NightForce Rifle Scope Review: Make the Long Shots With a NightForce

Extreme long range hunting is the name of the game these days, but there are rules you need to follow to make that ethical shot.

One of those rules is to have a quality, high-performing, and fully functional rifle scope. If you’re looking to take down some serious lifetime trophies in the long distance field, you’ll want extreme power ranges, an expert-designed turret system, and brilliant, pristine quality glass.

If you’re shopping for a NightForce but you’re not sure if it’s quite what you need for hunting season, then this is the NightForce rifle scope review you need to read.

Who are Nightforce?

There’s not many optics manufacturers that’s as dedicated to providing rifle scopes with ultimate durability and shockproof strength as NightForce is. In fact, their impact tests have been named the “Torture Test”. Pounding, brutal, abusive, and torturous are the words they have chosen to describe what they put their star NXS 5.5-22X56 rifle scope through… and it lived for more than another day.

With a fanatical commitment to providing you, the serious shooter, the absolute best in craftsmanship and painstaking detail, you can trust that when you spend top dollar on their scopes, you’ll be getting top dollar quality in return.

NightForce Rifle Scope Reviews

Everyone has their definition of what ethical hunting is, and long distance hunting can be done ethically. With long hours of practice, acquired skill, unwavering confidence, and the most appropriate tools for the job, these rifle scopes can offer first-shot one-shot kills.

With high power magnification, illuminated reticles, and extended internal adjustment ranges for repeatable tracking, precise accuracy, with the most pristine glass in the industry, NightForce won’t let you or your trophy down.

NightForce SHV 5-20X56 Review

nightforce-shv-5-20x56mm-riflescope30mm-250-moamoar-center-illuminated-reticleThis NightForce SHV 5-20X56 rifle scope with the MOAR reticle is loved by many hunters. Great glass, illuminated control, and durable build is all a low light hunting shooter can ask for. Online reviewers agree that this scope is an excellent optic for hunters in the big game, predator, and varmint business.

They gave this NF SHV scope a big double thumbs up. These top-notch ratings are nothing new to NightForce, and it definitely won’t be the last one that you see today.

When you’re looking at one of the best sporting optic companies in America, it’s hard to choose only a couple to review. If we hunters had it our way, we’d buy them all and spend every spare second playing at the range. But, to narrow down the options for those of you who are looking for NightForce scopes for sale online, I chose one of the most popular, quality, high-performing scopes for the hunter. This one made the list on its own right.

But, before you go pulling out the credit card to pay for whatever NightForce scope you can get your hands on, maybe you should know a thing or two more about the exciting long range, low light hunting scope.

While I’m flattered you’d take my word for it that NightForce is a brand worth buying from, how will you know for yourself if you don’t read the Q&A? Come on now…

SHV 5-20X56 Rifle Scope Q&A:

Q. Is this a hunting or tactical scope?

A. NightForce is world-renowned for their tactical and competition rifle scopes, but if you didn’t know that they also have rifle scopes outfitted for the hunter, then you’re in for a nice surprise.

The SHV rifle scope is specifically made for the hunter in mind. Fun fact: SHV stands for Shooter, Hunter, Varminter. The magnification ranges for this scope give it closer range shooting with 5X power and long distance sniping with 20X power.

Having the reticle in the second focal plane will help you take down varmints at long distances as well as big game predators. The SHV series of rifle scopes will do everything you want for big game and varmint hunting to target shooting.

Q. What low light features does this SHV have?

A. The specs of this NF rifle scope automatically tell you it’s going to be a champ once the night sky rolls in. The 56 mm objective lens provides a whole lotta opportunity for maximum light collection. On top of that, this model comes with the MOAR center illuminated reticle that lights up your image for exact and precise aiming, no matter what time of day it is.

Q. What is the MOAR reticle?

A. The MOAR ballistic reticle on this NF SHV model has .140 MOA increment lines which are very much needed for ranging in on those small varmints at longer distances.

This particular reticle is center illuminated only, which means the windage and elevation cross hairs won’t light up when the center “t” or cross does. Other reticles available for this model is the IHR illuminated and non-illuminated reticle.

The IHR stands for International Hunting Reticle. It features only 3, 6, and 9 o’clock cross hairs with medium posts that abruptly change to fine lines just over half way to the center.

Q. What is image quality like at 20X?

A. If you want to buy NightForce scopes for their image quality, then you’re definitely looking in the right place. Most rifle scopes seem to have edge blurring, color aberrations, and image distortion as you increase the power range. But, what should you expect with such an extreme 20X power range on a NightForce? Crispness, clarity, and brightness – and you do.

Image quality at maximum magnification is one of the recurring positive themes of NF fans. With the quality and cost of this scope, you might never spend a penny more on other contending world-class brands.

