The power of eight Nightforce NX8 riflescopes

Senior Correspondent Rod Pascoe          

Since 1992 Nightforce has built some of the most desirable riflescopes in the world, the one that started it all being the Bench Rest (BR) series which revolutionised long-range optics. Designed originally for the Australian night hunting and spotlighting market, BR scopes crossed over neatly into the precision long-range arena and the robust format gained the interest of the US military, prompting the idea of the NXS.

Since then a number of other precision scopes have come about due to specific requirements of military and law enforcement customers. The NXS, which was earmarked for the US Navy Seals, transformed long-range optics and today’s favoured military scopes are the Nightforce ATACR and BEAST series. The latest addition to the Nightforce range is the NX8 available in two models ‑ 2.5-20x50 F1 and 4-32x50 F1 - and Australian Shooter had the chance to assess them courtesy of Lightforce of Adelaide.

The NX8 is a culmination of all the best features developed for other models and put into one versatile package. The task was to build a scope to meet the needs of hunters and competition shooters requiring a first focal plane reticle with precise hold-over detail as well as being generally affordable. A bright 50mm light-gathering objective lens and low magnification was also a must-have.

In a first focal plane (F1) scope the reticle is positioned in front of the magnification lenses and so the size of the reticle changes proportionally with that of the image as you zoom through the magnification range. Therefore the MOA or milliradian graduations on the reticle also change in size so the shooter can calculate hold-off or hold-over at any power setting. Reticle patterns also let you size targets, judge distances and calculate wind brackets.

Previously, if you wanted a first focal plane Nightforce you’d have to choose between the 4-14x SHV with NXS glass quality or take the premium ATACR which has the ED or extra-low dispersion glass and extra elevation adjustment in the 34mm tube. The NX8 has the features of the ATACR series including flip-up lens caps and digital illumination, all priced like a second focal plane NXS which is quite an achievement as F1s are generally more expensive to make.

Typically, variable power riflescopes have a magnification multiple of three (4-12x) four (8-32x) or five (4-20x). Nightforce claim that while it’s possible to build a scope with a multiple of eight, creating one that delivers exceptional clarity, resolution and brightness at every setting across the entire magnification spectrum has been a major challenge for optical engineers.

The NX8 range is designed to offer one scope that will handle any shooting environment at almost any distance, the vast magnification range meaning one scope will provide versatility in any situation you may encounter and you can certainly use it for close-range .22 or air rifle shooting.

Nightforce have always been among the most reliable and solid scopes on the market but that build comes with some criticism ‑ they’re generally heavy and not thought of as hunting scopes for that reason. Weighing only 800g for the 2.5-20x and 810g for the 4-32x and measuring 305mm and 340mm respectively makes the NX8 series a compact package.

Nightforce uses a bedding resin called mil-bond, injected by hand into holes cut around the circumference of each lens after it has been seated within its own aluminium cell assembly. The resin floats the glass away from the metal and sets stiff enough to retain the location of the glass and with enough flexibility to allow the glass to absorb sharp impacts from the side.

Nightforce optics are designed for rugged environments and an impact from the side can potentially fracture glass and move lenses. That’s why they go a step further during quality control testing by applying substantial side impact around the objective lens, the largest and heaviest lens group with the greatest chance of moving under side impact.

According to Jamie Dennis, Lightforce account manager for Australia and New Zealand: “Our special bedding method means every lens assembly needs to be housed in its own alloy cell independent from the body tube. Although this adds weight, the upside is we can guarantee lens alignment within each cell which makes our scopes ‘modular’, that is, we can test and swap out each lens assembly until we can guarantee all lenses have the highest possible specs on lens alignment.

“Most manufacturers have multiple lens groups either glued or held directly into the body with locking rings. Usually these optics are lighter weight but it only takes one lens to be slightly out of alignment and the light transmission and resolution of the entire optic suffers regardless of glass quality.”

First focal plane is important for Precision Rifle Series (PRS) shooting and other tactical or practical shooting disciplines such as SSAA Long Range Precision and practical rifle matches, this style of shooting requiring a wide field of view and hold-over capability at low magnification. The glass elements in an ordinary lens can provide distortion of the image wavelengths resulting in a compromise of the image. The ED glass mentioned earlier focuses these wavelengths to a much more precise point, producing brighter colours, higher resolution and better contrast. Hunters will also appreciate the extended shooting time at dawn and dusk provided by the bright and crisp optics.

