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HFT Scope Round-up

HFT Scope Round-up

Hunter Field Target (HFT) shooting requires the shooter to tackle knockdown reactive targets, placed at distances between 8 and 45 yards, and with the key rule being that they are not allowed to touch the scope for the duration of the shoot; thereby making the specification of any telescopic sight to be used fairly critical. In effect, rules dictate the specification, which means that a suitable magnification will be somewhere between 8x and 10x. If the scope has parallax adjustment, this will normally be set before the event, to around 25 yards, which in conjunction with the relatively low magnification, should enable the shooter to at least view targets placed at a variety of distances, with an acceptable level of blurredness.

The following models will all fit the bill, with many featuring regularly in top level HFT events around the country. Vortex are a relatively new name in optics, (from around 2002), but they have fast built a reputation for rugged, well thought out products, and great after-sales service. This particular Diamondback model offers a neat specification, which is just about ideal for HFT, with a modest sized 32mm objective, and 8x magnification available.

The side parallax adjustment is again kept nice and compact, and with a minimum of 20 yards focus, it allows the competitor to fine tune to personal taste. The reticule is termed ‘Dead-Hold’ by Vortex, and it’s similar to a Hawke MAP design, with small dashes rather than dots, set along the windage axis, and lower stadia. Turrets are positive and finger-adjustable too. What stands out with this model is a super sharp image, and the depth of field. Set the parallax to around 25yards - a popular setting for HFT, and targets viewed at other distances have a usable level of clarity, which is what it’s all about, given the key ‘no adjustment’ rules of the sport. And let’s not forget their unlimited, unconditional lifetime warranty, bringing peace of mind to owning this neat little scope.

Pros:

Ultra compact model

Cons:

Not a lot

VerdicT:

Great value with an unconditional warranty

RRP:

£197.49

Contact:

www.vortexoptics.com

Nightforce NXS 2.5-10X32

As the most expensive glassware in my listing, this ultra slim line 2.5-10X32 NSX model from top American manufacturer, Nightforce, is undoubtedly impressive. For the record, these low profile NSX models feature super robust adjustment mechanisms, a 30mm body tube, and only measure 12” long. With many shooters striving to keep the sightline as low and as near to the bore as possible in HFT, scopes such as this are ideal.

Nightforce supply the US Military, which gives some idea of the specification, build quality, and extreme robustness built in, to their products. Bear in mind that neither parallax nor magnification can be adjusted during an HFT tournament as mentioned, and any prospective scope needs to be set up as a compromise, to suit its user. Whether this particular model is worth substantially more than many of its rivals is up for debate, but it’s a high grade product for sure.

Pros:

Quality US brand/ low sight line

Cons:

Comparatively pricey

Verdict:

High quality but you pay for it!

RRP:

£1369

Contact:

Sportsman Gun Centre, 01392 354854, www.sportsmanguncdntre.co.uk

Sightron SIII 10X42 MMD

Compact quality best describes these scopes, and British company AIM Fieldsports now act as their UK distributor. One glance through this 10x42 model, (30mm body) and it becomes clear that this is a cut above the average, although retailing at around £598, the quality is reflected in the price. Image integrity, is stunning, and certainly one of the brightest and sharpest that I have encountered in a long while. Edge to edge clarity is spot on and unusually, parallax adjustment is made via a collar at the rear. The turrets are particularly well marked, with clear increments picked out in gold, along with tracking lines to keep a check on how many revolutions have been made. ’MMD’ in the stated model name denotes ‘Modified Mil Dot’, and this relates to the half Mil Dots marked along the reticule. Four equidistant quarters show, sitting within four Germanstyle thick posts and the overall sight picture is reassuring. As an example of proportion, when viewed at 30 yds, a 15mm target kill area fits within half a Mil Dot, whilst a 25mm kill area fits within the centre zone. In addition, a standard 40mm kill fits within any 4 markers
All useful and with the sheer crispness of the reticule, functionality is on the whole excellent.

