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Optic of the Week: Nightforce NX8

Nightforce NX8 1-8X Model C598

I love this scope. I highly recommend it off my initial first impressions of it.

But I have to add the caveated that it has a very unforgiving eye box like the NXS 2.5-10X24, or 4x ACOGs. So if you have used the ACOGs or the NXS scopes and like this, this is an awesome. If you are upgrading from a reflex sight or other brand of scope, you may find this one hard to use.

NXS 2.5-10X24 on top. NX8 on the bottom.

The old NXS is considered a small and lightweight scope, the NX8 is shorter.

This 1-8X has massive turrets that make it look larger, but it has the same 30mm tube as the NXS.

Let us talk numbers:
This 1-8X scope is 8.75″ long and 17 oz.
It is available in MOA or MIL. Adjustments are 1/2 MOA or .2 Mil respectively.
Built in, removable, throw lever.
Zero stop and daylight bright reticle illumination
100 minute or 30 mil of adjustment range
3.7 inches of eye relief

I have four NXS 2.5-10X24 scopes. While I love those scopes, I don’t need four so I traded one for a NX8 in mil adjustments. I loose 2x on the top end and finer adjustments, but I get a shorter scope that goes down to 1x and has a daylight bright illumination.

I took one of my other NXS scopes out of a LT139 mount and threw the NX8 in its’ place. I put that on my Colt/PredatAR bastard gun and I love that setup.

1x at illumination 7

I really struggle to get good photos with my Samsung S20+. This photos do not do the scope justice.

8x illumination 7

On my NXS scopes, the magnification adjustment ring is quite stiff to turn. On the NX8 it is easy to quickly move between 1 and 8x with an 180 degree adjustment.

The windage knob is capped, the elevation knob is uncapped. Positive clicks when adjusting made adjustments easy.

Unfortunately while I bought Allen wrenches with me to the range, I didn’t bring the right size to us to zero the knobs. The elevation knob has an adjustable zero stop that can be set by removing the cover and loosing some Allen screws.

I really enjoyed shooting with this optic.

That said, the center dot of the reticle felt huge. I think people attempting to shoot the tightest groups at 100 yards or meters are not going to like it.

That center dot might cover up what you are aiming at.

If I were going to be shooting for groups, I’d dial in a mil adjustment and use the 1 mil hash mark for the point of aim. I might even dial in a 2 mil adjustment just to get the whole circle section of the reticle out of the way.

I’d prefer to dial in a half mil adjustment and use the top of the post, but because the adjustments are a coarse .2 mils, that is not possible.

At higher brightness setting the illumination bleeds across the reticle. I don’t really feel this is an issue because at that point you are using a higher brightness setting than appropriate for the background you are aiming at.

Small and Light
Daylight bright reticle
1x for close distances
8x longer distances
usable at intermediate powers

Large illuminated circle dot at 1x. About 6.75 MOA.
Large center dot in the reticle (about 1.7 MOA on the mil model, 2 on the MOA model)
Coarse adjustments
Tight eyebox

When I see used 1-X power scopes for sale online I expect they are being sold because the buyer expected they could buy this one scope that would be just as good as an Aimpoint up close and just as good as sniper/precision scope at distance.

The early 1-X power scopes I got to try where nice scope but I felt they were not good enough at either role for me to want one. Now, newer models like this NX8 do either job in a passible manner. The limited eye relief and tight eye box of the NX8 is going to make it slower than an Aimpoint, but it is still fast and function. .2 mil adjustments make for about .7 moa clicks. That combined with the 1.7ish moa center dot makes this scope far from ideal for shooting groups at 100 yards.

If you are willing to accept that it is not absolutely perfect for those roles, this is an awesome scope.

I might have to get another one.

Optic of the Week: AN/PSQ-18A M203 Day/Night Sight

I really really wanted to like this but it just sucked so bad.

I mean, it provides a capability that nothing else does, but it is so awkward to use I’d rather live with out it.

Part of the problem with equipment like the AN/PSQ-18A is that when you see one for sale, it is often stolen military property. If you see one with the serial number removed, it probably fell of the truck. Now there are legit units out there, but you still are not likely to get any service from Insight should anything break. A short while back I found a unit for sale that I felt comfortable buying.

The sight comes with a case, manual, and detachable accessory rail.

The AN/PSQ-18A is a day/night sight for the M203 grenade launcher. The night sight being the important aspect as there are very few sights for the M203 that work in darkness.

PSQ-18A mounted on a M4, an Aimpoint Comp M4 mounted on the accessory rail.

