Falconry in FT – Falcon T50 Review

Compared to plinking in the back garden with a break barrel FT isn’t a cheap sport. There isn’t any getting away from that. As well as all the bits n bobs that shooters forget they’ve purchased along the way, like bacon butties and burgers for instance, the staple diet of a good consistent rifle and a scope that can rangefind is the one that most participants feel is the biggest lump to swallow especially as sometimes a good scope can cost as much or even more than the rifle it sits on. When comparing against other sports at the entry level, it’s sometimes the cost of what is thought to be a capable bit of kit for FT that chokes in the throat a little of a beginner.

The issue is that FT uses the scope to determine range, and it does this by focusing the target. To do that scopes are designed to create a shallow depth of field that focuses at one precise distance. For this two basic characteristics are required, a high magnification, and a large objective. These are costly features to design in. Beyond the fact that you need more glass (a 56mm is twice the surface area of a 40mm lens), as a lens gets bigger, the chances of an imperfection appearing are greater and the consistency across the lens is harder to keep. Adding more magnification to the equation means any small error in a build is exaggerated. Given that FT scopes tend to start around three times the magnification of those used in HFT, it’s not difficult to see why FT scopes cost more given the same baseline of quality.

Gaps seem good and easy to pick out
Gaps seem good and easy to pick out

Whilst more experienced national FT shooters can seemingly justify the cost of top end equipment in the pursuit of that nth degree of improvement, the new shooter has to tackle this problem straight on. There’s two options, buy second-hand, or buy new. But there has to be a starting point, and that’s normally set by a modest budget. In the second-hand camp you have a variety of options starting from around £300. But in the new camp, you could probably double that as a starting point. Falcon have set out to change that, to deliver an FT scope that rivals second hand options both in performance and price, £450.

The T50 is a 50x scope. That’s a healthy dose of magnification, exceeded by only a couple of high end March scopes that cost 4-5x the price. At the other end it comes down to 10x, which means  it has plenty of option should the shooter wish to shoot on a lower magnification. It’s mildot reticule is also standardised to 10x. The objective, the lens that does all the work letting light in and creating that shallow depth of field is 60mm. That’s as big as scopes for FT get. So it’s covering all the bases in terms of numbers.

Easy to read turrents can be swapped out
Easy to read turrents can be swapped out

Looking deeper, it’s a 30mm tubed scope, a pretty standard tube size these days for a big mag scope giving you no mount headaches to deal with. Whilst you can go to 34mm and even 40, all the tube size does is allow for more adjustment range. It’s an urban myth that 30mm allows more light through the scope.

The new mk2 Rangesports range markers
The new mk2 Rangesports range markers

The adjustment range is 7.5 MOA in one turn. Depending on your scope height that’s probably good enough to keep targets between 15 & 55yds inside one revolution. 30 MOA of total adjustment means you have 2 turns each way from optical centre before running out of travel, something you would rarely notice with adjustable mounts or a custom rail. The 1/8th MOA clicks mean you’ll get precise adjustment of the point of impact at all FT ranges, something I definitely prefer over ¼ MOA. It’s here we start to see where a scope has been refined for FT. A second turret has been supplied, devoid of any numbers, allowing you to mark it up yourself, should you not wish to deal with clicks and just want to mark up your ranges directly onto the turret. And the FT features don’t stop there. Alongside the nice velvet bag that comes in the box are two 90mm sunshades, a 125mm Jon Harris sidewheel and some flip up lens covers which are far more use than the elasticated affairs that come with most scopes. There’s probably only one downside to this plethora of accessories. It lacks a scope pointer. I know that’s a first world FT problem in comparison, but being so close to being a one stop solution, I’d like to see one included. But then I then start to think about a handle for the zoom ring and then wonder if I’m being too picky. But then they do include a set of adhesive weather proof range numbers from Rangesports.com so…

Anyway probably the last thing you want to know in the top trumps card game of FT scope specs is what it weighs. We can all look up specs on the internet, but the reality is that they only concern the scope body itself. They don’t include the other bits along for the ride. Falcon quote 995g for the scope. Adding the two sunshades, the flip-ups and the sidewheel takes us to 1270g. Whilst that might make us gasp, it’s probably only 10% away from most scopes of a comparable specification and far higher price bracket. The default big Nikko Diamond Sportsman sits at 1060g, naked of any accessories which means you’d probably end up around the same weight or perhaps even more. The lightest zoom at the top end, the March 10-60×52 is probably only 25% less weight all suited up.

So on paper this looks good. Mildot reticule, boat load of accessories, specs that tick all the boxes expected at an entry level price point. Oh and I forgot to mention, it can come in silver as well, so it looks good on your shiny rig, which is all important for the looks. But FT scopes are there to do one thing as a priority. Rangefind. Lets see how it copes with that, is it a bird of prey or a duck?

