Quite some time ago I had the opportunity to test a Nikon 2.5 to 10x Tactical scope. It was done at the request of a friend of mine that manages a local gun store here. I found it to be a pretty good scope. In any case I completed the review and submitted it to Sniper Country and they posted it. It was some months later that I was contacted by Steve and was asked to contact Nikon. It appears that someone actually reads what I write, because Nikon wanted to use one of my statements. As this individual was from Nikon, it was one of the good things, but hey, I was just happy someone actually read my review. Besides as second focal plane scopes go, the Nikon was a great scope. In any case I was asked to test their new 4-16 Tactical scope. I am un-accustomed to this whole process, usually I evaluate stuff I buy, but they said I could have it for the test, and just send it back. Sounded good to me, and I was curious to see if anything had changed since my last review. This has been a bit of a long term test, so I will cover a bit more than I did with the last one.
When the scope arrived at the office, upon opening the box I noticed something immediately. This scope came with Butler Creek covers! Someone more important than me must have made the same complaint. In any case, as all tactical scopes should, it comes with a sun shade, and the Butler Creeks it needs. It has a 50mm objective and a 41mm ocular piece. The tube is 30mm and the overall length is 14 inches. The construction is very strong. It weighs in at 24oz, and is a very nice matt tactical color. To me the best way to describe this scope is "practical and functional". It has the same large, easy to read knobs, and is graduated in 1/4 minute adjustments. There are 10 minutes per single revolution of the scope, and the spec sheet indicates there are 50 total minutes of adjustment. I actually found there to be more usable minutes than listed in this particular scope. There is a side focus knob on the opposite side of the windage adjustment. The power settings are adjusted by turning a dial on the ocular piece. When adjusting the power settings it does not move the eyepiece however, so your Butler Creek cover will not move. It comes with an Allen wrench to adjust the knobs. This scope came equipped with the Mil-Dot Reticle. It is similar in appearance to the Premier Gen II in that it has lines in between the dots. The dots are of the round variety, and the line is at one half a Mil. This particular scope did not have a lighted reticle. If it did the rheostat would be on the eyepiece. All in all it is a very nice looking scope with good balance, and it feels substantial, as a tactical scope should.
With this particular scope I had longer to "crank the snot" out of the knobs. I was waiting for a 300WM rifle to arrive I was having re-barreled so I had it for a couple of months before I mounted it on any rifle. As before, I moved them from the bottom to the top all the way to their limits. As I was enjoying the latest drivel on the television I would move the knobs up and down, and left and right for the entire evening. I even had a couple of my officers take the scope and do the same thing for a few weeks. All in all, the knobs were turned more than most anyone would likely do so in their real lives. The movement, and the "clicks" are very positive, and stayed positive throughout the test. They are in fact still tight to this day. When I was done moving them around I returned them to their mechanical center. In looking at the glass, it is very clear. I would place the clarity somewhere between the U.S. Optics, and the Nightforce NXS scope. In moving between the power settings it is very smooth. I would prefer they not be as close, but it is easy to adjust, and it stays in position. I like to have a little more space between the settings, but it is very positive, so it is not likely it would move in the bag. As this reticle is in the second focal plane, it stays consistent throughout the power range. It comes equipped with an adjustment for us "old folks", so the reticle is clear as well. Lastly, in using the focus knob it is large, easy to grab and smooth.
This scope showed up when I was in somewhat of a state of flux with my collection of precision rifles. I was about to receive my 300WM back from Robar. I also had a 338LM and was about to try a 300WSM rifle as well. This particular scope was mounted, and re-mounted several times. It finally ended up on my loaner FNSPR in .308 caliber. The SPR is the rifle the scope was on when I performed the final test for elevation and windage.
In every case the scope mounted easily, and was long enough to mount on the long actions. One of the long actions was a Remington 700, the other is a CZ550 Magnum in 338LM. It was mounted in some Badger Ordnance rings (except the CZ). On all but the CZ the base was a Badger or OPSII one-piece base with a 20MOA slope.
