By Trampas Swanson

Recently, I had the great opportunity to review a pair of scopes from an optics company I haven’t never tried before, Hawke Sport Optics. I have been shooting for over 35 years and prided myself in having tried hundreds of various models and manufacturers so when this opportunity arose, I couldn’t wait to try them out. Shipped for review were a Frontier 1-6×24 Tactical Dot scope and a variable 4-12×50 Vantage IR rimfire scope designed specifically for the .17 HMR round. In doing a bit of research prior to their arrival, I was quite impressed with what I discovered.

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Hawke Sport Optics was originally founded in the United Kingdom over 15 years ago. Not long afterwards, the company established the US headquarters in Indiana in 2007. According to their website, Hawke is a worldwide market leader, offering an extensive range of high quality, value for sporting optics, from rifle, crossbow and airgun scopes to binoculars, spotting scopes and accessories such as laser rangefinders, red dot sights, sunshades and mounts. As a family-run business, Hawke’s head office is still based in Suffolk, UK, but the company has quickly grown its presence to over 60 countries worldwide. So much so, it has been reported they make up over 50% of the UK market!

First Look

When the two optics arrived at the office for review, I was impressed by the overall appearance of both straight out of the box. The clean lines of each scope’s design were indicative of higher end model optics from US competitors. The scopes featured easy to adjust turrets and zoom rings with a solid total weight that let you know they weren’t built from junk metal. The Vantage IR 4-12×50 felt well balanced and mounted up well with the supplied ring mounts on my Savage Arms A17 semi-auto .17 cal rifle. The same can’t exactly be said for the second optic unfortunately.

The 1-6×24 optics was compact and minimalistic which would be perfect for running on my AR-15. To my dismay, the supplied ring mounts placed the scope slightly too low for a perfect check wield. Not to be off set in my testing, I took some extra time adjusting to a higher hold with my face pressed into the stock in order to fully see through the scope. I decided to run it without letting that effect my judgment during the review process. As it turned out, this would be the only negative I would have to mention about the optics from start to finish.

Both of the Hawke optics offered waterproof, fog proof and shock proof optics housing filled and sealed with nitrogen and O-rings to help with keeping moisture out. Hawke engineers have developed a “broad band” lens coating that captures the brightest image possible without sacrificing clarity and resolutions. This would prove important with fighting the high humidity, afternoon rains and ever changing temperatures of early fall in Florida.

Vantage IR 4-12×50 AO: Rimfire .17 HMR

The first of the two scopes I would spend time field testing would be the Vantage IR. I mounted this optic onto my A17 semi-auto .17 HMR rifle from Savage Arms. I have always loved how flat shooting and reliable this rifle has been but dismayed by the lower end quality scope it was sold with. Needless to say, I was excited to testing a scope that was not only a higher quality but caliber specific built as well.

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A .17 cal specific scope is a relatively new concept in the optics community because unfortunately, shooters haven’t always been able to enjoy the wonders of the .17 cal platform due to it being a 21st century design. The challenge of pushing the 40-grain bullet beyond its 50 yard limits of range and accuracy always has always had its appeal to my inner marksman but limited to .22 LR and .22 WMR. Our life long understanding of small caliber capabilities would slowly start to change in 2002 with the inception of the 17 HMR. This new caliber was manufactured by Hornady Manufacturing Company by basically necking down a traditional 22 Magnum to a 17 caliber (4.5 mm) 17 grain (1.1 g) projectile, that can deliver muzzle velocities in excess of 775 m/s (2550 ft/s). Despite producing over 30% more power than the traditional 22 Mag, the new 17 HMR was limited to bolt action and lever action rifles due to feeding issues encountered when manufacturers attempted to retrofit existing semi-auto platforms. When ammo is cheap and plentiful, a shooter doesn’t want to hinder their trigger time with manually operating the action right?

With the A17 from Savage, the .17 cal found success in the form of a super reliable semi-auto. This was a game changer as in any caliber once it moves from the bolt and lever platforms into a magazine fed rifle. Not only are follow up shots and magazine changes quicker, the accuracy of the A17 is amazing. By mounting the Vantage IR onto the Savage, it took only a matter of a dozen shots to walk the rounds on target and zero the scope in at 100 yards. The windage and elevation turrets were easy to use and set for 1/4 MOA adjustment. The clear, crisp dual illuminated reticle made holding on the black bullseye targets almost too easy.

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Due to the extreme brightness of the sun, I found the upper red light settings helped keep the reticle crisp and easy to pick up quickly while shooting. As the day started turning to evening and the clouds came in, the overhead trees made for a dark environment in which the lower green settings were perfect to finish up some long-range shots. Out to 250 yards, the hold over graduations on the reticle were spot on even in a slight bit of quarter value wind. I was impressed with the lack of fogging on the lens when taking the rifle out of a 74 degree air conditioned truck and out into 95 degree heat on the range to start shooting. This scope was a great start into my discovery of Hawke Optics to say the least.