This sight slides onto and clamps to the barrel of the M203. This might make it one of the most consistent sights for the M203 as there is a great deal of slop and movement between the barrel and the action on one.

This sight is adjustable from 0-400m in 5 meter increments. It has flip up iron sights with tritium inserts for use at night, and it has an IR laser for aiming with night vision. You can take the accessory rail and mount it on the top of the side of the unit to attach an additional visible laser or day optic.

This optic will let you, in total darkness, aim and fire your M203 out to 400m in 5m increments. That is something special.

But, it is large, heavy, awkward, and a pain in the ass to use.

With out batteries, you can still use the optic day or night with the iron sights. The rear sight has two positions, each with an odd design.

One position of the rear sight is a post with a tiny little notch in it. Far too tiny to put the whole front sight in it. The other is a circle with tabs letting you center the front sight and align it vertically with the tabs.

There is a knob on the front bottom of the unit to adjust the range. If the unit is off or unpowered, there is a scale on the side next to the M203 so you can manually see the range.

Yeah, I can’t read it either.

When you power it on, then is when the cool features become available.

It takes a single AA battery that installs in the front bottom.

Then you can use the selector to turn it on and select which features you want to use.

Note there is a lockout for high power, so you can disable high power when training.

When turned to day mode, there is an LCD at the back that shows what range the unit is set at. The LCD will flash if the firearm is canted. There is also a green light near the front of the unit that blinks to show if it is canted.

A 25mb video becomes a 125mb gif. I cropped it to 31mb just so you wouldn’t have to hit play on a video.

Note how both the green light and the black bar on the LED screen flash when the M203 is canted. If you are using the IR aiming laser, the laser will flash while the unit is canted.

On the right side of the barrel, in the perfect position to hit with a thumb if you are left handed, or your support hand trigger finger if you are right handed is a button to activate the IR laser.

There is a version of this device made for the M320 launcher. It is similar but instead of clamping to the barrel it attaches to a side rail (left side of a weapon). I am told that to use the IR laser on that model you much use a tape switch.

So, this thing seems awesome. The ability to precisely aim your indirect fire weapon day or night with passive or active aiming, what is there not to like.

First, it is bulky, really bulky.

Then, because it is mounted to the barrel, it is really low on the weapon. While you can use it for 0-300m, I was not able to shoulder my weapon and find a way to look though the irons, or an attached optic in any sort of reasonable fashion. Ergonomics were terrible. Now once it was set between 300-400m. That it when I was finally able to use it well. To be fair, that is also past the range the most commonly used sight, the leaf sight, goes out too.

When I took this out to the range to use it, I was going to fire a couple rounds at 50m for fun and to get the feel of it. I could not aim down the sights on the PSQ at 50m. I realized this just was not going to work for me. I feel this sight is only really useful at night or in the 300-400m distance.

My biggest complaint is the adjustment. Having to turn a dial is slow. Going from 100m to 350m zero setting is slow. Even worse, it doesn’t always acknowledge that you made a click. I could make a click adjustment unit would not recognize the adjustment.

I tried to show the issue in this video. Sometimes when I make a single click, it would not recognize the adjustment. Or sometimes when I might make multiple clicks, it would show an adjustment less than what was done.

Now if you are using a M203 at night, with night vision, this would be an excellent tool. But past that, it was just so awkward to use I didn’t even bother trying to shoot with it. I went ahead and sold it off.

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.

Leupold Alumina covers for the Freedom RDS

Guest post by Brent Sauer
Note from Howard: I’ve used some of these scope caps on other Leupold optics and I absolutely love them. Unfortunately I am too poor and cheap to buy them for all of my Leupold scopes.

Leupold Alumina
Flip-Back Lens Covers (59040 & 59055)
Anti-Reflection Device (ARD 62875)
For The Leupold ‘Black Ring’ Freedom RDS

This article is a follow-up to my previous review of the new Leupold ‘Black Ring’ Freedom Red Dot sight that can be found here: http://looserounds.com/2020/05/11/review-leupold-freedom-black-ring-rds-1x-w-mount/

When I buy new firearm related items, I am a company’s dream customer. I say this because if I am buying an item (in this case the Leupold Freedom RDS) and there are accessories for that item, I usually buy those products also. This was true when I purchased the Leupold Black Ring Freedom RDS.

As a long time Leupold customer, I know that they typically market flip-up covers for the eyepiece and the objective lens of their optics. Some optics also have anti-reflection devices, or ARDS as they are commonly called, that are intended to reduce glare and external light reflection on the lens.  So, a couple of days after I bought the Leupold Freedom RDS, I went back to www.leupold.com and began looking at what accessories were available for the Freedom RDS. I was not disappointed.

