Dark Lord of Optics
Location: United States
Hawke Sidewinder 30 6-24x56 vs Leatherwood A.T.R. Uni-Dial 7-30x50
This is the third in a series of reviews involving Hawke products and my first review of a Leatherwood scope. So far, I have looked at Hawke's top-of-the-line binocular, Frontier ED, and a top-of-the-line Japanese riflescope, Frontier SF. Here, I will talk about Hawke's flagship China-made scope, the Sidewinder SS.
As is my custom, here is the short version for those who do not feel like going through all of my ramblings:
Overall, I was not particularly impressed with either scope. Hawke is a nice mechanical package, but optics are mediocre (and I may be a bit generous here): both resolution and contrast are pretty bad. A holdover reticle in a SFP scope is, in my opinion, just a bad idea (once again, just my personal opinion). Leatherwood Uni-Dial is a nice concept, but badly executed both optically and mechanically: knobs have a lot of slop in them, tunnel vision is horrible and field of view is very narrow.
Now onto the long version:
The sample Hawke sent me is the 6-24x56 with the proprietary SR12 reticle, big wheel side focus parallax adjustment, pop-up finger adjustable knobs, and green/red reticle illumination. There is also an included sunshade. This is definitely a very feature rich scope.
The Leatherwood scope is not far behind as far as features go: No-Math Mil-Dot reticle (normal Mil-Dot with a couple of hashmarks added to it for bracketing a target of specific size), exposed tall finger adjustable knobs, Uni-Dial elevation knobs (same idea as Kahles Multi-zero, with ten holdover marks; I have heard numerous accounts that Leatherwood was the first with this idea), side-focus parallax knob (it is the knob that sticks out at about 45 degree angle in front of the W/E knobs). This one also has a sunshade included.
Let's look at the numbers (I included the more expensive Sightron S2 Big Sky 6-24x42 SIL for comparison):
These two scopes are among the most expensive scopes coming out of China now. They are also, arguably, the most feature rich (with Hawke especially, having every feature under the sun included). Both profess to be designed for long range shooting, but espouse somewhat different approaches to it.
Another thing to note is something of a disclaimer about my personal preferences: I generally lean toward scopes that are simple to use. Abundance of features is unlikely to impress me if the fundamentals are not properly sorted out. If the scope has a lot of extraneous options, I expect those to be properly sorted out as well.
Hawke Sidewinder 30 6-24x56 with SR12 reticle
This is a substantial scope. It is well proportioned, so it looks trimmer than it is, but it is big and bulky and clearly designed to be mounted on equally substantial rifles. As far as fit and finish go, this is the best I have seen come out of China yet. Bar none. The whole package is very well polished. All knobs turn smoothly. The edges are nicely radiused and machining tolerances appear tight and well maintained. Illumination and side focus are integrated into the same turret on the left side of the turret box via two concentric knurled rings. The illumination is adjustable via the outer one and parallax via the inner one. Parallax adjustment feels very stiff, but it is designed to work with the included big wheel that slides right over the knob and can be tightened over the side focus adjustment ring without effecting the illumination adjustment in any way. The wheel adds a lot more leverage to the side focus, so that it feels smooth and fairly light. Once the adjustment wheel is properly tightened, there is a touch of hysteresis in the system, but nothing that bothered me in practical use. Parallax is adjustable from 10 yards on out. For airgunners and rimfire shoters that is a welcome feature.
The reticle system is one of the more interesting features of the scope and deserves a special mention. Note that I am referring to it as a "reticle system" rather than a reticle. The reason for that is the BRC (Ballistic Reticle Calculator). BRC is a piece of software available through Hawke's website that is designed to work together with the reticle for precise holdover. The scope is available with three reticles: SR6, SR12 and Mil-Dot (BRC does not support holdover with Mil-Dot, but does support Hawke's proprietary reticle designs). The scope in question here has the SR12 reticle. Here is what it looks like:
Those who are merciful to the cruel, are cruel to the merciful. Talmud