In the first of a new series in which we review products in the field, Richard Saunders takes a look at an affordable scope - the Hawke Vantage 4-12x40 AO
With so many products on the market, choosing the right one can be something of a minefield, especially as the ability to try before you buy is often limited. Making the wrong choice is always frustrating and often costly.
Budget is the factor that usually sets our parameters, especially with scopes. I don’t know about you, but I’m loath to buy a scope that costs more than the rifle it’s going on. And yet I don’t want to limit the potential of the rifle by going too cheap.
At a time when the price of just about everything is going up, we set ourselves a real-world challenge for our first Field Test review – to find a telescopic sight that would complement a budget rifle. BSA’s Meteor Evo springer has the power and accuracy to comfortably take on airgun quarry. But at just £179, finding a scope that is not only good enough but also satisfies my rifle-to-scope budget ratio would take some doing.
At least that’s what I thought, but having spent a little time leafing through the ads, the standout option was something from the Hawke range, and I opted for a Vantage 4-12×40 AO with a mil dot reticle instead of the 30/30 duplex option. That I chose a Hawke is no big surprise as the brand is already popular with airgunners, but at just £109 it has all the features I look for and comes with a lifetime no-fault warranty.
With over 50 scopes on offer from just £59 up to £379, there are six sub-ranges within the Vantage line-up, offering a choice of reticles, tube sizes, parallax adjustment, magnification and reticles.
The entry-level Vantage range currently comprises 16 products spanning 4×32 fixed magnification up to 4-12×50. All have a 25mm body tube, and seven of them have adjustable parallax via an objective collar. Slightly more expensive, ranging from £209 to £229, are three 25mm side focus models with a 44mm objective lens and magnifications of 3-12x, 4-16x and 6-24x.
Hawke Vantage 4-12×40 AO: key specs
Manufacturer: Hawke Optics (hawkeoptics.com)
Model: Vantage 4-12×40 AO
Magnification range: 4-12x
Reticle position: Second focal plane, Mil Dot reticle
Tube diameter: 25mm
Objective lens diameter: 40mm
Click value: ¼ MOA
Turrets: Low-profile screw cap
Eye relief: 89mm
Exit pupil: 10-3mm
Field of view: 8.7-2.9 metres @100 metres
Parallax adjustment: 9 metres to infinity
Hawke Vantage 4-12×40 AO: making the line-up
The third 25mm tube sub-category, the Vantage IR line-up, comprises 21 scopes with a mixture of side and objective parallax adjustment as well as the benefit of an illuminated reticle. Objective lens options are 32, 40 and 50mm with magnification from 2-7x up to 6-24x.
A 30mm chassis is introduced on three Vantage 30 WA sub-ranges. All include side parallax and illuminated reticles, and there are second and first focal plane options. Magnification across the three categories extends from 1-4x right up to 6-24x, with objective lens sizes of 24 to 56mm.
Attached with Sportsmatch mounts, the 4-12×40 AO model ticks all the most important boxes. At just 485g, it’s light enough to not spoil the balance on a rifle, and at 346mm it doesn’t interfere with the Meteor Evo’s break-barrel mechanism.
The 4-12x magnification range is ideal – anything more on a rifle that I don’t plan on shooting beyond 30 metres would be a waste – and parallax can be adjusted down to just nine metres via the collar round the objective bell.
Zeroing the scope to 20 metres on the range was easy, taking just a few minutes and half a dozen shots to adjust my elevation and windage via the low-profile capped turrets. Another 50 or 60 pellets to get my eye in, and I was finally ready to give the combination a proper field test.
My range is on a farm, and situated right next to some woods that have a fair population of grey squirrels. Ordinarily I just leave them alone, as the woods are left to grow wild and the songbird population seems to be healthy.
However, just recently the tenants on a row of nearby cottages had complained about squirrels nesting in the roof space that could present a fire risk if they chewed through any wires or cables.
So, fresh from my zeroing session, I headed off into the woods with my Meteor Evo and Hawke Vantage 4-12×40 AO combo. I’d set up a peanut feeder a few weeks earlier and a simple screen hide about 20 metres away, but having sat behind the bench at the range for more than an hour, I fancied a bit of a walkabout.
Although the day was bright enough, the thick trees made the woods murky but pleasantly cool. I wandered slowly, stopping every few yards to look and listen, scanning the trees as well as the woodland floor for signs of any squirrels.
Possibly owing to the fact they hadn’t been shot at before, it didn’t take long for me to spot one as it crashed confidently through the branches. I tracked the squirrel for a while before coming to a tree, and then levelled the Meteor to where I believed the rodent had stopped.
Hawke Vantage 4-12×40 AO: squirrel in the sights
Despite its smaller 25mm tube, the Vantage allows the passage of plenty of light through the 40mm objective lens, giving a crystal-clear view of the foliage, no doubt thanks also to the 11-layer lens coating.
Twiddling the objective ring to adjust the parallax and bring the sight image into focus about 40 metres away was easy enough, though it has to be said that a side focus option would have made this whole process easier still.
A few seconds spent scanning an ivy-covered branch revealed the squirrel looking directly at me. The range was too far for me to feel confident of executing a precise head shot with a springer, even if I was resting against a tree.
Rather than risk missing a clean shot and wounding the squirrel, I began to inch closer, not fancying my chances given that my quarry knew I was there and the woodland floor was covered in crunchy leaves. I looked up, expecting the squirrel to have disappeared. Instead, perhaps because it hadn’t seen anyone with an air rifle before, it started barking at me, increasingly furious at my intrusion.
At last, I reached a fallen tree that provided a perfect rifle rest and estimated the range to be a little less than 30 metres.
I put the Meteor to my shoulder and the Vantage to my eye. The parallax setting was still spot on and the magnification ring rotated smoothly to the full 12x. Having zeroed the scope at 20 metres, I allowed just half a mil dot of holdover and squeezed the trigger.
When the rifle settled from the recoil, I watched the squirrel through the scope as it fell forward and then dangled from an ivy creeper as its nervous system shut down and triggered a clenching reaction. A few seconds later, it fell to the floor, crashing through the canopy.
After collecting the squirrel and indulging in a few seconds of self-congratulatory smugness at a perfectly executed springer kill, I headed for the hide and peanut feeder on the other side of the woods.
As I approached, I could see a squirrel already sitting on the platform, munching away at the peanuts.
Despite my earlier stalking success, it cleared off before I could get much closer, leaping to the floor and scarpering, so I made my way to the hide and settled in.
A short while and two more squirrels later, I reflected on what I’d been able to achieve with the Hawke Vantage 4-12×40 AO. For its low price of £109, it is without doubt incredible value for money, and I’d have no qualms putting it on a much dearer PCP.
The image is crystal clear and allows plenty of light, even when the sun starts to go down. The controls are well-engineered, allowing for easy adjustment of both parallax and magnification. And the turrets had proven themselves on the range to be precise and accurate.
For dedicated hunting use, the only thing I’d change about it would be the parallax adjustment. The objective adjustment is super-smooth to operate and, truth be told, on the range where you’re more likely to set it at a distance and leave it there, it would be fine.
However, in the field when movement needs to be kept at a minimum, there’s no denying that a side-focus setup is more convenient to use.
Fortunately, the Hawke Vantage range has that covered too.