We present a framework for non-asymptotic analysis of real-world multi-hop wireless networks that captures protocol overhead, congestion bottlenecks, traffic heterogeneity and other real-world concerns. The framework introduces the concept of symptoticscalability to determine the number of nodes to which a network scales, and a metric called change impact value for comparing the impact of underlying system parameters on network scalability. A key idea is to divide analysis into generic and specific parts connected via a signature—a set of governing parameters of a network scenario—such that analyzing a new network scenario reduces mainly to identifying its signature. Using this framework, we present the first closed-form symptotic scalability expressions for line, grid, clique, randomized grid and mobile topologies. We model both TDMA and 802.11, as well as unicast and broadcast traffic. We compare the analysis with discrete event simulations and show that the model provides sufficiently accurate estimates of scalability. We show how our impact analysis methodology can be used to progressively tune network features to meet a scaling requirement. We uncover several new insights, for instance, on the limited impact of reducing routing overhead, the differential nature of flooding traffic, and the effect real-world mobility on scalability. Our work is applicable to the design and deployment of real-world multi-hop wireless networks including community mesh networks, military networks, disaster relief networks and sensor networks.