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Orofino, ID, U.S. – (January 16, 2020) Today, Nightforce Optics released a new product, the Wedge Prism. This new product was created with extreme long range (ELR) shooters in mind. Many of these shooters find that riflescopes lack the necessary elevation travel. The Wedge Prism is a clip-on accessory that mounts to a forward or continuous MIL-STD 1913 Picatinny rail to increase the effective elevation travel. It optically shifts the incoming image to the riflescope by a precise elevation value, which directly adds to the available elevation travel within any riflescope.

“As shooters continue to push the boundaries of what is possible for target distances, riflescopes are limited in overall adjustment for providing accurate fire,” said Alan Stilwell, Commercial Sales Manager. “Our Wedge Prism works with any riflescope to provide additional aiming offset, allowing successful and repeatable target engagements beyond what a riflescope could do with internal adjustment alone.”

The Wedge Prism provides a repeatable offset of the optical image, yet minimizes the loss of image quality, resolution and clarity. Available as a 50 MOA/14.5 MRAD or 100 MOA/29.1 MRAD variant, the shooter can choose an individual unit or combine models to tailor the amount of additional offset needed to reach their target. The quick-detach lever allows for rapid and repeatable installation and removal in the field, and by attaching to a rail prevents additional stresses on the riflescope.

“With this simple tool, a shooter can easily do the math to configure their rifle to hit their target,” Stilwell added. “For example, if my .416 Barrett requires 124 MOA of drop at 3,000 yards, but my scope will only dial up 90 MOA from zero, adding a 50 MOA Wedge Prism offsets the required dialing and only needs to be dialed up 74 MOA to reach the target and use the center aiming point of the reticle. This same principle works for .22 LRs past 300 yards, subsonic .300 Blackouts at 400 yards or when pushing any other cartridge beyond their normal limits.”

The Wedge Prism is available at $990 USD MSRP, and includes a MOLLE padded carrying case, flip-up lens cap and lens cleaning cloth. The first units will be available in February 2020. For more information on Nightforce Optics and the Wedge Prism, please visit

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About Nightforce

As a leading manufacturer and marketer of premium sport optics and related products including riflescopes, spotting scopes and accessories, Nightforce builds the most rugged, reliable, and repeatable optics available. We are known for exceptional products, each built with painstaking craftsmanship. Every riflescope is crafted with such fanatical attention to detail, it is expected to hold up to the most punishing conditions, and last generations. The legendary Nightforce quality testing involves impact tests and follow up inspections that ensure the riflescope is ready to perform to customer expectations and more.

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Orofino, ID, U.S. – (December 19, 2019) Late last year, the Nightforce Optics MIL-SPEC ATACR™ 1-8×24 F1 was chosen as the First Focal Plane selection for the Squad-Variable Power Scope component of the family of USSOCOM Miniature Aiming System-Day (MAS-D) Optics. The Squad Variable Power Scope is designed to be integrated into current and future anticipated weapons that the US Special Operations Command employ.

Part of a life cycle replacement program for the SOPMOD Block II optic, the Nightforce MIL-SPEC ATACR 1-8x brings a new capability to the warfighter; a constant variable power scope. Unlike previous systems that were 4x only – or, in later variants, selectable between 1x and 4x – the MIL-SPEC ATACR 1-8x provides constant variable power selection between 1x and 8x. 

“The Nightforce MIL-SPEC ATACR 1-8×24 F1 is an over-engineered, military-grade scope built with the military’s extreme endurance in mind,” said Nightforce’s MIL-GOV-LE Business Development Manager, Tod Litt. “It offers numerous mission-critical features including a large eyebox for rapid engagement, a Power Throw Lever for rapid magnification adjustments and the shortest length in their class to maximize rail space. The fully, multi-coated ED glass in the ATACR results in superb light transmission, brilliant image rendering and exceptional color contrast for accuracy in virtually any condition the Warfighter may find themselves in.” 

Full Rate Production of the new optic has commenced at the Nightforce factory and will continue over the next few years. After the order is fulfilled, the optic is to augment the venerable M4A1 and similar small arms systems throughout USSOCOM. The integration of a 1-8x optic truly capitalizes on the necessities for today’s dynamic battlespace that can find the operator engaging at longer distances or clearing a building, oftentimes during the same mission. 

“It’s very humbling and prideful to all of us here at Nightforce Optics to know that we are providing product that see’s front-line action in defense of life, limb and freedom for all Americans,” said Litt. “Every member of the Nightforce Optics’ team is emotionally vested to ensure we make a product that will perform at its best when the conditions of war are at their worst. We consider the cost of failure in everything we do.”

While this specific optic is produced exclusively for the USSOCOM, the Nightforce Optics ATACR 1-8x24mm F1 (C597) is its commercially available version, allowing the use of the same unsurpassed optical quality and advanced daylight illumination technology that was selected for service. 

For more information on Nightforce Optics, please visit, or email Glenn Lass, MIL-GOV-LE Program Manager at

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About Nightforce 

As a leading manufacturer and marketer of premium sport optics and related products including riflescopes, spotting scopes and accessories, Nightforce builds the most rugged, reliable, and repeatable optics available. We are known for exceptional products, each built with painstaking craftsmanship. Every riflescope is crafted with such fanatical attention to detail, it is expected to hold up to the most punishing conditions, and last generations. The legendary Nightforce quality testing involves impact tests and follow up inspections that ensure the riflescope is ready to perform to customer expectations and more.

Contact: Glenn Lass

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Orofino, ID—(December 16, 2019) Two variants of the Nightforce Optics ATACR product line have been selected by United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to fill the Precision – Variable Power Scope component of the Miniature Aiming Systems – Day Optic (MAS-D) Program. The MIL-SPEC ATACR™ 5-25×56 F1 and the MIL-SPEC ATACR™ 7-35×56 F1 will be integrated as the Standard and the Long Range solutions for US Special Operations Command’s current and future anticipated Sniper Weapon Systems.

