On target with the F1

Mat Manning takes a look at the PAO F1 First Focal Plane Rifle Scope
– a telescopic sight package that promises a lot of bang for your buck.

First focal plane scopes are very much in fashion at present, and not without good reason. With this type of telescopic sight, the reticle changes size in proportion with the sight picture as you wind the magnification up and down.

That’s great news for shooters who like to change the zoom setting on their scope, because it means the aim points you use to compensate for the rise and fall of the pellet remain the same, regardless of the power you have your magnification set at.

The only downside with first focal plane optics, however, is that they tend to cost more than their second focal plane counterparts. 

More affordable options are coming onto the market, though, and the PAO F1 5-20×50 IR PA First Focal Plane Rifle Scope from The Shooting Party is one of the options available, and happens to be very good value for money.

Retailing for £299.99, I wouldn’t describe this as a cheap scope, but it does boast some great features, and it also comes with some very handy extras, which include two-piece mounts, a sunshade and flip-up lens covers – all very useful pieces of kit.

Measuring up at 39cm long, and tipping the scales at 785 grams, the F1 is a fairly large scope, and it feels very robust – it’s rated for use on rimfire and centrefire rifles, so it should have more than enough shock-proofing to cope with the recoil of a spring or gas-ram airgun.

It’s also waterproof and nitrogen-purged, so it won’t fog up in the rain. Made from an aircraft grade aluminium with an anti-glare hard anodised finish, it really doesn’t hurt that it also happens to be a nice-looking scope.

The parallax wheel turns smoothly and focuses down to less than 10m

Thanks to a 30mm tube and multi-coated lenses – evident from the distinctive green hue of the large 50mm objective – light transmission is pretty good. The image looks suitably bright and clear, and remains sharp right to the edges of the sight picture. Optical performance is certainly sufficient to justify this package’s asking price.

Having a zoom range of 5 to 20x provides lots of versatility, enabling you to switch between lower magnification for low-light shooting and higher magnification for long-range work.

The top end of the zoom range creates a very narrow depth of field, which is useful for rangefinding by getting the target to snap into focus when dialling in the parallax. 

As previously explained, the reticle gets bigger and smaller in proportion to the sight picture when you zoom in and out, so you don’t have to worry about shifting aimpoints.

Resettable Push-LOK turrets make for fast, positive, tool-free zeroing

The F1’s reticle is of the mil-dot variety, and also has intermediate ties along the horizontal and vertical crosshairs to offer you half mil-dot aiming points to compensate for the effect of wind and gravity on your pellet’s flightpath.

It’s a well-proportioned reticle, and while it remains just about large enough to offer useful reference points at the scope’s lowest 5x magnification, it’s also fine enough not to feel thick and clumsy at the full 20x. A fast-focus eyepiece enables you to keep the reticle sharp.

I had it set at the absolute extremity of its adjustment and may have benefited from another half-turn. I’m not sure whether that’s down to the compensation on the dial or the state of my eyes.

Shooting in low light is not a problem, as the reticle can be illuminated to give it more contrast against dark backgrounds. You can light up the central crosshairs and aiming points in either red or green, and there are seven levels of power for each colour. Illumination is switched on and turned up and down by means of two discreet buttons at the rear of the scope, which make for quick and easy adjustment.

The power-adjustable illuminated reticle is controlled by two discreet buttons, in front of which sits a level to help eliminate cant

Zeroing is just as straightforward because the F1 features Push-LOK turrets. That means they don’t require any tools for adjustment, and you don’t even have to twist off any caps.

Simply pull the turrets out to unlock them, and they turn with ¼ MOA stops, each click giving one quarter of an inch of adjustment at 100 yards. Once zeroed at your desired range, you snap them back down to lock them securely in place. You can reset the dial, making it easy to set back to zero if you make any adjustments.

Parallax focusing is by means of a generously-sized sidewheel that’s clearly marked with distances, from 10 yards to infinity. It turns smoothly, and because it focuses down so close, this scope is not only good for long-range precision work, but can also therefore be used for close-range pest control.

Value for money is boosted by the inclusion of a set of two-piece mounts with the F1 package – meaning that it’s ready for attachment without any additional spend. The kit also includes a detachable 75mm sunshade; it helps to prevent sunlight from glinting off the lens and spooking quarry. And the extras don’t end there.

A set of two-piece mounts comes supplied so the F1 is ready to go straight from the box

The CR2032 3v lithium battery that powers the illuminated reticle comes supplied, along with a set of removable flip-up covers to protect the lenses. The upper part of the eye-bell also incorporates a small bubble level in front of the buttons that control the illuminated reticle – a useful little feature that helps you eliminate problems caused by cant, by quickly checking that your scope is on the level.

The PAO F1 First Focal Plane Rifle Scope is a decent piece of kit, and is arguably the best value first focal plane scope package on the market – especially when you take all those features into account.

If you’re looking for a versatile first focal plane scope with a wide zoom range and solid build quality, but don’t want to break the bank, it’s certainly one to take a look at.

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