There’s a choice of four illuminated reticle options for each scope ‑ one in Minute of Angle (MOA) and three in milliradian  (mil-rad). The Mil-XT is the most popular tactical reticle on the market with the T3 used by all law enforcement and military units in Australia. But is the reticle too thin at low magnification for hunting? Nightforce have thought of that too with a daytime bright red or green illumination at the push of a button (digilume).

Parallax focus adjustment comes down to 11yds (about 7m) which means you can dry fire practice indoors or tracking tests at 11m on your wall at home. There’s a huge amount of internal elevation and windage travel in the NX8’s turrets ‑ in the 2.5-20x50 version 110 MOA elevation and 80 MOA windage and slightly less in the 4-32x50. To put that in perspective, the NXS 8-32x56 has only 65 MOA making this scope an ideal long-range target item. The windage adjustment has a dust cap that can be left on or off once wind zero has been set.

Some shooters prefer to aim from a known windage setting and by loosening the windage turret with the supplied key, windage zero can be set then aligned to ‘0’ on the turret. The ZeroStop feature on the elevation turret allows you to return quickly to, and stop at, a pre-set zero and there’s the option of installing the supplied power throw lever to adjust magnification quickly even when wearing gloves.

At the range both scopes performed as expected. Precise tracking was a given as was the return to pre-set elevation and quick, easy-to-adjust parallax and windage settings, the brightness at all settings astounding. On a day of overcast and diminishing daylight, detail of targets at long range was excellent and in heavily-timbered state forest the light gathering attributes were equally impressive, illumination intensity settings enhancing the reticles through the entire magnification range.

Accessories include a Tenebraex flip-up lens caps, instruction manual, power throw lever, tool for internal and external scope adjustments and lens cleaning cloth.

Summary

There’s growing demand for rifles and scopes since the introduction of a number of precision and practical long-range competitions and the SSAA has disciplines where the NX8s are beginning to make a home. Apart from the long-established Practical Rifle Discipline, the more recent Long Range Precision is also where being able to quickly make scope adjustments or use the hold-off or hold-over features of a first focal plane reticle is essential.

Nightforce have managed to put eight-times magnification range into a compact scope and keep the image crisp and bright. The low-end magnification coupled with a 50mm objective gives this scope an incredible field of view and massive light gathering, great for lowlight deer hunting.

According to Jamie Dennis, the Nightforce lifetime warranty naturally covers mechanical defects in materials and workmanship in the optical and mechanical components and they’ll repair or replace if required though their warranty return rate is less than one per cent.

“We have a fix, not replace policy with our warranty as we’re in the business of testing, fixing (if needed) and guaranteeing your riflescope specs out 100 per cent to our standard, not just replacing it with another one which may have a different issue due to less intense quality control, less hearty design or poorer components or manufacturing process,” he said.

Specifications:

 

NX8 2.5-20x50 F1

NX8 4-32x50 F1

Magnification

2.5-20x

4-32x

Focal plane

First

First

Body tube diameter

30mm

30mm

Overall length

12^/305mm

13.4^/340mm

Mounting length

5.44^/138.2mm

5.73^/145.5mm

Weight

28.3oz/802g

28.6oz/811g

Click value

.25 MOA or .1 MRAD

.25 MOA or .1 MRAD

Internal adjustment range

E: 110 MOA/32 MRAD

E: 90 MOA/26.2 MRAD

 

W: 80 MOA/23.3 MRAD

W: 70 MOA/20.4 MRAD

Parallax adjustment

11yds - infinity

11yds - infinity

Eye relief

3.44^/87.4mm

3.40^/86.3mm

Field of view at 100yd/m

2.5x: 41.8ft/13.9m

4x: 26.1ft/8.7m

 

20x: 7ft/2.3m

32x: 4.6ft/1.5m

Exit pupil

2.5x: 7.1mm

4x: 7.3mm

 

20x: 2.5mm

32x: 1.6mm

Recommended retail price

$3173 + $407 for TReMoR

$3499 + $406 for TReMoR

Distributor

Lightforce Australia

 

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