Mark Ripley finds himself ‘far from DS-appointed’ when testing the long-range capabilities of the Swarovski DS scope.
When I first saw the details of the new Swarovski DS scope, I couldn’t wait to get my grubby little mitts on one. Designed to simplify long-range shooting, it was immediately of great interest to me.
In a nutshell this scope takes all the guesswork out of long range by ranging the target. It also takes into account all the environmental conditions that will effect the shot and almost instantly gives you an accurate aiming solution for you at the touch of a button!
Combine this with the typical high quality glass and craftsmanship associated with a name like Swarovski and you know you’re on to a winning combination.
As expected this scope oozed quality as soon as I saw it and I was pleased to see that despite all the clever gadgetry inside the scope, and its beefy 40mm scope tube, it still retained a nicely proportioned look and clean lines.
A while ago I tested the X5i and although this was a good long range scope, I wasn’t keen visually on the tall bulky turrets even though they had practical advantages.
The DS, however, looks a far more attractive scope emblazoned with the silver eagle on the scope and parallax turret adding that extra bit of class. This scope like many of the Swarovski range incorporates an illuminated reticle with brightness adjustment controls on the top of the eyepiece although on this scope it also incorporates a central ranging button and very smooth and positive 5-25x magnification ring.
Having these controls on the eyepiece like this is very practical although as a downside it does prevent the use of any form of add-on night vision. The elevation turret on this scope is in fact not an elevation turret at all but actually a clever little concealed compartment to house the battery and a little tool to zero the scope!
Zeroing the scope is achieved using this tool to first remove two small covers on the top and side of the objective lens, revealing two small elevation and windage dials similar but a lot smaller than a conventional scope.
Zeroing the scope is exactly like zeroing a standard rifle scope and just as quick. Once this is done and even without the battery you have a completely usable rifle scope.
This is where it briefly gets a little more technical but still surprisingly easy. You now need to download the Swarovski DS app on your smartphone.
Once you have downloaded this free app and paired your scope to your phone via Bluetooth as per the instructions, it’s very simple to either find your chosen factory ammunition from the extensive list in the app, or add the details of your hand-load.
Within the app it is also possible to change other parameters, such as metres/yards and display settings etc., to suit your preferences.
Although all listed factory ammunition is supplied with a suggested muzzle velocity, I often find that these velocities are often a little optimistic usually by around 100fps or more. For best accuracy I would recommend using a chronograph to get the best results.
Being that I’ve spent a lot of time messing about with ballistics, hand-loading and long-range shooting, I’m well aware of how many variables come into play when shooting beyond normal hunting ranges, by that I mean over, say, 300 yards.
To have a scope come on the market that claims to be able to do everything for you, frankly left me rather sceptical of how accurate it could actually be in use.
The only thing this scope can’t actually do, is take the wind speed for you, and even if it could, any long-range shooter will tell you, the wind speed can be different from your shooting position several times down range.
So how and what does this scope actually do that’s so amazing? Well it’s this simple. Aim the crosshair at your target and press the central button above the eyepiece. This illuminates a centre circle around the crosshair telling you it’s ranging the target.
A second later the scope illuminates the range retained bullet energy and a red horizontal bar further down the vertical crosshair post which becomes your new aiming mark at that range.
The bar also indicates two hold-off marks either side for crosswind depending on your chosen setting (in my case I opted for 5 and 10mph wind values).
All you do then is use the illuminated mark as an aiming point and break the shot! All sounds great but does it work? I took the scope out mounted on a Browning chassis rifle chambered in .308 which had already proven to be a very accurate rifle with the 168gn Winchester Silvertip ammunition and zeroed at 100 yards.
I headed out to a valley, which offered the ideal place to test the set up with good solid backstops and clear line of sight all around.
Picking out a piece of chalk in the field, which I estimated to be around 200 yards, I placed the crosshairs on it and pressed the central button, the scope confirming a range of 212 yards and illuminating a red bar just below the crosshair.
Using this to aim I squeezed the trigger and was rewarded with a puff of white dust. I then picked out a fresh mole hill further out in the field and ranged that at 305 yards.
Again the scope illuminated a red line further down the crosshair and once again the bullet found its mark but a fraction low. I wasn’t too surprised as I was expecting the bullet velocity from the box to be a little higher than in field conditions, so I decided to try it a little further out to see how much I would need to adjust it in the phone app.
I picked out an area of dry earth with a patch of grass to use as an aiming mark and ranged that at a little over 500 yards.
This time I also had about a 10mph crosswind to allow for too, so using the illuminated bars second hashmark for a 10mph wind I dropped a bullet into the earth about a foot in front of the patch of grass and slightly left.
I adjusted the app by a guesstimated 100fps less velocity which put me on the grass patch with the next two shots. Happy that the ballistic software was very close to my ammunition’s trajectory, I decided to push the range back out to my steel fox target set up on the far bank.
With a range taken of 666 yards, the following three shots were all met with the clang of steel.
It was at this point I felt rather disappointed. Not with the scope – far from it – but at all the time I’d invested in the past working out ballistic information and hand-loading ammunition for a custom rifle to achieve shots at these sort of ranges.
And here I was with a factory rifle, scope and ammunition getting similar results! I’ve hardly touched on the details and technology surrounding this scope as there’s too much to cover in one article, but I have to say this really does simplify long-range shooting.
All this of course comes at a price, which may make some eyes water, but when you consider what you’re getting it’s justified. If you buy a long-range scope of the quality of Swarovski with the basic scope features without the ballistic side of it, you’re going to pay somewhere near £2,000.
Add to that a decent quality rangefinder and ballistic software and you’re getting close to its retail price. The beauty here is all that is in one piece of kit, which saves so much time.
If I spot a fox on the hillside I have to range it, input the range into my Kestrel ballistic wind meter, dial in the scope, find the fox in the scope by which point it walked another 50 yards and I need to recalculate the shot.
The DS does all this without having to take your eye from the scope in a second, which would no doubt give me more opportunities in the field.
For the highland stalker where shots can be longer, this scope would come into its own. It would also make an excellent foxing scope at night when used with a high-power lamp such as the Wicked Light, where it can be difficult to range at night.
Clearly it’s been designed with the hunting market in mind yet it would be equally useful for practical target use out to 1000 metres (1100 yards), which is as far as the ballistic software will take you.
If you’re serious about taking long range shots in a no-fuss manner, the Swarovski DS really is an amazing piece of technology and well worth looking at.
With another custom rifle being built for me, I’m already entertaining the idea of investing in one myself if I can get the money.
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