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. And it may surprise you.

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.]

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About Nick Leghorn

Nick Leghorn is a gun nerd living and working in San Antonio, Texas. In his free time, he's a competition shooter (USPSA, 3-gun and NRA High Power), aspiring pilot, and enjoys mixing statistics and science with firearms. Now on sale: Getting Started with Firearms by yours truly!

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

  1. I don’t want to nitpick, Foghorn, but your reviews of this product are very very subjective.

    No rating for build/optical quality? (which, based on reading your reviews, would seem to be a *****) Was it a true 1x, or was there some minor difference in magnification at 1x when aiming with both eyes open (as is common in cheaper 1x-?x variable scopes?

    No rating for design? (a wash according to your comments, with a too-large reticle and 1/2″ MOA adjustment increments partially offset by the handiness of the silver throw lever, maybe ***)

    Your rating for Ease of Use does not seem logical or relevant. Was the eye relief adequate? Was it easy to mount to the gun, at a proper distance form your eye? Was it easy to change the reticle brightness? Were the windage/elevation adjustments finger-adjustable, or did you need to use a coin/screwdriver?

    • avatarFoghorn says:

      First, nitpicking isn’t only allowed here, it’s encouraged. None of us are perfect, and any opinions you have to add are always welcome.

      Build and optical quality was definitely high. It’s a true 1x scope and I had no issues using it with both eyes open. But the real question was weather the build quality was higher than any of the competing products, all of which cost far less. And the answer is not really. There was no “night and day” difference in quality, for example, between the 6x magnification on this scope and the 6x magnification on my Trijicon. Given the lack of a definite differentiating factor in quality I didn’t see a need to mention it in the summary, as I thought it was pretty well covered in the body of the review.

      Design I rolled into “ease of use,” and was indeed a wash. There are some great design features, like the throw lever and the illumination control switch which are both very easy to use, but the reticle design (which arguably is the most important feature) was not very good in my opinion.

      “Ease of Use” I meant as ease of use in competition shooting. Competition shooting is the environment I was using to evaluate this optic, and in that environment it’s not very easy to use at all. As I mentioned somewhere in the review, while there are range markings on the reticle NOWHERE in the manual does it say what those markings are (1 MoA? 1 Miliradian?), and the online calculator which Swarovski claims will figure it all out for you doesn’t even have this model scope in its database. Without knowing what the holds are it basically turns this $2,300 scope into a massively expensive red dot with a cluttered reticle and gigantic illuminated aiming dot. I tried to turn down the brightness of the dot, but it didn’t seem like the adjustment buttons were working.

      This review is indeed very subjective, and it was written that way on purpose. On paper this scope is amazing, with the technical specifications blowing every other low magnification variable optic out of the water. But as I said as a caveat in the beginning of the review, this rating is based on my opinion of its usefulness and quality in the competition shooting environment. What I’m looking for, and what the competition shooting world seems to be moving towards, are higher magnification optics. In that context, and thanks to the massive illuminated dot and lack of any information about what the reticle markings are, this is a mediocre scope at best and well deserves its two stars.

      I’ll be shipping this out to RF pretty soon, and I think he’s in your neck of the woods. If you want to drop him an email and borrow it for a while I’d love to hear your opinions of it as well.

      • Good idea.

        I am thinking: if a person wanted one sighting system on their defensive long-gun, with the goal of obtaining center-mass hits on man-sized targets from 15-200 yards, that Swarovski might be an excellent choice. You don’t need ultrafine crosshairs for pinpoint accuracy under those conditions.

  2. avatarTTACer says:

    When you say “true 1x” does that mean that the relief @ 1x is infinite ala a real red dot/holosight?

    • avatarFoghorn says:

      Nope, there is still a relatively shallow eye relief on this scope. What I mean by “true” 1x is that the same image is presented to both eyes when looking through the scope. The eye relief is no shallower than other similar scopes, though.

      • avatarTTACer says:

        That sucks. Do you happen to know why it doesn’t seem to be possible? I assume something fundamental about the way optics work.

      • Cheaper variable 1x-?x scopes often have some minor magnification at their “1x” setting.

        It is hard to design a scope that will provide a true zero/1x magnification while also providing zoom capability. The more magnification on the long end, the harder it is to maintain the zero/1x magnification at the short end. It can be done, but it costs money to design & build it.

        Hence the price of the Swarovski.

  3. avatarMike says:

    For that kind of money and for your uses I would buy a S&B 1.1-4 shortdot, the new 1-8 shortdot, or the (delayed) Premier V8. The Swaro just doesn’t seem to be made for tactical style shoitig.

  4. avatarRalph says:

    Seems like a lot of money for not a lot of return. I think I’ll stick with Swarovski’s cute little christal ornaments. They make lovely gifts and shatter beautifully when hit by a .30-06.