I discovered that Leupold makes it easy for you to identify if your optic has available accessories or not with the publication of their 7-page Scope Accessory Fit Chart which can be found at this link: https://cdnp.leupold.com/products/productDownloads/scope-accessory-chart.pdf?mtime=20200413063132

The chart image above shows the accessory information for the Freedom RDS. It indicates that the eyepiece uses product #59040 for the objective lens, product #59055 for the eyepiece and product #62875 for the Anti-Reflective Device. I was surprised to see that Leupold does not currently have a neoprene scope cover available.

Product #’s 59040 (objective lens cover) and 59055 (eyepiece lens cover) come packaged in clear, plastic sealed blister package.

Packaging for product #59055 (eyepiece lens cover)

Packaging for product #59040 (objective lens cover)

The downside to the sealed blister packages is that you have to cut open the packaging to get the product out. Unless done in a careful, systematic way, you will not be able to reuse the packaging to store the lens covers if you decide you want to take them off of the RDS for some reason.

Product #62875 Anti-Reflection Device comes in clear plastic clamshell packaging that can be opened and closed. This makes storing the ARD a quick and simple event.

Lets take a look at the lens covers now. The eyepiece lens cover is one assembly that consists of the hinged eyepiece frame and cap, a rotating threaded insert and an adhesive label for notating range data. Built into the eyepiece frame is a spring-loaded release for the cap.

The photo below shows a close-up of two of the neodymium magnets that secure the eyepiece cap when closed and the cap release lever. Notice the rough edges of the tightening ring that help you grasp the ring.

The next image shows the threaded ring that screws into the eyepiece body and the back side of the cap release.

This image shows the eyepiece lens cover installed and open. Note the two neodymium magnets on the lens cover and the two magnets on the installed cap ring just below it. The cap ring is adjustable to any position around the circumference of the eyepiece body so that you can have the cap swing open in your preferred direction.

Next we will look at the objective lense cover.

In the next image you see the reverse of the objective lens cover. You can see the threaded ring that screws into the objective end of the RDS body.

Here we see the objective lens cover installed and open. Note the two (one on each side) neodymium magnets that secure the lens cover when closed. The objective lens cover can be installed with the hinge of the cover anywhere around the circumference of the objective body for your preferred opening position.

Here are some final shots of the Leupold ‘Black Ring’ Freedom RDS with the eyepiece and objective lens covers installed.

Last but not least, we will look at the Alumina Tactical Anti-Reflection Device (ARD). Although this product is in Leupold branded packaging it is manufactured by Tenebraex of Canada. The ARD is the same design and concept that we have been used to seeing on variable optics, ACOG’s and Aimpoints. The ARD is constructed of the same composite material with same honeycomb features for reducing lense glare without losing resolution of view.

In this view of the front of the ARD, you can see the honeycomb detail.

Here we see the backside of the ARD with the threads visible that screw into the objective end of the RDS body. The grey colored printing on the side is:

Leupold 36mm

Alumina Tactical ARD

Anti-Reflection Device


Here are a few images of the ARD installed. When the ARD is installed, the required number of turns to adequately tighten it in place has the printing on the side of the ARD upside down. Obviously not an issue for functionality.

Final thoughts…I always feel like a set of protective caps for an optic is a must have. Protecting my investment in an optic is important to me and Leupolds products are first-class and I don’t mind spending the little bit of extra. I like the simplicity and functionality of the Alumina caps. Being able to rotate your hinge/opening direction anywhere around the circumference of the eyepiece and objective end of the RDS is big plus. I will have to get it on the range and see what positions are functional for my shooting style.

Although the lens caps will get used almost all of the time, the ARD will probably see very little use, if any. Its functionality typically isn’t necessary for casual range visits but, as I stated previously, it was an accessory for the Leupold ‘Black Ring’ Freedom RDS so I had to buy it.

I hope reading this provided you some useful information to influence your buying decisions.

A mathematical nightmare, classic sniper scope adjustments

I’ve found that most people I talk to don’t like doing math.

So let us imagine the nightmare scenario where you had to quickly convert from System International (AKA Godless Commie Metric) to Imperial (Freedom) units on the fly.

Convert 3.22 cm to inches. 1.65 cm to inches. 4.33 cm to inches. Etc.

Now imagine your life and others relying on your ability to do this math quickly.

If you practiced it, you could get quick and efficient at doing it. BUT, very few of us are practiced at this. I know I’m not. Don’t feed bad, NASA and Lockheed Martin lost a $327 million dollar Mars space probe due to mistake in which units of measure it was using.