As part of a life cycle replacement program and capabilities enhancement, the Nightforce MIL-SPEC ATACR 5-25 and 7-35 are designed to provide improved target detection and acquisition, as well as hit probability, for engagements out to 1500m and beyond.

“The selection of both ATACR models brings continuity to a community that, until recently, have been using a variety of aging systems, all with slightly varying controls and reticle designs”, said Nightforce’s MIL-GOV-LE Business Development Manager, Tod Litt.

The Nightforce MIL-SPEC ATACR 5-25 and 7-35 offer unparalleled performance in extended range target detection and reliable mechanical adjustment. Both optics feature Nightforce’s exceptional ED glass, 0.1 Mil-Radian adjustment value for both windage and elevation, the Horus Vision TREMOR3 reticle, and a tan, hardcoat anodized finish. Provided as a system for the program, the selected optics also utilize a purpose-built Nightforce scope mount and laser range finder integration platform. When employed as a complete solution, the SOF Snipers ability to detect, range, and receive a firing solution is greatly accelerated.

The new optics are to augment multiple systems in the SOCOM inventory and will coincide with the release and fielding of the Mk22 Sniper System, based on the proven Barrett MRAD platform.

For more information on Nightforce Optics, please visit, or email Glenn Lass, MILGOV-LE Program Manager at

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About Nightforce

As a leading manufacturer and marketer of premium sport optics and related products including riflescopes, spotting scopes and accessories, Nightforce builds the most rugged, reliable, and repeatable optics available. We are known for exceptional products, each built with painstaking craftsmanship. Every riflescope is crafted with such fanatical attention to detail, it is expected to hold up to the most punishing conditions, and last generations. The legendary Nightforce quality testing involves impact tests and follow up inspections that ensure the riflescope is ready to perform to customer expectations and more.

Contact: Glenn Lass

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Nightforce Optics Adds to the ATACR Series

“We originally designed the Nightforce ATACR first focal plane riflescopes for our military customers,” said Nightforce Director of Sales and Marketing, Gordon Myers. “They remain the foundation for our MilSpec riflescopes to this day. ATACR optics are well-received by long range shooters, because we combine battle-proven ruggedness with high quality optics and functionality. Our new ATACR 1-8×24 F1 incorporates all the advantages of the ATACR family in one of the most compact and adaptable 1-8 power optics available in the marketplace today,” he added.

“The new ATACR 8 power characterizes the Nightforce theme of ‘Rugged, Reliable, Repeatable™”, said Alan Stilwell, North America Sales Manager. “At dusk, dawn, or mid-day; whether you’re shooting close-quarters or long-range distances, the versatile ATACR 1-8×24 F1 delivers a superior field of view and is exceptionally precise. This riflescope’s bomb-proof reliability, extremely low-profile adjustments, and this model’s intelligent FC-DM® reticle, is robust enough to partner up with any designated marksman or competitor.”

Measuring a mere 10 inches in length and weighing 21 ounces, the ATACR 1-8×24 F1 is rich with standard mission-critical features including a daylight-visible, center red dot for rapid engagements, and multi-coated ED glass that furnishes superb light transmission, brilliant images, and exceptional color contrast. The 8x zoom helps locate, identify, and engage targets at maximum effective ranges. While the low-profile, true .1 Mil-Radian adjustments are capped to prevent accidental adjustment.

“We united legendary Nightforce toughness with precision-engineered components and high-tech expertise, resulting in the most technologically advanced optic

Nightforce has ever offered,” according to Stilwell. “The new ATACR 1-8×24 F1 is mechanically unrivaled to withstand a lifetime of harsh recoil so that years from now, your scope will be as precise as the day it was new,” he said.


Focal plane: First
Objective outer diameter: 34 mm
Field of view @100 yards/100 meters 1x: 11.26 mm | 96.1 ft | 29.3 m
Field of view @100 yards/100 meters 8x: 3.19 mm | 13.1 ft | 4 m
Eye relief: 3.74″ | 95 mm
Internal adjustment range (Mil): e: 30 | w: 30
Click value: .1 MIL-RADIAN
Parallax adjustment: Fixed at 125 m
Tube diameter: 1.34″/34 mm
Eyepiece outer diameter: 46 mm
Overall length (in/mm): 10.08/256
Weight (oz/g): 21/595
Mounting length (in/mm): 5.67/144
PTL (Power Throw Lever): Standard
Reticles available: FC-DM™
Illumination: Daylight visible, externally adjustable
Elevation feature: Capped, finger-adjustable
Covers: Tenebraex® included
MSRP: $2,800

The new Nightforce ATACR 1-8×24 F1, and the entire line of Nightforce premium optics and accessories will be on display at SHOT Show 2018 in Las Vegas, NV. Please visit Nightforce in booth # 20449.

For further information on Nightforce Optics, please visit, or email Marketing at

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Nightforce Optics NX8 Family of Riflescopes

The first riflescope unveiled in the NX8 family is the new NX8 1-8×24 F1 optic. Specifically designed for short -to medium-range shooting, the compact NX8 1-8×24 F1 riflescope delivers trusted Nightforce performance to virtually any rifle platform, and boasts true 1x capability.

“Constructing such a small riflescope to surpass the performance of most larger scopes entails a solid commitment to innovation and optical technology,” said Nightforce Director of Sales and Marketing, Gordon Myers.

“The compact NX8 1-8×24 F1 has true 1x magnification and a daylight visible reticle with multiple brightness settings, it is versatile enough to use at close ranges, plus, has extraordinary capability at far reaching distances” stated North America Sales Manager, Alan Stilwell. “The NX8 1-8×24 F1 conserves valuable real estate on your rifle at only 8.75 inches in length, and weighs just 17 ounces,” Stilwell added. “Put it on your competition rifle for 3-gun, or use it for a variety of shooting disciplines; the NX8 1-8×24 F1 is also robust enough for professional use.”

