Comparing the Nikon M223 vs P223 AR Scopes

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Given the AR platform’s growing popularity, many rifle scope brands have been diligently working to extend their rifle scope options built exclusively for the AR-15 and AR-10 platforms. Nikon Optics was no different and jumped headfirst into this growing market in 2010, with the introduction of the Nikon M223 line of scopes.

Nikon M223 vs P223 Scopes

This line was built exclusively for the AR-15 platform chambered in 223 Remington or 5.56 NATO using bullet drop compensation (commonly called BDC for short) functionality that would allow an AR shooter to extend their shooting distances out to 600 yards.

The M-223 line of scopes’ success led Nikon to introduce another line of BDC-based scope options made for the 223/5.56 AR platform in 2012. This line was called the P223 series and featured the same BDC functionality found on the M223 scope line.

Both of these families of scopes proved to be excellent sellers for Nikon as they met the need for an affordable AR15 riflescope offering mid to longer-range sighting capability. Even though Nikon no longer manufactures either of these scope models, I still see several questions being posed and asked about these specific scopes.  One that seems to come up time and time again is this one: What are the differences between the Nikon m223 vs p223 scopes?

Before I get into answering that specific question, let’s have a quick overview of each scope series:

Nikon M223 Scopes

As I mentioned before, Nikon first introduced the M223 line of scopes at the 2010 SHOT show. This series of rifle scopes was designed with a BDC functionality to work with a .223/5.56 cartridge firing a 55-grain polymer tipped bullet at 3240 feet per second. The BDC feature of the M-223 scopes would allow a shooter to engage targets out to 600 yards (or longer).

The M-223 series consisted of the following models:

 1-4x20mm

Nikon M223 1-4x20mm Scope

This model was designed as a close-quarters combat optic that also offered the ability to shoot at longer ranges as well. This model featured a 1-inch tube and came in two different reticle options: Nikon’s Point Blank Reticle or their BDC 600 reticle. This model was built with a fixed 100-yard parallax setting.

On a personal note, I’m not a fan of the Point Blank reticle as the crosshairs are a bit thick for a CQC style optic.

1.5-6×24

Nikon M223 1.5-6x24 Scope

Unlike most other scopes in the M-223 family built on a 1-inch tube, the 1.5-6×24 was built on a 30mm tube. This scope was offered as a stepping stone option for shooters who wanted an optic with more magnification than the M223 1-4×20 model but less magnification than the M223 2-8×32 scope. The 1.5-6×24 model was available in either Nikon’s BDC 600 reticle or their BDC 600 Illuminated reticle. The 1.5-6 model is the only AR-15 scope in the M-223 family that featured an illuminated reticle option. The 1.5-6 model was equipped with a fixed (non-adjustable) 100-yard parallax setting.

 

2-8×32

Nikon M223 2-8x32 Scope

The 2-8×32 model was built on a 1-inch tube and was available in two reticle configurations: the BDC 600 reticle or the Nikoplex reticle. While the BDC 600 reticle featured a reticle-based BDC system, the Nikoplex reticle was a modified duplex reticle. To integrate BDC functionality with the Nikoplex reticle, Nikon equipped the Nikoplex reticle models with a turret adjustment system called Rapid Action Turret system. This system was designed to integrate with Nikon Spot-on ballistic calculator application. Like the 1-4 and 1.5-6 M223 models, the 2-8×32 was also equipped with a non-adjustable parallax set to 100 yards.

 

3-12×42

Nikon M223 3-12x42 Scope

The 3-12×42 was built on a 1-inch tube and was geared for the AR shooter who wanted a bit more magnification power for longer-range targets. Like the 2-8×32 scope, this 3-12 model also came with the same two reticle options of the BDC 600 reticle or the Nikoplex reticle. The Nikoplex reticle version also uses the Rapid Action Turret system for BDC functionality.

Unlike the lower-powered scope models in the M-223 family of scopes, the 3-12×42 model was equipped with a side focus adjustment that would focus down to 50 yards and well downrange to over 1000 yards.

4-16×42

Nikon M223 4-16x42 Scope

Also built on a 1-inch tube, the 4-16×42 scope is the most powerful magnification option that Nikon offers in the M223 scope line. Like the M-223 3-12×42 model, the 4-16×42 model is also available in either the BDC 600 reticle or the Nikoplex reticle. The Nikoplex model also uses a modified version of Nikon’s Rapid Action Turret system for BDC function. Like the 3-12×42 model, this 4-16×42 is also equipped with a side focus adjustment that will focus down to 50 yards.

