Nikon 5.5-16.5×44 mm AO Monarch UCC

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posted on October 29, 2010
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All my friends were hypnotized by the overgrown lizard's ability to turn and launch a barrage of foam balls at any assailant. Kids came for miles, OK blocks, to experience the scaly attack. Then the batteries died, crowds thinned and before I knew it my newfound popularity was extinct.

The scars have healed, but the memory remains. So I breathed a sigh of relief when I was assigned to test Nikon's BDC Reticle on a hog hunt in Texas and was informed there were "no batteries required."

There's nothing too glamorous about it, but the BDC Reticle is simple, designed with hunters in mind and innovative enough to have been recently granted a patent.

It may look familiar, but circles instead of hash marks on the stadia below the crosshair are designed to enhance long-range accuracy. They are extremely fine, and thanks to their hollow design do not occlude even a small target, regardless of range.

Nikon calls them ballistic circles. The BDC Reticle and the BDC 250 Muzzleloader Reticle have three ballistic circles, the BDC 200 Slug Gun Reticle has only two, and the Long Range version has four. It was the latter I tested in Texas, and the system performed very well.

For most standard centerfire rifle cartridges, operation is simple. Zero the crosshair at 100 yards. If the target is at 200 yards, simply place the first circle on it to adjust for elevation; the correct amount of holdover is built into the reticle. The second circle is for 300 yards, third is 400 yards and the fourth circle represents holdover at 500 yards. For magnum cartridges, zero the crosshair at 200 yards and you're good out to 600 by walking the ballistic circles up in 100-yard increments.

Variables like barrel length, altitude, temperature, humidity, cleaning, load and bullet selection make it impossible for the system to be benchrest accurate across all platforms, in every condition. But it works.

Using Remington Model 700 BDLs in .243 Winchester, 7 mm Remington Magnum and .308 Winchester, I was able to connect with steel targets out to 300 yards. From 400 to 500 yards, a slight breeze gave me fits. My holdovers were accurate, but the gusts were very unpredictable. I also used the system on several blackpowder rifles and was able to consistently ring the 300-yard steel target.

Unlike shooting off the bench, in hunting intuitive operation is critical. When we took off in pursuit of feral pigs, Shooting Illustrated Editor in Chief Dave Campbell was the first shooter. He dropped a hog at 348 yards with a single shot using 150-grain .308 Winchester Hornady TAP ammo. The pig was down instantly, despite the fact Campbell had only met the rifle and scope earlier that morning.

I was the last shooter, and we'd pretty much packed it in for the night when a boar ran across the road. In the dim light the circles were tough to make out, but this is the time of day when shots are going to be short anyway. The horizontal stadia has a slightly wider profile toward the sides, and that helped center the target quickly. With the same rifle and ammo Campbell used, I dropped the boar on its tracks at 60 yards.

The scope tested was the 5.5-16.5x44 mm AO Monarch UCC. In subsequent work on the range, the 1⁄4 minute-of-angle per-click windage and elevation adjustment was confirmed. The only notable variance occurred after the barrel of the Ruger No. 1 I was using for testing became hot. The first several trips around the target were, however, right at 1⁄4 minute of angle.

Nikon's BDC reticle is available in a number of the company's most popular riflescopes, including the Monarch, SlugHunter, Buckmasters, Team Realtree and ProStaff. The system is not only well designed and easy to use, there are no batteries required. I may own more portable-powered gizmos than the average guy, but their uncanny ability to go belly-up at the worst possible moment has me using them for less and less critical social applications—like work.

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