Nightforce 5-25x56 ATACR-F1 MIL Scope Review

Adjusting the reticle focus was very easy to do and the scope seemed to have a much larger sweet spot than most other scopes I have set up. After adjusting the reticle for my eyes, I firmly torqued the lock ring so that the lock ring, eyepiece, and power zoom ring all moved as one unit when rotated. Having all three pieces locked together allows the user to simply grab the back of the eyepiece and twist it to change the power setting or they can grab a hold of the power ring or optional throw lever in a more conventional manner. Changing the power on the scope felt very smooth and the force required was not enough for me to ever want to install the power throw lever for use in my testing.

After getting the reticle focused I began to play with the illumination feature. The illumination controls on the ATACR F1 are different than most scopes I’ve played with that use rotating wheels to turn them on/off and adjust illumination intensity. Instead, this NF uses DigIllum technology where all illumination settings are controlled by one button on the side of the parallax knob. I must confess this feature of the scope was not intuitive to me and I had to reread the manual to understand how to adjust it to my liking. However, once I learned how the DigIllum worked it was very easy to use. A simple push of the button turns the illuminated reticle on to the last user setting before it was shut off. Pushing and releasing the button quickly will adjust the reticle brightness either higher or lower and the reticle will flash three times when the highest or lowest setting is achieved. Pressing and holding the button for 5 seconds will change the color of the reticle to either red or green. When the user is done with the illumination they can simply press and hold the button for 1-3 seconds and the unit will shut off or it will shut off automatically after 1 hour. While I found no real need to test the illumination during my time with the scope I did look through it at various times during the day and night and it is bright enough to be seen in the day but will not wash the scope out at night even when it’s on its brightest setting. This feature does make the reticle easier to see when on lower magnifications (apparently small reticle since it’s a FFP) and if I was still hunting in the woods I would leave it turned on to its brightest setting.

Lastly I played with the turrets. The elevation turret is much larger in diameter than a standard NXS or ATACR turret. This allows for good spacing between clicks while still allowing 12 Mils per revolution of the turrets. The clicks are mechanically and audibly solid with no noticeable backlash or change in force required to turn them either up or down throughout their range of motions. The windage turret is capped but the cap can be removed and a thread protector can be installed if the user prefers to run exposed turrets all the time. Having the option to cap a windage turret is one feature many users will enjoy since it eliminates the possibility of the turret getting knocked off while being slid in and out of a backpack, scabbard, or while being dragged through various obstacles. The windage turret allows for 6 Mils of adjustment in both the left and right directions but this sample would only allow me to go to 5.7. Total elevation in the vertical turret was exactly as advertised at 35 Mils.


ATACR-F1 (left) vs Original ATACR (right). Note the larger diameter elevation turret.



The F1 (bottom) is longer than its standard ATACR brother (top).


The next day I mounted the scope in some medium NF Ultralite rings on top of my 6.5 Creedmoor and headed to the range to get it sighted in. Within 4 shots I had established a zero at 100 yards and shot a few 5 shot groups to confirm it. Throughout my limited time in that first range session the mirage was very heavy. Despite the thick, boiling mirage the image through the scope appeared to provide good contrast, true color rendition, and excellent resolution. I returned home that evening and set the zero stop and rezeroed the turret to be ready for my next shooting outing.

The following weekend I found myself at my favorite local shooting spot with a few good friends to ring some long range steel. This would be the perfect test to stretch the scope’s legs out as well as give it exposure to various shooters and gather their opinions about the new optic. After entering all the necessary environmental data into Shooter I acquired my shooting solution for the 702 yard plate and dialed it into the elevation turret. Settling behind the rifle, I lightly preloaded the bipod, slowed my breathing, acquired the perfect sight picture, and applied the last few ounces to the trigger. Boom! As the bullet raced forward through the cool mountain air I waited for the familiar ring of a 140 grain Berger hammering steel. Instead, I was given an elevation correction to come up 1.25-1.5 minutes. Doing some rough math in my head I dialed up an extra 0.4 Mils and chambered another round. I once again went through my pre-shot routine and finished the squeeze when the sight picture was solid. This time the elevation looked good but the wind had picked up and required just a little bit more to make a solid hit. I measured the correction needed in the reticle and let another round down range. Boom- ting. Finally!


F1 on its maiden voyage for long range steel



I’d love to say that my first shots at long range with the new scope had been perfect but clearly I had done something wrong based off the additional 0.4 Mils of elevation I needed to make the shot. I ran through my cartridge profile again and verified that all my load information was correct and reentered the environmental conditions and got the same solution I did the first time. At this point I assumed either I had grabbed the wrong loads or somehow my zero had been knocked off. I moved to the next steel plate at 886 yards and dialed up my turret to where Shooter told me to be. Assuming I had a bad zero, I dialed in an extra 0.4 Mils into the turret and let one fly. My elevation on the target was spot on and confirmed my suspicion that somehow I had knocked my zero off. I must confess 5 or 6 shots at this plate yielded no hits as I struggled mightily with the wind. To say I was frustrated with myself and my rifle at this point would be an understatement. Apparently my rifle had forgotten that during review time it’s supposed to be a solid ¼ MOA shooter and never allow me to miss!

Figuring I might as well try my luck with another target I dialed in for 1175 yards, gave it the additional 0.4 Mils for my incorrect zero, and proceeded to hit the target 4 times. Why I struggled so mightily at 886 and seemed to have my way with the 1175 plate is a mystery to me but I was glad to have redeemed myself from my poor performance just moments earlier. I should also note that my incorrect zero is most likely due to user error when setting up the zero stop because I played around with the clutch assembly before loosening its set screws and I probably didn’t dial back the necessary number of clicks to return to zero.


F1 on 6.5 Creedmoor