Nightforce ATACR 4-16x42 F1 Rifle Scope Review

After rough bore-sighting I was on paper and a few shots later was near the bull with a ½ MOA 3 shot group. Final adjustments for a 100 yard, zero-offset zero yielded the following group. Note all shooting for this review was conducted using a bipod for front rest and bag for rear rest.

Figure 2: 3-shot, 100 yard zero.

Zeroing the windage turret is as simple as loosening a setscrew and indexing the turret. It was now time to set up the ‘ZeroSet’ feature. Instructions in the manual were simple to follow and the turret is relatively easy to setup properly – I was able to do it my first try. My only complaint about the ‘ZeroSet’ is the use of a #0 Phillips head driver once the cap is off. I dislike Phillips head drives of all shapes and sizes and see this as an oversight by Nightforce considering the MIL/LE and general abusive market this scope is tailored towards. It requires an extra tool in the field in addition to the standard hex wrench used (the screwdriver is provided, however). As a person who moves optics around often I can see how the heads could be damaged from multiple resets over time if one were to get carried away and over torque the fasteners. After looking closer at the design, the 4x counter-sunk hex screws are in a relatively thin piece of metal where the required counter bore of a hex-style fastener wasn’t permissible. I’ll give them a pass since I believe this was a design constraint. I feel this is a relatively small complaint and shouldn’t deter someone from running this scope.

Figure 3: Elevation turret removed exposing ‘ZeroSet’ internals.

Once setup, the ‘ZeroSet’ is a very nice feature. You have a hard stop like a traditional zero stop at -2 MILs (or -5 MOA on the MOA version) as well as the lockable zero at your actual zero value. A hunting scenario where having the added ‘down’ adjustment is advantageous would be re-zeroing once you arrive to your hunting destination if you don’t want to reset the ‘ZeroSet’ feature; you could dial down a few clicks if needed (I live near sea level and elk hunt at 8,500 feet, for example). Another scenario would be moving the scope from multiple rifles and needing to adjust down slightly for differing zeros. Again, I feel this type of zero stop provides more flexibility than a traditional hard stop.

Once the scope was zeroed and the turrets adjusted, it was time to do some shooting at extended ranges. I set up a steel target at 500 yds for the first round of fire. Using Shooter app, my dope indicated 2.6 MILS up and 0.4 MILS right. Keep in mind this was my first exposure to a MIL-based scope and my initial reaction was “that’s it – only 2.6?!?” I did some quick math to verify the solution and everything checked out of course. The first three rounds at 16x yielded the below group shown in Figure 4. The red circle is roughly 4 inches in diameter for reference.

I decided to leave my dope alone and dial the scope back to 4x. One of the main complaints I hear on various forums against FFP scopes is the reticle is too ‘thin’ at low power and too ‘thick’ at max power. I found the reticle very usable at 4x with the firing solution dialed (basically holding point of aim at center of target). The subsequent 3 shot group was fired at 500 yds using the optic at 4x zoom (Figure 4, right photo).

Figure 4: 3-shot groups at 500 yds; 16x and 4x respectively.

Conversely, I didn’t find the MIL-R reticle to be overly thick for precision work on 16x either. In my limited experience with the scope, my opinion is that a FFP optic makes a lot of sense in this magnification range. The only time I had an issue with the reticle thickness was during initial sight-in using Caldwell Orange Peel targets due to the black-on-black effect of the target/reticle combination.

2nd range session
My second session started by reconfirming zero and conducting a tall target test to confirm scope tracking. I was hesitant to do this exercise because I know the manufacturer performs a tracking test prior to shipping. However, my background in engineering doesn’t allow me to trust suppliers or manufacturers, so felt it was worth the effort. Figure 5 is a picture of the tall target set at 100 yards; it was setup and the vertical/horizontal lines were made with a carpenter’s level once in place.

I was able to get 12 MIL of elevation and 5 MIL per side of windage (10 MIL total). Firing sequence was as follows:

The results can be seen below; 3-shot groups are circled for clarity. There are three outliers in my exercise that require explaining (designated by red ‘X’). The first two are on the vertical line (12 MIL). My first shot went right, so I stopped to evaluate. After reviewing my setup, my rifle/scope wasn’t properly leveled. For every subsequent shot following my first shot I made sure to confirm my elevation turret was level using the ‘RingTrue’ alignment tool previously mentioned. The second outlier in the vertical direction was either a very hot barrel or user error (possibly both). The final outlier was on the left-hand side of the windage test. Again, I don’t think I allowed enough time to let the barrel cool because once I took a break, things settled in again. Shooting conditions were mid-eighties, so keeping the barrel relatively cool was a challenge.

Figure 5: Tall target test results. 3-shot groups circled for clarity