NIGHTFORCE NX8 1-8- Full Review

The Little Scope That Could

The debut of Nightforce’s 1-8 power scopes at the 2018 SHOT show was a huge success. I reviewed the ATACR 1-8×24 F1 and thought it was the scope we had all been waiting for; others obviously agreed as DoD announced that USSOCOM had selected it and awarded Nightforce a $21 million contract.

The small size is a perfect fit for many hunting and defensive rifles

However, praise for the ATACR’s little brother, the 30mm tubed NX8 F1 has been a bit quieter, and I don’t think it should be. It is an awesome scope in its own right and stands in the market as one of the smallest, lightest 1- 8 power variables.

I tested the NX8 1-8×24 F1 with an FC-Mil reticle and this little scope is just outstanding, it never left me wanting in any area. It doesn’t have all the features of its big brother but if you’re not going to the sandbox to fight a war it has all you need.

The first thing you notice about the NX8 is its compact size. It is the size of a small 1-4x scope and much smaller than what you expect for an 8 power optic. The NX8 just doesn’t take up a lot of real estate on top of a rifle. 

NX8 compared to older Leupold 1.5-5x and Swarovski Z6i 1-6x

Comparing it to other quality 8x scopes the difference is significant. Most of the current 1-8x scopes are built on 34mm tubes so it’s difficult to get straight apples to apple comparison, but the table below will give you the idea. 

BrandModelLength (inches)
NightforceNX88.75
LeupoldMark8 1-812
TrijiconAccupower 1-810.8
Schmidt& Bender1-8 PMII ShortDot11.54
VortexRazor HD 1-6x10.1
SwarovskiZ8i 1-811.9

Nothing comes close to being as small as the NX8. 

Along with its short overall length, the NX8 is also pretty light, weighing in at only 17 oz. This is the same weight as a Leupold Mark6 1-6x, but you get it in a smaller package and have an additional 2 power to deal with longer range targets.

Several of the scopes in the list above run as heavy as 25 oz., almost 50% more than the NX8. This is primarily due to the 34mm tube components which do add weight.

Looking at the size and weight discussion from the other end of the spectrum; the NX8 is heavier but still compares well even to red dot optics. Eotech‘s range from 3.8 to 5.6” long and weigh up to 13.8 oz depending on model and battery type and an Aimpoint CompC3 is 4.9” long, weighing in at 7 oz. 

NX8 at home on a Kimber Montana, keeping it lightweight for hunting- less than 7 lbs. including scope.

A smaller, lighter scope means your rifle isn’t as top-heavy and typically balances better, along with being easier to carry. Its small size has me looking at some of my other scopes and scratching my head as to why they are so big and debating if 8x would be enough for those applications instead of 10 or 12x.

Another strong selling point is that the NX8 is also one of the least expensive 1-8x illuminated scopes on the market. With an MSRP of $1750, and typically selling for a bit less, it is not an inexpensive scope but then again you wouldn’t expect a quality scope with all these features to be in the bargain bin.

Features

The 1x on the NX8 means just that. With the illumination on, it can be used on up-close targets just like a red dot sight, both eyes open, for fast shooting with no distortion. At the other end of the zoom ring, the clarity and 8 power magnification are enough to easily see and engage targets out to 700 yards if not more.

The illumination control knob has convenient off positions between settings.

The illuminated center dot and the segmented circle is bright and stands out even in full daylight. The illumination is controlled by a knob on the left side of the tube opposite of the capped windage dial. The battery for the illumination is accessed by unscrewing the illumination knob.

The FC-Mil reticle is in the first focal plane (FFP) of the scope meaning the reticle changes size as the power is adjusted. This allows the mil reticle to be correct and used throughout the power range of the scope. This is typical of modern long-range precision/ sniper scopes but not always a feature of lower magnification scopes.

Nightforce Power Throw Lever (PTL) allows rapid scope power adjustments

At 1x the details of the mil reticle are very small and allow shooting the scope like a dot sight. As you zoom in you see the reticle come into play and allow you to use it to hold over for more distant targets. The illumination and reticle design worked well across all ranges and challenges.

The FC-Mil reticle has a fine crosshair that is marked with 10 mils of elevation holdover and 4 mils to each side before getting to a thicker, coarser tapered edge with marking for 10, 15 & 20 mils. 

FC-Mil has good reference points without being too busy.

The holdover within the reticle allows engaging targets out to 700 yards or so depending on caliber and bullet ballistic coefficient. For more precise shot placement the exposed elevation turret can be dialed.

The NX8’s turrets have 30 Mils of elevation and windage adjustment; which should be enough. However, if you combine mounting this scope with one of Nightforce’s 20 moa bases you should never need more elevation than the base, reticle, and adjustment provide.

The elevation or windage turrets can be set to zero once you have your gun zeroed by loosening two set screws in the turret, rotating caps to “0” and retightening with the supplied wrench.

Easy to read turrets and illumination controls.

If you do a lot of dialing for shooting at different distances, sometimes it can be a challenge to make sure you get back to the proper revolution and your established zero. Fortunately, the NX8 has a zero stop that can be set to make sure that you are back to where you started and don’t end up a revolution off.

Specifications

  • Magnification- 1-8x
  • Tube diameter- 30mm
  • Length- 8.75 in
  • Weight- 17 oz
  • Field of view 1x – 106ft at 100 yards
  • Field of view 8x- 13 ft at 100 yards
  • Focal plane- First
  • Zero Stop- Yes
  • Illumination- Daylight visible
  • Elevation turret- Exposed, marked XX mils, .2 mil increments
  • Windage turret- Capped, marked XX mils, .2 increments
  • Reticle- FC-Mil or FC-MOA
  • MSRP- $1750

Testing

I shot the NX8 on an AR platform and on a couple hunting rifles and found it worked fantastic for all applications. The eye box is generous enough that it was always fast and easy to settle behind the scope and instantly find the reticle.

