NIGHTFORCE NXS 2.5-10x24
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- Last updated: 13/12/2016
As an ex Practical Rifleman I used to be hardcore, but over the years I’ve gone in other directions. I still shoot PR very occasionally and enjoy it and have views on what constitutes the perfect optic for the discipline. Back in the 1980s I started off with a 1-7” twist, Colt AR15 A2 with one of their genuine, carry handle, 3x20 BDC scopes and it did the business. Though having been seduced and used big mag/objective variables, I now don’t feel they are what is really required for the discipline. Apart from anything else they do make the guns a bit top heavy and unwieldy. Taking the moral high ground for a moment; they also make a joke of the word practical and ethos of this discipline.
So apart from a few lapses I have tried to pick scopes that I feel are reasonably practical in both size and specification. Currently, and in some ways going back to my roots, I have been using a 4x32 Trijicon ACOG, which is good, but perhaps lacks a little top end mag as the range pushes out past 400 metres. Before that I had a Leupold 3-9x50 (Mil-Dot) that seemed to be a near ideal specification – useful magnification range, not too big, 50mm objective gave good light gathering and the Mil-Dot reticule allowed me to convert all my corrections (range/wind) into Mil-Radian. But the search goes on and something I finally saw at this year’s IWA show made me think I might have found the perfect solution – the NIGHTFORCE NXS 2.5-10x24…
The Illusive NXS
I admit to not having a lot to do with NIGHTFORCE scopes as they are one of those brands that seems to have, in the main, eluded me over the years. I have tested one model and though it was optically good, it did not strike me as anything truly amazing, plus I have found some of their reticule options a little odd too. However, the NXS 2.5-10x24 is most unusual in that it offers an obviously useful magnification range though has a surprisingly small, 24mm objective. Compact as befits a PR optic, but what about light gathering ability? A chat to the importers (RUAG Ammotec UK Ltd) finally got me one to test.
The NXS is not that much bigger than the familiar Leupold 1.5-5x20. It does however show a 30mm body tube, so it’s more like the Schmidt & Bender, Kahles and Swarovski dangerous game style compacts. Measuring 9.9” long it’s quite heavy for its size at 17 oz. From its unusual, triangular box it comes with soft rubber, flip-up lens caps and an Allan key to zero the turrets. The build is tough as NIGHTFORCE are at pains to point out in their literature; I have also had this confirmed by a number of military users too, though the reputation of the brand speaks for itself and I was not expecting any dramas.
The build is practical with medium height, hand-dialable turrets under waterproof caps, so very much ‘zero & forget’, though dialling in a correction would not be a problem either. On the left is the nine-position rheostat for the illuminated reticule. At the rear is the magnification ring that shows a double line of groves and a raised lug. Behind that is a lock ring type focus system.
Turrets offer 0.25” MOA clicks @ 100 yards, with 40 per (10”) revolution and a very pleasing, 12, full turns in both elevation and windage, giving a total adjustment of 120” @ 100 yards, so no problems with getting zeroed. Typically they are marked in ¼ MOA divisions with a number every MOA to aid precise dialling-in.
The turrets are firm in operation with positive clicks and no chance of over-dialling a correction unless you are King Kong! They are also marked as to direction with a big arrow on the saddle. The zero position is noted by a white triangle and it’s here that the single screw is to allow you to set to 0 once you have zeroed. I would assume that even without the caps on these are fully waterproof…
The rheostat drum is marked with a lightning flash for the OFF position and nine white circles; each one smaller than the last to indicate brightness levels. So when you turn it on (roll the drum away from you) you get maximum illumination and dial down to minimum. I rather liked this system, though found one slight problem; the battery cap is also the gripping surface and you have to make sure that it’s tight; otherwise it will rotate as opposed to adjusting brightness…
My example came with a skeleton Mil-Dot, which I did find to be a little slim, though very precise. It also does not go to the periphery of the lens, instead floats in the middle, it’s purely a perception thing, but if you are used to a full grid it takes getting used to. A final comment goes to the lens caps, good to see a set included that attach to the objective and eyepiece so you can’t lose them. However, they are a bit floppy and not that quick to put back on, so I took them off and used Butler Creeks instead, which are better by design…
There’s nothing to fault on optical quality and despite the small 24mm objective the 2.5-10 can keep up with other scopes in its class with larger glass up front – 42 - 50mm etc. Low light operation was tested up against another NIGHTFORCE scope, as a friend owns a 3-15x50 NXS. The test was simple – a target at last light was viewed at 100 yards through both until it could not be properly distinguished. Naturally the 50mm was better; however there was only eight minutes of light in it, so not too shabby. However, by choice I would not take the 2.5-10 night hunting without lights, as I found with the Swarovski Z6i 1.6x24; despite optical quality that small objective doesn’t allow you to see enough when it’s properly dark!
The field of view at 100 yards is also generous and almost the best over the whole NIGHTFORCE range; at X2.5 it is 44 ft and at X10 it’s 11ft. The one exception is the smaller 1-4x24 Night Force that aces this at 100 ft at X1 and 25 ft at X4.
Initially the NXS was used on my SGC Speedmaster, where its compact size and decent magnification range really makes it my Practical Rifle optic of choice. Down at x2.5-4 it matches the ACOG in terms of ease of handling for those fast/shorter range stages. Pushed out to 400 yards + the higher magnification it offers really pays dividends too. Here you can also use your Mil-Dot for range/windage correction as the milling setting is X10.
I then put it on my Mauser M 03 and tried it for hunting. Again its compact build was most appreciated, though in certain conditions the slimness of the reticule could get a bit lost on the dark coat of a deer or in woodland shadows. However, using the illumination cured this, so no real problems. NIGHTFORCE offer a number of reticule option for the 2.5-10 that include more hunting-orientated patterns, so the choice is down to you.
Overall I was most impressed with this medium compact as it has a lot to offer – good magnification range, generous click adjustments, decent and practical illumination system in a reasonably light and low-mounted optic. Add to this a near bomb-proof build and you have quite some design. Another friend of mine has just got one for his Africa rifle, reckoning that it will be the ideal companion for his 30-06 for plains game and close and longer range encounters and I would have to agree.
Giving little change from £1000 the 2.5-10x24 is reasonably expensive; however, if you consider the prices of similar European scopes, some of which can’t offer the higher end magnification, then perhaps it’s not as bad as you might first think. I would say that ballpark; the NXS is a minimum of £250 cheaper. Personally I’m very tempted; as it would replace the ACOG on my AR15 and give me an optic I could not only shoot PR with but also use for muntjac and foxes with the same load and no change in zero or optic.
• Great little scope
• Punches well above its weight
• Ultimate PR optic