Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 F1: Review
This review of the Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 F1 comes after 16 months of hard field use. With over 3000 rounds fired from four different rifles, this F1 has proven itself time and again.
I originally published a review of the ATACR 5-25×56 F1 in September, 2015. Since then, I’ve added the ATACR 5-25×56 SFP Enhanced to my collection of Nightforce scopes. This updated review of the F1 is meant to compliment the all new ATACR Enhanced review, found HERE. It also reflects additional experience I’ve gained since the original review.
With input from military and civilian competition shooters, Nightforce introduced two new First Focal Plane (FFP) riflescopes to their Advanced Tactical Riflescope (ATACR) lineup in early 2015. With the ATACR 5-25×56 F1, Nightforce may very well have created the ideal long-range tactical riflescope.
A First Focal Plane (FFP) optical system, optimized reticle designs, and enhanced features make this scope a tactical powerhouse. The most important change to the original ATACR is the optical system.
The reticle is placed in the first focal plane. It stays the same size relative to the target, regardless of magnification. The first focal plane design provides flexibility across the scope’s magnification range for sizing targets, ranging targets, and using the reticle stadia for accurate hold-offs.
The ATACR 5-25×56 F1 retains several features of the first-generation ATACR.
Fully multi-coated ED glass, a 34MM main tube, and 120 MOA of total elevation travel are a few of them. For the F1, Nightforce introduced a set of features that are designed to enhance performance. The first one that stood out for me was the elevation turret.
Having spun the dials on Nightforce 10 MOA and 20 MOA turrets for thousands of shots, I found the new 30 MOA-per-revolution elevation turret on the ATACR 5-25×56 F1 to be a great improvement.
The elevation turret’s knob is slightly shorter, and larger in diameter than the first-generation ATACR. The result is a low-profile knob that’s easier to grip for dialing corrections. The feel of the clicks is smooth and positive, with no hanging up between the .25 MOA clicks. The laser-engraving on the turret cap and housing is precise and clear, with large, easy to read numbers. A quick tall target test during this review showed why Nightforce has a well-deserved reputation for repeatable, accurate tracking.
The ATACR 5-25×56 F1 provides 120 MOA of available elevation travel. It also retains the time-proven ZeroStop system.
The F1 was mounted on a rifle chambered in 260 Terminator for the extended review. This chambering launches a 6.5 mm Berger 140 grain VLD at 3030 fps.
Using medium-height Nightforce Ultralight rings on a 40 MOA Nightforce rail, I was able to dial 82 MOA up from a 100 yard zero. That amount of travel allows a dialed correction for a 2000 yard shot from the 260 Terminator. In 2015, the F1 spent time on rifles chambered in 260 Remington, 6.5×55, and 338 Edge +P with similar mounting systems. We were never wanting for more travel; even at extended long range distances.
I dialed the F1 to the end of its travel and back to zero several times as part of my standard testing. It always returned to zero and the ZeroStop system worked flawlessly.
The next item on the enhanced feature list is the windage turret. Like the elevation turret, the ATACR 5-25×56 F1 features 30 MOA per revolution of the dial.
Total available windage travel is 80 MOA. Nightforce engineered a windage stop for the F1 that prevents the turret from traveling more than 14.5 MOA in either direction after zero is set. This seems like the next best thing to a dedicated zero stop on the windage side. You simply can’t get lost with this turret; if you hit the stop, you know you’re at the limit in one direction or the other.
The ATACR F1 comes with a cap if you want to cover the turret. The windage turret shares the same positive clicks as the elevation turret but suffers from smaller indicator marks, making it difficult to see the correction under certain conditions.
The other side of the turret housing contains Nightforce’s new illumination system, Digillum, as well as a distance-marked parallax knob.
The entire MOAR reticle illuminates in either green or red with the push of a button. It has several settings for brightness. I found the green illumination to be very effective at providing contrast between the reticle and target at dusk and dawn.
The parallax knob has approximate yardage numbers laser-engraved on it. That helps save valuable time during matches and hunting situations.
For rapid transitions through the ATACR 5-25×56 F1’s magnification range, Nightforce added an integrated Power Throw Lever (PTL).
The PTL placed in the middle of the scope’s power range. It allows for fast magnification changes and provides a visual indicator for magnification settings. The scope ships with a flush insert installed.
The ATACR 5-25×56 F1 is available with four reticle options: MOAR, MIL-R, TReMoR3, and H59. For this review, the F1 was equipped with the MOAR reticle.
The MOAR reticle subtends .140 MOA. During the course of this review, we used the ATACR 5-25×56 F1 to compete in several tactical matches. The MOAR reticle’s stadia remained sharp and visible well into the scope’s mid-magnification range, allowing fast and accurate windage holdoffs, as well as instant corrections for follow-up shots.
The MOAR reticle features a floating crosshair, hash marks in one MOA intervals along the horizontal and vertical stadia, 20 MOA of available correction below center, and 20 MOA left or right wind correction.
The scope ships with a 3-inch sunshade and a bikini-style rubber lens cover. Nightforce also includes a set of flip-up lens covers manufactured by Tenebraex.
The Tenebraex lens covers are a welcome addition. The front cover screws into the objective lens or sunshade, the rear cover clamps onto the eyepiece of the scope. The flip-up portion of the covers can be rotated to wherever you want them. If they get in the way, a firm tug will separate the cover from the mount without breaking it.
The Tenebraex covers have yet to fail with over a year of heavy use, in both competition and hunting conditions. Good stuff!
After using the Nightforce ATACR F1 for over a year, in both tactical competitions and long range hunting scenarios, my first impressions of it haven’t changed much. Here’s a short summary:
- The glass in this scope is spectacular. Bright and clear, it rivals any optic I’ve seen. Colors are accurate, and low-light performance is excellent. Hunting at first and last light places special demands on glass quality. The F1 never kept us from taking a shot. In fact, it worked nicely as a 25x spotting scope on occasion for judging animals at distance.
- The eyebox is generous, making target acquisition fast and easy. This is an important quality in a high-magnification scope for fast target acquisition. It’s a necessary one on a tactical scope. Being able to get an accurate sight picture from an awkward position means faster hits.
- The heart of a long range scope is its adjustment mechanism. It has to be precise, robust, and repeatable. Turrets are meant to dial accurate corrections. Nightforce has a well-deserved reputation for meeting those requirements, and the F1 didn’t disappoint.
- A 30 MOA per-revolution elevation turret, and easy-to-read value markers, means faster target engagements, and less chances for making mistakes. For most tactical competitions and hunting scenarios, 30 MOA of travel means the elevation turret will seldom need a full revolution.
- With the MOAR reticle placed in the first focal plane, we could hold any correction necessary, at any magnification, without thought to correction value. A lot of the match shooting was done in the 12x to 20x range. Most of the long range hunting with the scope was done at full magnification. On occasion, the scope was dialed back to 15x or 18x to increase the field of view. Not having to figure correction values for different magnifications saves time and avoids mistakes.
- I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this scope for long range hunting, especially if the user plans to use it for PRS-style matches as well.
To check out the full specs on the ATACR 5-25×56 F1, please visit Nightforce Optics.