Hawke’s 2015 rebranding exercise has certainly appointed it as much more than just a value-for-money marque. Many airgunners have already experienced the quality of the company’s top-specced glassware, like the Sidewinder and Panorama ranges, and I’ve a feeling many more will be equipping their high-end springers and PCPs with one of the two new flagship Frontier 30 SF models. Expensive, yes – but if the £499.99 Frontier I’ve been testing lately is anything to go by, should you be in the market for the ultimate in build and image quality, you’ve simply got to have it on your shortlist.
I chose the 2.5-15x model as its sidewheel parallax focuses down to 10 yards – the 5-30×50’s minimum focus distance is 30 yards – and opted for Hawke’s new LR Dot reticle rather than the TMX option. Although the LR Dot has been designed around the ballistic profiles of common firearm bores, it’s less cluttered in my opinion. That suits my airgunning needs perfectly; just a couple of reference lines between the central, hanging dot and lower of the three outer bars. (The LR Dot [16x] reticle on the 5-30x model has very short outer bars at only the extremes of the sight picture, by the way – but the TMX option is the same.)
If you want loads of aiming reference points, the TMX reticle is the way to go. Based on the 20x mil-dot configurations, it offers 8-mil spacings of holdover, right to the very edge of the sight picture, with 3-mil spacings left and right for windage. Additionally, there’s a second horizontal bar at the base of the sight picture, with hanging dots forming pretty much a ‘grid’ for you to aim with.
While that’s all well and good for the long-range specialists, I’m more than happy with the multi-aimpoint markers of the LR Dot. When set to the minimum 2.5x magnification, the space between the centre and side bars is 15 inches at 30 yards; 4.5 inches at 10x power and 3 inches at a full 15x. With the dot, the tips of the thin crosswire above and below the dot, two notches and the thick bar, that’s no fewer than six holdover reference points!
And as Hawke has ensured its glass-etched reticle is in the second focal plane, where the size of the target will change in relation to the reticle as you zoom through the magnification range, you will have no problem finding a setup to suit your pellet’s trajectory, regardless of head type, power and calibre. I certainly didn’t – and I didn’t even have to refer to Hawke’s free-to-download BRC ballistics program on my computer and smartphone!
Of course, if you’re spending this kind of money on a scope, it’s more than likely going to end up on a high-end air rifle – so I chose to test the Frontier on a Walther LGV Master Pro. While this is probably the smoothest-shooting production springer on the market, it still recoils and, as we all know, the whiplash characteristics of a spring-gun’s firing cycle can rattle apart the very best of scopes.
But, bolted to the action via Blue Print mounts and secured by a stop pin, the Hawke never lost zero once during my trials. The low-profile, ¼MOA turrets passed my ‘walking the zero’ test, too: no matter how much I turned the turrets, they always returned the pellets’ POI to their original group on the target.
The turrets click quietly, but assuredly, offering a 15MOA range per full revolution. Each fingertip bezel is correspondingly labelled from 1 to 15, with ¼MOA graduations, and small arrows on the scope’s body act as pointers. After zeroing, you can reset each bezel by slackening off the central locking screw with a coin, free-spinning it to ‘0’ and locking things back down. It’s actually a very well engineered system and far better than fiddling around with little grubscrews and 1mm hex keys.
There’s quite a long eye relief (4in) on this scope, so it sat well forward on the LGV’s receiver, though at 349mm long, it didn’t interfere with its break-action breech. While it’s quite a weighty scope – at 663 grams – this didn’t really affect the balance of the Walther as the Frontier’s weight is more biased toward the ocular lens, rather than the objective.
Speaking of the lenses, this is clearly where much of your money goes – and Hawke’s use of a 30mm, one-piece, monocoque tube maximises the excellent light gathering courtesy of the Frontier’s 50mm diameter front lens.
Light transmission is further enhanced by what the literature calls a ‘6x Ratio Optical System’. I’ve no idea what that is, either, but I can tell you the 21 layers of advanced coatings that all the glass surfaces have received really do work. The Frontier renders one of the crispest sight pictures I’ve ever viewed through a telly, irrespective of price – and, as you can see from the resolution chart above, it scored a maximum in the Airgun Shooter standard test (and is the first scope ever to have achieved this)!
No matter what the lighting or target type, I detected no colour or fringing aberrations either in the centre or edges. In fact, anything you look at through this Frontier is truly a sight to behold. I certainly don’t like to praise expensive scopes lightly, but I am honestly taken aback by the quality of the Frontier’s lenses. They are more than a match for any European brand, even though the optics herald from Hawke’s lens-making factories in the Far East.
And once the quick-focus eyepiece has been set to your personal dioptre preference, you’ll find that both crosshair and target appear sharp. On many scopes – even the ‘higher end’ ones – I often find that they appear in two planes, with only the crosswire or the target appearing sharp, never both. Not so on this Frontier, though.
Of course, at the higher powers, parallax needs to be corrected, and that correction also fine-focuses the image itself. It’s achieved via a small sidewheel to the left of the saddle and while I wouldn’t normally advocate 15x power as being enough to range-find with, that 6x Ratio Optical System of Hawke’s certainly seems to assist. Sure, the distance between the 30- and 50-yard graduation markers on the sidewheel isn’t much, but in practice, I was able to tell if I was shooting at roughly 35, 40 or 45 yards according to where the dial fell. It’s certainly good enough to be used as a quick-check system in the field.
Parallax is adjusted via the inner knurled ring of the sidewheel; the outer one allows you to illuminate the central dot in red, and click round to one of 11 brightness settings to suit the ambient lighting condition. This rheostat also contains the one, CR2032 button battery that powers the IR; simply unscrew the Hawke medallion to access the compartment. (On the TMX reticle, Hawke tell me the full width, lower and part of the upper wires illuminate in red.)
The overall engineering of the Frontier is what you’d expect at this price point, and Hawke have done an excellent job with the finish. The semi-lustre matt black anodising is tough and matches across all the components.
The rubber grip on the magnification ring plays it all off very nicely, too. Aside of offering a practical, non-slip hold, the stepless zoom also turns very smoothly – as do the QF focus and sidewheel P/A rings. To show the attention to detail that’s been applied on this scope, the zoom ring has even been specially torqued to ensure there’s no ‘sloppiness’ in its adjustment – and there’s certainly a gulf of difference between ‘operating’ this scope and one around the £100 mark.
As well as Hawke’s lifetime warranty, the Frontier comes with lens covers and a sunshade, although I found I had no need for the latter even when I was shooting in challenging conditions. Those 21, fully multi-coated layers on the lens groups really show their value in tricky lighting, and it would certainly make an excellent telly for use at dawn and dusk, and for shooting in gloomy woodlands. If you wanted to go lamping, though, I’m not sure the LR Dot crosshair offers quite enough of a visual reference in the dark; you may need the fuller illumination of the TMX reticle.
These days, buying a scope can be a bit of a lottery. There are as many good ones under £250 as there are poor ones – but even when you look north of £300, there are plenty of ways to mis-spend your money. I’m glad to repo
rt that Hawke’s new flagship takes away any gamble, though. If the Frontier takes your fancy, buy it. I cannot see how anyone could ever say it’s not money well spent.