Nightforce SHV 4-14X56 Riflescope Review

By Nicholas Gebhardt
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The new Nightforce Optics Shooter Hunter Varminter (SHV) riflescope is directly aimed at the shooting, hunting, and varminting market areas as indicated by the name. This optic is loaded with premium features, comes with the famous Nightforce durability as well as warranty, but can be had for less than $1,000.00 for the non-illuminated model. Nightforce is obviously looking to get their products into the hands of shooters that don’t need the price tag associated with their more expensive lines of optics but who desire all of the benefits associated with the Nightforce name.

SHV Overview
This riflescope is built on a one-piece scope body, has a 30mm main tube, a 56mm objective lens, a magnification range of 4-14X, has ¼ MOA click adjustments for both elevation and windage control with a total of 100 MOA of elevation and 70 MOA of windage available. This all comes in a 14.8” long package that weighs either 26.9 ounces for the non-illuminated model or 28.5 ounces with illumination. Two second focal plane reticle choices are currently offered; the excellent MOAR or new IHR reticle.

These specifications spell out a successful package! The 30mm main tube allows Nightforce to provide a generous amount of internal elevation and windage adjustment. Designing the scope with a 56mm objective will surely please the varmint and big game hunting crowd as more available light will be allowed to enter the scope and provide a brighter image during those critical dawn and dusk periods when critters are more likely to be active. The magnification range of 4-14X is perfectly suited to the task as well. The low end of the magnification range is about perfect for those times when a maximum field of view is desired such as hunting in thick timber or still hunting along river bottoms. The high end of magnification is also adequate for long range hunting and shooting, allowing precise holds on the quarry or target. As best as I could measure, the SHV has approximately 4” of eye relief at 14X. For a scope designed to suite a very wide range of end users, this scope has the specifications to deliver on all levels.

SHV Evaluation
The Nightforce SHV was mounted on top of a custom built rifle using Nightforce Ultralight medium height rings. The rifle has a standard target contour barrel from a premium barrel manufacturer and uses a trued up Remington M700 receiver. This particular rifle was selected to test and evaluate this optic as the rifle was built for use as a dedicated coyote rifle and has seen use in precision rifle competitions across the United States. The accuracy of this rifle is superb so my confidence in bullet placement was extremely high, allowing me to concentrate on making sure the scope was working correctly. The purpose of the rifle fit the intended use of the scope as well since the scope is designed to be used in a multitude of roles. This combination of rifle and scope seemed like a perfect unison of intent.
We sell this scope in the LRH Store.
-- Len Backus, Publisher of LRH​
The Nightforce rings were first mounted to the scope base and torqued down to 65 inch pounds. After setting the scope in the lower half of the rings, obtaining the correct eye relief, and ensuring the scope was level with the action of the rifle, the top half of the rings were torqued down to 15 inch pounds. There was an adequate amount of clearance between the heavy contour barrel and the scope objective bell to still fit the nice bikini scope covers to protect the lenses. With the scope mounted all I had to do was wait for the Montana winter weather to provide me with a decent enough day to conduct a thorough evaluation. As luck would have it I didn’t have to wait too terribly long.

Testing and evaluation of the Nightforce SHV came on an early April afternoon when the air temperature was 50 degrees and winds were only about 4 mph from the seven o’clock position. After arriving at the shooting range I quickly bore-sighted the scope on my target at 100 yards and fired the first round. Impact was five minutes of angle (MOA) low and 2.5 MOA to the left. This amount of correction was determined by simply looking through the scope and using the MOAR reticle as a ruler. I dialed on the correction to both the elevation and windage turrets and the second shot impacted just over ½ inch high but centered left and right. Another small correction to the elevation had the third and fourth shots centered nicely over the top on my point of aim. Zeroing the Nightforce SHV was straightforward and extremely simple.

Nightforce SHV 4-14X56 Riflescope at the range.

Nightforce SHV 4-14X56 Riflescope Review - 2

Nightforce SHV 4-14X56 Riflescope Review

By Nicholas Gebhardt
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I decided to attach a suppressor as this is the configuration I use while actually hunting coyotes. There is a small impact shift with the suppressor attached to the rifle but I did not immediately correct for it. My next shot fired was at the expected location: 2 MOA low and 1 MOA to the right. This is exactly where the reticle showed the impact to be. Again, the correction was dialed onto the scope and the next two shots impacted at the point of aim. I was sufficiently pleased with my established zero on this new scope and decided to set the scope turrets to their “0” setting.

Nightforce SHV in the field.

