The Nightforce scopes are in the upper price range of scopes with this model coming in at over $1800
(2010 US dollars) retail price. When you get into this price point the competition is stiff and we do
tend to pay more attention to the little things, so do not be alarmed if we are a bit more nit-picky in
this review than with a lower priced scope, it does not mean that we do not like the scope.
First, I will state that it is wonderful to be reviewing another scope from a USA based company
following the very nice Premier Reticle scope. But, there is some clarification to be made as to where the
scopes are made. The new Nightforce Compact as well as NXS F1 scopes are manufactured and assembled in the
USA, though I believe the glass is sourced from Japan. The tubes and glass for the rest of the scopes,
NXS and Benchrest, are manufactured in Japan and then assembled in the USA by hand in the Nightforce
facility in Idaho. There are some excellent optical companies in Japan and Nightforce uses the best they
The tube on the NXS scopes are marked "Made in Japan" on the bottom but that takes nothing away from the
quality of the scopes. It is nice to see that they are moving more of the manufacturing over here to the
USA and perhaps they'll continue the trend with some of their existing models as well as their new models.
The scopes are well packaged in the unique Nightforce triangle boxes that offer plenty of space around the
scope for protection. The scopes come with a "bikini" cover for the lenses, and we'll talk more about
flip up caps later in the review. There is also a nice manual and other good documentation including
the warranty card. The scopes carry a lifetime warranty and having the company located in the USA makes
getting service, if you should ever happen to need it, easy to achieve from the factory located in
central Idaho. Each scope has an inspection sticker that is signed by the QA person who did the inspection
and you will see the sticker in a few of our images in this review. Once I realized it would probably make
better pictures without it on the scope, I removed the sticker.
The overall shape and size of the scope puts it into the "large" category but not overly large like the
Permier Reticle Haritege scope. When building a scope for the military and law enforcement sniping
community that is
not known for being gentle on their equipment, you do have to build a rugged and robust scope which involves
some size to be added. The tube is a 30mm tube machined from 6061-T6 aluminum and Nightforce claims
they are 2-3 times thicker than other riflescopes. The Nightforce tubes are not a one piece tube but the method
and means by which the tubes are assembled are extremely durable rugged. The tube has a nice matte black anodized
finish that is evenly applied over the entire scope and appears to be fairly thick and rugged as well.
The overall shape and design is pleasing and about what you would expect from a well designed high end scope.
The eye piece rotates in the traditional (non fast focus) way to adjust the dioptre, there is also
a locking ring to lock
the eyepiece once you have adjusted the reticle focus for your eye. The locking ring itself has serrations
on it to aide in griping the ring when tightening or loosening it. These are all fairly standard things
in regards to an eyepiece.
The power selection ring has very similar serrations as the eyepiece lock ring and it has
nice white markings to indicate the power setting. These markings are flat and cannot be read from behind
the scope without raising your head a bit to be able to see the markings. When adjusting the zoom power,
the entire eye piece
rotates, which is fairly unique for a high end scope. The Burris XTR tactical scopes do the same thing and
it makes using flip up scope caps very difficult as the caps themselves rotate around with the eye piece
as you change powers,
and with a scope that has a range of 5.5-22x, there can be a wide range of rotation. When I asked Nightforce
about this they indicated that by doing it this way it allows them to make a more rugged eyepiece that
will stand up better in harsh environments. The flipup caps are not a huge issue especially if the tradeoff
is a more durable combat ready scope, but some who just love their flip up caps may find this bothersome.
There are other very rugged and durable scopes from other manufacturers that do not rotate the entire eyepiece,
so I suspect it was a design vs cost engineering decision combined with gain of additional durability
that they are priding their selves with on their scopes.
The knobs are a large exposed knob with good height to them and are mounted on a fairly high and rounded
shoulder. The same style serration that is found on the power ring and eyepiece lock ring is carried over to
the three knobs as well. The numbers are fairly large and are clearly marked with wide gaps between each click.
The clicks themselves have a very nice feel that can be felt when wearing gloves and are just about exactly
the way I personally like them. The clicks are audibly subdued as well so there is not much in the way of an audible
signature. The large gap in the click allows for very few mistakes when adjusting your elevation, such as going
more clicks than you intended. But with the nice spacing between each click on the knob, it does take up a lot
of room and there is only 10 MOA of adjustment per revolution which can lead to several rotations on the knob
when going to and from long ranges. There are some nice horizontal marks under the elevation knob to help track
which revolution you are on, but it still can require some diligent tracking on the shooters part to help keep
track of where you are at in the elevation range. With 100 MOA of elevation travel and 10 MOA per revolution,
simple math tells you there are 10 revolutions possible.
This scope also had the zero stop feature which does help to keep track of where you are in the elevation range.
Or, more specifically, it allows you to quickly get back to your initial reference point quickly. Once you zero
the scope at the range you desire, you then set the knobs to zero which will set the zerostop. Then at any point
you can just adjust your elevation down until it stops, which will be your initial zero. Variations of this
feature has been
around for a while on various scopes but it has become popular recently and Nightforce does a nice job with it
and has patented their design,
though it is a fairly expensive option running about $170 added onto the price of the scope.
