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Nightforce Optics’ ATACR F1 Review by James Jeffries

Featured Image Photo Credit: James Jeffries

Rugged. Reliable. Repeatable. Nightforce Optics‘ motto has stood the test of time on my rifles. Above all the features and enhancements that Nightforce added to the newest ATACR line of scopes there’s one thing they’ve given the end user since the beginning and continue to give us to this day… CONFIDENCE! I’ve been an avid Nightforce user now for roughly 5 years. Like many people in this sport that came from the times before huge pillows and fancy shooting gizmos, I’ve had my fair share of failed attempts with different manufactures scopes trying to find the right balance between reliability and the features we all wanted. Thankfully in recent years the industry has seen a big trend in introducing lots of quality scopes packed with the features we were asking for. This is awesome as it gives us all options and we can pick and choose what will benefit us most.

About 5 years ago I was using a different company’s scope on one of my rifles and I just couldn’t get the rifle to group for the life of me. I tried everything!! Then I purchased my first Nightforce. A NXS 3-15×50 F1, I was planning to use it for a different rifle and decided as a last ditch effort I would mount it on this rifle to see if anything changed. To my surprise.. IT DID!! I shot group after group that day and every single one was worthy of posting online for public bragging rights. That was when my love for Nightforce started. I owned many SFP Nightforces after that but was always hoping they would release that one scope we were all waiting for. Fast forward to today and I’m using the ATACR 5-25×56 F1 on all of my competition rifles.

One of the flagship features of the Nightforce scopes that carries over from the NXS series is the rotating eyepiece design for magnification adjustments. This feature is probably my favorite on Nightforce scopes as when you’re on the clock, in the middle of the stage, you don’t have to find a magnification ring to zoom in or out. You just reach up and grab a big handful of scope and twist! I hear many people gripe about the rotating eyepiece as well. This usually comes from the flip cap crowd since as you twist the eyepiece the flip cap will twist with it. I don’t utilize flip caps anymore since it always seems I forgot to open them before a stage begins so this is not an issue for me. Nightforce also has a slick little gadget called the integrated Power Throw Lever (PTL) that gives an extra point to grab when you’re in a hurry. Don’t worry about losing your dioper adjustment if you twist too hard because Nightforce has added a knurled locking ring to the diopter to help prevent this from happening.


A big upgraded feature over previous generations is the addition of the digillum digital reticle illumination. Older NXS models used to require you to remove the battery cap in order to change the illumination settings. The new digillum is an external button located on the end of the parallax knob. To turn the illumination on you simply press the button and it will turn on to the last setting you were using. Pressing the button again will change the intensity of the reticle and if you hold the button for just 2 seconds it will turn the illumination off. The ATACR F1 also gives you the option to switch between red and green reticles by holding the button down for 5 seconds. At first I never thought this green feature would be a big deal but after the first time I took it out at night , I was convinced that green is where it’s at for low light shooting. The color of green they use isn’t too overpowering. It doesn’t over take your image as sometimes red can do even on the lower settings. The digillum makes shooting at night very enjoyable!

The glass. I’ve owned a ton of scopes over the years, some with top of the line glass and some with sub par glass. I was relieved when I got my first ATACR F1 to see that to my eye, the glass was on par or better then many of the well known top of the line scopes in the glass department. I won’t spend much time on glass as I feel it’s very subjective and also highly controversial. I encourage you to get behind as many scopes as possible to make the glass decision for yourself. I will say that it’s always a good feeling when all your shooting buddies that are using different scopes are asking you to spot their holes in paper for them because they all know you probably have better chances of seeing what’s happening down range.


I love the Nightforce knobs. The knurling and clicks are the perfect combo for a great feeling knob. The elevation knob will give you 35 mils of internal travel. On my 6mm this allows me to easily reach 1 mile with a 20moa base without having to do any additional holdovers. Resetting your zero requires you to loosen 2 small o-ring sealed screws and turn to your zero, then retighten. To access the zero stop you will loosen the 2 screws on the knob and then lift the knob completely off the scope. I’m a guy that prefers an adjustable zero stop vs. a fixed stop .5mils under my zero like many current offerings give you. I personally like to set mine about 1.5-2.0 mils under my zero (it’s a personal preference). To accomplish this you would simply zero your rifle, remove the knob, loosen the 4 screws on the clutch assembly, turn the clutch face down until it stops, then retighten the 4 screws and reinstall the cap. If you wanted to set your zero stop under your zero you would just back the clutch face off 1/8th-¼ turn after it stops. The windage knob is capped which I totally appreciate. I think everyone’s had it happen to them at least once before where you drag your scope out of the case and roll on a couple tenths of windage without even realizing it. If you prefer the windage knob exposed, Nightforce includes a ring to cover the threads that the cap uses.

I run the Mil-R reticle in my scopes. I find this reticle very simple to use and it allows me to easily break my holds down to the tenth without overcrowding the image. Nightforce uses some strategically placed spaces instead of hashes to accomplish this. This is another area of debate with shooters as many times when they first look at the reticle, the subtensions don’t automatically click to them and it’s usually the spaces that throw them off. For myself, I find that the spaces help to not overcrowd the reticle, and once you understand the subtensions it all makes sense in helping you achieve those precise holds that everyone is looking for. Nightforce has released the Mil-C in recent months and it looks like an awesome reticle that pleases many of the people who weren’t fans of the Mil-R. To me it accomplishes the same goals in the end just with a different look. I don’t foresee myself making the effort to change all my scopes out for the Mil-C just simply because the Mil-R works so well for me already, but I would definitely consider it for my future Nightforce purchases. Nightforce also has the new 7-35×56 F1 out for this year. I have been lucky enough to handle a few of them and I really like what i’ve seen. I will definitely be adding one to the collection soon.

Confidence. The biggest reason I stick with Nightforce is that I always know I can trust my zero and tracking is always spot on. On my 6.5mm I went almost the entire 2016 season without needing to readjust my zero. NOT EVEN A TENTH!! This is after multiple plane trips through many different airports, hotel luggage carts, rental car trunks, you name it. All the bumps and bounces that a competition rifle should never be subjected to couldn’t even shake that zero. I finally had to pull the rifle apart for a deep cleaning but my log book showed 4 national level matches and everything in between and not a single zero adjustment. That’s the kinda trust that keeps me buying Nightforce scopes for my rifles. I also currently use them on everything from my ARs with the old 3-15 F1 to my 22lr trainer rifle with the newer SHV 4-14 F1 and the results are always the same. If you’re looking to add some confidence to your equipment then I encourage you to check out what Nightforce has to offer you. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

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