Removing the elevation and windage turrets on the Nightforce SHV is simple. There is a single stainless screw that is located on the top-center of each turret that needs to be removed after which the turret pulls outward and is removed. Forget the antiquated method of tiny allen head set screws around the perimeter of the turret. To reinstall, just line up the “0” mark on the turret with the index line and slide it down. After the turret is reinstalled, screw down the stainless screw while holding the turret in place and everything is finished. This is the most straightforward method of setting the zero on a scope I’ve used in a while and it can’t get much easier.

While establishing the zero on my rifle I found the turrets to track exactly as they should, but these were fairly small corrections. I didn’t have the time for a dedicated “box test” as I would normally prefer to conduct so I instead checked return to zero while at the 100 yard range. I first dialed up 10 MOA and then back to zero and fired one round. Then 20 MOA was dialed on the turret and again straight back to zero for another round. The windage turret came next with one complete revolution to the right and returning to zero for a single round and the process repeated to the left. After returning to zero all rounds were within the accuracy of the rifle which is less than ½ MOA. Return to zero was spot on and no anomalies were present in the group. For a simple elevation check, I added six MOA to the elevation turret and held my point of aim at a target dot near the bottom of the paper and fired one round. Impact of this bullet appeared at the 5.5 MOA point in the reticle. The turret was returned back to zero for another round and this impacted exactly with the point of aim. I repeated this elevation check a second time and that bullet was slightly higher than the first, but still a touch low of the six MOA hash mark in the reticle. These impacts were outside my expectation so I repeated the return to zero and then back up to the six MOA mark on the turret. This third round went exactly as expected.

Nightforce SHV in foreground, NXS behind.

Now that I was satisfied with the adjustments and operation of the scope, I took about 30 minutes to evaluate the optics of the SHV and see how it compared to an older Nightforce NXS 3.5-15X50. Both of these scopes are made in Japan but given the price differential, I expected to see some difference in the optical quality. To my surprise, I couldn’t find any optical difference between the two except for a very slight possibility of a brighter image with the SHV. I say possibility because the sky was partly cloudy so shadows and sunshine kept coming and going sooner than I would have liked. I can’t really say with any confidence there is a difference in the optics between the older NXS and the new SHV.

Optical clarity, image brightness, contrast and resolution were all extremely good. During the 30 minutes spent trying to discern the finer details of these characteristics, I was looking at a distant hillside at about 700 yards that was covered in grass, bushes, dirt, fist sized rocks, and larger rock outcroppings with cracks and fissures providing shadows and texture. I was easily able to distinguish individual stems of dead bushes with a darker background, individual blades of tall grass, distinct rock edges, and lichen on the rock outcroppings. Suffice it to say that the new SHV has the same optical qualities as the renowned NXS series, which is to say it is very good.

The next thing I wanted to check on this scope was how well the reticle worked for taking shots at intermediate range distances. The turrets on the SHV were confirmed at the 100 yard zero setting and then the protective caps were installed. Using the reticle I first engaged a clay pigeon at 685 yards. I held over a tiny bit less than 13 MOA and also held left just less than one MOA. My bullet impacted off the top right edge of the clay pigeon at nearly 700 yards! Had that been a coyote, my bullet would have perforated his chest cavity quite nicely. I don’t give up that easily though so another round was sent down range at a different clay pigeon, which also merely got showered with some surrounding dirt. The impacts were very close to their intended target and I was happy with the reticle providing the correct amount of hold over required for that distance. I continued to engage targets at 300, 450, and about 550 yards using the reticle for elevation correction. This was my first time using the MOAR reticle and I quickly developed an appreciation for it. The reticle is fairly simple but has some very nice features and everything laid out in MOA which marries up nicely with the MOA turrets.

Nightforce MOAR in the SHV scope.

The next testing I conducted was placing the scope on my home freezer for an entire weekend while my family and I were out of town. Upon our return the SHV was removed from the freezer and all controls were checked along with verifying there wasn’t any internal fogging. The magnification adjustment ring remained smooth but was noticeably more difficult to turn. Both the elevation and windage turrets turned with the same feel as before freezing while the parallax adjustment was extremely difficult to turn. Had I been wearing gloves, I doubt I would have been able to move the parallax adjustment after the scope was frozen for three days. The reticle illumination still worked without issue, no fogging was present inside the scope, and the diopter adjustment also turned but with slightly more resistance. Overall, I’m pleased with the freeze test but would like to see the parallax adjustment refined so it doesn’t get froze up as much.

The Nightforce SHV passing the freeze test.