I’m a big fan of the Nightforce NXS 2.5-10X24 scopes. I have a few of them. I just recently picked up a rarer “RECON NAV-SPEC” marked scope.

I would much prefer the scope mounted farther forward in a cantilevered mount. But I’ll have to make due with these rings for now.

I’ve written about these NXS scopes before so I’ll omit most of the details. They are a compact, lightweight, extremely durable scope. Major downsides are that they are second focal plane, unforgiving eye box, and have poor performance in low light. They are an older design that has been discontinued. The new NXS 1-8X scope has far better illumination and is slightly smaller. Also you can tend to find a used 1-8X for cheaper than a used 2.5-10X, so it would probably be the better choice to buy.

Still I bought this one. Why? Because it is a rarer mil-spec model.

Each Nightforce scope undergoes harsh testing that would break some lesser scopes. The military contract scopes get additional testing on top of that. Thus there are some “NAV-SPEC” and “ARMY-SPEC” scopes floating around out there. These tend to command a premium among collectors and I’ve seen them sell in a $2500+ range. I wouldn’t pay that, and I paid about the same amount as I paid for a brand new commercial unit (back when they were available) with a set of rings (this scope came with a set of nightforce lower height rings I’m not using). While this unit has been used hard, I’m very happy with it for what I paid.

The Army spec scopes have 1 MOA elevation knob adjustments, and 1/2 MOA windage adjustments. The Nav-Spec models have 1/4 MOA elevation and windage adjustments.

These older NXS scopes have illumination, they are not “daylight” bright.

Until relatively recently, it was common for a “sniper” scope to have a mildot reticle and MOA adjustments. While the Metric system technically uses minutes of angle for angular measurements, having a scope with this setup has the adjustment clicks and the reticle in two different forms of measurements.

How that ever become standard I have no idea. I wonder why people didn’t just use reticles with MOA hash marks. Nightforce has a nice reticle with 2 MOA hash marks. So it would be 8 clicks between reticle subtensions.

But no, this is a mildot with 1/4 MOA adjustments. One mil is about 3.4 MOA. So somewhere between 13 and 14 clicks of adjustment per mildot.

I put this scope on this rifle and go to zero it in. Starting at 25 meters I am impacting about 3.5 mils high and about 1.6 mils right from my desired point of impact for a 100 yard zero.

Well shit. How many MOA is that?

Um. . . about 3.4 MOA per MIL, so 3.5 mils high is about 3.4+3.4+3.4+ one half of 3.4. Eh. . About 12 MOA. 12 MOA means I need 4 clicks per MOA so 36 clicks down.

1.6 mils is. . fuck it, I’ll go downrange with a ruler and measure it on the target in inches.

There is a reason US military sniper carried calculators.

Ok, maybe I’m exaggerating. It isn’t really that hard if you think about it. But that seems to be the problem. I talk to so many shooters who just don’t want to have to think. I understand wanting something simple, but I want gun owners to be people who conscientious and thoughtful about the actions they are performing.

My first scope like this was a Super Sniper fixed 10X. That was a great, cheap, and mid-sized scope. I sometimes kind of miss it, and have considered picking up another. Back then, they had a web site where you could practice measuring a target using the mildot reticle, finding the distance. Sending off a shot and then, if necessary, making an adjustment to make the hit. I spent a lot of time playing with that trying to get fast and proficient with mil-ing targets. I tried to see if I could find that site but it doesn’t seem to be around any more. I think SWFA scrubbed it when they rebranded the Super Sniper line to SS.

I’ve had people tell me that the mil dot reticle was only meant to be used in range estimation. Well, you could range estimate with a MOA reticle. Others told me that it was intended that once you sighted in, you would only hold over with the reticle and not touch the turrets. For one, the military used scopes with this configuration at ranges beyond what you could have held over in the reticle. Another argument against this would be why are the turrets be exposed? If that were the case that only hold overs were to be used they would have ordered the capped turret option. Set it and forget it. You see some of the newer military scopes have capped Windage knobs for this reason. Windage would be held over instead of adjusted in combat.

Simply put, not that long ago it was expected that the professional sniper could would work with a mildot reticle and MOA turrets. That was just considered normal.

Since then we have moved from second focal plane scopes to first focal plane scopes. These new FFP scopes allow the reticle markings to be correct no matter what magnification the scope is set at. We switched to mil adjustments with the mil reticles. Now many of the newer scopes are forgoing the mil reticles for reticles that show drop charts and windages holds. We are trying to make things work faster and smoother. But still it takes practice and proficiency with this equipment to be effective with it.