Nightforce ATACR 4-16x42 F1 Rifle Scope Review

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    Nightforce ATACR 4-16x42 F1 Rifle Scope Review

    By Brady Walter

    When Len sent me the tracking info for the new Nightforce ATACR 4-16x42, naturally I was pretty excited to get my hands on it. Reviewing this optic would include a few ‘firsts’ for me: first experience with a 34mm main tube, first extended amount of time using a front focal plane scope, and probably most importantly, first time using MIL/MIL turret/reticle configuration. Before getting any further, here are the specs directly from the Nightforce website for reference.

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    Initial Unboxing, Impressions, and Opinions
    Initially handling the scope, two words come to mind: short and stout. The heft, or rather density, of the scope caught me off guard. Three physical attributes triggered this: 34mm main tube, large diameter turrets and lastly, it is a relatively heavy scope with respect to objective diameter and length. None of these should be considered negative, but I feel they are worth mentioning.

    Next, I checked the controls and mechanical features of the scope. Zooming from 4x to 16x was smooth and firm and the entire ocular end of the scope rotates when changing power settings. The parallax knob felt a little light when rotating, but seemed to hold well once stopped. I believe the FFP ATACR’s are the first products where Nightforce labeled the parallax knob with specific range values. The MIL scopes are listed in meters and the MOA scopes are listed in yards. Parallax has many variables and these should be used for reference only. The ‘DigIllum’ illumination button is housed in the parallax knob and is distinguishable by the gold color. This type of illumination isn’t new to Nightforce products as it has been used on previous BEAST and NXS compact scopes. It is simple to interface and you can toggle between different intensity settings and colors (red, green) by actuating the button. The general consensus is the ‘DigIllum’ is superior to the rheostat or analog version used on larger NXS scopes and provides a very clean/sharp reticle illumination.

    The elevation turret is exposed and has the new ‘ZeroSet’ feature as opposed to ‘ZeroStop’. As the name implies, this is basically a zero stop with lockable button that engages when dialing to zero. Once engaged, the button must be pushed to unlock the turret to dial up or down. The stop will lock from either direction, allowing the user to dial down 2 MIL or 5 MOA depending on model. As an example, on my rifle with a zero MOA rail, I had 14 MIL up and 2 MIL down once the ZeroSet was properly set up. This is a nice feature and I prefer it to a traditional zero stop; more on that later. While exercising the elevation turret, I was a little disappointed to find a very noticeable ‘tight spot’ when dialing. It was 2-3MIL wide and took a little more effort to dial through this area on the turret. I know Nightforce has a 100% inspection rate and all scopes are function-checked prior to leaving, so I can only assume the friction was within tolerance. It is noteworthy the resistance in this 2-3 MIL band did decrease the more I used the scope and is hardly distinguishable anymore.

    The windage turret is well thought out and comes capped from the factory. If you prefer to run the scope with an exposed windage turret, Nightforce provides a beauty ring that covers the exposed cap threads. As you would expect, the turret is waterproof with the cap removed. Both windage and elevation graduations feel precise with audible feedback with no slop when cogged. When compared to each other they did feel different, however, neither of which were bad. Turret ‘feel’ is highly subjective, so I will leave it at that.

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    Figure 1: Elevation turret (Left) and windage turret (right). Note the beauty ring is installed in the photo.


    Finally, I should mention the high quality Tenebraex covers that are included with the scope. The objective cover is installed by threading into the bell and it flips/locks up like most other covers on the market. The ocular cover is a bit more complex since the entire scope eyepiece rotates when zooming. This cover fits over the ocular bell and is tightened with a small hex fastener. Once secure, the lid portion of the cover can rotate independently of the ocular lenses in both the open and closed position.

    1st Range Session
    Naturally, I chose my most accurate and consistent rifle for the task of reviewing the ATACR. It is a bone-stock Savage LRP chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, and has served me well. Shooting 140 gr. Berger hunting VLD’s over H4350 yields ½ to ¼ MOA performance that has been verified at distance. The scope was mounted in 34mm Nightforce medium rings and properly torqued to spec with a Wheeler Engineering Fat Wrench. Bore centerline and reticle were aligned using the ‘RingTrue’ reticle alignment tool from HIGHPOWER optics. If you are not familiar with the product, it is a simple and effective way to mount a scope plumb with the bore centerline.

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