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Nightforce NX8 vs. ATACR: Which Scope is Better For You?

Nightforce NX8 vs. ATACR- Which Scope is Better For You

Whether beginner or expert, everyone knows that target accuracy is critical when shooting and hunting.

That’s where riflescopes come in!

Nightforce Optics has been a top-of-mind brand with rifle scopes, but the many options can be overwhelming.

In this article, let’s compare and contrast the Nightforce NX8 vs. ATACR scopes to help you know which one to get.

They’re both great, but there’s one that’s BETTER for your needs.

Nightforce: Brief Overview

Nightforce logo

Nightforce Optics was established in 1992 by Ray Dennis. Since then, they’ve mastered the craft of built optics, mounting systems, and night gears.

After finding that the US market is more interested in hunting rifle scopes, they focused more on that here.

The USSOCOM, special units, professional hunters, and shooters trust Nightforce scopes, proving its quality and reliability compared to other brands in the market.

However, Nightscope is also famous for other sporting optics such as binoculars, rangefinders, and red dot gears in the rest of the world.

It’s exciting to have more Nightforce spotting scopes out in the market, but it also entails more comparison and decision-making – this is what I’m here for!

Nightforce NX8 Overview

Nightforce NX8

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You’d LOVE the Nightforce NX8 rifle scopes if you enjoyed the NXS line series.

It’s one of their NEWEST lines that feature improved features and advanced technology of the NXS.

The “8” comes from the 8x zoom range, making these spotting scopes unique.

It’s a hard-to-find range in the market, so many people were pumped over the Nightforce NX8!

Nightforce NX8 Main Features

It comes in six (6) scope models:

  • 1-8×24 mm F1 model: 8.7 in/222 mm overall length; 5.7 in/144 mm mounting length; .500 MOA click value; 3.7 in/95 mm eye relief; FC-MIL and FC-MOA reticle
  • 1-8×24 mm F1 capped model: 8.7 in/222 mm overall length; 5.7 in/144 mm mounting length; .2 MRAD click value; 3.7 in/95 mm eye relief; FC-DMx reticle
  • 2.5-20×50 mm F1 model: 12.0 in/305 mm overall length; 5.4 in/138 mm mounting length; .250 MOA click value; 3.5 in/88 mm eye relief; MOAR-F1, MIL-XT, MIL-C, and HOROUS TREMOR 3 Illuminated reticle
  • 2.5-20×50 mm F2 model: 12.1 in/308 mm overall length; 5.4 in/138 mm mounting length; .250 MOA click value; 3.5 in/88 mm eye relief; MOAR-CF2 and MIL-CF2 reticle
  • NX8 4-32×50 mm F1 model: 13.4 in/340 mm overall length; 5.7 in/145 mm mounting length; .250 MOA click value; 3.5 in/88 mm eye relief; MOAR-F1, MIL-XT, MIL-C, and HORUS TREMOR 3 Illuminated reticle
  • 4-32×50 mm F2 model: 13.5 in/343 mm overall length; 5.7 in/145 mm mounting length; .250 MOA click value; 3.5 in/88 mm eye relief; MOAR-CF2 and MIL-CF2 reticle

The specs are as follows:

  • Body Tube Diameter: 30 mm
  • Elevation Feature: ZeroStop or Capped, finger-adjustable
  • Power Throw Lever: Standard
  • Weight Range: 499 to 811 grams
  • More compact, lightweight, shorter
  • It works well with smaller rifles like a short barrel 0.300 blackouts or a 5.56 carbine.
  • Versatile and portable (both beginners and professionals will appreciate this)
  • A bit more affordable (approximately $1750 price point)
  • The size leaves more room for other gears and optics.
  • Has intelligent MOA reticle
  • Not the best for long distances (but it still performs well!)
  • The glass optic is good but not as good as the ATACR scopes
  • It needs more adjustment for a better depth of field (DOF) focus

Nightforce NX8 Overall Verdict

The Nightforce NX8 perfectly embodies the phrase “small but terrible.

Although compact, it has a commendable power range and can offer outstanding performance.

It’s not for long-range shooting and hunting because it wasn’t intended for that. The design can keep up with competitive ranges, but better options exist.

