Nikon’s Dedicated AR-15 Scopes: the P223 4-12×40

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This review is way overdue. Nikon sent us this scope ages ago, and I’ve had atypical delays in getting it into the field. This version of the P223 is designed for reliable accuracy out to 600 yards, which isn’t something you can say about most ARs. Our review takes just the first half of this distance, the most practical, and pits the scope against several carbine length rifles. How does the P223 measure up?

nikon P223

The P223 on this Frankenstein AR worked very well, way past the limitations of the other rifles we worked with, and the front post doesn’t obstruct the view at all.

Magnification 4-12x
Objective Diameter 40mm
Exit Pupil 3.3-10mm
Field of View 7.3-23.6 ft@ 100 yds
Tube Diameter – 1 in
Eye Relief 3.7in
Eyepiece Outside Diameter 44mm
Weight 17.5 oz
Overall Length 14.1 in
Adjustment Graduation – 1/4 in
Max Internal Adjustment 60 MOA
Parallax Setting – 100 yds
Matte Finish
Reticle BDC 600

The Nikon P2234-12×40

The Nikon P223 is a purpose built scope meant to handle the specific needs of long range AR shooter. The scope is designed around 55 grain, polymer tipped, .223 bullets. It is the longest of the Nikon AR scopes. The low end of the magnification is still more than most shooters want for CQB, so it may be a candidate for a set of offset irons. We didn’t have a rifle in that would allow us to set up an offset front sight. On the high end of the magnification, the 12th power provides a lot of detail.

nikon P223

The 40mm lens offers a wide field of view at long distances. Here it is mounted on a Diamondback DB 15.

The construction is solid. While the scope isn’t as heavy as some AR scopes, it feels substantial. I’d classify this as a hunting/sporting scope and not a going-to-war scope, though there is no reason why it would work for that, too.  The controls are easy to use and read, thanks to the Rapid Action Turrets, which have preset marks for known distances. Once you get the scope zeroed, and the dials set, you can dial up compensations out to 600 yards. Or you can use the BDC hold-over circles, which are open and almost foolproof in perfect conditions.

The P223 is a second focal plane scope, which means the BDC reticle will stay the same size as magnification increases or decreases. In order to make the most of this type of scope, I like to sight in at a fairly predictable distance. As 100 yards is a common distance for all of the ranges I work at, I like to put up targets of know size and work with them with the magnification wide open and dialed in. My thinking here is that it will allow me to better gauge distances and sizes in the field.

nikon P223

The second focal plane reticle is clean and lacks all of the hash marks that dominate more complicated reticles.

This isn’t typically a problem for me with ARs. I’m not a long range AR shooter. If I’m hunting and know I’ll be working out past 300 yards (a rarity in the South), I’ll take a bolt gun. Under 300 yards, the .223 isn’t going to drop enough to make that much of a difference. Still, it is nice to know what a gun can do, and what I can do. Getting to know your scope is the easiest way to take out the guess work and eliminate part of the human equation. If you, like me, can’t eyeball distances past the 200 yard mark to within 20 yards (and you’re not working with a range finder), than a scope like the P223 can actually become another tool you can use to make rough calculations.

Shooting the P223

We had to try three rifles before we found on that could match the potential of the P223. Our accuracy test was simple enough. I have a 12 inch circle plate that we hung on a fence post. As testing continued, we backed off of the plate. At first, we shot paper, made sure we were on at 100 yards, then kept backing out until it wasn’t practical anymore. We used our portable bench with a Caldwell sled, and also shot standing, kneeling, and prone. We shot 5.56 ball, and Gorilla Ammo, Colt, and Hpr HyperClean .223.

The reticle, compared to many of the long range reticles, is deceptively simple. Each circle represents a known distance--out to 600 yards.

The reticle, compared to many long range reticles, is deceptively simple. Each circle represents a known distance–out to 600 yards.

The first gun we auditioned was the Diamondback DB 15. The rifle is a supped-up entry level AR-15. The carbine length barrel should be capable out to 600 yards. And it might have been. If we’d benched it properly on a day with low humidity and mild temperatures, when Saturn was in the seventh house, and if I’d held my tongue in just the right position….

The DB 15 did well enough at 100 yards. By 300 yards, we’d packed it in. We could get it to hit from the bench, and occasionally from prone, but standing and kneeling hits were rare.

