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?
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.