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Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact: a great little scope for the money

Mat Manning says the Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact is a great little scope for the money - and it isn't only suitable for airguns

Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact

Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact

Manufacturer: Hawke

Price as reviewed: £339

Being able to shave some weight off a rifle and scope set-up can be a huge advantage. And while there are plenty of lightweight guns on the market, the weight savings they offer can easily be undone by bulky optics.

BSA’s Ultra SE airgun has been my go-to lightweight option for farm and woodland pest control for almost 10 years. It weighs in at 2.6kg and has served me well on roving sessions when I need to cover some ground and don’t want to feel bogged down. So it seemed the perfect choice to pair with the Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact riflescope which, in 4-16×44, tips the scales at 621g. (Read our list of the best air rifle pellets.)

Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact

The grooved zoom ring is easy to turn, even when wearing gloves

At 296mm, the second focal plane Compact is fairly short and made for a very well-balanced set-up on my Ultra. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this scope is only suitable for airgun use, though. The Airmax moniker does imply that, but this optic is shockproof rated for all calibres, so it will stand up to punchy recoil and is waterproof, fog-proof and covered by Hawke’s no-fault lifetime warranty. With a recommended retail price of £339, it could be a great choice for someone looking for a compact and affordable telescopic sight to pair with a powder-burning rifle. (Read our list of the best air rifles for pest control.)

Zeroing the Airmax Compact on my garden range confirmed it to be an impressive performer. The combination of decent glass, Hawke’s 16-layer lens coating process and a 30mm tube resulted in a bright, sharp sight picture, and the finger-adjustable 1/10 MRAD windage and elevation turrets turned with clean, positive clicks.

Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact

The Airmax’s turrets ensure fast and precise scope adjustment, turning with clean, positive clicks

Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact in depth

I really liked the Airmax’s AMX reticle, which is fine enough for very precise shooting but still bold enough to see in most light conditions. It features numerous 10x mil dot aimpoints to compensate for pellet drop and wind drift, without looking too busy. The grooved zoom ring is easy to turn, even when wearing gloves, and its 4-16x magnification range makes it a decent all-rounder.

After confirming the Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact capabilities on the range, I was keen to take it out in the field for a proper test. A local estate where assorted small pests are causing problems seemed just the place, and the outing kicked off in the yard — more specifically, around a barn where hens are kept. As is so often the case, especially during the colder months, the birds’ feed has attracted rats. It is very difficult to target the rodents in the confines of the barn, so I have set up a feeding station loaded with maize to draw them out to where they will offer clear and safe shots.

My intention was only to check that the feeders hadn’t run empty, but a rat was out enjoying a free meal as I approached. Unfortunately, it darted off before I had a chance to line up for a shot. I will return for an after-dark foray to settle that score. (Read more on ratting with air rifles.)

While I was topping up the feeders, a jackdaw swooped into one of the tall oaks that flank the yard. These birds cause a lot of problems, not only by helping themselves to the chickens’ feed but also by splattering their food and water with droppings, so I was eager to bring this one to book.

After creeping to the outer edge of the barn, I steadied myself against a concrete post and wound down the Compact’s side parallax dial to 25m to achieve a pin-sharp sight picture. At this range, I only had to apply a touch of hold-under before squeezing off the trigger to fell the jackdaw with a clean strike to the head. In calm conditions, it wasn’t a particularly challenging shot, but the Airmax made very easy work of it.

The Airmax features an oversized parallax wheel

Lightweight rig

After disposing of the jackdaw on the muck heap, I made my way into the woods. I was planning to have a lengthy stroll while looking for signs of grey squirrels and possible sites to set up my peanut-loaded feeding stations. With a walk of several miles on the cards, I was glad to have chosen a lightweight rig.

My efforts to control the squirrels here have been hampered by a huge crop of natural food. With abundant acorns and beechmast on the menu, the rodents have failed to show up at my feeders in great numbers. Therefore, I was expecting them to be most active around the oaks.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before I encountered a squirrel foraging among the leaf litter, searching out the last dregs of the acorn harvest. I had to weave around a few more trees to close down the range, and it appeared that the bushy-tailed bark-stripper had clocked me just as I felt I was close enough for a shot. It scuttled to the base of a tree then made the mistake of pausing close to the ground. The squirrel’s hesitation gave me time to end its tree-wrecking days with a smack to the skull.

That squirrel had been in deep shade, yet the view through the Airmax Compact was pleasingly bright. This scope is equipped with an illuminated reticle, which lights up red with six levels of brightness controlled by a dial on the outside of the left turret. I hadn’t needed it on this occasion but the added contrast should prove handy in really poor light.

I went on to bag two more squirrels before it was time to head home. The Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact had given a terrific account of itself and it is a scope that I would happily have in my regular line-up. Its lack of tube length is something to bear in mind if you like to be able to attach a lamp to your scope, because there isn’t much room left once you have it clamped in a set of mounts.

If, however, you are looking for a well-made compact telescopic sight that combines good optical quality with a very competitive price tag, this is certainly one to consider.

squirrel shooting with air rifle

A grey squirrel lingers in clear view and Mat frames it in the crosshairs of the Airmax Compact

Need to know

  • Model Hawke Airmax 30 SF Compact
  • Price £339
  • Contact Hawke Optics 
  • Length 296mm
  • Weight 621g
  • Magnification 4-16x
  • Objective lens 44mm
  • Tube size 30mm
  • Minimum parallax 9m
  • Eye relief 76mm
  • Field of view 10.9 to 2.7m at 100m
  • Features Illuminated AMX reticle, 16-layer lens coating, side parallax, supplied with 10cm parallax wheel, lens covers, cloth and CR2032 battery.

Also consider

Nikko Stirling Panamax 3-9×40 £119.99

Part of the Extreme Field of View range, this PanaMax has 14.7m field of view at 100m on its lowest zoom setting. Equipped with a half mil dot reticle and 25mm tube, it is 309mm long and weighs 470g.

PAO SSS 3-9×42 £94.99

This super-stubby scope is only 227mm long and weighs 512g. Features include PAO’s Smart Spherical Structure (SSS) construction, multi-stadia reticle and ¼ MOA windage and elevation turrets. Supplied with mounts and flip-up lens covers.

Copperhead F2 Compact 3-12×44 £312

Equipped with MTC’s AMD2 illuminated reticle, this version of the Copperhead is 248mm long and weighs a very modest 568g. It boasts a 30mm tube, side parallax down to 10m and quick-access pop-up windage and elevation turrets.