This particular scope performed pretty well in this arena. On all but the last rifle it would print on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper, even though the rifles were different caliber. On the last rifle it printed pretty much dead center, but it was quite a bit off to the right. It had been a couple of months since it had been on a rifle so it may have been moved. In any case, initial zero with this scope was pretty easy every time I changed rifles. As on the 2-10 the knobs are about as secure as you get. There are four set screws per knob, so they won't go anywhere for sure. One word pretty well describes my experience with this scope. That word is repeatable. Once you zeroed the scope, the thing stayed put, and it put them in the same spot. In fact, I found myself using this scope to test what I thought may be problems with other scopes, or the rifle. I had some issues with a NXS scope I was trying to use. It would not hold its zero. I would set it up, shoot a group, and it would print a pretty good group. I would re-load, and it would shoot another group in a different spot. It was a new rifle so I thought it may be the rifle. Just for kicks, I put the Nikon back on it. I had actually used the Nikon to break that rifle in. I mounted it in the same spot, fired the group, and it was within half an inch of the original zero. I fired several groups, all of them in the same spot. I sent the Nightforce back to the factory for repair. Throughout this test, this scope was on a Remington 700 in 300WM that had an 18.5 inch barrel with a suppressor, a GAP 338LM on a CZ550 Magnum Action, a GAP M1A, that same Remington only re-barreled with a 24" K and P tube, an FNSPR in 300WSM and finally the FNSPR in .308 caliber. This scope has been around, and on every gun it zeroed easily, and stayed on zero. It is as repeatable as any other scope I have ever had.
I put together a new process when it comes to checking the adjustments on these scopes I evaluate. I borrowed a target that a good friend of mine (Bob Schneider) put together for his sub-machinegun classes. It has a series of circles on it that are equidistant, and lends itself very well to checking a scope. I have inserted a picture so you can see it. The drill is fired all at once, so it has the scope moving in all kinds of combinations, at the extremes of the elevation and windage adjustments. It starts with a confirming zero on a separate target, and ends with a zero on the same target. The true measure is where it impacts, relative to zero, after all that turning.
A kind of "rectangle" drill that measures 24 MOA of windage and 10MOA of elevation.
A standard box drill that has 5 MOA of windage, and 10MOA of elevation.
A windage drill that moves from zero to 10MOA either direction.
And lastly a drill that moves from zero, down 5MOA and up in 5MOA increments to a total of 35MOA yielding a total of 40MOA in elevation adjustments.
Just so there is no confusion, I am not certain all this knob turning means all that much, but it seems to be what people want when you test a scope. I still determine what elevation is needed in my scope at a particular range the old fashioned way, I shoot it, at that range. It seems nowadays the computer is taking over, and people want their scopes to match their calculators. I am not saying that is a bad thing, just not my thing. The first time someone told me that their scope adjustments were wrong, because they did not measure "precisely .25MOA I about fell over". My response was "who cares, so long as you know where to put the knob, and it hits in the same spot every time, well "there ya go!". What is most important to me is that it is repeatable, meaning it does the same thing every time. Whether that "thing" is .25 MOA or .2513365 MOA is meaningless to me, as long as you know your gun. But hey, I am kind of old fashioned that way. In any case, in my humble opinion, nobody is going to do what I did to this scope in real life. Most people just do not have this kind of time. Lucky for me, I can work this into my weekly training. In any case take these for what you think they are worth. What I think this test does show, is how repeatable the scope is, and whether it will return to zero when you turn the knobs. The drill is performed in the order I will describe them below. I listed kind of a synopsis of the drill. If you want to send me an e-mail I will send out the exact measurements of each shot. Please remember a human is performing this drill, from prone, with a bi-pod. Truth is you can probably attribute at least .25 inch to the shooter at any given time. Once again, take them for what they are worth.
The first thing I do is establish a good solid zero for the drill. The purpose is to establish the ability of the scope, not the cold bore. I set up a separate target, and shoot a three shot group. I continue that process until it is grouping in the center of a .75" square at 100 yards. Once that is done, I start the drill.
This drill starts at the orange dot on the target. I fire the first shot there. I then add 4L, then 6L totaling 10 MOA left. I fire a second shot without change, then move 6R, 4R and return to zero. I then perform the same drill moving to the right, and returning to zero.
Left Windage: Each shot was within .25 of inches of an exact measurement.
Right WIndage: Each shot was within .25 inches of an exact measurement.
Results: This scope is pretty much right on. Several of the repeat shots as it returned to zero are in the same hole. Two of the three shots at zero were in the same hole.
This drill starts at the number 12 circle on the left. In order to simulate those that actually enter down elevation, I hold the target on the first shot, and put in 5D. I then return it to zero and fire on the circle. I then add 5U, firing at each change until I have added 35 MOA of total elevation in the scope. I then return back down the scale to the starting point doing the same thing.
The results of this drill are pretty typical. Accept for the last 5 MOA of adjustment everything was either at exactly 5" or within a .25 inch. The final adjustment, at the top of the knob was 5.75 inches. In most of these scopes, as the knobs get closer to their limits they tend to be less precise.
Results: Once again this scope is showing pretty strong repeatability. Including the movement down, the spread between shots was almost exactly 5" on every shot. The only one that was a little wide, was at the limits of the knob. With a .308 this shows a total of 40" of elevation, which should take most anyone out to 1000 yards, and it seems to be pretty consistent.
