Thinking of splashing out on an expensive new rifle scope but you're not 100% on what you need? Nightforce USA's very own Jerry Davenport steps up with everything you need to know about selecting, buying and mounting a rifle scope.
Jerry Davenport is Nightforce Optics' International Sales Manager.
When considering an optic for your rifle, it is important to consider the type of shooting to be done with the rifle. For example, a hunter may want better light transmission and not need the extended magnification range a benchrest or precision shooter requires. A benchrest/long range prone competitive shooter may not need a ranging reticle or certain mechanical features like a tactical rifle competitor requires. Nightforce Optics offers a variety of optic and reticle options designed to fit a wide array of shooter types and applications. Many popular applications include: varmint hunting, long range hunting, precision rifle and high power competition, target shooting, general hunting, and 3 Gun competition.
Example: ATACRTM 5-25x56
All Nightforce Optics riflescope product names begin with their product family. In this example, the ATACRTM refers to our Advanced Tactical Riflescope product family. The numbers immediately after the product family name refer to the magnification range and objective lens diameter. In this case, the riflescope has a 5x to 25x power magnification range and a 56mm objective lens diameter.
Riflescope Technology – Budget vs The High Quality of a Nightforce
While construction techniques differ among Nightforce models, they all have one thing in common: a fanatic commitment to absolute quality, the best possible components, and rigorous testing. Your Nightforce riflescope will be built right and thoroughly inspected before ever leaving the factory. This is so you won’t be left high and dry with a riflescope that fails at a critical moment.
What separates a world class riflescope from a run-of-the-mill optic? Mostly, things you can’t see. It is easy to cut corners on construction inside a riflescope, where they will never be noticed…until, of course, it lets you down.
A few examples of the care we take with our NXSTM riflescopes
Tubes – machined from solid bar stock 6061-T6 aircraft grade aluminum alloy, not extruded or formed like those found on lesser scopes.
Lenses - painstakingly bedded with our own proprietary Mil-Spec formula. Unlike methods used by other scope manufacturers, with our bedding process there is no glass-to-metal contact that can result in breakage, stress or misalignment over time.
Adjustments - made with hardened silicon bronze to ensure a lifetime of wear resistance and reliable performance. You should expect no backlash or hesitation in your adjustments.
Screws - We machine the screw that controls NXS™ elevation adjustments to an unbelievable 110 threads per inch. It is so precise that it must be mated to its receiver by hand.
Springs – The titanium spring that maintains pressure on our elevation and windage adjustments spends two weeks in a polishing tumbler before going into a Nightforce NXS™ riflescope, to assure there are no rough spots or burrs to interfere with perfectly smooth operation.
Optical Elements - hand-bedded with our own proprietary Mil-Spec bonding agent, then cured at 160oF for 24 hours. Lenses are further secured with O-rings and machined metal lock rings, both fore and aft. This zero-tolerance lens securing method prevents any movement of the optical elements in any direction, under any circumstance.
When considering a Nightforce Reticle there are several considerations determined by your preferred shooting discipline and applications.
- Mil-Radian or Minute of Angle
- Bullet Drop Compensating ability
- Subtension measurements for estimating range
- Dot, post or line based reticles for aiming references
- Illumination requirements
- First versus second focal plane
Only you, the user can determine the optical reticle for your shooting needs; there is no single best reticle for every person.
Parallax is the apparent movement of the reticle in relation to the target as the shooter moves his eye across the exit pupil of the riflescope, caused by the target and the reticle being on different focal planes. While keeping the rifle still and looking through the riflescope, a nod of the head up and down will quickly determine if parallax is present. If parallax has been eliminated, the reticle will remain stationary in relation to the target regardless of eye placement.
the term “adjustments” on a riflescope commonly refers to the elevation and windage adjustments, knobs, or turrets.
MOA stands for Minute Of Angle. This is an angular unit of measurement, and the amount for each minute of angle increases as distance increases. One minute of angle is 1.047 inches at 100 yards, 2.094 inches at 200 yards, etc..
short for Mil-radians and also known as MRADs. This is an angular unit of measurement, and the amount for each minute of angle increases as distance increases. One mil is 3.43 inches at 100 yards, 6.86 inches at 200 yards, etc..