Unfortunately, Nikon decided to exit the scope business in 2019, so these M223 scopes are no longer being manufactured. However, you can still find a few new models that are still on the market, like the ones below:

Here are some pre-owned M-223 models for sale:

Nikon P223 Scopes

The first Nikon P223 series of scopes were introduced in 2012 and included 3×32 and 3-9×40 models. This P-223 series was marketed as a less expensive and more budget-oriented AR-15 scope option.

In 2013, Nikon introduced a 1.5-4.5×20 model and a 4-12×40 model that completed the P223 series.

Like the M223 scope series, the P223 scopes utilized the same bullet drop compensation functionality built around the exact 55 grain, polymer tip 223/556 caliber moving at 3240 feet per second.

The P-223 series consisted of the following models:

3×32

Nikon P223 3x32 scope

The 3×32 scope was marketed as a more affordable fixed power Close quarters combat (CQC) AR scope that featured Nikon’s patented BDC Carbine reticle. Built on a 1-inch tube, this fixed 3X model is the only fixed power scope option in the M223 and P223 scope series.

The budget-friendly price point, coupled with the compact and lightweight dimensions, made this scope a popular seller for Nikon. This model features a factory set, fixed 100-yard parallax setting.

1.5-4.5×20

Nikon P223 1.5-4.5x20 Scope

The 1.5-4×20 scope was designed as an option for AR shooters who wanted a more powerful scope magnification without moving to something in the 3-9 power range. This model was only available with a BDC 600 reticle and featured a fixed 100-yard parallax. Like all the other P-223 scope models, this 1.5-4×20 was built on a 1-inch tube.

3-9×40

Nikon P223 3-9x40 Scope

The P223 3-9×40 is built on a 1-inch tube and is geared towards AR shooters who were comfortable with the 3-9 power range. This magnification range is one of the most popular on the market in the hunting side of optics, and Nikon felt that the 3-9 configuration might translate well over to the AR platform as well.

The scope model is only available with the BDC 600 reticle and features a fixed 100-yard parallax setting.

4-12×40

Nikon P223 4-12x40 Scope

The P223 4-12×40 is the highest magnification model that Nikon offers in the P-223 scope family. It was designed for AR shooters who wanted a higher magnification option explicitly built for the 223/5.56 caliber. Also produced on a 1-inch tube, this scope is only available with the BDC 600 reticle option. Like all the P223 scopes, this model also comes with a fixed 100-yard parallax setting.

The P223 scopes were also discontinued in 2019 so they are hard to find these days.

Here are a few preowned models I found for sale:

Nikon P-223 3-9 x 40 BDC 600 Riflescope with Nikon P-Series Rings

$319.00  in stock
as of February 26, 2024 10:10 am

Nikon P-223 3-9 x 40 BDC 600 Riflescope with Nikon P-Series RingsScope is new and unmounted. Comes with a fresh set of P-Series rings and lens caps, as pictured.Nikon discontinued their rifle scope line a couple of years ago, but their scopes continue to be widely used and praised for their quality and durability. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Nikon P-223 Rifle Optic Scope 4-12x40 Matte BDC600 Reticle with M223 Mount

$290.00  in stock
as of February 26, 2024 10:10 am

This Nikon P-223 Precision Rifle Optic Scope is a top-of-the-line product that will elevate your shooting experience to the next level. With a maximum magnification of 12x and a 40 mm objective lens diameter, you'll be able to easily spot your target and take accurate shots. It has the BDC 600 reticle type and matte black color. Additionally it has the M223 mount included and already attached. Scope is like new - only taken to the range around 3 times so it’s time to find a new home.

Nikon P223 4-12x40 600 BDC Rifle SCOPE with Rings Mint

$279.99  in stock
as of February 26, 2024 10:10 am

Mint like new condition.

Nikon P-223 3-9x40 Precision Optic Rifle Scope PR31 w/ P-Series Mount!

$274.99  in stock
as of February 26, 2024 10:10 am

I ALWAYS try and work with everyone to make sure you have a pleasant experience with my sales.

