SightMark Citadel 5-30x56 LR2 Riflescope SM13040LR2: a running review

TXSGFmrCWO3

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I just received one of the latest SightMark entries into the FFP tactical rifle scope arena, the Citadel 5-30x56. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting to this thread as a running review. I'm writing an early stub to give other shooters a chance to post any questions or tips before the review progresses starting next week.

Sightmark's MSRP on the scope is $515.99. Midway and OpticsPlanet have both featured prices of $429.99.

The published specs are as follows:

Reticle, Type LR2
Reticle Etched glass
Reticle, Color Red
Illuminated (yes/no) Yes
Reticle Brightness Setting 0-11
Finish/Color Matte black
Magnification 5-30x
Objective Lens 56 mm
Diameter, Eyepiece 1.6 / 40 in/mm
Diameter, Exit Pupil 7-2.7
Eye relief (in/mm) 3.9-3.5 / 99.1-88.9 in/mm
Field of view, m@100m 7.2-1.2
Field of view, ft@100yd 21.7-3.6
Diopter Adjustment +2 to -2
Diameter, Tube 30 mm
Parallax Setting 20 - infinite
Mil adjustment (one click =) .1
Windage adjustment range (MIL) 11
Elevation adjustment range (MIL) 11
Windage & Elevation, Lock Yes
Maximum Recoil 1,200 G's
Battery Type CR2032
Battery life, hours 100-70 Hours
Battery Voltage, V 3 V
Sunshade Yes
Nitrogen Filled Yes
Fog Proof Yes
Shockproof Yes
Focal Plane 1st
Body Material Aluminum
IP Standard IP67 100% dustproof and submergible to 1m for 1 hour
Lens Coating Full Multi-coated
Operating temperature, F/C 0 to 120 / -17 to 49 F/C
Length (in/mm) 14.9 / 380 in/mm
Width (in/mm) 3.1/79 in/mm
Weight, oz 27.5 oz.
Height (in/mm) 2.2 / 56 in/mm

Butler Creek scope covers: 19 EYE (43.9mm), 48 OBJ (63.6mm). The eyepiece cover was a very tight fit. The objective was nicely snug.

Initial impressions:

The packaging was suitable and typical. The scope comes with the printed instruction manual, a battery for illumination, a sun shade, a pull open objective cover, a pull open eyepiece cover, a throw lever for the zoom ring, and a hex key to install the throw lever. I intend to replace the factory covers with Butler Creek.

On my scope, I noticed that both the elevation and windage turrets are marked "U->", missing the customary "R->" on the windage turret. I contacted support via email to request a replacement windage turret. They advised individual parts are not available and I should produce an RMA request. I did so, but decided not to eat up the discount on the scope with shipping to fix a problem easily worked around. I'm assuming that the "U->" on the windage turret means "Right".

The scope looks well made, the finish is good, no rattling observed when shaken (always a wonderful result), and the glass does appear to be sharp and clear at first look. The parallax adjust is extremely hard to turn, and the turrets are moderately hard to twist. The .mil clicks of the turrets are not especially crisp, but probably workable. As everyone could have guessed, but now I confirm, the country of manufacture is China.

The reticle is sharply etched. At low magnification, it is almost hard to see without illumination. Personally, I would prefer a reticle that doesn't obliterate the view of a target at high magnification, so thinness at lower magnification is probably a good thing.

When I was bore sighting the scope, it did appear as though zeroing consumed a large number of elevation clicks. This could be problematic on an 11-mil elevation adjust range for a "long range" scope, but I assume that I will know for sure when I hit the range.

Update 20180702
-----------------------

The range date has been postponed for a couple of days. I've got some credit card fraud activity to deal with tomorrow. Meanwhile, I have updated the specs on the scope to include Butler Creek information.


Next up:

I'll hit the range Tuesday or Wednesday. After zeroing at 100 yds, I'll progress to 200, 300, and 400, and zero at each range. Once I've got all the settings for each range, I plan to go back to 100 yds and dial in the 100 yd setting to see if it's still zeroed. After that, I'll do a box test.

See you next week.

Keep your head on a swivel, stay alert, and have a safe and enjoyable Independence Day weekend and week.
 
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TXSGFmrCWO3

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Update: My 20 MOA rail came in, so I bolted that to my Howa 1500 and remounted the scope rings. I preferred to conduct testing with the 20 MOA rail due to the short turrets on this thing. If you figure that the total elevation range is 11 mil, reticle center on the turret would be 5.5 mil. With a 2600 fps 175 gr bullet, that is pretty much going to max you out at 600-700 yards at best. Since 20 MOA equals 5.8 mils, the inclined rail is going to reclaim those wasted clicks.

