Swarovski X5 Riflescope Review
This low weight was quite an attractant to me.The X5 weighs 30 ounces without the lighted reticle (which I don’t need) making it a full 9 ounces lighter than the Nightforce ATACR. I don’t need a lighter weight in a 5-25x56 scope when hunting from a stationary position in Wisconsin. But with boots on the ground for miles in a day out west, saving 9 ounces would be wonderful.
As an example, I left my house at 3 am on the day after Thanksgiving last fall on a 16 hour, straight-through solo drive for just one possible day of mule deer hunting (and scouting for 2016). It is a new spot on BLM land referred to me by one of my rifle customers just a few days before Turkey Day. On that single day of DIY hunting I hiked 7.5 miles up and down hills with 39 pounds of gear and extra clothing to handle the typical temperature swings and potential precip and other emergency surprises out there.
So when the X5 arrived a few months ago I was eager to put it through an optics test. I gathered up several other high quality scopes I use plus a Vortex Razor HD Gen II which I don’t use but which has a great reputation, especially from the tactical crowd.
The least expensive competitors’ scope was a Huskemaw 4-16x42 priced at $1,250. I had shot my 195 gross mule deer last September with it. There was a Nightforce NXS in 5.5-22x50 at $2,000, a Vortex Razer HD GEN II at $2,500 and lastly the Nightforce ATACR Enhanced model in 5-25x56 at $2,300. The Swarovski 5-25x56 X5 comes in at about $3,300.
I set them up on a table in my garage and pointed them all down the street at a neighbor’s mailbox. Then over the next 36 hours I came out and peered through each of them under varying light conditions for brief periods. That first day I ended my test session after legal hunting hours would have expired. I started the next morning at oh-dark-thirty and paid attention during the cloudy-bright mid-day as well. Again that day I ended my test just after legal hunting hours would have expired.
As you know, today’s available optics are pretty darn good when you get above a certain price point - especially in bright daylight. The difference in quality starts to show more in dim lighting and when glare or flare may present itself.
At the end of this first 36 hour test session I easily concluded that the practical optics performance level of the various rifle scopes clearly tracked their price point.
The X5 was the brightest in dim light. The X5 had the least flare or glare in cases with a bright sky above a darker background. Its resolution was also slightly sharper in optimum lighting but this was only an academic difference -- not a practical one under perfect lighting conditions. They are all better than they need to be at reading mailbox numbers in perfect lighting.
There was also a noticeable difference in contrast shown by the X5. Contrast is a more subtle factor in contribution to practical optics performance. And it along with superior color fidelity helps in spotting game. I have owned many thousands of dollars’ worth of high end optics since becoming a serious photographer many years ago. Of the camera lenses I currently own, one cost $5,000 and another cost $9,000. You do get what you pay for, especially when talking about high end optics for either serious photography or for hunting.
I have other less expensive camera lenses that will record a picture of a soaring eagle or of a bull elk accurately. But those images will not have the sharpness, contrast, color fidelity and bokeh (means punch) of the more expensive lenses.
This is true of rifle scopes as well. All the rifle scopes that my son and main hunting partner Andy and I use are far better than what one needs to take a 6 point bull in good lighting. But the best ones do it in all kinds of lighting conditions. And Swarovski Optics products also just simply make the experience a joy!
On my trip to Arizona in March I had my first chance to shoot with the Swarovski X5 scope. I first checked my 100 yard zero at the fantastic Ben Avery Range just north of Phoenix. The mechanical design of the turret system and its zero stop method are quite original and unique. I took a few minutes with the user guide to help me walk through the process for the first time. I really like it.
Fifteen years ago I missed a nice whitetail buck at only 500 yards with a Nightforce NXS scope that did not have a zero stop. And it had only 10 MOA per revolution. It had taken me two obviously clean misses to realize my turret was probably on the wrong revolution. I got down from my deer stand immediately, verified and corrected the mistake and the next day killed this same buck.
The X5 not only has a zero stop but it also has a revolution counter that is very visible. If the last time you used your rifle you verified your drop chart on steel at 1,200 yards (and left it set on its second revolution), there is no way you would not now easily notice that you were still set on revolution #2.
Swarovski has utilized stainless steel parts in this new turret system for maximum accuracy, repeatability and durability. The scope tube thickness was beefed up to improve ruggedness.
On two of my own rifles I have had the opportunity to do repeatability tests with two different X5’s. Each time after I mounted a new scope I first shot twice at 100 yards. Then I dialed up 20 MOA, fired two more shots, dialed back down 20 MOA and fired a final two shots. Both scopes performed perfectly. The click adjustments have a very solid and confident feel to them.
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