Pros:

Impressive lens quality

Cons:

Quality comes at a price

Verdict:

Worth every penny

RRP:

£598 guide inc sunshade

Contact:

AIM Fieldsports,01606 860678

Hawke Vantage SF 3-12X44

2015 saw Hawke really up their game, with a brand new look, and a host of new models. I’ve picked the Vantage SF 3-12x44 since the spec is just about ideal for HFT. A one inch body tube keeps things slim-line, and low profile turrets are a welcome sight. Side Focus (SF) comes as standard too, meaning the Vantage can be set with parallax correction, at a distance of your choice. The Half Mil Dot reticule is a nice uncluttered design, although personally, I reckon additional ultra fine but wider lines, maybe after two Mil Dots on all four stadia, would be beneficial to aid quick bracketing. As it stands, from a theoretical 35 yards zero (.177) set from a 1.6” high sightline, I found the trajectory fell perfectly into place against the aim points. The half Mil Dot first line down related to around 40 yards, with the first Mil Dot down equal to 45 yards. It’s all about precise, proportional aim/reference points at the end of the day, and the Vantage SF has what it takes in a super slick package. An added bonus is the free to download software ‘Hawke Chairgun Pro’ allowing pellet compatibility and trajectory checks against a variety of their reticule designs. In short, Hawke now has a well earned reputation for punching well above their weight, and this Vantage take some beating at the price.

Pros:

Half Mil Dot reticule is excellent

Cons:

Not much

Verdict:

Astonishingly good value for money

RRP:

£169.99 guide inc lens caps

Contact:

Deben Group, 01394 387762, www.hawkeoptics.com, www.deben.com

Falcon M18 4-18X44 FFP

Falcon’s Menace was a popular model, and several filtered through to the HFT circuit; but with this model now discontinued, enthusiasts need to look elsewhere in their product line-up. Well fear not, as this go-ahead company still produces an exciting array of models, and the M18 4-18X44 FFP is a perfect replacement. Interestingly, Falcon have chosen to specialize in 1st focal plane systems, whereby the reticule sits in front of the magnification system, so stays in proportion to the target, as the magnification is increased. This means true Mil Radian values are maintained when using this scope, on whatever magnification- as opposed to 2nd second focal plane, where the reticule value is only true when used on one particular mag setting.

Fans of the old Menace will also appreciate the familiar chunky turrets, but where the M18 really scores is with the sharpness of the image and good clarity through the ranges. There’s a choice of reticules available, and mine was specified as the B20 which is Falcon’s Mil Line - basically Mil Dot spacing but all lines and no dots. Not much would get me to switch from my old vintage, long discontinued Zeiss, but this scope set me thinking- which says it all!

Pros:

First focal plane reticule will appeal to many

Cons:

Chunky target turrets can be an irritation

Verdict:

A lot of scope for the money

RRP:

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£279 inc lens caps, 2-part sunshade & bag

Contact:

Falcon Optics, 01902 847972 www.falconcoptics.com

MTC Viper Connect 3-12X32

MTC’s radical break with traditional design has been popular from the off, for where a conventional scope comes with around three inches of eye relief, the Connect comes specified with just 30mm. The idea being that this shorter distance means there’s less chance for incorrect head position (eye/scope alignment), and therefore parallax error. It’s a novel approach, but viewing a target does feel strange at first, due to the way that the ocular lens effectively sits against the nose. Using this set-up (30mm body tube here) has a unique feel to it, and whether it feels right will be down to the individual; and for obvious reasons, the Connect is totally unsuitable for use on recoiling guns. Greater depth of field, an increased field of view overall, and MTC’s usual choice of reticules are further selling points, and with several tournament wins to its name, the highly innovative Connect is hard to ignore.

Pros:

Fairly unique in operation

Cons:

Unsuitable for use on recoiling guns

Verdict:

A highly original product

RRP:

£279

Contact:

MTC Optics, 08448 009929 www.mtcoptics.co.uk

Optisan EVX 3-12X44I

Optisan EVX models from MTC Optics will outwardly look familiar to many, but the major selling point has to be the newly developed MH10 reticule. It’s actually a combination of the best points of both the original MTCdesigned SCB pattern, and the later AMD design, and the result is a fantastic array of aim points, with perhaps the highlight being those incredibly useful floating windage dots.

