If you could design the ideal scope for big-game hunting in every condition, from daylight to dark, from close-quarter to long distance, it would look like this…
by the HuntDaily staff
If we had the opportunity to create a versatile, long-range, precision rifle scope for hunting, we’d sketch out a sleek profile that’s reasonably sized for high magnification, has a wide field of view, and delivers superior light transmission. We say “reasonably sized” because the laws of physics must be obeyed. Next, we’d pencil in an easy-to-use bullet drop compensation system. If you’re like us, BDC calculations are a struggle on the bench, let alone when you’re on the side of a mountain and Mr. Big is seconds away from disappearing into the timber. Of course, crystal clear glass that’s free of visible chromatic aberrations is essential. And while we’re at it, why not include an illumination option to assist us in those problematic lighting conditions? Finally, we want this scope to work well across a diversity of hunting scenarios, from close-quarter woodlands to wide-open prairie country. If you’ve ever tried to bump around in the brush with a long-range scope that’s as big as a log, you understand.
A Scope to See By
Our Z8i 2-16×50 P L test model, like all Z8i scopes, is a true 8x zoom. It features a trim 30mm tube diameter and a 50mm objective lens. That combination delivers a healthy 63-foot field of view at 100 yards (2x) and 21 feet at 16x. In other words, you get serious magnification power and field of view in a relatively compact package. Light transmission is a bright 93 percent (Swarovski Optik’s brightest ever), with twilight factors ranging from 5.7 to 28.3. Mix it all up with Swarovski Optik’s legendary glass and you have the kind of low-dispersion, high-clarity optical quality that’s worth the price of admission. We tested the 2-16×50 P L under a high-noon sun and well beyond legal shooting light, and couldn’t demand any better performance.
The 2-16×50 P L offers three duplex reticle options—standard, windage subtensions, and BDC/windage subtensions. The thin reticle bars are exceptionally fine. Couple this with the Z8i’s second-plane reticle position and you get very precise point-of-impact alignment at any distance.
Versatility Meets Simplicity
We all desire a rifle scope that is versatile for use across multiple hunting scenarios—from short distance brush-busting to long-range prairie shooting and everything in-between; from first available shooting light to high-noon sunshine. At the same time, we want to be able to take those shots without a lot of mathematical calculations or hardware adjustments. That’s a tall order, but one Swarovski Optik designed the new Z8i to fill.
First, there is the illuminated reticle that is standard on all Z8i models. This is an illuminated dot positioned in the center of the crosshairs This dot has three operating modes—low light, off, bright light—and you can further adjust the dot’s illumination (brighter or dimmer) while in either the low light or bright light mode. The toggle switch that controls the illumination is located on top of the objective lens, so it’s easy to reach. The low light setting has lower standard illumination (compared to the bright light setting) so the dot isn’t overly bright when you’re shooting in darkened conditions. You can adjust the low-level illumination brighter or dimmer by pressing the “+” or “-” buttons located on top of the switch. This mode is ideal for long-range shooting in murky light. In normal light, you can turn the switch to the off position and the red dot disappears completely. In bright lighting conditions, flip the switch to the bright light mode. As with the low light mode, you can also increase or decrease the illumination level of the bright light mode for optimal visibility.
Second, as versatile as the Z8i’s reticle illumination is, that versatility is even greater with the FLEXCHANGE 4A-IF reticle available on the 1-8x24L and 1.7-13.3×42 PL scopes. The 4A-IF is a switchable reticle allows you to choose between the illuminated crosshair dot, or the crosshair dot and an illuminated circle. We found this to be perfect for low-power, close-quarter shooting, such as you might encounter when your quarry is in the brush, on the move, and you need quick sight picture acquisition.
As anyone who has hunted with an illuminated optic knows, forgetting to turn off the power when not in use can lead to problems when you least need them. All Z8i scopes have an auto shut-off, which turns the illumination off after several hours. A more immediate shut-off feature is called Swarolight. Swarolight uses an internal inclination switch that shuts the illumination off whenever the scope is inclined more than plus or minus 70 degrees, or when canted more than plus or minus 30 degrees. So, if you have the illumination on and lean your rifle against a tree or the wall of your blind, it will shut off automatically, then turn on whenever you pick up the rifle to sight or shoot.
Another nod to versatility and simplicity is the quick elevation adjustment offered by the optional Ballistic Turret Flex (BTF). The BTF is an accessory to the Z8i series rifle scopes, and it turns bullet drop compensation into a no-brainer.
Once you have your rifle zeroed, say at 100 yards, simply install the BTF kit onto the elevation turret and stack the marking rings according to Swarovski Optik’s online ballistics program calculator. This calculator covers all of the common factory cartridges and loads, and can be customized for handloads. Once you load all the data into the calculator, the program will tell you exactly how many clicks to set your marking rings on the BTF. Now, ranging is simply a matter of turning the turret to the appropriate distance—no BDC calculations to make on the fly, no counting down subtensions in the heat of the moment. Simplicity.
If you are one of those shooters who has mastered BDC calculations and can do it in your sleep, the BTF kit can also be used on the side turret for easy windage calculations or estimating lead distance. In addition to the BTF marking rings, Swarovski Optik also offers custom Personalized Ballistic Rings for use with either your windage or elevation turrets. These rings provide custom yardage adjustments based on your personal ballistic requirements.
The Hunter’s Optic Solution
There are many quality scopes on the market that excel in the hunting and long-distance shooting arenas. Few of them, however, successfully blend the best of both worlds. Of those that do, fewer still manage to wrap all the features and functions in a platform that doesn’t require mathematical gymnastics before you pull the trigger.
Serious big game hunters, take note: the new Swarovski Optik Z8i is one of those rare breeds.
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