Q. Is there a parallax adjustment feature?

A. Yes, the NightForce SHV 5-20X56 model does have the side focus to adjust for parallax. The closest distance you can correct for parallax is 25 yards. Interesting to note is that if you choose the illuminated model, the side focus is combined with the illumination control. Although it might sound a bit tricky to use, it’s a breeze. Now that’s a way to simplify things!

See the NXS Q&A below to get full details on how to use the third turret for illumination control.

Q. Are there other models of the SHV 5-20X56?

A. There are other rifle scopes available of this exact model. The only differences between the lot is the type of reticle that you choose. They all come with the ZeroSet elevation feature with .25 MOA clicks. They are the IHR Non-Illuminated, MOAR Non-Illuminated, IHR Illuminated, and the MOAR Illuminated models.

Q. Is this scope waterproof and fog-proof?

A. This rifle scope, and all NightForce rifle scopes, have been built to withstand the harshest, most rugged, and severe conditions possible – yes, they’re waterproof, fog-proof, and recoil proof. Before any rifle scope leaves the facility, it undergoes vigorous and mean processes to ensure quality and durability.

For water-tightness, the rifle scopes are placed in a pressure tank that’s designed to replicate the same conditions of being in 100 feet of water for one full day – 24 hours.

To ensure that it’s going to fully perform in the most harshest weather conditions, from ice-freezing temperatures to heat hotter than the Arizona desert, the scopes get even more abuse. They’re frozen in -80 degree Fahrenheit temperatures then heated to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and are tested for functionality at these extreme temperatures – all within an hour. Now that’s brutal.

NightForce SHV 5-20X56 Specs:

  • Magnification: 5-20X
  • Power Variability: Variable
  • Objective Diameter: 56 mm
  • Length/Weight/Tube Diameter: 15.2 inches/30.5 ounces/30 mm
  • Field of View: 17.9 – 5.0 feet/100 yards
  • Eye Relief/Exit Pupil: 3.15 – 3.54 inches/8.7 – 2.5 mm
  • Reticle: MOAR-20 MOA Center Illumination
  • Adjustment Info: 1/4 MOA/Click
  • Optics Coatings: Fully Multi-Coated
  • Finish: Black Matte
  • Waterproof/Shockproof: Yes/Yes
  • Parallax Setting: 25+ yards
  • Airgun rated: No
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes
  • Mounting Rings Included: No

Noteworthy Features:

  • 56 mm objective lens for ultimate low light performance
  • 30 mm main tube body for maximum internal range adjustments
  • Fully waterproof, fog-proof, and shock-proof
  • ZeroSet for fast return to original zero
  • Triple duty optic for Shooting, Hunting, and Varmint
  • Various reticles available with illumination
  • Glass-etched reticle in the second focal plane
  • Positive-click, finger-adjustable turrets
  • Built in the USA


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NightForce NXS 5.5-22X56 Review

nightforce-nxs5-5-22x56mm-riflescope-250-moa-zerostop-moar-reticleThis NightForce NXS 5.5-22X56 rifle scope with the MOAR reticle is the champion of long range scopes that can appropriately be used as a hunting scope. Its build quality, clear glass, and intricate ballistic reticle options make it a hit among rifle scope fans.

Even with its hefty cost, it still has what you would consider a decent sized reviewer base for its price range. It sports an impressive and unyielding near perfect rating online.

We start seeing a pattern when other NightForce scope reviews reveal extremely favorable opinions, particularly another online forum that sports several dozen reviewers piping in about this exact rifle scope. Between all of them, it has a near perfect rating. I don’t see this scope disappointing you if have the budget to spend the top dollar funds on this.

As the shooting community’s top pick for the NightForce hunting line, I had to include this scope in this review. I would be doing you a disservice if I omitted the fantastic features this user-friendly, long range, and illuminated NF scope has to offer.

While you’re searching for the best NightForce hunting scopes there are, you’ll find that the NXS is the best that they have for hunters. For all the reasons why, let the Q&A do what it does best.

NXS 5.5-22X56 Rifle Scope Q&A:

Q. Is this a good long range hunting rifle scope?

A. This is “the” ultimate long range hunting rifle scope that NightForce has. This is the star of the NXS family of rifle scopes. With a maximum 22X magnification and ideal atmospheric conditions, this scope is capable of ranging well out to 2000 meters – that’s 2187 yards!

The leading-edge Hi-Speed turret system, wide internal adjustment ranges, brilliant and crystal-clear glass, and glass-etched ballistic reticles give the perfect set-up for all your long distance shots.

While taking down an animal at such an extreme range is extreme, you might want to save these distances for steel-on-steel sniping and long distance steel-target shooting. But, the silver lining to this long range hunting NXS rifle scope is that it has a lower 5.5X magnification range that can still get you your close range hunting done precisely and effectively.

