SWFA 5-20x50mm SS, a Super Sniper Evaluation

Discussion in 'Long Range Scopes and Other Optics' started by Niles Coyote, Jul 7, 2011.

  1. Niles Coyote

    Niles Coyote Well-Known Member

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    Evaluating the 5-20x50mm SS Super Sniper
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    First let me add a little background before I get to deep here. I am not a professional optic evaluator, just another shooter that until the last four years was living fine with one to five hundred dollar glass for the purpose of hunting and short range target shooting. That all changed when I was invited to participate in a local SWAT match where area teams compete against each other for bragging rights. I was to be filling the role of spotter to assist a fellow coworker and department marksman. That lead me to several online shooting and hunting forums in my quest to learn everything I could to further my knowledge and help us win... Those were the days I actually had money and thought I was a good shot. :rolleyes: Now I know better!

    Forgive me if there are a few inaccuracies here but to the best of my knowledge I will attempt to share a little Super Sniper history. For those that have not heard, there is a company in Texas called SWFA. I don’t work for them and until just recently have never done business with them. They have a highly regarded line called the Super Sniper (I will refer to it as SS here on out). Its history can be traced back through Tasco and beyond. While that doesn’t instill confidence for most, the scope was originally developed to meet the needs for a military contract T/E. This was apparently successful as it was awarded a United States military contract (# N00164-93-C-205). I remember as a youngster getting “The Sportsman’s Guide” and seeing production over runs of this scope for sale within its pages branded by Tasco. At some point Tasco sold the SS line to SWFA who resurrected the scope and brought it back to the shooting community, up grading all the short cuts Tasco had taken to reduce cost and increase profit. The SS is a good fixed power scope that shares the traits that we long range shoots regard valuable, namely tracking, ease of dialing in adjustments and over all durability/dependability. Up to the last couple years these scopes were all fixed power. SWFA improved on the line and extended it, offering a new fixed model in 10x with HD glass and a couple new variables in 1-4 and 3-9x. They also upgraded the turrets with Mrad adjustments to match the mil based reticle. Just a few months ago I learned SWFA was bringing yet another SS to their line; this one a 5-20x50mm with HD lenses. I jumped at the chance to get one as this is almost perfect for my every need and I had read testimonials of their customer service if there was ever a problem. You will not find new SS anywhere but SWFA. The reason given is it reduces the overall cost to the consumer. I don’t know that to be true but there logic explained on their website seems sound. Now with that all said I will get back to my review.

    The 5-20x50mm SS features a new mil based reticle in the first focal plane (FFP), side focus PA adjustment, illumination of reticle center, HD glass and Mrad turrets with 10 mils of adjustment per turn. That’s 36” per turn at 100 yards. This makes it very easy not to get lost on the turret dialing shots as most calibers used at long range will need less than 13 mils to reach 1000 yards, magnum calibers less than ten mils. Each mil is broken down in tenths, so when you make one click you have moved your point of impact one tenth of a mil which equals .36” at 100 yards/3.6” at 1000 or for you MOA guys .34 moa at 100 and 3.43 moa at 1000. The scope has 30 mils of adjustment range thats a little more than 102 MOA.

    I’ve had the Super Sniper now for 7 days and was finely able to use it for what it was designed for, long range target engagement. To this point I had put just enough rounds under it for a zero and a quick load test, it was a down pour that first day. gun)
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    On a dryer day I took little time out in the back forty to see how it stacked up against what I usually carry. That would be a Nikon’s gold and tactical line, Leupold’s tactical and MK4 line, Burris hunting scopes, Vortex PST and binoculars, Swarovski binoculars and rangefinder and Nightforce NXS line. The SS appeared to be well made, well thought out and showed characteristics of good optical quality.
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    Now for the long range review:
    It was a nice warm day today at the 1000 yard range and there was significant mirage present.

