Swarovski BTX 95 Spotting scope
Have you taken a good look at the Swarovski BTX 95mm bino spotting scope? Let’s find out how it can help you be a better spotter and shooter whether you’re a competition shooter, hunter or serious extreme long range shooter.
My quest for better optics and interest for that matter grew proportionately with my passion for precision rifles, old and new. Once you understand that optics are really the steering wheel of your rifle, you’ll naturally steer towards better glass and eventually exceptional glass.
Better glass has enabled hunters, sportsman and military shooters to unlock new potential for over a century. A Springfield m1903 became a different animal mounted with a Unertl 8x rifle scope on it.
Above: Spotting scopes at the the grand international rifle-match at Creedmoor – second day shooting at a thousand yards / drawn by A.B Frost. Abstract/medium: 1 print (2 pages) : wood engraving (source: wikipedia)
Not much has changed since then except that we have better optics today.
Much like these guys, we are trying to see both hits and misses as well as read the winds between us and the target in order to be able to assign a windage value to a condition and adjust for bullet drift. With better optics, your shooting session becomes much more enjoyable and productive. The Swarovski BTX 95mm spotting scope is probably the culmination of these developments over the years. We also have the facility of a digiscoping setup to record shots and magnify our target further.
Below you can see one of these 19th Century spotting scopes as seen at the North London Rifle Club, Bisley.
Let’s go back to basics, according to your interests, you will need a spotting scope for different goals. When I accompanied my friend Mark on a hunt in the Pyrenees, I wanted to locate game and take a closer look at what we were looking at with binoculars. This enables us to know whether the animal is worth the stalk or not. It also needed to be light and portable, so I took with me my trusted Swarovski 65 ATS.
I was also very keen to record this mountain hunt in France using some basic Digi scoping techniques, the best take-home memory which you can relive later on with your friends. Nothing beats that moment. Likewise recording a session through your spotter enables you and your team to go back and review your fundamentals with NEW insights.
Above: spotting moufflons at over 700m directly on our phone.
ATS 65 Spotting scope next to the larger 95mm Swarovski BTX
My background in target shooting as well as the marksmen I shot with taught me that spotting scopes are a great device to learn wind reading with, watch the grass swaying, watch tree tops or finer stems to gauge wind speed and direction while having a broader field of view than my rifle scope. Sitting behind a Swarovski spotting scope at Bisley during the Europeans and Imperial meeting in summer provided valuable insight which I would take home with me and keep working on.
Bill sits behind the Swarovski Btx 95 and our Italian friend here mans the Swarovski ATS 65 spotter during a 1 mile practice session in Sicily.
After a few seasons using an outstanding 65mm Swarovski ATS, I came to understand that watching an F-class or any other longer match through a monocular for 40 minutes starts getting tiring. There must be a better way to do this. Watching with both eyes makes it so much more natural and enjoyable. Let’s face it you’re not meant to be winking for an entire 40 minutes right?
The Swarovski BTX offers exactly that. I first spotted one being used by my friend Ewen Campbell shooting for the English team.
It comes in two pieces, the objective module and the bino unit which screws into it. You can also have it in 65mm and 85mm objective module if 95mm sounds a little excessive for your needs.
You may remove the BTX module and use a monocular ATS/STX eyepiece module if your needs are better suited with a monocular as in the case when you mount your spotter parallel to your rifle during a match. I kept my smaller 65mm Swarovski ATS unit because I had already purchased a 20-50 eyepiece as well as 2 reticle eyepieces 30x fixed with Mil and MOA reticles for unknown distance shooting in Italy.
These I use when I am spotting on UKD ranges. When you’re looking at known sized targets at fixed distances, you don’t really need a reticle, you know target size in MOA or MIL and you adjust point of impact accordingly.
Above, my kit for a weekend of shooting and spotting with a backup scope and Magneto speed. Being able to carry the equipment and travel with it remains important for me.
Swarovski BTX 95 for long range rifle training
After my trip in Denmark at Coldbore range, trying to hit targets past 1 mile and 2 km with the 300 Norma Mag, I quickly found out that trying see impacts at very long distance with a monocular presents its set of challenges. You have two eyes, yet you are trying to see a small puff 2000m away with just one eye. That’s when I started getting serious about a bino-spotter.
