This last weekend, Josh and I had the opportunity to make it out to the FTW Ranch in Barksdale, TX, for two days of testing the new Swarovski X5 riflescope.
Our first impression of the X5 was very positive. The X5 has been in development for years, and it’s readily apparent when talking to the Swarovski guys that this is the case – the features are well-known and they are confident in both their relevance and implementation. The stainless steel spring-loaded turrets have a subjectively awesome feel; the clicks are prominent and crisp, and can respond to some serious punishment. The zero stop is robust and stops the turret right at the zero, and is supplemented by the “sub-zero” functionality that allows the operator to access -10 MOA of turn by raising a ring on the turret. Parallax and focus are in the normal left-hand portion of the tube, and this control is also firm and responsive.
The course of fire for the weekend included an accelerated instruction module from FTW’s excellent instructors, and then out to the range for confirming zero and some longer-range steel shooting. My platform for the weekend was a Barrett 98B with a 6.5CM barrel, topped by a 5-25×56 X5 with the BRM reticle.
It certainly didn’t take long to get used to this scope – the shooters on the line confirmed zero in only a few shots, and went right to longer ranges. The Whitetail range, as it’s named, had 1 MOA and .5 MOA steel targets out to about 800 yards, and even reaching out this far was no issue in low wind, with most shooters scoring first round hits all the way out.
With the FTW crew doing some instruction on the fundamentals of the “Hunter’s Zero” and how to use this zero for holdovers, we moved to practicing quick transitions to targets at different distances. At this point, with the wind picking up, I started to find some real use for the BRM reticle. I’m not normally a “Christmas tree” reticle shooter, but with the longer ranges and holdovers, the BRM’s well-thought-out design proved to be very effective in not only providing and easy reference for me to pick up the correct holdover mark, but also to quickly apply wind corrections on the fly. The more I shot with the BRM, the more it grew on me.
After some dinner, rest and refreshment, we headed out on day 2 for more of the same. Day 2’s training schedule began by hitting the Nubian range, and another impressive array of targets across a large canyon – distances this time reaching out over a mile.
It’s worth noting here that FTW’s facility is truly awesome, especially in the morning, and once in a while seeing exotic game just enhances the whole experience. During the course of the weekend, we saw Whitetail deer, Axis deer, Aoudad, Markhor, and some Blackbuck.
At the Nubian range, the canyon wind and increased distance made the shots more challenging. The spotting was done exclusively with Swarovski STR 80 spotting scopes, another exceptionally-designed product. When not shooting, we traded off calling wind and spotting shots; the STR 80’s illuminated ranging reticle is extremely effective at this. This especially came in handy when engaging the longest range targets – we switched over from the 1200 and 1400 yard steel targets and our 6.5CM rifles to .338 Lapua Magnum for the longest range targets.
After lunch, we started with some work with moving targets and a brief interlude with a 450-400 double-gun sporting a Swarovski Z6. From there, we moved out to the Crusader range for an awesome end to the weekend; one of the highlights for me was watching a beautiful Axis buck walk out of the woods and right in front of our 300 yard steel, giving all the shooters on the line a little break from shooting (and a bit of temptation). The Crusader range’s steeper angles also spotlighted the EL Range binocular’s ability to factor in angular calculations into the ranging device.
Jonah about to make an 1800-yard shot with a .338 Lapua Magnum topped with a Swarovski X5i 5-25 BRM.
In closing, the X5 is a powerful high-end long range hunting scope that is an extremely convincing addition to Swarovski’s product line. I anticipate these being extremely popular among the long range hunting community.