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    Along with me was the 5-20x50mm SS, 3.5-15x50mm NF NXS mrad/mlr, Leupold (pre MK4) 3.5-10x40mm M3 and a Nikon Tactical (pre X) 2.5-10x44mm with the Gen2 copy reticle. I started shooting with the SS at 400 yards and dialed in every hundred yards out to 1000. I experienced no problems there so I started dialing in drops predicted by JBM or my FDAC slide rule (an excellent itemlightbulb that is made just for 175 smk's but tracks berger's 168 vld just the same as they share the same BC or nearly so) for different distances between 300 and 1000 but not in order this time. I used up to 11.8 mils and I am happy to say it tracks properly within that range and right on the numbered indicators. I mention numbered indicators because when I first zeroed in the pouring rain and reset the elevation knob it would not line up perfectly with where the 0 is indicated on the dial. It would line up either tenth of a mil low or half way between 0 and a tenth of a mil above the indicated 0. When I went out the next day to shoot some dots I found I needed to adjust my zero by a tenth and reset the knob zero at which point everything lined up like it should. :)

    So everything lined up and tracked appropriately so now I compared the SS to the other optics I had with me. First up, the Nikon. I have always stated that the field of view is narrow in these but they are dependable and have glass good enough to get the job done. The SS doesn’t suffer from the same narrow field of view and was substantially better in clarity as I looked around the edges of the field. I then moved on to the Leupold. I really like this particular scopes' optics, it has one of the widest fields as any I have used yet and resolves detail better than the last three Leupold MK4’s I have owned. The SS was turned down to 10 power to be fair and compared. The field of the Leupold surpassed that of the SS. Now this is a guess, as I have no hard numbers, but roughly 6 to 10 feet more was visible when observing the range around the 600 yard mark. Optical quality was too close to clearly tell between them. Understand, like I said above, this isn’t your average Leupold. I then moved on to the Nightforce. This is my bread and butter scope. I have spent hours behind it and hold it in high regard. It has yet to let me down and has done everything I have asked, both on the range and in the wilds of Montana on more than one backpacking mule deer hunt. Yes, it is heavy and bulky but it is dependable and not jarred when I slip and fall, banged against trees and rocks or crammed into my pack. I am happy to report that I could tell no difference between them when resolving weeds and branches down on the 1000 yard berm and nearby tree line. Due to the mirage I also looked at objects closer and I feel confident that they are evenly matched when on the same magnification. Again the field is not as wide as the NF, but here is one area I found where the SS may have an advantage. At the very edges of the field in this NF I commonly get ghost images or stray light reflection. Let me describe that a little better… On a 20” white painted steel target if you hold the scope so half of the target is out of view and the other half is just inside the field it shines. Now when I compare the NF with in the field that the SS has the image is clear. So is it better or worse than the NF? That will totally depend on the shooters point of view.

    Views brought to you by my SS and NF

    20x
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    10x
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    5x
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    NF at 10x I think...
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    Turrets:
    When I ordered this scope, and the other one I have not yet received(backordered), this was an area of concern. I love the resistance and solid click of my Nikon and Nightforce and was hoping the SS would be just as good and sure. I under stood that with 10 mils per turn the adjustments would be closer together leading me to believe that this may compound the possibility of a problem. My concerns were unfounded; rest assured there is no problem with the turret adjustment feel, engagement or resistance.

    Wrapping it up:
    I did not find and curvature of field, nor chromatic aberration/color fringing present in this scope to my still learning eye. The dependability and durability testing will continue but I can say right now SWFA has hit a home run with this scope. I will go further and say the next time I am in the market for a 1500-1800 dollar scope, barring any issues that challenge the dependability and durability, (which for now I have no reason to believe there will be any) I would buy the SS every time just for the added features over a NF.

    Improvements:
    As a few have already found, I too find the power adjustment difficult to turn because of nothing present to get a grip on. The surface is relieved in areas but slick. I have hears SWFA is alread working on a cat tail to fix this but wanted to say it truly will be necessary, that is, unless you like getting out of position to get a better grasp on the adjustment ring or wearing a glove.

    The turret, if and/or when it happens again, the turret not being able to zero at all tenths will bother me. It will be interesting to see if the second one I ordered exhibits this.