For those wondering, the reason I am piddling with a $400 FFP scope is simple. I'm retired and can't afford $1300-$3000 scopes. A firm believer in the parable one is none, two is one, and three is better, I certainly can't afford 2 or 3 high end scopes to reach redundancy (especially for multiple rifles). I doubt I am the only shooter in this predicament.

My game plan (when the range flooding in the Houston area flows off) is as follows:

1. Sight in a 100 yards
2. Run the turret up to the max and note the clicks used
3. Return to zero and run the turret down to the max and note the clicks used
4. Return to zero and verify by shooting a fresh target at 100 yards
5. Run a box test, repeating the following three times:
one round to target zero
1 mil left, 1 mil up, one round
2 mils right, one round
2 mils down, one round
2 mils left, one round
1 mil up, 1 mil right, back to target zero


box-test-target-plan-20180705.png

If the scope tracking is true, and I can shoot worth a darn, there should be five clover leafs on the target when I'm done.

As requested, I will do some pictures and video of the scope while adjusting the turrets and grab some pictures through the scope, with illumination and without, varying zoom levels.
 

TXSGFmrCWO3

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The glass looks very good. Pretty sharp edge to edge. Typical tunneling a bit at max zoom, but acceptable. I'll try to get a picture through the scope soon.

I made it to the range today, so the full write-up is forthcoming shortly.
 
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The glass looks very good. Pretty sharp edge to edge. Typical tunneling a bit at max zoom, but acceptable. I'll try to get a picture through the scope soon.

I made it to the range today, so the full write-up is forthcoming shortly.
You mean unforgiving eyebox? Or actual decrease in image size?
 

TXSGFmrCWO3

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More like minimal fuzziness toward the edges of the view, where the focus sharpens toward the center. The eyebox is decent at max power. I found it fairly easy to center the pupil. It doesn't "snap" like some scopes I've used, like the Falcon I have myself. The Falcon has a narrow eyebox that suddenly snap when you line up your pupil, with no clue where you need to go until you get there; all black. At least the Citadel eases you into alignment. Make sense? Sorry for the confusion.
 

TXSGFmrCWO3

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Yesterday, I finally made it to the range. It's been quite a while, so the shooting is not first rate. The rifle is my factory Howa 1500 in 308 Winchester with an MDT LSS chassis, Ergo grip, Magpul MOE stock, and Tally 20 MOA rail for the scope. I believe the mounts are medium Weaver quick detach. The cartridges used were a quick load-up featuring Nosler Custom Competition .308 175 grain bullets, new Prvi Partizan cases, CCI BR2 primers, and some Reloder 15 powder I had sitting around. I didn't measure each charge of 44.3 grains, which certainly shows in the stats:

High 2629
Low 2588
Average 2605
ES 41
SD 11

Overall, the scope looks well made. The finish is good and there are no tool marks, blemishes, or rattles.

The Turrets:

They are understandably rather low profile in view of the 11 MIL advertised adjustment range. The clicks are acceptably loud and crisp. The windage turret appeared to snap louder and crisper though. Here is the range of adjustment on my scope installed on the 20 MOA rail:

Elevation
3.4 MILs Down
9.7 MILs Up

Windage
4.1 MILs Right
8.0 MILs Left

Despite the advertised range, the above shows a total of 13.1 Elevation and 12.1 Windage adjustments. At zero to zero rotation is 6 MILs.

There is no zero stop, but there is a zero lock. This is done by pushing the turret cap down fully. Reset to zero is achieved by removing the screw top of the cap, lifting the turret off, then replacing it with the 0 over the white index dot.

Two things bothered me about the turrets. First, the splines do not exactly match up so the 0 is directly over the index dot. You have a choice of .1 MIL one way and .2 MILs the other way. The other problem is a lack of rotational indexing. The turrets do not raise during rotation, which means there are no height indicators to show number of turns. If you go past zero one way more than one revolution, you have to remember how many clicks get you back to zero.

turret-cap-splines-sightmark-citadel-20180712.png

The focus/parallax turret is capped by the reticle illumination control. The good thing is the setting of 100 yards really was exactly 100 yards. The bad things are the turret is very hard to turn and you have to cope with the illumination control ring. Hopefully, mine will loosen up after more use.
focus-turret-sightmark-citadel-20180712.png

The glass and reticle:

As I said before, the glass looks as sharp as anything else in it's price range I've seen before. I apologize for not having any pictures through the scope, but I don't have an adapter. Even at the extreme zoom range of 30, most of the view remains bright and in focus. As stated in the specs on page 1 of this post, it is a first focal plane optic.

The reticle is sharp and fine. Sightmark calls it the LR2 reticle. Being an old school Mil-Dot type of guy, when I first started seeing these reticles, I was amused. Now, I am looking forward to exploring the possibilities. I will admit that theoretically, the reticle may lend itself to more accurate lead and hold-over shots at longer ranges.

