Nikon Scopes

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The company that would become Nikon was founded in 1917 when 3 of the largest manufacturers of optical equipment (at that time) merged into a single company. When the new company was first founded, it was called the Nippon Company. Company leaders would later change the name over to the Nikon Company based on the worldwide success of their Nikon line of cameras.

Although Nikon is still best known for its cameras and photography products, they also manufacture several other products, including sporting optics, telescopes, scanning equipment, and measurement equipment.

Nikon Rifle Scope Reviews

Nikon first entered the riflescope business during World War II, when they were enlisted to manufacture optical equipment for the Japanese military. That optical equipment included binoculars, early model rifle scopes, periscopes, and bomb sights.

The Nikon line of rifle scopes looks to have first entered the U.S. market in the late 1950s and developed into a premier manufacturer of rifle scopes, rangefinders, binoculars, and range finders.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Nikon continued to gain a foothold in the U.S. sporting optics market and continued to offer new and innovative scope designs and models. Nikon’s basic fixed power rifle scope models evolved into an impressive series of variable-powered scope models.

The Nikon line of cameras most likely played a significant role in the success of their scope line, as many outdoors people were also amateur photographers.

As Nikon continued to expand its line of rifle scopes, they were able to offer scopes to meet almost any budget as well as one to meet most any need.

In addition to offering scopes marketed towards the general hunting community, Nikon also expanded their scope lines to include scope models designed to target:

  • Law enforcement and military applications
  • Red dot sights for shotguns
  • Short-range and CQC battle scopes for the AR-15 platform
  • Long-range scopes for the growing base of long-range shooters
  • Pistol optics
  • Scopes designed for the growing sport of predator hunting
  • Tactical oriented scopes designed for tactical based competitions
  • Scopes focused on rimfire calibers for the growing number of dedicated rimfire shooters

Although Nikon was not a U.S.-based company, they enjoyed significant success in the U.S. shooting market that you typically don’t see with non-U.S. based scope makers.

Nikon BDC Scopes

Nikon also introduced the ability to use a custom BDC turret and even created its shooting application called the Nikon Spot-on Ballistic Match program. Both of these applications would allow a shooter to take specific factors like:

  • Caliber
  • Bullet weight
  • Bullet speed in Feet Per Second (FPS)
  • Bullet co-efficient
  • Climate factors (Temperature, altitude, etc.)

And create a custom BDC (Bullet Drop Compensation) application that eliminated the need for ballistic-based mathematics at longer ranges.

Nikon Spot On Turrets

In addition to Nikon’s BDC application, select Nikon scope models feature the ability to add a custom BDC-based turret from Nikon.

Nikon Spot On Turrets

The turrets are based on data from the Nikon Spot ON application and extend the range of your caliber out past the primary limitations of the BDC reticle. It’s a pretty exciting turret system as you just dial the elevation turret to the marked yardage distance that you want to shoot, and the turret has already done all the semi-complicated math.

I have a few customers at my day job who use Nikon glass equipped with custom Nikon BDC-based turrets, and the consensus seems to be that they work well. One customer in particular, who runs a Nikon scope with a customized Nikon BDC turret on his .308, has shown me some of the groups he’s shot using that set-up at 500+ yards, and the results are pretty impressive.

Rather than having to do ballistic math or rely on a phone app, he’s old school and wanted the least technical option that would allow him to take accurate and ethical shots at game at longer distances. His groups are even more impressive, considering he’s just dialing the elevation turret to the desired target distance and pulling the trigger.

Now, to be fair, the more accurate the data you provide regarding the custom turrets, the better the results seem to be.

Nikon Prostaff P5 Rifle Scope
Nikon Prostaff P5 Rifle Scope


Here’s a look at Nikon’s current line of rifle scopes with links to more in-depth reviews of each Nikon scope series:

  • Nikon Prostaff P5 Scopes
  • Nikon Prostaff P7 Scopes
  • Nikon Buckmasters II Scopes
  • Nikon Monarch Scopes
  • Nikon P-Tactical Scopes
  • Nikon M-Tactical Scopes
  • Nikon Black X1000 Scopes
  • Nikon Black FX1000 Scopes

If I had to pick one thing about the Nikon line of scopes that I’m not crazy about, it would be the way they approach the default parallax distance. Except for only a few Nikon scope models (which are mostly the EFR based models), Nikon uses a default 50-yard minimum parallax or side focus setting. This means that the lowest distance these scopes will focus down to from a parallax or side focus perspective is 50 yards.

While the default 50-yard minimum focus distance makes sense on scopes explicitly made for long-range shooting, it doesn’t make as much sense to me on riflescopes designed for hunting purposes. And hunting focused scopes make up about 75% of the Nikon scope line.

Again, the 50-yard default minimum focus is a pet peeve of mine, but I can overlook it because most Nikon glass is a decent to good value for the money.

Unfortunately, at the end of 2019, Nikon quietly advised its line of dealers that they would no longer be manufacturing rifle scopes in 2020 but would continue to offer spotting scopes and rangefinders.

This decision came as a surprise to the rifle scope industry as Nikon was still very much considered a major player in the scope market. The exact reasons for the exit were never explicitly made clear. Still, the conversations with various Nikon representatives seemed to indicate that the rifle scope division of Nikon wasn’t that profitable compared to other divisions within Nikon.

Also, Nikon scopes competed in the entry-level to mid-priced ranges of the rifle scope industry, and, over the years, those markets had become increasingly competitive as newer brands like Vortex and Athlon established a foothold in that segment of the scope market. If you’d like to read more about my thoughts on how and why Nikon got out of the scope business, I wrote about it here.

