Nikon Sport Optics has manufactured quality optics for decades. Several years ago, Nikon released the BLACK X1000 series riflescopes. The second focal plane BLACK X1000 featured a 30mm main tube, “tactical” milliradians (MRAD) or minutes of angle (MOA) reticle and premium glass. Based on the growing popularity of precision rifle competitions, Nikon released the BLACK FX1000 series of riflescopes. Unlike the BLACK X1000, the BLACK FX1000 is a first focal plane riflescope and features an updated turret, zero-stop and reticle. These scopes are available in both 4-16 and 6-24 magnification ranges. Nikon offers both illuminated and non-illuminated MOA- and MRAD-based systems. Several months ago the author received a Nikon BLACK FX1000 6-24x50SF Illuminated FX-MRAD riflescope, which is discussed in this article.
Those who have read my work or taken one of my precision classes have often heard me say, rather unapologetically, “Regardless of price, your scope is garbage until proven otherwise.” I have seen $400 scopes track perfectly, and I also have seen $2,500 scopes experience parallax issues and fail to return to zero when dialed up a specific value. Parallax, tracking, reticle subtensions and total travel need to be tested before a scope is ready for competition or professional use.
The first thing this author does when he receives a scope is mount it to the Scope Tool from Targets USA (targetsusa.com). Designed by Marc Taylor of Alaska Precision Rifles and Frank Galli of Sniper’s Hide, the Scope Tool is a MIL-STD-1913/Picatinny rail attached to a 30-pound weight. The scope tool is optimal for checking parallax and tracking. In the past, the author conducted tall target testing, where you shoot a group, dial up 1 MRAD, shoot another group and do this until you have reached either a pre-determined height or the mechanical limits of your scope. Tall target testing can be useful, but this method is limited by the mechanical accuracy of the rifle system and the ability of the shooter. It is also very time-consuming. Using the Scope Tool, the user can attach the scope to the fixture and then check reticle subtensions and tracking. Once tracking and subtensions are confirmed, the author heads to his ranch and tests parallax out to 1,000 yards, using a rangefinder.
Checking Reticle Subtensions
A subtension is the distance between the hash marks or mil dots in your reticle. The distance between these two marks corresponds to a specific angular unit of measure, typically an MRAD or an MOA. A “tactical” reticle is an invaluable tool for ranging targets and doing holdovers for wind and elevation. First focal plane scopes are valued because the reticle will shrink or enlarge when magnification is dialed up or down. This feature means that the subtensions always represent the same angular unit of measure regardless of the magnification setting. Second focal plane scopes rely on a specific magnification for the reticle to be useful for holdovers and milling/range estimation. If you have a second focal plane scope, you must confirm your reticle subtensions at the pre-determined magnification settings. If it is not subtended correctly, you can either return it or use a paint pen to designate at which magnification the reticle is calibrated.
To check subtensions, the author taped an RE Factor Tactical Hitman Target to a CONEX box at the ranch and moved back 100 meters. With the Nikon BLACK FX1000 mounted to the Scope Tool, he adjusted the parallax to 100 yards, confirmed that parallax was correct, then overlayed the reticle of the RE Factor Tactical Hitman Target. The RE Factor Tactical Hitman Target has a giant reticle in the center with .1 mil/1cm hash marks and large blue lines every 10cm/1 mil. The author was not surprised to see the Nikon BLACK FX1000 reticle perfectly subtended as he slowly dialed magnification up and down. With subtension testing complete, it was time to move on to one of the most critical components of a riflescope, tracking.
Does It Track?
What is tracking? Tracking is when you dial your windage and elevation a specific value, and the reticle moves according to the amount dialed. For example, if the user dials the elevation up 2 mils, he’ll expect to see his reticle move 2 mils down. Lining up the reticle on a hash mark near the top of the Hitman Target, the author adjusted the legs on the Scope Tool until the scope was level, then slowly dialed up in .10 mil increments for a total travel of 10 mils. The Nikon BLACK FX1000 tracked fine. The turrets on the Nikon BLACK FX1000 have semi-aggressive knurling which aids in dialing, and the clicks were solid and audible.
Getting on the Same Focal Plane—Checking Parallax
Once tracking was established, it was time to check parallax. The parallax knob on a scope, often mislabeled as the side focus, exists to put the reticle and the target on the same focal plane. Proper parallax is crucial during the zeroing process and, time permitting, should be checked before every shot. To test parallax, the author “proned” out behind the Nikon BLACK FX1000, which was still attached to the Scope Tool, and with the help of a Nikon BLACK RANGEX 4K rangefinder, ranged individual landmarks from 150 yards to 1,000 yards. Corresponding values on the parallax knob were calibrated correctly, and the infinity mark was set at infinity. Parallax testing was a breeze and took several minutes. It should be noted that the Nikon BLACK FX1000 maintained its edge-to-edge clarity from 6 power to 24 power.
