A thorough review of a first generation Swarovski Z6 scope
A brief history of Swarovski
Swarovski of Austria is amongst some of the world's top-end manufacturers of hunting and sporting optics and arguably the best makers of crystal glass
. Founded in 1895, the company started soon after a young Daniel Swartz, known later as Daniel Swarovski, patented an electronic cutting machine that aided in the production of jewelry stones. The company, known at the time as: A. Kosman, Daniel Swartz and Co. established a factory in Wattens, Tyrol, Austria. Wilhelm Swarovski (son of Daniel Swarovski), had a large interest in astronomy and went on to build his own 6 x 30 binocular in 1935 - using the materials and factory processes available to him, as well as developing his own processes. Swarovski Optik began in Abfam, Tyrol, Austria in 1949. This started with Habicht binoculars and its first telescopic sight for rifle use in 1959. Since then the company has grown and developed massively, developing their techniques and earning themselves over 30 national and international awards for their innovation. Swarovski's optics is used by experienced hunters, top class target shooters and specific military personal across the globe.
The riflescope being reviewed here is the Z6 2.5 X 15 X 44 non-illuminated first generation model with plex reticle. The tube is 30mm in diameter, most modern day scopes meant for centrefire (although not limited to centrefire of course) are built to this tube size. These also allow more light than the 25mm. It is also in the second focal plane, this means as magnification increases, the reticle remains the same size. Conversely with first focal plane, the reticle increases in size as the magnification increases. The plex reticle is quite a standard yet simple recticle, it is basically the same as Bushnell's multi-X reticle. Swarovski overall do have a wide variety of reticle types, for non-illuminated: 4A-300, BR, 4, 4A, 7A, PLEX and CD. For illuminated: 4A-300-I, BR-I, LD-I, CD-I, 4-I, 4A-I. To see what these reticles look like you need only visit the Swarovski website. You also have the option with this model and same reticle to have ballistic turrets (useful for you long-range shooters). An option, that in hindsight, I should have selected. The scope has a side parallax and is parallax free at 100 meters. Parallax errors can occur if your eye is not carefully positioned level and centre to the eye piece lens, this can lead to a shift in POI (Point of Impact). When using the side parallax correctly, setting the side parallax to the target distance, such errors can be avoided. It will also make your target/crosshairs that bit more in focus.
Let’s talk clicks... The elevation and windage turrets have an impact point adjustment of 0.36'' per click, making this an MRAD scope. Models in 3 X 18 X 50 and higher have turret POI corrections of 0.18'' per click. Models of the 1-6 X 24 and lower variety have turret POI corrections of 0.54'' per click. The scopes design is quite slim and smooth, made of the finest grade tough materials. This means the scope is durable and well protected from the elements (heat, cold, fog) as well as being water resistant, all helping to maintain a high level of quality and performance. It's very light and only weighs in at 555 grams. For comparison, this is lighter in weight than the Zeiss Duralyt series (a non-illuminated 3 X 12 X50 Duralyt weighs in at 590 grams). This is impressive considering the high quality build and level of magnification of this luxury hunting optic. The glass is crystal clear, what else would you expect of Swarovski, and has many coatings. Such coatings make cleaning a simple process and also aides in the prevention of scratches. It also has 90% light transmission, Ideal for low light conditions.
Paying the price
As we all know, Swarovski certainly aren't cheap... Prices new for the Z6/Z6i series vary from 1,300 to £ 2,500 dependent on the model selected (objective size, magnification, illuminated or non-illuminated, first or second gen and other features) and the retailer's mark-up. Although if you keep your eyes peeled and look hard enough, there are hidden bargains to be had... This particular Z6 (non-illuminated 2.5-15 x 44) ranges new from a retail price of £1,200 to £1,450. However I bought this as a Demo model from Swillington Shooting Supplies for the great price of £895! So demonstration models can save you a lot of money. A demo or demonstration model is a scope that has not been previously used or mounted on a rifle and is usually in as-new condition. It has normally just been on display in a cabinet/window in the store for X amount of time and may have been handled. Any light imperfections) caused by moving and handling would lead to a further discount. Let's not forget they come with a lifetime warranty. For the price of £895 the only other optic available that is of comparable quality is the Zeiss Conquest in 3 X 12 X 50 non-illuminated (The UK/EU model, not to be confused with the US version that is a budget scope not made in Germany). Yes both scopes have a 30mm tube and yes the objective lens is larger by 6mm on the conquest. However having personally used both scopes in low light conditions, i feel the Swarovski is better. You also have a higher magnification with the Swarovski and a prettier scope, let’s not forget it's that bit lighter! That little weight can make all the difference when stalking for a long period of time or having ground with high incline(s). It is arguable whether Swarovski optics is better in quality than Zeiss. Such debates still rage on...some preferring Zeiss, some preferring Swarovski and some saying that they are of equal quality. I myself feel that Swarovski has the edge. However you will probably fail to find a similarly priced new or even demonstration model of a fairly modern Zeiss in the same magnification as this demo model Swarovski being reviewed.
