Nightforce SHV 3-10×42: Review
The Nightforce SHV 3-10×42 riflescope is the lightest and most compact model in the Shooter, Hunter, Varminter (SHV) lineup. The SHV line of scopes is advertised to deliver Nightforce quality in a more economical package.
In today’s competitive riflescope market, scopes are judged on glass quality, reliability, features, and price. To balance those four attributes, compromises are often made to one or more of them. With years of experience shooting with their NXS and ATACR scopes, I was curious to see how Nightforce achieved that balance with the SHV.
The SHV 3-10×42 is a compact scope, measuring 11 ¾” long and weighing 22.7 ounces. It’s size, weight, and range of magnification make it a good choice for a general-purpose hunting rifle.
A scope with this magnification range is ideal for engaging targets at distances typically encountered while big game hunting. The lower end of its magnification range allows quick, close target acquisition and a wide field of view. The upper end provides enough resolution for precise shot placement at intermediate distances.
This is the type of scope I recommend when you expect to bust an elk up close, but might need to reach across a 600-yard draw to punch your tag. Personal experience has shown me that shooting at animals past that distance is best done through purpose-built scopes with higher magnification, such as the Nightforce 5-25×56 ATACR. However, scopes like that don’t sit well on the average hunting rifle and are best used at their highest magnification.
I mounted the SHV on a Defensive Edge Sheep Hunter for the review.
The Sheep Hunter is one of the rifles we carry during our November deer season. It’s light in the hand and balances perfectly. It’s built on a Remington 700 SA receiver with a #4 taper Hart barrel, chambered in 260 Remington. I used a medium-height Defensive Edge Custom Ring/Base Combo to mount the SHV. This system includes a 20 MOA taper and is an ideal height for this size scope. No additional comb height was needed, and there was plenty of room for flip-up protective caps. The trail-ready package weighed right at eight pounds. Prior to this review, the rifle wore a Nightforce NXS 2.5-10×32.
Most of our deer hunting takes place in heavy timber and along the edges of logged sections. Typical shot distances range from point-blank to 600 yards. In 2016, my son and I each shot a whitetail with it at 280 and 420 yards, respectively.
Glass quality is important for this type of use, as shots often come during poor lighting conditions. The edge-to-edge clarity of the 3-10×42 SHV was on par with my NXS scopes.
Light transmission and color trueness allowed use of the SHV during all legal hunting hours. I had no problem picking out deer against similarly colored brush and grass, even at extended ranges just before dark. The exterior lens coatings seem durable weren’t affected by routine, careful cleaning.
The SHV 3-10×42 is available with the MOAR or IHR reticle. The scope provided for this review was equipped with the MOAR reticle. There is no illuminated reticle option.
The MOAR reticle is based on minute-of-angle (MOA) measurements and set in the second focal plane of the SHV 3-10×42. The stadia extend from the center in one, two, and ten MOA graduations. It allows elevation holdovers up to 30 MOA and wind corrections of 20 MOA to either side. The aiming point is a floating cross that subtends one MOA vertically and horizontally from its center. It’s simple and uncluttered.
The only time I found the MOAR reticle difficult to use was at last light, especially when the target was in dark timber. With no illumination option, I had to be careful about where I took a stand at the end of the day. This condition seems to be limited to the compact scopes in Nightforce’s lineup; I have no problem using the MOAR reticle in my 5.5-22×56 NXS or 5-25 F1.
Maybe it’s my aging eyes, but the non-illuminated MOAR reticle in this scope is a big negative for me. Perhaps the IHR reticle would have been a better option for my intended use.
The SHV 3-10×42 uses a fast-focus eyepiece without a lock. The end of the eyepiece spins independently, focusing the reticle to your vision. There’s enough friction built in to keep it where you set it, and unlike NXS scopes, the SHV’s magnification power ring turns separately from the eyepiece.
That last part is a big plus if you want to use flip-up lens covers. Nightforce provides hinged rubber lens caps that do a good job of protecting the glass. However, I found them somewhat difficult to remove in a hurry. Also, the hinge doesn’t let the ocular cover swing completely away, creating a distraction I didn’t want. In the end, I bought a pair of Butler Creek flip-up caps to protect the scope during the review. Probably not the best option, but certainly an economical one.
The SHV has a parallax adjustment (PA) knob on the left side of the turret housing. Marked with approximate yardage settings, it allows PA adjustment from 25 yards to infinity. I personally don’t see the need for a PA knob on a ten-power scope. I would gladly trade it for an illumination switch!
Both turret knobs are capped. Nightforce guarantees the SHV to be waterproof, but only if the caps are on while it’s exposed to water. I took them at their word, only exposing the elevation or windage knob when I needed to shoot.
It often rains or snows during our deer season, with wide temperatures swings and constant humidity. 2016 was a wet year for northern Idaho, so it was a good opportunity to test the SHV in this environment. It did just fine; even with a few good soakings.
Nightforce offers the same transferable lifetime warranty on the SHV as they do with their other scopes.
The SHV’s 30MM tube is rated for 90 MOA of total elevation travel and 80 MOA of windage adjustment. The sample for this review came with 99.25 MOA of elevation.