Nightforce SHV 4-14X56 Riflescope Review - 3

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Nightforce SHV Observations and Thoughts
After utilizing the scope for a brief range session, I came away with some good impressions and will offer my thoughts about them. The turrets had an adequate feel for both firmness and positive adjustment. They do have a bit of wiggle back and forth but not so much as to be a nuisance. I found the resistance for making a correction to be heavier than my NXS series scope and every click was very positive with a slight dull audible feedback. Making adjustments to the turrets with heavy winter gloves on was a non-issue as the turrets were quite distinct in feel of each click.

Nightforce SHV elevation and windage turrets

Setting the turret to the zero setting is quite easy and can be accomplished with a coin or flat blade screw driver. The turrets are however on the small side and this presents one complication. While using the turrets to establish my zero at 100 yards I immediately noticed that while making an adjustment, my fingers were covering the numbers so I would have to let go of the turret to verify which click I was currently on, and then proceed to my intended setting. Wearing heavy gloves made the task of adjustment worse with the gloves obscuring the entire turret. The knurling at the top of the turrets was suitable for establishing a positive grasp of it and is just fine with heavy weight gloves on.

One minor detail regarding the turrets is that the turret didn’t exactly line up with the index line behind the turret sleeve. The offset is miniscule, about the thickness of the etched line. When reinstalling the turret sleeve after establishing a zero, the turret slides down over machined teeth which seem to be offset ever so slightly. This is however a small and minor issue as the offset isn’t enough to be confusing as to which click the turret is actually on. The numbering around the turrets is also nicely done and sufficiently large enough that aging eyes will enjoy this attribute.

I appreciate the parallax markings that the SHV has. The distance markings are very closely spaced and were correct while I was conducting the evaluation. Only a little bit of movement of the parallax turret is necessary to make a correction for a change in target distance.

Nightforce SHV parallax and illumination control.

The power adjustment ring was smooth in operation with a decent amount of firmness and the resistance was consistent throughout the entire range of magnification. The numbers are sufficiently large to be easily seem in low light conditions but not so large as to be distasteful. I found the top end of 14X magnification to be adequate for the occasional long range shot on either animals or targets. I was able to quarter a standard size clay pigeon target at 685 yards with the reticle in the SHV and magnification on 14X. I’m certain that taking shots at extended distance would be easily accomplished with this magnification and reticle design. This scope also utilizes a fast-focus eyepiece for focusing the reticle to the user’s eye and it was also smooth throughout the adjustment range. A single indication dot is provided on the eyepiece for a visual reference.

Nightforce’s MOAR was easy to use and provided a clear sight picture for engaging small targets. The line thickness is perfect for both precise shot placement and visibility. My personal preference however would be for the even hash marks to be numbered for the entire lower portion of the reticle. Counting lines for the correct holdover takes extra time that can be detrimental if a shooter is in a hurry. This was my first time using this reticle however, so more familiarization with it might decrease the time needed in making accurate hold-overs.

Regarding the illumination, only the very center portion of the reticle illuminates, so using it in low light conditions and needing hold-over shot corrections could potentially be problematic. As I understand Nightforce’s intent, they didn’t want to illuminate the entire reticle as this affords the possibility of too much illumination washing out the target view. By only illuminating the very center portion where the majority of shots are likely to be taken, the shooter doesn’t have to worry about the target image being flooded with too much light. Several high end optic manufacturers use this same approach and it works well. I would prefer to have the entire reticle illuminated, however, but this wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me if I was looking to purchase this optic. The illumination control is collocated with the parallax adjustment knob and provides 11 intensity settings with an “off” position between each numbered setting, so returning to a favored setting is quite easy to achieve. This configuration of illumination and parallax on the same turret seems to be popular with several brands of optics so it should be familiar with a variety of shooters around the world. The lowest settings aren’t even visible with the unaided eye while the brightest setting is easily visible in bright daylight. Overall execution for location of illumination control, capability to adjust intensity, and quality of reticle illumination is among the best in the industry in an easily affordable package.

Nightforce SHV Summary
I believe that Nightforce has designed and built an exceptional optic with the SHV. This single scope is ideally suited for a variety of purposes and covers all the bases for an all-around scope. Shooters, hunters, and varminters alike will quickly come to favor this single scope above all others, especially if they have a rifle that fills as many purposes as the scope that sits atop it.

Nicholas has been an active hunter primarily pursuing mule deer, antelope, coyotes and prairie dogs since he was old enough to legally hunt. Nicholas is a precision rifle competitor and uses the knowledge he gains from competition shooting to aid in his ethical taking of game in the field under most any condition. He enjoys custom rifles and is usually in some form or another of either planning or building the next one. Nicholas earned his B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana and is a Captain in the Montana National Guard.