Versatility Defined, the NIGHTFORCE NX8 2.5-20x50mm F1

The Nightforce NX8 2.5-20 F1 is the middle child of the NX8 family. Its 20x top magnification is 12 times greater than the upper end of the 1-8x, and 12 power lower than its big brother, the 4-32x. The overall size and the 2.5 to 20 magnification power range make this NX8 a good fit for such a variety of applications that I think it is the most versatile of the product line.

The 20x of the F1 is capable of seeing targets clear enough to engage far beyond the 1000 yard mark and with the MIL-XT reticle holding wind or elevation are also within the capabilities of good shooters. The low end 2.5 magnification allowed me to shoot with both eyes open and engage targets rapidly at ranges of 50 yards or less, though certainly not as easily as on 1x with the smallest NX8 model.

The wide range of magnification levels between 2.5 and 20 offers numerous options for shooters to determine the amount of detail to be seen or field of view needed to engage targets or scout terrain. The magnification range, though not perfect for all circumstances, will work well for most match shooting and hunting conditions.

I plan to have one of these scopes on my rifle for my next African safari. Having been once before and knowing that I will likely encounter scenarios where I may have to shoot at closer ranges in some brush or out across hundreds of yards of open plains, I think a scope of this power range will serve me well.

Clearly marked .1 MRAD turrets for elevation and windage adjustments

Several years ago, after a couple of long range precision matches, I completely transitioned to Mil-based scopes. The adjustments may not be as small as a .25 MOA adjustment target scope but they work very well for long range sniper type competitions and hunting where tiny adjustments are not as critical, as say in bench rest competitions.

The elevation and windage turrets of the NX8 are very clearly marked and even older eyes can see the adjustments, as well as feel and count the .1 Mil adjustment clicks. The direction of adjustments as well as the number of revolutions up is marked to remove all doubts.

The turrets are secured to the scope’s internal adjustments by 2 set screws for the elevation turret and one for the smaller windage turret, allowing resetting to zero once the rifle is sighted in.

A ZeroStop adjustment is located under the elevation turret and allows setting the bottom travel of the elevation turret. Once this is set in accordance with the instruction manual directions it allows a shooter to rapidly and reliably return to their zero after making turret adjustments.

ZeroStop adjustment is found under the elevation turret and secured by 4 set screws.

On the left side of the scope opposite the windage turret is the parallax adjustment knob that also houses the illumination battery compartment and DigIllum control button. The parallax adjustment is not marked in yardages but allows making corrections between the focal plane of the target and reticle within the scope.

The grey NF logo in the center of the knob is the control button for the DigIllum illumination system. The NX8 reticle can be used as a plain black reticle or in either red or green illumination of the primary crosshairs.

Pressing and releasing the control button turns on the illuminated reticle to the last selected color and intensity level. Pressing and holding for about 3 seconds then releasing turns off the reticle.

DigIllum control button is the center of parallax turret.

Pressing and releasing the button cycles up or down the intensity on the reticle. When the reticle reaches the brightest or dimmest setting it flashes 3 times and then starts adjusting in the opposite direction with each press of the button.

Pressing and holding the button for about 5 seconds changes the color of the reticle between green and red. The red helped on dark broken backgrounds but when it got a bit later in the afternoon and the greenery was less pronounced, I preferred the bright green reticle.


Red illumination shows up better than black on green mixed background.

The NX8 eyepiece has an adjustable diopter feature to allow the shooter to set the reticle focus for their vision. The diopter is set by rotating the eyepiece in or out until the reticle is clear for the shooter and is then held in place with the locking ring. 

I like the fact that the power adjustment and eyepiece operate independently. On some scope models rotating the eyepiece is how magnification power is changed and I have unintentionally unlocked and rotated my diopter adjustment when making counterclockwise power changes… Oops.

Battery for reticle illumination is under cap on parallax adjustment turret.

Magnification power changes are made even easier and somewhat more positive with the installation of the included Power Throw Lever (PTL). It doesn’t protrude too far to interfere, but it certainly allows a positive grab, even with gloves to change the scope power.

To install, use the included NF Allen/Torx wrench and remove the flush set screw and install the PTL. I always use a little blue thread locker on the threads to ensure it doesn’t come loose and get lost while in use.

