Thursday, June 28, 2012

SWFA & Weaver Scope Comparison

SWFA SS 3-9x 42 Tactical 30mm scope compared with the Weaver Tactical Grand Slam 3-10x 40mm

When I was putting together my 10/22, I knew that I wanted to make it an accurate gun, so I decided to try and make it match my .308 as closely as possible with how it was set up so it could be a kind of "trainer" rifle. Some people have gone so far with trainer .22's as to put them in Accuracy International Chassis and put high end glass on them like Nightforce or Schmidt & Bender's to match their big boy rifles. Since I haven't won the lottery or anything, that wasn't really an option here.

What I did manage to find however was a scope that very closely matches the features of my SWFA SS 3-9 (SWFA henceforth) for a very reasonable price.

A little history on the SWFA optic. Legend has it that this scope was originally designed by Tasco and called the Super Sniper. The quality was questionable and somewhere down the line, SWFA picked up rights to the design and made it their own. For the price the SWFA SS 3-9 is an exceptional scope. SWFA sells optics and accessories from several manufacturers but the SS is their own house brand scope. They make several different models, including some 1-6x's, some fixed power scopes (with crazy amounts of adjustment in them) and a 5-20x50 30mm that I would love to get my hands on.

This Weaver scope is a special design that can only be purchased at Midway USA. Pretty frequently it goes on sale for $100 off and that is the time to get one. For the money it is a very good scope. If a SWFA is outside of your budget, give the Weaver some serious consideration. As you'll see soon, they are very similar. Bushnell has some designs that are similar to these scopes as well. Those can be found at Midway as well.

One of the coolest features about the SWFA scope is that it has a First Focal Place (FFP) reticle with .1 miliradian (MRAD) turrets and a mil-dot scope. For those who may not be familiar with those terms, a mil-dot scope is a certain kind of reticle that looks like this: (image taken from check them out to get a basic understanding of mil-dot reticles )

In short, it allows the shooter to estimate ranges to targets of known approximate size. MRAD turrets are calibrated to be used with a mil-dot reticle. What that means is instead of thinking in inches of drop or windage, the Minute of Angle system, you simply use the reticle you have in front of you as a ruler. 

For example, if you take a shot and you can see the impact hit exactly one dot low (termed "one mil low") through the scope, then you simply have to dial up 10 clicks/one mil and you should be on target. You don't have to estimate how many feet or inches your shot was off at hundreds of yards away. The mil/mil (mil-dot reticle with matching MRAD turrets) is a much more precise way of dialing in corrections. There are also MOA/MOA scopes out there but I'm really not sure what they have to offer over using the milliradian system.

First Focal Plane has to do with where the reticle is placed within the scope. Most traditional scopes available in the U.S. are called Second Focal Plane (SFP) scopes. When you increase the magnification on a SFP scope, the reticle size stays exactly the same. On an FFP scope, when you change magnification, the reticle adjusts in size to match. For example, here are a couple shots through the SWFA scope, one on 3x and the other on 9x, notice the size of the mil dots (click to enlarge)

And now the Weaver SFP scope on 3x and 10x

Notice how the reticle stays the same size in relation to the background. So why is this important? One thing to understand about SFP scopes is that the ranging reticle is only accurate on one magnification; typically the highest. In other words, in order for the mil-scale to be accurate such that the reticle matches the turrets, the Weaver scope must be on 10x. If you are in a situation where you are in a competition, hunting, or doing bad things to bad people and must make a fast follow up shot, being on the wrong magnification with a SFP scope can cause you to miss under stress when you try to dial/hold a correction since your ruler will be wrong. A FFP scope will not have this problem because the reticle changes size accordingly with the magnification. 1.5 mils is always 1.5 mils regardless if you are on 3x or 9x.

For whatever reason, FFP scopes tend to cost more money. I do not know if they are actually more difficult/costly to make or that is just a desirable feature which can fetch a higher price. Since my Weaver was going on a .22, it wasn't worth the extra cost to me to find a FFP scope. However matching mil/mil turrets is something that was a requirement for this optic because I didn't want to have to switch between thinking in mils and MOA. One of the really great features about the Weaver Tactical Grand Slam is it's MRAD turrets.



Very similar. The little blue line you see is a small piece of painters tape to mark what revolution my zero is at. Doesn't work in the dark, but the reticles don't illuminate either so that shouldn't really matter.

If you are interested, the level you see is a Flat Line Ops Scout model level. It is a very recent addition to my .308 and so far is working well. It is particularly useful when the terrain is cockeyed relative to your position and makes you want to tilt the rifle to match the background. I can't say for certain if that is making any difference on paper yet.

When popping the turrets off, you can see that both scopes have nice brass internals. It stands out when adjusting the turrets as they both make very crisp clicks that can be easily counted by feel. Both of them from my experience have been true to scale with the reticle. That is to say, if I see a clay pigeon 2 mils to the right and 1 mil up on the berm, I can hold the cross hairs in the same spot, dial 2 mils right and 1 mil up and the clay pigeon is done for.



Another thing I will point out is the magnification rings since they are slightly different. The SWFA ring is much tighter and more difficult to turn than the Weaver. SWFA sells a throw lever if the slick design bothers you.

To my eyes, the glass is acceptably clear. I know of no way to objectively compare the clarity and picture between two different rifle scopes, and my photography skills are likely not up to the task anyway. Where the difference in price comes in is in the construction and likely the FFP vs SFP reticles. The Weaver scope does not feel cheap, but it definitely does not feel as rugged as the SWFA scope. That is one of those things you can only appreciate by getting your paws on them. Everything about the SWFA scope feels tighter and more solid.

Considering my objective of trying to find a scope that was similar to the SWFA without spending a ton of cash, the Weaver fits this bill exceptionally well. It is also a testament to SWFA's quality that two very established companies, I believe, have had scope designs inspired by the SWFA SS line. Credit of course also goes to the guys at Tasco who initially created the Tasco Super Sniper.


Since I have both rifles out and am comparing the two, this would be a good time to give a hat tip to the Karsten Cheek Pieces that they both wear. If you find yourself having to pick your head up to get your eye in line but don't want to spring for a new stock, Karsten might have the answer. To my knowledge, his is the only product like this on the market. They can also be found at

Here also is the Tac-Ops cheek pad on them both

1 comment:

  1. I'm an Sniper in Brazil and i have to say for leading moving targets the SFP is better because when the target is moving too fast we can do a trick reducing gradually the zoom magnification this way the MIL values change and the leading become smaller, and when we are trying to Range the target using the maximum magnification in my personal case is the 20x we simply divide the MIL values by 2