March 28, 2016
By Joel J Hutchcroft
The Nikon M-223 scope made a big splash when it was introduced to shooters in 2013, and new this year is an illuminated-reticle version. I've been a fan of illuminated reticles in scopes since the concept was new — long before it was accepted by "serious" hunters and shooters. Nowadays, even expert riflemen find favor with the technology.
The Nikon M-223 1.5-6X 24mm illuminated-reticle scope is a great choice for an AR, so I installed one on my Stag Arms Model 3 .223 with a Nikon M-223 one-piece mount for a shooting test. More about that in a moment.
The Nikon M-223 illuminated scope comes with Nikon's BDC 600 IL reticle, and the orange center dot has 32 levels of intensity. It's adjusted via pushbuttons located on the sides of the battery housing on top of the eyepiece, and power is provided by one CR2032 lithium battery. When the illumination is turned off, the last brightness level is saved.
The eyepiece is a quick-focus type, and the one-piece 30mm maintube is made from aircraft-grade aluminum alloy. According to Nikon, the larger tube allows for the best resolution, wider windage and elevation travel, and superior low-light performance.
To provide maximum light transmission, the Nikon M-223 scope's lenses are fully multicoated and provide an extremely clear sight picture. The adjustment turrets feature spring-loaded, instant zero-resets that make field adjustments simple. Just sight-in (reticle adjustments are made in 0.25-inch clicks; the clicks are both tactile and audible), then lift the spring-loaded adjustment knob, rotate the turret to "0," and press the knob down.
The Nikon M-223 1.5-6X 24mm BDC 600 IL scope is waterproof, fog proof, and shockproof. It's nitrogen filled and O-ring sealed, and it's covered by a limited lifetime warranty.
Nikon's BDC 600 IL reticle has the illuminated center dot and five open circles on the lower vertical stadia. The reticle is calibrated specifically for the .223 Remington cartridge loaded with a 55-grain polymer-tipped bullet at a muzzle velocity of 3,240 fps. As such, sighted-in dead on at 100 yards, the circles represent hold points for 200, 300, 400, 500, and 600 yards, and the hashmarks in between represent 250, 350, 450, and 550 yards.
You can use Nikon's Spot On Ballistics (www.nikonsportoptics.com) to find the values of the reticle's circles if you are using a different loading or a different cartridge.
As I said, I mounted the M-223 1.5-6X 24mm BDC 600 IL scope on my Stag Arms Model 3 .223 carbine, which has a 16-inch barrel, for a hands-on field trial. During the sighting-in phase, the Nikon M-223 tracked perfectly.
Then I "shot the square," as they say. For anyone not familiar with that, it's a method of checking the adjustment turrets' tracking and consistency. Here's how it went.
First, with it sighted-in dead on at 100 yards, I fired a group at the center of a five-spot target positioned at 100 yards. Then I adjusted the turrets 16 clicks (nominally 4 inches) down and 16 clicks right, held the dot on the center bullseye, and fired another string. Then I turned the turrets 32 clicks left, 32 up, and 32 right, firing a string after each adjustment while holding dead center on the target. Finally, I went 16 clicks down and 16 left, putting the crosshairs right back to the original zero, and I fired the final group. All groups were three-shot strings.
As it turned out, that final group was right where it should be, on top of the first group. The turrets moved 0.25 MOA per click, just as Nikon claims. The four outside groups were exactly 8 inches (32 clicks) apart.
The turret adjustments were positive, and I could hear and feel them. The fully multicoated lenses offered excellent light transmission and, from what I could see, no color distortion.
Then using Australian Outback 55-grain Sierra BlitzKing .223 ammo (factory-rated at 3,264 fps muzzle velocity but producing an actual average velocity of 2,908 fps as recorded on my Competition Electronics chronograph 12 feet from the muzzle of my 16-inch-barreled carbine), I fired five-shot strings (from the prone position) at 100, 200, 250, and 300 yards, using the 100-yard zero and the BDC reticle circles and hashmark at 200, 250, and 300 yards. My groups were dead on at 100 yards and within 1 inch of where I wanted them to go at the 200, 250, and 300 yardages. Considering that the scope is calibrated for loads with 332 fps higher velocity, and consequently a slightly flatter trajectory, I think the hold points are right on the money.
Overall, I think the Nikon M-223 1.5-6X 24mm BDC 600 IL is a fine riflescope with accurate, consistent adjustments.