Chris Parkin does things his own way with the new personalised ballistic cam on a Swarovski Z6i 2-12×50 BT
The Swarovski Z6 needs little introduction as a premium optic. Since its launch and the groundbreaking introduction of the 6x erector tube to give broad magnification ranges, it has raised the bar. Now in its Mk2 format, its latest innovation is an updated Ballistic Turret (BT) system of three coloured rings on the elevation turret to provide user defined ‘zero’ options at extended ranges. The Austrians have since introduced the PBC (Personalised Ballistic Cam) to make the system even more intuitive.
With a 50mm objective lens blending seamlessly into the 30mm one-piece aluminium body, the scope suits hunting rifles without adding excess bulk. The central saddle carries a capped fingertip adjustable windage dial on the right side with an extra cap included, slightly larger to store a spare illumination battery if needed. The elevation turret on top of a standard BT model has 150 clicks available to set primary zero, equivalent to 150cm of vertical adjustment at a range of 100 metres. Both adjustments are graduated in 1cm-at-100m clicks.
A coin slot permits removal of the turret cap to adjust the three coloured rings to match ranges you envisage shooting quarry at. They are splined, so they can be adjusted equivalent to one click in value at a time. On a stalking rifle you may select 100 yards for zero and then the three further red, green and yellow rings to indicate 150, 200 and 250 metre points of aim-impact when the turret is rotated anti-clockwise to increase range/elevation. Midpoints can be estimated for corresponding ranges, but aren’t marked!
A collar below the turret rotates clockwise to lock the range and anti-clockwise, in line with the tube, to allow further adjustment. The turret clicks were lighter than I would have preferred, so I appreciated the locking collar, which prevented any accidental movement. Swarovski offers smartphone apps and web-based ballistic software to assist calculations during set-up. They are accurate and I trust them, but they are only as good as the information fed into them, and you’ll have more faith in the data when it’s been physically checked and confirmed on targets before hunting.
The eyepiece shows the main visual hallmark of the Mk2: a smoother, more fluid profile to the ocular unit. The zoom ring is rubberised and swells from the tube in a radiused bulge to avoid any sharp corners. It gives good grip with simple markings and is well weighted for control. On top, a removable cap conceals the CR2032 battery for the illumination function, and above the fast focus eyepiece to the rear, a small switch provides two fast illumination settings. If you flick the switch to the left, it exposes a symbolised sun to indicate daytime; reverse it to the right and you get a moon for night-time. The centre position is off. Both settings are controllable with +/- keys to the left and right of the upper housing and are variable to meet your preferences. All settings are saved. In daytime, you might want the reticle’s centre dot strongly illuminated to overcome a bright sight picture, or stand out in heavy woodland cover when waiting for fast moving game. In lower light conditions, you’ll want a less intense dot to delicately mark the point of aim without flaring out.
Swarolight technology ensures that if the rifle is laid on its side or elevated vertically, illumination switches off, but re-illuminates immediately when the gun is brought back into a firing position again. This saves batteries as well as you having to manually turn the scope off and then back on again. It’s a very intuitive system, if somewhat encouraging laziness.
Having two separate modes is very pleasant in use. Both remain as they were set, but if you ever need to go brighter or dimmer quickly, a click of the lever takes you to the alternate mode. Swarovski’s A4 reticle suits the scope perfectly with my favoured style of central dot. The reticle’s stadia at three, six and nine o’clock lead to the centre from the edge, quartering in thickness toward the centre, the same as the thin line in place at 12 o’clock. All stadia draw your eye central if illumination is switched off; they also assist with positioning the rifle/reticle upright without any cant when shooting over uneven terrain, an error that increases in importance as ranges grow.
Swarovski’s new Personalised Ballistic Cam (PBC) is designed to integrate physical set-up and ballistic calculation into one upgrade. You do the calculations on their website, entering ammunition and rifle variables, ballistic coefficients and muzzle velocities (I recommend you personally chronograph your ammo), and 10 minutes later you’re done and the website stores it all. The software holds data for both factory ammunition and handloads, so make sure your variables are entered correctly. All the details are then sent along to your official Swarovski dealer who will place the order.
Two weeks after I did this, my personalised Ballistic Cam arrived. From here, it’s simplicity itself: unscrew the elevation turret cap, replace the previously applied BT rings with the new PBC and you have a turret cap for longer-range shooting, engraved with your own trajectory info. If you need several cams for alternate ammunition or if a scope is shared between two guns, each cap is engraved on its underside to clearly mark which it is for.
I shot the 2-12×50 Z6i on my .223 rifle that is used for fox and vermin control. It’s the sporting rifle I use the most, especially as ranges are likely to be longer when taking on rabbits or corvids over arable fields. My Hornady 55-grain V-max factory ammunition is rated on the box as producing 3,240fps (987 m/s), but my short 20in barrelled gun managed 2,975fps (906 m/s) over the chronograph, so this was the data I put in to Swarovski’s software. Metric or imperial units can be used to suit your range preferences, and angular units are never mentioned, although the 0.01 Miliradian unit is effectively what is in use. Scope height, zero range and maximum desired range are required, as well as preferences for engraving style, selected to offer graduations at your desired range increments (every 25, 50 or 100 yards/metres). Your chosen maximum range is what you expect your rifle (and yourself) to be capable of, but must fall within the limits of one complete rotation of the turret, which has a zero stop to prevent overrun in either direction. My .223 PBC was setup to indicate to 600 yards but is unlikely to be used beyond 400 yards and actually runs out when the turret ‘stops’ at 580 yards.
The only thing I didn’t like was the zero stop’s position. On my particular PBC it gives seven clicks of negative travel and therefore ‘stops’ one rotation out at an indicated range of 620 yards, which could be confusing. Use of this turret and any long-range shooting requires understanding and serious practice, but I think the stop should be closer to the 100 yard/metre mark and not overrun so far. If you lose your position, just dial all the way back to zero and start again.
I spent time shooting crows and rabbits on several evenings after the PBC had arrived. Fitting took five minutes – all I did was lock the turret at zero, lift off the old BT rings and replace them with the PBC.
Swaroclean lens coatings promise to shrug off water and debris, which was well proven after walking along tramlines overgrown with wet oilseed rape. The 4A reticle is very fine but with the central dot illuminated, it does not flare. I was able to comfortably hold on the body of a corvid just beyond 400 yards without confusing the black reticle against the black shape – the dim illumination did subtly assist definition. The top power of 12x isn’t ideal for this type of shooting on small quarry, but the Z6i’s 4A reticle was fine enough alongside crisp optical resolution to make shots with confidence.
I would categorise the reticle as more suited to precision shooting than fast target acquisition. Subtending only 1.2cm at 100 metres in the second focal plane, it stays the same apparent size at all magnification settings. Image quality was superb, with the reticle always remaining in focus and well defined. Clarity and colour were sharp and bright to the very edges with a flat, distortion free image. The ability to extend the range of adjustability over the BT, and include more markers indicating intermediate distances, gave further precision. As the PBC is tailored to one rifle/ammo load and non-adjustable, you simply have to order another one if things get changed, but that is the price for mechanical perfection alongside optical royalty.