Swarovski Z6i Test Results

I began the scope testing under nearly identical conditions as when I tested the SR-8 (except the grass was longer). I might have been a little more tired. As with the SR-8 testing, I came into the tests “cold” and had not done any special practice in the couple weeks preceding the test- just regular shooting that was not especially similar to the tests. I was a little sore from the Sportsman’s Challenge the previous day.

I won’t be comparing these results directly to the SR-8 in this post, but will wait until all the scopes are done to do an evaluation of each scope’s performance in each test.  Likewise, if you need a description of the testing protocols, you’ll have to click here.

Test 1: Single Shots at 7 Yards

-Scope set at ~1.3x
-Illumination on daytime setting (near or at maximum)

I was surprised to find that I was turning in times that were a bit slower than I’m used to. I had one wild miss due to a trigger control mishap (with the Rock River 2 Stage, for those keeping track [everybody I’m sure]). My hit ratio was actually better than normal.


The hit ratio was 95% (19/20).  Total points were 115.  The average points per shot were 5.75.  Points per second were ~5.3 (rounded).  Hits (to the black 5 point circle) per second were ~0.88 (rounded).

Test 2: Transitions: the X-Box Drill

-Scope set at ~1.3x
-Illumination on daytime setting (near or at maximum)


At the beginning of the test I gave myself a couple dry “going through the motions” type runs to get the pattern back, since it’s a little on the complex side. At the time I shot with the SR-8 the pattern was pretty easy for me (fresher in my mind) and I didn’t seem to have any problems, but for whatever reason on the day I tested the Swaro I was a little slow to remember it. This is not a scope related issue, but is a ‘me’ related issue. As with the preceding drill, I felt a little slow, but was surprised to see that I was turning in decent times. I also felt a little wild, but was actually having a little better accuracy. I have noticed that on days that I have noted that I felt “wild”, which I mean as less controlled than seems optimal, I usually have better accuracy and speed results. This is only anecdotal and based only on two occasions.

Targets after all 4 runs.

On runs 1 and 2 I turned in good times, but nothing out of the ordinary. Run 3 felt normal but was significantly faster for me. On run 4 I could feel that I was moving at a comparatively smoking hot pace, and on the transition at shot 7, I realized I was heading for the wrong target. Then I had to think about where I was going, wonder if I was correct, then finish the run. I knew I would have a horrible time, somewhere in the 14 second range, but it was actually just over 11 seconds. My botched transition was about a second and a half slower than my average. I think I was going so quickly that my mind being in an overly relaxed state wasn’t keeping up.

Test 3:

-Scope set at ~4x
-Illumination on daytime setting (near or at maximum)

I shot the standing portion, transitioned to kneeling during the reload, went to fire, and found that the trigger didn’t feel right. There was no first stage (or takeup). I thought I might have had a malfunction. I didn’t try a clearance drill because I was curious if I was having my first malfunction with the Noveske upper. The bolt was in battery and I checked to see that I had a round in the chamber, which I did. I checked the trigger again and found that there was still no first stage. I pressed the trigger and the gun went bang. this time there was no first stage again, but no bang. There was a round in the chamber. After clearing the rifle I popped the rear takedown pin and found that there was an “extra” piece of metal in the fire control. Then I noticed a “missing” piece of metal on the hammer. I had finally broken the Rock River 2 Stage. It was almost 2 weeks until I had it replaced with a Geissele SSA-E trigger. Then I needed another day of familiarization with the new trigger as the 2nd stage was significantly lighter.

DD25I still don’t think that for me this test is a valid indicator of what the scope is doing for me.  My performance is too erratic.  Maybe after all of the tests are complete the numbers will show something different.

Test 4:

-Scope set at 6x
-Illumination off

My suspicion was that for group shooting the second focal plane reticle would make my sight picture easier to discern. That was indeed the case. Across the board there was a minor but consistent difference in group size, with the Z6i having a slight edge over the SR-8.

Group 1:

Swaro 10 Shot 2

Group 2:
100 Target 2

Group 3:

Swaro 10 Shot 3

30 Round Composite:

Swaro 30 Shot

The average extreme spread was approximately 0.11 MOA better with the Z6i. The average mean radius for all shot groups was 0.05 MOA better. As for the cumulative group, the extreme spread sizes were basically identical (my notes indicate that the SR-8 was actually 0.04 MOA smaller. The mean radius, which I trust more to mean something, was smaller on the Z6i by 0.08 MOA. Yes, these numbers are minor, but I think the consistency shows that there was something that worked just a bit better (maybe about 9% better?) with the Swaro for this application.

Test 5

-Scope set at 6x
-Illumination off

I hit a complication with this test right off the bat. With the SR-8 I shot this from the ground in bipod prone. A strange phenomenon that occurs in fields is that grass grows. Shocker, huh? Luckily, I have a sweet first gen 4Runner (22RE of course). This accomplishes two things quite handily. When driving out to the fields to put up targets it helps push the grass down a bit so the targets are a little easier to see. Second, when parked in the same spot as I shot from last time, it makes a convenient, self-contained shooting platform.

Shooting view from the back of the 4Runner.

Test 5 Targets
This was cropped from the previous photo and shows the targets from the shooting location.

