Mention the name Swarovski to most hunters and they immediately think of quality. Over the past two decades I've been able to experiment with most major manufacturer's optics for one application or another. My conclusion - you don't always get what you pay for... but, thankfully sometimes you do. Such is the case with my latest acquisition - Swarovski Optik's Z5 5-25x52 P BT L rifle scope. The letters simply refer to the ballistic turret, a recent innovation introduced to facilitate long-range shooting.
Writing a review is a tricky proposition. Readers want to know what's good, bad, or otherwise about the item. Bring a Swarovski product into the mix and, aside from the price tag, it's tough to nail down legitimate negatives. Without fail, they make first-rate optics and that's difficult to argue. Renowned for their innovation and craftsmanship, Swarovski Optik is based in Absam, Austria. Since 1949, when Wilhelm Swarovski, an avid hobby astronomer, first started the company, they've been making high quality sporting binoculars, rifle scopes, spotting scopes, and most recently rangefinders; and continually building on their global reputation.
In October of 2008 I had the privilege of touring their factory in Absam and, after seeing firsthand how each optic is made, the scrutiny it undergoes, the intense lab testing it endures, and the precise engineering that goes into design and assembly, I'm more convinced now than ever before, that their elite reputation is well-deserved. The factory is spotless, the workers meticulous, and they simply won't allow a sub-standard product to leave the floor.
Until recently, I owned two different Swarovski pieces; a 10x42 SLC binocular and a Z6 2-12x50 L rifle scope. They're both awesome. The image quality, light-gathering characteristics, and craftsmanship are second to none. This year, I picked up the aforementioned Z5 in 5-25x52 P BT L rifle scope. I'd been looking for a suitable scope for my varmint rifle and this fit the bill perfectly. One of the reasons I chose the Z5 in 5-25x52 is its versatility. While suitable for multiple applications I really wanted it for coyote hunting. With the ballistic turret designed to take the guessing out of long-range shooting, it marries well with my Winchester .22-250. This past winter I put it to the test and here's what I found.
Innovative Combination of Magnification & Field of View
I like this scope; in my opinion, it has it all. By description, the Z5 is a one-inch rifle scope with a 5x zoom. This in itself is innovative, combining high magnification with a large field of view. With this combination, it's extremely versatile. Designed to facilitate accuracy at long distances, the 5-25x52 P (BT) is slim and compact. For sake of explanation, as a 5x zoom rifle scope, zoom refers to the optimal adjustment range from minimum to maximum magnification, e.g. 5-25 = 5x zoom. For me, this was one of the drawing cards. Providing up to 66 percent wider field of view than most scopes, the Z5 provides what I believe is an altogether better view, with the added bonus of flexibility.
The variable magnification is awesome. If you're a coyote hunter, you know that shots can often be out past 200 yards. They make for a small target. When you combine those two realities, higher magnification becomes a priority. The challenge past about the mid-range of this scope's magnification is stability. A solid shooting rest, like a bipod is imperative at higher magnifications.
Sighting In & the Ballistic Turret
I have to admit, at first glance, I questioned whether Swarovski had finally succumbed to gimmicks to attract consumers. With every fiber of my being I wanted to believe they weren't capable of such a move, but looking at the color-coded dial on the topside of the turret I had my doubts. To be blunt, I'm a basic guy and really not one to fall for fancy gadgets and gimmicks. I was questioning whether this might indeed be the proverbial advancement that pushed Swarovski over the top. Well, after putting it to the test, I am pleased to report that the ballistic turret is no gimmick. In fact, quite the opposite; a brilliantly simple fix to an obvious problem faced by shooters and hunters everywhere - the challenge of estimating holdover to account for ballistic drop at long ranges.
The ballistic turret and lateral parallax adjustment on the Z5
Color-coded markers are set to desired yardages based on ballistic performance
Easier to use than anticipated, my first priority with the Z5 was to sight it in. Bore sighted, I still had to fine-tune based on my bullet of choice and set the turret accordingly. Like most rifle scopes, initial adjustments were simple and precise; made by removing the caps and turning the knurled knobs on the elevation and windage turrets. The elevation turret is marked with an "H" and the windage turret with an "R". The knurled knobs are calibrated for adjustments of 0.25 inches at 100 yards (or 0.7 cm at 100 metres). To set my initial zero point, I turned the knob until the zero point of the scale was aligned with the index point on the scope. Because the ballistic turret allows the shooter to customize settings, for sake of ease I zeroed my green marker at 100 yards, the yellow marker at 200 yards, and the red marker is zeroed for 300 yards. For even longer range shooting I may consider adjusting these to 200, 300, and 400 yards respectively. As expected consistent pinpoint accuracy was achieved once the scope was sighted in.
