May 12, 2023
By Frank Melloni
Lately, we have seen task-specific cartridges and firearms emerge from the woodwork en masse. From long-range rounds developed specifically for targets beyond a mile to lever guns built for taking deer where case type is stringently regulated, there is a gun for every task. But what about the shooter who isn’t interested in maintaining a safe full of rifles? What about the guy looking for a solemn gun that can do almost everything? Well, after the muddy waters of rifle and optic selection have been eventually navigated, that shooter is going to need a scope. While the .308 Win. and 6.5 Creedmoor guys are duking it out in the parking lot, the glass heads are enjoying a drink and a laugh as we have come to an agreeance that there is no better multi-use optic than a good 3-18X. Grandpa hunted at 3X, and military snipers have been dropping bad guys with less than 18X since the phrase was invented. The Sightmark Presidio 3-18x50mm LR2 riflescope is built for both of these tasks and everything in between, so I decided to grab one to see what it was all about.
Sightmark is well-known for making affordable optics, which are my favorite type to review. A $2,000 scope that is clear and repeatable simply doesn’t impress me; in fact, more times than not, they let me down. If a company has decided the sky is the limit on MSRP, it needs to be perfect in my eyes. Otherwise, it represents nothing more than lazy engineering or consumer deception. The 3-18X Presidio lists for $400, which is suspiciously low for the set of features it offers. However, the glass market has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. It is no longer a game of a half-dozen manufacturers making specialty equipment for a sub-segment of the firearms community. Nowadays, the market is vast, and the competition is fierce, so consumers are making out like bandits.
My initial handling of the Presidio positively set the tone, as its sheer heft signified it was of quality construction. I’m not saying lightweight scopes are built poorly, but heavy ones get that way from the use of multiple lenses and dense metals. These two materials determine a scope’s clarity and rigidity, if of quality composition. Peering down, I was impressed by the knob scheme that Sightmark chose, as the exposed turrets were oversized and knurled, allowing for easy adjustment in the field without having to remove your gloves. Turning the scope on its side, I was happy to find that the reticle could be illuminated and that the parallax could be adjusted all the way down to 10 yards. Many manufacturers miss this critical detail. After all, what good is a close-range magnification setting if I can’t focus at the distances where I might use it? Working towards the rear, I liked that Sightmark included a removable throw lever that threads directly into the magnification ring. This is another highly debated feature, so why not just leave it up to the end user? Additionally, this system is far more secure than the ring-style ones that clamp on, so kudos to them for making it usable should you decide to install it.
After deeming the optic gun worthy, I selected a pair of 30mm rings and clamped it down on a .308 Winchester rifle. I decided against any canted hardware, because I was interested in seeing how much adjustment I would be left with after zeroing the rifle without any additional investment. As I set the eye relief and tightened down the hardware, I noticed that there wasn’t a tremendous amount of wiggle room to avoid tunnel vision, but that’s an easy trade for the definition that this optic displayed. As I glassed a few distant objects, I would give this scope a 10/10 in the crispness department and a 9/10 for clarity, as there was only a mild touch of milkiness. More importantly, not even a hint of chromatic aberration was present, a malady that I consider an instant disqualifier.
Later that day, I took the rifle to the range to put it through the usual set of optics trials, including a tall target test to see if the elevations tracked correctly and returned to zero as well as the box or “shoot the square” test to confirm the same with windage. After zeroing at a distance of 100 yards, the scope passed both of these tests with flying colors. Additionally, I had 15 mils of elevation adjustment left, which is enough to push the .308 Win. beyond 1,000 yards. Not bad for not using any specialized hardware.
Now that the scope has proved its functionality, I gave the reticle a closer look. The 3-18X LR2 features a Christmas tree style MRAD reticle set in the first focal plane. This means that the spacing between each mark will remain the same regardless of the zoom. That is because the crosshairs shrink or enlarge proportionately with magnification. The LRS reticle spans a full 10 mils down with all subtensions visible at full power. Windage dots extend 6 mils from either side of the axis; however, you lose a few below the 8-mil mark on full power. On the other side of things, when you power down to 3X, the reticle is still highly visible, especially when illuminated. Sightmark addressed the two largest issues with FFP reticles, and you can tell they made it a point to do so.
Hopping off the scope, I thought that Sightmark hit a home run on this one. I found the clicks to be remarkably distinct, the scope to hold zero, and most importantly return to zero after frantically dialing it throughout its range. Furthermore, the glass is clear beyond its value, and the reticle is appropriately designed to work within its intended use. Overall, it is an excellent one-and-done option for a rifle to handle whatever the world throws at it that day.
Presidio 3-18x50mm Specifications
- Magnification: 3-18X
- Objective Lens: 50mm
- Tube Diameter: 30mm
- Elevation Adjustment: 26 mil
- Windage: 26 mil
- Reticle: LR2
- Length: 13.3 in.
- Weight: 30.8 oz.
- Eye Relief: 3.7 in.
- MSRP: $400
- Manufacturer: Sightmark; sightmark.com