LR2 reticle.jpg

I ran a box test the best I could with the ammo I had loaded, weighted by my rusty marksmanship. Overall, the results are quite good:

box-test-sightmark-citadel-20180712.png
One round was fired at the 100 yard target between each adjustment. The order was center, bottom left, top left, top right, bottom right, repeat two more times. The grid lines are 1 centimeter. The good news is the tracking is dead-on, as you can tell by the respectable group at top left. The bad news is the clicks do not appear to be a true .1 MIL each. To me, the group centers look more like 8 centimeters as opposed to 10. The only way to tell for sure is to bolt that scope down and track across a measured grid. The "Shooter Error" hole at the top center of the target happened right before cease fire. I hurried and dialed in the wrong adjustment.

Summation:

Overall, it's not a bad scope. I feel it's worth the $400.00 price range. I do not believe it is a "long range" scope however. The primary detractors in my opinion are the lack of rotational indexing and the limit of the stated 11 MIL adjustment range.
 

TXSGFmrCWO3

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BTW, I have ordered what appears to be a suitable scope/phone photo adapter and I do have an excellent printout of the 1951 USAF resolution target, so I quite possibly may be able to upload some through the scope pictures later in the week.

41qsf1iBnEL.png

usaf1951.png
 

TXSGFmrCWO3

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FYI, I will try to get back to the range tomorrow or Friday to do some more testing. The phone/scope adapter came in and will hopefully work for getting some pictures through the scope.

In addition, I loaded up some more Nosler Custom Competition 175 gr cartridges to continue. I'm using the same 44.3 gr Reloder 15 charge with CCI BR2 primers, but this time I'm using twice fired LC/LR cases. For even more comparison, I loaded 40 of them using my Redding micrometer seater and 30 rounds using the Forster Benchrest seater. Interestingly, the Forster seated bullets had far less average runout. I need to have a look at the Redding and see if I've got it set up according to specs or if it's damaged.

Before running the targets, I'll chronograph the new loads to see the difference with the original setup of the first test where I used the unfired PPU cases. The LC/LR cases are all in the 176-177 grain weight class, mostly in the middle of the range. Also, I decided to weigh each powder charge, so the SD "should" be lower.

I've got a range card for the 2605 average velocity of the first test. It will be interesting to see how close the come-ups are from the 100 yard to the 200, 300, 400, and 600 yard target lines.
 

TXSGFmrCWO3

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A little progress today.

The 44.3 Reloder 15 charge in the thrice fired LC/LR cases did have a higher average velocity than the Prvi Partizan PPU cases and the standard deviation was much better due to hand weighing on each charge.

Here are the chronograph results:

2624
2609
2614
2599
2619
2619

Avg 2614
ES 25
SD 8

Since this visit was pretty much a workup on the new load and to verify zero after remounting the scope ( 1 degree off of vertical before), I'm going to redo the disappointing 200 yard and possibly get to 300 yard next visit. I've got to work up a new range card based on the average 2614 velocity.
sight-in-citadel-scope-100yd-20180724.png
These are the 100 yard results.

The cold bore shot was low 6 o'clock. Then I worked up 5 clicks twice to get to center. Everything except the called flyer are the result of dialing in. Pretty good 10 shot group at the 7 o'clock. After that I did one click up and one click right to finish up with the two almost dead center.

I really didn't have good targets for the conditions at longer ranges today. Between the mirage, dust, glare, and terrible wind conditions, I decided to wait for another day for that testing. The wind was zero to 15 all over the place, mostly direct right to left. Needless to say, no pictures from the 200 yard fiasco.

Lastly, phone/scope adapters suck. I'll do my best to get some pictures through the scope next time as well.
 

TXSGFmrCWO3

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Finishing up the running review....

This was my test rig today. Note the addition of the Caldwell Stinger shooting rest.

Sightmark-Citadel-Test-Rig.png

I finally managed to get some kind of images through the Sightmark Citadel itself.

This is the view of the target line at 5X.
Citadel-scope-view-5X.png

The is the view at 30X
Citadel-scope-view-30X.png

To be honest, the lack of sharpness is more due to the phone itself (or my use thereof) and the mirage effect. Naturally, the scope is not as sharp at 30X as it is at 5X, but it is still quite good.

The following targets at 200 yards prove an interesting story.
Citadel-200-yard-targets.png
The left target was shot with the LC/LR thrice fired reloads. The six-o-clock hit is after coming directly from the 100 yard line zero check with no come-up. After dialing in the 5 clicks up according to my range card, the next hit was an 8-o-clock bullseye. The fact that the rest of this hits are all over the place are due to me being out of practice for a long time, getting used to the Stinger rest, but mostly the ammo.

