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Hands On with the Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 Scope

The Nightforce ATACR 7-35×56 F1 is the crème de la crème of long range and extended long range precision scopes. I was recently sent the ATACR 7-35x to test and hopefully run for an upcoming Precision Rifle Series (PRS) match. The only catch was I had about four hours to give the scope a quick down and dirty assessment to determine if it could be used for the match.

In four hours, I zeroed, tested its elevation tracking ability, abused it a bit to make sure it would maintain zero when bumped around, and shot out to 1300 yards.

With every new scope, you have to test it– not just zero. Doing so will build confidence in your weapon system by knowing the rifle is set up as well as possible and any misses are likely user error.

ZEROING

Zeroing the Nightforce ATACR is one of the easiest scopes I've zeroed. Past the point of confirming POA and POI were the same at 100 yards, adjusting the ZeroStop was fast and simple. After partially unscrewing two screws on the turret and pulling it off, the ZeroStop mechanism is revealed.

ZeroStop

I prefer to run all zero stops a little bit below zero. This is so I can dial under if I need to shoot side prone, or if confirming zero before a match requires me to dial lower. Being able to just slip the turret to zero is much easier than adjusting the zero stop. It's also beneficial if you zero without a suppressor on the rifle and plan to use one in the future; leaving room to account for suppressor shift when you need to re-zero.

After setting the ZeroStop in my preferred position, I tightened down the four screws and popped on the elevation turret, making sure I had it lined up to “0” and then tightened the two screws that hold the turret.

ATACR 3

Next, I maxed out the amount of travel multiple times and rechecked zero. It was still dead on. After having an unfortunate experience with a scope's zero shifting by 2 mils at 100 yards after being placed on a barricade, I include hitting the scope with a rubber hammer to simulate it getting knocked around. This, by no means is scientific, but it's practical enough.

First, I hit the scope on the left side in multiple places and then checked zero again. Still zeroed. Next, I did the same thing, but from the right side. And, once again, the zero had not shifted.

ELEVATION TRACKING

Long range FFP scopes allow for the option to either holdover or dial. I was previously using a scope with an H59 reticle, which is hard to beat when you need to holdover and account for wind during fast target engagements. But, this scope had the Nightforce Mil-C F1 reticle.

Mil C

Nightforce Mil-C F1 Reticle

Initially, I felt anxiety not having a Christmas tree reticle because I like having the option to hold for elevation and wind. My worries quickly faded when I tried to recall how many times a PRS bolt gun stage required fast target engagements. Truth be told, there is more than enough time to dial for every shot during most PRS stages.

For example, most stages have five targets at varying distances. Shooters are usually given 1:30 to 2:00 minutes to engage each target twice. Even if it takes ten seconds to get into the first position, you've still got 10 to 11 seconds per shot, and remember most of those second shots are a repeat shot. With my safety blanket mentality of the H59 getting chucked out the window, I had to make sure the scope's elevation tracked.

Checking the tracking of the scope is imperative because you have to verify the internal adjustments match what the POI should be. If you dial up seven mils, it needs to be seven mils- not 7.4 or 6.6. A small discrepancy in tracking could make you believe there's an issue with any of the other several variables of your data. For that reason, when you check a new scope, only change the scope. Don't use a new rifle or ammo; use a rifle with known performance.

This new scope was mounted on one of my most accurate competition rifles, a Surgeon Scalpel 591 Short Action, in a McMillan A-5 stock, chambered in 6XC. When testing tracking, most people will recommend doing the box drill, which tests the tracking of elevation and windage. Being strapped for time, I was only concerned with the elevation because I don't dial wind during matches.

On a paper IPSC target, I put a half inch sticker at the 6 o'clock position. With the turret on zero, I shot at that sticker. Then, while looking through the scope, I measured how tall the target was at 100 yards from that initial impact. The target measured just over seven mils tall. This information showed me that I could dial just over 7 mils before my hits would be off paper. I dialed up 7 mils, aimed at the sticker at 6 o'clock and shot. Next, I measured from my POA to my POI using the reticle in the scope. It was exactly 7 mils. This means the scope's elevation tracked properly. I did the same thing for 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 mils. This same exercise can be completed at a closer distance or with a longer target, both of which would allow for greater elevation testing.

FIELD OF VIEW AT 100 YARDS

With every variable power scope, magnification and field of view have an inverse relationship. The higher magnification, the less field of view you'll have and vice versa. During a match, it's easy to get lost behind a scope if the magnification is high. I expect the sweet spot during a match to be between 10 and 20 power for most targets. The majority of targets during PRS matches are between 200 and 1000 yards.

7 power

FOV on 7x at 100 yards

15 power

FOV on 15x at 100 yards

35 power

FOV on 35x at 100 yards

EASE OF USE

The knurled elevation turret is easy to grasp and rotate. The elevation clicks are audible and tactile; you can hear and feel each and every click. The elevation turret does not lock, not having to push or squeeze an additional button every time to dial is faster. A revolution indicator shows which rev you're on. One revolution provides 12 mils of elevation and the total adjustment range is 27.3 mils. With the caliber I'm shooting, I don't have to go past the first revolution until 1210 yards in an environment with a density altitude of 1480 ft.

Adjusting the magnification can be done by either turning the magnification ring or by rotating any part of the ocular lens. Being able to reach up and turn something- anything without any thought as to what you need to grab is a unique benefit. The less I have to think about while on the clock- the better. The scope also comes with a throw lever that can be installed on the magnification ring, but I didn't find it necessary.

Parallax adjustment of the ATACR 7-35 is accommodating to a broad range of distances. You can adjust it from about 11 yards to infinity. Being able to adjust the parallax at very close distances is useful when zeroing and for dry fire practice that is done inside.

ZeroStop2

LOOKING THROUGH THE GLASS

Extra low dispersion glass (ED glass) of the ATACR 7-35x provides a clear, crisp sight picture at near and far distances and throughout the magnification options. This scope was tested on a sunny day on targets ranging from 100 yards to 1300 yards. At the highest magnification, there was no apparent chromatic aberration or visual distortion of the targets. Scopes with chromatic aberration will show a purplish haze around target lines. This is a known problem with any product with lenses, i.e. camera lenses. That type of distortion can range from being barely noticeable to being distracting.

Eye relief of the ATACR 7-35x was not as forgiving due to the magnification range. But, with the rifle being set up to fit me properly, maintaining and repeating proper eye relief was easy even on higher magnification settings.

NF ATACR

LOOSE ROUNDS

After testing the Nightforce ATACR 7-35x, I'm confident it will be a reliable scope for competitive shooting and extreme long range shooting. The magnification range puts it as a contender for multiple applications and negates the need for additional long range scopes to fill specific magnification needs. If you want a scope that can be used for fast target engagements when dialing could slow you down, I would opt for the T3 reticle instead of the Mil-C. But, if you're in the market for a scope to play any of the long range games, the Mil-C is ideal.

I'll follow up with how this scope performs during matches once I've had some time to run it through its paces while on the clock.

SPEC RUNDOWN

Focal plane: First
Magnification range: 7-35x
Objective lens: 56mm
Tube diameter: 34mm
Overall length: 16-inches
Weight: 39.3 oz
Illuminated reticle: Yes- Nightforce's Digillum
Direct link: http://www.nightforceoptics.com/atacr/7-35×56-f1
MSRP: $3,492

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