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Optic of the week: Nightforce ATACR 1-8X24 F1

Nightforce introduced two 1-8X scopes at the same time. A NXS 1-8X and the ATACR 1-8X. I recall looking over the specs on each and wondering why someone would pick the larger and heavier ATACR over the NXS. I really wanted one of the NXS 1-8X scopes, and I still do. I’m a big fan of the NXS 2.5-10X24 scopes and the NXS 1-8 is slightly smaller, and includes newer nicer reticles, first focal plane, and daylight bright illumination.


That said, not that long ago I was trying to sell a gun wasn’t using and I was offered an ATACR 1-8X24 in trade. I took the guy up on the deal. I figured if I didn’t like the scope, it is still easier to sell a scope than a gun.

Note that the scope comes with excellent Tenebraex flip covers. I am only using the cover on the objective lense.

After throwing the scope in a Larue mount I had laying around, I felt it was a little big and heavy for a 5.56 rifle. Not excessively so. The scope by it self is actually lighter than a Elcan Specter DR. Often when I dislike a scopes weight, I go and compare it to the Elcan and tend to find the scope I am complaining about is lighter. Now once you include a mount, this scope and mount would be about a quarter pound heavier than an Elcan Specter DR, but this scope is a 1-8X unlike the 1-4X Elcan. At 21 oz, I feel this a little big for a light and handy gun.

Playing around a bit, I tried throwing this scope on top of a .308 AR. That just felt right to me. It balanced well and felt like it fit me and the gun perfectly.

At 1X the ATACR has a reticle with thick side and bottom bars. Looks almost like a German #4 reticle. This lets you use the scope for fast work up close when the illumination is off.

Once you turn on the illumination, at 1X it starts to feel like an Aimpoint.

I have yet to use a 1X-whatever power scope that truly feels Aimpoint fast at 1X. But these newer scopes are getting closer to it. The 1X on the ACTAR still feels a little bit like looking though a bubble at 1X. The flattest feeling scope I have used at 1X is still the Leupold MK6. But the illumination on the MK6 1-6X was rather unforgiving of head position. The ACTAR is far superior there.

As you increase the magnification, you get to use the “FC-DM” reticle which is a mil based Horus like Christmas tree of dots.

There is a 4 segmented larger circle that is 2 mils in diameter. This gives about a 6.75 MOA illuminated center dot when you are running the scope like an reflex sight. There is a center .35 mil dot which is about 1.2 MOA.

If you crank up the brightness while magnified, you will see other parts of the reticle exhibit some stray illumination. The brightness knob has an off setting between each brightness setting you can can easily turn it off or back on to your preferred brightness. This knob is easy enough to turn that I have a little concern it would turn on in my range bag and drain the batteries.

Nightforce doesn’t list battery life on their website, which usually means very poor battery life. The manual says 29 hours at maximum brightness. That is rather pathetic.

Adjustments are made with the excellent capped .1 mil turrets. Nightforce includes thread protectors should you want to run the turrets exposed. I fired 2 rounds at 25 yards and found I was impacting 2 mils right and 1.5 low from my desired point of impact. Nice, easy, numbers I quickly measured using the reticle. I dialed in the adjustments and moved out to 100 yards. I found I was impacting right where I wanted to be.

When shooting at 100 yards, I found that center 1.2 MOA-ish dot felt huge. If I were doing any sort of pure precision work at 100 yards, I’d make an elevation adjustment and use a different part of the reticle for aiming. That large dot was covering up the 3/4 MOA dot I was aiming at and also covered up my impacts.

I think I see so many of these 1-X power scopes for sale barely used because people by them thinking that they will be getting a scope that will be Aimpoint fast at 1X, and work as a sniper scope at 8X only to find out that the scope will end up sucking at one or the other function. More likely terrible at both.

With the ATACR it feels pretty nice at 1X, but it makes the center of the reticle far from ideal for any sort of precision work at 8X.

The reticle markings on this scope have a grid of dots reaching down to 10 mils. I estimate that amount of hold over would get my 308 rifle out to about 825 yards. The ammo I am using would be going sub-sonic at about 875 yards. I figure this scope could handle the practical range of the rifle with just hold overs at max magnification.

I like this scope but I’m not sure if I would recommend it. It is rather pricy, and there are other lighter and cheaper options. 1-10X scopes are on the market, and and improving all the time.

Still I like this one more than I expected. I think I’ll keep it around until I find something better.

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