Power Throw Lever makes rapid magnification changes a snap.

The eye relief on the NX8 F1 is 3.5” according to the specifications, and that worked well at the lower powers, but I found at higher powers I needed to be slightly closer to maintain the best view of the reticle. No worries, just make sure when the scope is being installed to test the eye relief at both ends of the power range.

The eye box or the area where your eye needs to be to see through the scope seemed relatively small to me, though it may just be a personal preference. This isn’t really an issue so long as the gun is set up to fit the shooter and the rings put the scope at the proper height for the rifle comb.

The adjustable comb on my test rifle ensured I was in the right position and it took moving my head around slightly to test the bounds of the usable zone. Proper gun fit and scope mounting are always critical regardless of product.

Power2.5 – 20xTube Diameter30 mm
Length12 inchesObjective Diameter50 mm
Weight28.3 ouncesBatteryCR2032
ReticleMil-XTReticle IlluminationRed / Green
Field of View41’(2.5)- 7’ (20)MSRP$1950
Features of the NX8 are light years ahead of a generation ago.

Scopes and reticles have certainly come a long way in the past years. I’ve seen the changes from plain or duplex reticles to Mil Dots, then Ballistic Drop Reticles, and now to those like the MIL-XT. These last generations with increments clearly designated for elevation and wind holds are night and day better than all those before. 

The MIL-XT reticle breaks down elevation and wind holds to .2 mil increments allowing holding on or between the tenons for very precise holds, and rapid corrections if you can see the splash of a missed shot.

Even at 20 power there are 10 mils of windage and elevation hold.

In live-action, the reticle is even clearer than the photo above illustrates but this gives you an idea of what the MIL-XT offers. Even if you dial in the desired elevation for a shot, the reticle can give you a clear indication of a correction if you see the miss strike in the mil area.

The NX8 2.5-20 x 50 is available with a variety of different reticles so shooters should be able to find one that suits their needs. In fact, the 2.5-20 can be ordered in first or second focal plane scope, and with MIL or MOA based turrets; versatile in use and configurations.

If you are going to dial in adjustments, it’s critical that a scope tracks and changes precisely the amount it is supposed to based on the turrets. I spent a good bit of time on the range checking tracking of the NX8 2.5-20 and it was as precise as I expected.

Bear with me as I run through the tracking test I performed. I shot at the same point for every shot but adjusted the scope’s elevation and windage turrets to change the impact point of the bullets.

Tracking exercises found the NX8 returned to zero after many adjustments.

First, I fired a shot at the intended aiming point to verify zero, it hit within the expected group size of the marked spot. Dialed up 2 mils-shot, dialed right 1 mil-shot, dialed left 2 mils-shot, up 1 mil-shot, dialed left 2 and down 2 mils-shot, dialed down 2-shot, dialed left 2-shot, dialed up 2 mils-shot, and finally dialed right 1 and down 1 to return to zero-shot. The hit went back in the same expected group size around the marked spot.

Then I dialed up 10 mils, down 10 mils-shot, repeated, then right 5 mils, left 5 mils-shot, left 5 mils, right 5 mils-shot. I had one hit land outside what I expected for group size so I repeated it two additional times to see if it was the scope or if I had just gotten careless, the rest of the shots landed in and around all the others so I guess I pulled that one.

The scope was tracking accurately after a multitude of adjustments both large and small and being more consistent than my shooting. I continued the testing by working the scope on steel targets out to 500 yards using the reticle in all 3 colors, black, red, and green. 

Another stand-out feature of the NX8 2.5-20 is its small size and weight. Nightforce really shoe-horned a lot of performance into this 12” scope. At under 2 pounds, this scope won’t bog down a lightweight hunting rifle. 

The 8 power erector tube gives a very useful, wide range of magnification power, while the DigIllum reticle with its color and intensity choices means you can hunt early or late in the day and know you will be able to see the quarry and reticle. The features and performance of the NX8 2.5-20x50mm F1 make it a very versatile scope and an outstanding choice for so many applications.

Overall the NX8 2.5-20x performed exceptionally well on all fronts, and I look forward to seeing the action in Africa behind the crosshairs of one.

For more information go to NIGHTFORCE NX8 2.5-20x50mm F1

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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.

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