The  Beretta ARX 100 was the most frustrating. Perhaps this is because I had such high hopes for the gun. It did very well at shorter distances, but even at 200 yards, from the bench, I wasn’t getting consistent hits. Having just nailed the same drill with the DB 15, I knew it had to be the rifle. There is no excuse for that lack of accuracy.

The last gun is a typical Frankenstein’s monster. The lower is a Palmetto State Armory. The upper is a Rock River. Most of the furniture is Magpul, except for the forend, which is an American Built Arms. Despite the hodgepodge construction, the rifle works better than any of the others we had on hand. With the P223, the 12 inch plate is an easy target out to 300 yards, in all but the standing position. If I had the gun braced solidly, the shots were consistent.

nikon P223

The long scope is almost too much for the ARX 100 rail. That front sight isn’t coming up until the scope is removed.


For the money, this scope rocks. We haven’t even come close to exhausting its potential. We hauled it around in hard cases, in soft cases, and even tossed it loose into the back of the truck and it has held its zero perfectly. All for $249.95.

Ideally, I’d set it up on a dedicated long range AR, something like a Stag 3G, or a CMMG MK 4S. On a carbine, it feels like overkill. I’m not likely to do much hunting with a carbine. I’m not likely to put a scope on an AR, for that matter. I’m much more of red-dot fan. So this was a big change, and kind of a novelty, too. As soon as we get in a rifle that will allow us to do some hard core side-by-side testing, we’ll really break out its performance.

nikon P223

The BDC system is easy to dial in at known distances, and each click is still .25 MOA at 100 yards.

nikon P223

The nobs are heavily knurled which helps when making adjustments. There is more leverage on the larger nobs, so you are less likely to turn too far when it moves.

nikon P223

AR shots out to 600 yards? If the rifle is capable, why not? 600 yard shots are almost impossible to find in this neck of the woods.

nikon P223

The 4-12 dial is tighter than I’d like and isn’t easily adjusted from the shoulder. That is the only real complaint I have about the scope.

nikon P223

If you own multiple scopes, the Nikon line will be easy to identify thanks to their clear branding.

nikon P223

Adjustments in elevation can be made easily, thanks to the BDC reticle. The darker dots are 50 yard marks between open 100 yard markers.

nikon P223

While some see the 4-12 as a long range scope, the P223 is even better for extreme close range accuracy.

nikon P223

Our varied testing with the same scope showed that all guns are not created equal. The ARX was predictable out to 100 yards, but not much farther.


{ 12 comments… add one }
  • Scott T December 20, 2018, 7:03 pm

    The P-223 rocks. I’ve had one mounted on my 20″ gen 4 Colt for over 3 years now and I don’t think I will ever change it. Shots are consistently sub-moa from 100-600yds using basic lake City m193. If you can’t keep a tight group, then one of the holy Trinity has failed you.. whether it was gun, ammo, or shooter is for you to decide.. but it wasn’t that piece of glass.

  • bman940 November 30, 2018, 12:03 pm

    I have been using Nikon’s P-223 scopes for a long time and I couldn’t agree more with you. They give you a lot of bang for your buck. The BDC reticle lets you dial in your rifle scope and ammo for accurate long-range shots too. Nikon now has a P-Tactical scope out that gives you the choice of a MRAD/MOA reticle for you guys that like to turn knobs or dial in the reticle with Spot On for holdovers.

  • Sims November 30, 2018, 4:17 am

    Nikon P-223 is one of the best quality scopes for a rifle. If we go for a long range shooting we can adjust this scope with our rifle and make a perfect shot.

  • hkguy October 8, 2017, 2:45 pm

    This is an old thread but a little insight on why nothing the author did would barely work, & this isn’t including standing, kneeling, prone, cheap ammo, no handloads etc How about the fact this scope isn’t set up for an AR15 even tho it claims as much. Yes it can be used on an AR w/spot on (hold offs wont match up per say as in 100/200/300 etc etc) they’ll be all over the place, it can be used just not properly as they claim for an AR-15!! This scope and reticle was apparently calibrated using like a 24″ barreled bolt action rifle sitting maybe 1.5″ +/- above the bore. Ive never seen a 16inch AR barrel produce 3,200fps in my life as they claim is needed , its impossible to mount a scope on a flat top AR 1.5 “+/- as is needed ( even w/your head laying flat sideways lol it won’t work on an AR) buttstocks on AR’s dont drop below the bore like they do on typical rifles so thats a no go. In other words to make this reticle work as advertised and every hold over line up accordingly you’ll need at best a 20″/24″ barrel a chrony to check fps, pretty much the exact red tipped 55 gr bullets they used in testing and or matching handloads and most likely a bolt action 223 with scope at nominal ht not 2.5” above the bore such as an AR. That should get it in the ballpark in order to use each and every hold over correctly..