The elevation knob itself is removed to adjust your zero by using the set screws at the top of the knob. This allows for
exact placement of your zero mark to prevent the indicator mark pointing at a "half" click. Overall, the Knobs
are some of the nicest out there, I really like the size and shape and especially the clicks, though 10 MOA
per revolution can be a burden. I will state the while writing this review Nightforce announced that beginning
in mid 2010, they will have a 20 MOA per revolution knob available with .25 MOA clicks. The pictures look very
nice and if they can keep the same click feel, it will be a winner.
The windage knob is the same shape and size as the elevation knob and has the same nice clicks and set screws at
the top to allow precise setting. On this model the windage knob did count up in both directions and overlapped
at 5 MOA, which with a 308 175gr can account for 10 MPH cross winds up to about 600 yards before you will need
more and the overlap starts. This is not that big of a deal, you just need to be diligent about tracking where
your windage is set and remembering it. The windage knob does have marks beneath the knob as well to help track,
but on a windage knob those lines are usually not that useful as you do not travel the many rotations like you
do with the elevation, though with 10 MOA per revolution those lines may come in handy.
I will mention that in addition to the new 20 MOA knobs coming out, Nightforce does have an option
to have 1 MOA per click elevation knobs combined with .5 MOA per click windage
adjustments which for combat sniping situations might be the way to go. This would allow for 40 MOA
per revolution on the
elevation and 20 MOA for windage. This would allow for keeping the knobs in a single revolution scenario for
most all your needs. Having used the Leupold Mk4 M3 on a M24 for several years while a sniper, I can attest that for
most military type applications this works well. Nightforce does also have BDC marked knobs for the M118LR and
A191 rounds for these 1 MOA elevation knobs. This option may potentially be
something to look at. Of course, Nightforce also offers
milradian knobs with 5.0 of MILS per revolution which equates to a tad over 17 MOA per revolution. Along with
the new 20 MOA knobs coming out in 2010, they will have a 10.0 MIL knob as well which is over 34 MOA at .1 mil
per click. Nightforce seems to have a handle on what is needed and they will offer both the 10 and 20 MOA knobs
side by side. I have not heard if there will be a price difference.
The focus knob on the left of the scope is a bit longer/taller than the elevation and windage knob but has the
same basic shape with the same serrations on the top. The scope has a nice wide focus range and the knob does
have some decent indicator marks without numbers, which is fine, and an infinity mark at the top end. The focus on
the scope worked just as you would expect and nice sharp images were easy to achieve.
knob also contains the on/off switch for the illuminated reticle, which all NXS scopes have. You simply pull the
knob out to turn on the illuminated reticle, push it in to turn it off. So how do you make the reticle more or
less bright? Well, that is not so easy. You have to remove the top of the focus knob where the battery is located
and then remove the battery. At that point you turn a little brightness
control screw with a small flat blade screw driver. It is not something easily done while in the field as the
brightness setting is a sensitive part. I suspect that
the engineers at Nightforce had to weigh their options of another set of controls to control brightness versus
its real benefit. I suspect that they came to the conclusion that setting the brightness to an intermediate level
will probably cover 95% of the situations, which it probably does. Is it worth the other 5% of the time to add
additional complication with another knob and then trying to find a way to integrate it into their existing design
that focuses on ease of use in combat. I do not know if it is better, but it does keep the controls simple and
easy to use, and I suspect it helps with durability and it probably will be just fine for all normal shooting
conditions. It is something different than normal, and perhaps that is not bad.
The reticle on this particular scope was the NP-R2 reticle which is a hash style reticle but calibrated in MOA and
not Milradians. This puts the reticle and the knobs in the same units and still allows range finding just using
the MOA formulas instead of the Mil relation formula. The reticle is a clean design without too much clutter
which I like. The picture of the reticle taken through the scope above (next to the specs) is admittedly
not one of my better
pictures so the reticle is a bit difficult to see, at no fault of the scope. Here is a spec sheet image of
the reticle from Nightforce.
Each of the hashes on the vertical stadia are 2 MOA apart where the hashes on the horizontal statia are spaced
5 MOA apart. When illuminated, the entire reticle is illuminated in red. Nightforce offers a wide array of
different reticles that should meet just about any ones needs. The reticles are etched onto the glass for
durability with no chance of breaking. This was a specific request of the USA Army back in the day
when they were developing the M24 with the M3A scope and Nightforce does it standard on all their NXS scopes.
