OutdoorHubNightforce ATACR brings long-distance features to a tactical scope
Nightforce Optics released a new riflescope in 2018, the ATACR 1-8×24 F1. I had the rare opportunity to test this scope in a biathlon and at my home range, mounted on Savage Arms’ MSR Recon, chambered in .223 Wylde. This is one mean combo for tactical work and play.
As we’ve come to expect from Nightforce, this scope is well-stocked with premium features. It has zero-stop elevation and windage dials, a trait I especially love as it doesn’t require me to remember where my actual zero is. I’m simple that way.
Those dials turn in 1/10 milliradian increments, and are shielded by twist-off caps that are easy to handle and lend an aggressive, tactical look. The 34mm tube, 24mm objective outer diameter, and 10-inches of overall length make this a compact package that’s easy to carry.
This scope allows the user to move seamlessly from close quarters to long-range engagements. At 1x, a simple “T” reticle gives a clean and easy focal point for targets that are nearby. Set on the first focal plane, this reticle magically becomes a full-fledged Horus-style milling reticle at 8x.
At 1x. the reticle is a simple T.
At full and nearly fully magnification, a thick-sided diamond appears in the center of the reticle. When aiming for precision shots, the thickness of its borders made it a bit difficult to tell when I was centered on a small target.
There’s an illumination feature on the center of the reticle. A battery is included. It glows red. As another scope company’s representative says, red seems to vibrate. It also seems to grow and fade in intensity, especially at higher magnification. Having tried it on every outing, I believe it may be my own eyes creating the illusion that it’s fading in and out—not every shooter who’s looked at the scope sees it doing so. I find the scope quite satisfactory without illumination.
My first real test of the ATACR was a five-mile biathlon in Texas. The longest engagement was only 350 yards; most were 100-225. I set the ATACR on 4x and never felt the need to change it during the run. The field of view is quite generous at that magnification, and it was easy to scan for my next target. The scope accumulated some mud and sand during riverbank crossings, and my glasses fogged, but the remarkably clear glass made shooting a breeze. At least for the shooting part of the event, I did well, thanks in no small part to this scope.
At 4x, milling capabilities are in view.
The windage adjustment cap was nearly lost on the run. It’s quick to thread on and off, a great feature when needed. It rode against my chest rig for most of the run and was definitely jostled around. Since windage is something I hold, not adjust on the fly, I think the best solution is a strip of tape around the seal.
Run-n-gun biathlons are tough on gear, and in retrospect I should’ve left the power throw lever off the magnification dial. It was simply gone when I crossed the finish line, destined to spend eternity in west Texas. This isn’t a reflection of product quality but the nature of the event. I recommend thread locker for this accessory!
Back home, the magnification ring was still crunchy with sand even after a good wipe-down with all visible dirt gone. It took another good range session, making lots of magnification changes, to clear the threads. They are now back to normal.
The true test of the ATACR came when, after the Run & Gun, ridden “shotgun” in my car for a few weeks, and had the windage and elevation dials moved so that my zero read -0- on the controls, it was subjected to a tracking test to see if its zero held true. Test conditions weren’t ideal—gusting winds moved the target at times; the shooting table was a folding one, and there was no buttstock support, only a beanbag rest under the handguard as I shot from a seated position. The target was set at 50 yards.
A great tracking outcome, for a windy day.
With a little help from a complete stranger/Kiwi who runs tacticalclassroom.com and has posted a mil/MOA conversion calculator on his website, a friend operated that calculator and I ran the six-shot test, in which the shooter always aims at a single point, a letter S. Meanwhile, adjustments are dialed into the scope to make the point of impact one of a progressive series of numbers on a page, moving from 1 to 4, then returning to “S.” I chose 5x magnification for this exercise.
When I accidentally dialed the same click value for both windage and elevation one time, this turned into a seven-point test, with one round landing well above the target. My friend only rolled his eyes a little as I took that adjustment off the dials and started that step over. The last shot was dead-center on the S as the wind granted a merciful pause. Verdict: the ATACR tracked exactly as it should.
Before giving all the credit to the scope, I must address other contributing gear. First, Nightforce 3-hole tactical rings and bases. These rock-solid components made sure the scope didn’t budge during my adventures. Good hardware and proper mounting are vitally important to the function of an optic! These rings look good to boot.
For the tracking test, the Savage MSR Recon was running Barnes Precision Match 69 grain open tip boat tail ammunition, supplied by Lucky Gunner. After trying two brands of match-grade and a number of FMJ brands, I know the Recon produces the tightest groups with this brand.
The ATACR is one of those scopes that inspires a gasp of surprise when a shooter who’s accustomed to mid-price range scopes. shoulders it. “It’s clearer than my own eyes!” is an exclamation heard from two students who looked through it. As we’ve come to expect from Nightforce, this Is one classy bit of glass.
Retailers are selling the ATACR for around $2,775. It’s not inexpensive, but the ability to go from close quarters to milling targets at long range, and to hit a bullseye after a month of hard use and travel, make it a sound investment.
After run & gun, encrusted with sand and mud.
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