Nightforce ATACR 5-25x56 Enhanced

Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 Enhanced


When the time came to choose a scope for my latest long range hunting build, the new Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 Enhanced was an obvious choice.

The rifle is chambered in 300 Winchester Magnum. It’s intended use is long range hunting out to 1000 yards and the testing of techniques and components to twice that distance. That kind of use puts a lot of demand on an optic. Here’s what I expected from the ATACR:

  • It had to provide enough turret travel to reach the far targets and track reliably across the entire range of travel.
  • The optical quality of the glass had to be good enough to identify and hit targets under challenging field conditions.
  • The scope had to be durable and reliable. Hunting season is no time to find out how good the warranty is on it.

During seven months of hard field use and 600 rounds fired, the ATACR 5-25×56 Enhanced passed these tests easily.

ATACR Enhanced and ATACR F1

300 WM with ATACR Enhanced and 260 Terminator with ATACR F1.

My first look at the new generation of ATACR scopes was at the 2015 SHOT Show. Nightforce had just released the ATACR F1 series.

The 4-16×42 F1 and 5-25×56 F1 were designed around tactical and competition shooters. They are the first Nightforce scopes to use a first focal plane (FFP) optical system.

The ATACR 5-25×56 Enhanced was released later in 2015. It shares most of the features of the 5-25×56 F1, but uses a traditional second focal plane (SFP) optical system.

If you’re interested in knowing more about the 5-25×56 F1, see my review HERE.

The ATACR 5-25×56 Enhanced has several improvements over the first generation ATACR:
  • 30 MOA of travel per revolution elevation AND windage turrets. The windage turret includes a mechanical stop to limit travel in either direction to 14.5 MOA after zero is set. A cap is included to cover the windage knob.
  • The parallax (PA) knob has approximate distance markings laser-engraved on it. It also houses the all new Digillum reticle illumination system. Pushing the side of the PA knob controls the on/off, brightness, and color (red or green) of the illumination.
  • Tenebraex flip-up lens covers are included with the new ATACR. Easy installation, great protection, and tough construction are some of the qualities of these covers.
  • A Power Throw Lever (PTL) is included for fast magnification changes. The ATACR ships with a flush insert in the power ring.
The ATACR 5-25×56 Enhanced retains several features of the original ATACR, including extra-low-dispersion (ED) glass and a 34mm tube with 120 MOA total turret travel. These two qualities make the ATACR a premier long range hunting scope.
wyoming antelope taken with the 300 WM

2016 Wyoming antelope. Taken at 830 yards with the 300 WM.

You can’t shoot what you can’t see. A scope can’t be judged how it will perform by pointing it at the other end of your local Cabela’s. You gotta take it into the field. A lot of long range hunting in my neck of the woods is done in less than ideal conditions. Smoke, low-angle sun in the objective lens, mirage, and all kinds of airborne moisture are filters I regularly shoot through. Poor lighting conditions are also common.

Idaho in early June

Conditions like this are typical during much of Idaho’s hunting season.

Like most states, Idaho has legal hunting hours. 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset are what our regulations spell out. I use that 30 minutes after the sun sets a lot. As an example, my 11-year-old son, Jake, shot a bear during our fall season this year.

I spotted the bear about 45 minutes before sunset. Jake watched it through the ATACR as it fed on huckleberries in the thick brush growing around a patch of spruce, never standing still or in the right position for a shot. The 300 WM finally barked, anchoring the bear in place 785 yards away. Jake took that shot 45 minutes after he got behind the rifle. We had 30 minutes of legal shooting light left on an overcast day. The glass quality of the ATACR made it possible.

Jake Millard 2016 Idaho Bear

Jake shot this bear at 785 yards with the 300 WM. The quality of glass used in the ATACR makes shots in low light possible.

There are three reticles available for the ATACR Enhanced. I chose the MOA-based MOAR-T for its fine lines.

The MOAR-T’s stadia lines are .0625 MOA thin. It’s very similar in that regard to the now-discontinued NP-R1 reticle I use in my NXS scopes. That kind of precision is ideal for shooting tiny groups on paper, as well as picking out a precise point of aim on an animal.

MOAR-T reticle ATACR

The MOAR-T reticle bracketing a bedded antelope buck at 1125 yards.

I used the 300 WM for some long range ground squirrel hunting this summer. Mature ground squirrels are about three inches wide when they’re standing. That’s a tiny target at 600 yards or more. I won’t claim to have hit them all, but I could easily hold on them with the MOAR-T reticle.

long range hunting with the ATACR

Long range hunting small varmints is challenging. The MOAR-T is ideal for holding on small targets.

Because it’s set in the ATACR’s second focal plane (SFP), the MOAR-T reticle maintains its size across the magnification range. I don’t buy scopes like the ATACR to shoot critters at 5x, but the option is there with a SFP scope.

Tenebraex flip-up lens covers are included with every ATACR. These covers work well for protecting the lenses and have proven to be very tough.

