Mike Morton prepares to get knocked sideways by the FFP 4-16×50 – one of several innovative scopes in Hawke’s new Sidewinder range.
Hawke recently refreshed its line-up of Sidewinder scopes, offering a series of brand new models. Any of these would appeal not just to air rifle shooters, but rimfire and centrefire shooters too as they are capable of taking on both short and long-range assignments – and anything in between.
Several models are available in both First Focal Plane (FFP) and Second Focal Plane (SFP) formats, and the one I’m looking at here is the Sidewinder 30 FFP 4-16×50, which is equipped with a dedicated FFP reticle.
The sidewinder is a type of snake that moves sideways, which is the fastest and most efficient way for it to travel. In terms of scopes, the Sidewinder has a side focus control, which is the fastest and most efficient way to adjust parallax.
The Sidewinder also comes with an optional sidewheel, which adds extra fidelity, especially if you’re using the scope for rangefinding. Other great features are a fast-focus ring that’s quick to adjust, but can also be fixed in place with a lock ring, plus an optional zoom lever which gives you extra purchase when adjusting magnification.
While this is a functional optic, it’s aesthetically pleasing. It has a matt black finish that’s smooth rather than the gritty feel that sometimes accompanies a dull finish, and the objective bell is set off by a handsome silver band. If scopes can ever be described as being pretty, this is the most beautiful scope I’ve ever seen from Hawke.
Hawke Sidewinder 30 FFP 4-16×50: Key specs
Manufacturer: Hawke (www.hawkeoptics.com)
Model: Sidewinder 30 FFP 4-16×50
Tube diameter: 30mm
Objective lens: 50mm
Focal plane: First
Reticle: FFP Half Mil
Length: 339mm (13.3”)
Weight: 725g (25.6oz)
Eye relief: 102mm (4”)
Focus/Parallax: 9m (10 yards) to infinity
Turret type: Exposed locking turrets
Ocular type: Locking fast focus
Elevation/Windage increment: 1/10 milliradian
Elevation/Windage adjustment range: 26 milliradians
Illumination: Red, with six levels of brightness and off positions in between
Power selector style: knurled posi-grip
Key features: Sidewheel, witness window and removable zoom lever
This telescopic sight costs £599, which is quite a lot of money to lay down, but you do get an awful lot in return, and it’s a versatile optic that can be used to equal effect at the range or in the field.
Instead of low hunter-style turrets or tall full-blown target turrets, the Sidewinder has tactical turrets that give you the choice of setting your zero and using holdover or under, or setting your zero and letting you dial in.
The FFP reticle is illuminated, and the package also includes an optional sunshade and magnification lever. The lenses are protected by a set of bikini-style covers. This is a great choice for the range, or when shooting from a covered firing point, as they can be completely removed.
It’s a good idea to offer your scope lenses a bit more protection when you’re exposed to the elements or are moving through dense foliage, and because they’re clear, the rifle can still be shot with the covers left in place. If I was taking this scope hunting or round an HFT course, I’d pop on a set of flip-up covers, but this really is a minor gripe.
The illuminated reticle control is located on the left-hand turret, which it shares with the parallax control. In the heat of the moment, it’s sometimes easy to get confused and adjust the wrong control by mistake, but this is less likely to happen here, as while both controls are smooth, the parallax control offers far more resistance, so you can instantly feel which is which even when you’re in the aim.
The magnification ring is similarly smooth to operate, while requiring a reasonable amount of torque. This is a bit of a balancing act. If you make a control that’s too easy to turn, it can get shifted out of your desired position by mistake. Too tight, and it becomes hard to operate, especially when you’re under duress.
The solution here is to provide a screw-in lever that provides extra torque, making it easier to operate, especially with cold, wet or gloved fingers. But if you don’t think you’ll need it, you don’t have to fit it. I did fit mine, and found it useful, especially when the temperature started to plummet.
A scope will stand or fall on the quality of the lenses, and these are quite superb. I’ve used this scope in a variety of lighting conditions, but have spent most of my time with it on dark, damp and dismal days.
No glass will let the full 100% of light pass through it, but some scopes give you the impression that they do, with the sight picture looking brighter than the ambient light. This Sidewinder is one of them.
Another test for scope lenses is edge-to-edge clarity, where you sight in on a target and with your eye centred while constantly looking at the target, see how clear the image looks at the periphery of your sight picture. There may be some slight blurring of the image, but not so with this scope, which is a real plus point.
Hawke has matched this first focal plane scope with a dedicated FFP Half Mil Reticle, which has spacings at half a milliradian as well as finer spacings of 0.2 milliradians.
The windage and elevation turrets are matched like for like with this reticle, with one click equating to 1/10 mil, so you can make precise click adjustments to shift your pellet’s point of impact.
The FFP Half Mil Reticle can be illuminated with up to six levels of brightness, and there’s an off position in between each one. This is more useful than it might first appear, as it means you can find the most appropriate level of brightness for the task in hand and then switch it off, knowing it’s only one click away when you need it next instead of having to cycle through the various levels of intensity.
One of the headaches that manufacturers will face when creating a first focal plane scope is matching its magnification range to the thickness of the crosshairs.
Because the reticle will shrink as the level of magnification is lowered, and expand as magnification is increased, it can be tricky to create a reticle that remains shootable over the full range.
At the lowest 4x setting the reticle does look quite thin, but it’s still usable. And one trick that can really help is to turn on the illumination feature to make the crosshairs stand out more.
At the highest 16x magnification setting the crosshairs will completely cover a .177 pellet hole in a target at 30 yards, while the outline of a .22 hole will just be visible.
Most of my shooting is done between 8x and 12x, and the Sidewinder 30 FFP 4-16×50 absolutely excels within this realm, while giving you the option to go higher or lower if needed.
Hawke says this scope will parallax down to 10 yards, and I measured out this distance and put it to the test. Not only was the image clear at this distance, but this was at the full 16x magnification, and when I wound the mag down to lower settings I found the Sidewinder could parallax down even closer.
Once you’ve set zero you can unscrew the turret covers and reposition them so the ‘0’ matches the zero marker. You’ll need a coin to do this, and the ever-useful five pence piece is a perfect fit.
With the turrets now set, you can make use of one of the scope’s standout features – the ability to dial in and keep track of the number of revolutions the elevation turret has made thanks to the red and white marker that can be viewed through a witness window.
The vast majority of airgun shooters, even those shooting FAC air, probably won’t need this feature, but anyone using slugs to take on super long-range targets may well need to make more than one revolution of the turret.
When returning to set zero with a conventional turret it’s easy to lose track of how many turns you’ve made, while this Sidewinder will always let you make a safe return.
Optical clarity, a decent level of magnification and a useful reticle are the three main features shooters look for when choosing a new optic. Add the excellent build quality and ease of use, and you’ve got yourself the new Hawke Sidewinder. It’s a first focal scope, but it’s far from being plain.
The Airgun Shooter verdict:
Build quality: 18
Ease of use: 18