Austrian manufacturer Swarovski Optik produces binoculars, spotting scopes and riflescopes that have the highest reputation for performance, but also come at a substantial cost. Within its extensive catalog of riflescopes is the feature-filled and immensely versatile Z6i series, which are crème de le crème models, and priced accordingly. The 2.5-15X 44 mm variant is evaluated here.
Distinguishing the Z6i from its Swarovski brethren is its 6X magnification range—for the model tested, that translates to a magnification setting of from 2.5X to 15X, thereby enabling the hunter to engage quarry close in or afar. The magnification setting is adjusted by way of a ribbed, rubber-topped band with a single, oversize projection for easier manipulation.
The parallax-adjustment turret is located on the main tube opposite of the windage-adjustment turret. According to company literature, the scope’s parallax-adjustment knob has a detent set at 100 meters (110 yds.) —an all-around or utility setting—that requires additional finger pressure to bypass. Parallax adjustment can be made for distances ranging from 50 meters to infinity.
Unlike most hunting scopes intended for the American market, which have 1/4" scope adjustments, the Z6i’s audible and tactile clicks are valued at 0.36" at 100 yds. Both turrets have a knurled, pull-up/push-down knob that enables the zero point of the scale to be aligned with the index point of the scope. Although there is no “hard stop” within the system, the easy-to-use feature is sufficient for the majority of hunters and situations afield.
Improving the scope’s targeting capabilities is an illuminated reticle—hence the “i” in Z6i—that is located in the second focal plane of the high-definition (HD) lenses. Coined “Swarolight,” immediately forward of the fast-focus eyepiece is the thoughtfully designed night/off/day switch. The left-most position activates the night setting, while far right is for daytime use. “Off” is in the middle. Both settings are programmed using the buttons on the sides of the battery housing. Once set, the settings remain unchanged until the single CR2032 battery is removed. The Swarolight has a built-in tilt sensor that halts illumination when the scope exceeds a 70-degree upward or downward angle, or tilts left or right more than 30 degrees. When the scope returns to an acceptable angle, illumination is automatically restored. Given that this scope is marketed toward mountain (and especially sheep) hunters, where shots at steep angles are commonplace, the former feature is an interesting choice. There is also a setting-specific automatic shutdown feature to conserve battery when the scope is not used for three (day) or five (night) hours.
As for the reticle itself, on the test scope it consisted of a standard crosshair with wide portions on the sides and bottom sections (i.e. Plex). The other “thin” sections are similar in size to those found in varmint scopes. To aid durability, reliability and consistency, the Z6i features a four-point, coil spring arrangement. Lastly, the fully multi-coated lenses, which are purported to deliver 90 percent light transmission, feature Swaroclean, a non-stick coating that makes the removal of debris, liquids (including insect repellent) and fingerprints easier.
The scope’s matte-black, 30 mm main tube enables a full 64.8" of elevation and 36" of windage adjustment—a boon for long-range shooters or when mounted atop rifles with off-center holes for mounting scope bases. Additionally, at 19.6 ozs., the 2.5-15X 44 mm Z6i is still relatively lightweight. With the eyepiece fully extended, the scope measures a scant 141⁄8" in length, yet there is ample space to attach rings. Eye relief is 3¾".
To test the Z6i 2.5-15X 44 mm, we first mounted it atop a .204 Ruger-chambered Thompson/Center Arms Dimension and proceeded to “shoot the square” at 100 yds. Movements were found to be consistent and repeatable. Next, we compared it side-by-side against several similar scopes also costing more than $2,000 and, regardless of the quality examined—i.e. sharpness (resolution/contrast), brightness, etc.—the Z6i edged out the competition. The greatest difference between the optics was found in brightness; the Swarovski offered an undeniable advantage, especially in waning light. Lastly, we froze the scope overnight and then submerged it in hot water. Beyond the normal minute internal and requisite external fogging, there were no signs of leakage—thus it was confirmed to be fog- and waterproof.
With a cost in excess of $3,000, the Swarovski Z6i 2.5-15X 44 mm riflescope is within the financial grasp of very few hunters. That being said, the scope’s optical quality, magnification range and illuminated reticle, among other features, enable it to handle nearly any big-game hunting situation.