With the dot on and both eyes open the NX8 1-8 has a very wide field of view

The small-sized NX8 looked right at home when I mounted it on a 10.5” barreled AR pistol. The little scope is barely longer than the AR receiver and felt natural on top of the gun. On 1x with the illumination on, it was fast and smooth to acquire and engage targets within 100 yards.

When zoomed up to 8x shooting prone off a bag, it was easy to use the FC-Mil reticle holding over to engage steel targets out to the 450 yards available. The NX8 really increased the capability of the AR pistol while still keeping it fast handling and light.

When the NX8 was mounted on the Marlin 1895 45-70 it certainly bumped up the capability by allowing plenty of reticle hold points to allow hitting targets out to 300+ yards. It’s just a matter of having the data and holding steady; the NX8 scope gives a gun increased capability while adding little weight.

The mil based reticle was well designed for engaging distant targets. The size of the hashes marking each mil is large enough to be easily seen but small enough as to not obscure the target you are engaging. 

Hillside 700+ yards away is still clear and reticle still detailed enough to engage targets.

The center dot seemed to cover about 6” when engaging targets in the 500-yard range which was never a problem on larger targets but did make it a challenge for trying to shoot small groups at distance. However, the NX8 isn’t supposed to be a long-range precision scope, it’s a close-mid range scope and it excels at that task.

The 3.75-inch eye relief is more than adequate to ensure that even when shooting heavy recoiling calibers like the 45-70 and 280 AI there was no danger of being hit by the scope.

Final Thoughts

It wasn’t so many years ago that a 3-9x scope was the standard for hunting and a red dot was the standard for military weapons; the NX8 provides the advantages of each while keeping weight at a minimum. A 1-8x illuminated scope may be the best all-around scope a person can put on a hunting or defensive rifle, and at the size and weight of the NX8, it may be the best choice for those purposes.

NX8 kept the size down but still showed the true capability of 10.5 AR pistol- CRTC mount is almost as big as the scope.

The NX8 is the little scope that could, or can. It can be shot up close as fast as you can swing the gun to a target. It can clearly see and allow engagement of targets beyond 500 yards. It can allow a shooter to use the reticle to quickly hold over his target at extended distances and get reliable hits. It can be dialed like a long-range precision scope to use the center dot as an aiming point. It can quickly be returned to zero with confidence due to its zero stop. 

If 8 power magnification meets your scope needs you will be hard-pressed to find a smaller, lighter, better, performance-packed scope than the Nightforce NX8 1-8×24 F1. I’m planning on putting this NX8 to the test on a hunt in South Africa and then it will go back over on my AR.

Cartridges seem almost as long as the NX8 1-8

The best news is that the 1-8x was just the first scope of the new NX8 line from Nightforce. The 2.5-20x 50mm F1 and its more powerful brother the 4-32x50F1 were introduced at the NRA show and are going to be amazing 30mm tube hunting and lightweight long-range scopes. 

Those are some extreme power ranges that are going to make these some very versatile scopes. The NX8 line is available in both mil or MOA reticles and turrets to meet shooter needs.

The little 1-8x is a scope that really can get the job done.

For more information visit FN America website.

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About the author: Jeff Cramblit is a world-class competitive shooter having won medals at both the 2012 IPSC World Shotgun Championship in Hungary and more recently the 2017 IPSC World Rifle Championship in Russia. He is passionate about shooting sports and the outdoors. He has followed that passion for over 30 years, hunting and competing in practical pistol, 3gun, precision rifle and sporting clays matches. Jeff is intimately familiar with the shooting industry – competitor, instructor, RO, range master, match director. Among his training credits include NRA Instructor, AR-15 armorer, FBI Rifle Instructor, and Officer Low Light Survival Instructor. As a sponsored shooter, Jeff has represented notable industry names such as: Benelli, 5.11 Tactical, Bushnell, Blackhawk, DoubleStar, and Hornady. He has been featured on several of Outdoor Channel’s Shooting Gallery episodes and on a Downrange TV series. Jeff’s current endeavors cover a broad spectrum and he can be found anywhere from local matches helping and encouraging new shooters as they develop their own love of the sport, to the dove field with his friends, a charity sporting clays shoot, backpack hunting public land in Montana, or the winners podium of a major championship.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Hunter Sheckells December 26, 2019, 5:26 pm

    This or a Leupold MK6? Shooting out to 600yds

  • JOHN HOGLIN October 10, 2019, 7:50 pm

    I have a 30mm 1-4 on my Ruger PCC9. I was amazed at thee difference between a 1″ and a 30mm tube. These NF scopes are out of my price range but there are some really nice scopes with 30mm tubes at reasonable prices.

  • Daren October 10, 2019, 12:06 am

    I agree unaffordable for many. I went with a Leupold Mark AR. It has the illuminated SP reticle, 1-4x although second focal plane for a third the price. Granted I’m old…. school. We were taught if you can’t see the game with 4x you need to stalk closer. The bragging rights weren’t in how many laser ranged yards the shot was, but how few the stepped off yards were. My how times have changed.

    • evan lessuk January 6, 2020, 4:23 pm

      I have a P5 dial on mine and I can customize it! It weighs 9 oz. If I want I can get a double and it s still lighter and way cheaper!

  • Wade October 7, 2019, 9:14 am

    Maybe you guys could review stuff that the average Joe can afford?

    • Phil October 7, 2019, 10:53 am

      Yeah, I kind of agree, but I really do enjoy drooling over the NF gear. I’ll likely never buy one though unfortunately.

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