Most people who enjoy the Nightforce NX8 prefer carrying lighter weights and using smaller hunting rifles without compromising the precision and performance of upper-end rifle scopes.

Nightforce ATACR Overview

Nightforce ATACR

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The Nightforce ATACR line is essentially everything that the Nightforce NX8 is but MORE.

And I mean more selections, bigger, heavier, and naturally, more expensive.

Nightforce ATACR Main Features

It comes in eight (8) ATACR scope models:

  • ATACR 1-8×24 mm F1 model: 10.1 in/256 mm overall length; 5.7 in/144 mm mounting length; .1 MRAD click value; 3.7 in/95 mm eye relief
  • ATACR 4-16×42 mm F1 model: 12.6 in/320 mm overall length; 6.3 in/160 mm mounting length; .1 MRAD click value; 3.5 in/90 mm eye relief
  • ATACR 4-16×50 mm model: 13.1 in/333 mm overall length; 6.3 in/161 mm mounting length; .1 MRAD click value; 3.5 in/89 mm relief
  • ATACR 4-20×50 F1 model: 13.9 in/353 mm overall length; 5.9 in/150 mm mounting length; .250 MOA click value; 3.5 in/90 mm relief
  • ATACR 5-25×56 mm model: 14.3 in/363 mm overall length; 6.1 in/156 mm mounting length; .1 MRAD click value; 3.5 in/90 mm relief
  • ATACR 5-25×56 mm F1 model: 15.4 in/390 mm overall length; 5.9 in/150 mm mounting length; .1 MRAD click value; 3.5 in/90 mm relief
  • ATACR 7-35×56 mm model: 16.0 in/406 mm overall length; 6.6 in/167 mm mounting length; .1 MRAD click value; 3.5 in/89 mm relief
  • ATACR 7-35×56 mm F1 model: 16.0 in/406 mm overall length; 6.6 in/167 mm mounting length; .1 MRAD click value; 3.6 in/91 mm relief

These scopes have the following specs:

  • Body Tube Diameter: 34 mm
  • Elevation Feature: ZeroStop, ZeroHOLD
  • Power Throw Lever: Standard
  • Weight Range: 595 to 1113 grams
  • Reticle: FC-DMx; MOAR F1; MIL-XT; MIL-R F1; MIL-C F1; Horus TREMOR 3 Illuminated; Horus H59 – Non-Illuminated; MIL-C F2; MOAR-T
  • This model works better for long-range shooting (6-8x)
  • Better optical quality and precision
  • Has ED glass
  • Still, relatively compact and lighter weight compared to other rifle scopes (except NX8)
  • Clearer and brighter optics
  • Better reticle options for each scope
  • Fewer options for rings because of the 34 mm body tube
  • More expensive model ($2,700 to $3,900)
  • More weight and bulkier

Nightforce ATACR Overall Verdict

If I’m talking about an upgrade, nothing’s better than the Nightforce Optics ATACR line.

It has all of the “best” features; it feels like they thoroughly IMPROVED everything!

Although other rifle scope models can do well, it’s not at par with the performance of ATACR scopes. The ED glass is a game-changer as it enhances the optics!

The Nightforce ATACR scopes are best for the enthusiasts on the hunt for the BEST of the BEST optics.

A warning, though: it may be slightly hard to revert to other scopes after experiencing the ATACR line! It’s that great.

Nightforce Optics NX8 vs. ATACR: Comparison of Features

NIghtforce NX8 vs ATACR

The NX8 and ATACR scopes sound terrific – making it harder to decide. Let’s compare them fairly following these criteria.

Scope Optical Quality

Optical quality icon

It’s worth mentioning that the NX8 and ATACR scopes have good optical quality.

They’re both a go-to of mine for hunting and shooting because of the BRIGHT, CRISP images despite the far distance.

However, the upgraded ED glass of the ATACR line undeniably gives off better optics. 

This edge can significantly improve your hunting and shooting performances!

But to be fair to the NX8, there are differences in the two lines’ power range. It’s not an equal comparison if I consider the other factors.

Nevertheless, the Nightforce NX8 still has exceptional quality, especially for the cost and comparing it to other optics in the market.

It’s just that the Nightforce ATACR scopes are better.

