After moving to the northwest and joining my father and his regular varmint-shooting partner, a Vietnam-era U.S. Air Force Pararescue (PJ) who provided sniper cover for pararescuemen while retrieving downed servicemen, I was regularly chastised for my “excessive” optics. I’d shrug and offer, “Can’t hit’em if you can’t see’em.” Of course, my optics choice reflects my shooting preferences – the challenge of surgically removing small varmints at ranges far beyond the abilities of the magnum rimfires those guys mostly enjoy shooting.
Twelve years later, I’ve seen their scopes grow in magnification, and more souped-up centerfires coming out of cases. Witnessing me shooting ground squirrels to the far corners of our shooting properties has no doubt influenced this change of heart, but there is no denying long-range shooting has truly blossomed during the past decade.
Today’s dedicated scopes generally include price points that inspire exclamations. They seem created mostly to serve the wellheeled, or people who make a living shooting distant targets. The rest of us can only look and covet, like perusing a catalog of fine English doubles. Hawke Sport Optic’s Frontier 30 SF, while not exactly a giveaway, offers a solution for the rest of us. For around $949, rifle shooters receive a rock-solid optic with 5-30x 56mm configuration and all the bells and whistles that make those more expensive scopes appealing.
The Hawke Frontier 30 SF 5-30x 56 SF Mil Pro (20x) procured for this evaluation received quite a workout this spring, atop a Browning X-Bolt Max LR chambered in 6mm Creedmoor. I used this combination to conduct thorough long-range load development for LoadData.com, firing bullets weighing from 105 to 115 grains with BCs from .472 to .634. The rifle features a composite Max stock with an adjustable comb and .25- and .5-inch length of pull spacers to create a just right fit. The vertical gooseneck grip and widened forend are all about long-range proficiency. The 24-inch barrel is a stainless steel heavy sporter with flutes, including 1:7.5 rifling and 5⁄8-24 threads holding a factory muzzle brake, which I removed to add a Rebel Silencers SOS Hunter suppressor. The trigger was exceptional, breaking at a crisp 3 pounds from the factory. All-steel Warne Mountain Tech rings on a 20 MOA Mountain Tech picatinny rail provided rock-solid mounting. Overall, this is as close to a long-range varminting ideal as possible without entering the realm of heavier chassis rifles. I was able to shoot Belding’s ground squirrels out to 400/425 yards in a moderate breeze with relative ease.
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