    One last concern I had and to some degree still have... Is 5 power going to be low enough for me and my needs. YMMV but I have had 6.5-20 scopes in the past and 6.5 power has proven to be too powerful during certain activities I use my scopes for, namely hunting in brush or thick wooded areas. In my trip out in the field this was one area I was testing. I don’t think this is going to be as big of an issue with a low end of 5 power but it is still on my mind.
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    I would love to see SWFA come out with a scope with a low power around 3 but still powerful enough to be useful at 1000. I use 10 power scopes quite frequently at 1000 and while it’s useable, 12 power or higher would be great. While I am offering suggestions, a 40mm-44mm objective would be preferred as well. Keep the PA knob, center dot illumination, turrets and FFP the same.

    More pictures to follow.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2011
  2. Niles Coyote

    Niles Coyote Well-Known Member

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    Re: Evaluating the 5-20x50mm SS Super Sniper

    Across the corn field. These next two pictures are a little deceptive, the trees off to the left of the scope are at 125 yards, the trees on the right are 250 and the trees viewed through the scope are 980. Again full power and minimum power.
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  3. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

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    Re: Evaluating the 5-20x50mm SS Super Sniper

    Really enjoyed your review and pictures. Thanks for taking the time share your findings and thoughts. I've got one of these on order. The scope is heavier than I prefer, but everything else about it sounds very appealing.
     
  4. Niles Coyote

    Niles Coyote Well-Known Member

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    I ran a 15 mil tracking test tonight. First shot was definitely cold shooter syndrome, point of aim was top of the orange bullseye but I pulled about ¾” right. Dialed 5 mil up, added 5 more for 10 mil and 5 more for 15 mil then back down 15 mil to my zero. The SS tracked perfectly. Please excuse my chicken scratches circling each impact, Microsoft paint and I don’t get along well.

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    Also, the reticle agreed with the impacts, the reticle subtends 15 mil from top to bottom.
     
  5. Artful

    Artful New Member

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    Nice review - thank you
     
  6. Jon A

    Jon A Well-Known Member

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    Very nice review, thanks for posting. Have you had a chance to compare it to the others in low light conditions? I'd be interested to hear how it compares for you to the NF and Leupold ~30 min after sundown--both glass and reticle illumination.
     
  7. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    Just looking at the pictures, the color does not seem true. You only show green and you should check the scope both at blue and at red.
     
  8. Good

    Good Well-Known Member

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    Me too.
     
  9. Niles Coyote

    Niles Coyote Well-Known Member

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    The color may be off due to several reasons.

    A 10 year old 4mg camera that has seen its better days…

    It was very hot and humid when I took the pictures over the corn field with heavy mirage present.

    Even though I was using a sand bag on the top of the stock on the range pictures, it was very difficult to get the camera just right and perfectly aligned for a good clean picture.

    The field shots were just hand held with no sand bag for support and It took many tries before I could get one without shadowing/fading present.


    I have looked through it at about that time frame and didn’t see any issues, but other than my pair of trusty 6.5 bino’s, I had no other rifle scopes with me… When time permits, I will take them out and compare them side by side in low light and report back.
     
  10. Niles Coyote

    Niles Coyote Well-Known Member

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    Low light test:

    I have been out twice now. The first time just a informal stroll in the field using trees, limbs, leaves and weeds as my objects to judge the scopes ability to resolve in diminishing light from sunset to a full hour after using both the SS and the Leupold 3.5-10x40mm LR M3. What I found was surprising. The SS lost the ability to resolve fine detail much quicker than the Leupold even though the Leupold has an objective lens 10mm smaller.
    Because of what I experienced I felt compelled to test again using the 1951 USAF resolution chart below at 100 yards with one of my Nightforce 3.5-15x50mm thrown in the mix.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:1951usaf_test_target.jpg

    With the above chart printed out on a standard size paper. With the Leupold set at 10x I dialed down the other two until the image was of equal size in all scopes.

    Also please keep in mind the area I was doing this test in is not uncovered, open ground. My 100 yard range at home is populated by many mature pine trees and the majority is on the western side of the range so the light levels are lower than they would be out in the open.

    Testing was done at 100 yards.

    Sunset +7 minutes;

    With the SS I could resolve only the largest horizontal set on the page corresponding with the #1(bottom right); vertical sets resolved were # 1, 2 and 3.

    The Leupold resolved down to line 4 on the left for horizontal (referred to H from here on) and also line 5 for vertical (referred to V from here on).