WINNING SCOPE: Nightforce Optics ATACR Scopes

Scope Focal Plane

Focal plane icon

Both Nightforce lines offer an EXCELLENT focal plane selection! You’ll see that they have FFP and SFP options for each power range and model.

The NX8 has four (4) FFP and two (2) SFP options.

The Nightforce ATACR scopes have five (5) FFP and three (3) SFP selections.

You don’t have to worry too much about the focal plane with these Nightforce rifle scopes – both scopes deliver exceptionally!

But if I were to choose a winner, it’ll be the ATACR line with more scope selections (8).

I will further discuss the first focal plane and the second focal plane later in this article.

WINNING SCOPE: Tie. (ATACR Scopes slightly lead with a more extensive selection range)

Power Range Magnification

Magnification icon

The ATACR scopes have a higher power range with a maximum magnification of 5-25 and 7-35.

Meanwhile, the NX8 only has 4-32×50.

Both scope series are comparable in the low power range configuration.

Although the NX8 can handle higher magnification, it can’t beat the ATACR scopes.

WINNING SCOPE: Nightforce Optics ATACR Scopes

Scope Reticle

Reticle icon

Nightforce takes reticles seriously, and you can experience the same using NX8 or ATACR.

They mostly have similar reticle options; for example:

  • MOAR F1
  • MIL-XT
  • MIL-C F1
  • Horus TREMOR3 Illuminated
  • FC-DMx
  • MIL-C F2

But it’s worth mentioning that the ATACR scopes have a better reticle range. An example would be the Horus H59Illuminated reticle.

The ATACR scopes also lead this category thanks to the built-in preset option of the MOAR-300 in the ATACR 4-16×50 mm scope.

None of the NX8 selections have this feature.

It makes sense why ATACR scopes won the optical quality criteria. It’s tied to the fact that they have excellent reticle options.

The differences seem minor, but they create a considerable change.



Durability icon

First, it’s critical to point out that ATACR and NX8 scopes have good build quality.

After all, Nightforce, as a brand, is known for producing high-powered gears.

But in pointing out their differences, the ATACR series is exceptional!

Others even say it feels like a tank – durable and can handle extreme conditions!

It’s the Nightforce scope to rely on when you’re on an intense, long-range hunting trip. It can handle wear and tear as if saying, “bring it on!


Scope Eye Relief

Eye relief

There are very few differences in this aspect. Both series have selections between 3.5 inches to 3.7 inches.

They are similarly comparable, but many found the ATACR ones more comfortable than the NX8 because of the size difference.

It makes sense that it’s easier to adjust if the scope is larger. This one’s more subjective to your opinion, though.

WINNING SCOPE: Tie. (ATACR scopes slightly leading because of size).

Portability and Weight

Weight icon

I instantly noticed the size differences by looking at the NX8 and ATACR scope selections.

The NX8 range weighs between 499 to 811 grams only, whereas the ATACR ones range from 595 to 1113 grams.

The weight makes sense considering the specifications and durability.

The thing is, having a heavy scope mounted on your rifle can be uncomfortable during hunting.

If you’re not used to the weight, it can mess with your target and precision.

The lighter weight and portability are why Nightforce introduced the NX8 line. It’s PERFECT for training, and if you’re not shooting professionally.

You still get comparable benefits, minus the weight.


Price Price icon

The ATACR scope selections are undeniably more premium. It has upgraded optic qualities, excellent reticle options, and a durable build.

With more features, expect a HIGHER cost as well:

  • NX8 – $$1750 to $2,000
  • ATACR – $2,700 to $3,900

An expensive scope is worth it for professional hunters focusing on long-range shootings.

They must be geared well for extreme conditions and can’t afford to make the wrong move.

But if you’re a beginner in training or want a good rifle scope, the NX8 is more than sufficient.

You can experience most of the ATACR features using NX8 scopes that cost significantly less.


Understanding the Name of the Nightforce Rifle Scope

This is a bonus section for our newbie shooters and hunters. I’ve got you.

I know that the names can get confusing with all those numbers and letters. Here’s a quick way to read and understand the names.

  • 1-8x24mm F1
    • 1-8x = magnification range
    • 24mm = objective lens
    • F1 = first focal plane

Rifle scope names help determine the specifications without going in too deep.