As targets increase in distance, the intelligent FC-MIL™ or FC-MOA™ first focal plane reticle options provide precise hold points. For those preferring to dial for long shots, the turrets feature Nightforce ZeroStop® elevation-adjustable technology with windage limiter, allowing for a rapid return to absolute zero regardless of any previous elevation adjustments. Adjustments are a true .2 Mil-Radian or .50 MOA. And, to aid in fast magnification adjustments, the Power Throw Lever (PTL) is included.

On display at SHOT Show 2018, in Las Vegas, NV, the compact and lightweight Nightforce NX8 1-8×24 F1 adds flexibility to your shooting options with fast target acquisition at a variety of distances. Please visit us in booth #20449.


  • Focal plane: First
  • Objective outer diameter: 30 mm
  • Exit pupil diameter: 1x: 7.9 mm | 8x: 3 mm
  • Field of view @ 100 yards/100 meters: 1x: 106 ft. | 1x: 32 m
  • Eye relief: 3.75″ | 95.3 mm
  • Internal adjustment range for MOA: e: 100 | w: 100
  • Internal adjustment range for MIL-RADIAN: e: 30 | w: 30
  • Click value: .5 MOA | .2 MIL-RADIAN
  • Parallax adjustment: Fixed at 125 m
  • Tube diameter: 1.18″/30 mm
  • Eyepiece outer diameter: 40 mm
  • Overall length (in/mm): 8.75/222
  • Weight (oz/g): 17/482
  • Mounting length (in/mm): 5.7/144
  • PTL (Power Throw Lever): Standard
  • Reticles available: FC-MOA™/FC-MIL™
  • Illumination: Daylight visible, externally adjustable
  • Elevation Feature: ZeroStop®
  • MSRP: $1,750

For information on the new Nightforce NX8 1-8×24 F1 riflescope, click here.

For further information on Nightforce Optics, please visi, or email Strategic Marketing Manager, Fred Karl at

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest for social media updates.

About Nightforce
As a leading manufacturer and marketer of premium sport optics and related products including riflescopes, spotting scopes and accessories, Nightforce builds the most rugged, reliable, and repeatable optics available. We are known for exceptional products, each built with painstaking craftsmanship. Every riflescope is crafted with such fanatical attention to detail, it is expected to hold up to the most punishing conditions, and last generations. The legendary Nightforce quality testing involves impact tests and follow up inspections that ensure the riflescope is ready to perform to customer expectations and more.

Based in Orofino, Idaho, Nightforce has established an industry benchmark for the highest performing products. Nightforce optics have accompanied elite soldiers into battle, world champion shooters to the winner’s podium, and helped hunters take the trophy of a lifetime.

Media Contact:
Phone: 208.476.9814
Email address:

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Nightforce Tech Tip: Dialing or Holding for Bullet Drop

In the accompanying video, we will be demonstrating each of the methods using our Nightforce B.E.A.S.T. 5-25×56 F1 first focal plane riflescope which includes the Horus H59 reticle.  We are engaging a target at 420 yard which requires 2.2 mils of elevation adjustment for our rifle system. 


The first method is to dial your elevation adjustment. In our example, we engage a 420 yard target using 2.2 mils (mil-radians) of elevation adjustment. The shooter will dial 2.2 mils on their elevation adjustment, and hold the center of the cross hair on the center of the target. 


Alternatively, the shooter can dial their elevation adjustment to zero, and hold the 2.2 mils within the reticle.  This “hold over” will place the center of the crosshair above the target.  The 2.2 mil indication point within the reticle will be used to hold center on the target. 

Both methods perform the same function, adjusting for bullet drop, equally well but use different methods and have their own advantages.  

Holding for elevation adjustments can allow the shooter to engage a single target very quickly without having to take the time to dial the necessary elevation adjustment.  Holding over can also be a way to rapidly engage multiple targets or for taking a quick follow up shot after a miss. For example, by creating a list of elevation adjustments for each target to be engaged (dope chart), the shooter can quickly glance at the adjustment and hold over the appropriate amount within the reticle.  For a quick follow up shot after a miss, the shooter can measure the distance of the miss by utilizing the information within the reticle and can make a corresponding hold adjustment. 

In certain situations, dialing is a preferred method for making elevation adjustments.  One example is the reticle design within the riflescope and another example is when making precise wind holds.

Not all reticles are designed for this purpose and may not offer as much information within them to allow the shooter to precisely hold over for elevation (or wind) adjustments.  For example, our IHRTM reticle is an excellent hunting and dangerous game reticle and does offer hold over reference points. However, by design it has a very clean, unobstructed view yet contains less “intelligence’ or information within it versus the H59 reticle referenced in this article or other Nightforce intelligent reticles such as the MOARTM or Mil-RTM.  Therefore, dialing may be a preferred method of making precise elevation adjustments when using this style of reticle.

When holding for wind, especially at extended distances, dialing the elevation adjustment may be a preferred method.  By dialing the necessary elevation, the shooter can keep the target along the main horizontal stadia line, and hold off for the necessary wind adjustment by using the information in an intelligent reticle. 

Look for a future article which will dive deeper into fully utilizing the information within an intelligent reticle.

Turrets View all types of turrets with explanations on how to use them.

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Beyond the Glass

At most of the annual hunting and shooting shows attended by high-end manufacturers exhibiting their wares, there is a phenomenon known as “the whistler.” This refers to the old boy that wanders up to a booth, inspects one of the products on display, and inquires, “How much is one ‘o them things?”

