Mark Camoccio rounds up the top-class glass for airgun’s most demanding discipline
Whilst you need specific skills to succeed in Field Target (FT) shooting, there’s no doubting that high grade technology also plays a big part. Full blown match air rifles and rigid shooting jackets are of course much in evidence, but this flagship discipline now all but demands the use of specialist glassware too. High magnification is a pre-requisite, where the resultant shallow depth of field can be exploited, to give ever precise range finding capabilities. An increasing number of manufacturers have now chosen to get involved, and the result is a larger selection than ever before, of dedicated scopes, all aimed at FT shooters, eager to gain an edge.
So, on show here, are a cross section of some of the most popular models in use on the competition circuit today, and whilst RRPs may vary significantly, all are worthy of Cons:ideration.
Nikko Stirling Diamond Sportsman 10-50X60 SD
If we are talking the greatest number of wins for a relative outlay, then the ‘big Nikkos’ take some beating. Exceptional value for money, certainly when compared to several rivals, it’s their no-nonsense specification that holds such appeal. There’ve been a few World titles for sure, yet with factory improvements coming in periodically, this popular brand is determined to stay competitive. Re-jigged internals, including an additional lens, improved resolution and image clarity. Elevation adjustment has also been increased by 25% over the original specification. Multi-coated Japanese lenses and a 30mm body tube, help increase light transmission. It can also be supplied with Mil-Dot or NATO-style reticles, along with a detachable, over-sized wheel for precise parallax focus/correction. An illuminated ½-Mil Dot reticle, is also an option, and with top shots, such as Kevin Sayers, still proving that in the right hands, these scopes are capable of sweeping all before them, it’s little wonder they remain so popular.
Pros: Well-regarded on the FT circuit for good reason
Cons: A bit weighty
Verdict: A proven winner, reasonable value for money
Contact: Highland Outdoors; www.highlandoutdoors.co.uk
Konuspro M30 12.5-50X56
The brand was founded in Italy in 1979, and the Konuspro M30 12.5-50x56 represents great value for money. It comes complete with lens cloth, good quality, flip-up lens covers and a 3” sunshade, and at 30.6oz, it sits as a mid-weight contender in this sector of the market. Target turrets, integral spirit level, side focus, and an illuminated modified Mil-Dot reticle are all part of the specification. Turret values are 1/10-Mil click, so equating to roughly a 1cm@ 100yd, and 2.5mm @ 25yds. The turrets are the increasingly popular push-pull lockable style; pull to open, twist to the desired setting, and then push to lock again. Click movement is audible and positive too, which is always reassuring. The range of adjustment is less than some rivals but given many FT shooters now centre the scope and basic zero using adjustable mounts, this aspect is largely academic. A 5.25” side wheel is also available as an extra for around £60 but focusing with the side knob proved surprisingly good on test.
Pros: Hard to fault at this price
Cons: Integrel spirit level is hard to see
Verdict: Great value for money
Contact: Range Right; www.range-right.co.uk
March X 8-80X56
No list of modern FT scopes would be complete without March, and their ground- breaking X 8-80X56 model. Offering the most powerful magnification currently available, of 80x, it will relieve you of some serious cash, but pedigree and build quality are undeniable. Top FT shot Conor McFlynn put the brand in the spotlight, when he lifted the biggest prize in the sport with his March X, back in 2011, and he’s not the only one to appreciate the benefits. Designed by Deon in Japan, these mega scopes are seemingly very pricey, but image quality, reliability, Cons:istency of parallax and range readings, irrespective of temperature, are all impressive. The MTR-FT reticle, which Conor had a hand in, has half and full disc (40mm) hash spacing at exactly 50yds, and you can use it to bracket the kill zone with x20,40 and 80 magnification settings, amongst an abundance of other reference points. March are all about supreme build quality, and for some, that has to be worth the investment.
Pros: Astounding build quality
Cons: We’re talking serious money
Verdict: A proven winner, but at a price
Contact: March Scopes; www.marchscopes.co.uk
Hawke Sidewinder ED 10-50X60 SF
Late to the party, but Hawke’s first big FT model has had quite an impact, in the shape of the Sidewinder ED 10-50X60 SF. So, that’s a massive 50x magnification at the turn of the rear dial, the obligatory sunshade, 4” sidewheel, and range pointer are all included in the price. More controversial, is the inclusion of three different target turret sets- 1/4MOA, 1/8MOA, and 1/10 MRAD; with the idea being that the customer can tailor the scope to their specific needs. For FT shooters who favour a larger side wheel, a 6” version is available as an optional extra for £45. Sharpness of image on test was good, and set on the full 50x mag, it performed well, with the longer ranges being clearly defined, and snapping in with good repeatability. A red illuminated TMX reticle is fitted, and this is glass-etched and finely marked. As usual, Hawke’s own free dedicated software is available on-line, via Hawke’s Ballistic Reticle Calculator, which is always a bonus when using one of their models. As for the significant retail price, now reduced to £779, this is still fairly significant money for this brand, but the Sidewinder certainly feels well made, and comes very well appointed.
Pros: Good clear image and robust build
Cons: The spare turrets must add to the list price
Verdict: Hawke finally have a spec to take on the big guns
Contact: Deben Group; www.hawkeoptics.com
Sightron SIII 10-50X60
All Sightron SIII series scopes feature what the manufacturer calls ZACT-7, which is a seven-layer multi coating, applied to the precision-ground lenses, and a 30mm body tube Cons:tructed from aircraft grade aluminium also features, along with their Exac Track windage and elevation adjustment system. Sightron’s reputation for high grade lenses and overall build quality, has soared in recent years, helped in no small part of course, by top shots such as John Costello nailing a World Championship with one. Handle one of these models though, and the quality of the glass and the obvious build quality, does really stand out. In a sport, where brand loyalty can play a big part, Sightron have undoubtedly established themselves at the top table. Throw in a lifetime warranty and the usual assurances of fog, shock and waterproof, and the case for these classy optics stacks up nicely.
