What a difference! If you’ve been following our Tactical Long Range Precision build – Grandpa’s Gun Reborn – you know we’ve selected the Nightforce 3.5-15×50 NXS with MOAR reticle and Zero Stop as the optic of choice. Why? Well, it was originally designed for military small arms, just the kind of thing Special Hog Weapons and Tactics™ types generally prefer to hunt with. We needed an optic that was equal to the rest of the build in quality and support. We connected with Nightforce at SHOT Show 2013, and they were just as excited as you and I about the opportunity and they fit the criteria.
Like a lot of us, I’ve admired Nightforce optics for long time, yet this was my first hands-on use. It’s a day and night difference from the scope Grandpa’s Gun came with, definitely scoring a slot on our Top Ten Tactical Hog Hunting Optics list. The Remington 700 was originally topped with an old off-brand 3-9 power scope. You know the type–it worked okay in ideal situations allowing hits on large gongs out to 200 yards. It was not fast, bright, contrasty, nor particularly sharp, etc. It needed a new home on a .22.
Adding the NXS was the second step in turning Grandpa’s gun into a long range precision rifle. Working with King’s Arsenal, we installed both the Timney trigger and scope in the same hour. The result was amazing. We had an entirely different rifle at that point. The Timney was perfect, and looking through the NXS was like getting a new eyeglasses prescription – it’s shocking to realize what you’ve been missing.
My high expectations for this scope were riveted when the box hit my hands. Put yourself in my shoes for a moment – new scope arrived in a very cool box. What would you do? Open it, run your hands down the length of it, taking note of the super crisp white markings contrasting with the flawless matte black finish and the generous sunshade that came included and attached. Now, grab the elevation knob and turn. The true 1/4 MOA adjustments are heavy, smooth, precise. The knurled high speed turret provides a positive sure grip wet or dry to a bare or gloved hand. The parallax/focus adjustment is silky smooth and heavy. I wish it had some rough indication of real yardage on it. The “Made in Japan” marking is – wait a minute, made in Japan?
Nightforce delivers some optics labeled “Made in the USA” and some labeled “Made in Japan”. While all Nightforce scopes have their final assembly and testing to standards at their factory in Orofino, Idaho, the location where the optical core was made determines the label. And high end Japanese optics are good to go. Seriously, have you checked the sideline at an NFL, NCAA or NASCAR event? You’ve seen dozens of Japanese lenses used to record world class images. Moving on…
You look through the NXS out the window. You grin. Yes, clarity is awesome, check. Yes, it’s bright, but really at 2:00 in the afternoon, it should be. We’ll see later how well it transmits light when it matters.
Scanning different points from 100 to 500 yards at 15 power, it hit me – this thing is a lot faster to get on target than I expected! This is no accident. The MOAR reticle was designed to be fast. Virtually everything in the reticle is built around Minute of Angle (MOA) increments. The center crosshair is 2×2 MOA and floats independently from the rest of the horizontal and vertical subtensions (the lines and hash marks that make up the rest of what is often called “crosshairs”). It’s really surprising what a difference that “floating” feature makes. The large posts at 3, 6 and 9 o’clock naturally drive your eye to crosshair.
The reticle markings give you precise measurements for accuracy, but also are intended for range finding. Since this NXS 3.5-15×50 is part of our tactical long range precision rifle rebuild, range finding is important. It will be useful in target shooting, long range tactical hog hunting, and hunting anything else worthy of this kit.
Range finding with the MOAR reticle is fairly simple. You just need to know the size of your target in inches, divide by the MOA it occupies in your reticle, then multiply by 100. The answer is how many yards it is to your target. If you already own a Nightforce scope and wish you had this reticle, you can send it to the factory to get that changed out.
Since feral hogs, deer, moose, etc. come in different sizes, this can be tricky to address. The tip here is to get your bearing on a fence line, a power line, a stand of trees, the width of a dirt road – anything where you are confident of its height or width. Use that as a benchmark for your range finding needs on your hunt.
Once you’re on your target, you need to be able to see the subtends and floating crosshair to make an effective shot. Nightforce provides red illumination of the subtends with a simple solid pull of the parallax correction turret. The brightness is fixed, not readily variable. The user can preset the brightness level as desired. On the two hunts I’ve been on with this scope, I found the factory setting too bright for the fading light. On the bright side, the scope transmitted enough light to kill two hogs on the second hunt after the sun had already set. This was a huge plus, significantly extending my time window to get accurate shots without night vision.
A quick search of the internet will turn up plenty of information – and misinformation – about focal planes and reticles. The real question to ask is, “Why do I care?” I’ve had the chance to use similar first and second focal plane reticle optics side by side and to draw upon the expertise of Tod Litt, MIL-GOV-LE Business Development Manager at Nightforce. Here’s the short answer: First focal plane reticles appear to zoom in or out as you change magnification. Second focal plane reticles stay the same size regardless of the magnification.
At low power, first focal plane crosshairs can look like tiny fish bones in the scope, making them hard to use. The upside is that if range finding is important, the first focal plane reticle is always an accurate yard stick, where the second focal plane reticle is accurate only at one specified magnification.
For our purposes, the second focal plane works quite nicely. Ranging is accurate only when running the scope at 15x, but that makes sense when hunting wild hogs at range. You’re probably not trying to shoot them at 3.5x anyway. More importantly, the second focal plane reticle is fast to use in a hunting environment because the reticle stays the same – easy to see – all the time regardless of the magnification level.
When we first mounted the NXS to Grandpa’s Remington 700 .30-06, the factory stock was still in use. We used the Nightforce Direct Mount with its built-in 20 MOA taper and zeroed at 100 yards. While you’ll have to wait a month for the next installment of this tactical rebuild story, I can tell you that we’ve already dropped the Remington factory stock and replaced it with the Cadex Defense Strike Dual chassis. This required remounting the scope in a Nightforce Ultralite MagMount. The MagMount has zero MOA taper, a perfect match to the Cadex Chassis which utilizes a 20 MOA rail for mounting optics.
Utilizing the high speed windage and elevation turrets, zeroing was a piece of cake – Get on paper, dial the exact correction (up six MOA, left four MOA), center punch. Tracking on appears to be perfect. That long range class at Tac Pro Shooting Center is going to rock… Our NXS has the ZeroStop feature, so once we confirmed zero, we set the clutch to prevent dialing past that point when returning to zero.
In both zeroing cases and in my second hunt, we stabilized the rifle with Alamo Four Star hardware, either their DCLW Tripod or a modified Harris bipod with the DLOC quick disconnect mount. Ammo was the always impressive DRT in .30-06.
DRT has been both accurate and lethal in my experience. I, on the other hand, missed a hog on the first hunt with my Nighforce. Shot right over its back, shooting downhill from a box blind. Dang it. I’m not a fan of sitting in an elevated box, so next time out I went prone in my A-TACS camo on top of a short barren hill. With fading light I dropped the first hog, and within another fifteen minutes I had another. Both were less than a hundred and fifty yards off, and both dropped like I’d switched off their batteries. No exit wounds, as DRT is designed to spend all its energy in the animal.
My Nightforce has changed the shooting and hunting experience dramatically. Mounted to our long range rebuild, I can see far better, see in much less light, correct quickly and confidently. No wonder the military likes using these. Given the Nightforce seventy point quality inspection of every scope, it’s no surprise that their warranty return rate is next to zero. Want to upgrade your gun, your hunting and shooting experience? Get yourself an NXS.
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