If you’re familiar with Nightforce Optics, words like rugged, reliable, and repeatable come to mind. I’ll add another word to that list—innovative. My first glimpse at the ATACR 4-16×42 F1 came in January, 2015, at the SHOT Show. As soon as I picked it up, I knew I was looking at something unique. Its compact size, amazing glass, practical magnification range, and low-profile elevation turret were just a few of the features that stood out.
A relative newcomer to the First Focal Plane (FFP) tactical scope market, Nightforce first offered a FFP reticle in the now-discontinued 3.5-15 NXS F1 in late 2008. Designed to improve on the 3.5-15 NXS F1, the ATACR 4-16×42 F1 is one of three FFP scopes now in the Nightforce catalog. It is available with four reticle options, including the Horus H59 and TReMoR3, MIL-R, and MOAR. The scope provided for the review was equipped with the MOAR F1-30 MOA reticle, with matching Minute of Angle (MOA) turrets. This well-designed reticle features a floating crosshair, one MOA graduations in the vertical and horizontal stadia, 30 MOA of holdover potential below center, and 20 MOA of wind hold capability to either side. For a look at the FFP MOAR reticle at different magnifications, click here.
The ATACR’s fully-multicoated ED lenses rival any top-tier optics available today. I found the focus to be sharp and clear, with excellent color rendition, and edge-to-edge clarity even under difficult conditions. Tasks such as target identification at extended distances, wind reading through mirage, and spotting bullet trace proved to be easy with this glass.
While the ATACR 4-16×42 F1 is optimized for use with today’s semi-automatic precision rifle systems, it is equally at home on a bolt-action rifle. For the review, I mounted the scope on a Defensive Edge custom-built 260 Remington, with a Nightforce 40 MOA base, Nightforce medium-height 34MM UL rings, and Nightforce ACD. Deemed a mid-range optic, with an advertised 89 MOA of total travel, I was able to obtain 77.5 MOA of elevation adjustment from a 100 yard zero. Driving a 140 grain Berger Hybrid at 2780 fps, the scope allows me to dial the correction for a shot taken at just over one mile. It gets there fast, too! With 30 MOA per revolution of the turret, only 2 ½ rotations were necessary to hit the top of its travel. The clicks of the turret are crisp and positive, while remaining smooth and even throughout the turret’s travel. The laser engraving on the turret is clear and lines up perfectly with the tactile clicks during rotation. The .25 MOA indicator lines proved challenging to see at times, forcing me to revert to dialing to a whole number, then feeling my way with the proper click amounts for the correction.
Designed around military end-user requests, the ATACR 4-16×42 F1 employs a robust elevation adjustment called ZeroHold. At less than three-quarters of an inch tall, the low-profile elevation turret helps minimize snagging on gear or obstacles, while its 1 5/8 inch diameter provides for a positive grip with gloved hands. It also allows the co-mounting of a close range optic, such as a red dot backup sight. The ZeroHold adjustment utilizes a positive detent in the turret cap that locks into a slot in the turret housing. To release the detent, the ZeroHold button is depressed while rotating the turret. The detent will not engage again until the turret is rotated clockwise to the zero position, allowing unrestricted rotation counter-clockwise. The design of the ZeroHold adjustment also allows the turret to be rotated below zero, approximately 5 MOA after depressing the button. I found the system to be intuitive to use, with either thumb easily depressing the button while dialing the turret, but also robust, with virtually no chance of disengaging the detent accidentally. During this review, the scope spent a large amount of its time being carried in a scabbard pack or drag bag, with no unintentional turret movement.
The windage turret features 30 MOA of adjustment per revolution, and includes a removable cap for users who wish to hold for wind corrections, rather than dial. For those who intend to leave the cap off, a beauty ring is included with the scope to protect the threads. The turret remains fully waterproof with the cap off. Like the elevation turret, the windage adjustment clicks are positive, and I experienced no accidental rotation of the turret, opting to leave the cap off for the review.
With 60 MOA of total windage travel available, and 30 MOA per revolution, Nightforce added a windage limiter system to help prevent the user from getting lost in the adjustment range, and losing zero in the field. Once the zero is set, the limiter prevents the turret from rotating more than one-half of a revolution in either direction. For practical applications, 14.5 MOA of adjustment in either direction provides ample correction for the weapon systems it was designed for.
On the other side of the turret housing, the ATACR 4-16×42 F1 sports a parallax knob with laser engraved distance markings. While the distance markings are only approximate, I found them to be quite accurate, and was able to fully remove parallax very close to the stated yardage marks. The same knob also houses Nightforce’s new digital reticle illumination system, Digillum. Offering green or red illumination, several intensity levels, and an auto-shutoff feature, this illumination system works very well in low-light conditions, or when the contrast between the reticle and the intended target isn’t enough to accurately make the shot. For a video demonstration of the Digillum system, click here.
An integrated Power Throw Lever (PTL) is included with the scope. The scope ships with a flush insert in the power zoom ring, allowing the user to install the threaded PTL if desired. Unfortunately, the design of my rifle’s bolt handle interfered with using the PTL at any magnification over 13-power, so I left it off for the review.
Another useful accessory supplied with the ATACR 4-16×42 F1, is a set of flip-up protective lens covers. Manufactured by Tenebraex, and called Tactical Tough, these covers proved to be durable and well-designed. The objective cover assembly screws into the objective lens, while the ocular assembly clamps on to the ocular bell of the scope. The flip-up portion of the cap rotates around the assembly, and has several detents around its diameter that provide a positive stop wherever the user wishes it to stay. At the same time, the covers rotate easily enough to allow rotation of the zoom eyepiece without interference, and can be removed quickly from the assemblies if needed. The covers also flip back far enough to lay almost flat against the scope body. It would be nice if Nightforce expanded the offering of these covers to its entire scope line.
During this review, I had the opportunity to use this scope in the role it was intended, tactical-style shooting, as well as for long range hunting. I found it to be equally useful for either application. The excellent MOAR reticle, placed in the front focal plane, allowed me to engage multiple steel targets at varying distances and wind conditions, under a time constraint without regard to magnification. One month prior, those same features were put to use in a 100-acre northern Idaho clearcut, where the ground squirrels provide a target-rich environment that’s always moving, in conditions that are always changing. On the same trip, I could set up in a traditional long range ambush, where the scope is left at maximum magnification, and all corrections are dialed with the turrets. It offers the best of both worlds.
Here are some specifications for the ATACR 4-16×42 F1. To discuss this article, visit LRO’s forum here. For more information on Nightforce Optics, click here. Thanks!
• Overall length: 12.6”
• Objective outer diameter: 1.97”
• Eyepiece outer diameter: 1.77”
• Tube diameter: 34MM
• Mounting length: 6.3”
• Weight: 30 ounces
• Parallax adjustment range: 45 yards- Infinity
• Elevation adjustment range: 89 MOA
• Windage adjustment range: 60 MOA
• Eye relief: 3.35-3.54”
• Click value: .250 MOA
• Field of view @ 100 yards: 4x-26.9 feet/ 16x-6.9 feet