Nikon P-223 3-9X40BDC 600 Reticle Black Matte Rifle Scope PR31 Philippines +Caps

$285.00  in stock
as of February 26, 2024 10:10 am

Scope has light marks, wear, signs of use but glass is clear and bright and functions wellFree ship

Nikon P223 3-9X40 Tactical Rifle Scope with BDC

$385.00  in stock
as of February 26, 2024 10:10 am

Nikon P223 3-9X40 Tactical Rifle Scope with BDC. This scope is part of a very large collection of firearms and firearms accessories that belonged to my recently deceased Grandfather. I am trying to sell off most of his collection with proceeds going to my Grandmother. I am not an expert on this scope but can do my best to answer any questionsScope has light marks, wear, signs of use, etc. Please see pictures for condition I can easily provide more

Nikon P223 3-9X40 Tactical Rifle Scope with BDC

$399.00  in stock
as of February 26, 2024 10:10 am

Nikon P223 3-9X40 Tactical Rifle Scope with BDC. This scope is part of a very large collection of firearms and firearms accessories that belonged to my recently deceased Grandfather. I am trying to sell off most of his collection with proceeds going to my Grandmother. I am not an expert on this scope but can do my best to answer any questionsScope has light marks, wear, signs of use, etc. Please see pictures for condition I can easily provide more

Comparing the M-223 vs the P-223 Scopes

Before we get into the specific differences between each of these scope models, let’s briefly go over areas where they are the same:

  • Both the M and P series are built on a 1-inch tube, with the lone exception being the M223 1.5-6×24 model, which is built on a 30mm scope tube.
  • Both the M-series and P-series offer the BDC 600 reticle option, which shares the same BDC capability for the 223 or 5.56 caliber.

Here are the differences between the two scope models:

Optical Quality

Nikon has always had a reputation for offering good quality optics at reasonable prices, and these two scope series follow that same tradition. While both the M and P series offer good glass for the money, the M-223 series offers better quality optic. The M series images are slightly brighter and more precise than the glass on the P series of scopes.

Of course, that somewhat makes sense as the M series is available at a higher cost.

Differences in Parallax

The P223 models feature a fixed 100-yard factory set parallax, while the higher magnification models of the M223 series (3-12 and 4-16) offer a side focus that adjusts from 50 yards and out.

The fixed 100-yard parallax on the P series of scope is not a deal-breaker for me because we are talking about a reasonably flat shooting centerfire caliber. That being said, I do prefer the side focus option found on the higher magnification models in the M series of scopes.

Differences in Magnification Range

While both scope series offer a comparable selection of the more popular power ranges, the M-223 series offers a higher top end range of magnification over the P223 with a 4-16 model compared to a 4-12 model in the P223.

Reticle Differences

While both scope series offer excellent reticle options for the 223/5.56 caliber, the M223 series features more reticle options than the P223 series. The M series offers the BDC 600 reticle and the Nikoplex reticle, while the P223 series only offers the BDC 600 reticle.

I prefer the BDC 600 reticle over the Nikoplex option as I like the reticle BDC functionality compared to having to dial the Rapid Action Turrets associated with the Nikoplex reticle.

If you happened to be interested in an illuminated reticle, only the M223 series offers an illuminated reticle option with the M-223 1.5-6×24 model.

Fixed Power Option

If you were interested in a fixed power scope in the P223 or M223 scopes, only the P223 series would offer a potential solution with the 3×32 model. All the M-series feature adjustable power ranges.

Transition Over to the M-Tactical and P-Tactical Scope Models

As this is a common point of confusion, it’s worth mentioning as well.

In 2018, Nikon revamped both the M223 and P223 scope series and re-introduced both series under new names. The M223 scopes were renamed the M-Tactical series, and the P223 models were renamed the P-Tactical series.

Except for a few changes, the M-Tactical scopes are the same models as the older M223 models with slightly better glass and built on a 30mm tube versus a 1-inch tube.

The P-Tactical scopes are mostly the same as the older P223 series, with slightly better glass and a few more reticle options.

However, it’s essential to understand that the M-223 scopes are not precisely the same as the M-Tactical scopes and the P223 scopes are not identical to the P-Tactical riflescopes. Both are similar but not the same.

If you had an interest in a Nikon M-Tactical or P-Tactical scope, here are a few new ones that I found for sale:

So, which is a better AR-15 scope, the M223 or P223?

The answer depends on your version of better. If you want features like better quality glass or side focus, the M223 scopes are a better choice.

If you are strictly shopping on a budget, then the P223 models are probably worth a closer look.

Nikon M223 & P223 Scope Mounts

In addition to discussing the differences between the two scope series, it probably makes sense to talk a little bit about the mounting options for both the M-223 and P-223 scopes.

Nikon was smart enough to see that the best approach for making these two 223 scope series successful would also include offering an AR scope mount that would integrate with each scope.

As such, Nikon also offered a matching scope mount for both the M-223 and P-223 scopes.

