During my time with the Trijicon Accupoint optic, I was given the chance to set it up and run it head to head against the Nightforce 1-4x offering, and I have to tell you, I jumped at the chance. Nightforce has a history of producing optics that truly set the bar pretty high. In the same category as US Optics, Zeiss, and Schmidt and Bender, they bring durability, clarity of glass, and wonderful feature sets to the market at a reasonable price for this price point, and their offerings rarely disappoint. Though I use the TR24G from Trijicon as the baseline standard for my particular shooting needs, I could easily have made it the other way around, and had no trouble going either way.
Philosophy and the Reticle
If we look at the uses shooters put their ARs to, you can generally find two separate camps: those that are engaging in close quarters frequently and longer range shots rarely; and those who are engaging longer ranges more frequently, and close quarters fairly rarely. I know this is a gross oversimplification, but these generalizations encompass a fairly fair swatch of the AR shooting world. Where a 1-4x optic fills in a great role that bridges both camps, the philosophy behind each option is an important point that needs to be considered. Where the Trijicon falls a bit short with their limited reticle options in their ability to cover multiple roles easily, the Nightforce steps it up by offering reticles better suited to a wider variety of engagement types, and do so in a way that harkens to their ranged optic heritage rather than reflex optic heritage.
For longer ranges of indeterminate distance, the Nightforce is the clear winner with their mil dot option. Also, for those who prefer a cleaner crosshair that allows them to see the target more clearly, or in cases where the shot is within a well known envelope as hunters are wont to do, a plain crosshair model is available. Finally, if you’re like me and prefer a quick pickup optic to use mainly for shorter ranges and reflex-style shooting, a circle dot reminiscent of the EOTech is available.
I chose to ask for the Mildot version for testing, as I truly wanted to put this optic through its paces after having an interesting discussion about the ranges actually being seen by soldiers who have to engage targets. With a whole new standard set, I set out for a hard day at the range to play with both of these optics.
Dawn and Dusk: Lighting Up The Night
One of the strongest advantages that Trijicon has had in their optics over a lot of others has been their use of tritium and fiber optics to use natural light for reticle illumination, eliminating the need for batteries. Nightforce is more traditional in their illumination, using a battery-powered electronic system to light up their reticles and offer varying degrees of brightness. While I generally feel that electronic illumination is more of a hinderance than a benefit, I find that I’m relying on the illumination of the Trijicon under entirely different circumstances, using and keeping the shutter open wide during the day to give me a bright spot for fast reflex aiming. With the Nightforce in place, I was relying less on the illumination during the day, and more on the illumination at dawn or dusk, when light was poorest, and the tritium just didn’t cut it.
Nightforce also helped out their shooters here by illuminating the full crosshairs in both the mil dot and standard crosshair variations of their optic, compared to Trijicon’s simply lighting up the delta or the center dot on their respective options. This didn’t even come into my equation until I partook in helping remove a few problem coyotes that moved early mornings and late evenings around a friend’s farm. Once the light dropped low enough, I found it impossible to use the Trijicon and switched over to the Nightforce.
Adjustments Made Quick And Dirty
The Nightforce takes adjustability and flexibility seriously. Where most other manufacturers use ridged rings or other types of gimmicks to aid in the purchase of the fingers on their adjustment knobs, Nightforce goes for the gusto with nice, sharp points and deep dimples reminiscent of the aggressive golf balling on some 1911s, and easy to turn turrets. Another feature that the Nightforce brings to the table is their patented ZeroStop option. By zeroing in the optic and then setting this feature up, the ability to return to zero was so simple that even I could do it under the cover of darkness. On most of my scopes, I’ve had to log each adjustment or remember how many clicks I turned one way or the other (and try not to just guesstimate and spin the wheel), or set up the return to zero function that allowed me to return the dial to the zero mark once I was on.
With the Zero Stop function, once the internal clutch is configured, returning to zero is literally as simple as feeling the right click. As simple as it is to use, it’s pure genious, and a feature I used more than once when running some informal 3-gun drills to try it out.
The Nightforce offers a couple of pretty big drawbacks, big enough that I want to devote a bit of time to talking about them. First, revisiting the issue of parallax and eye relief, the Trijicon is better if you’re looking for a 1x with negligible distortion. Yes, the Nightforce comes close to a true 1x, but in comparison, picking up my target rapidly, even after a lot of practice over the span of about two months, was slower as I had to spend more time adjusting to the sight picture. For other users, this may not be as big of an issue. For me, after a while I found the distortion annoying enough that I attached an angled sight rail and a reflex optic.
My other beef comes in an overlooked feature. Where Trijicon offers a dial on the ocular lens in order to finely adjust magnification at 1x (and subsequently fine tune whether the image in the scope is the same size and shape relative to what your weak eye is seeing), the Nighforce doesn’t. Again, not a truly huge deal, and if I’d started on the Nightforce, I probably wouldn’t even bring it up other than a “Gee, that’s nifty” feature. However, I admit that after being spoiled by this adjustability, for closer work, this is a very good feature to have.
I’m departing from the alphabetical rating scale for this scope as giving an A, B, C, D, or F rating just doesn’t do this scope justice. It’s also another optic in a realm that has very little in the way of downside. Even the drawbacks I bring up are in the realm of “could be better” and not “absolute showstoppers”. Given that any optic in this range is easily a 9 on the scale, I’d have to give the NF a 9.5, with the Trijicon coming in at probably a 9.3. When it comes down to it, I wholeheartedly have to say I think the Nightforce is the better choice for those who prefer more flexibility in their optics. The reason, after all, to consider a 1-4x over a fixed power reflex optic is that at the end of the day, this is going to eliminate the need for multiple sights and a change in training, and instead open up the platform to handle a variety of missions well. While the Nightforce has a few drawbacks on the 1x reflex end of the scale, if you’re going for longer ranges and want the magnification along with a good reticle setup, it more than makes up for any downsides. Also, with the coming release of several 1-6 and 1-8x options in this realm of optics, I’m sure we’re going to see even more utility out of this type of setup.
Oh, and for the record, I always use LaRue mounts. Just prefer them.
Stay Safe and Shoot Straight.
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