Nightforce ATACR Scope Review

By Jeff Brozovich

I'll start my review of the new Nightforce ATACR with some first impressions and a little bench testing. Both the windage and elevation turrets have nice firm detents that click positively into place. Spacing of the newer 20 moa high speed turret on the ATACR is closer together but distinct and easy to read. The Nightforce ATACR scope does weigh in heavier than the tried and true NXS at 38oz. I will assume that is from the larger tube and higher quality ED glass. But it does come in a bit shorter, right at 3/4" shorter than a NXS 5.5~22. Eye relief is 3.54" and I found the eye box very easy to get in on full magnification. Field of view is great at 17.96' on 5x and 4.92' on 25x. To give a comparison here, that is larger at both ends than the S&B 5-25 that has 2' less on 25x.

I removed the elevation turret of the Nightforce ATACR scope and set the zerostop to allow me to count the total amount of internal elevation. This scope came up with 133.5 moa. Pretty generous when it is advertised as having 120. That’s cool! Running the turret all the way up and down is smooth with no hard spots. The last few clicks on the ATACR have the same feel as the ones in the middle. Magnification ring rotates firm and smooth as well.

Ok, so let’s get this baby mounted up and ready for the field. I used a set of the light weight NF rings in 1.125 for the job. It came out nicely still allowing installation of the bikini covers. I also installed a rail mounted anti-cant level and checked it to be true. Then off to the plumb line board to true the reticle to the world. The clarity on the Nightforce ATACR at 60 yards was very good. I plumbed the reticle on a piece of chalk line string and it was crisp and clear.

Rifle is a new build by Score High Gunsmithing in .338 EDGE. Barrel is a 29 3/4" Hart 1 in 10 with a Holland brake. Load is 92.5 gr of H-1000, a CCI 250 under a 300 gr. Berger OTM Hybrid seated .065" off the lands. Brass is some of the new EDGE match brass Shawn Carlock is marketing.

I liked what Jeff said about the Nightforce ATACR enough that I decided I'll be using one on my primary rifle this year. I can well utilize the added magnification which is achieved with no loss in field of view, clarity or brightness. We also now sell the Nightforce ATACR in the LRH Store.

--Len Backus, Publisher--​

100 yard sight in on 25x was easy. Reticle subtensions are close to 1" at 100 and allow for easy measuring of corrections needed. Only a few shots and we were on zero. I also shot a 6 moa square known as the "box test" just to see if basic tracking was good. The Nightforce ATACR scope did fine and was well within the accuracy of the rifle ammo and shooter skill. Parallax seems to be running very close to a crisp focus as well. That is nice as I have used plenty of scopes where, to get all the parallax out, you were just to one side of the clearest sight picture. Also, parallax adjustment on the new ATACR is a little higher geared than what we are used to on the NXS, meaning it comes in faster with less dial movement. It surprised me at first but I soon grew comfortable with it and was making fast corrections without even thinking about it.

After the zeroing was done I was off to my range to check the elevation tracking up the board. For this I set up a 4x8 sheet of OSB with a paper running vertical.

I shoot at a point of aim at the bottom for each shot, and crank in 20 more moa for each additional shot. Then I measure from the first bullet hole up to see if the Nightforce ATACR scope is indeed tracking in true moa - or 1.047" per moa dialed in.

Results for the Nightforce ATACR scope were as follows:

Zero to 20 moa up measured 21.125". Perfect would have been 20.9". This is inside the accuracy of the combination of rifle, ammo and shooter skill, so I call it good.

Zero to 40 moa point of impact was at 42.25" perfect would be 41.88" so again we are on.

Zero to 60 moa impact was 63.375". Perfect would be 62.82". Just over 1/2 moa off perfect and I am still happy with this as I will take 1/2 moa accuracy anyday for an average. Only shooting one shot at each dial up is not the best way to do this. But shooting a .338 edge, I will call this a win and save the barrel and components for longer stuff.

Nightforce ATACR Scope Review

Next, I wanted to check the reticle subtensions on 25x for accuracy. For this I made a handy dandy board with all subtensions on exactly 1 moa at 300 yards.

Then from exactly 300 yards, I aligned the reticle with the marks. They lined up perfectly on 25x.

I have heard some statements that some SFP scopes do not carry a true to scale correction when you reduce magnification, so I dialed the power back to the 1/2 way point and checked it there.

The reticle, while on 1/2 power setting, aligned on the nice indicator mark Nightforce gave us, was spot on as well now showing the subtension lines to be correctly spaced at 2 moa. Perfect!

OK, now off to the field to start checking out the new ED glass the Nightforce ATACR scope sports.

First let me apologize for the very weak through-the-scope photos. I do not have the proper equipment and they were taken by me holding my pocket Sony as still as I could. The actual images through the Nightforce ATACR scope were very much clearer and more vivid. But I wanted to try to share what I was seeing to some extent, and give an idea of what this scope will do at long distances as well as close. I used my 300 win and it's NXS 5.5~22x56 for a comparison measuring stick.

Here we go!

First up, some unsuspecting mule deer at 1609 yards.

They are right out here. Not quite a mile from the muzzle.