Q. Will the NXS break easily?

A. This is a question I’ve been biting at the bit to answer. NightForce builds scopes for the military that need to be rugged, durable, practically indestructible, and perhaps even bulletproof. NightForce is in the business of making scopes for professionals that aren’t known to be soft, gentle, and fragile with their optics, in fact, the exact opposite would be true.

If the 30 mm, 6061-T6 aluminum that’s two to three times thicker than conventional rifle scopes is good enough for combat US military use, it’s going to be heck of a lot stronger than you need it to be out in the field.

The Torture Test is the impact test that this specific rifle scope has endured and not only overcame but conquered. Rocks, railroad ties, heaving, and smashing were all elements involved in the Torture Test. On top of that, this 5.5-22X56 NXS rifle scope further endures punishing positive and negative force testing for impact and recoil effects at 1250 Gs – that’s one thousand two hundred and fifty times the force of gravity!

The best rifle scopes are tested at only 1000 Gs. Are you impressed yet? Enough said!

Q. Is this a one piece body rifle scope?

A. The popular trend these days for constructing a rifle scope is the one piece body style. While I’m not knocking that design build, this NightForce scope doesn’t follow that trend. Since they’re in the business of creating extreme and rugged tubes and parts, it requires more than just a one piece tube to make the world’s leading, durable scope around.

It does have the familiar matte black hard-anodized finish that’s applied well and evenly over the entire scope. The build quality is right on par with what you expect for a high-end scope.

Q. What are the reticles available with this model?

A. There is quite the list of reticles available with the NXS 5.5-22X56 rifle scope, and the good news is, they’re all glass-etched – none of this wire stuff goin’ on. Since NightForce is a world-recognized tactical optics brand, the glass-etched feature shouldn’t come as a surprise.

This particular model comes with the MOAR reticle with .250 MOA value per click. It’s also available with the non-illuminated or illuminated option.

Another reticle is the MOAR-T that’s finer for more extreme precision at long distances with .0625 MOA lines with an option for center illumination only. The Velocity 1000 reticle, non-illuminated or illuminated, can get you out to 1000 yards with various configurations with ballistic holdover points for your rifle data.

The other two reticles are the Mil Dot and Mil-R reticles, also with the illuminated option.

Q. What are Hi-Speed turrets?

A. The over-sized elevation and windage knobs are NightForce’s Hi-Speed turret system. The improvements of this system over the previous turrets are the 20 MOA adjustments that you can make in one revolution. Previously, the turrets only had 10 MOA. With the mrad turrets, they used to be only 5 mils per rev and now they’re 10 mils.

For those of you that need a little explaining, the Hi-Speed turret system means that you’ll be able to achieve the same elevation you need with fewer clicks than it would’ve taken you to do previously. Tedious no more and practical ever more.

Also, the 30 mm tube allows for greater internal adjustment range for honing in on those long 1200 meter plus shots. It has a maximum elevation range of 100 MOA and windage range of 60 MOA.

Q. Where is the illuminated control for the NXS illuminated model?

A. NightForce is all about ease of use and rugged durability, so adding a whole other external control for illumination seemed unpractical with their streamlined motif. So, they made double duty out of the third side focus parallax turret. It’s so easy to use: just pull out the parallax turret to activate the illuminated reticle and push back in to turn it off.

Now, the brightness control is another story. The scope is factory-set to be at an intermediate level of brightness that should be satisfactory for almost all hunting situations. But, if you did want to play around with it, it’s not as user-friendly as it could be.

You have to take the cap off the side focus turret, remove the battery, and then rotate the brightness control screw with a flat head screw driver until you have your preferred brightness setting. Not so easy to adjust, but then again, it’s not going to be messed with if your scope takes a plunge, crash, or splash.

Q. How much does this NightForce NXS cost?

A. Take a big breath and hold it in because it’s around the $2000 mark scope. With the quality and attention to detail involved in the craftsmanship of this scope, it’s worth every penny. When comparing it to other scopes in this price range, the competition is sparse but tight.

Every nook and cranny needs to be scrutinized to be properly judged as to whether or not you should spend your hard-earned cash on it. So far to my 20/20 vision, this scope is worth its weight in glass. Oh, you can breathe now.

Q. Can I use the turrets with gloves on?

A. This NF NXS rifle scope is made for deliberate and hands-on, or gloves-on, use. The large and exposed turrets and the power ring have knurly grooves that make it extremely easy to grab and rotate with gloves on. The turrets have exceptionally positive clicks that aren’t very loud. In hunting and tactical use, too audible clicks can give your position away.

While NightForce is a tactical sporting optic authority, this concept of subdued audible clicks is very applicable in a hunting situation too.