When given the answer, his eyes widen, he purses his lips and emits a long whistle, or perhaps a “hoooooeeee,” quickly puts down the item he was admiring as if it suddenly began burning his fingers, and stealthily backs away into the crowd as if he were confronted by a rabid dog.

Whistlers are especially common these days at riflescope displays, as the cost of premium optics is reaching well into four figures. You can’t blame the old boy for a bit of sticker shock. After all, the scope company just down the aisle is offering the greatest riflescope ever invented for $129.95, fresh off the boat from China and made with the finest multicoated Coke bottle lenses. Just buy one of those, their advertising claims, and you will instantly become an accomplished sniper capable of drilling a fly at 1000 yards.

We’ve all whistled a bit, I’ll wager, when looking at the prices of top-end riflescopes. $1000, $2000, even $3000 or more is not unusual at all these days for premium optics. The problem is, from the outside, every riflescope looks about the same…a black tube with a couple of dials attached, with some glass at each end. What makes one scope require a second mortgage, while another can be purchased with little more than pocket change? Is there really that much of a difference?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is more involved. For just like a bottle of Scotch, a computer, a fine watch, or even a human being, with riflescopes, it’s what’s inside that counts.

Certainly, the quality of the glass inside a riflescope is a major consideration. That, though, is a topic unto itself for another day. About the last thing anyone thinks about when investing in a riflescope is the hardware store of little pieces and parts inside that black tube. The truth of the matter is that those tiny screws, springs and funny-looking components are what determine if your riflescope will perform for a lifetime or two, or self-destruct at the worst possible time.

Not long ago, I had the privilege of touring the Nightforce Optics, Inc. manufacturing facility in Orofino, Idaho. I thought I knew a lot about riflescopes. I was wrong. We spent an entire afternoon going through one of their NXS riflescopes, piece by piece, comparing it to competitors’ products. I’ll never look at, or through, a riflescope in the same way again.

A modern variable-power riflescope can have over 100 individual components. The inherent quality of those parts, the precision with which they are machined, and the care with which they are assembled are the primary reasons why a really good scope carries a whistler’s price tag…and why that price is justified.

Rifles and riflescopes are not a marriage made in heaven. The tremendous recoil produced by big bore and magnum calibers is transferred directly to the scope. Your shoulder can testify to the shock they produce. Precision optical instruments require microscopic tolerances, absolutely perfect alignment and delicate components. It is not unlike strapping an impeccably made Swiss watch to a hammer and repeatedly pounding 10-penny nails. Something has to give, and it’s not going to be the hammer.

The only way that marriage is going to survive is if the riflescope is built with the best possible materials, and the best is not cheap. For example, you might have heard the term “repeatability” applied to elevation and windage adjustments. What this means is that if your riflescope is calibrated for ¼ inch adjustments, you want to be certain that one click is precisely ¼ inch the day you take it out of the box and ten years from now. You need to be confident that no matter how many elevation adjustments you’ve made over the years, that it is repeatable—exactly ¼ inch every time—whether it’s below freezing or brutally hot, after thousands of shots, after years of hard use. It also means that your shots must be repeatable…no surprises, no variation in point of impact today, tomorrow, or a decade from now.

This is not something easily accomplished by the scope maker. Metal fatigue, wear and recoil will, over time, cause the elevation and windage adjustments in an average riflescope to become sloppy. That ¼ inch becomes 3/8 inch, then a half inch, then even worse, until making an adjustment becomes a new and different experience every time. That same wear will also cause your rifle to easily stray from zero at the least provocation, with no advance notice.

Elevation and windage adjustments are essentially internal screws that move the scope’s erector tube (containing the reticle) up and down and side to side within the scope. This system is held in place, and constant pressure maintained, by two metal leaf springs. The Nightforce people showed me the type of spring common to average-quality riflescopes; it is a simple, thin piece of steel, costing a few pennies.

Then they showed me the springs used in some of their riflescopes. They are pure titanium, cut precisely to length. It spends a couple of weeks in a polishing tumbler before going into a scope, even though it already seems perfectly smooth. This spring costs several dollars. Why go to this trouble and expense? Because titanium, they explained, is the only known metal that can be compressed and held in place for years without developing fatigue or “memory.” It is virtually impervious to wear. It is tumbled to assure that there are no rough spots or burrs to interfere with perfectly smooth operation. It ensures no loss of integrity, and absolute repeatability.

The screws themselves that control the elevation adjustments in Nightforce riflescopes are made of a proprietary alloy, also resistant to wear. The threads are cut with sophisticated CNC machinery to tolerances so fine, so precise, that male and female components must be assembled by hand. No machine is sufficiently accurate. It would be much less expensive to machine coarser threads and assemble everything by automation, as is the case with many riflescopes. But, the price the customer pays is lack of repeatability out of the box, and increased susceptibility to wear.

Soft metals that wear are less costly. Hard metals that don’t are expensive. Even the tiny screws that hold a riflescope’s internal components together are critical in the longevity and reliability of your scope. Inexpensive screws with coarse threads work loose and fall victim to repeated recoil. Hearing something rattling in your riflescope is generally not a good sign.

Scope manufacturers and their ad agencies love to sing the praises of the lenses used in their products. Without a doubt, the quality of the glass and its coatings are major contributors to the resolution and clarity you see through a scope. What you don’t hear, though, is about the corners that are often cut in how a manufacturer assembles those lenses.

Just about all riflescope tubes are now made of aluminum. Aluminum and glass react to heat and cold differently, expanding and contracting at different rates. The easy, and inexpensive, way to assemble a riflescope is to simply glue the lenses to the aluminum tube. When such a scope is subjected to extremes of temperature, however, and glass and aluminum go their separate ways, it will easily throw the lenses out of alignment. If you wear glasses, and tilt them forward or backward, you have seen firsthand what this misalignment does to image quality. Changes in expansion rates can also affect your point of impact. In extreme cases, it can affect the seal between glass and tube, allowing moisture to enter, and even result in a broken lens.