The first thing I needed to do was set the scope up. This being a test scope, it had been through at least 2 hands before me, and consequently had a few sets of numbers on the wheel which needed removing. Those Rangesports numbers are stubborn, and in the end alcohol was the only thing that shifted them. I decided on a nice Pinot and set about the scope with some Isopropyl. But with a clean wheel I could proceed without being influenced by previous users. Refitting the wheel was easy and it sits firmly central, meaning the wheel doesn’t wobble when turned. Three 2mm set screws keep it in place. This is important as an ill fitting wheel means you have to set your pointer further away to accommodate any wobble, and this distance from the wheel to the pointer can introduce parallax error as the range is read off from a varying head position. It’s a small detail, but why have a possible error when it can be designed out? I rummaged in the cupboard and pulled out a Barry Taylor scope pointer, which comes in an optional silver as well. Fitted well and matched the silver well. Important for your discerning FT shooter. Putting a bit of thin card between pointer and wheel I could locate it easily, then tighten it up, getting the pointer as close as possible without creating swarf. It all sounds a bit obsessive but I find spending time setting up a scope well pays dividends later.

Next stop, setting up the eye piece. This is a critical stage if you are going to get your eyes comfortable at looking at the reticle in a consistent manner without them tiring. So off came the flip up scope cover, and it revealed a fast focus eye piece adjuster. I much prefer these over the adjusters that require countless turns to see a change in focus. After a while of me double checking I had a good focus on the reticule and I could then move finally to rangefinding and setting up the wheel. All good. Time to get down the range.

Easy to read turrents can be swapped out
Easy to read turrents can be swapped out

I must admit I was apprehensive driving down to the club. I really didn’t want this to have a bad ending. I’ve been here before with other scopes only to find problems that meant their life for FT was stillborn. On the short end it I was pleased to see it comes down to 9 yards, so that’s BFTA’s 10yd minimum target distance fully covered. At the long end, where a scope is tested hardest, I was in for quite a shock. Throwing it in at the deep end I immediately got a 55yd mark which was repeatable to within a yard or so, certainly good enough to mark up. Running it back to a 50 yd target that came in well, and so did 45yds. So I decided to see what I could see in terms of detail that could be related to the reader. Placing a Bisley paper target at 55yds I was pleased to say i could focus every single time on the lower part of the rifle in the logo, and read with confidence the words Witness Signature which are 2mm high, all on 50x. That seemed pretty good, so I thought i’d see how it compared to something from the top end of FT scopes, the March 10-60×52. This perhaps could be unfair but everyone always compares bits of kit to other items, so why not compare against something you are familiar with and know well?
I was astounded to see that the image was noticeably brighter than the March. A lot of that is down to the front lens, the objective, on the Falcon. The objective gathers the light and the bigger that is, all else being equal, the brighter the image will be. The Falcon’s 60mm is actually 33% bigger than the March’s 52mm. That’s a lot of difference, more than the 8mm suggests and more than the March’s super quality ED optics and coatings can compensate for. The other factor is the LM optical design. The silver models designated T50LM(S) have a revised baffle arrangement internally. Same glass, same coatings as the other Falcon T50 just a slightly different way of managing the light. It delivers a brighter image at higher magnification.

Under a mid winter, mid afternoon sky it was also noticeable just how much more detail that difference resolved. While with effort I could tune the March to see the same features visible through the Falcon, the latter did it with ease because the contrast was noticeably better due to the brightness. The March was like looking at the same target with the sun stuck behind a cloud, the whites greyer in comparison. In fact I initially thought the sun had gone in until I looked through the Falcon again. I could see the gaps were large enough to discern with ease 50 and 55yds, so what was the catch? Where did the £1500 price difference come from? Well, I wish I could say. Where the March was better was in providing a more settled image, despite the lower contrast, the Falcon suffered more with fringing around bright areas of contrast, like the twigs against a clear bright sky, or white targets in the sun against a dark background. But I have to admit i was struggling to search for the differences in range finding under these circumstances.  The March felt slicker for sure but the Falcon’s ability to differentiate between a focussed target at 55 yards and one out of focus 5 yards closer was the same on both scopes. When focused to 55, the type on a 50yd target around 1/2 an inch high was clearly blurred and unreadable, even if you knew what it said.

The detail in this logo was clearly visible at 55 yards
The detail in this logo was clearly visible at 55 yards

Despite the bright picture and good contrast, the Falcon doesn’t give it to you all on a plate though, you still need to work it to get the best out of it. You still need to focus in the same part of the field of view each time, you still need to turn the wheel the same way, even though a waggle won’t upset it too much. But you do need to find the nth degree of detail on your target and be consistent on what you focus on, or learn the effect that varying that approach may have. That’s the same with any scope but the Falcon’s bright picture can lure you into a false sense of security if you are not careful. By comparison the March is better at reducing this error, but it still needs care, so don’t think that the higher priced scope takes all the work away. But it’s worth mentioning in case there’s unrealistic expectations of what either scope can achieve if not driven well. However the Falcon is an easy scope to learn and being really slap dash with the range finding, I was never more than 2.5 yards short on the long stuff and mostly it was a yard or so under if i actually got wrong. By the end of the session i was really struggling to make it wander more than a yard away from 55 yard board and other unknown distance targets in the 50+ yard range which i then later verified with tape.

So what had started as a review of an entry level scope, has actually turned into a head scratcher of a comparison and wondering what could be better value for money. I have to remind myself that when I bought my March 7 years ago there wasn’t any other zoom scope off the shelf that ticked all the boxes for FT. These days there is, and it would seem that the competition is stiff to start with. I’d like to know just how reliable it’s range finding is under varying competition conditions as that’s where it really matters, under pressure. Nick from Falcon has agreed a long term test with us so we’ll run it through it’s paces in competition and see if I can find if the difference in cost between this and a super scope can be justified. We’ll keep you posted in future issues.