The Zeiss Victory, Diavari and Victory-Diavari range (model and retailer dependent) can quite easily go over the £2,000 mark for new. Schmidt & Bender are also a favorite by many, so I thought they would be worth a mention. Brilliant quality scopes used by both the police forces and some military forces worldwide. However it is hard to compare them with this Swarovski as even a second-hand 3 X 12 X 50 police model/classic model you would be lucky to purchase for £1,200! Nightforce are well known for their tough body and use by Special Forces. In fact one example ,as showboated by Nightforce themselves, is where a soldier's scope had been shot straight through the tube and continued to work after being wrapped in duct tape. The only fault was that the magnification ring was stuck on what it was set to at the time. Nighforce scopes are fairly expensive new, but some models you may be able to pick up second-hand for around £800. They have ballistic turrets and a zero-stop feature (a Nightforce feature) and will no doubt live forever. However I personally feel the glass lets them down, it isn't near the spec of Zeiss or Swarovski, much like Nikon Monarch model, the glass is Japanese made. Now this is not a bad thing to say the least, however I think if you are spending that amount of money, you want the best glass you can get your hands on.
Holes in Paper
I have placed the scope onto my (1 in 10 twist) .243 Browning Xbolt Stainless stalker, this scope is the successor to a Zeiss Duralyt non-illuminated. The Swarovski is being used in combination with Leupold QRW Quick-release mounts on standard weaver style bases. Although, later I did have to change these mounts and bases over for Leupold Windage adjustable ones, I shall go into the reasoning for this much later. I shot a group just over an inch high at 100 yards, this gives me a 200 yard zero and just under a 6'' drop at 300 yards. The ammunition being used was home reloaded and achieved a 1/2'' group after various testing of powder loads and OAL (Overall length). For those with an interest in reloading, I use Hornady brass, standard CCI large rifle primers, 70gr Nosler varmint ballistic tip bullets, 44 grains of Hogdon H414 Powder, no crimping and have an Overall length of 2.685''. For ease I used reactive targets made by Birchwood Casey, placed onto large plain white pieces of paper which were stapled to a large self-standing ( slotting into wooden blocks) 1/2 '' thick square of MDF. I must say that there are cheaper options when buying reactive type or bright targets. I just found these the most convenient at the time.
The zeroing/testing was done out in the field with a large tree as backstop, this was also on a field boundary/hedge line, so as the target was low I also had a ridge of ground either side of the field as backstop just in case I was to miss the center of a very wide Oak tree. The scope had no issue with holding zero and the target was extremely clear and in focus. I kept the side parallax at the 100m mark. Magnification I kept on 10 X. Overall my only concern was with the amount of clicks i had available on the windage turret, this links into why I had to change over to Leupold windage adjustable bases and I will go in-depth into this in my conclusion. Everything else about it had been great so far. As we left the field we were zeroing in, I just thought to myself '' This glass is the highest quality I have ever had the pleasure of looking through. “The image was so crisp and you could even say *High definition*. ''
The foxing field test
The zeroing had finished and we were in early evening. It was soon time for the foxes to come out and play! We had some bait with us, smelly tuna and crab-paste and a couple of dead wood pigeons opened up. We set this out between 100 and 150 yards into the field in front of the farm buildings. We then found our perfect space on top of some bales, giving us ample view of the field in front of us. the field was around 200 yards in width and 350 yards in length. With great backstop from the amount of elevation we had. We were prepared for the arrival of ''Charles''! As the sun was setting, you could still see clear as day through the scope. Out trots a fox to the center of the field and 120 yards in front of us. I use a WAM handcaller off of the lanyard around my neck. He stops for a brief moment and looks at us. As my friend already had the Swaro's crosshairs on him, that's all that was needed. Bang! Perfect broadside chest shot and straight down. Now we are in twilight, and my rifle is returned to me for my shot. We are now approaching the limits of any scope as darkness slowly settles in, but the scope image remains crystal clear and gathers all of what light there is. I can confidently see to the end of the field and would happily still shoot in the current light conditions but I'm not sure how long that will last before it's time for lamps/torches. We are in ''Prime time'' for foxes, I keep my eyes peeled for any movement. We also had a .22LR CZ452 with us at the time, this was topped with an IR mildot AO Nikko Stirling Game King. The image through that was appalling by comparison, everything very dark and cloudy. Suddenly I spot some movement towards the end of the field to the right side, it's a fox! I know the very back of the field is 350 yards and the fox isn't too much closer to us than that. I know the Hawke 400 Rangefinder will struggle to see to that distance in this light but i give it a shot and it just about manages 330 yards. I stare at the fox through the Swaro again and it seems to be having a good sniff of the ground and occasionally having a roll in the grass, playing perhaps. I have never shot at an animal this far away before and would prefer a closer shot. I get my trusty caller out again from the lanyard tucked into my coat. Ten minutes pass and it has shown some interest in my call but not a lot and it still has to be at least 300 yards away. I have to make some sort of decision very soon. This farm is both arable and has livestock. Cows but also lambs growing up and a number of chickens have already been taken. I know this farm that the aim of the game is culling as many foxes as possible as that is the farmer's wishes. Due to the location there is always a high population that needs leveling. I need to take this shot, I know it's not going to get any closer it is but all I need is a nice broad area to aim at. I know my drop shouldn't be much more than 6'' and I don’t feel any wind in the air this evening. I give it a call and then a shout ''Oi''. The ideal moment presents itself, the fox stares at us whilst sitting upright with its paws in front, presenting a large vertical area (From the bib upto to between its eyes...chest, neck and head all available) that could make up for any error in my judgement of the trajectory and still provide a humane cull. I'm very comfortable at this point and steady. My magnification is on 15 X and the side parallax is set for the distance. I aim 3'' above his head using old fashioned hold-over, this may be where dialing in would have been handy! I stay calm and concentrate on my breathing, my finger touching the trigger, I slowly squeeze and it sets off at a crisp 3 lbs. WALLOP! Fox down. Upon inspection, It had been hit square in the nose, quite a mess as you can imagine but it was instantaneous and as the saying goes ''Dead is dead”. The glass has proved itself, not only on this occasion but many others on different pieces of ground, totaling 20+ foxes, deer (Roe and Muntjac) and a handful of pesky corvids since I've taken ownership.
