Nightforce 5-25x56 ATACR-F1 MIL Scope Review

During the morning several shooters got to look through the optic and fire some rounds down range. One shooter in particular found it annoyingly difficult to get comfortable behind the optic until the rear Tenebraex cover was removed. Once he had that out of the way he proceeded to plaster the 702 yard plate with 5 consecutive hits. Another good shooting buddy got behind the rifle and dealt with a tricky wind and wasn’t rewarded with quite so many hits but seemed to enjoy the scope, other than it was Mil based instead of MOA. Overall, those that got behind the scope seemed to approve of its ergonomics and features and felt it provided good image quality. A note on image quality: That morning we were shooting in fairly high glare conditions and none of us felt particularly blown away by the NF for the price point compared to the sub $1k Sightron SIII we were also using.

After successful hits on long range steel I decided to conduct a tall turret test and see how the scope would track throughout 10 Mils of elevation change and 2.5 Mils of windage change. For this test I swapped the scope over to my heavy barrel 204 Ruger. This rifle had proven itself very accurate and the low recoil makes shooting very pleasant. The day I had available to shoot the tall turret test was blustery to say the least; targets were being ripped off their backers and one of the shooters actually had his whole target stand blown over. Due to the high winds I moved my test to 50 yards and verified that I could get the scope parallax free at this range before I started shooting. After confirming the scope was indeed parallax free I set up my tall turret target and verified it was vertical using a 3 foot carpenter’s level. I had pre-marked lines at 2.5, 5, and 10 Mils and once back to the shooting bench I confirmed that the subtensions in the scope lined up with my marks, which they did.

I started with a three shot group which landed perfectly on the elevation mark for 0 and was just slightly off center to the left of the vertical line I had drawn. I then dialed up 2.5 Mils and shot a three shot group followed by three shot groups at 10 and 5 Mils. All of these groups lined up perfectly next to their corresponding vertical lines and were just slightly left of the vertical line proving the scope was tracking perfectly throughout the 10 Mils I tested. To finish the test I fired two three shot groups by dialing from 0 up to 5 Mils and left 2.5 Mils and returning to zero in both windage and elevation between each shot and then repeated for the right side. Both of these last groups were at exactly 5 Mils in elevation and 2.5 Mils off center in their respective directions.

One anomaly I observed during my tall turret test was the need to adjust the parallax again about halfway through the test. The parallax knob had not moved but parallax was apparent on target and required an adjustment to eliminate it. Further confusion ensued when I took the scope back over to the 100 yard range to compare it to a Steiner T5Xi and noticed the focus knob had now become difficult to operate; it seemed to move smoothly for ¼ turn before having a noticeable increase in the force required to move the knob.

I called NF customer service and explained to them that the scope had been fine for weeks and all of a sudden had this problem pop up. They said it sounded like my rings might be pinching down on the internals of the scope and causing the resistance I was feeling. While it didn’t make sense that the problem wasn’t there from the moment I had mounted the scope, they recommended I remount it with the front ring further away from the turret housing. Following their advice I moved the front ring further forward and the parallax knob once again functioned properly.

After thinking on this problem for a few days I’ve wondered if the problem only became noticeable once I had adjusted the parallax knob to around 50 yards which may have moved the internals to a point where the rings finally caused some binding. Regardless of why the problem with the binding parallax knob occurred, it was a simple fix with no need to send the scope in for warranty work.

While my initial feelings towards the scope were that it was good but not excellent, after spending a few more weekends behind this scope I can confidently say I’m in love. After my first two shooting sessions I wasn’t sure if it was optically as good as I had hoped but once I took out the heavy mirage (1st day at range) and the terrible glare (1st shots at long range steel) this scope just continued to impress. In low light settings the light it gathers and the colors it portrays are truly excellent. While I didn’t have an opportunity to compare it against the likes of a Schmidt and Bender or a Premier it was noticeably better than my Sightrons and ran circles around the Steiner T5Xi. I also compared it to my Meopta S2 Spotting scope and felt the image it produced wasn’t lacking compared to the spotter. Considering the excellent reviews the S2 spotter receives the optics on the F1 are definitely nice!


View from the shooter

While I was initially worried about the reticle being too small to use while hunting on low magnifications I no longer have this fear. The wide, thick portions of the reticle that are barely visible on high powers converge into the center on low powers and would allow me to shoot a big game animal with ease. If you turn the illumination on, the fine portion of the reticle can now be easily seen on its brightest setting and would provide a more precise aiming point for those who might struggle with centering up the target between the three thick posts. I actually grew to love this reticle during the course of the review and especially liked the fine 0.1 Mil grid offered in the lower right quadrant of the scope. I should also note that many people who oppose FFP complain the reticle is too thick at max magnification but I found this one to be very useable and never felt it obstructed my view. However, if I felt I was going to do the majority of my shooting under 10x magnification I would consider another optic, but if it will only be used at low magnifications from time to time I would not feel handicapped at all by having this scope with me in the field.

After reviewing this scope I think a quote from Ferris Bueller best describes my feelings towards this optic. “Plus, and I must be honest here, I love driving it, it is so choice, if you have the means I highly recommend picking one up.” While designed more with the tactical crowd in mind, this scope would be equally at home on a long range hunting gun and if you have the available funds I would say you owe it to yourself to check one out.