Two Cutting-Edge Companies Serve The
Needs Of Hardcore Rifle Guys
By Dave Anderson
Nightforce riflescopes are renowned for their toughness, optical quality and for rugged, repeatable, durable adjustments. One of my favorite scopes is the NXS 2.5-10×42, an outstanding all-around scope for big game, varmints and target shooting.
Another favorite is actually not very versatile at all. In fact, it’s highly specialized. The Competition 15-55×52 is made for target shooting, especially F-Class competition with targets at various ranges from 300 to 1,000 yards (it’s also very popular at shorter ranges with .22 rimfire benchrest competitors).
Every feature is optimized for the demands of target shooters. Weight is just under 28 ounces, which is relatively light for a scope with its features. This is important because in F/TR (Target Rifle) class, the weight limit is 8.25 kg (about 18.2 pounds). This sounds like a lot, but TR rifles must be either chambered for .223 Rem or .308 Win cartridges (with .308 predominating). The trend is to heavy bullets with high ballistic coefficients. To get velocity up so bullets stay supersonic past 1,000 yards, shooters prefer barrels in the 29- to 32-inch range.
The weight limit also includes the bipod and usually a strong, heavy sight rail and scope rings. All of which means weight saved with the scope can go toward a heavier barrel or a heavier bipod.
Although 55X magnification may seem excessive (and in fact may seldom be usable due to mirage), F-Class shooters like to have lots of Xs on tap for those days more power can be used.
There’s another reason as well. After each shot in an F-Class match, the target marker in the pits places a sticker on the shot hole and another on the target perimeter to show the shot’s value. Once the target goes up again the shooter needs to see these in order to evaluate the shot and correct if necessary.
A separate spotting scope would seem to be an option, but once having gotten into shooting position, competitors prefer to maintain the position throughout each string of 10 or 15 shots. They don’t want to move any more than is required to reload. This means the riflescope must have enough power—and enough optical resolution—to see these markers.
The elevation adjustment range on this Competition model is 55 MOA. This is considerably less than other Nightforce scopes such as the NXS and ATACR series. However, with a 20 MOA base, the elevation range is more than adequate out past 1,000 yards for .308 match loads or any cartridge likely to be used in Open Class.
Four reticles are offered, all with fine crosswires for very small targets. For example, the 300-yard X-ring measures 1.42 inches, the 1,000-yard X-ring measures 5. The test scope has the FCR-1 reticle with hashmarks at 1 MOA intervals. Many shooters prefer the simplicity of plain crosswires, or the CTR-2’s crosswires and 0.95-MOA dot.
Adjustments are 1/8-MOA clicks, again in deference to those small targets. By comparison, a single 1/4-MOA click moves point of impact over 2.6 inches at 1,000 yards—quite a jump when the X-ring measures just 5 inches. The dials provide 10 MOA per revolution and the scope has the excellent Zerostop feature. Even if you lose count of how many revolutions up you turned the elevation dial (don’t laugh, it happens), the Zerostop lets you spin it back to your original zero.
The Nightforce Competition 15-55x52mm is a special-purpose scope intended
for long-range competition. It’s not a particularly versatile optic, but for
its intended purpose it is magnificent. Rifle is a Tikka T3 heavy barrel .308
with a Nightforce 20 MOA base.
The cocking cam on a bolt-action rifle (above) benefits from a dab of grease. The Otis
applicator gets it where it’s needed. The rear surfaces of the locking lugs of a bolt-action
rifle (below) are under considerable stress when chambering a cartridge or extracting a fired
case. Just a little dab carefully placed does the trick.
In order to effectively use the turrets on this or any other scope, it is essential the adjustments be consistent, repeatable and durable. Ideally they should be accurate as well. Sometimes 1 MOA of adjustment doesn’t result in exactly 1 MOA change in point of impact, but the system can still work by compensating for the difference. You have to know the actual value of the adjustments on your scope.
The system I use is called the “Tall Target Test” and is explained on the Applied Ballistics website (which is a terrific resource for anyone interested in long-range shooting). It involves making big adjustments (as in 3 or 4 feet at 100 yards) and comparing theoretical to actual change in point of impact. Of course the more accurate the rifle and shooter are, the more accurate the results will be.
