Gear Review: Swarovski Optik Z6i 1-6×24 BRT

In the first post about the Swarovski scope we looked at the asthetics and technical specifications of this piece of glass. Then, in the second post we spent some time talking about actually shooting it at the range. I just got back from the Lewistown 3-gun, and I think I’m finally ready to form an opinion on this scope.

Before I start this review, I want to stick some caveats in here. Everyone has different strengths and a different idea of what kind of gear they need for competition shooting. Personally, I pride myself on the ability to make precision long-range rifle shots. When I do team 3-gun competitions with my squad, I’m always the designated marksman of the trio.

If you’re thinking about buying this scope, make sure to figure out what you want to focus on in your competition shooting or hunting. A precision rifle scope and a close quarters rifle scope can’t necessarily be combined into one package, so shooters expecting a lot of close targets may want to take my words with a grain of salt. And while I did place 5th overall this weekend out of 23 experienced competitors (beaten by a couple master class shooters) I’m still no Jerry Miculek. In other words, depending on what you want and how you shoot this review may not be for you. Now on to the review.

This scope is advertised to competition shooters and hunters as the best scope to use when seconds count and targets appear at varying distances. While I was shooting with this scope and deciding if I liked it I tried to keep those design criteria in mind, specifically if the scope is better than the competition and if it’s the best thing for competition shooters (I’ve never been hunting a day in my life, so unfortunately I can’t speak to that).

Being “better than the competition” I took to mean being better than the other scopes in its class (lower power adjustable scopes), which is something that is mostly true. The clarity of this scope is definitely noteworthy; it’s almost as if there wasn’t any glass in there at all. Other optics (such as the Trijicon series) come very close, but Swarovski is still slightly clearer.

However, there are some deficiencies compared to Trijicon’s 1-4×24 Accupoint or even the Burris Fullfield TAC30 1-4×24 scopes, competitors who cost 1/2 to 1/4 the price of the Swarovski.

Both of these scopes are adjustable in increments of 1/4 MoA, but the Swarovski is only adjustable in increments of 1/2 MoA. This means the other scopes have finer adjustments and can be more precisely zeroed. The difference in adjustments is the difference between being about 1/2 an inch off your mark at 100 yards with the Swarovski or 1/4 of an inch off with the others. When you’re paying the prices Swarovski is asking, you’d think the adjustments would be as good or better than a $300 scope.

Another difference between the scopes is the size of the reticle. Swarovski’s technical specifications state that the illuminated dot in the center of the scope is the equivalent size as a 1.48″ dot at 100 yards, but in practice the dot seems much larger. Even in the reduced power “night” setting, the dot seems huge.

During the first stage of the competition we had to hit hanging clay pigeons at 50 yards, and the dot in the Swarovski scope seemed to cover the entire pigeon. I was tempted to turn the dot off and run with the crosshairs only, but some inclimate weather made it too dark to reliably see the crosshairs against the dark background of the backstop.

The Burris reticle is even more massive (approximately 3.6 MoA / inches at 100 yards), but the Trijicon reticle gets around this problem using the triangle shaped dot. As the tip of the Accupoint’s reticle (pictured above) is the point of aim instead of the center it’s far easier to see the target behind the reticle even in reduced lighting conditions.

The range marks on the reticle are also very hard to see with dark backgrounds. Even if Swarovski’s super special online ballistics calculator had this model available to calculate the holds for (which it doesn’t) or even this reticle (which it also doesn’t) and I was able to get the proper holds calculated for my ammo (which I couldn’t) I doubt I would be any quicker at engaging long range targets than I would be with a simple triangle reticle like Trijicon uses.

In terms of the mechanics of the scope, the throw lever definitely helps. For one stage this weekend, we were required to engage 3 targets at a distance of about two yards, then quickly transition to 25 yard shots. The 1x magnification on the Swarovski scope basically turned it into an unmagnified red dot, allowing me to quickly aquire the close range targets with both eyes open.

