SWFA 3-15x42mm Rifle Scope Review

SWFA SS 3-15x42mm
SWFA SS 3-15x42mm Rifle Scope

SWFA has now released their brand new 3-15x42mm rifle scope. This scope fits perfectly in the middle of their lineup. Priced at $699 it is less expensive than their 5-20x and 10xHD models, but stacked with more features than their bargain priced fixed magnification models.

SWFA SS 3-15x42mm
Old School Turrets

The 3-15×42 borrows styling from the classic SWFA SS 10x fixed power rifle scope. You will find the same blocky turrets and fluted ocular housing. Personally I would have preferred the styling follow with the sleeker lines of the 5-20x50mm SS model, but the beauty of the 3-15x is in the function.

SWFA was kind enough to ship us a 3-15x42mm prior to the official release so that we could get some trigger time and see what this new scope is all about. We mounted it up and set out to the range. After some initial trouble sighting in, the scope tracked accurately. With 36 mRad of elevation on tap this scope would be at home on just about anything short of a 155mm Howitzer. Since this scope is .50BMG rated your options are almost endless. With a side parallax adjustment range of 6 meters to infinity, it would even be at home on a .22LR trainer for some 25 yard indoor practice.

SWFA SS 3-15x42mm
New Cat Tail!

One novel feature of the scope is the inclusion of a small “peg” or lever on the magnification ring. These are commonly referred to as “Cat Tails”. This allows a shooter a better grasp when quickly changing magnification settings. Three Gun competition shooters will often install these levers on their scopes at an additional cost. It is nice that SWFA included it as a feature to the scope itself and not as an additional part. Less add-ons to shake loose are usually better. Care should be taken when setting up bolt action rifles to make sure that the Cat Tail doesn’t interfere with your bolt manipulation.

SWFA SS 3-15x42mm
Brass Inner Turret

We did have some small complaints with the new scope. First, the turrets utilize the old “set screw” design. I have in the past had set screws back out on me. Your first indicator is when you crank that turret and get a couple clicks, then a free spin. Higher end scopes such as the SS 5-20x50mm use a splined turret with a single center screw. The spline prevents any free spinning until the screw has backed out so far you can’t help but notice it. The drawback to splined turrets are that on less-expensive scopes, the splines are too far apart and cause the marks not to align perfectly. We did not have any issues during our testing, but it is a possibility that should be kept in mind. Blue Locktite may be your friend. Additionally, the SS 3-15x42mm uses a “fast focus” eyepiece. This is beneficial in that it allows you to quickly and accurately set the focus of your reticle to your individual eye. However there is no way to lock the adjustment in, as on the 5-20x50mm. Since diopter adjustment generally only needs to be done during the scope setup, I would prefer a means to “set and forget” it. This is common for most sports optics today. Only a few military-minded scopes still have locking diopter adjustments. I was happy to see that SWFA put it on the 5-20x, but puzzled as to why it’s missing on the 3-15x.

The 3-15x42mm is equipped with a Front Focal Plane reticle. The markings on the reticle are accurate no matter what the power setting of the magnification ring. This has numerous benefits. First and foremost you can use the mil scale on the reticle to hold over for range and to hold left or right for wind without needing to calculate a correction factor. The minor drawback is that as the power setting on the scope is reduced the reticle appears to shrink as well. Sometimes on dark or cluttered backgrounds this can be an issue. The solution is to just turn the magnification back up. The SS 3-15×42 does not have an option for an illuminated reticle.


SWFA Mil-Quad Reticle
SWFA Mil-Quad Reticle

The reticle in the SS 3-15×42 is the SWFA “Mil-Quad” reticle. I was not initially a fan of this reticle, but after spending some time behind it in the 5-20×50 and now the 3-15×42, I find that it just works. The diamonds and half-mil marks are more effective than the old mil-dots. The shape of the diamonds allow you to more accurately break them down. I would still like to see some wind-hold dots incorporated into the mix.

I know some of our readers will be sad to hear that we didn’t drop, kick, smash or throw the 3-15×42. Mainly because we want to do some extended testing with it. However we did dunk it for 24 hours, then freeze it. This did not result in any water intrusion into the scope body. In fact the only issue we had, was that the parallax turret froze (literally). As soon as the studio lights warmed the turret, full function returned.

ssdecalOverall the SWFA SS 3-15x42mm offers a great value at the $700 price point. We did not see any major problems with the scope. It would make a great scope for a shooter who wants to get into shooting precision rifle matches, but may not be able to step up to the cost of the 5-20x50mm.

For more information, please check out our video review!

For complete specifications and current pricing, head on over the SWFA.com.

9 thoughts on “SWFA 3-15x42mm Rifle Scope Review”

  1. Hi John,
    Great review.
    I am realy interested in purchasing a SWFA 5-20mm. But I have one problem. I live in South Africa and SWFA do not export any of their products from the U.S.
    Do you know of any ideas as to how I could purchase this scope.

    Kind regards,


  2. Hi John,
    Thanks for the review on this scope. I’m looking at the SWFA 10x or 12x. I’ve heard that they are also extremely rugged and the turrets track true. My price range on my scope purchase is $400-$500 with rings and base. This scope seems to be the best purchase by far, over anything else in this price range. What is your opinion on this fixed scope?

    Rufus T Firefly

  3. Just found your website…very good. Thanks for all your info! I am looking for an overall midrange scope for 308/3006. The two that I am coming down to are what you reviewed above; SS 3-15×50, and the new Burris xtr II 3-15. Would you know which has the better glass?? I like the features of the Burris a bit better; illum, stops, good reticles, FFP, good mechanics. The big difference seems to be the illumination. It is a bit more $ but very close overall. How would the clarity at distance compare???? Thank you.

  4. @ Rufus, I think the SWFA is a solid choice, especially considering the price. Also, I think exporting out of the US would be a heck of a task.

  5. I just got an SWFA SS 3-15×42 scope for my “budget precision rifle” build – also a Rem 700 SPS Tactical AAC-SD. My only real issue with the scope was the lack of a zero stop.
    I came across a guy selling “zero stop” shim kits for SWFA SS scopes. If anybody is interested, you can email him for info at: timkulinstudios@aol.com
    (no relationship or benefit from this post, I paid full price. Just wanted to share this solution to the zero stop issue with other SWFA SS users.)

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