Mike Morton takes a look at the Hawke Sidewinder 30 SF 4.5-14×44, and reckons this optic is worth way more than a sideways glance.
Hawke’s Sidewinder scopes are often touted as being suitable for shooting multiple disciplines – and with multiple types of rifle in mind as well, incorporating rimfires and centrefires as well as air rifles.
This is quite a tough feat to pull off, as some shooters demand a telescopic sight that’s light enough to be carried around all day, others want a higher magnification for precision or long-range use and still more want an optic that works well at both dawn and dusk.
But covering multiple bases is something the Sidewinder has been pulling off with great success for more than a decade, and the latest versions are the best yet.
These new models are lighter and stronger than before, and have improved illumination and a new locking turret system. These are certainly great features, but best of all is the fact that these new scopes are being made with what Hawke calls System H5 optics.
System H5 translates to a wider field of view, 4” (100mm) of eye relief and low dispersion crown glass that promises minimal field curvature and distortion.
That’s something I was very eager to put to the test, as a scope, no matter how well appointed it may be with exciting features, will only ever truly succeed if it has been made with good quality lenses.
The new range includes a variety of scopes in both first focal plane and second focal plane formats, with the Sidewinder 30 SF 4.5-14×44 tested here being an SFP model. I’ve previously looked at the Sidewinder 30 FFP 4-16×50, and was suitably impressed, and had high hopes for this model too.
In keeping with the Sidewinder range, the 4.5-14×44 has a side parallax control. There’s also an optional sidewheel, which makes operating the control easier and more precise. It’s not a monster wheel and doesn’t add much weight either, so there may be a few hunters who’ll want to fit it to their scope for extra in-the-field fidelity.
Just like the FFP model I examined, the 4.5-14×44 comes with a lockable fast-focus ring. This will happily stay in place once it’s been adjusted to your shooting eye, but can be secured in place for a belt and braces approach.
Aesthetics should be lower down on anyone’s list of priorities when choosing a telescopic sight, but I think Hawke has hit the nail on the head. with this new Sidewinder. It’s elegant and understated, and if looks could thrill, then this is the one to do it.
Hawke Sidewinder 30 SF 4.5-14×44 – key specs
Manufacturer: Hawke (www.hawkeoptics.com)
Model: Sidewinder 30 SF 4.5-14×44
Tube diameter: 30mm
Objective lens: 44mm
Focal plane: Second
Reticle: 10x Half Mil
Length: 339mm (13.3”)
Weight: 680g (24oz)
Eye relief: 102mm (4”)
Focus/Parallax: 9m (10 yards) to infinity
Ocular type: Locking fast focus
Elevation/Windage increment: 1/10 milliradian
Elevation/Windage adjustment range: 28 milliradians
This SFP sight costs £459. There’s a jump of £140 if you want to go for an FFP Sidewinder with a similar range of magnification, but if you don’t actually need the advantages a first focal plane scope brings, then the 4.5-14×44 could very well be all you need as the other features and build quality remain pretty much identical. This one has a smaller objective lens, 44mm compared with 50mm, and that could be another plus point.
The scope has an illuminated reticle, and the IR control is located on the left-hand turret, which it shares with the parallax control. The parallax control is smooth, but does require a fair bit of force to turn it. It’s not excessive, and you certainly don’t need to fit the sidewheel to get sufficient purchase.
In fact the extra torque required can be used to your advantage as it’s easy to differentiate between the parallax and the illuminated reticle controls by feel alone, as the IR clicks with very little force so it’s immediately obvious which one you’ve got hold of when you’re in the aim.
There’s also an off position between each of the brightness settings on this control, which means you don’t have to wind your way through all six levels of illumination to get to the one you want, then reverse the process when it’s time to switch it off.
Just like the parallax control, the magnification ring at the rear of the scope is similarly smooth, but again needs a little bit of force to turn it.
With a firm enough grip, it’s absolutely fine, and having some stiffness present can be a good thing as it means the control is less likely to be rotated by accident.