With the scope mounted and zeroed at 100 yards, I could dial the elevation knob 53.25 MOA up and 46 MOA down. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of total turret travel vs. usable travel, the difference lies in scope angle.
To intersect with a bullet’s impact at a normal zero range, a turret housing that’s mounted parallel to the rifle’s bore will ordinarily need to be adjusted up from its center. With the scope canted higher at the rear the angle increases, requiring the scope to be adjusted down to zero. Every click down to zero is a click we can use later to adjust up for longer ranges.
The knurled turret knobs measure .935” in diameter. Each revolution adjusts the scope 10 MOA, each click is worth .25 MOA. The markings on the knobs are clear, sharp, and easy to read in all conditions. The turret housing beneath the knob is numerically marked for each revolution. There is no zero stop feature on the SHV. The turrets and knobs are splined to allow the knob to be set after zeroing the scope. A coin or flat blade screwdriver is all that’s needed.
The detents between clicks are positive, if not smooth or without backlash. The feel of the clicks is what I’ve experienced with some other brands of scopes, but never in a Nightforce. If you’re looking for the tactile feel of a NXS or ATACR turret, you’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, the accuracy of those clicks is what matters most.
You can’t have a scope review without testing its mechanical functions.
When asked, my viewers and subscribers ranked mechanical reliability high on their list of considerations for a scope review. I agree, even if that scope won’t be used for long-range precision shooting.
If you have a proven load for your rifle, you can usually get a good feel for how a scope tracks right away. The Sheep Hunter consistently produces ½”, three-shot groups at 100 yards. Half-inch precision and 10-power accuracy aren’t ideal for precision scope testing, but it’s realistic in this case.
Zeroing the SHV was uneventful; if I dialed three MOA to the left and four MOA down, it adjusted accordingly. It also passed a standard box test after it was zeroed. I performed an initial tall target test, taking it up to 30 MOA in 10 MOA increments, then returning to zero. In all cases, the SHV adjusted the amount dialed, within the accuracy potential of the rifle and scope.
Over the course of our hunting season, we occasionally practiced out to 800 yards on one-MOA targets. With proven drops and a tuned ballistic profile, a tracking problem would have been obvious. We had no surprises, hitting more than missing if I remember correctly. Intermittent zero checks revealed no shifting during the season.
I just performed another zero check and tall target test. Despite the rain and wind, I managed to shoot well enough to prove the SHV’s repeatability. I also confirmed the reticle to be plumb with the turret’s track. This was all done after dialing the turret to both ends of its travel, then back to zero.
Regardless of how the turrets feel, this scope tracks and aims as accurately as I can test it without a collimator.
I’ll admit that I was hesitant to review the SHV 3-10×42. I didn’t think I could give it a fair and objective evaluation. I have a lot of personal experience with Nightforce NXS and ATACR scopes, and don’t like to compromise. Things like no reticle illumination, capped turrets, and poor tactile clicks are compromises. However, the street price on this SHV is $873. Eliminating those compromises with a 2.5-10×42 NXS will set you back $1892. I’ll let you be the judge on how important the price of compromise is. For more information, please visit Nightforce Optics. If you enjoyed this review, please subscribe to this site. Thanks!
A very good review of this scope. I also think that the lack of illumination is a problem in this scope its what stopped me purchasing it.
Great review Sam, your review mirrors my opinion of the SHV scopes. We won one at a shoot, and sold it without mounting it up or shooting it. Like you, we are used to the turret feel of the nxs and it just wasn’t there. I am very glad to hear that it passed the box test and adjusted consistently, as I was worried based on feel that it would not. I was willing to test the turret repeatability if that was the only issue. However, the only part I could not get past is the covered turret. My plan was to just throw them in a drawer until I learned they needed to stay on for the scope to be waterproof. Anyway, it sounds like it passed the test on the things that really matter, so it may be a great option for someone wanting a NF buthe not wanting to spend close to 2000. How do you think this scope compares to a Mark 4?
Bill, the only Mark 4 I have left is an older 2.5-8 on an AR-15. The turrets are mushy, but at least they’re exposed. I don’t remember if I ever did a tall target test on it.
I think there is an exposed turret version of the 5-20×56 shv coming out this year?
The shv f1 would be a great scope if it didn’t have the ridiculous 2.9 inch eye relief. Im a huge night force fan but they missed the mark on these scopes for hunting, you might as well get a nxs as they are just about the same size and weight.
On the 3-10 shv it would have been better with the 20moa below center moar reticle as in the 5-20 shv its a little easier to see.
I have a f1 shv on a 308AR and have never felt like eye relief was a problem. If you like a f1 and you budged limits you to the shv series of optics then do not hesitate to purchase one!
I put one of these on my hunting rifle last year. I appreciate your review aND agree that the MOAR reticle would be difficult to use in less light. I was willing to accept that trade off for less weight. I was thinking the parallax correction would be beneficial for longer shots but I don’t know how much error I might have without it.
Sam, was just curious, which gunsmith do you use for your projects??? Always looking for a quality gunsmith close to home here in Washington.
Thanks Devin Hawley
With the exception of the 300WM, Defensive Edge has built all of my rifles. They are in Rathdrum, just down the road from me.