By Colton Bagnoli, originally published in the Fall 2015 Elk Hunter Magazine.
I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with fellow custom rifle enthusiasts where we discussed the best scope for accurate long-range shooting. We banter back and forth about what each of us feels is the most important feature needed to complete the task at hand.
Whether you’re putting a single, accurate, longer shot on a Coues deer or holding a sub ½ MOA group at 1000 yards on paper, the biggest factor will always be the guy behind the trigger. However, a scope not holding its zero can be a deal breaker! With today’s marketing in “long-range hunting”, there are plenty of riflescopes that advertise themselves as being the ultimate scope for the job. Many have claimed this title, but none have truly accomplished the goal until now.
After five years of engineering a riflescope capable of claiming the title, Swarovski has finally released the X5. Swarovski set out with the goal of making a superior riflescope designed for long-range shooting, with features not found in any competitors’ riflescopes.
It starts with an all-new, thicker wall design for the main tube walls, giving the scope a stouter base. Swarovski engineers kept on par with the best optical lens available, giving the shooter a more clear and concise sight picture at longer distance. The new turret atop the X5 is made of all stainless steel components and will withstand the harshest conditions. Swarovski really went outside the box with the design of this new turret and it quickly became my favorite part of this scope.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to represent Western Hunter Magazine and attend the Swarovski X5 launch event at the famous FTW Ranch in Texas. The FTW Ranch offers their SAAM (Sportsman All-Season All-Terrain Marksmanship) Hunter Training course on its 12,000 acres of prime long-range shooting terrain.
Upon our arrival, we received instruction on the features of the X5 by the Swarovski engineers, who joined us all the way from Austria. It was easy to sense the excitement the engineer staff had bottled up over the past several years while diligently working on perfecting this riflescope.
The instructors at FTW had us scheduled for the next three days of shooting 200 rounds at steel and paper targets from 100-1800 yards. The first morning we would be heading to the 100-yard sight-in range to confirm zero and learn the features of the X5 turret. Every day of shooting, we had a new range with a new course of fire and the ranges would increase daily. Every morning consisted of the same – breakfast, coffee, and then grab your rifle out of the rack and go make the steel ring!
Revolution window: There were many features of the X5 that stood out on the first day on the range. One feature was a revolution window on the bottom-front of the turret, which allows the shooter to know what revolution they’re at in the turret. This will help avoid confusion and shooting the wrong dope when dialing out past a full revolution.
There are 20 MOA of adjustment in each full revolution of the turret, which allows for 116 MOA of adjustment in the 3.5-18×50 X5 and 82 MOA in the 5-25×56 X5. Losing count of your revolution can happen quickly. I know for a fact I’ve missed many a gopher when I lost track of where I was in my turret and dialed to where I thought I needed to go.
On the range, I found the window very useful by multiplying the number in the window (1,2,3….) by 20 MOA and could always keep track of my current setting.
5-25×56 MOA adjustment: The reason for the lesser MOA adjustment in the 5-25×56 is due to the optical quality that Swarovski considered acceptable for max power to keep the highest image quality possible. The Swarovski engineers described it was the higher the power of magnification, the smaller the area of useable adjustment in the “sweet spot” of the glass.
With a 20 MOA rail on our rifles, we were easily able to dial enough dope to get a 6.5 Creedmoor out to 1400 yards on several different rifles using the 5-25×56 X5. This optical quality was made evident with the ability to spot 6.5mm impacts at 1400 yards on steel targets.
Sub Zero: Another interesting feature is the “Sub Zero” portion of the turret, which allows the shooter to dial a full 10 MOA below their set zero. This will aid the shooter who is shooting .338 Lapua or large magnum cartridge with a 500-yard zero. You can dial to your zero and then simply lift up on the bottom ring of the turret and dial down 10 MOA if needed for closer engagements. We tested this feature on a .338 Lapua and .50 BMG with 500-yard zeroes. We then dialed back down to random yardages called out by the spotters and engaged targets with pinpoint accuracy.
Spring tension: A key feature of X5 turret was the spring tension of the turret that eliminated “slop” when dialing up or down in the turret. This feature allows the shooter to dial straight to a distance without having to over dial and then dial back to the distance.
The turret on the X5 has very distinct clicks that are very easy to feel and count as you dial. I found it easy to count the clicks out to distances beyond 1000 yards without having to look at the turret. The turret was extremely consistent when I dialed from 100 yards out to 1400 yards with my 6.5 Creedmoor. Every distance was dead on and even when I dialed back down and engaged targets in 100-yard increments back to the 100-yard zero, the turret tracked perfectly.
Reticles: The X5 also comes with a new lineup of available reticles. All reticles are available with illumination and feature fully illuminated reticles. This allows use of the entire reticle in lowlight conditions, when every minute counts.
- The BRM is a tree type reticle with 2 MOA increments for use as a holdover or BDC reticle and horizontal hashmarks for wind in 2 MOA increments. I found this reticle very useful and accurate at the range when engaging multiple targets from 325-700 yards with 2-3 minutes of wind. I was able to shoot the course without dialing any dope, using only holdovers, and only suffered one missed target.
- The 4WX reticle has 1 MOA increments for the shooter who prefers a finer aiming point.
- The 4W is for the shooter who prefers to dial all adjustments into the turret and use horizontal hashmarks for wind.
More Thoughts, Options
After three days of shooting the X5 scope, I found myself struggling to really find a feature I didn’t like or something that I felt was missed. With a five-year incubation period, Swarovski really took the time to ensure their product would meet the needs and requirements of the long-range shooter.
I currently have two newly built rifles in my rack, and I know come this fall at least one will be donning an X5 3.5-18×50 with a BRM reticle!
Check out the new Swarovski X5 now at swarovskioptik.com. You can also order your X5 from The Outdoorsmans at outdoorsmans.com.
Also, check out the new Swarovski STR 80 spotting scope with MOA or Mrad reticles illuminated in the spotter. The STR 80 spotter, combined with an X5 riflescope, will allow the spotter to make exact corrections for the shooter, making it a deadly duo. Combine the two with the new Swarovski EL Range and you’ll have the ultimate long-range optical arsenal!