Every once in a while, I sorta look around the marketplace and see if there is a brand I have not had a chance to pay much attention to in the last couple of years for whatever reason. Early last year, I realized that I have not looked at Nikon very much, largely because I have been focusing on tactical scopes and Nikon really does not offer anything worthwhile within that genre. SO I went ahead and got my hands on a three different Nikon riflescopes that I thought would be interesting to glance at for a variety of reasons: ProStaff 5 2.5-10×40 with BDC reticle, Monrach 3 2.5-10×42 with BDC reticle and then new M-300 1.5-6×42 with illuminated BDC reticle.
My impressions are somewhat mixed. Interestingly enough, the tow eless expensive scopes (ProStaff and Monarch 3) I liked a fair bit and recommended to others on a few occasions when they were appropriate. That was something of a revelation for me, but upon reflection, I realized that scopes like Conquest and MeoPro moved upmarket a bit in terms of price, leaving the designs like ProStaff and Monarch in a different category. I even had a chance to compare the Monarch to the new Zeiss Terra and the Monarch was notably better (what possessed Zeiss to introduce a turd like Terra is beyond me).
Now, I am still not a huge fan of Nikon’s BDC reticle, but I can make it work. Besides, a simple plex reticle is also available.
In short, these two are good basic hunting scopes and they held up well in my use.
The new M-300, on the other hand… let’s just say my experience with it was odd.
I like 1.5-6×42 configuration, so when I saw Nikon introducing one, I got all excited. It looked great on paper, with modest dimensions, ambidextrous reticle illumination controls and a reticle designed with subsonic 300 Blackout in mind.
Once I got my hands on the scope, something looked a little odd. The reticle had a large dot in the center that looked asymmetrical:
Optical quality did not look that great either especially at low magnification, where even the slightest movement of the eye with respect to the scope produced a pretty sever fishbowl effect and parallax error. Turrets did not track all the great either, but I did not spend much time on them, since I figured the scope must have slipped through QC somehow and needs to go back. I always alert the manufacturers when I get a scope that looks like a QC failure as a courtesy anyway.
That was just before last year’s SHOT, so I figured I’ll stop by Nikon’s booth and show them the picture of the reticle. The Nikon guy I usually talk to was there nd he glanced at the reticle and said “send it in”. I sent it in, but some time after that, he left Nikon (which I did not know). The scope spent a few months there and all my attempts to figure out what gives did not yield anything. At this year’s SHOT I walked over to the Nikon booth got in contact with another person whose job it is to deal with annoying writers like me and followed that up with an e-mail. To his great credit, he did a little digging, and found that scope.
Then things got weird. He almost berated me for not sending it in via the proper “repair” channels for California and whether I had proof of purchase. That was odd since I explained that I borrowed that scope from one of the retailers for the purposes of the article and had no proof of purchase (having not purchased it). Then he said that they looked at it and it looks fine, reticle and all. Here is the exact phrase: “upon looking through it, it is the correct reticle for this scope. The image you provided previously is exactly how the reticle should look”
In order to double check I asked the following (exact excerpt from my e-mail, other than a spelling error correction): “Just to be clear: the large dot in the center of the reticle (which happens to be asymmetrical in the scope I sent you) is the correct pattern for the illuminated 1.5-6×42. Also, please check that the pronounced fishbowl effect at 1.5x with small movement within the exit pupil is within spec.”
I never got a reply to that, but I did the scope back, so I can now return it to the retailer I borrowed from. So I have got to assume that the gentleman I was dealing with, whose job title says “Technical Support Specialist”, looked at that scope and decided it was within spec.
That is more than a little troubling that Nikon thinks that reticle and that performance are appropriate for a $900 scope.
Needless, to say you will not see me recommending this scope and now I am getting leery about Nikon’s product support as well. It used to be downright atrocious some years ago, but I thought it has gotten better. Perhaps I was wrong.