When I reached the fault line for the 25 yard shots, one clumsy swipe of my paw increased the magnification and helped me get perfect scores on the long range targets. The optic also has a higher maximum magnification than the other scopes in its class, meaning targets are larger and easier to hit than they would otherwise appear to the shooter.

While the 1x magnification was nice, recent trends in competition shooting have more or less removed the need for it. The rules for the “Tactical Optics” division (see my post about 3-gun competitions for more info) allow for one “optic” on the rifle, but do not specifically deny the shooter the ability to use iron sights as well (not technically an optic because they don’t use glass or electronics). This has led to a growing number of shooters who use a higher magnification optic (9 or higher maximum magnification) on their rifle and mount “offset” iron sights as well.

I incorporated this offset iron sight idea into my competition rifle. You can see my set of iron sights mounted along the right hand rail, using Daniel Defense one o’ clock mounts to hold them in place. All I have to do to transition to the short range iron sights from the scope is to roll the rifle slightly, a quicker solution than pawing at a throw lever.

Finally we come to the question of cost. This optic costs, according to Amazon when I checked it last night, $2,300. Two Thousand Three Hundred Dollars. Or, as Chris Dumm puts it, “one arm, one leg, and one firstborn son.” That could buy you over 7,600 rounds of good rifle ammo, which is about enough ammo for about 20 hours of practice time on the range or 50 competitions. Although (as pointed out in the comments below) other retailers have this scope for just shy of $2 grand, even at that reduced price it’s still a lot to pay for a rifle scope.

The Trijicon Accupoint mentioned earlier will only cost you around $680, and the Burris will only run around $280. Both of these scopes will accomplish the same task within an acceptable range of success (especially for new shooters) without your wallet wanting to strangle you.

Let’s recap, shall we? The two criteria for this scope were that it is the best in its class and that it is ideal for competition shooting. On both counts, I have to give it a resounding “meh.” While the optical clarity and mechanical functionality are far superior to similar scopes, the actual aiming apparatus leaves something to be desired comapred to the Trijicon Accupoint line.

And while this scope has a remarkable useful range (close quarters out to long distance targets) the same or better results can be achieved with higher power scopes and offset iron sights, a growing trend in competition shooting. There is no feature of this scope that I can see which merits the rediculous price tag.

At the end of the day a scope isn’t going to make you a better shooter. Practice will. There is no toy you can buy that will forgive your sins of poor marksmanship, but there are some things that can help a good shooter be even better. Swarovski Optik produced this scope in the hopes that it would provide a quality option for competition shooters and hunters who need an optic with a 1x power as well as a higher power setting, and it has accomplished that goal.

However, as cheaper options are available without much drop in quality, and with demand for these types of optics seemingly in decline, the Swarovski Optik Z6i 1-6×24 BRT probably is not for you. Unless you are a master class shooter who knows what they want.

Specifications: Swarovski Optik Z6i 1-6×24 BRT

Scope size: 30mm
Price: $1,850 – $2,300

Ratings (out of five)

Ease of Use * * *
Adjustments are quick and easy, sighting in was a breeze, and the controls are very intuitive. But the online ballistics calculator doesn’t have this model in their database, so I have no idea what those lines mean nor can I use them.

Utility * *
This scope was designed to fill a role that seems to be on the decline. Offset iron sights with higher powered scopes appear to be the way of the future, not 1x variable optics. Transitions are quicker and the reticles are a little nicer.

Overall Rating * * *
You can get an optic which is very close to being as crystal clear PLUS some offset iron sights for a fraction of the price. That, plus the poor visibility of the range markings against typical competition backgrounds and the gigantic dot make me very happy that RF is keeping this optic and my Trijicon Accupoint 3-9×40 is returning to it’s rightful place atop my pretty princess.

[NOTE: TTAG is sending the scope to another reviewer or two to check its applicability for hunting/self-defense. We’ve also contacted Swarovski to see if we can find a more appropriate optic for Foghorn’s application.]