Again, the poor image quality is not what I saw through the scope. Blame the poor image on me and my cheap camera with no attachment to take through the scope photos. The Nightforce ATACR scope showed more clarity and noticeably more color than the NXS, even when compared at the same 22x. I have never been disappointed in the glass in an NXS, and I won't say the ATACR is tons better in midday light. But it is for sure noticeably more vivid and has higher resolution.

Let’s do some antelope at 363 yards. All these through the scope pics are on 25x.

How about a few elk at 1240 yards. These pics were done midday with some mirage as well.

Since I had located the elk, I wanted to come back as the sun went down to see what happens as the light goes away. Sunset here today was 7:56. I started taking side by side notes at 8:00.

These elk were at 1250 yards.

At 15 minutes after sundown, or with 15 minutes left of legal shooting time in Montana, if it were during hunting season, the Nightforce ATACR scope and its new ED glass started to really pull ahead in my book. I had my wife there, so I asked her opinion of the image we were looking at in both scopes and she stated the Nightforce ATACR is definitely brighter and clearer. Again, I felt at this time I could make the shot with either the NXS or ATACR. But for sure the ATACR would have made it visibly easier.

At 25 minutes after sundown, with only 5 minutes of Montana legal light left, the Nightforce ATACR scope strengthens its lead. It was definitely an advantage for this 1250 yard shot. I doubt I would take this shot with the NXS as the sides of the image were starting to fuzz up and close in. The Nightforce ATACR scope was still clear across the entire field of view and the shot was still an option.

Nightforce ATACR Scope Review

This is probably a good time to talk about illuminated reticles. Hmmm, well, to be quite blunt, I have no use for them. The cool factor is definitely there but even with the intensity adjusted down they brought nothing to this shot. The illumination only helps to reduce the resolution of the target picture. I have heard it said for FFP scopes where the reticle becomes hard to see in dark areas, on lower magnification settings, "Turn on the reticle." Well, all it did here was make things harder to distinguish. I can imagine the tiny reticles that are hard to see becoming a red blur when illuminated. There may be a use for this option in total darkness, but for shots in dim light I see no advantage. It actually hinders the situation.

The MOAR reticle. This is a very appealing reticle that will make many moa shooters very happy. You may have heard me complain before about thicker reticles and have stayed away from this one due to its thickness of .140". Now .140" is twice as thick as the very popular NP-R1, but still thinner than many on the market. The things the MOAR brings to the table I feel outweighs anything lost in thickness, for most shooters. Now, me being an ELR shooter, I will still put my plug in for the MOAR reticle with the floating cross reduced to .062". To me this would be the "cat’s meow" of moa reticles. Thicker lines to direct you to the middle and a very precise aim point that covers little target at those ELR distances.

Next up is the fun stuff!! We are going to stretch her legs! For this I called in another LRH member and seasoned ELR shooter. "MontanaMarine" lives not far away and we often shoot together. So off to one of our regular shooting spots where we can actually see farther than we can shoot. First victim was a 4 moa rock at 1721 yards. 12 degrees up. Dial up was 52.5 moa. Wind was light at 2 to 3 mph 3 oclock. Spin drift and coriolis was included in the dope. First shot landed upper left corner. I made the correction and sent round 2. It landed in the lower right corner of the rock. Came back 1/2 of the correction and landed one a little left of center.

I feel the reason my corrections were overestimated was due to the bullet coming in at a pretty steep angle combined with the angle of the face of the rock. The good news is the Nightforce ATACR made corrections that were consistent and dialed right in. Next up it was Shane's turn. He sent his first one to the rock at 1721 and the windage was perfect but it landed 1 moa high of center. He felt the rear bag gave way to recoil, so he firmed up the bag and sent number 2. This one landed perfect for elevation and 1/2 moa left of center mass. We had just put all 5 hits on a 4 moa rock at close to a mile and once dialed in they were grouping under 1 moa. with two of the 5 under 1/2 moa from point of aim, and this rock was officially dead.

MontanaMarine at the wheel.

Then we moved to the next hill over right. Shane found a rock hiding just to the right of a burned tree. This guy was at 2077 yards and much smaller 1/2 moa x 3/4 moa. So 10" x 15". Once dialed up to 72.75 moa I sent one and it landed about 1/2 moa left and another that landed just off the upper right corner. Then the wind picked up a bit and my next 2 were a good moa off the rock. So we called it good and were pretty happy with the consistency at 2077 yards.

Two good friends burning some ELR powder.

In summary, I can't find much to complain about with the Nightforce ATACR scope. I can wish for that thinner floating reticle, but will be fine with the MOAR until refined, if Nightforce decides to do so. The MOAR is a great reticle for many purposes. My new LRKM in 338 Terminator will be wearing a new ATACR and I am glad to have this option. The new NightForce ATACR is for sure a top choice for any ELR shooter and will complement the 1000 yard hunting rifle very well.

To the crew at Nightforce: Good job, and thank you!

Jeff Brozovich is a long time big game hunter who has become proficient at long range hunting, shooting and training. He also has a passion for ELR and is often stretching the distances well over 2000 yards. If Jeff is not out shooting you will often find him in his reloading room setting up a long range rifle, fine tuning a precision load or testing bullets. Jeff enjoys hunting with family and friends as well as riding horses in the beautiful mountains of Montana.