The cause of inaccuracy is pretty much verified by the right target. For those five rounds, I used the reloads with the new PPU cases. Though the individual loads were not hand measured and the SD was all over the place, the accuracy of the PPU based loads is much more respectable.

The lesson is, once fired LC/LR is always a gamble. You never know what fired them, but you can figure that a lot of them went through M60's, M240's, and M14's. The chamber size and headspace are going to be all over the place. I can pretty much tell that if I want any accuracy out of them at all, they will have to go through a small base sizer, get their necks trimmed, and anneal them. I had just been using them for plinking practice, but I think I'll do some work and see if I can get some accuracy out of them.

Overall impressions of the Sightmark Citadel 5x30 FFP scope:

I paid $386 for it. I feel it was worth it.

Pros:

56mm objective - with just medium rings, I've still got good barrel clearance on a 20MOA rail and good cheek weld. A larger lens is going to bring in more light.

The LR2 reticle - I'm getting used to the reticle. I can see how learning to use it (much like a Horus reticle), the disadvantage in elevation mil range is pretty much offset. I suspect that is Sightmark's principle of the design. Use the reticle instead of clicking all the time. The reticle is very sharp and thin enough to not cover target, even at 30X.

FFP - 'nuff said. It's FFP.

Scope clicks - though not the best, they're not the worst.

The glass - it's very good for the price range.

Eye relief - no problem there

Illumination - glows a nice even red across the reticle

Included items - the zoom knob is a nice touch, the sunshade is long and effective, the battery works, and the objective/eyepiece covers are respectable.

Cons:

Elevation rotations - the turret does not raise with rotations, so there is no scale to indicate where you are. This isn't a deal breaker though, since there isn't that much rotation due to the elevation MIL range. ( In my head I hear a voice saying, "use the reticle, Luke.")

Bigness - with sunshade, it's a long scope

Illumination control - I'm not a fan of the control at the end of the focus/parallax knob, plus the parallax adjust is very, very stiff.

Lastly, only time will tell if it stands up to use and abuse. It's lifetime guaranteed though.

I think for my next scope, I will pick up an Athlon in my price range though. I'm curious to do a side-by-side.
 
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TXSGFmrCWO3

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It certainly looks good. Truth is, that crazy tree style reticle is beginning to grow on me. It will be a while before I've got bucks to spend on a scope anyway. I've got to sell an M24 in 30-06 and start reloading 6.5 Creedmoor.

When you get yours, be sure to put up some comments on it.
 
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Cotay

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The last few Sightmarks have looked pretty decent, especially the Pinnacle series. This Citadel looks to me like it's from the Hi-Lux/Leatherwood assembly line and also bears a striking resemblance to the new Primary Arms 3-18 series.
 

Bender

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The last few Sightmarks have looked pretty decent, especially the Pinnacle series. This Citadel looks to me like it's from the Hi-Lux/Leatherwood assembly line and also bears a striking resemblance to the new Primary Arms 3-18 series.
It’s more than likely a LOW optic. Very robust and well made.
 

Cotay

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The Pinnacle is definitely a LOW optic. The Citadel is made in China.
 
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mwm

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I've got the same scope on my savage 110 tactical .308 with 20 moa rail. My issue is with a 200 yard zero, i still only have 5 mils of elevation left. Seems the 20 moa rail would help but hasn't
 

mwm

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I've got the same scope on my savage 110 tactical .308 with 20 moa rail.
 

TXSGFmrCWO3

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That really doesn't sound right.

Elevation
3.4 MILs Down
9.7 MILs Up
At zero to zero rotation is 6 MILs.

If the reticle was center at zero, there should be 6 MILS at scope height above the bore line with a 0 MOA rail.

With a 20 MOA rail, at 100 yards, that would be 20 inches of down reticle. At 3.47 inches per MIL, that should be 5.76 MILs, right?

According to the Applied Ballistics online calculator, there should be only around a 3.2 MIL come-up for a 200 meter zero. Interesting thing I learned about ballistics calculators. They freak out with a zero range of zero. I had to use 10 meters.

Just using the above fudge numbers, it sure sounds like you should call Sightmark for a replacement, or at the very least get their opinion.

Good luck.
 

fdkay

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spec sheet says the scope should have 11 mils total adjustment, which isn't much.
A 20 MOA rail and a .308 would still have trouble getting you to 1000 yards at sea level.
That is the problem you run into with budget minded, high magnification, 30mm tube scopes.
The 3-18 version boasts 17 mils of adjustment which is better, but not really good either.
I'm not hating on Sightmark, they have come out with some dandy stuff.


As an example, the Sightron SVSSED 4.5-24 sports about 35 MRAD of adjustment, but it has a 34 mm tube, the Bushnell XRS II sports around 33 mils.
The Athlon Midas Tac 4-16 has 30 mils adjustment in a 30mm tube, which is quite impressive. They are quite the dandy scope as well.