Pros: Superb quality, yet mid-priced compared to some rivals
Cons: Still no budget option at this price
Verdict: An excellent scope with a proven track record
Contact: Optics Warehouse; www.opticswarehouse.co.uk
Schmidt & Bender 12.5-50X56 FTII
This model was specifically designed for the sport, but it does come at a premium price. A 34mm body tube, parallax adjustment from 10m to 60m, and it also comes supplied with lens caps, a 130mm side wheel, spirit level and range pointer. Turret adjustments are in 1/8, or ¼ MOA (@ 100yds), and interestingly, can be ordered in the first or second focal plane. There are also turret revolution indicators, an illuminated Mil Dot reticle (11 brightness levels) is also available, along with a selection of alternative designs; all adding to the service offered at this level. The light grey, hard-anodised ‘titanium’ finish is designed to resist heating from sunlight, which let’s face it, can only help on a baking hot day. Overall build quality, image resolution and clarity, are everything we have come to expect from this world-renowned company.
Pros: Superior build quality from S&B
Cons: Not light at 2.8lbs
Verdict: Top class but there are plenty of cheaper rivals
Contact: Sportsman Gun Centre; www.sportsmanguncentre.com
Kahles K1050I 10-50X56 FT
Accomplished British FT shooter, Matt Hirst, had a hand in the design and development of this dedicated FT scope, and it certainly has an eye-catching specification. Most unusual is that top mounted 125mm parallax adjustment wheel, and whilst it means it may have to be taken off for storage in a gun case, there’s no doubting the slick handling in the heat of battle. This model has a 30mm body tube and weighs 37.1 oz. Parallax is from 9 to 65yds, and an MHR reticle is also incorporated. 1/8 MOA turrets are utilised, and all adjustments are smooth in operation, and nicely damped. Image quality is excellent, with an impressively shallow depth of field, whilst build quality is also spot on, as you would of course expect, given the RRPs.
Pros: A dedicated FT model, designed from scratch
Cons: Top mounted wheel needs dismantling for transit
Verdict: Impressive engineering
RRP: £2490 black or silver body
Contact: Swarovski Optik UK, 01737-856812 (for more information) [email protected], www.kahles.at
Leupold Competition 45-45
Leupold have been a premium brand in scopes for as long as I have been involved with the shooting sports, and their Competition model now has quite a following on the FT circuit. It’s a fixed 45x magnification and comes with a 45mm objective. Fixed mag is fairly unusual in FT, but whilst this model may seem less versatile, the simplicity does make for a technically stable scope. Parallax adjustment allows for 10yds through to infinity, and it all works well in use. It’s light weight too. The 30mm aluminium tube gets the usual Leupold build quality, yet still weighs less than 21oz. The slimline, streamlined simplicity is what appeals with this model, and image quality is nothing short of excellent. The parallax wheel is extremely smooth in use, and targets snap in and out with reassuring accuracy. There is a choice of reticle from Leupold, with standard options being a target cross or the 1/8” dot cross. An ever more appealing option as exchange rates work in our favour.
Pros: Leupold quality speaks for itself
Cons: Fixed power mag so less versatile
Verdict: Leupold has an army of fans, and for good reason
Contact: Viking Arms; www.vikingarms.com
Vortex Golden Eagle 15-60X52 HD
Vortex have arguably one of the best guarantees around, with its ‘Lifetime’ for peace of mind and reassurance. The Golden Eagle is their FT model, and it certainly comes well specified. It comes with a minimum parallax range of 15yards, but if this isn’t short enough, then there is always the option of a Leupold 50-foot adaptor, which we used to use on pre- EFR models in the early days of FT. This should then allow close focus down to 10yards. As standard, there’s variable magnification from 15x – 60x, and an unusual 52mm objective lens. Body tube is 30mm, it weighs 30.1oz, and the turrets are 1/8 MOA. There’s a choice of two reticles at the moment; the SCR which features plain and fine, and the ECR which has further graduations in the design. Overall then, the Golden Eagle is an exciting entrance into the FT market for Vortex, and with plenty of features and character, this boldly designed model looks likely to gain a foothold.
Pros: Good quality glass and good build
Cons: Minimum parallax is a little long at 15yds
Verdict: A well-made option, with that cast-iron guarantee
Contact: Vortex Optics; www.vortexoptics.com
Falcon T50 10-50X60
Falcon are a well-established brand with an enthusiastic following, and their T50 has been very well received. The option of a stylish silver finish over conventional black, is a practical option too, to avoid excessive surface heat in summer. The Variable mag and the large 60mm objective are the perfect specifications for the demands of FT, whilst weight in the region of 35.5oz, and a 30mm body tube, all tick the right boxes. As far as image quality goes, clarity is extremely good, when adjusted, with smooth parallax (down to a minimum 10yds). Custom extra-large side wheels are available too, from the likes of Jon Harris on the FT circuit, so personal taste is catered for, with this classy piece of kit. This model comes complete with two sunshades, 125mm wheel and even turret labels.
Pros: Robust feel, yet competitively priced
Cons: Mag adjustment a little stiff on test
Verdict: Great performer and reasonable value for money
Contact: Falcon Optics; www.falconoptics.com