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Review: Nightforce Optics 3-10x42 mm SHV Riflescope

Review: Nightforce Optics 3-10x42 mm SHV Riflescope

In 2014, Nightforce Optics introduced the SHV line of riflescopes, which were engineered to offer Nightforce quality at a lower price. The SHV acronym is short for “Shooter, Hunter, Varminter,” and these optics are intended as versatile shooting tools, suitable for everything short of combat environments. By reducing options, SHV prices are well below what you would expect to pay for a Nightforce. In 2015, the lineup expanded with the Nightforce SHV 3-10x42 mm optic.

This riflescope is similar in size to the popular NXS Compact 2.5-10x42 mm. That riflescope has an impeccable reputation for ruggedness, but retails for twice the price of the 3-10X SHV. Given that durability is one of the primary selling points of any Nightforce, I wondered if the SHV was only half as rugged as the NXS. So, resilience was the first thing I tested.

I mounted the SHV on a Sisk S.T.A.R. rifle with Nightforce X-Treme Duty rings and zeroed at 100 yards. Then I twisted and turned on the reticle adjustment knobs like a teenager in the 1970s cranking on a radio knob. The reticle returned to zero, and there was no point-of-impact shift. The scope was then removed and hurled downrange. Instead of immediately picking it up, I kicked it around a bit and then beat it against a half-inch plywood target backer. Not sure I’d abused it enough, I used the SHV like a hammer to drive a roofing nail into a pine board. Scope abuse of this nature is probably against the law in some states, and some riflemen would surely have condemned us to spend eternity in a very warm location had they witnessed our indiscretions.

Incredibly, when I remounted the scope on the rifle, I discovered the point-of-impact had not changed. Windage and elevation adjustments were also just as precise and consistent. The Nightforce 3-10x42 mm SHV passed my torture test. But why? Its tube—which is two- to three-times thicker than most other scopes—provides greater structural integrity and better thermal stability. Additionally, the reticle adjustments use dissimilar materials to prevent galling, and a titanium erector-tube leaf spring contributes to the SHV’s bulletproof construction.

Knurled knobs make windage and elevation adjustments easy. Each click provides .25 MOA of adjustment.

As tough as the SHV is, shooters expect more than just manliness from a high-end riflescope. Impeccable resolution and contrast, high-performance color rendition and superior light transmission are demanded. To ensure these benchmarks are attained, Nightforce uses only optically indexed lenses. Of course, the appreciation of optical quality is just as subjective as the many ways shooters evaluate it. I placed the title page of this magazine at 25 yards, which is the inner limit of the side parallax adjustment, and took a gander.

Ten-power magnification was not sufficient to read all the text, but the titles of feature stories and their page numbers were crisp and clear, as were the images. This was true not just at the center of the field-of-view, but also all the way to the edge. Just as important, the reticle was in perfect focus. The SHV’s fast-focus European eyepiece helped pull all this together as different eyes looked through the scope. It should also be noted that the Nightforce 3-10x42 mm SHV lenses live inside a cell that has a small amount of crush area built in. This car-like crumple zone protects the lenses from impact and pressure.

Knurled knobs make windage and elevation adjustments easy. Each click provides .25 MOA of adjustment.

Ruggedness and clarity are great, but just as appealing is everything else the SHV brings to the table. At only 11.6 inches it is compact, and at 20.8 ounces, it’s not unduly heavy. The capped windage and elevation adjustments deliver .25 MOA of reticle movement per click, with 10 MOA of adjustment per revolution. The scope’s total internal adjustment range is 90 MOA vertically and 80 MOA horizontally. Turrets can be reset to zero—while a zero stop is not offered, horizontal lines around the turret body indicate revolutions. The knurled magnification adjustment ring is easy to grip for quick adjustment, but is only .04-inch larger in diameter than the ocular housing. This often-overlooked measurement is critical for bolt handle and operating hand clearance.

As stated, the cost to manufacture SHV riflescopes is lowered, in part, by the options offered. Only two, non-illuminated reticles are available in the 3-10x42 mm SHV. One is the MOAR reticle, which surprisingly has 1-MOA windage and elevation markings. It is superb for long-distance engagements. The other is the IHR (International Hunter Reticle), which is an uncluttered take on the German #1 reticle with a fine center cross for precise aiming.

The Nightforce 3-10x42 mm SHV would make a great companion for a precision bolt-rifle or for an AR in any centerfire rifle chambering. It’s rugged enough to handle frequent thrusts into clearing barrels during 3-gun matches, it can survive repeated abuse from clumsy shooters who drop their gun more than they do four-letter words and it will deliver all the magnification, low-light performance and clarity you need for shooting out to 1,000 yards.

You probably won’t need the Nightforce transferable lifetime warranty—I treated the SHV like a borrowed hammer. It could drive nails while in my hands or while on the rifle.

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