Nikon 2.5 - 10x Tactical Scope

08 April 2003
By Dave Bahde

Background

One of my off duty jobs is at a local gun store in Salt Lake City. The manager, Steve Polano, is a good friend, and a great guy. He has a great deal of experience in the gun business, and a bunch more experience with a long gun. A former Army Ranger, who deployed as a sniper in a number of countries, to include the Gulf, Steve has a wealth of "been there done that". So, when he tells me to try a new scope, or anything else for that matter, I do so. He has had the opportunity to use most everything, and I respect his judgment and opinion. It is he who turned me onto the IOR line of scopes, and I have them on most of my rifles now. That being the case, when he asked me to try this new Nikon I agreed to take it through its paces. What follows is the result of my miniature torture test.

Description

At first glance the scope looks like a Leupold on steroids. It has a 44mm 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. The knobs are very large, easy to read, and is graduated in minute adjustments. There are 10 minutes per single revolution of the scope, and the spec sheet indicates there are 85 total minutes of adjustment. 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, similar to the IOR. When adjusting the power settings it does not move the eye piece however, so your Butler Creek cover (the one you have to buy) will not move. It comes with an allen wrench to adjust the knobs, and the typical plastic lens covers. This particular scope came with the Nikoplex reticle. It is typical of plex reticles, this one having very strong stadia lines with a small cross hair in the middle. This particular scope did not have a lighted reticle. If it did the rheostat would be on the eye piece similar to that of the Leopold. It is available in the 2.5-10x SF in the lighted reticle as well. It is also available in the 4-16x SF with a 50mm objective. All are available with the Nikoplex or the Mil-dot reticle. All in all it is a very nice looking scope with good balance, and it feels substantial, as a tactical scope should.

Off of the Rifle

I took the scope home and proceeded to "crank the snot" out of the knobs. 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. The movement and the "clicks" are very positive, and stayed positive throughout the test. When I was done moving them around I returned them to their mechanical center to see how close that was when I placed it on the rifle. In looking at the glass, it is very clear. I would place the clarity somewhere between the almost perfection of my U.S. Optics, and the Nightforce NXS scope. This glass is at least on a par with the Nightforce, and far superior to the Leupold. 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. 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. On the personal side I do not like the plex reticle at all for tactical use. This one in particular has very wide stadia lines, and it takes up much of the reticle. It also causes the shooter to focus on the tiny cross hairs, instead of the entire threat. Just my two-bits, but if you decide on this scope, get the mil-dots. Lastly, in using the focus knob it is large, easy to grab and smooth.

On the Range

I mounted this scope to my 300WM rifle. It is pretty light weight, and has a 20" barrel. Short of a true big bore, this is a pretty good test for recoil sensitivity. This is also a system I have been using for years, and it is very accurate, any issues would be the scope's (or mine) and not the rifle.

It mounted easily, and was long enough to mount on the long action. Some of the lower powered scopes are often short, and difficult to get proper eye relief on a long action. This scope is 2.5-10x and I had no difficulty getting it mounted properly. It was mounted in some Badger Ordnance rings. As I had returned it to its mechanical center, and this rifle is proven very true, I did not bore sight the rifle. With this particular rifle I have done this with both a Nightforce, and my U.S. Optics. Both stayed on an 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper on the first round. A little extreme, but when you spend a grand on a scope you expect the little things.

Zeroing

This particular scope performed pretty well in this arena. The first shot was about 5 inches low, and 3 inches to the left of center. Nikon went kind of overboard on the locking screws. There are four per knob, so they won't go anywhere for sure. About four rounds later, a few minutes' screwing with the knobs, and I was in the middle. I fired five shot groups at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 power. All of them impacted pretty much in the same spot. The 25 round "group" measured about an inch and a half altogether. Any error was likely me, not the scope, and probably some heat issues. In short, this scope held its POI at all of these various powers.

Adjustments

I performed the standard "box drill" on two occasions. One was at 2.5 power, the other was at 10 power. In both instances the scope printed a pretty square box, and the adjustments were consistent. The box drill at 2.5 power was a 5 minute box, the one on 10 power was a 2 minute box. In this instance it seemed to have no difficulty maintaining accurate adjustments.

Range Adjustments

I took the scope out to the long range at the FARM, and fired it at 100, 200, 300, and 400 yards. Remember this was after having turned the knobs continually for one evening at my home, and for one whole day at the gun store. I used my standard elevation adjustments and moved between the four ranges at random. I was able to hit the 12 inch steel without incident. Once I was done I let the barrel cool, and fired a 100 yard shot. The scope returned to zero without incident.

Conclusions

I have a few conclusions here, some of them are simply personal preference, so take those as you wish. Here is what I like about the scope.

This particular scope is plenty rugged, and in fact is more rugged than any Leupold in the same price range. In fact, if you are looking for an alternative to a Leupold scope, but like the general design, this would be a good choice. The knobs are very large, and easy to operate. They are very positive in both directions and they seem to hold their adjustments under some pretty extreme abuse. It is long enough to use on your long action and is hefty, but not overly heavy. 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. All in all this scope competes well with the Ultra, or Mark 4 line of Leupold scopes. It is priced at retail right around a grand, so it is outside the level of the M1 and M3 Vari-x III scopes, but it is a bunch more scope than either of those.

Some of the things I would change. First of all no tactical scope in my world comes with those cheesy plastic scope covers. If it is for tactical use spend the fifteen bucks and include Butler Creeks. I had the same complaint about both my Nightforce, and my IOR scopes. It is a pain in the rear to hunt down the right size, and they are a must for any tactical scope. I am not a big fan of the need to focus my scope on a 2.5–10x power scope, so I prefer the parallax be fixed at 75 yards, and not deal with the dials. That's my baggage, but in a tactical world sometimes things happen fast, and having to turn all kinds of dials may not be in the cards. I can live with minute dials, but there are only 10 minutes per revolution. Either learn your holdovers, or prepare for some serious turning at long range. At 1000 yards that is 3 complete revolutions, maybe four to get your dope. On the hold-overs let's talk about the plex reticle. There is nothing to reference for leads, or hold-overs. There is nothing to use for "bracketing" either. It is a great hunting reticle, but in my world it has no business in a tactical scope. I know that was all Steve had, but hey, that's what they gave him, so that is what I reviewed. My last issue is the exposed target knobs. I prefer to have my knobs covered, especially with so fine an adjustment. On a stalk, or dragging the rifle, or just getting it out of the bag you could move the zero. That is not a good thing to a police marksman. Granted on these, the knobs take some effort, so it would be difficult, but not impossible. If they are covered, this is not an issue. Once again, that is my personal baggage, but hey, it is my review.

Last Thoughts

All in all this is an excellent scope. It is priced to compete with the Leopold Mark 4 and the Ultra, and it does so quite well. It is also in the price range of the Nightforce NXS scope. It is as rugged as the NXS, and as clear, but with Leopold like features. If you are on a budget there are a bunch more options, but in this price range it is a very good choice, with the mil-dot reticle.

Acknowledgements


Nikon Vision Co. Ltd.
19601 Hamilton Avenue
Torrance CA. 90502
800-Nikon SV


Steve Polano
T.A.G.
4715 South 4075 West
Salt Lake City Utah 84118
801-967-8005


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