The ballistic turret cap can be removed using a coin
Focus, Clarity & Light Gathering
Swarovski has a world-wide reputation for precision and this translates literally to diamond-bright clarity. With the 52 mm bell and fine glass, it is indeed a treat to look through the Z5. Clear, bright, and crisp best describes this scope.
The eyepiece on the Z5 is armed with a dioptric ring for focus along with a magnification ring - variable.
Focus is easily achieved by using the dioptric correction ring on the eyepiece. When I first sighted in the scope, I was able to easily bring downrange targets into focus with a quick spin. At longer, distances, parallax was in issue. To solve this, the Z5 has a lateral parallax turret that allows the shooter to fine-tune focus. This rifle scope is set to be parallax-free at 109 yards (100 m). For distances less than, or greater than this, the lateral parallax turret must be used to adjust and eliminate parallax on the object bell to manually bring the downrange target into crisp focus. Parallax is a condition that commonly occurs when the downrange target image is not focused precisely on the eyepiece image plane (otherwise known as the reticle plane). This lateral parallax turret accommodates these micro-adjustments.
The ballistic turret and lateral parallax adjustment on the Z5
The Z5's 52mm bell gathers lots of light
While consumers have a choice of five different reticles with the basic Z5 5-25x52 rifle scope, the model I tested, with the ballistic turret, comes with only the reticle shown here.
This is the only reticle available in the Z5 5-25x52 ballistic turret model
Even though I was able to use the Z5 in cold and snowy conditions, I wouldn't say the weather I experienced over the past few months was overly harsh. That said, during my factory tour, and in researching the specifications, I've learned that Swarovski uses high-quality sealing elements and fabrication processes to make the Z5 watertight and gas-tight.
Ok, here's where my own vanity shows. All told, the Z5 looks great; there's just no other way to put it. It's slim. It's stylish, and I'm not aware of any other company's rifle scope that looks like the Z5. All aluminum outer parts are anodized for scratch-resistance and the black matte finish helps to minimize sheen in bright light conditions.
Price Tag & Warranty
No point in beating around the bush; this scope isn't cheap. No question, the Z5 is a big investment, but in my opinion, that's what it is - an investment. The price tag is around $1,800.
I used to wonder how it could cost four or five times more for a rifle scope that looks and feels similar to its competitor's. Sure, quality of the glass and the resulting image is worth something, but is it really worth that much more? I can say with great confidence that Swarovski optics are indeed well-worth the cost. After touring the factory, speaking with the engineers, and witnessing the quality control and precision machining processes, not to mention the standards that leave little tolerance for error, coupled with the lifetime warranty, in my opinion Swarovski is on track. In my view, you get what you pay for with the Z5.
At 17.5 oz. (495 grams), the Z5 is average in weight for a rifle scope of this caliber. One of the features I really like about the Z5 is the large eye relief. At 3.74 inches (94 mm), it is a safe scope to use, effectively minimizing the shooter's chances of getting "kissed" from recoil. At the same time, I'm a big fan of the larger 52 mm bell and the wide field of view. It brings in an enormous amount of light and opens up the sight window allowing me to clearly see what I'm aiming at... and more. The rapid diopter adjustment is firm but fluid, the ballistic turret is practical and easy to use, illumination is outstanding, and the image quality is second to none.
I've come to learn that progress, precision, and innovation are philosophical priorities for Swarovski Optik. This is obvious when you take a look through the Z5, or any of their binoculars, rifle scopes, spotting scopes and, yes even their rangefinder.
Bottom line - would I recommend Swarovski's Z5 5-25x52 P BT L rifle scope? The answer is yes, but beware you may be ruined for life; chances are from that day forward, only the finest will do. For more information, visit their website at www.swarovskioptik.com .
The author's wife, Heather, poses with a coyote taken with the Z5
Kevin Wilson is a freelance outdoors writer and professional big game & waterfowl
guide/outfitter from Alberta, Canada. Confessing an obsession for big whitetails
and bighorn sheep, he has hunted most North American big game species with either
bow, muzzleloader, rifle or shotgun. Specializing in archery, freshwater fishing,
waterfowl and big game hunting, his articles can be found in several well known
outdoor publications across the U.S. and Canada. For more information on his
outfitting services, visit www.venturenorthoutfitting.com .
Member of OWAA & OWC.