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Hawke Sidewinder Tactical Scope Review

This is a Community Review of the Hawke Optics Sidewinder Tactical Scope by Tom Costan. The author of the following review are in no way affiliated with Airgun Depot. The views expressed below are personal opinion only.
Overall Reviewer Rating
  • Optics Clarity
  • Ergonomics
  • Accuracy
  • Build Quality
I have several Hawke scopes and have always been surprised by their performance. Enough that I decided to step up to the SideWinder Tactical 30 IR 4.5-14X 42 for my first PCP air rifle.

The questions I always ask and find difficult to answer are: Is a more expensive scope worth the extra cost? How much of the cost is prestige and how much is performance gain? Where is the point of diminishing returns on the investment? In this review I am going to attempt to answer some of these questions.

When I opened the box for the Tactical 30 IR 4.5-14X 42, I was surprised to find it was boxed in a box! Not a cardboard box but a hinged case with precut foam inserts, similar to the ones used for professional equipment but of much lighter construction.

Packed neatly in the case is the following. Scope with the aluminum screw in lens covers installed, sunshade, big wheel for the side wheel AO, pointer for the big wheel, micro-fiber lens cloth, two extra batteries, two allen wrenches and instructions.

It is immediately obvious that the fit and finish are extremely nice. The anodizing is deep and black with many surfaces matted for glare reduction. All knobs and wheels are heavily profiled so when grabbed they are easily recognizable. The sunshade is the only part that has a finish that doesn't quite match the rest. The inside is nicely ribbed but the outside is not a perfect match in color or texture with the scope body. Also the shade must be removed to install the lens cap.

I mounted the scope to my rifle using a set of BKL 30mm medium scope rings with out any surprises. If a once piece scope mount is used, be aware that there is a protruding screw cap on the scope tube just below the side focus wheel that may interfere with the mount. In the case of the BKL one piece mount I had to file a clearance slot to allow the scope to seat properly in the rings.

The notable features of this scope are: Side focus parallax adjustment, illuminated red/green etched glass reticle with 1/2 mill dot increments, and the tactical turrets. Other features we expect are optically coated lenses, variable magnification and nitrogen purging are included as well.

Side Focus

The knob is combined with the illuminated reticle control and is located innermost against the scope body with the IR knob located on the outside. The Side focus range is 10 yards to infinity, operates extremely smoothly and proved to be very accurate. I have my shooting lane setup with reactive targets at 40, 50, 75 and 100 yards, with the zoom at 8X I was pleasantly surprised how quick the range determination was. I was able to bring all targets into sharp focus with out guess work and at 14X the ranging was incredible. The targets would go from blurry to eye popping clarity and the indicated range was always within 5 yds.

I did not field test the big wheel and pointer because my primary use is hunting but it certainly would add some extra precision for FT or BR shooters. To install, simply line up the IR knob profile with the side focus knob, loosen the three phillips screws on the back face of the big wheel, slide over both knobs, calibrate and snug up the three screws. The pointer is a simple split collar. I found the pointer was a bit short and would prefer it to extend closer or overlap the big wheel.


I've never been a big fan of illuminated reticles but this one is different.

Note: The camera would not focus on the reticle and would snap to the glass of the eye bell, this is why the crosshairs seem blurry. This is not the actual case.

Many IR scopes have an issue where the source LED is visible in the field of view when your eye is not perfectly aligned with the eye bell and has a distracting and/or blinding effect. Indoors, I turned the brightness to full and tried to find the offending source and it can't be seen; there is absolutely no glare or spill. 5 levels of red and green brightness are selectable. Level 5 is so bright it can be seen in full sun if you have a contrasting background, the lesser levels are more suited for lower light or when you need contrast against the background. The red works well for dense green foliage and the green for browner brushier environments. The best part of the IR is that the whole reticle is illuminated so if you use mill dots for holdover they can be seen and not blanked out by a center dot.

The IR system is not perfect. While the knob has large protrusions for grip and is easily recognizable from the side focus wheel it is very difficult to turn, gloves may make the task even more difficult. One other potential problem is the battery is located in the IR knob with an o-ringed end cap that screws on; it is possible to unscrew the battery cap when trying to rotate the IR knob. After I put a little extra muscle on the battery cap, it did not accidentally loosen again.

The reticle features full mill dots and 1/2 mill indicators as horizontal or vertical lines. Also there are some extra measurement boxes at the extremes of the crosshairs. The lines are very fine and sharp; the IR really makes them stand out in the woods. The mill dots are calibrated at 10X.

The reticle may be a bit busy for some but if mill dots are used for holdover the extra information will be welcome.

Tactical Turrets

The sidewinder has nice big easy to read scales and easy to operate turrets. The scales are very clearly laser etched into the matt-black surface of the cap; a very nice touch.

Just pull them up, turn and push them back home. They pop up with just the right amount of effort, turn smoothly with a very audible click for each 1/4 MOA but less tactile feeling than expected for a scope in this price range. There is feeling, better than most inexpensive scopes, but gives the impression of being masked or damped by the o-rings. Once the adjustments have been made, simply pop the cap down and they are locked with authority. The turrets tracked perfectly when bench rested at 25 yards and during sight-in, I was able to walk the shots into the x-ring with ease.

Bench and Field Performance

First, I sighted in and got some shooting time in my backyard shooting lane. Immediately the exceptional clarity and brightness was obvious; this scope has first class optics. Wow! Most notable was the very small, about 1/4", eye relief change from 4.5X to 14X and almost non existent fussiness at maximum magnification. Also, the edge to edge sharpness at 14X is amazing, there is no visible shadowing or distortion, maybe a very small loss of brightness. I wouldn't hunt at 14X but for bench shooting, absolutely!

Next took this new scope/gun combination for a day hunt for some field time. I set the focus at 30 yards and magnification to 6X. The sight picture is exceptional, especially the contrast. In the brown sub-alpine scrub every detail was crystal clear.

Overall this is a fantastic scope, well built, instrument quality with exceptional optical performance. If you are considering a scope in this price/performance range the Hawke SideWinder Tactical 30 IR 4.5-14X 42 appears to be an excellent value with only a few minor weaknesses.

Tom Costan
August 14, 2012

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