Nikon Black X1000 Scope
Nikon Black X1000 Rifle Scope

Even though Nikon is no longer officially producing rifle scopes, there are quite a few vendors who still have an adequate supply of existing Nikon scopes that are available at deeply discounted prices. To see those deals, click on the review link above for the specific Nikon scope series that interest you.

On a personal level, I was disappointed to see Nikon getting out of the business because I always thought they were a better than average scope brand with decent glass at reasonable prices coupled with a pretty good warranty.

I still have a few older Nikon Monarch rifle scopes made in Japan, and I’ve been very pleased with those pieces of glass.


Here are a few frequently asked questions that I see regarding the Nikon brand of rifle scopes:

Are there any Nikon FFP scopes?

While most of the Nikon scopes are second focal plane, they did start venturing into the realm of first focal plane scopes (more commonly called FFP scopes) with the Nikon Monarch 3 series and the Nikon Prostaff series of scopes.

Neither of the FFP models within each of those Nikon scope series were great sellers for Nikon, so they were ultimately discontinued.

If you aren’t sure if you want an FFP scope or not, here’s another article I put together that might help.

If you are in the market for a Nikon FFP scope, check out the Nikon Black FX1000 series that I mentioned above, as they are most all FFP scopes and feature some pretty good glass. I think the Black FX1000 scopes were Nikon’s best FFP scope series so far.

I have a Nikon Slughunter BDC 200 scope on a shotgun and love it. However, I cannot find another of these scopes to save my life. Were they phased out? Any idea where I can find another?

Much like the name suggests, the Nikon Slughunter scope family was a series of scopes designed for use on a shotgun with a rifled barrel. The Slughunter series came with a Nikon BDC reticle that was created for bullet drop out to 200 yards (hence the BDC 200 name), and the bullet drop could be configured based on the shotgun gauge along with the type and weight of the specific shotgun slug.

They were surprisingly accurate and worked very well. Unfortunately, Nikon phased the Slughunter scope series out around 2016, when they introduced some shotgun-specific scopes in the Nikon Prostaff scopes.

As they have been phased out, you’re best bet is to probably keep a check on a site like eBay as I see one pop up there now and then.

Where can I find the Nikon BDC calculator?

The Nikon BDC calculator has gone by several names over the years, and it’s currently called the Nikon SpotON Ballistic Match Technology.

This is an online application (and use to be an Android and Apple application) that lets you take your specific Nikon scope, enter some caliber-specific data, and it will provide you with a bullet drop compensation chart for your Nikon scope and caliber.

The data you have to provide is pretty specific, and it’s essential to be as accurate as possible, so it may mean running your rifle and preferred round through a chronograph to get a precise bullet speed average from your rifle. Many shooters use the suggested factory data for bullet speed, but that can vary significantly depending on variables like barrel length, altitude, etc.

I much prefer to run ten shots through a Chrono to get an accurate average bullet speed for use with BDC programs.

It’s a pretty slick system, and, at the time of this writing, Nikon is still supporting it.

Is there a scope model called the Nikon BDC scope?

Not officially speaking. The BDC functionality that Nikon offers is either based on the BDC reticle or based on Nikon custom turrets.

Just about every scope series offered by Nikon was available with Nikon’s patented BDC reticle, so that may be where you’re getting mixed about the BDC scope name.

Where can I find Nikon scopes for sale now that they are no longer in business?

First, it’s necessary to clarify that the Nikon Corporation is still very much in business. They just made a business decision to stop manufacturing and selling the Nikon line of rifle scopes.

Given Nikon’s popularity in the scope market, several vendors have some remaining stock of new Nikon scopes that are being sold at some pretty darn good discounts.

If you scroll back up to the section where I’ve outlined all the current Nikon scope models, out beside each model is a link to a more in-depth review of that specific Nikon scope series. On each of those pages, I’ve included links to the best deals I could locate on new, refurbished, or demo Nikon scope models that are still in stock.

Where can I find a Nikon 22 scope?

Over the years, Nikon has offered several rifle scope models made for or explicitly geared towards the .22 caliber cartridge. The most recent scope series that Nikon introduced made for a .22 was found within the Nikon Prostaff series of scopes.

Nikon 22 scope

Nikon produced a scope series called the Nikon Prostaff Rimfire scope and then later came out with the second generation of that scope series called the Nikon Prostaff Rimfire II scopes.

Both series featured Nikon scopes with BDC reticles that were specifically configured to work with the more popular .22 LR bullet weights (typically a .40 grain bullet).

If you’d like to learn more about those Nikon 22 scopes, follow this link.

Which models are considered Nikon hunting scopes?

At the time that Nikon stopped offering riflescopes, about 75% of their entire scope line was really more geared towards hunting than any other specific use.

While these scopes could also be used for other uses, the following Nikon scope series were marketed as hunting scopes:

  • Rimfire Scope series
  • Prostaff P3, P5, and P7 scopes
  • Buckmaster and Buckmasters II models
  • All the Monarch series of scopes

Are the Nikon AR scopes any good?

When discussing the Nikon AR15 scopes, the two Nikon series of scopes to focus on would be the P-Tactical and M-Tactical scopes.

While both of those series could and do function just fine on a bolt rifle, they were built more for tactical-based shooting with the AR-15 and AR-10 rifle platforms.

Both of those scope series perform well on an AR rifle and feature a wide enough range of magnification powers to meet most any AR-based shooting needs.

To answer the original question: I think both the P Tactical and M Tactical scope series offer a good option for an AR, especially now with the discounted pricing due to the line being phased out.

Personally, I prefer the M-Tactical series over the P-Tactical scopes as the M series offers better quality glass and more features. Of course, the M series also comes with a higher price tag as well.