Should You Get the First or Second Focal Plane?

Different magnification levels

A focal plane is not exactly a physical rifle part but the distance between the lens and where it’s focusing

Its functions work together with the reticle.

Now, it’s a bit trickier to compare the first and second focal planes. The terms used are FFP (First Focal Plane) and SFP (Second Focal Plane).

If you look at the specifications of the two Nightforce scopes above, you’ll notice that both kinds are offered.

So, which one should you get?

First Focal Plane (FFP)

When using the first focal plane, the reticle’s size changes when the magnification is adjusted.

The image becomes larger as you zoom in and smaller when you zoom out.

Benefits of FFP

Hunters prefer FFP because of the CONSISTENCY. The reticle magnification and target image remain constant regardless of the ranges.

Using an FFP can still ensure scale accuracy during hunting, where targets move fast.

Your hand doesn’t have to keep adjusting the scope settings and then back to the trigger – which can throw you off.

Drawbacks of FFP

However, there’s only a certain extent to this to work precisely.

When a first focal plane scope zooms out to the lowest setting, the entire image shrinks.

And if you can’t really see what your rifle scope is aiming at, what’s the point?

As great as it sounds, the FFP isn’t ideal for a targeted hunt where a lot of setting adjustment is needed, especially if you have to be in a dark, shaded hideout.

FFP is Best For:

  • Time-pressured hunts (no time for setting adjustments)
  • When scale accuracy is critical
  • If multiple targets move a lot and the goal is to shoot as many as possible

Second Focal Plane (SFP)

On the other hand, SFP reticles don’t seem to move as you adjust the magnification (although technically, it does).

No matter how much you zoom in and out, the line guides remain THE SAME.

Benefits of SFP

You don’t have to worry about the tiny image problem of FFPs when using an SFP. The optics work great even in a low-light setting at a farther range.

Plus, the cost of SFP scopes is more affordable – although not all.

Drawbacks of SFP

However, with the reticles staying the same regardless of the magnification, it means that the scale is inaccurate.

This requires A LOT of adjusting and a trained eye for accuracy despite the movements. It may not be the best for time-constrained hunts.

SFP is Best For:

  • Recreational shooters
  • Those with ample time for constant adjustments
  • Those on a budget (although, again, not all SFPs are cheap)
  • Low-light and long-ranges

NX8 vs. ATACR Frequently Asked Questions

Rifle scope

Got more questions? Let’s answer them in this section!

Where is the Nightforce NX8 Made?

The NX8 scope is made in Japan.

Although to clarify, the manufacturers of NF are based in South Australia and Idaho.

Is the NX8 Scope Better than the NXS Scope?

The NX8 scopes were technically derived from the NXS series. Both offer excellent ranges, but the NX8 scope series does have improved features.

Furthermore, the NX8 scopes are also expected to be better, considering it’s a newer family line incorporating many new technologies.

Is Nightforce Better than Vortex?

Both brands carry different rifles and gears; it’s hard to compare them head-to-head with only one example.

I have to say, though, that Nightforce has a better warranty.

Regarding scopes, it’s tough to beat the ATACR series of NF. However, some Vortex scopes do outperform other NF series.

There are many factors to consider. It all depends on what you’re looking for.

What Does ATACR Stand For?

ATACR stands for Advanced Tactical Scope. Check out the reviews above to learn more about the ATACR series of Nightforce.

Does the Military Use NightForce Gears and Scopes?

Yes, many special units use NightForce gears and scopes.

Some example units are US Special Operations Command, Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and Green Berets.

Is Nightforce’s ATACR Made in Japan?

The highly-coveted glasses on the ATACR series are made in Japan.

It’s one of the best ATACR features. But all other parts of the scope are manufactured and assembled in the US.

Is NX8 a Good Hunter Scope?

Yes! Hunters enjoy the magnification range and versatility of the NX8. Although it’s in the “affordable” category, it doesn’t underperform!

It’s handy if the activity demands a lot of movement.

A heavier scope can tip off your aim and balance, making it harder to maintain accuracy.

The lightweight feature of the NX8 makes it easier for the shooter to control. Besides experts, it’s also great for those learning or still in training!

