Hawke’s Sidewinder family has been joined by two first-focal-plane models. Mike Morton takes a look at the FFP 4-16×50
Model: Sidewinder FFP 4-16×50 Mil IR
Tube diameter: 30mm
Magnification range: 4-16
Objective lens: 50mm
Reticle: FFP Mil
Illumination: Red and green – five levels of each
Parallax method: Side focus
Parallax: Nine metres to infinity
Field of view: 7.7 to 2.2 metres at 100 metres
Eye relief: 90mm
Features: Waterproof, shockproof, nitrogen-purged
Rated for: All calibres
First-focal-plane scopes are a bit like electric cars. Years ago, few people had heard of them, and fewer still actually owned one. But according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, while only 500 electric cars were registered per month in the first half of 2014, the figure was almost 4,000 per month in 2017. Just like these cars, first-focal-plane scopes are steadily gathering momentum, with Hawke recently adding two excellent FFP optics to its Sidewinder range. There’s a 6-24×56 model as well as the smaller 4-16×50, which is the subject of this review.
FFP scopes are still – for now at least – enough of a niche product to warrant an explanation about what they do. In an FFP scope, the reticle is located in front of the magnification lens. When the level of magnification is altered, both the size of the reticle and the size of the target image will change, but will remain in proportion to one another. With a second-focal-plane scope, on the other hand, the size of the reticle remains the same across the whole magnification range.
These distinctions are important if you use holdover or holdunder to hit your target at varying ranges. In the case of a second-focal-plane scope, your set of aimpoints will only be accurate at one particular level of magnification, while for a first-focal-plane scope the aimpoints will always remain true, regardless of the level of magnification you’ve selected. FFP scopes are therefore simpler to use if you change magnification and shoot at varying distances, making them especially useful for the airgun hunter.
Hawke’s Sidewinder FFP 4-16×50 is chock-full of features, which we’ll look at shortly, but there are two things that really make or break a scope – the reticle and the quality of the glass – and Hawke has got it right on both counts.
This scope uses a specific first-focal-plane ret called the FFP Mil. This is a Christmas tree-style reticle with half-mil spacings: it provides several floating aim points for windage, giving the overall reticle markings their characteristic conifer tree shape. Some of these rets can look a bit cluttered, but this one provides just enough markers to be useful when you’re shooting in the wind or bracketing a target, but not enough to confuse your primary aim point.
The reticle is illuminated in red and green, the colours being altered by a rheostat on the side parallax adjustment turret for five levels of brightness. Illuminated reticles are a bit like airbags on a car: most people forget they’re even there, until they’re needed. While an illuminated ret is most useful in low light or at night, I tested this scope during sunny weather, and it was interesting to see how useful the IR feature was when shooting targets that were in the shade. If I had to nitpick, the coloured finish of the markings on the rheostat could have been a bit more uniform.
What’s far more important is optical clarity – and this is very good. Although most of my testing was carried out in bright sunshine, the scope was subjected to plenty of shooting in overcast and low-light conditions too. Edge-to-edge clarity was perfect, and there was no white-out of the lenses. This scope isn’t cheap, costing almost £450, but you’re rewarded with crystal-clear lenses that transmit as much available light as possible.
The magnification ring, which is very smooth in operation, adjusts zoom from four to 16 times. As with any FFP scope, the size and thickness of the reticle markings will change when magnification is increased or decreased. At 4x, I found the crosshairs too small to be suitable for shooting at anything but very short distances, but my eyes aren’t what they used to be. At 6x and above, however, it was game on for any target at any range. Hawke’s Sidewinder family is primarily designed for long-range shooting, but I was pleasantly surprised to find the scope would focus down to just seven yards at 4x magnification.
As the name implies, the Sidewinder has a side parallax control, which can be enhanced with the sidewheel that’s included in the box. While this does add a little weight and bulk, it aids precision when adjusting for parallax. A pointer is included that can be fitted to the scope tube, aligning it with the distance marker on the sidewheel and making it easier to read off the range. The pointer is anodised black; if the scope was mine I’d paint the tip white so it would stand out even better.
The package also includes flip-up metal scope caps. The hinges can be re-tightened with a screwdriver if they start to get loose with use. The caps are secured with two retaining pins that take a bit of effort to snap into place. I found it easiest just to close them as far as they would go without snapping them shut.
Build quality: 18
Ease of Use: 17