Q. Does the power ring and eyepiece move separately?

A. You’d think so, but unfortunately this NF NXS has the one piece, integrated power ring and focus system, something that you don’t typically see in a high-end scope. But, to NightForce’s defense, they say it’s to add to the rugged durability of the scope. They also don’t mention that it saves them a little in the cost-engineering department.

Although the eyepiece features the secure, lockable, traditional, non-fast focus eyepiece system with the same knurly serrations on it to match the rest of the scope, the integrated power ring system might be more annoying to you hunters who use flip up caps.

For example, the popular Butler Creek flip up caps will rotate with the eyepiece as you change your magnification range. If you don’t vary too much between power ranges then it might not be a big deal. But, if you want maximum versatility for hunting in all types of terrain with various varmints, predators, and critters all of the time, you might have to keep those flip up caps off.

Q. Does this NightForce come with accessories?

A. Yes! For a roughly $2000 scope you should expect to see some accessories come with the package. The first are the bikini style caps that are kept on for when the scopes are not in use, and the other is a lens cleaning cloth – pretty standard extras for accessories.

NightForce even goes a little further and conveniently suggests the accessories you may want to purchase with this scope, such as the NF flip up caps, X-treme Duty 30 mm steel rings or Ultralite 30 mm rings, and the X-treme Duty Ultralite one piece Magmount or Unimount.

NightForce NXS 5.5-22X56 Specs:

  • Magnification: 5.5-22X
  • Power Variability: Variable
  • Objective Diameter: 56 mm
  • Length/Weight/Tube Diameter: 15.2 inches/32 ounces/30 mm
  • Field of View: 17.5 – 4.7 feet/100 meters
  • Eye Relief/Exit Pupil: 3.9 inches/10-.2 – 2.5 mm
  • Reticle: MOAR-20 MOA
  • Adjustment Info: 1/4 MOA/Click
  • Optics Coatings: Fully Multi-Coated
  • Finish: Black Matte
  • Waterproof/Shockproof: Yes/Yes
  • Parallax Setting: 50+ yards
  • Airgun rated: No
  • Illuminated Reticle: Yes
  • Mounting Rings Included: No

Noteworthy Features:

  • 56 mm objective lens for ultimate low light performance
  • 30 mm main tube body for maximum internal range adjustments
  • Fully waterproof, fog-proof, and shock-proof
  • Hi-Speed Turret System with ZeroSet for fast adjustments and return to original zero
  • Various reticles available with illumination
  • Glass-etched reticle in the second focal plane
  • 2000 meter long distance ranging
  • Heavy knurling on turrets, power ring, and eyepiece
  • One piece, integrated eyepiece and power ring system
  • Positive-click, finger-adjustable, gloves-on, turrets
  • Built in the USA


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Which is the Best NightForce Rifle Scope for You?

Buying either one of these optics would make you a proud owner of a NightForce masterpiece. Every lens is personally matched and aligned to be put in place by human hands, a process called index matching that is almost done away with in the optics industry.

The reticles are glass-etched – only a feature seen in tactical or really high-end rifle scopes. Both models have the option for illuminated and ballistic reticles.

The durability of NightForce scopes is hands-down without equal. So, the only way to narrow down which one would be the right tool for your job is by how much you’re willing to spend. If the mere mention of a scope in the $2000 range will have you in the dog house tonight, then you might have the chance to learn if Fido is a cuddler or a space hogger.

But the upside is, you end up with a really souped-up NXS 5.5-22X56 long range hunting scope that can’t be beat for only one night in the kennel… or maybe two.

The other option is a little more affordable than the flagship NXS scope. The roughly $1300 SHV 5-20X56 rifle scope. If both of these scopes are on the wish list, you could just wait to find these NightForce scopes for sale online. Redfield riflescopes are a popular and affordable option to look at as well.

Make the Long Shots with a NightForce

These NightForce rifle scopes are made for the serious long distance shooter. And, with long distance shooting, a cautious word or two on the matter is never tedious. If your definition of ethical hunting is below 500 yards, these rifle optics may not be the right hunting scope for you.

But, for those who have got their sights set on taking down a beast from those “beyond” distances, you don’t need to look any further.

So, to lightly lecture you on extreme long distance hunting, making kill-shots at these distances can be a real threat to the animal. At such a distance, the bullet plummets, rapidly loses speed, and the slowing velocity allows it to be susceptible to drift.

A miscalculated range of the distance, a sudden blast of wind, the slightest quiver of your rifle can be the dreadfully magnified mistake that will cost you your confidence, your trophy, and your bad boy hunting reputation.

Just because you may have the ability and the right kinda day to shoot out to 2000 meters, it doesn’t mean you should. So, before you make that long shot, have your ducks in a row. You know what I’m talking about – the right rifle, the right cartridge, the right kinda confidence, the right skills, and the right scope.

With these long shots, a NightForce can help you do it right.