I had the Nightforce on a Tikka T3 Varmint .308, a rifle capable of 1/2-MOA accuracy with Black Hills 168-grain Match ammo. The target backer I had measured 4 feet, which is about the minimum. I used a plumb bob and a marking pen to draw a vertical line on the target. My aiming point was about a third of the way up from the bottom.
Turning the elevation dial down one turn, I fired a 3-shot group, then dialed up 35 MOA and fired a second one. Both groups were sub-1/2 MOA, both just to the right of my vertical line. The distance between the two groups measured—as close as I could tell—37.31 inches center-to-center. I also used a Leica 1600 rangefinder to check the distance from muzzle to target—which turned out to be 102 yards.
Although we tend to think of 1 MOA as equivalent to 1 inch per 100 yards, it’s actually 1.047 inches (that’s 0.01047 per yard). This is the constant if measurement units being used are MOA and yards. The formula to find what movement we should be getting is: Dialed MOA x Range in Yards x Constant. In this case we get 35 MOA x 102 Yards x 0.01047 = 37.38 inches.
So with the Nightforce, expected movement is 37.38 inches, actual 37.31 inches, and I suspect the very small difference is more likely from the shooting and measuring than from the scope. The accuracy of the Nightforce adjustments is astonishing. Yes, the price of Nightforce optics is impressive, but so is the performance.
Suppose the actual movement on target was significantly different than expected? For example, say the distance between groups was 34.4 inches. Simply divide expected shift by the actual shift to get a correction factor. In this example, 37.38 ÷ 34.4 = 1.087. This is the correction factor for the specific scope.
When preparing the ballistic chart, multiply the MOA come-ups from your ballistic program by the correction factor. For example, if the program says you need to come up 32 MOA at 900 yards, multiply 32 x 1.087 = 34.78.
Seems like a lot of fussing with details? It is, but long-range shooting, especially long-range competitive shooting, is all about the details.
Turrets on the Nightforce Competition are tall and easy to access, with large reference
numbers easily visible from the shooting position. It uses 1/8-MOA adjustments (inset).
At 1,000 yards a single 1/4-MOA click moves the POI over 2.6 inches. With a 5-inch X-ring
at this distance, it’s easy to see why F-class shooters prefer 1/8-MOA clicks.
Protecting Prized Rifles
Gun-cleaning kits from Otis Technology are lightweight, compact and work very well. You can carry them in a duffle bag, rifle case, backpack or daypack, and still do a thorough cleaning job whether at home or in a remote hunting camp.
To complement the cleaning gear, Otis recently added a full line of protectant products. It includes four solvents, two metal protectants, three lubricants and two all-purpose CLP (clean-lubricate-protect) products.
These new products are biodegradable. None of the packaging has warnings about “use only in well ventilated areas” or other hazard caveats. Cleaning outside or in the garage may not be a problem for some, but cleaning my rifles outside at the end of deer season, when the temperature is 20 below zero, is just as much fun as it sounds.
All the products are useful and perform as claimed. Items I especially like are the gun grease (for high stress areas), the dry lube (which I like for firearms carried in pickups or UTV’s and which tend to pick up dust), and the long-term protectant (for hunting rifles which only get used once or twice a year).
The precision applicator pack is another useful item. With my match pistols, which get shot a lot, I tend to just gob the lube on liberally, cycle the action and wipe off any surplus. With bolt-action rifles I want to get lube on high stress areas such as the cocking cam and the rear of the bolt lugs, but I don’t want lube on the chamber walls or in the firing pin channel.
All the products were formulated in the USA, and like the cleaning kits, are made in USA.
6987 Laura St.
Box 582, Lyon Falls, NY 13366
Applied Ballistics LLC
25 S. Main St.
Box 195, Cedar Springs
Maker: Nightforce Optics, Inc.
336 Hazen Ln., Orofino, ID 83544
Magnification Range: 15-55X
Objective lens diameter: 52mm
Main tube diameter: 30mm
Adjustment range: 55 MOA elevation & windage, with Zerostop
Adjustments: 1/8 MOA
Calibrated ranging power: 40X
Eye relief: 3.15 inches
Field of view at 100 yards: 15X (6.91 feet), 55X (1.83 feet)
Overall length: 16.2 inches
Weight: 27.9 ounces
Reticles: CTR-2, CTR-3, DDR-2, FCR-1
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