Review: Nightforce Competition 15-55×52

Review: Nightforce Competition 15-55×52

I’ve tended to shy away from reviewing optics on this site.  In part, this was a conscious decision based on on a lack of quantifiable measurements associated with optic reviews.  While you can definitely capture how well a scope tracks; other metrics, such as resolution become harder to effectively measure.  In even the best tests, there is still a human element that is hard to quantify.  That said, I shoot a lot and with many different scopes.  Often, a scope will end up on 6-12 rifles during the course of a year.  This gives me a real sense of how they work across a wide range of applications.  I’ve decided to offer my feedback on these from the prospective of the end user.

Optics have come a long way in the past twenty years.  I vividly remember the Hensoldt fixed 10x sight that was included with the Steyr PIIK package I bought back in 1995.  Equipped with a cam calibrated to Federal 168 gr Gold Medal ammunition it was one of the more advanced optics available at the time.  Compared to the functionality of scopes today, its capabilities were limited at best.

It is important to remember that rifle scopes, like most other products, are built for specific tasks.  The needs of a deer hunter, military sniper and match shooter are all different.

Two 6.5 mm custom rifles. The top rifle is chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, the bottom rifle is chambered in 6.5×47 Lapua. The availability of high quality Lapua brass is often cited as the reason for a reloader to select the Lapua cartridge over the Creedmoor.

Take a look at the two rifles above; both have similar actions, A5 McMillan stocks and barrels chambered for similar 6.5 mm cartridges.  The top rifle is equipped with a Nightforce B.E.A.S.T. while the bottom is equipped with the Nightforce Competition 15-55×52 scope.  In this case, what each does well is determined by the optic.  Notice the Nightforce Competition 15-55×52 scope has a gloss finish and engraved logo, as opposed to the matte finish you’ll typically find on the “field” scopes they make.

From its name, you can probably tell that the Nightforce Competition 15-55×52 scope was designed for competitive use: in particular; known-distance, F-class target shooting, where higher magnification and finer windage and elevation adjustments provide an advantage.  I’ve copied the specifications from Nightforce’s website:

I’ve been using my Nightforce Competition for nearly two years and think I have a good sense of what it does and how it does it.  The glass is extremely clear and resolution is superb.  The windage and elevation adjustments are crisp and precise.

Nightforce offers four different second focal plane reticle options for the Nightforce Competition 15-55×52; the CTR-2, CTR-3, DDR-2 and FCR-1.  My scope is equipped with an FCR-1.

Perhaps the two most notable attributes of the Nightforce Competition are the 1/8 MOA adjustments and 15-55 magnification range.  Both of these are a trade off.  The 1/8 MOA adjustment is great for use at a known-distance match.  I’ve found them to be extremely accurate and they track very well.  The downside of 1/8 MOA clicks is that the optic is limited to 55 MOA of vertical adjustment and will most likely need a base with 15-20 MOA of slope in it (pretty common nowadays), and you’ll need to dial more “clicks” to make a correction.  Again, a non issue at a fixed distance match.  The heavy magnification comes at the price of a relatively small eye box.  I don’t like shooting above 35X in any scope, and while the Nightforce Competition is more forgiving then most, its still requires perfect positioning behind the rifle.

I tend to shoot with optics set at their lower magnifications.  The Nightforce Competition is no exception.  I’ll often use it in the 15-25X range, rarely going beyond.  Like any other high magnification scope; as the magnification increases, the size of the eye box decreases and you get an increase of mirage and perceived movement.  A problem with the fine second focal plane reticle is that at lower magnification, below 25X, the reticle can disappear in certain lighting conditions. This requires you to dial up magnification when you may not want to.

For fixed distance competition shooting, especially F-Class matches, the Nightforce Competition is a excellent choice and without peer.  When I’m testing loads, or looking to print small groups at long range, I reach for it.

To learn more about the Nightforce Competition 15-55×52, click here.