So, I asked the Nightforce people, how do you avoid that? Their answer was that Nightforce lenses are bedded by hand, using a proprietary bonding agent between glass and tube that eliminates any direct glass-to-metal contact. The two materials can merrily expand and contract to their heart’s content without affecting each other in the least. Again, it’s not the cheap way. It is, though, the right way.

In recent years, the hunter has placed increasing emphasis on lightweight gear, from his boots to his pack. Riflescopes have not avoided these market trends. It is one reason the steel tube has all but vanished, replaced by aluminum. But, all aluminum is not created equal. While aluminum tubes are certainly lighter than steel, they are not as resistant to dents, damage and stresses. Inexpensive riflescopes use thin aluminum, allowing their makers to brag about how light they are. Saving a few ounces in aluminum will result in a less costly scope. The hunter will pay a huge price, though, the first time they accidentally drop their rifle.

“Unfortunately,” a Nightforce engineer told me, “the customer can’t determine the thickness or the quality of the aluminum used when they’re shopping for a scope. The only time they’ll discover it is when they bang their scope against a rock or a tree, and the scope—and their hunt—are both finished.”

Nightforce explained that they prefer to use 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum alloy, machined from solid bar stock, two to three times the thickness of inexpensive tubes. Lesser scopes use extruded or formed aluminum, at a substantial savings in cost—and in strength—compared to bar stock. “It’s possible to build an extremely lightweight riflescope,” the Nightforce technicians told me. “It’s also possible to build an extremely high quality riflescope. It is not physically possible to do both.”

Even mundane things like the quality of lubricants used affect the weatherproofing, smooth operation and longevity of a riflescope. Cheap lubricants can literally freeze in bitter cold, ending any hope of making elevation or magnification adjustments. In extreme heat, they can melt away like butter in a hot pan, putting metal against metal while contaminating internal elements.

During my visit at Nightforce, we literally analyzed every single component of their riflescopes. I was shocked at the cost differential between things like cheap O-rings and good ones, alloys versus cast metals, and skilled handwork versus mass production. I think I even whistled a couple of times. I came away with one basic conclusion: a really good riflescope isn’t cheap to build. Some consumers think there must be a huge profit margin built into a $2000 riflescope, and that simply isn’t true. They’re expensive to buy because they’re expensive to make.

I was once told by a brilliant individual in South Africa, who had long ago forgotten more about hunting and shooting than I will ever know, that “only a rich man can afford a cheap riflescope.”

He was right. It is much less expensive to buy a good product once than to replace an inferior product many times over. It is beyond my means to pay for “the hunt of a lifetime” more than once in my lifetime because my riflescope caused me to miss a chance at a trophy.

Regardless of advertising claims, there are at present only three or four manufacturers in the world at committed to building the best possible riflescope, regardless of cost. Are they worth it? Probably more than in any other facet of hunting and shooting, with optics, you get what you pay for. Even if most of what you’re paying for, you can’t see.

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2015 Utah Mule Deer Hunt

There, I was greeted by my guide Tanner Puegnet of Western Lands Outfitters, and Paul the Gunwerks cameraman. The Ensign Ranch is a privately owned ranch comprised of 200,000 acres that spans across Northeastern Utah as well as into Wyoming. Known for 200 + inch trophy mule deer, my expectations ran high wondering what the week of hunting would hold.  After getting settled into camp, our group headed down to the range to become familiar with the Carbon LR-1000 Gunwerks rifle chambered in 6.5×284 that we would be using for this hunt. The rifle, topped with an NXS 5.5-22×50 G7 riflescope, was a true example of the high quality reputation Gunwerks is known for.

Two quick practice shots at 600 yards and we were ready to start glassing. This was a great opportunity to test out the ED Glass equipped TS-80 spotting scope. The weather conditions were turning overcast, spitting snow and rain, but the spotter made easy work picking apart the dark canyons. After checking out several vantage points only to find up-and-comer bucks, we decided to switch gears and move to a an area where the guide had spotted a wide management buck in the weeks prior to my arrival. To our surprise, we were able to locate the buck less than 100 yards from the area he had been spotted in just recently. With darkness quickly closing in, we glassed the canyon for vantage points and formulated a game plan for the morning to come.

Day two started with a first class early breakfast. Before daylight, we were perched on a high vantage point hoping that the buck would be in the area. As light began stretching over the mountain tops, we were on the TS-80 and scanning the mountain faces for the previous day’s buck. The light transmission capability of the TS-80 was as good as anything I had ever tried before. Long before the naked eye could make out the surroundings, the superb ED Glass of the TS-80 was picking the canyon apart. After 30 minutes of glassing, Tanner announced to the group that he had spotted the buck and as luck would have it, less than 100 yards from where we put him to bed. A quick discussion of a game plan, and we were off, hurrying up a distant pass hoping to get into position before the buck followed his small group of does over the skyline.