On the range, the widest windage dot gives around 6” when viewed on 10x magnification at 45 yds. The others are equidistant, so give roughly 1.5, 3, and 4.5” of wind at the same distance, with an increasing and corresponding amount of drop designed in. All this information is invaluable, and a great asset for the serious HFT competitor or hunter for that matter, who means business, the body tube is 30mm. Knowledge is power as they say, and this EVX can certainly be said to empower the shooter- one who’s prepared to do their homework in any case! All in all, another impressive scope from an increasingly popular brand.

Pros:

Good image quality along with a great reticule

Cons:

Chunky target turrets are an irritation

Verdict:

Great value, yet competitive

RRP:

£275 inc lens caps, sunshade & sidewheel

Contact:

MTC Optics, 01380 859572 www.mtcoptics.com

Bushnell Elite 6-24X40 MIL DOT

Bushnell are a famous American brand, renowned for high quality, and this model from the Elite range, has a versatile specification. Variable magnification between 6-24x means it could even double as an entry level FT scope on high power, but twist the smooth mag collar to between 8 and 10x, and set the front parallax to around 25 yards, and we have a highly capable HFT spec. This model is actually constructed in Japan, and lens quality is extremely good! Add to that the Bushnell ‘Rainguard’ lens coating, which inhibits water droplets from forming and gathering very easily, and you can expect high resolution and a crisp image overall. The Mil Dot reticule will please many, giving proportional, clean aim points through the usual trajectory, and the scale also means that it is quite possible to bracket small kill zones to help ascertain target distance where possible. Everything feels well engineered, and that includes the super smooth magnification and parallax collars. So if the dimensions don’t seem too cumbersome, this one has what it takes!

Pros:

Good build quality

Cons:

Quite long body tube compared to many

Verdict:

The specification gives this model added versatility

RRP:

£483 inc lens caps, sunshade

Contact:

Edgar Brothers, 01625 613177, www.edgarbrothers.com

Nikko Stirling Panamax 3-9X40 AO

Nikko Stirling have been a respected name in optics since 1956, which says a lot in today’s fast moving market place; so I think we can safely assume they know a fair bit about optical design! Their Panamax range offers a wide angle lens arrangement with around 20% greater field of view (FOV) than comparable models. Having tested this model, I personally wouldn’t place too much emphasis on the FOV benefit. However, what really stands out is the impressive clarity through the target distances. Eyesight variation will dictate fine settings, but I found with the front parallax ring set to about 27 yards, image definition was good from close in at 10 yards (acceptable blur) right out to the full 45 yard target maximum distance (HFT rules). The HMD (Half Mil Dot reticule is another bonus, as this offers a semi-floating central equidistant fine stadia and cross hair, and four outer thick posts, that nicely draw the eye to the target area. The result is an uncluttered image with Mil Dots and half Mil hash marks, for full trajectory tracking/ aim points- and all for a very reasonable asking price.

Pros:

Impressive little performer and great value for money

Cons:

Hard to find fault

Verdict:

The super low RRP belies the performance

RRP:

£136.99

UK Distributor:

Highland Outdoors available via dealer network

Leupold 3-9X33 EFR VX2

Less is so often more with HFT scopes, and externally at least, this compact Leupold is fairly bland and conventionally styled. However, for bland, read super sleek and compact, as this slim-line model is a great performer. The famous gold ring gives the game away of course, and Leupold’s legendary build quality is there for all to see, in a one inch body tube and a parallax-adjustable objective. Low profile, screw cap turrets hide the sound tracking mechanism, whilst the Leupold multi-coated lenses offer a super crisp, sharp image right to the edge.

Used by several competitors on the national HFT circuit, despite having a fairly standard duplex reticule with no Mil Dots, this is one for anyone’s short list.

Pros:

Leupold’s build quality/ ultra compact

Cons:

Fairly standard reticule

Verdict:

Leupold always represents a sound investment

RRP:

£470 approx

Contact:

Viking Arms Ltd, 01423 780810

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