Extra low dispersion glass. ED glass, standard in the Nightforce ATACRTM and B.E.A.S.T.TM riflescopes, is the best glass available and provides the ultimate combination of image resolution, light transmission, and color rendition available in a riflescope today.
calibrated reticle spacing(s) or increments at a given magnification. Remains fixed with a first focal plane reticle, varies by magnification setting with second focal plane reticles.
First vs Second Focal Plane
A reticle gets its name due to the position of its placement in the erector tube assembly. A first focal plane reticle (FFP) is in the front portion of the erector directly adjacent to the adjustment turret mechanism and a second focal plane reticle (SFP) is located in the rear portion of the erector tube near the power zoom ring.
Since a FFP reticle is in front of the magnification element of the riflescope; the reticle gets magnified throughout the magnification range. The reticle is able to remain in proportion to the target as the magnification is increased or decreased. The reticle will visually decrease in size as the magnification is decreased, and increase in size with the target as the magnification is increased. However, the reticle’s subtension (MIL or MOA line spacing) remains true on all magnification settings.
A SFP reticle is located in the rear portion near the power zoom ring that is used to adjust the magnification of the riflescope. Since it resides behind the magnification element of the riflescope, the reticle does not get magnified throughout the magnification range. The reticle will remain visually constant to the target as the magnification is increased or decreased. This means that visually, the reticle will remain the same size, but the target will appear to get larger or smaller when the magnification is increased or decreased. The subtension of the reticle can only be true at one magnification setting. However, a formula to figure the correct reticle subtension at any power is:
Calibrated magnification ÷ actual magnification = magnification factor.
Mounting your Nightforce Optics Riflescope
You will need the following:
- The correct base and ring/mount combination for your rifle and optic
- A stable stand which holds the rifle securely and level and preferable on a level working surface
- Ring/mount and ring top installation tools
- A sine bar or other method for ensuring the rifle is level with the riflescope
For initial fitting of the riflescope to the rifle, set the Nightforce riflescope to the highest magnification. Place the riflescope in the lower portion of the rings as far forward as possible. Install both ring tops. Tighten ring top screws with just enough tension to hold the riflescope where positioned, while still allowing smooth movement fore and aft and rotationally.
2) Hold the rifle in your normal shooting position with the riflescope positioned fully forward in the rings, preferably while adjusted to maximum magnification. Place your head as far forward on the stock as you might position it in field use. Slowly move the riflescope back just to the point where the full field of view is obtained. It is recommended to mount the riflescope at this position with as much eye relief as possible (3.5”–4”) or slightly forward to ensure maximum eye relief. Tighten the ring mounting screws to the manufacturers specified torque value. Tighten the screws in an alternating “X” pattern.
Zeroing your riflescope
A quick way to get your first shot on target with a new installation is to first bore sight the riflescope. A simple yet reliable method is by looking through the bore at a round, high contrast target, approximately 5”– 6” in
diameter, that can be seen clearly with the naked eye at either 25, 50 or 100 yards/meters, yet is small enough to “float” in the center of the rifle bore when viewed through the opened action. This can save you time and ammunition.
- Ensure that the rifle is unloaded and the chamber is empty. Remove the bolt and place the rifle on a steady rest.
- Looking through the bore from the action end, center the round target downrange so that it is floating in the center of the bore, then adjust the elevation and windage adjustments until the reticle is centered on the target while the target is still centered in the bore.
- If you feel confident in the bore sighting, proceed to live firing at 25, 50 or 100 yards/meters. To aid in the sight-in process, be sure your sight-in target is large in size, and offers a contrasting color (i.e., orange). After confirming point of impact, proceed to step four. Note: if you have sighted in at 25 yards/meters, you will need to move the adjustments four times more than you would with a 100 yard/meter sight-in. If you sighted in at 50 yards/meters, you will need to move the adjustments two times more than you would with a 100 yard/meter sight-in. If the first shot isn’t on target, recheck your bore sighting and/or move to a 25 yard/meter sight in distance.
- Without changing the adjustments, move the rifle to center the reticle on the target. Carefully turn the windage and elevation adjustments without moving the rifle, until the reticle is aligned on the center of the bullet hole from that first shot on the target.
- Fire at least a three-shot group at the desired close-range zero distance, then fine-tune your zero as needed.