As we crept over the top of the pass to get into position, Tanner relayed a yardage and dope correction from his G7 Br-2 Rangefinder. 873 yards was the distance to the buck. I dialed the correction into the ZeroStop elevation turret and settled in for the shot. The buck had other plans as he beaded down on the hillside. While his vitals were clearly exposed I quickly learned some of the frustrations when attempting to capture film to be aired on a television network. No bedded shots. So at that point it was a waiting game. The buck clearly wasn’t ready for a nap, keeping a close eye on his nearby does, thrashing his head back and forth and shifting positions in his bed. I pulled myself out of the shooting position, hoping to briefly rest my head and neck, when I heard Tanner tell me the buck was attempting to stand up. By the time my eye made it back into the scope I saw the buck had risen to his feet and was standing perfectly broadside. As I settled the G7 reticle on his vitals my long range training checklist began rolling through my mind.  Check the position of my body behind the rifle to ensure my body was as flat as possible, legs in line with the rifle, ankles down. From there I made sure my reticle was level, parallax adjusted properly and my magnification on max power. I reassured my elevation call and asked for the wind. With a steady, but light right to left wind, Tanner called out a 1 MOA hold. Finding 1 MOA in the reticle came easily, and I settled in for the shot. Once I was able to draw a bead, I slowly squeezed the trigger. As the round went off, the buck never budged as I watched the bullet impact just slightly high over the buck’s back. It was a clean miss. The buck was so focused on his does, that the shot never spooked him.  He quickly got on the trail of the does and followed them over the skyline. After the miss we made a move to try and get a spot on the buck. From a new vantage point we searched high and low for the group of deer. After 20 minutes or so we caught a glimpse of the buck making his way into a heavily wooded canyon.

With no clear stalk opportunities, we decided to head back to lodge for lunch to get a new plan for the afternoon. On the ride back to lodge, I kept replaying this miss in my head. What went wrong? I felt rock solid on the shot but obviously I left something out on my mental checklist. Just for reassurance we made a quick stop at the range. A painted piece of steel at 900 yards is where I chose to reboost my confidence. Two shots found me tracking high just missing the top of the plate. Then a light bulb went off. In the mix of setting up for an 873 yard shot on a giant 30” buck, I failed to load my bipod. Without that extra pressure into the stock to load up the bi pod, I was creating an inconsistency from how the rifle was designed to be used; in turn causing the report to print high.  

With my confidence now back we headed out to the same canyon where we last spotted the buck. It was early in the afternoon but we were confident that the buck would work his way down the pass to the creek before dark. With spotters and binos in action we picked the entire canyon apart in hopes of finding the buck bedded in the heavy timber. After a short while, several does and a decent management buck appeared. After giving the buck the pass we returned to search for our missing buck. Around 3:30 I heard Tanner say that he may have found him. Once the buck emerged into a small opening we knew we had located our buck. I quickly got into the shooting position in case a shot opportunity presented itself. The buck worked the timber over stopping to thrash his horns in various sage bushes along the way. Finally the buck was approaching an opening. The adrenaline began to build as I knew this may be our only chance if the buck decided to turn back up into the timber. Much like the morning’s hunt, Tanner was quick to read out an elevation call from his G7 rangefinder, 530 yards actual distance was the call. With the steep canyon the corrected distance came in at 490. With a quick dial on the ZeroStop turret, I was back into checklist mode in preparation for the shot. The winds began to pick up and another 1 MOA wind call was announced. As I neared the end of the checklist I made sure that loading the bi pod was in the mix. I settled the G7 reticle on the point of the buck’s shoulder and squeezed off the shot. With the cameras rolling we watched the 140 grain Berger bullet impact the buck.  Executing a first shot harvest at this distance was the culmination of a number of critical elements including; a proper stalk,  solid pre-shot routine, expert elevation and wind calls, and accurately delivering a 140g Berger through a Gunwerks LR-1000 precision rifle system. 

After all the high fives ended, a grueling 125 yard up-hill drag ensued to recover the deer and load the buck into the Ranger. On the way back to camp, we found one the prettiest peaks on the ranch and finished the picture taking. That evening at the skinning pole we were greeted by two other management tag hunters who also found success in two mature Utah Muleys. It was a quick turn back home to Georgia the following day but you can’t say enough good things about the 1st class operation that Travis Murphy and his Western Lands Outfitters team are running. From quality accommodations, delicious meals, to breathtaking views and giant Mule Deer bucks, this place is definitely everything and more that you hear amongst the chatter in the industry.  I am thankful to have had the opportunity to join the Gunwerks team to see first- hand the quality and expertise that goes into every product they sell.  A final big thank you goes out to Tanner Peugnet, our guide. His knowledge and expertise was much appreciated and certainly would recommend to anyone in search of giant mule deer bucks.  As an added bonus, look for this hunt to air on Long Range Pursuit, sometime in 2016.

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See the light! – Light Transmission

One of the least understood, most abused topics in riflescopes is “light transmission.” You will find the truth quite…enlightening.

It was a very large and very hungry lion, not forty meters from where we sat and sweated.  I could hear meat tearing and bones breaking, and an occasional low growl as it dismantled a hapless native cow.  I could see nothing, not even the outline of the acacia tree from which the bait hung.  The sun had set over an hour ago, and it would be several more hours before the moon rose.  Sitting in the African darkness as a lion gorges itself a few paces away makes one wonder about the sanity of big game hunting.

“Get ready,” Leon, my P.H., whispered.  I aimed the .375 toward the sound of the carnage and eased off the safety.  Our only source of light was a questionable flashlight, powered by three tired third-world batteries.  

Leon switched on the weak light, and I found a tawny shape with the scope’s crosshairs.  Which end was which?  Where do I shoot?  Then the beast sensed the light, and turned its great head toward us, ringed by a dark mane.  For a moment, it seemed that our eyes met.  I found the animal’s shoulder and the rifle’s report shattered the silence of the night.

It sounded like the devil itself, snarling, spitting, roaring, crashing through the bush. Then, just as suddenly, all was still.  We waited.  Nothing.  “I think it’s dead,” Leon said.  “I’m pretty certain I hit it well,” I offered, half in truth and half in hope, since searching for a wounded lion in the dead of night is not conducive to a long and happy life.  After a rather tense half hour, we ventured from the blind—ever so cautiously—to have a look.

And there it was, dead, not fifty meters from the bait.  One shot, through the lungs.  It would measure nearly three meters from nose to tail, one of the largest lions taken in the area in many years.  The celebration went on well into the night and my long quest for an African lion was over.

