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Rifle Scope Review: The Nightforce SHV

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January 09, 2014

Rifle Scope Review: The Nightforce SHV

By David E. Petzal

First, a cautionary tale: This past summer, I did almost all my shooting with two rifles, both of which had Nightforce scopes on them. I came to take for granted that when I cranked the w&e dials, I got big, distinct clicks that I could feel even in midst of a rifle match. I also took for granted that when you put in 4 clicks up, or right, or down, or left, the bullet went an inch up, or right, or down, or left, exactly, every time.

Which brings us to last December, when I needed a low-magnification scope for my 7mm/08, and lusted for the 1X-4X Nightforce NXS Compact, but it was a lot of money, and with Christmas coming I had other financial obligations, and the cat’s teeth needed capping, so I settled for a very popular scope brand on which I got a hell of a good price.

All was serene until I took it to the range on a bitter cold day and discovered that, while wearing shooting gloves, I could not feel the clicks, which were small, mushy, and indistinct even indoors. I got the windage down OK, but cranking the elevation did nothing. The shots would not rise on the target, even though I was turning the dial. Finally, the crosshairs decided to move, but in the meanwhile I had seen ten 140-grain Swift A-Frames, which are not cheap, go uselessly through the paper and into the sand.
Next time, I’m saving my money and getting the Nightforce.

If you’re not familiar with the company, it bestrides the tactical and target world like a colossus. Nightforce scopes are optically in the top rank, probably the strongest around, have the best ergonomics of any scope I’ve used, and tend to be complex because they’re designed for very precise shooting at long distances.

They’re also expensive, and Nightforce is sensible of this, so they have come out with a scope that’s at the high end of medium-priced called the SHV, which stands for Shooter, Hunter, Varminter. It’s a 4X-14X-56 variable with a 30mm tube, and sells for $1,195 with an illuminated reticle and $995 for non-illuminated models.

Nightforce was able to keep the costs down by utilizing simpler controls, employing a less complex manufacturing process, and by reducing the overbuilding that goes into their tactical scopes. The SHV will stand up to any kind of sane treatment, but you can’t break rocks with it, or chock truck tires, or beat recalcitrant mules, as you can with the higher-priced Nightforces.

It comes with a choice of two reticles (you can see these on the website), the MOAR and the IHR, which is much simpler, and would be my choice unless I wanted to shoot at very long range.

I could go on at length, but why take my word for it? Find a store that stocks Nightforces, take one out of the showcase and put a half-dozen clicks on the windage and elevation knobs. Now do the same with any other scope you care to. You won’t find anything else like the Nightforce. If you like your bullets to go where you send them, you’ll probably find a way to buy it. 

Comments (23)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Safado wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

Thanks Mr. Petzal,
Now I have to have one. Looks like I will be eating Ramen Noodles and Franks & Beans for the near future.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

Somewhere in the Good Book is a reference to "Ask and you shall receive", and now Nightforce has presented us with a more affordable scope. Given the loss of several calves, I must ask my CPA if this scope, along with a new varmit rifle, is deductable under the heading of "loss prevention". If not, I'll be joining Safado on that new diet.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RPeterson wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

If they would come out with a 2x-12x-42 I would buy two ASAP.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

RPeterson,
They do have a 2.5X - 10X - 42 but it appears to be about $400 higher.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from RPeterson wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

Safado, I seen that model and been debating it. I already own the Leupold VX-6 2-12-42 and just not sure if it's a big enough difference to warrant the money.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

I feel your pain. I bought a new rifle for Christmas and changed out scopes on three different rifles according to my fancy. At forty bucks a box sighting in is expensive to say the least. It takes three shots for the windage and elevation to settle in on an ordinary scope. Six dollars every time you turn the knob just to see where it wants to shoot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from kudukid wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

I kept looking for a disclaimer...

Seriously, a thousand dollars so I can feel the "clicks".
The Leupolds on my rifles don't have any clicks and never did.

No doubt it's handy for competition and snipers (a form of serious competition).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dougfir wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

Is this really the reality of scopes now? Do you need to pay 1000 dollars to be able to feel the clicks and have the clicks affect POI the way the manufacturers say they do? Frankly, as a hunter, the latter is much more important to me, but I've yet to own a scope that actually moved the bullet 1/4" with each click. Doesn't seem like it should be that difficult...

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 5280Shooter wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

DEP: A timely review as I am in the market for an illuminated reticle scope. Seems like I am increasingly drawn to the quality stuff and USA made is even better. This pretty much confirms what I was leaning toward and will get the Nightforce and probably never look back. Love the IHR reticle as it is just so clean and simple in contrast with the many complicated reticles out there. By the way, I have called the NF customer service line countless times and they have been unfailingly polite and knowledgeable. Many thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

To dougfir: The answers are yes, yes, and it is.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

Hello Dave and friends,
My cousin and hunting buddy Rick J. bought a Nightforce about 2 years ago and he's been crowing about the thing ever since. I must admit it is impressive but I would rather use the scopes I already have and go elk hunting in Colorado. Rest assured if I were a rich man there would be at least one NF in my gun safe.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

I bought a 3x9 Vari-X II Leupold for $99.00 + tax in 1977.
It doesn't" CLICK"...but it does have a graduated dial for w&e.
When I move the dial 1 graduation, POI is adjusted 1/4" at 100 yards.
The used Leupold I rescued from a pawn shop doesn't" CLICK".
It ALSO moves the POI 1/4" at 100 yards.
I'm a simple "sight it in and leave it" hunter. Leupold fills my every need.