  • Don Jones July 18, 2015, 7:36 am

    Had to adjust turret until cap sits on 300 yd.mark to zero it at 100 yds. Can’t lift cap and turn down till 100 is on 100. Same for windage adjustment. Scope holds tight pattern and no other problems but having to remember 300 +100 =100?

  • don jones July 18, 2015, 7:25 am

    I bought the 4×12 and sighted it in at 100 yards. To do this I had to keep turning turret up to where the 400 yard zero should be. The 100 yd.mark on turret cap sits on the 300 yd.mark on scope. Lifting it up to try to turn it for the 100 to rest on the 100 does not move it. So other than remembering that the 100 is where 400 should be it is accurate .Same for windage adjustment. Have it on Rock River Arms R-3 competition.

    • Matthew October 4, 2016, 8:11 pm

      This sounds like a mounting error. I’ve used these scopes on AR and bolt guns from 100-1250 yards. Zero issues. Check the specs and mounting. I’d be interested in hearing how it works out. Best of luck, keep shooting, stay safe.

  • thunder June 16, 2015, 9:46 am

    I use the Nikon BDC scopes for teaching long range shooting . Why instead of the expensive scopes …. because of the Nikon computer solutions website . Answer the basic question asked by the website and it produces a shooting solution for a known distance with known ammunition . And for over anything over 500 yards that’s pretty cool . Realize that 500 yards is 5 football fields . That really IS a Long way out there . BDC / built in bullet drop , very cool for a novice shooter . And all the variables are built into that solution . Confidence in hits is a great teaching tool . Most of my Clients are ,,well ,, High End Buyers of any tools that they buy / use . There is no substitute for trigger time and scope time . Just think of it like this , consistent hits build confidence , right ? Then buy the high end kit once you can shoot consistently out past 500 yards . Thumbs Up for the Nikon BDC series scopes ^5 ………

  • Anonymous September 3, 2014, 1:49 am

    There’s that Rumsfeld saying about “known unknowns and unknown unknowns” that comes to mind here. In this case, the unknown unknown is the author’s own awareness of his shooting knowledge.

    In the most distinct terms possible: You don’t test an optic, or a rifle, or a load, by shooting them in field positions, unless you’re good enough that you win matches at Camp Perry. User error is the only thing being tested. Shooting a 12″ plate at 300 yards with an AR should be plenty easy provided quality ammo (Read: Not bulk/steel/reman ammo. None of the loads mentioned are quality 223/556 loads, and none of them should be used for accuracy testing). If someone is unable to do so on a consistent basis, their credibility for writing an insightful or accurate review is highly suspect. There are so many errors introduced in the testing method described that it’s worthless for all practical purposes of telling us anything about the rifles or the scope used.

  • Paul T. Leslie August 4, 2014, 8:49 am

    You might think twice about dealing with Nikon. I just bought 3 scopes. Each had a $10 coupon offer to use at the Nikon Store, which I had to fight for to have the company ultimately recognize only one of them. Nothing like no responses, and then a half-hearted solution.

    They also refused to honor their sale price on two of my scopes for the AR. $30 rebate was to be provided to the dealer, with the dealer charging me $30 less. I listened to the phone call from my dealer to the Nikon representative – they would only return $20 to him for one scope and nothing on the second one.

    Then, there was more abysmal customer service. I wrote to complain about the fraudulent sales gimmick: absolutely no response!

    One day this crappy customer service, fraudulent practices and disrespect for their customers is going to catch up with them. I’ve bought my last product from Nikon.

    • Jim Lee January 10, 2015, 9:41 pm

      They do have crappy Cust Serv. Having said that…..I have the P 223 BDC and it rocks. My camera experience with Nikon tells me I won’t ever have to contact them about the scope. Think of it as a $30 insurance policy.

  • Matthew August 3, 2014, 9:34 pm

    I own two nikons with bdc reticles. These scopes are great if you handload and can achieve S.D. In the nines. Then input all that data into the spot on program print out ballistic chart aka dope card also print out true distances per circle will be vastly different then listed 100,200, blah blah. After all that hard work you’ll have a weapon system provided you have a range finder.

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