The optics on the Nightforce scopes are excellent putting them right in there with all the very high end scope
Without advanced measuring equipment, it is impossible to say if the optics are better, or worse,
then other high end scopes like S&B, Zeiss Diavari, Hensoldt, Premier Reticle, etc. But they are right there
with them with excellent brightness and clarity. Certainly a pleasure to look through and will work great in
The scope was mounted onto a Tactical Operations XRay-51 for our shooting trials and at
the range the scope performed brilliantly with no problems and everything functioning very well. We shot the
scope through the box to test the accuracy and repeatability of the elevation and windage adjustments and
the settings were right on after shooting the groups at each corner of the box using the same aiming point and
adjusting the knobs to move around the box. The last group fired finished right back on top of the first group where
we started. The direction indicators are marked on the shoulder of the scope and they are a bit hidden behind
the rings, but not too bad with just a slight lifting or tilting of the head making them visible. The rings used
for this evaluation where Leupold Mk4 rings.
The scope has a very generous eye relief, almost 4" (3.9"/99mm), which makes it a good fit for high power rifles.
With the excellent durability the NXS scopes make a nice match to the .50 BMG.
Operationally the scope works very well and everything falls into place as it should and
the optical performance is outstanding. The scopes compare very favorably to other high end scopes and with the
focus on durability Nightforce has developed a rugged yet precise and great performing scope. From thicker
tubes to hand bedded glass bonded in place, these scopes are made to withstand the rigors of military and
LE use and have a great track record to back it up.
There are a few little design quirks if you want to use flip lens caps or want adjustable illumination
brightness, but all and all the scopes are very nice and should be considered if you are in the market for
a tactical scope.
Update - 16 April 2010
After completing our review above I wanted to explore further what the Nightforce could do if setup as a
military style weapons system with a 300 Win Mag and long range knobs as I mentioned in the review.
I contacted Nightforce and requested a T&E scope, the same NXS 5.5-22x but this time with a 50mm objective
and in order to not have to rotate the Knobs around as much, it was ordered with 1 MOA elevation and .5 MOA
windage clicks. Finally, I requested the Bullet Drop Compensation (BDC) elevation knob for the A-191
cartridge which is the 190gr
Sierra Match King launched at 2950 fps. The scope arrived in
good order and I set it up, using Nightforce rings on our Alpha-66 in 300 Win Mag.
If you take a look at the elevation knob in the picture above you will notice the whole numbers spaced along
the top of the knob. These are the range markings in hundreds of meters. So if you see that 11, that is
1100 meters. For the A191 knob the markings go up to 12 (1200 meters) all on the single revolution of the
dial which is due to the 1 MOA clicks. There are actually enough adjustments to go up to 1300 meters but
there are some data markings that prevented there being room for the 13 mark. I will probably mark it with
a single painted dot just to have the 1300 meter reference on the knob. I really like how they marked the
range numbers with a heavier line that extends all the way to the bottom of the knob; this makes it very
easy to know when you are exactly on the specified range mark. That is a nice touch.
The knobs still have that excellent tactile click and are very precise and easy to adjust. The windage
knobs on the scope count up in both directions and with .5 MOA clicks there is a lot of available
travel to compensate for wind at long ranges. Having 1 MOA clicks on elevation and .5 MOA for
windage does introduce the potential for getting the number of MOA's confused, but I can attest
to the fact that it is not that big of a concern after doing it for a number of years in the US
Army with the M3A scope on the M24. The clear number markings always help as well.
These 1 MOA knobs combined with the BDC had the exact effect that I wanted and has made the scope and
rifle system very usable in the field. Having all the marks in a single rotation helps simplify things
dramatically and the adjustments between ranges is very quick with the large clicks. Yes, you do give up
precision so this is probably not recommended for a competitive shooter, but for combat conditions the
larger 1 MOA clicks do get the job done, though at longer ranges, you may find yourself holding "a tad” high
or low to compensate when a full MOA click is too large for the adjustments you want. All and all I am very
pleased with this arrangement. Keep in mind that every BDC is only accurate in one given environmental
condition and will always be slightly off one way or the other depending on conditions. This BDC got me
"on paper", actually steel in this case, through all the ranges we tested which is all you can ask for.
Detailed logging in all environmental conditions is now important to be able to compensate for differences
while in the field.
I also wanted to try out some Butler Creek flip-up caps on the scope to see if there was a way to have the
BC caps on the rotating eye piece and still have it work okay in the field. Of course, the cap on the
objective end of the scope is no problem and works just like on any other scope. But as mentioned in the
above review, the entire eye piece rotates when changing the magnification. From 5.5-22x, the eye piece
rotates about 180 degrees. I tried several different locations of the flip up caps and there is no one
perfect place, but you can play with it and get it to work in a majority of the magnification ranges you
will be using. I believe it would just be a matter of determining what you would view as the most useful
magnification range and then adjusting your cap placement based off of that. There are a few ways to set
it so that it would work through the entire range of magnification, but it would be a bit annoying or
cumbersome in some positions. In the end, you can make it work for you and still have it provide the
lens protection in the field. Of course, there are other alternatives as well.
With the above changes to the scope I have grown to like it even more, but I do admit I use my rifles
more in the field than at the range where the large 1 MOA clicks become an advantage. If you are looking
for tight groups in the X-Ring, then the standard knobs are probably a better choice to allow you to
more accurately adjust your scope. You can also wait until the new higher resolution click knobs come
out later in 2010.