I like to practice the "Parsimony Principle"!
"It is pointless to do more with what is done with less."

You don't have to have a Rolls Royce to get to the prom. A Ford Falcon can accomplish that task.
The Rolls just "looks" better! LOL!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from WA Mtnhunter wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

I am going to forego the NF. I might like it so much that I have to put one on every rifle I use. That would bust the Parsimony Principle wide open! Maybe even turn Parsimony to Alimony....

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gunny Bob wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

The cat's teeth needed capping?

I recall, as we threw flies at beastly roosterfish north of Cabo Matapalo, your grim and needlessly graphic tales of Chairman Mao, the cat from hell (not to mention Peking), head-butting you after a running start from the foot of the bed, ending your blissful slumber with a dose of pain and reality.

Why, SFC Petzal, would you aesthetically arm Mao's replacement with gleaming fangs?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from M.A.T wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

What scope were you using that wouldn't even move the cross-hairs? Most scopes over $200 now at least move the cross-hairs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

To Gunny Bob: Because it's hard for a cat to get a date without a really nice smile.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from ajvigs wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

David,

Why such a huge objective? 56mm is quite large, and it is the sole reason why I have to pass on this scope. Do you think Nightforce has plans to release the same scope sans the 56mm objective? If not, it may be wise to save a little more for the NXS Compact 2.5-10x42

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dougfir wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

I'll take your word for it Dave. Guess my scopes will forever move bullets (quietly) by random amounts in each direction. Oh well, at least I'll be able to afford ammo (sparingly) (and when I can find it)...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gunny Bob wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

I've never had a problem with my only Nightforce. Mounted on a .300WSM Kimber, I've dragged it around Africa and taken mountain zebra, red hartebeest, gemsbok, warthog, et al, and Colorado for elk, under frequently trying conditions and rough handling. Nothing has escaped yet.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

To ajvigs: My guess is because a lot of these scopes will be bought for beanfield rifles, where you want as much light as you can possibly get. Therefore, 56mm. If this one sells well there will probably be other, smaller versions.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Sixpack wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

Dave- was wondering how you determine the most appropriate scope objective lens size for a particular application?
Antelope vs elk, whitetail vs mule deer, plains vs woods, mountains vs bean field?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

I am glad I don't adjust my scopes much. I just dial them in at 100 yards and leave them alone. If I was into competitive shooting I would have to get a Nightforce.

I am still amazed that sometimes 12 clicks means 3 inches and sometimes it means an inch... and the scopes I just spent 4 hours fiddling with were a Zeiss, a Kahles, and a Bushnell. One was $150, one was $450, and one was $800... and they all act the same when you adjust them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hookturnr wrote 13 weeks 2 days ago

Dave, you should check out the Vortex Viper HS and PST series scopes. Great turrets, zero stop, etc. and a lifetime warranty.

I just bought my second Vortex Viper HS series and I'm quite pleased with the durability, repeatability and glass quality....at half the price of NF! I get the value of the NF if your life depends on it, but that's a whole different game. My first Vortex has been on a braked 300RUM for over 1000 rounds and still functions like new, the second one just went on a 280AI and has been rock solid reliable so far. I really think these scopes are a sleeper in this particular field.

0 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from WA Mtnhunter wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

I am going to forego the NF. I might like it so much that I have to put one on every rifle I use. That would bust the Parsimony Principle wide open! Maybe even turn Parsimony to Alimony....

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tom-Tom wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

Somewhere in the Good Book is a reference to "Ask and you shall receive", and now Nightforce has presented us with a more affordable scope. Given the loss of several calves, I must ask my CPA if this scope, along with a new varmit rifle, is deductable under the heading of "loss prevention". If not, I'll be joining Safado on that new diet.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from RPeterson wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

Safado, I seen that model and been debating it. I already own the Leupold VX-6 2-12-42 and just not sure if it's a big enough difference to warrant the money.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

To dougfir: The answers are yes, yes, and it is.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Del in KS wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

Hello Dave and friends,
My cousin and hunting buddy Rick J. bought a Nightforce about 2 years ago and he's been crowing about the thing ever since. I must admit it is impressive but I would rather use the scopes I already have and go elk hunting in Colorado. Rest assured if I were a rich man there would be at least one NF in my gun safe.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

To Gunny Bob: Because it's hard for a cat to get a date without a really nice smile.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

Thanks Mr. Petzal,
Now I have to have one. Looks like I will be eating Ramen Noodles and Franks & Beans for the near future.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from RPeterson wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

If they would come out with a 2x-12x-42 I would buy two ASAP.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from kudukid wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

I kept looking for a disclaimer...

