We’ve asked our good friends at Gritr Outdoors, a prominent outdoor gear store, to share tips on choosing a long-range scope. While the post contains universal suggestions, it will be extremely helpful to those who want a Nightforce scope and don’t know where to start.
What is Long Range in Precision Shooting?
Before we dive into the specifics of choosing a long-range riflescope, let’s clarify what we mean by ‘long range’ in precision shooting.
The term ‘long range’ generally depends on the caliber of the firearm. In rimfire precision shooting competitions, for instance, long-range is often defined as distances exceeding 100 yards. But within the centerfire rifle shooting context, long-range means a much longer distance. For example, for intermediate rifle calibers, anything over 300 to 400 yards may be considered long-range. For full-power rifle calibers, long-range stretches to 1,000 yards.
If we take the U.S. most popular precision shooting events, Precision Rifle Series (PRS) competitions have the longest shooting distance at 1,200 yards. Meanwhile, Benchrest shooting events can occur at up to 1,000 yards.
Within interdisciplinary circles, there’s a more standardized definition. For standard rifle full-powered cartridges, such as the .308 Win, ‘long range’ typically refers to targets more than 600 yards away. And anything beyond 1,000 yards is usually classified as ‘extreme long range.’
With this in mind, for the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on shooting at 600-1,000 yards (long-range) and over 1,000 yards (extreme long-range). Now, let’s discuss how to choose a long-range scope.
Long-Range Scope Magnification vs. Distance
Magnification refers to the number of times a target appears closer through the scope compared to what you would see with your naked eye. As a general guideline, many suggest 1x magnification for each 100 yards.
However, the choice is not that straightforward. Let’s talk about the two main types of scopes – fixed power and variable power. Fixed power scopes offer a single magnification level, meaning they can’t zoom in and out but provide a sharper image and come at a more affordable price. A fixed 10x scope could be a viable option for those shooting at distances between 600-800 yards.
On the other hand, variable power scopes offer a range of magnification levels, providing the flexibility to adapt to different shooting distances and situations. For comfortable long-range precision shooting, a variable scope with magnification power ranging from 5-25x or 7-35x is recommended.
Keep in mind that higher magnification means a narrower field of view. For instance, a scope designed for 1,000 yards, like 8-32x, would not be suitable for 100 yards because its FOV would be too limiting to locate targets at close range. This is particularly essential for Practical Precision shooters, who encounter targets of different sizes at varying distances from 100 to 1800 meters and have to hit them from various positions.
For practical precision competitions, a scope like the Nightforce NX8 2.5-20x50mm F1 might be an ideal choice due to a zoom range starting with just 2.5x. For more traditional long-range competitions, consider options like the Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm F1 and SHV 5-20x56mm. The NXS 8-32x56mm or ATACR 7-35x56mm F1 might be a good fit for extreme long-range shooting.
Scope Objective Lens Diameter
The objective lens diameter affects the amount of light that enters the scope, which impacts image clarity and brightness. Larger lenses allow more light, providing a brighter and clearer image. Nightforce scopes come with objective lenses ranging from 24mm to 56mm. For long-range shooting, a larger lens (50-56mm) is typically preferred because it also allows for a larger FOV.
Choosing between Milliradian (MIL) and Minute of Angle (MOA) largely depends on personal preference. MILs often appeal to those comfortable with the metric system but can complicate calculations due to a less direct correlation with inches. MIL reticles are detailed, aiding in ranging and holdovers, but can potentially clutter FOV.
On the other hand, MOA scopes offer finer adjustments, with 1 MOA roughly equating to 1 inch at 100 yards as compared to 1 MIL’s 3.6 inches. However, MOA reticles can sometimes lack the necessary features for ranging or holdovers.
Long-range shooters often prefer MRAD scopes. Nightforce offers a range of MRAD reticles, such as the clear Mil-R and the sophisticated Horus Tremor-3 for swift windage and elevation adjustments. For those more comfortable with MOA, Nightforce provides the MOA-XT reticle, which includes features of an MRAD reticle for precise adjustments.