Moreover I learnt that recording the sessions with my smaller ATS 65 spotter using the digiscoping adapter provided by Swarovski enabled me to film my shots for training purposes. At the same time I sat behind the larger Swarovski BTX 95 spotter and guide the shooter on target knowing that if he missed, I could always go back and watch the trace of the shot and impact.
You really learn a lot when you are able to relive the shooting session from the point of view of the binocular. You can overhear your wind calls while watching the shot go downrange. Electronic targets have enabled us to keep accurate track of our shots digitally, in real time and sequence but watching shots from the shooter’s position enables you to see and hear what the wind was doing when you broke the shot, what the mirage looked like etc. You capture that image that is so important to learn wind calls. You show that to someone and they just get it. That’s really something! With 3 cameras in place, you can put your entire shooting session in a bag.
In our recent trip to Sicily shooting at 1mile, our 1 mile camera failed us so we only had the shots from the spotting scope which was still something. In our case, Bill sat behind us with the Swarovski BTX spotter and he was seeing the bigger picture and guiding us accordingly. collectively, we had 11/15 shots on the fclass target at 1650m.
Above: Swarovski BTX 95 spotting for a ladder test of my surgeon 308Win while trying out some hunting loads at 600m
The resolution of the spotting scope as well as the comfort by which you lay your forehead against a purposely made rest enables you to comfortably watch the trace as well as bullet holes. Even in 30 degrees celsius, early morning we were able to see 308 bullet holes at 600m. I was ladder testing my Surgeon 308win field rifle with the objective to work up a custom load in less than 50 rounds shooting Hornady eldx 178gr.
On this occasion even though we had the luxury of downrange cameras, I still made great use of the spotting scope to read wind. I could see the bullet impact in the paper before I had to raise my head to look at the monitor. It’s got a field of view of 104ft/ 35m at 1000 yds/1000 m.
Above Picture taken through spotting scope late morning when the temperature already started rising above 31 deg. Celcius.
below: 2 ladder loads with hornady ELDx 178gr at 600m.
I took this picture above using the setup shown below on a hot summers day. On cooler summer mornings the detail is even sharper.
The picture above on the right shows the Fclass target at 1 mile. later in the day when the light was from the left hand side rather than shining off the paper, we could spot the circles of the Fclass target. These are just 3mm wide, it’s probably the most impressive thing I’ve noticed with this level of optics at these distances.
The other advantage when you use digiscoping equipment is that you can add digital zoom to the picture enabling you to view incredible detail.
Above, we mounted the digispotting adapter. The advantage is that you can still view through the other ocular lens which makes it finding your target easy.
Above: This structure was pictured at over 2300m on a warm August morning. Even at this distance, the level of detail is stunning! During cooler mornings you can see an even clearer picture as mirage is magnified as well as the air heats up distorting the picture.
Below: In this video, i tried to capture the mirage as seen through the spotter. With phones this can be more challenging as the phone’s camera will try to adjust the focus as you turn the focus knob on the spotter but it does convey to some extent what we are after.
Make sure you do mount it on a very stable tripod. When I first received it, I did not have a proper tripod for this sort of weight. However I quickly upgraded to a Ulfhednar UHHD40 Heavy Duty Tripod that can take upto 40kg, eventually serving as a tripod for my rifle if I wanted to use it so on a hunt. The tripod is superb, I will do a separate review of it however take a look at these pictures.
Picture taken at 150m at night through Swarovski optik btx95. Notice how sharp the image is when there is little mirage.
Picture above was taken on a hot summers day in 32deg celcius/92 Fahrenheit at over 2 km distance using digiscoping technique. Mirage starts distorting the image as you increase magnification over 35x.
Can it be better?
There is only one thing which I can see improvement on and that is the view finder. To appeal to a wider range of users especially long range shooters whose subject maybe over 2 km away, some sort of picatinny rail attachment would allow you to mount a red dot sight which would allow you to zero it to the center of the view and hence acquire your intended target right away. I tried this with my smaller ATS 65 and it works brilliantly but the scope does not have a proper attachment for it.