If you are going to be adjusting magnification quite often then you can always screw in the optional throw lever for extra torque. However, I used this scope on some of the coldest days we’ve had this winter, and didn’t feel the need to fit the lever.
The 30 SF 4.5-14×44, just like its other Sidewinder stablemates, is chock-full of features, but the one that’s of most importance is the quality of the glass.
My standard test is to use a scope in a variety of lighting conditions, which I achieved here with the exception of bright sunshine, which failed to make an appearance on any day I’d earmarked for my shooting. But most scopes work well in bright light, and a far better test is to use an optic in low light conditions.
This was all too easy to achieve thanks to the dismal cloud, wind and rain we’d been experiencing.
Not great for me, but excellent test conditions for the scope. Although it’s impossible for glass lenses to allow a 100% transfer of light, this Sidewinder is one of those scopes that actually makes a target appear brighter than it really is. Over the course of several weeks I trained the crosshairs over a series of metal, paper and living targets, and the image quality was phenomenal.
One of the key features of the H5 glass is its minimal field curvature. In a worst case scenario, field curvature means that objects at the periphery of the field of view will be out of focus, appearing blurred and indistinct.
I purposely set out a series of targets so some would appear in my peripheral vision when I was aiming at a central target, and these targets appeared perfectly clear.
I know from experience that this can be hard to achieve, so full marks to Hawke. And don’t forget that although this scope isn’t exactly cheap at £459, it’s not a £1,500 optic either.
Years ago, for those who can remember, it seemed that if you wanted a good quality telescopic sight to use at airgun distances you’d have to buy a regular centrefire scope and parallax it down.
Those days are luckily long gone, and this Sidewinder easily meets its advertised claim of parallaxing down to nine metres /10 yards – and this is at the full 14x magnification. It’s possible to make the scope focus even closer if you simply wind down the magnification ring.
Hawke uses different reticles across its FFP and SFP Sidewinder ranges, with the second focal plane 30 SF 4.5-14×44 seen here being kitted out with a 10x Half Mil reticle.
Because it’s a second focal plane scope, the “10x” nomenclature means the milliradian spacings will be accurate when magnification has been set to 10x, while “Half Mil” refers to the fact that the spacings are supplied half a mil apart, thus providing more aim points, with even finer 0.2 mil spacings on the outer posts.
This reticle is of the Christmas tree type, where the floating aim points can be used to aim off for wind. This type of reticle can look a little cluttered, but Hawke has done a pretty good job of making it appear as clean as possible, while still providing as much information as possible.
Back to the spacings, and the turrets also use the milliradian system rather than minute of angle, making this what’s known as a true mrad/mrad scope.
Each click of the windage and elevation turrets will move the shot by 1/10 mil, so you can cross-reference your point of impact to the reticle and calculate the number of clicks to adjust, rather than rely on guesswork.
The windage turret felt very slightly different to the elevation turret when I was making adjustments, but this is a real nitpick as the clicks themselves were nice and positive for both.
The turret caps, which need to be pulled up before any adjustments can be made, were similarly positive when clicked up and back down. When zero has been set they can be removed and repositioned so the “0” on the turret matches your chosen zero.
The final feature that truly needs mentioning is the witness window
and red marker that give you the ability to keep track of the number
of revolutions the elevation turret has made.
When dialling in for very long shots, you may need to make more than one complete revolution, and when it’s time to return to zero it may not be enough to simply go back to the “0” marker on the turret as you might still be one or two complete revolutions too high.
It’s not a feature that most airgun shooters will use very often, but
for those who do need it, it will prove invaluable.
Sadly, this scope doesn’t belong to me, and my handing over of this Sidewinder is one side parting that I’m not looking forward to in the slightest! The slightly stiff controls, which may even free up over time, really are a very minor gripe compared with the positive features this scope has to offer.
This is an optic that can be pressed into service in a variety of roles, and
it won’t just muddle through any of them, it’ll take on all of them with relish.
Airgun Shooter verdict
“Hawke’s Sidewinder 30 SF 4.5-14×44 is a real Goldilocks scope, being not too big, not too heavy and just right for most applications – it’s a definite contender for shooters wanting a second focal plane optic.”
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