For weeks afterward, I relived the event, playing it back in my mind like a digital movie.  Exciting?  No doubt.  Dangerous?  Without question.  Fortunately, everything had gone well.  I couldn’t credit my great shooting, for even I have difficulty missing at forty meters.  The rifle?  It did its job, to be sure.  Hunting prowess?  Leon was very skilled and experienced, and he had placed us in excellent position to ambush the great east.

Then it became as clear as the image of that lion—it was the riflescope.  Without superb optics, I would never have had a shot.  Shooting a lion by the light of a flashlight is not standard procedure.  Without a scope that allowed me use every bit of that pathetically minimal light, it would have been impossible.  

This was a revelation.  Like many hunters, I had never given a scope that much thought.  I am a sucker for handsome firearms, and making small sacrifices (such as eating) or composing justifications to my better half that would put a trial lawyer to shame have always been well worth the effort to acquire an elegant new long gun.  A scope was an afterthought; a necessary evil that required yet more hard-earned funds.  

My encounter with the lion made me see the light, in more ways than one.  I had been doing things backwards all those years.  In reality, I should have devoted much more attention (and money) to my optics than I did to the gun itself.  After all, any decent rifle would have dispatched the lion.  On the other hand, if the scope hadn’t allowed a shot, the finest rifle on the planet would have been worthless.

This gave me a newfound interest in hunting optics.  I began researching how riflescopes work, what separates a truly outstanding scope from one that is merely adequate, and delving into some of the advertising claims made by various scope companies.  What I discovered was, well, enlightening.  Rare is the hunter who cannot tell you about the ballistics, bullet performance, action and other pertinent features of his favorite rifle.  Ask him about the performance of his scope, though, and chances are you will be met with a blank stare.  Or at best, something nebulous about “light gathering” or “coatings” that he read in an article by an “expert” or saw in an advertisement.

That leads us to Truth Number One about riflescopes; there is no riflescope made that can “gather” light.  Scopes can only transmit available light.  Some do a better job of it than others.  The ability of a scope to transmit to your eye the maximum possible available light is what determines whether it will be a sterling performer in near darkness or whether it is best left to noontime use on a sunny day.

Truth Number Two is that it is physically impossible for a riflescope to transmit 100% of available light.  As light enters the objective end of the scope, before it reaches your eye it passes through several lenses.  Each lens absorbs a small quantity of light.  Residual reflection from the individual lenses will also prevent a certain amount of light from passing through the scope.  In addition, undesired reflections within the metal tube can hinder the quality of the viewed image and the transmission of light.

Good scope manufacturers devote every waking minute—and great sums of research money—to negating these basic physical limitations of glass and metal.  How they do it is fascinating.

It was about this time that my work was involving me in the optics industry, where I had the privilege of working with and learning from makers of some of the finest riflescopes in the world, including NIghtforce.

For example, I thought I knew what light was.  It’s what comes through my window in the morning and wakes me up.  Or it’s what is insufficient, in the case of hunting lions by flashlight.

Actually, light is simply radiation. This radiation, or rays, consists of waves of varying lengths.  The length is the distance between the beginning of the first wave and the beginning of the second wave. . .not unlike a wave on the ocean.  

The human eye can perceive light rays between roughly 400 and 800 nanometers in length (one nanometer [nm] = one-millionth of a millimeter).  The brain interprets the different wavelengths as colors.  For example, blue-violet is in the 400 nm range, extending through blue, green, yellow, orange and finally red at 800 nm. 

Oddly enough, the sum total of all the visible wavelengths, seen as daylight, is white.  When light strikes a colored object, the object itself filters out certain wavelengths, and we perceive that object in color by the wavelengths that remain.  This has profound implications for the hunter and the scope maker both.  The human retina has three different types of light-perceiving cells; one for blue-violet, one for green and one for purple.  Our blue-violet cells are the most sensitive.  Thus, at twilight, blue objects are seen as brighter than red objects.  Therefore, it is critical that the coatings used on a scope’s lenses increase the transmission of all available blue light to give us the best chance of seeing what we’re looking at.  A good scope will transmit blue light as a neutral image, giving our blue-violet cells every possible opportunity to discern what we are seeing.

To complicate matters, completely different types of cells in our eyes—called “rods”— are responsible for black and white vision (“cones” handle the color).  Rods are far more sensitive than cones.  So, when we’re trying to discern an animal at dusk, or even after dark, we may not see it in color, but we can see it reasonably well in black and white.  That’s why the transmission of blue light as a neutral image is so important.

This is why the coatings used on riflescope lenses (and the skill of the company applying them) is one of the most critical factors in determining the light transmission properties and low light performance of a scope.  Virtually every scope manufacturer touts “multi-coated lenses.”  That it itself means little, and is often advertising puffery.  The quality of manufacturer’s coatings varies widely, from cheap and ineffective to extraordinarily expensive, complex, and remarkably efficient.

Good modern coatings are known as “broadband” coatings because they transmit a broad range of the visible light spectrum (i.e., 350 to 780 nm) with a high degree of efficiency.  

The weighting and mixture of different nanometer values of visible light are calculated as “day value” and “twilight value” through a somewhat complicated formula achieved by measuring these values with a spectrophotometer.  In simple terms, it compares light of a certain nanometer value as it enters the objective lens of the scope at 100%, then measures the same light at the eyepiece after it has passed completely through the scope.  The comparison between the two reveals the percentage of different light values that the scope can transmit. 

Lens coatings are carefully guarded secrets, formulated by skilled physicists.  Top scope companies calculate the makeup of their coatings in direct relation to the physical composition of the glass to which it is applied, since different batches of glass will react in differing ways to the same coating.  Coatings can actually be tailored to favor certain nanometer (color) values, giving preference to certain wavelengths that are most beneficial to the hunter under actual field conditions.