    The NF was able to resolve all but the smallest H (#6) on the left side and all V sets on the left side were discerned.

    Sunset +15;

    The SS had lost all H (left and right sides) and I could just make out the largest set of V on the left side and the larger V on the bottom right.

    The Leupold was holding its own, resolving #2 H and #2, 3, 4 V on the left.

    The NF resolved #2 and 3 H and 2, 3, and 4 V.

    Sunset +20;

    The SS was unable to resolve anything but the large white square at this point

    With the Leupold I could discern no H lines but could make out #2 V on the left and #1 V on the right.

    NF was able to detect only the #1 H on the right and down to # 3 on the left for V

    Sunset +25

    SS- if I didn’t know the White box was a square it could have easily been mistaken for a circle.

    Leupold- I could only resolve the box and the V on the right.

    NF- I was able to pick up the box and largest V sets on the left and right sides.

    Sunset +30

    SS-just a white blob for the box.

    Leupold- just the white square

    NF- White Square and largest V on the right.

    At this point I stopped viewing.

    I had turned the Illumination on a few times throughout the testing on both the SS and NF. I found the ability to set my desired power level on the SS a great benefit and the NF was almost blindingly bright as the light level faded. The NF is still at the factory set level as I have not opened the unit up to adjust it. This NF had the np-r1 reticle and I need it bright at times for use during daylight against dark backgrounds.

    Also, when I was out in the field, I turned my two optics toward the western horizon as the sun was setting and both the Leupold and SS handled internal flair well. While it was present in both, it was not as bad as I have experienced in other optics.

    So that concludes my lowlight testing… Questions???
     
  11. phorwath

    phorwath Well-Known Member

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    Thanks once again, even if the reported performance is lacking in low-light conditions. Ya gotta tell it like ya see it. And I appreciate that.
     
  12. Buffalobob

    Buffalobob Writers Guild

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    It is very seldom that people use any kind of standard when evaluating scope. It was good of you to do your homework and try to come up with a scientific method.

    In addition to all you said is the fact that eyes lose their night vision slowly after about age 45 and that is why many of us use the Nightforce 50mm.

    Just out of curiosity how old was the Luepold scope. Some of their advances in lenses and coatings are very interesting to me.
     
  13. Niles Coyote

    Niles Coyote Well-Known Member

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    This Leupold seems to be exceptionable. It was made before the MK4’s came out and is labeled a Veri-X III Long Range. I have compared it with another MK4 3.5-10x40 and a 4.5-14x50 and the image in this one was better than either of those two. I don’t know how it would compare with this year’s MK4’s. Leupold has up dated the boxes they ship in and I have heard rumors that they have up dated the glass as well. I have not used any of those yet, so I can’t say.
     
  14. Jon A

    Jon A Well-Known Member

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    Nice test, thanks for posting. Though I must say the results are a bit surprising, that’s OK, maybe the SS just doesn’t agree with your particular eye very well. That’s why it’s nice to read about as many people as possible doing tests like this. And that Leupold you have must be a freak of nature—don’t ever sell that thing!

    As an aside, when I clicked on the link to the chart you used I was surprised—I’ve never seen that chart in the “negative image” like that before. I’ll have to try that sometime, I’m not sure how my eyes would like that. Sort of like a web page that’s black screen with bright text on it. Anyway, I’ll have to try it sometime. The chart I normally use, and seems to be more popular, is this one: http://accurateshooter.net/targets/usaf1951.pdf . I do a lot of resolution testing in the daylight at higher powers, for that the chart needs to be sharp even on the tiny portion which I noticed the one you used wouldn’t be good enough for:

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    It doesn’t look as good in a picture naturally, with the bare eyeball and a good scope you can resolve down to the tiny numbers in the middle. I usually print it on beige “target color” paper to be a bit easier on the eyes on sunny days. I have used it in low light/dark as well but haven’t so far with the SS—my testing with that mostly has been picking out brown and gray shapes from dingy backgrounds where it did exceedingly well. Now I’m getting ideas about printing my chart above in say, brown ink on beige paper or grey ink on light grey paper or something like that to try and test “deer colored” scenarios as realistically as possible.

    Anyway, thanks again for the test. Looking at that chart just got me thinking out loud is all….