What Kind of Glasses Does Nightforce Use?

Nightforce uses 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum alloy for their glasses. It’s proven thicker and stronger than the “cheaper” ones.

Final Verdict: Which Nightforce Scope is Better? [Recap]

Man looking through scope

I’ve compared the NX8 and ATACR scope selections from Nightforce using the following criteria:

Scope Optical Quality

The ATACR scope line wins the optical quality category.

The scopes from the ATACR selection have upgraded parts and glasses. Although the NX8 scopes are commendable, the ATACR ones have more premium qualities.

Scope Focal Plane

The ATACR and NX8 scopes TIE in this category.

Both line selections offer suitable focal planes. They have scopes that cater to your preference, FFP or SFP.

However, if I need to choose a winner, the ATACR has more choices overall. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that their scopes have better focal planes.

Power Magnification Range of the Scope

The ATACR scope line has higher powered magnification as compared to NX8 scopes.

While both Nightforce series work well in lower configurations, the ATACR is unbeatable in the maximum settings.

Scope Reticle

The ATACR scope line wins this aspect.

To be fair, Nightforce used similar reticles in both series. However, the ATACR has more advanced ones, such as the Horus H59 – Illuminated.

The Durability of the Scope

The ATACR scope line wins this category.

The ATACR is built so strongly that some people even claim that it seems overbuilt, especially for recreational purposes.

But this isn’t to say that the NX8 scopes are flimsy and cheap! They’re also durable; it’s just that when comparing it to the ATACR, the latter leads.

Scope Eye Relief

Once again, the ATACR and NX8 scopes TIE into this criteria. Both Nightforce series offer similar 3.5 to 3.7 selections.

However, some professionals say that the ATACR scope offers more comfort. It makes sense, especially when comparing the physical size difference between the two.

Portability and Weight of the Scope

The NX8 scopes win this category.

Since the ATACR selections are “built like a tank,” expect that it has a heavier weight too.

An NX8 scope has less weight and is more lowkey, and you don’t have to worry about carrying it around. You also have more space to put other gears, such as night vision lights.

With the weight, the ATACR also has a larger tube size of 34 mm.

This makes looking for compatible rings more difficult. If you want accessibility to rings, stick to the NX8 scopes.

Cost of the Scope

The NX8 scopes win this category.

If budget is a primary concern, the NX8 scopes cost less without compromising the best qualities.

The NX8 scopes of Nightforce have good optics, commendable reticles, and are lighter in weight. You’re not missing out on anything and can save some dollars.

The premium feel of the ATACR also means higher costs. It may not be reasonable for recreational use, but it’s worth it for enthusiasts and professionals.

Best Nightforce Scope: Overall Verdict

Woman shooting

The ATACR is the BETTER Nightforce scope overall because of the upgraded features it offers.

  • The ATACR selections of Nightforce win four out of eight (4/8) categories: optic qualities, magnifications, reticles, and durability.
  • The NX8 scopes of Nightforce win two out of eight (2/8) categories: portability/weight and cost.
  • ATACR and NX8 scopes are tied in two criteria sets: focal planes and eye reliefs.

However, the two categories that the NX8 scopes won can tip the scale for someone in the market for portable scopes that won’t break the bank.

Nightforce introduced the NX8 scopes for this exact target market.

Remember, your best Nightforce scope depends on your needs, circumstances, and intended usage.

Choose NX8 Scopes If…

  • You’re on a budget
  • You’re a recreational hunter or trainee who doesn’t need professional optic scopes.
  • You’re always on the go, and a heavy scope isn’t reasonable
  • You want to install other gears on your rifle, so you need a smaller scope
  • You don’t need an expensive rifle scope

Choose ATACR If…

  • You’re an enthusiast.
  • You have the budget for premium-level scopes
  • You prefer clearer, crisper, and brighter scopes
  • You’re a professional, and it’s time for an upgrade
  • You don’t mind carrying around a heavier scope


The decision-making process can be intimidating with so many scopes out in the market.

You won’t go wrong whether you choose ATACR or NX8 scopes, but it’s always great to pick out the best option suitable for you.

I hope this article guided you well in choosing. Good luck!

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