Nikon Sport Optics for Hunters & Shooters


by Jeff Quinn

photography by Jeff Quinn & Boge Quinn

January 10th, 2008




Nikon is a legendary name in the world of photography and industrial lens applications. Their Nikkor lenses have earned the respect of professional photographers all over the world, and their professional cameras are tough and reliable. Nikon is a huge global corporation, but a few years ago, they entered the world of sport optics, marketing binoculars, spotting scopes, riflescopes, rangefinders and such for birdwatchers, sports spectators, and hunters. I have seen Nikon scopes around for several years, but until recently, hadnít really seriously used any of their scopes or other products, with the exception of photography equipment.

A few months ago, I tried my first Nikon riflescope, and it proved to be both reliable and optically clear. That scope was one of their Buckmaster line, and I mounted it atop a Ruger .358 Winchester Hawkeye, and gave it a workout. While the Buckmaster is an affordable scope, priced right in line with other moderately-priced quality scopes like the Leupold Rifleman (which is also a very good scope), the Buckmaster provides clear optics and reliable settings, along with Nikonís Bullet Drop Compensating (BDC) reticle. The BDC allows hunters to hold right on target with no guess work, as long as the hunter knows the distance to the target. The BDC reticle has a series of circular aiming points, and the hunter simply holds on the proper circle, and presses the trigger.

While on the subject of knowing the distance to the target, which is very important on longer shots, I have been using a Nikon rangefinder for several months now. Nikon makes quite a few different models, but the one that I have here has a 1200 yard range, which is very useful to long-range shooters. A hunter has no business shooting that far, but target shooters can do so reliably, knowing the distance to the target. Even at 300 yards, being off on the estimation by just a few yards will mean the difference between a good hit and a wounded animal, so I make it a point to know the distance before pulling the trigger on game. The Nikon rangefinder is lightweight, compact, and easy to use, being much smaller than my old Bushnell 600 yard rangefinder. Lasering to known ranges, I found the Nikon rangefinder to be spot-on reliable, and I highly recommend it, whether you need the 1200 yard model or one of the other models, they are all reasonably priced. The Monarch Gold 1200 model that I have has seven-power magnification, and is very simple to use. Some rangefinders get too complicated for me. The Nikon is not. Turn it on, sight the target, and press one button. Simple. The range to target is displayed in large, easy to read numbers. The Gold 1200 reads distances from 11 yards out to 1200 yards, and can also display the distance in meters, if preferred. It weighs about ten ounces, and comes with a belt case for easy portability.

The last Nikon scope that I have been using lately is their Monarch 4 to 16 power with side focus. I really like the side focus design on the Monarch. It is pulled out to focus, and then can be pressed in to lock it in place. That is a good feature. The Monarch also has the BDC reticle, and it is built on a one-piece aluminum tube, and guaranteed waterproof and shockproof. The main feature of the Monarch that distinguishes itself from most competitive scopes is the four-power magnification. Most variable scopes have only an approximate three-power magnification, such as 3 to 9 or 4 to 12, but the Monarch has four-power magnification range, such as this 4 to 16 power. That offers a lot more versatility on the lower end for closer targets, and more magnification at the upper end for distant targets. The Monarch has very clear optics, and the reticle adjustments work with precision, and have held their settings perfectly in my tests. The power adjuster works smoothly, and is easy to use, even while wearing gloves. I mounted the Monarch atop an ArmaLite AR 180B in ArmaLiteís mount, where it performed very well. The Monarch has Nikonís lifetime warranty, and is a lot of scope for the money. On a good, bright day, even a cheap scope from a discount store looks great while peering through it. However, at dawn and dusk, when most game appears, a quality scope makes all the difference. The Monarch is a quality scope.

Check out the extensive line of Nikon optics at

Jeff Quinn


Monarch Gold 1200 rangefinder.



Nikon Buckmaster.

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Click pictures for a larger version.



Nikon Monarch.



BDC reticle.



Monarch side focus.



Monarch lens covers.