  5. avatarlarry weeks says:

    I figured out the dots myself by taking it to a 500 yd range and shooting at both paper and steel. Sighted at 50 yds, both my 55 and 75 gr. loads were right on at 200. next dot worked at 350 and third dot was fine for 400 (with the 75 gr). May have been my shakey hold but that’s what worked for me. For anything out to 200 I’d rather use my 1x EoTech. The 1 minute dot doesn’t cover up too much. I didn’t have problems with the Swaro dot. The glass paid for itself at Ft. Benning when I shot the 6″ plates at 200 from that miserable wall long AFTER the sun went behind the hill. I could see them! I also have the Trijicon and while it’s bright and easy to see, I’ve had a tough time figuring range with it. From what I could tell the triangle covers about 20″ at 400 yds. From there you have to know your drops. Didn’t spend a lot of time working with it but I think you could do wind compensation with the corners of the triangle.

  6. It appears that Swarvoski has updated their online ballistic calculator, and forgot to include the z6i 1-6×24-BRT reticule. It was available on their website last time I looked (several months ago.)

    Regardless, the dot/bar spacing on the BRT reticule is 1 mil @ 6x. You can use the excellent JBM Ballistics Calculator to figure out your holds from there.

    One other nitpick – I would disagree that the practical rifle competition world is moving towards higher-powered optics with offset irons. In the five years that I’ve been competing, I’ve almost never seen such a setup in the top 10 at a major match.

    -C

  7. avatarBrian says:

    FYI, I found the Swarovski for $1850 at OpticsPlanet, while the Trijicon is $845 and the Burris is $310, so I think the difference in price is not quite as large as stated in the article.

    • avatarFoghorn says:

      Thanks for the info! I was running off what Google Shopping was telling me for the other scopes (which actually puts the Trijicon at $683 and the Burris at $280) and Amazon’s retail price at the time of the writing (2,300) for the Swarovski.

      Post updated to reflect the new “low” prices. Thanks!

    • avatarJohn says:

      Your quoted price of $1850 at Optics Planet is for the non-illuminated reticule scope; the Z6i Illuminated BRT is $2299.90, the author’s prices are spot on.

  8. avatarDAVID says:

    WE SHOOT LOCAL AND JUST GOT BACK FROM THE FALLEN BRETHERIN(FORT BENNING) MATCH AND THIS SCOPE OUT PERFORMED ALL IN THE SQAUD.WE HAD US OPTICS NIGHTFORCE BURRIS ELCANS AND WHEN THE WEATHER TURNED AND THE TARGETS APPROACHED 550 AND HEAVY DRIZZLE THERE WERE SEVERAL COMPETITORS THAT TRAVELED MANY MILES AND SPENT HUNDREDS IF NOT A THOUSAND DOLLARS TO COMPETE THAT WILL BE BUYING ONE OF THESE.SECONDARY THE MIL MARKS IN THE SCOPE ARE RELITIVELY EASY TO USE WITH THE SIMPLEST BALLISTIC CACULATOR AND A CHRONOGRAPH.AND THIS SCOPE WILL RANGE AND PROVIDE ACCURATE DROPS NOT JUST 6 POWER IT IS A FIRST FOCAL PLANE SCOPE.AND MOST COMMENTS ABOUT PRICE ARE TRUE YOU CAN BUY A CHEAP GLOCK 40 OR BUILD A CUSTOM STI 2011 IT REALLY BOILS DOWN TO WHAT YOU WANT TO AFFORD.AFTER SHOOTING COMPETITVELY IN ACTION SPORTS AND ATTAINED A GRAND MASTER CLASSIFICATION I DO KNOW THERE IS EQUIPMENT THAT WILL HELP AND HURT YOUR SHOOTING BUT WHEN YOUR LOOKING FOR TENTHS OF SECONDS AND ONE MORE POINT YOU HAVE TO GIVE SOME STUFF A TRY.WHILE LOOKING AT A 1.5 -8 UNAMED BRAND FOR 1200 DOLLARS AND PICKING UP THE SWARO AND COMPARING TO A1.1-8 LEUPOLD (3500.00) AND TWO DIFF BURRIS XTR ONE OF WHICH WAS MY BROKEN 1-4 FOR THE FORTH TIME I WAS ABLE TO SEE SOME DIFFERENT OPINIONS.THE SCOPE IS A CADILLAC FOR OUR TYPE OF SHOOTING AND A COUPLE MORE EURO BRANDS OUT THERE ARE AS FINE A SCOPE OR BETTER IN SOME CASES DUE TO RETICLE OPINIONS THATS KINDA WHY THEY MAKE SO MANY DIFFERENT ONES.BUY ONCE CRY ONCE AND EITHER ENJOY THE BENEFIT OR SELL IT THESE SCOPES BRING CRAZY RETURN IF YOU DONT LIKE IT–IMHO

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