Scope Adjustment Range
The adjustment range of a scope refers to its ability to correct for bullet drop and windage. A wider adjustment range allows for more precise shooting at longer distances. Nightforce scopes offer ample adjustment ranges, allowing shooters to accurately engage targets at extreme distances. Here are the adjustment range values of the mentioned Nightforce scopes:
- ATACR 4-20x50mm F1 – E: 130 MOA/38 MRAD, W: 100 MOA/29 MRAD, Par: 11 yd–∞
- ATACR 5-25x56mm F1 – E: 120 MOA/35 MRAD, W: 80 MOA/24 MRAD, Par: 45 yd–∞
- ATACR 7-35x56mm F1 – E: 100 MOA/29 MRAD W: 60 MOA/17 MRAD, Par: 11 yd–∞
- NX8 4-32x50mm F1 – E: 90 MOA/26 MRAD, W: 70 MOA/20 MRAD, Par: 11 yd–∞
- NX8 2.5-20x50mm F1 – E: 110 MOA/32 MRAD, W: 80 MOA/23 MRAD, Par: 11 yd–∞
- SHV 5-20x56mm – E: 80 MOA, W: 50 MOA, Par: 25 yd–∞
- NXS 8-32x56mm – E: 100 MOA, W: 60 MOA, Par: 50 yd–∞
- NXS 8-32x56mm – E: 62 MOA, W: 42 MOA, Par: 50 yd–∞
Nightforce scopes also sport special turret features. An exposed elevation turret with a ZeroStop feature allows fast adjustments crucial in long-range shooting, enabling you to easily return to your zero distance. This feature is available in several Nightforce scopes like ATACRs, BEAST, and Competition scopes, and most NXS models.
The Nightforce SHV scopes use the ZeroSet feature for an instant return to zero. Some scopes offer a sub-zero feature for dialing down past your zero for closer-range shots, like the Nightforce ATACR 4-16x42mm F1 with its ZeroHold feature. A locking turret feature prevents unintentional adjustments, maintaining accuracy, while an exposed windage turret facilitates quick adjustments for wind.
Scope Glass Quality
High-quality glass is another key feature of Nightforce scopes. The quality of the glass affects the clarity and sharpness of the image. Nightforce uses ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass in their scopes (for instance, in the Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56mm F1 and Nightforce Competition 15-55x52mm), which reduces chromatic aberration and provides superior image quality.
First Focal Plane vs. Second Focal Plane
When it comes to long-distance shooting, the choice often leans towards first-focal plane (FFP) scopes over second-focal plane (SFP) scopes. The key advantage of FFP scopes lies in their reticle’s ability to adjust its size based on the magnification level.
This unique feature enhances accuracy regarding holdovers and ranging at different distances. However, the choice between FFP and SFP (where the reticle remains the same size) ultimately depends on the specific requirements and preferences of the shooter.
Scope Brand Reputation
Nightforce’s reputation speaks for itself. The brand was contracted by the military to supply scopes for Squad-Variable Powered Scope, Ranging-Variable Power Scope, and Precision-Variable Power Scope contracts, a testament to their reliability and performance.
The ATACR 4-20×50 F1 was selected as R-VPS, while the ATACR 5-25×56 F1 and ATACR 7-35×56 F1 were selected as P-VPS scopes. This level of trust from professionals further cements Nightforce’s position as a leading choice for long-range precision shooting scopes.
Now you know that when choosing a scope for long-range competitions, you need to consider factors such as shooting distance and magnification, objective lens diameter, reticle type, adjustment range, glass quality, and the focal plane.
Equally important is the reputation of the brand you choose. And as you can see, Nightforce offers an impressive array of high-quality riflescopes for precision long-range shooting. So go ahead and explore with confidence!