SWFA SS 10×42 HD
I received the SWFA SS 10×42 HD scope for evaluation recently. The first thing you notice when you pull it from the package is the weight distribution. It’s tail heavy as hell. The front half looks and feels almost identical to the lower end non-HD scopes in 6,10,12,16,20x. The back end feels like my US Optics ST-10, very heavy and likely full of very expensive lenses.
The turret caps attach with my personal favorite system, a single top screw. That method of attachment is covered in other reviews of mine and won’t be repeated here except to say that I very much hate cap screws that pinch the turret post from the side. They’re prone to stripping and there are usually 3 of them. That’s nothing more than just machining small threaded holes for no reason but to do so. The HD version uses a single top screw which means everything from waterproofing to just not fucking up and over tightening are problems that are much simpler to deal with or avoid.
Clicks are notchy and I love it. This is what I was hoping for from my US Optics turrets which are notably less distinct in click feel. The audible component is a little much for me but for the tactile feel I’ll have to count the auditory component as a sympathetic component that we’re not going to eliminate without sacrificing tactile sensation. Still, these are great turrets. The knobs aren’t huge. They’re no bigger than a Bushnell ET1040. Each one does 5 full MRAD per turn which makes the math of multiple turns pretty easy but does mean that anything beyond about 600m is going to go past 1 revolution. There is no zero stop but you can make one pretty easily from a thick plastic washer.
I wanted to see how elevation adjustments affected windage capacity. Windage range is very frequently limited substantially by elevation being dialed in, especially as the elevation gets extreme. I was able to dial in maximum and minimum elevation and to dial all the way in and out with the windage at the same time. This means about 100MOA of up dialed had zero effect on the ability to dial in wind. I often shoot in 30mph full value winds and sometimes need >10MRADs just for wind. It’s nice that this scope can deal with that.
Reticle is the SWFA Mil-Quad which is a very simple looking and un-busy design that can be used to accurately range down to .1MRAD. There are actually a hell of a lot of subtend values in there and it takes a while to memorize but once you do and you get some practice things get amazingly fast. I especially like the itty bitty dot inside the diamonds. It’s very handy to have a super fine point that you can use when ranging odd size things at extreme distances.
The box was, as is usual for SWFA, a complete disappointment of plain white with well engineered but unpadded innards that held the scope and kept it from rattling around inside the box. Still, ultra plain, no Jane. C’mon guys, just put a sticker on the top and at both ends and I’ll stop bugging you about it. I know you’re saving a dollar or so a box but I want my friends to be able to look at my scope box shelf and get all gaw gaw at how cool the boxes look and your box is ruining the image with a sea of plain white. My $200 Bushnell scopes come with relatively fancy looking boxes. My US Optics came with seriously fancy looking boxes. Add one more dollar to my SWFA boxes so they look as great on the shelf and I adopt a shit eating grin when my friends look up at that shelf and suddenly get all green with envy.
The HD 10x shares some questionable design elements with the non-HD models. The parallax values are illegible from behind the scope so unless you like getting into the missionary position with your rifle for some reason you won’t be able to read them. The minimum parallax setting is 50m which is no joke. You won’t have good optical performance on ANYTHING any closer. I bet that this is a sacrifice to the altar of combat grade ruggedness and one I won’t gripe about. It just means that this is not a scope for your .22lr and it probably is wasted on your .223 chambered AR-15. The parallax ring might be better set up as a turret knob. One big issue I had/have is that the parallax ring is seriously hard to turn. I don’t know if that’s just because it’s new and not broken in yet but, damn! 3 other people commented on it when I asked them for their spot opinions. I asked them because I thought I was being excessively hard on this point of gripe. There are also turret markings on the ends of the caps which makes as much sense as a 17-piece screwdriver. If you cannot read the markings with the rifle mounted in the firing position then the markings are worthless. This isn’t a major problem, just one of ergonomics. It’s also one that almost every scope maker in the segment has never gotten correct. The parallax yardages printed on the ring are more or less meaningless other than when set to 50yrds or infinity. If they don’t mean anything then just use dots and skip the wasted meaningless numbers.
