Nikon M-223 1-4x20mm Shot show 2012 mini review
By Les (Jim) Fischer (BigJimFish on AR15.com and Snipershide)
February 9, 2012
Most companies that make rifle scopes are not very large and do not command name recognition outside of their industry. You do not hear about most rifle scope companies on the news, or see their commercials on television. Nikon is the big exception to this. It is a giant corporation owned by the Mitsubishi Group, an even more giant corporation. It is very unlikely that you have never owned a product manufactured by Nikon. This is especially true since, in addition to making optics, Nikon is also the world’s second largest semiconductor fabricator. I mention all of this because I think it is important to keep in mind the history that we, me and you, have with Nikon when viewing Nikon rifle scopes, as that history will undoubtedly influence us.
My history with Nikon is as follows. I purchased my first Nikon product in the late 1990’s. This pair of 8×32 Venturer LX binoculars was the absolute top of Nikon’s lineup and was quite competitive with the much more expensive, Swarovski and Leica offerings, despite the huge price differential. My Venturers are still made, though they are now called the Premier LX, and are now Nikons number 2 binoculars behind the new EDG models. I had a chance to see these at Shot and compare them to my Venturers. The EDGs are quite remarkable. Nikon’s binoculars are excellent and, I think, underrated.
I think that this little digression into the world of binoculars was important to illustrate what Nikon is capable of when it puts its mind to something. With its incredible size, expertise, and economy of scale, Nikon can produce an optic as good as anyone in the world for significantly cheaper than their competitors. To some extent because of my history with Nikon, and because of their capabilities, I expected Nikon to do this with rifle scopes. They have not and I feel, though I have no right to, betrayed. Nikon is a “me-too” player in the world of riflescopes and not an industry leader. I see this trend across the board with their product line. The features are generally tired retreads of what other companies were doing 15 years ago. In the unusual event that they try to get contemporary, such as with the M-223 line, little thought appears to be put into the features. It is not that Nikon makes bad rifle scopes. Often the clarity and optical design is better than the average for their price point. The scopes are just unimaginative and uninspiring. It is like an A student performing C work. It might be as good as most of the other students can do but it is very disappointing for the teacher. I find myself reminiscing of times, some 15 years ago, when I used to think, “Gee, wouldn’t it be great if Nikon would make rifle scopes.” The answer was not what I expected.
I suppose after you suffered though all of that you must really want to read the M-223 1-4x20mm review. The first thing to note about the M-223 is that it is 1″ in a world of 30mm scopes. I think that it may be the only 1″ scope in this entire Shot report. It is not like 1″ is the end of the world: I have a 1″ Zeiss Conquest on my Anschutz and I rather enjoy the light weight. Small girth, and consequently a smaller objective, just starts us off in the wrong direction. The second thing I noticed about the M-223 was the color mismatch between the power ring and the rest of the body. The power ring appears to be a cheap little cast part that is made out of a different metal than the rest of the body and thus, has this odd, lustrous, rounded, cast look. Its appearance grates on me. Speaking of grating appearances, contrasting with the narrow tube are giant exposed adjustments that look like they are off of a 6-18x high powered scope. On a scope that high powered, large adjustments might be used, in concert with a ranging reticle, to aid in drop compensation. This scope has no ranging elements in the reticle to facilitate such function. The turrets only serve as decoration, an invitation to get bumped causing loss of your zero, and to remind you that the M-223 is not a well thought out scope design. Keeping with the theme of things I don’t like, the reticle is a duplex with an odd larger dot in the center. It looks almost as if they put that dot in there to reflect illumination, but sadly there is no illumination. I can say that the glass appears better than average at this price range, with a field of view that is also average. The power ring and diopter also feel fine, despite the appearance. Probably the best thing that can be said for the Nikon is that it has an excellent warranty so you can keep it forever. You judge for yourself the attractiveness of that proposition.
The M-223 1-4x20mm next to the reference GRSC:
The M-223 at 1x:
The M-223 at 4x: