SWFA SS 5-20×50 Riflescope


My dayjob involves flying all over the country and talking to a great variety of people many of whom work in the world of Electro-Optics, primarily with military applications.  Naturally, it is not too uncommon for me to run into people who share some of my hobbies, namely shooting.  I started chatting with Andrew while visiting his employer and I liked some of the things he said.  Namely, he mentioned Applessed which is an immediate indication that the guy has some training.  He also mentioned that he is a 2MOA shooter (or something along those lines, I do not remember the exact verbiage).  That last things made me perk up and take notice.  Internet is full of people who claim that they shoot quarter MOA groups every day out to as far as the eye can see.  When I hear that, I immediately loose interest.  It is hard to shoot well from anything resembling field positions and I do not tolerate poseurs well.  I run into enough of them at the range: they are the people with a bunch of custom rifles, a myriad of gadgets hanging on those rifles and fancy scopes.  They only shoot form the bench, only at 100 yards and are firmly convinced that they are good.

Further discussion revealed that Andrew has a few decent rifles, but not many and that he actually practices with them.  There is a saying: “beware of the man with one gun; chances are he knows how to use it”.  Andrew seemed to fit the profile, so I figured I should get him to play with some scopes I have and see what he thinks.  Aside from the shooting pedigree, he knows a thing or two about optics, so if I missed something in my evaluation he would be quite likely to pick it up.

I did not have to twist his arm too hard, so I sent him my SWFA SS 5-20×50 riflescope to play with for a couple of months and he was gracious enough to conglomerate his impressions into a single write-up.  If all goes well, I think I’ll solicit his help on a few scope tests I have planned for 2015.

Here is the unedited text he sent me:



SWFA S.S. HD Variable 5-20×50


Hello Everyone,

My name is Andrew, I am an avid shooter and engineer. My friend Ilya asked if I would be interested in reviewing a rifle scope. Since I have recently been looking into acquiring my first high-end all around scope I was eager to get my hands on one and test it out, so obviously I said yes. To give you some idea of my use for one, I regularly shoot to 500 yards, further whenever I get the chance. Typically I shoot iron sight, and baring the occasional hiccup, I am a 2 MOA shooter within 500 yards, beyond this my groups may open up some. I prefer to shoot from the prone position utilizing a G.I. Sling, and my firearms of choice are an M1 Garand and Windham Weaponry MPC RF. So onto something more interesting than me.

The scope Ilya brought me was the SWFA S.S. HD Variable 5-20×50. For my testing I mounted it to my Windham Weaponry MPC RF utilizing an off the shelf Burris P.E.P.R. 30mm QD mount. I was eager to get to shooting with it and did not walk through the needed steps to truly get the absolute most out of the scope. I did this for two reasons.

1. Time,  I was running short of time to get the scope mounted prior to a 500 yard shoot I had just two days later.

2. I wanted to know what it would be like if I did nothing that should really be done to get a scope mounted properly. (e.g. treat it like most scope shooters would and just slap that puppy on and put some lead down range J)

First impressions about the Scope. This scope feels in hand like a solidly built scope. Rotating the Magnification ring takes a little more force than I would like personally, however it holds its’ setting well and operates silently. It has an eyepiece focus lock and once you have set it for your vision I found it holds focus well (to understand what eyepiece focus is I suggest you see Ilya’s write up for WebyShops on riflescopes found here, he did an excellent job explaining the design factors affecting riflescopes). The POA knobs, elevation and windage, have a very nice tactile feedback to them. I was able to adjust for windage without taking my head away from my cheek weld or having to look at the turret. The final two adjustments for this scope are the Illumination indicator and parallax adjustments. They are stacked on top of one another opposite the windage knob. I found that quickly attempting to adjust for parallax without looking could be a hassle as you may turn on or off the illumination instead. The illumination itself is dim, but I actually liked that. It kept the center of the reticle from blurring much and better allowed me to hold my position. It also has 11 illumination settings to choose from depending on ambient light that day.

SWFA S.S. HD 5-20×50 Basic Specs:

Length, in


Weight, oz


Main Tube


ER, in


FOV, ft


19.4 – 4.82


Click Value

0.1 mrad

Single Turn Adj

10 mrad

Total Adj Range

E: 30 mrad

W: 17 mrad

Zero Stop



Mil-Quad, ill

Parallax Adj




Country of Origin




The Reticle of the scope looks like this:

Figure 1 http://www.swfa.com/images/ss_illum_milquad_popup.jpg

After Getting the Scope from Ilya I took it home that night and mounted it in one of my Burris P.E.P.R. QD mounts. (Personal side note: It is important to understand that due to imperfections in both mount and scope manufacture it is possible to tighten scope rings onto a scope such that the scope is damaged. In general if you are looking at a scope for the long haul I would greatly recommend having a competent gun smith mount the scope for you, even within a QD mount like mine.) Once mounted to my rifle, I laid down in prone as I would at a shoot and walked through adjustments I could make while maintain position, to get a feel for how much force it would take to say walk through magnification settings.