This drill is kind of out there, but if you want to test the limits, this one put in 24 MOA of wind in your scope, with 10MOA of elevation. I figured this would show any glaring errors.
24MOA Left: The movement from zero to the left was off the target to the left. It measured about 27" where it nicked the cardboard.
10MOA Up: When I moved it up it impacted 26.5" left and at 10.25 inches up.
24 MOA Right : On this shot it moved 24" almost exactly.
10MOA Down: This shot moved 10" down and impacted right next to the starting shot.
Results: Three inches difference at 100 yards would be substantial. Once again this is pretty out there, so as you get closer to the limits things are less precise. In terms of reality, I suppose if you were putting 24 MOA of wind in your scope you are kind of pressing your luck! In any case this was the only drill where this scope was not pretty consistent.
This is more of a normal box drill, and is more in line with what you may actually put into your scope. The zero on this drill is the number 6 on the right side of the target. The drill moves 4L – 5U – 5U – 4R – 5D – 5D. Each measurement was within 1/16th of an inch, and the return to center was about in the same hole.
Results: This drill was the last drill, after all of the knob turning, and it was about the cleanest. The measurements were about as exact as I can get, and the return to the start was right on.
With the scope returned to zero, I fired one shot on the separate target. It impacted .5 right and .25 high in comparison to the starting shot. Pretty close concerning the knob turning, and what amounts to a 40 round drill.
Prior to testing the scope in that last drill I used this scope extensively on the range. I fired a number of cold bore shots, and it was fired out to 400 yards. I had a number of people use the scope, and they all complimented the glass, and the positive clicks. It held the cold bore as well as any scope.
This particular scope is plenty rugged, and in fact is more rugged than most any of the scopes out there in the same price range. I personally would take this scope over any Leupold, or any Nightforce scope. I think this is the market they are headed for, and they do a pretty fine job. It is more money than the Leupold, but it is flat out more scope. The glass is better, the knobs are better, and it has held up better than any Leupold I have ever owned. It is at least on a par with the Nightforce everywhere except elevation, and it is LESS money. I have seen these scopes in the low $800.00 range. The glass is very clear, and the side focus works well throughout the entire range. I like scopes that change the power setting without moving the ocular piece. It is a pain in the rear to have your Butler Creek's move every time you change power settings. If you are into exposed target knobs you will like these. They are big, and certainly secure. Once you lock them down there should be no issues with losing your zero. They now provide the necessary Butler Creeks, and the sunshade. With a 20MOA base this scope as it sits will get you out to 1000 yards with a .308 or bigger. This is a really solid entry into the market.
The things I don't like about this scope are pretty much the same as the 2-10 power. There are only 10 minutes per revolution. That is one place where the Nightforce kind of rules. Performing that drill was a pain, and I had to really stay on my toes not to get lost. I know it makes for the big knobs and all, but if you are into long range there will be lots of turning. The eye relief once again puts the scope kind of close. It is close, and not forgiving. It is easy to move just a little and end up with scope shadow. On the magnums, there were a couple of close calls. I would appreciate a little more eye relief, and a little more forgiveness in acquiring it. The last thing is the need for some elevation. It is right at the limits of most calibers. It indicates in the literature there is 50 MOA, but this scope from top to bottom has 70MOA. I did not take the time to determine when the "run out" starts, but I would bet there is about 60 or so minutes of usable elevation. As long as you are mounting this on a bolt gun, with a sloped base, and it is close to the bore, you are fine. If you are mounting this on an AR10 there will be some issues. Mounted on the rifle in the picture I am only 2.5 turns from the bottom. You are going to lose at least 10MOA just getting that scope zeroed on an AR10. There really needs to be closer to 75MOA of usable elevation. I am not sure if they can do that, but it would certainly broaden the market a bit.
Once again, this is an excellent scope. It is priced to compete with the Leupold offerings, and it competes very well. If you want a similar design, and you are not married to Leupold this would be an excellent alternative. It is also in the price range of the Nightforce NXS scope, but it is coming down. You can get into a Nikon for around $800.00 and that is about two bills cheaper than the NXS. It is as rugged as the NXS, in fact the only two NXS scopes I ever had failed very quickly. They had great customer service, but when it comes to my tactical scopes I would prefer to not need it! It is as clear as the NXS, but with Leopold-like features. With all of the changes in the Leupold line, and some of their price increases they are getting very close to the Nikon. It is ending up right in the middle of the pack. Just be certain of your shooting needs so you do not run out of elevation, but this is a fine scope, and more than capable of a duty environment.