Optical clarity: My own poking around so far says the glass is great but not exceptional. Looking at some cows on a hill about 5km away I could discern legs and animal color. The boil of the mirage was affecting my view though. Like I said, you gotta try this at range to appreciate the clarity. The edges of things at multi-mile distances did show some color separation. Looking at Jupiter at opposition I was able to make out 2 of 4 moons, no atmospheric banding and I was unable to discern 2 moons that were very close to each other from one another. Looking at the moon I’m able to make out very small recent ray craters but when compared to astronomical telescopes and to tier 1 glass like US Optics the difference is noticeable. The same test was done with my ST-10 and with my SWFA 16×42 SS. The 16×42 was insufficiently clear to discern more an 1 of Jupiters moons and had lower resolution on the moon by a pretty wide margin than the 10x HD. I would go so far to say that this is a perfect display of what money should buy you in optics. I could do useful planetary astronomy through a USO ST-10. I could do useful viewing of Mars or the Moon through a SWFA 10x HD. I could do usefully well at looking across a valley with the non-HD SWFA SS line. USO is 1500-3500, SWFA non-HD is 300 and SWFA HD is 800+. All of the above turned in optical performance directly in line with their price point and the quality, while definitely relative, was on a steeply curved line. From non-HD to HD SWFA you go from entry level to something you’d be hard pressed to bitch about. When you double the price again you land in a place where it’s not really possible to bitch. Optical performance doesn’t double with price, it’s more like picking up a few more decimal places.
I mounted the scope on a spare rifle and stuck my bore collimator on it. All clicks turned in the same adjustment and they were very much repeatable. I dialed in 10MRAD up, 10MRAD right, 20MRAD down, 10MRAD left, 10MRAD up and landed as close as I could see exactly where I had started. I have never had any qualms about SWFA turning out repeatable adjustments and this opinion appears to continue to be justified. My collimator is not of true scientific quality, it’s just a basic bore-scope collimator. It is accurate enough that I’ve found buggered up scopes with its help in the past so I count this evaluation with it as successful.
Durability: I AM NOT GOING TO ANSWER ANYTHING ABOUT THIS. I see no value in abusing a scope with every test I know it can withstand simply to demonstrate that it can withstand them. That kind of silliness is a waste of money, brains and time (a WOMBAT). Anyone that thinks they’re doing useful work by doing that kid of questionable, unrepeatable, unfalsifiable and therefore unscientific showmanship is questionably educated, prone to logical fallacy and a yellow journalist. They’re also probably ignorant of those last 3 facts.
One of the great things about this scope is the tube is long enough to provide a ton of mounting flexibility without extending from tang to muzzle like some other scopes I’ve seen out there. It manages to incorporate a built-in sunshade that really works and doesn’t make the thing too long, a long ocular bell and a reasonably sized main tube without starting to look like a donkey boner. Well done.
I can say one thing for sure at this point, if you need a fixed 10x and you need some real ruggedness and you have a budget under $1000 and you can’t get that budget up to $1500 for a ST-10, there probably is not any other optic other than maybe the IOR 10x Tactical that will come close to this. Don’t go grabbing one of these and thinking it’s for plinking at under 100 yards. It’s not. 100 yards is at the extreme close end of where this scope is at home. In fact, I think that it might be right to say that if your targets start at 300+ yards and you only get to have 1 scope, now’s the time to scoop up a 10xHD. Retail is right around 800 bucks and there’s not much in the fixed 10x world that is available at this price point while providing near the performance. IOR costs a bit more. Leupold costs twice as much. US Optics costs twice as much. The only real competitor for someone in the USA would be from IOR Valdada’s 10x Tactical due to price but support from IOR is not something we hear great things about being easy to get because it’s in Romania, while support from SWFA is legendary for its ease of use, speed and customer service and convenient USA location.
Solid scope. Definitely approve.