The next day I took the rifle with scope to a friends’ range to sight it in. After a quick 25 yard laser boresight, I fired off three 3-shot groups at 150 yards prone to complete the sighting in. The first group went above my paper target. Seeing that my paper target is only 10” x 12” and I aimed Center of paper, I expected that nearly none would be on paper. My friend let me know I was impacting the berm high, so aiming lower the second group let me know where I was hitting in relation to my aim and the third verified my adjustments were correct and I was off to the races. At this point I stopped to set the POA turrets to Zero, this is easily accomplished on this scope by unscrewing the Allen Screws on each POA knob and removing the turret. Once you have the turret lined up to the zero mark you simply put the turret back in and tighten the screw again. Just be careful when tightening the screw not to over tighten and rotate the knob or you could lose your newly acquired zero.

The following day, I was at a range in Lewiston PA. for a 400 yard shoot at 7am. The weather turned out to be kind of dreary. It rained off and on all day, was overcast with poor visibility and winds that changed all day long between 2 and 8 mph from varying directions.

After getting my gear laid out for the shoot and being given about 20 min of prep time I spent 10 min or so playing with the scope at the distances offered by that range.  25 yards to 1000 yards. Given that the day was as dreary as it was and it was already raining a little, I was surprised at how well I could discern detail at the 700 yard marker with the magnification turned up to about 10x. The glass optically was very clear and the overall transmission through the scope excellent. Admittedly this is the first truly nice scope I have had occasion to take to the range, and although I have seen a myriad of scopes both military and civilian, few were seen under these conditions. Most often I saw those in building or under favorable conditions.

Our Course of fire for the day was:

– 10 rounds off hand at the 100 yard target in 2 min.

– 10 rounds standing to sitting transition with mag change at the 200 yard target in 55 sec

– 10 rounds standing to prone transition with mag change at the 300 yard target in 65 sec

– 10 rounds prone at the 400 yard target in 2 min

To be completed 3 times followed by:

– Free Time (nearly dusk)

We started with a sight in target that was optional. Then a period of time that we could solidify our come-ups to each distance. I took advantage of this since I was using a new scope. I tested my math on the 300, 400, 500 yard targets to get my exact DOPE (Data On Personal Equipment) for this Rifle/Ammo/Scope Combo.

For the first two sets of fire I kept the scope turned to a minimum magnification of 5x. Only adjusting for parallax to ensure I my reticle wasn’t moving as a function of eye placement. The next two sets I completed at a magnification setting of 10x, this time correcting for parallax as well as POA for the distance. By the start of the third run through on the course of fire I had become somewhat proficient at making these adjustments without looking at the dials. I did find that one or two times I adjusted the reticle illumination rather than the parallax. These knobs as mentioned sit on top of one another and are very nearly the same diameter. I am confident that with some time one could become accustom to the slight difference and would allow for quick correct adjustment.

Visibility through the scope was excellent, when turned up to 20x I could discern where many of my shots had landed at the 400 yard target. The parallax markers on the knob were close to what was correct per my vision. Also, the POA knobs were pleasingly repeatable. Because I was doing a timed shot course I was forced to rely on the repeatability of the scope. While this is not the most precise method of measuring this, but merely my own short term experience, I can say I saw no issue with repeatability while consistently readjusting POA quickly under light duress. It was accurate enough to effectively aid in placing my shots where I wanted them.

Once Free Time Shooting started we were allowed to shoot at any distance we care to at steel targets down the range. I chose to hit the steel at 500, 600, and 700 yards. Although initial shooting started about 9 am we did not get a chance to free shoot until nearly dusk. It was at this time I chose to begin using the illuminated reticle option. After some math and working DOPE on these distances I was able to consistently switch between distances utilizing the POA knobs. Even in the lowlight of dusk the scope performed well and enabled me to locate the steel and consistently ring it.

On a whole, I would say this scope is worth the money. It is definitely too much scope for a 16in AR platform. I would like to test it on my Remington 700 at greater than 700 yards. That is really were this scope is designed to perform. Perhaps in the future I will get that chance. I believe Ilya correctly determined what type of shooting this scope is really designed for in his discussion of riflescope design factors.


 Posted by at 4:54 pm