Checking Total Travel
Before attaching the Nikon BLACK FX1000 to a Howa 1500 rifle, the author was curious to know the total amount of elevation travel. Nikon advertises 17 milliradians of total adjustment. Removing the zero-stop, he dialed the elevation turret down, then back up several times. The Nikon BLACK FX1000 tested had 18.8 mils of total elevation travel. The author has found this to be pretty common in Asian-made scopes below the $1,000 price point. Some end users might have a problem with this; this author doesn’t mind an extra 1.8 mils of elevation. Depending on my zero, the scope would give 9-ish mils of usable elevation. Adding a 20 MOA rail would give the author another 5.8 mils of elevation. The reticle has an additional 8 mils, which give him a total elevation of 22.8 mils. The ranch, where I do the majority of my shooting, has a base altitude of 6,200 feet. Summer density altitudes hover around 9,000 feet. With 22.8 mils in the scope, I could easily send a 140-grain 6.5 Creedmoor round past a mile (elevation 6,200 feet; temperature 85 F; pressures 24 inHg; velocity 2620 fps; Hornady 140 ELDM).
Satisfied with both tracking and parallax, it was time to attach the Nikon BLACK FX1000 to the Howa 1500 and shoot some steel. For testing, the author used a semi-custom Howa 1500 chambered in 6.5 Creedmoor, mated to a Modular Driven Technologies ESS Chassis. Ancillary gear included Thunder Beast Arms’ new bipod and a rear bag from Rifles Only. Modular Driven Technologies’ 30mm Premier Scope Rings secured the Nikon BLACK FX1000 to the rifle. The author used an AMTAC Mantis-P suppressor to protect against hearing damage and to mitigate noise pollution.
Proned out behind the rifle, the author dialed the scope to 6x magnification and picked out a stone adjacent to his 100-yard target. He fired one round and used the reticle to determine how far his shot was off. After a quick adjustment, he fired another round and was delighted to see his shot impact several inches from his target. Transitioning to paper, the author obtained a solid zero within five shots. With the help of his tool kit, he removed the top turret and set the zero stop on the scope. Setting the zero stop is accomplished by loosening several small screws and rotating the zero stop disc to where it locks the zero in place. After re-assembling the turret, he drove back in 200-yard increments and shot at a 12-inch steel plate set up near a 100-yard paper target. Density altitude hovered around 8,000 feet, and conditions included constant full-value 15-20 mph wind blowing right to left. An Applied Ballistics Kestrel provided a ballistic solution, atmospherics and wind. Once past the 1,000-yard line, the author switched to an 18-inch steel target and had first-round hits out to 1,200 yards. The last shoot of the day was at the 1,500-yard line where three out of five shots successfully landed on target. Clouds building in the West and the sound of thunder were the cues to head out. I packed up my gear, checked the cows and cattle drinkers and went home. The only regret was not getting a chance to push out to 1,800 yards. Overall, the Nikon BLACK FX1000 6-24x50SF Illuminated FX-MRAD riflescope performed to 100% satisfaction.
The final test for the Nikon BLACK FX1000 was a 2-day, 16-hour precision course that the author co-instructed with Neil Terry for QPro Defense. As an instructor, the author keeps a small battery of rifles for students in case they lack a rifle or experience equipment failure. He left the ranch with such complete confidence in the Nikon BLACK FX1000 that, when he got home, he mounted it to a semi-custom Howa 1500/Modular Driven Technologies class rifle.
Several weeks later, the author taught the course and watched a young Air Force Lieutenant shoot .5 MOA groups with the Nikon BLACK FX1000-equipped Howa at 100 yards. Setting the zero-stop in the field was a breeze. This student, who was brand new to long-range shooting, was one of the best shooters during the course and had no problems with his equipment. Over 2 days, students gathered data out to 1,000 yards. The last half of the second day, students shot steel targets out to 1,000 yards. The Nikon BLACK FX1000 performed as expected and will be a permanent fixture in the author’s upcoming classes and rifle tests.
The Nikon BLACK FX1000 is a fantastic scope: The glass is clear; parallax and tracking are calibrated correctly; and it has all the necessary features for hunting, long-range shooting and precision rifle competitions. The scope itself is neither heavy nor obnoxiously large and would be right at home on a lightweight backpack hunting rifle.
Across the board, premium riflescopes are coming down in price. Several years ago, the model tested would have cost in the mid-$1,500 range; at the time of this writing, the MSRP is $799.95. This scope does everything well, and if someone told this author that this would be his riflescope for the rest of his life, he would shrug his shoulders and get on with life. Consumers cannot go wrong with this riflescope.
Specifications for Nikon FX1000 6-24x50SF Riflescope w/Illuminated Reticle
|Objective Lens Diameter||50mm|
|Reticle Focal Plane||First Focal Plane (FFP)|
|Field of View, Linear||18–4.7ft at 100yds|
|Optical Coating||Fully Multicoated|
|Fabric/Material||Aircraft-grade Aluminum Alloy|