There are no doubts this is a fantastic scope, for £895 it was hard to go wrong when you have considered the competition and their prices for builds of similar magnification and objective size. The glass has been well established as extremely clear, a 10/10. The glass clarity of the X 44 lens combined with the 30mm tube makes it astounding in low light (light gathering ability is 90% transmission), I would score a 10 but I know a x 56 objective model of Swarovski would no doubt be an improvement on this model. So it's a 9/10. It's ability to hold zero has been fantastic, i try to look after it but it still gets the occasional ''ding'' on something...and lets not forget the lumps and bumps of the roads and the countryside whilst travelling, has to be another 10/10. It's slimline and very aesthetically pleasing and it's light weight of only 555grams means it could suit any style of rifle and will keep your set-up weight down 9/10. The plex reticle is great. It's simple and easy viewing, its quite bold yet not too thick. However I feel mildot or a similar reticle type i.e. BR reticle, would have been the better option, to allow for a more precise holdover. 7/10. It's turrets and it's available adjustments on the non-ballistic turret version 5/10....I shall explain why and this links into why I had to change my mounts and bases over. This is due to one of the issues that you can have with these Generation 1 models of the Z6 series. The first being that most scope turrets usually have at least 2 or 3 full turns of adjustment, meaning you have plenty left over for if you want to re-zero to a new range or bullet type. This scope only has 1 full turn *sigh*, for my rifle and initial zeroing this was just not enough. In terms of elevation it was fine, I didn’t need much. I needed at least 1.5'' of left windage to get myself on my point of aim. I not only needed this but needed a good few inches more of play (enough spare), in the event i needed to rezero. For this I was advised that I needed Leupold windage adjustable bases and rings. This was alot better than the option of a set of mounts that would have needed shims to move the POI over. Adjustable bases and rings are more reliable over greater distances and in the long term compared to using shims in rings. It must be said that not every rifle will necessarily need adjustable rings and bases however all the generation 1 models are likely to suffer from the lack of adjustments available, so it may be a case of having these ring/bases ready just incase.
But don't despair! A set shouldn't break the bank and should cost you no more than £40, pittance in comparison to the sight value and they completely solves the problem. I would also recommend getting yourself a set of alignment bars for the job too. The other problem (that an experienced gunsmith informed me of) , only for the illuminated reticle models though and it must be noted that not all of the 1st gens have this issue, is that the illuminated red dot sometimes won't line up with your POA on your crosshairs. The same gunsmith friend of mine said: '' There's too much going on in telescopic sights these days and that is what is causing some of these issues.'' I must say that I agree with his statement, for these first generation models at least. So many bells and whistles that crucial/ needed features are missed out on. You cut out X amount of weight and make it slimline and on first time around manufacturing you have a critical mistake on your hands like limited windage being available or the red dot not lining up with your POA. However second generation Z6 have had these problems solved. So if you want to purchase a first generation Z6 in illuminated, please be aware of the issue above. You must also know that this is not an issue with every scope and even if you bought this scope new and it had the problem, Swarovski would of course fix this issue for you free of charge, if you don't mind the wait. Although the second generation don't have these issues and you may be thinking of just biting the bullet (pun intended) and buying one over the first generation models but the key issue is the price! Yes you can sometimes take a chance with first gen but the problems are easily resolved if they arrive and inexpensively, however you pay out a fair amount more for second gen. I'll end my review by saying that my overall score for this scope is 8 /10, if you see an offer like this and you want a high-end scope, grab a bargain! But as the buyer the choice is of course yours. Many foxes have fallen victim to this scope, varying from 80 yards to 314 yards. I mainly go foxing but I also enjoy the occasional deer stalk and don't mind putting some holes in paper every now and again. I have no doubts that this scope is up for the challenge. This is a scope of many faces and will give any kind of shooter an enjoyable experience. I have no doubt in my mind that it shall remain on my .243 (trouble-free) for many years to come.