This test gave me some results that will take some judgment to interpret. On one hand they were almost astounding and on the other the Z6i couldn’t quite keep up with the SR-8. Why would that be?

I took measurements for time, points on target (performance in relation to my specific goals), accuracy (group location in reference to the target center), and precision (group related stats). Note that the measurement of points is sort of a combined evaluation of both accuracy and precision.

Why were the results so hard to interpret? First of all I’ll note that my only subjective note taken following actually shooting the test was “a little hard to see the bulls at 270 and 330.” That actually did play out in the numbers.

The ‘170’ target, which was actually a couple yards short. No excuse not to have all the shots in the black, except a phenomenon we like to call dispersion.

Swaro LR 168
I think this representation of the hits offers a bit better perspective on the group, the mean point of impact, and other random stuff.

The 230 target looks better than the 170. Why? Shot groups are random events. That’s about all I can think of.

Swaro LR 229

The 270 target. You can see that my chances of hitting the primary target (the 5 point black) isn’t all the great (this target would offer a prediction of 2 in 9 shots) from even this modest distance with plain old XM193.

Swaro LR 268
You can compare the numbers and see this group was “less gooder” than the previous two in terms of precision.

332 yards. It’s getting a lot safer to be a 4.18” ~1.2 MOA) black circle at this distance.

Swaro LR 332
Still not great in terms of size, but centered up well.

The most astounding results from this test were the accuracy numbers. Here are the distances from the exact group centers from the exact center of the point of aim in minutes of angle:

170:         0.1
230:         0.07
270:         0.11
330:         0.12

Average: 0.1 (~.03 mils)

The average for the SR-8 was 0.42 MOA, which would generally seem to me to be a sort of “normal” or “within the margin of error” type number especially taking into account the possibility of user error of repeated estimation of holdovers.

It would not have been possible to adjust the scope’s point of impact via the turrets to improve these numbers even if they had been ¼ MOA adjustments. I interpret this particular result to mean that the reticle on the Z6i is accurate and lends itself to easy use. Another possibility is that it’s because I the 30 round group from the previous test to re-zero the rifle. In this case the grouping at 100 was better with the Swarovski, hence my correction was likely more accurate.

In any event, I would not have expected that I would have the ability to holdover over the course of 36 different shots, under time constraints, with no successive shots at the same distance, with an accuracy of 0.03 mils.  Please take a look again at the reticle and explain why on a short to medium range optic does anyone need half-mil subtentions.

Swarovski BRT-I
There is one mil between each point of reference.  Plenty fine.

The next thing to look at is the precision. For three out of four of the targets, the group sizes in this test were worse than with the SR-8, the target at 230 yards being the exception. With the groups averaged, the SR-8 showed an extreme spread 0.1 MOA better than that of the Z6i. The mean radius was approximately 0.11 MOA better with the SR-8 (approximately 13%).

Looking at the points, over the entire 36 round course, the SR-8 bested the Z6i by 5 points. The average points per shot with the SR-8 were approximately 0.15 higher with the SR-8 (4.6%).

The total time for this drill was 424.5 seconds, for an average of 11.79 seconds per shot, which was almost a full second per shot slower than the SR-8. Since I was shooting from inside a super-dooper cool vehicle, I didn’t have the tarp getting in the way as was the case with the SR-8, which cost me a good 10-15 seconds during that test. In fact this test felt like it progressed quite smoothly. The only hitch was that at some point I got a bit distracted by deer running in my field of view about 900 yards away.  Therefore it would seem as though something about the Z6i was inherently slower (again, unless it was just me).  The biggest factor I can think of that would make the Z6i slower is that it has less magnification than the SR-8.

I’m thinking I saw the deer at about the point I took the time to scrawl the word “deer” near shot 31. Or it could have just been a coincidence.

On one hand it appears that the results are in conflict. The Z6i did amazingly well in one important aspect, yet it would appear that it did worse than the SR-8 overall. If I apply each component of the results to what I think it can explain with any validity, I would say this:

-The reticle on the Z6i provided the ability to hold with exceptional accuracy.

-The zoom ratio on the Z6i put it at a disadvantage in relation to the SR-8 at distances beyond 230 (I would like to be more precise with the exact distance where the Z6i began to waver, but I did not have any target between 230 and 270). I conclude this, especially in light of my notes that the targets at 270 and 330 were “hard to see” and the accordance of this statement with the results.

-The disadvantage in magnification was significant enough, even at relatively modest distances, even considering the almost magical clarity of the scope and the optimum proportions of the second focal plane reticle, to overcome the fact that the group centers were basically the same as the points of aim with the Z6i. This seems to indicate that magnification power is a significant factor as distances increase. This was surprising, but really should not have been.  The old magnification guideline of 1x per 100 yards turns out to be either a major over-generalization or just plain crap.

I would be very interested to test this aspect more, to find if there is some way to predict the optimum maximum distance for precise shooting for a given magnification. I think it could be done with a little more ammo and a little more time.

One thought on “Swarovski Z6i Test Results

  1. 22RE eh? Had one of those in an ’84 Celica GTS. Timing chain snapped at 47,000 (back in ’87 or ’88), expensive fix done wrong which led to an even more expensive fix. Good engine to soup up so I hear.
    If the truck has live axle up front it’s very desirable for off-roading.
    All of which has some connection to rifles, I’m sure.

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