Years ago, I watched a hunting program hosted by a prominent figure in the outdoor industry. During the question-and-answer section, he addressed an audience inquiry regarding range finders and optics. He believed that at some point, we as hunters need to take a step back from technology to give the game a fair advantage. I wholeheartedly disagree.
Over the past twenty years, there have been incredible technical advancements to the equipment available to hunters. Be it the broadheads in my bowhunting set up, bullet designs, and even clothing, I evaluate new technology based on not only what is fair to the animal, but also what is ethical. I believe evolving technology should always aim for better and more accurate shot placement on the game we pursue.
Born and raised in New Hampshire, I spent many days visiting the SIG SAUER academy in the town of Epping. I was like a kid in a candy store, being able to put my hands on just about everything available to the public. SIG's tactical course is also impressive, well known and worth a visit on its own. Around 2018, a close friend of mine at SIG enthusiastically endorsed their new bolt action rifle; a collapsible stock, short barrel and BDX scope system. As I listened to him go on about the impressive new design, it dawned on me that this might be the perfect, most convenient, low-profile firearm to carry on my elk hunting trips out west. After all, when it comes to hunting in the back country, less is often more.
This past October, I was fortunate to get my hands on the CROSS Rifle chambered in a .308 equipped with the Sierra 3BDX 4.5 x 14 x 50 BDX scope paired with the KILO5K digital Ballistic Range Finder. If you are not familiar with this scope system, it’s technologically advanced yet extremely user friendly for anyone with a smart phone.
In this article I will give a realistic overview of both the firearm and the scope system that I put through the paces at the range and during this year’s Kentucky rifle season. I found there were things that I absolutely loved about this rifle, and things that could be a potential problem.
The first couple of days prior to range time were used to get comfortable with the platform. During these “fit and feel sessions” I discovered that the design of the stock allows the shooter to customize length of pull and comb to fit to your liking for the best sight picture. To me, prone positions were drastically different during the fit and feel session than while out still hunting. Nevertheless, on-the-fly adjustability was easy and user friendly as the two knob adjustments simply move back into my preferred positions. I loved having this option during the hunts I spent in the hardwoods and field settings as it gave me the ability to make fast and easy adjustments for comfort. I had prime shooting posture in just a few moments because almost effortlessly, I could reference back to the adjustment I had set for both situations.
Using some low-grade ammunition, I was able to ensure the rifle was on paper, yielding 1” MOA groups at 100 yards for a successful first afternoon at the range. However, I’ve heard different feedback from shooters across the US that this may not be a consistent result. I then shot multiple brands of ammunition and they all grouped fantastic at 100 yards or less. For those hunters who might be spending days in dense hardwoods, you might have a wider range of options to choose from. For those longer distance shooters, you may find specific brands match your platform better than others as to be expected. I chose to shoot a Barnes TTSX 168 grain to hunt this past season.
To make this all work, you’ll need to pair the range finder with your phone and enter in your ballistic data into the app. As a self-described technology-challenged person, I found the process to be seamless and very user friendly. Typing “SIG BDX” into the app store search menu allows you to download with one click. Following the instructions on the “PAIRING” tab will prompt you to select the option to sync both range finder and scope simultaneously or individually. Entering in the custom profile will get the system understanding your bullet data. This consists of muzzle velocity, bullet diameter, weight and your ballistic coefficient. As a side note, having a chronograph provides more accuracy for these profiles and this app allows you to enter the muzzle velocity manually. Setting your zero to 100 yards will allow your ballistic reticles to be more precise. You as the shooter may choose what ballistic holds you prefer on or off while shooting, or none at all. In my case, I chose to keep them all off and would let the ballistic hold calculate once I ranged my target. I absolutely loved this feature.
While I found this process to be intuitive and extremely user friendly, I did run into a physical problem with this scope while sighting it in. I was fortunate that I was able to get close to zero at 100, however I wanted to drop my point of impact about ¼ inch more. Unfortunately, the top turret would not advance any more to allow me to do so. This delayed my range time about 30 minutes. However, I was able to navigate to customer support through the app and resolve this issue with a technician in short order. It seems as though there may have been a burr or debris inside the turret limiting the range adjustment. While this is likely an anomaly, the inconvenience this may cost someone prior to a hunting trip could be detrimental. SIG’S Product Support team offered to get a new scope out in the mail for next day delivery to resolve the solution. While I did not take them up on this offer, I felt this was excellent customer service as they are willing to stand by both their products and customers for a positive experience.