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Specs

  • Material: Magnesium Alloy
  • Exit Pupil: 0.5 – 0.1″
  • Ocular Type: Fast Focus
  • Lens Coating: Fully Multi-Coated – 11 Layers
  • Power Selector Style: Knurled Posi-Grip
  • Focal Plane: Second Focal Plane (SFP)
  • Elevation Increment: ¼ MOA
  • Elevation Adjustment Range: 80 MOA
  • Windage Increment: ¼ MOA
  • Windage Adjustment Range: 80 MOA
  • Turret Caps: YES
  • Turret Type: Low Profile

Frontier 1-6×24 Tactical Dot

Despite getting off on the wrong foot with the Frontier 1-6×24 optic, things quickly turned around for the better. I mounted the scope to my custom-built Sons of Liberty Gun Works (SOLGW) AR-15 in which is a dream to shoot in any situation, whether its teaching or my own personal training. The robust 30mm tube and highly visible horse shoe shaped reticle were spot on with the balance of great light gathering and easy to acquire targeting. Running drills at 15 and 20 yards involving shooting on the move and multiple steel target engagements were fun even despite needing to adjust my hold on the rifle. Edge to edge clarity was just as crisp and clear as that of the .17 cal Vantage IR previously tested.

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One item I would suggest for a close to medium range optic such as the Frontier 1-6 Tactical Dot is Hawke’s free X-ACT Ballistic Reticles Calculator (BRC) software which will help you with proper hold overs and calculations based on the load you are using. I am a firm believer in using every tactical advantage you can although nothing can substitute for time on the range, firsthand experience. I can testify to the efficiency of the program for the 5.56 / .223 platform with the Frontier optic. After spending a day sighting in the scope on my SOLGW rifle, I ran a few drills to get the feel for how the reticle worked but did not work with any of the BRC software. Between range visits, I had a close friend and fellow instructor needing to borrow my instructor rifle for an upcoming Urban Rifle class so I decided to switch the Frontier scope to a SIG M400 AR-15 I had been working with for another article recently.

On my next range trip, I quickly foresighted the optic and then dialed it in at 50 yards. Using the BRC software I had downloaded to my cell phone, I decided to start pushing the range of my targets out by 50-yard increments. Using 6” steel plates set out at 100, 150 and 200 yards, I worked my way onto each one with 3 shot groups. I was less than an inch off my projected hold at the farthest distance shooting from a bench rest using standard 55 grain ball ammo. Again, I can attribute part of this to having to adjust to an unnatural hold while shooting. This wasn’t an issue because it’s always been my experience, the perfect shot in real life is never presented in the first place, so having to learn to adjust just adds to the realism of the testing.

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As mentioned with the Vantage IR, given the bright sunlight on the range, the upper spectrum of red illumination did a great job of keeping the reticle crisp and clear on target even at 200 yards. I was genuinely impressed with the performance I found from such a compact scope. The turrets were easy and quick to adjust on the move and made quick work of dialing in my shots with the 1/4 MOA graduations. This is an important note for readers who shoot using a lot of 1-4X and 1-6X optics because most of the market have very stiff and hard to adjust turrets regardless if they are capped or target style.

Over the couple of months, I spent field testing the Frontier Tactical Dot optic, I wasn’t once disappointed in its performance. I enjoyed the edge to edge clarity and lack of added weight to my rifle. For those who would be carrying the optic on a patrol rifle for extended periods of time, this is another note readers may want to consider. My only suggestion in concluding the initial review of the optic is to use a solid, one piece mount such as an American Defense forward mount to give the shooter both the correct height for proper check wield as well as the proper eye review for quick snap shots regards of zoom setting.

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Specs

  • Chassis: 30mm Mono-tube
  • Optical System: 1-6×
  • Objective: 24mm
  • Reticle: Tactical Dot
  • Illumination: Red – 6 Levels
  • Focus/Parallax: Fixed – 100 yds.
  • Field of View: 1 ft. @100 yds. 108 – 17.6 ft.
  • Eye relief: 4″
  • Length: 10.4″
  • Weight: 19.7 oz.
  • Misc: Waterproof, Shockproof, Nitrogen purged.
  • All caliber rated.

Final Thoughts

The overall testing process was enjoyable due to the great quality of both optics. I had early concerns about both scopes being too good to be true from a company unknown to me. As it turned out, I just needed more exposure to the European optics market. Equally impressive was the MSRP of each optic which I discovered once I was done with the individual reviews.

With a MSRP of $239.99, the Vantage IR 4-12×50 AO is an excellent value for the .17 caliber platform. Often caliber specific optics can be quite pricey in relation to general use scopes because of the niche market they occupy. Thankfully, this was not the case. The Vantage scope provided a crystal clear sight picture out to 250 yards with spot on performance. The dual illumination offered a wide range of lighting options to perfectly tune the eye into the reticle no matter the ambient lighting conditions. There are genuinely very few scopes on the market right now to compare to the price and quality of this optic for the .17 caliber platform.

The Frontier 1-6×24 optic currently has a bit more competition on the market with its MSRP of $799.99. The easy to use illumination and compactness puts it at an advantage over the Leupold counterpart and within less than $50 – $100 difference in the US market’s leading 1-6 scope from Vortex Optics. I would say this is pretty good company for the Frontier 1-6 to find itself in. Combined with the Hawke Optics’ BRC program, this scope is a proven performer to go against others in its class.

From this review, I personally take away a few things. First, I learned about a great optics company to help me expand my field of knowledge when writing internationally. Secondly, I had a chance to rediscover how much I enjoy shooting in low light with the green illuminated reticle of the Vantage IR scope, which puts far less stress on the eyes when the pupils are fully dilated. Finally, I was reminded that not all premium optics have to come with premium price tags. I urge you to check out 1800GunsAndAmmo.com’s inventory of Hawke Optics for yourself and discover which one is right for you. Until next week, Train Hard and Continue the Fight!