Seriously, a thousand dollars so I can feel the "clicks".
The Leupolds on my rifles don't have any clicks and never did.

No doubt it's handy for competition and snipers (a form of serious competition).

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from 5280Shooter wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

DEP: A timely review as I am in the market for an illuminated reticle scope. Seems like I am increasingly drawn to the quality stuff and USA made is even better. This pretty much confirms what I was leaning toward and will get the Nightforce and probably never look back. Love the IHR reticle as it is just so clean and simple in contrast with the many complicated reticles out there. By the way, I have called the NF customer service line countless times and they have been unfailingly polite and knowledgeable. Many thanks.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gunny Bob wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

The cat's teeth needed capping?

I recall, as we threw flies at beastly roosterfish north of Cabo Matapalo, your grim and needlessly graphic tales of Chairman Mao, the cat from hell (not to mention Peking), head-butting you after a running start from the foot of the bed, ending your blissful slumber with a dose of pain and reality.

Why, SFC Petzal, would you aesthetically arm Mao's replacement with gleaming fangs?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Gunny Bob wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

I've never had a problem with my only Nightforce. Mounted on a .300WSM Kimber, I've dragged it around Africa and taken mountain zebra, red hartebeest, gemsbok, warthog, et al, and Colorado for elk, under frequently trying conditions and rough handling. Nothing has escaped yet.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from davidpetzal wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

To ajvigs: My guess is because a lot of these scopes will be bought for beanfield rifles, where you want as much light as you can possibly get. Therefore, 56mm. If this one sells well there will probably be other, smaller versions.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Safado wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

RPeterson,
They do have a 2.5X - 10X - 42 but it appears to be about $400 higher.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

I feel your pain. I bought a new rifle for Christmas and changed out scopes on three different rifles according to my fancy. At forty bucks a box sighting in is expensive to say the least. It takes three shots for the windage and elevation to settle in on an ordinary scope. Six dollars every time you turn the knob just to see where it wants to shoot.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from FirstBubba wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

I bought a 3x9 Vari-X II Leupold for $99.00 + tax in 1977.
It doesn't" CLICK"...but it does have a graduated dial for w&e.
When I move the dial 1 graduation, POI is adjusted 1/4" at 100 yards.
The used Leupold I rescued from a pawn shop doesn't" CLICK".
It ALSO moves the POI 1/4" at 100 yards.
I'm a simple "sight it in and leave it" hunter. Leupold fills my every need.

I like to practice the "Parsimony Principle"!
"It is pointless to do more with what is done with less."

You don't have to have a Rolls Royce to get to the prom. A Ford Falcon can accomplish that task.
The Rolls just "looks" better! LOL!

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from M.A.T wrote 13 weeks 4 days ago

What scope were you using that wouldn't even move the cross-hairs? Most scopes over $200 now at least move the cross-hairs.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ajvigs wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

David,

Why such a huge objective? 56mm is quite large, and it is the sole reason why I have to pass on this scope. Do you think Nightforce has plans to release the same scope sans the 56mm objective? If not, it may be wise to save a little more for the NXS Compact 2.5-10x42

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dougfir wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

I'll take your word for it Dave. Guess my scopes will forever move bullets (quietly) by random amounts in each direction. Oh well, at least I'll be able to afford ammo (sparingly) (and when I can find it)...

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Joe Sixpack wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

Dave- was wondering how you determine the most appropriate scope objective lens size for a particular application?
Antelope vs elk, whitetail vs mule deer, plains vs woods, mountains vs bean field?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tim Platt wrote 13 weeks 3 days ago

I am glad I don't adjust my scopes much. I just dial them in at 100 yards and leave them alone. If I was into competitive shooting I would have to get a Nightforce.

I am still amazed that sometimes 12 clicks means 3 inches and sometimes it means an inch... and the scopes I just spent 4 hours fiddling with were a Zeiss, a Kahles, and a Bushnell. One was $150, one was $450, and one was $800... and they all act the same when you adjust them.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hookturnr wrote 13 weeks 2 days ago

Dave, you should check out the Vortex Viper HS and PST series scopes. Great turrets, zero stop, etc. and a lifetime warranty.

I just bought my second Vortex Viper HS series and I'm quite pleased with the durability, repeatability and glass quality....at half the price of NF! I get the value of the NF if your life depends on it, but that's a whole different game. My first Vortex has been on a braked 300RUM for over 1000 rounds and still functions like new, the second one just went on a 280AI and has been rock solid reliable so far. I really think these scopes are a sleeper in this particular field.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dougfir wrote 13 weeks 5 days ago

Is this really the reality of scopes now? Do you need to pay 1000 dollars to be able to feel the clicks and have the clicks affect POI the way the manufacturers say they do? Frankly, as a hunter, the latter is much more important to me, but I've yet to own a scope that actually moved the bullet 1/4" with each click. Doesn't seem like it should be that difficult...

-1 Good Comment? | | Report

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