They’re described as “tactical tough”. The objective cover screws into the front of the scope or the included sun shade. The rear cover clamps to the ocular end with a screw. Once in place, the portion of the covers that flip up can be rotated and folded back; detents in the mounting ring keep them where you want them. The covers can also be separated from the mount with a firm tug if they get in the way.

These covers are a great improvement over Butler Creek-style covers. They work very well and don’t break the first time they get bumped in the woods. I’ve intentionally abused them without a failure.

tenebraex cover objective closed

nightforce tenebraex cover

To help utilize 120 MOA of total available elevation travel, the ATACR 5-25×56 Enhanced uses 30 MOA-per-revolution turrets.

I admit that I’m somewhat of a turret snob. I twist the turrets before I even look through a scope. The turrets are the heart of a long range precision scope. Nightforce continues to make some of the best in the industry, and improved on them for the new ATACR.

I’ve been shooting with Nightforce NXS scopes for a long time. The earliest ones came with 10 MOA turrets, just before ZeroStop was introduced. I then added several of the newer 20 MOA NXS scopes. I skipped the first-generation ATACR with 20 MOA turrets, so I borrowed one for comparison. In every way I could measure, the new 30 MOA turrets are an improvement.

Slightly shorter and larger in diameter than the first-generation ATACR, the elevation knob is low-profile and easier to grip for dialing corrections. The clicks are sharp and positive, with no hanging up between detents. The laser-engraved markings are clear and easy to read. They look good, feel good, and flat out work.

atacr in wyoming

The ATACR has plenty of elevation turret travel for places like eastern Wyoming.

Mounted on a 40 MOA rail, I can dial 102 MOA up from my 100 yard zero. That’s a bunch for a 300 WM. The entire elevation correction for a 2200-yard shot can be dialed, depending on conditions. I did that a few times in practice, and took a couple of shots where I had to use some reticle to go all the way. That’s with a Berger 210 grain VLD at 2950 fps. My 338 Edge +P could reach over 2400 yards with the turret.

The 30 MOA elevation turret can handle 1000 yard hunting shots without spinning a full revolution.

long range practice with the ATACR

Taking some practice shots at 1490 yards.

Nightforce has a well-deserved reputation for precise turret travel and reliable tracking. This ATACR passed every test I performed with it.

I used a modified box test during load development, and tested it on a tall target to 40 MOA. Validating trajectories on the 300 WM was smooth and uneventful. Check out this VIDEO.

The ZeroStop feature is standard on this scope. I dialed the scope up to the end of its travel and spun it back to zero several times. It always returned to zero.

The ATACR Enhanced also uses an improved 30 MOA-per-revolution windage turret.

The windage turret has 60 MOA of total travel available. It also has a mechanical stop that limits travel to 14.5 MOA in either direction once the zero is set. That’s a great feature, because it’s impossible to get lost in windage when you’re only working with one revolution. It also comes with a cap to cover the turret if you want to hold wind corrections with the reticle.

The windage knob is slightly larger than the previous model, but lacks the real estate of the elevation turret. Because of that, the .25 MOA markings may be hard to distinguish for some. I got used to it quickly, and found myself indexing from the easily read numeral markers.

atacr windage turret

30 MOA windage turret. It uses a mechanical stop to limit travel to 14.5 MOA once the zero is set/

The other side of the turret housing contains Nightforce’s new illumination system, Digillum, and a distance-marked parallax knob.

I have mixed feelings about the reticle illumination on this scope. I like the new Digillum system; red or green illumination and brightness control with the push of the big, gold button. What I’m not sure about is the portion of the reticle that’s illuminated. Only the floating cross lights up on the MOAR-T. I hunted with the ATACR F1 last fall. The entire MOAR reticle on that scope is illuminated. I had a familiar sight picture and a tool for sizing deer when I needed it. I’ll post an update next month.

The PA knob distance markings are a useful addition. While advertised as approximate, I found the yardage markings to be close enough for most shots. I only needed to fine tune the PA knob for close distance precision shooting, like zero checks. For less-experienced shooters or their spotters it’s great; a quick glance at the knob can tell you if you’re in the ballpark. Even though my kids are becoming more independent every year, I always look at the turrets and PA knob before the shot. Just like a good spotter should!

Nightforce ATACR turrets

Easy to read yardage markings on the PA knob. This is also where the Digillum is housed.

The Nightforce ATACR 5-25×56 Enhanced riflescope meets and exceeds my requirements for a long range hunting optic.

It’s been a solid investment. I look forward to many hunting seasons with it.  If you’re interested in this particular scope, it’s model # C555. I bought mine from Defensive Edge. Check them out and give them a call. They install these scopes on a lot of their long range hunting builds.

Check out the 300 Winchester Magnum Project for more details on the rifle.

Visit Nightforce Optics for specifications and more information on the ATACR.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sam

As an Idaho native, avid hunter, and long range shooter, Sam has written numerous articles and gear reviews for various online publications. Specializing in long range hunting in the mountains of northern Idaho, Sam founded Panhandle Precision as a way to continue sharing his passions.

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