Quality coatings also help minimize reflection from the lenses themselves, enhancing their light transmission ability.  Modern coatings that have been tailored to the glass used in a scope’s lenses, then carefully evaporated in high vacuum, will ensure a residual reflection of less than 0.25% per glass/air surface.  Each lens has two surfaces.  Thus, the total number of lenses within a scope (a variable-power scope can have between seven and ten) is multiplied by two, then multiplied by 0.25% to determine the amount of light lost in the transmission.  Simple multiplication is not accurate, however, as each succeeding lens progressively reduces the total amount of transmitted light.  It is a favorite technique of some scope manufacturers to claim light transmission values of nearly 100%.  Of course, they’re measuring the first objective lens only, conveniently forgetting about the other eight or nine!

How these coatings are applied is just as important.  The best scope manufacturers utilize a sophisticated evaporation process in a clean room environment, applying multiple layers of very thin film one layer at a time.  It’s not as simple as dunking the lenses in a vat and being done with it.

Truth Number Three about scopes is that the very best riflescopes human beings can create will transmit to your eye—under perfect conditions—slightly over 90% of available light.  There are but a handful of scope makers that produce optics approaching these levels.

100% light transmission is physically impossible to achieve with current technology, and claims to the contrary are to be discounted.  But, what does light transmission mean in practical terms? A decent scope may transmit 80% or so, inferior scopes substantially less.  The human eye can distinguish transmission differences of 3% or more.  Consequently, there is a very real difference in what you can see through a superior scope versus run-of-the-mill optics.  

Under hunting conditions, when you might be trying to distinguish a target at absolute last light, these differences can be critical.  It can determine whether you bag your game or whether you have long since called it a day.

There are, of course, many other factors that determine the quality and capability of a riflescope; certainly the glass itself and its resolving capability, the precision with which lens elements are aligned, the quality and durability of the internal mechanisms, its resistance to recoil, even the reflective qualities of the finish inside the scope’s main tube, to name a few.

But, “light transmission,” “low-light performance,” “light gathering,” and other such terms have been bandied about for so long, they have become virtually meaningless to the consumer. There is not a riflescope manufacturer on earth that doesn’t reference one of these phrases in its advertising claims.  Backing up those claims, though, is another matter altogether. 

The raw materials, machinery, technology and human resources required to craft a top-quality riflescope do not come cheaply.  Building a mediocre scope is actually quite simple.  Building precision optics is something altogether different.  This is the reason for Truth Number Four about hunting scopes; you get what you pay for.  Top-of-the-line scopes are expensive to buy simply because they are expensive to make.  The number of riflescope manufacturers building optics of absolute top quality and performance today can be counted on the fingers of one hand.  And to tell the truth, you wouldn’t even need all your fingers. 

So, does all of this justify laying down a hefty sum for a premium scope?  It depends.  

If all of your hunting is done in bright daylight, you can get by with an average scope.  The truth is, in midday sunlight, you would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the best riflescope money can buy and one you find on a bargain shelf.  

If, though, you’ve ever found yourself struggling to count the points on a huge buck at last light, trying to make out what is lurking in the shadows before sunrise, fighting glare from the setting sun, or lucky enough—maybe foolish enough—to take on several hundred pounds of African lion after dark on the other side of the world, your riflescope will determine whether you go home with the trophy of a lifetime or go home empty-handed. 

It might even determine whether you go home at all.


by Tom Bulloch


Tom is a 20+ year consultant to the riflescope industry and has the rare privelege of combining business with pleasure.  That’s actually not a correct statement.  In his own words he “works to fuel his passion for hunting.”

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Knowledge is King – Applied Ballistics Seminar

In the modern age of long range shooting, long range marksmen have more information and technology available to them than ever before. Advancements in all areas of the shooting industry have brought obtaining exceptional performance at long range into reach of nearly anyone interested, thus allowing even the most experienced marksmen to extend their ranges. With all of this information being generated, getting it into the hands of shooters to expand their capabilities has become the goal. Bryan Litz started Applied Ballistics LLC when he recognized that there was a lack of information available to shooters, and that much of the information that was available was flawed or inaccurate. This led to the testing of ballistic coefficients and other ballistic characteristics that Applied Ballistics is now known for by using precise, accurate equipment while following the scientific method to obtain precise and useable data.

Since then, Applied Ballistics has been publishing this data in books and other forms of media to get this information into the hands of shooters in an easy to understand manner while still thoroughly discussing topics and presenting data. This has been very effective at helping shooters increase their range and hit probability, pushing the sport of long range shooting farther than ever before. However, we receive many questions on a daily basis about topics that are covered in, and also questions that go above and beyond, the material presented in our books.

In an effort to further the education of shooters interested in long range shooting, regardless of their experience level, Applied Ballistics has started hosting 2 day seminars aimed at getting the information shooters need into their hands. These seminars are heavily content based and follow along with the material found in the Applied Ballistics series of books. This content is presented in person in a relatively informal manner, allowing shooters to join in the discussion and ask questions while material is being presented. Material consists of everything from understanding the difference between accuracy and precision to more advanced ballistic properties such as limit cycle yaw. The goal is to engage shooters to ensure they understand the information they need to be a successful long range marksman. Whether your goal is to excel in competitive long range shooting, increase your effective range for hunting, or tactical/law enforcement applications, understanding the ballistics of your weapon system is the key to success for long range shooting.

In addition to covering material on ballistics, the implementation of this information is a key component of the curriculum as well. The Applied Ballistics Seminar is an excellent opportunity to learn how to operate AB’s computer based software as well as other devices with integrated AB software such as the Kestrel weather meters. Guest speakers from across the shooting industry are brought in to present information and give shooters the opportunity to engage them with questions that pertain to their fields of expertise. All of this combined creates an unequaled learning opportunity where shooters can absorb as much information about long range shooting as they can.