At times it was challenging for me to properly focus the scope. While my eyesight may not be perfect, generally I am able to adjust scope settings on both the eye relief and side focus without any issues. On several occasions I found myself at the range, and in the field attempting to make focal adjustments for a sharper image. It’s unclear to me if this is an issue with this scope model or a problem with this specific demo unit. While this did present a challenge, I highly recommend everyone put their hands on the BDX system to experience how it works and to feel it in action. Having the ability to customize your optic view from your app on your phone is one of the better features. As an avid bowhunter, a single pin helps to keep me focused when it comes to shooting as opposed to multiple pins. The same goes for this scope system where I can have just one reticle illuminated and watch it adjust accordingly on the range finder. “Range a target, put the holdover dot on target, pull the trigger, impact. SIG SAUER’s BDX, just CONNECT THE DOT”. SIG SAUER
The perks of this specimen don’t stop there though, the brain of this operation has an anti-cant notification while you are engaging your target. On both the left and right side of your crosshairs, an amber light will appear indicating if you are out of cant or not. This is an excellent feature for any shot distance allowing you as the shooter to adjust accordingly. As to be expected with any illuminated reticle, having the ability to adjust the brightness can be done on the side of the scope for those bright sunny or low light days. The Bluetooth indicator located near the eye relief will let you know if both devices are paired while your scope and range finder are active. I have high hopes in the future SIG will place this somewhere else as it was a nuisance in low light during evening sits. Trying to focus with limited light on your target, and having a blue flashing light in your eye was challenging. While these are just a few features of this scope, the SIG SAUER BDX webpage will give you a more detailed overview of options, number of profiles and more. This technology is too good to pass up for future hunting trips.
Settling into this rifle with an adjustable stock felt like a custom set up. The eye relief was perfect and the firearm was snug unlike some other manufactures with large grips, a beefy cheek weld, and lengthy heel. I was routinely able to find comfort in all shooting positions and really enjoyed the feel of SIGS two-staged match trigger that's included in this rifle. Having the ability to settle into your shot without the anticipation of a hair trigger going off is beneficial for a wide range of shooters.
The CROSS felt more like a push than your typical snap of recoil, but this might be due to the ammunition I was shooting. While there are many attributes that I enjoyed about this rifle, I found the foregrip being constructed of alloy can bring some audible noise when walking through brush, raising up to your stand, or grazing up against anything that might enhance the metallic sound. I switch out my metal wedding ring each fall for a silicone band to reduce audible tones that are not found in nature. Thankfully, SIG has a solution to this problem, a solution that should be launched in the next few months to come.
I was able to shoot three whitetails from 12 to 100 + yards, all in different scenarios. While I would have loved to have stretched this rifle out beyond 200, it wasn’t in the cards this season due to opportunities presented. The versatility of the shorter 16” barrel was great for a variety of situations this season from short range still targets all the way out to moving targets at 80 yards and even precisions shots beyond 100 yards in the prone position.
While the rifle I had was chambered in .308 it is also offered in 6.5 Creedmoor and the 277 Fury. While both of these cartridges have shown success in the field, I have yet to jump on the 6.5 bandwagon and find hesitancy in the 277 Fury given ammunition shortages. SIG plans to launch additional cartridge options for shooters in the future. The current color options are limited to black & First Lite Cipher. A full specification lay out can be found on the SIG CROSS page.
Overall, it is thrilling to see a firearm company which has historically specialized in military and law enforcement goods, venture into the hunting industry. I look forward to seeing what is on the horizon for the SIG portfolio and what I could enthusiastically add to my hunting set up. While that prominent TV show host many years ago might have thought technology wasn’t fair to the animal, companies like SIG SAUER provide shot opportunities that don’t require second guessing. I say let’s welcome technology when it aids in advancements like ethical shot placements in high stress situations.