally associated with great Japanese production, but it has one specific feature that I especially appreciate.
What is it? SIG Sauer’s LevelPlex. “LevelPlex” is an electronic leveling system that uses two small illuminated triangles at either end of the horizontal crosshair to keep the optic level. The sensitivity is user-selectable, at either .5 or 1 degree, meaning that the crosshair can either be within .5 or 1 degree of perfectly level. Contrast this with the accuracy of the traditional bubble level that many precision shooters attach to the scope’s maintube. Given the short horizontal distance such levels occupy, it’s possible to have as much as 3 degrees of error!
When targets get small and the distance to the target exceeds 500 yards, ensuring the reticle is level is essential for long-range precision shooting. Of course, gross error in canting the rifle can lead to misses inside that distance, but most shooters are going to be able to hit 2 minute-of-angle (MOA) targets inside of 500 yards without a level. However, distance compounds the effects of small errors, so a level should be considered essential for shooting at longer distances.
LevelPlex is user-friendly and resides within the scope, so there’s no clap-trap hanging off the exterior to snag on gear or vegitation. It’s also right next to the field of view, so the shooter doesn’t have to look anywhere else but through the scope to know the reticle is level. It’s as intuitive a leveling system as I’ve seen anywhere, and I wish it was more common.
LevelPlex exists only because SIG Sauer’s Electo-Optic engineers thought it up and made it a feature on this 5-30x56mm scope. This was a forward-thinking application of useful electronic technology.
One simple performance test I like to do on any magnified optic is a tracking and reticle cant test that checks for any range of motion more than 10 mils. I tested the Tango6 by firing one round, dialing 16 mils of elevation, and firing another. I dialed the optic back to zero, shot again, dialed 16 mils, and fired again. I repeated this test until I had two three-shot groups. One at the optic’s zero and one at 16 mils of elevation. I measured the distance between the groups and compared the actual distance to what 16 mils should have been. I found the Tango6 had just a 1.4-percent error, or .2 mil at 1,400 yards. That’s the same amount of error that a 15 feet-per-second (fps) difference in muzzle velocity makes at 1,400 yards. (It’s error that’s not worth worrying about.) That’s good performance from an elevation turret.
Where I saw exceptional performance was from a reticle cant perspective. When manufacturers place reticles in scopes, there is an allowable margin of error. I detected no error across the 16 mils of travel when testing this scope.
While SIG Sauer Electro-Optics started with a minimal manufacturing footprint, they’ve been steadily ramping up production. SIG Sauer now does the bulk of its own mechanical engineering and some of the optical engineering. The optical engineering component is the hardest to staff because engineers with this education are rare. SIG Sauer has enough optical engineers to create its own designs, to include lens composition and shape specs, spacing, erector profiles, and more. That’s a lot of growth in this area considering the few short years the team has been together. The mechanical engineering team is bigger, too. They recently completed a new turret design that will be part of products coming in the next few years.
In 7 years, SIG Sauer Electro-Optics has already outgrown the building it was started in. As I write this, it is finishing up construction on a new, larger building that will allow it to host complete production of certain product lines. SIG Sauer’s Electro-Optics Division has quite a few products, so it’s likely they’ll always rely on some outsourced production. However, some product lines, including the Tango6T, see complete manufacture and assembly in the state of Oregon. That trend will continue.
SIG Sauer Electro-Optics seems to take some heat from social media and internet circles because some of its products are marked “Assembled in the U.S.” The reason those products don’t read “Made in the U.S.” is because even the presence of a single foreign-made capacitor disqualifies a manufacturer from making that statement. SIG Sauer uses a lot of electronics in its optics; it’s a rare occasion that any product is marked “Made in the U.S.,” even if it’s 99-percent true.
I like the path that SIG Sauer Electro-Optics is on. It started with Andy York, president of SIG Sauer’s Electro-Optics Division, grabbing a handful of smart folks that had been in the firearms industry for a while and building a small optics company around them. As products succeeded in the market, SIG Sauer invested in the Electro-Optics Division and expanded its in-house capabilities. And they’re still at it.
A couple of big wins that haven’t seen the attention they deserve is with the Tango6T 1-6x24mm ($1,648) that was selected for issued to the U.S. Army in 2020. Also, the Romeo4T ($584 to $609), the red dot issued to U.S. Special Operations and top-tier units in many Allied nations. (Google “Kenya SAS,” click on “Images” and you’ll see a Romeo4T in action.) The only way to win is to provide the best product. Nobody in these circles cares about the brand name; they want performance. This attitude and recent work history bodes well for the future of SIG Sauer’s Electro-Optics Division.
SIG Sauer Tango6 5-30x56mm
- Power: 5X-30X, variable
- Objective: 56mm
- Tube Diameter: 34mm
- Elevation Adjustment: .1 mil per click
- Windage: .1 mil per click
- Reticle: MRAD
- Length: 15 in.
- Weight: 2 lbs., 10 oz.
- Eye Relief: 3.7 in.
- MSRP: $2,476
- Manufacturer: SIG Sauer, 603-610-3000, sigsauer.com
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