Nikon M223 Scope Mounts

Nikon M223 Scope Mount

For the M223 scope series, Nikon offered a lightweight aluminum 1-piece scope mount called the model M223 834 mount. This mount was built to work with the M-223 scopes and mount on any flat top AR with a Picatinny rail. The M-series mounts are marked as fitting the M-series of rifle scopes.

This mount was built for scopes with a 1-inch tube and featured a forward cant for optimum eye relief on an AR rifle.

Nikon P223 Scope Mounts

Nikon P223 Scope Mount

In addition to offering dedicated mounts for the M223 models, Nikon also introduced specific AR scope mounts for the P223 series. These mounts differ from the M223 scope mounts as they are two-piece models compared to the M series being a 1-piece mount.

The model number for these P-223 mounts is #835, and they are also built for a 1-inch scope. Nikon opted to go with a two-piece mount for the P223 riflescopes to accommodate the 3×32 model. It’s shorter than most of the other scopes in the P-series, so a 1-piece scope mount wouldn’t work well. The P-series scope mounts are marked as fitting the P-series of Nikon scopes.

Before we move on, it’s probably also worth discussing some of the more commonly asked questions that I see regarding these two different scope mounts:

Will the M-223 mount work with a P223 scope?

The M-223 mount will work with almost all the P223 scope models, except the 3×32.

What diameter scope rings do I use with Nikon p223 3×32 scope?

Even though the P223 3×32 is a small, compact scope, it’s still built on a 1-inch tube, so you need an AR-based scope mount made for a 1-inch scope. Nikon makes or use to make a scope made to work with that model, and it’s the P223 mount model 835 that I mentioned above.

FAQS

Here are some frequently asked questions that I see regarding the Nikon P223 and M223 series of rifle scopes:

What happens when you shoot a 62 grain 556 with a Nikon p 223 scope?

That’s a great question because it brings up the topic of what happens if you shoot a 223 or 5.56 round with a bullet grain heavier or lighter than the recommended 55 grain that the 223 scope models were built for.

Nikon opted to configure these two scopes to work the 55 grain 22 or 5.56 bullet because it’s the most popular bullet weight for those calibers. Nikon also chose to use the velocity calculation of 3240 feet per second as that’s the most common velocity associated with the 55-grain bullet coming out of a 16- or 18-inch AR-15.

The pre-configured BDC functionality built into these specific Nikon AR scopes works well if all the boxes are checked. And by all the boxes are checked, I mean that you are shooting a 55-grain bullet with the required 3240 velocity.

If you deviate from that formula by using a heavier 223 bullet or having a bullet velocity that is either under or over the 3240 number, then the BDC functionality is off.

However, it’s not a complex issue to remedy using the Nikon Spot-on application. All you have to do is get an average bullet speed using a chronograph and then input the required data points into the Spot-on application.

The application will provide you with a suggested distance for sight-in and the BDC hold-over points on the BDC 600 reticle based on yardages associated with the data points you provided. It probably sounds more complicated on paper than it is.

What is the max distance for a Nikon p223 scope?

If we’re talking about the max distance in terms of the BDC 600 reticle, then the answer is 600 yards; however, it can push the distance for a 223/556 out a bit farther if you use the Nikon Spot-On application.

Will a Nikon M223 scope work on a bolt action rifle?

While the M223 and P223 series of scopes are designed for the AR-15 platform, they can and do work on a bolt action rifle chambered in .223 or 5.56. However, the BDC functionality may have to be tweaked a bit to work accurately, as a bolt action rifle will most likely have a slower or faster bullet speed than the preset BDC bullet speed of 3240 feet per second.

How does a Nikon p223 scope work?

The P223 series of scopes are built to be used with an AR-15 rifle chambered in either .223 or 5.56. The riflescope features a bullet drop compensation feature designed for use with 55-grain poly-tipped bullets with a bullet speed of 3240 feet per second.

Nikon BDC 600 Reticle

If you zero the AR in at 100 yards, the reticle features circle aim points that, moving from the duplex crosshair down, represent aiming points for the following distances:

  • 200 yards
  • 300 yards
  • 400 yards
  • 500 yards
  • 600 yards

In between each of the circle points on the reticle is a hash mark used for half distances between each of the circle points. For example, the hash mark between the 200-yard circle point and the 300-yard circle point is an aiming point for 250 yards.

This hash mark between each circle point correlates down the reticle post out to a 550-yard aiming point.

As I come across new questions or new information on these scope models, I’ll upate this post accordingly.