The test was carried out on the Monarch Riflescope 8-32x50ED SF with BDC reticule that is top of the range in Nikon’s Monarch range, coming in the shops at around $700 – $800 against a list price of $980. You might be able to get it cheaper than $700 but I haven’t found it.
It is certainly a beautiful-looking instrument, and was crystal clear all the way down to the x32 zoom. However, let’s start with a discussion about the company itself, because if you are going to purchase a Nikon riflescope you want to know the background. This instrument has to be reliable under all conditions, so how does Nikon stand in the riflescope market.
The company is well known for its optical products, most people being familiar with the Nikon camera range. Over the past few years, the firm has being trying to make a name for itself in the hunting scope market, and now offers a range of hunting optical equipment including binoculars, rangefinders and spotting scopes and now riflescopes particularly designed for the higher end of the hunting market. So the Monarch has not just appeared from nowhere, but has a good pedigree.
The riflescope range offered by Nikon is the Prostaff, the Buckmaster and the Monarch, in that order. The Prostaff are the entry level products, intended predominantly for amateurs seeking a telescopic sight for their rifle, but not wanting to pay too much. However, they are good quality, and you get a lot for what you pay. It’s a pity that the quality of the other two ranges does not increase proportionate to their price, but that would likely be impossible to achieve.
While the Prostaff range offers a good quality basic scope, the Buckmasters are better in that they offer a wider range of magnifications and objective dimensions, and also better light transmission. These are three very important properties in a riflescope, and while they are important improvements, the jump in price from that of the Prostaff is a bit too steep to warrant just these differences. And then we come to the Monarch, and it is that on which we will focus (sorry!).
This is Nikons best, beating the other two hands down in all features. The problem with the Monarch is that that there is too many of them: they are subdivided into a range of different products and it is not easy for the uneducated to know which is best for their needs. For example, you can choose from the Monarch original UCC 3-9×40, the African, the Gold, the X series or just the plain Monarch, which I shall refer to as the standard. So what’s the difference between these?
It would take too long a review to explain the differences between all the Monarch models, so I shall stick to the standard 17″ long Monarch Riflescope 8-32x50ED SF with BDC which is excellent for serious hunters.
The entire range offers the 1″ main tube that Americans prefer, and 4x magnification range. The starting power options start at 2 and increase to a total of 7 possible starting points to 8, through 2.5, 3, 4, 5 and 6. With these magnification ranges come the objectives: 2-8×32; 2.5-10×42; 3-12×42; 4-16×42; 4-16×50; 5-20×44; 6-24×50; 8-32×50. With various other options, you can purchase 24 different scopes in the standard Monarch range.
Of these, this review is of the last in that line-up, the 8-32×50 with ED labeled glass, standing for Extra-low Dispersion that offers improved sharpness and color-correction, particularly at higher powers (20x or over). Our scope also had a BDC – bullet drop correction – reticule that compensates for bullet drop over specified distances on the reticule. The actual model number we tested was Nikon #8480, the pinnacle of the Monarch series.
Anybody familiar with Nikon Monarch scopes will know about the Eye Box technology that offers four inches of eye relief and 4x power magnification. What that means is that you can aim with your eye 4 inches from the eyepiece – this offers at least four inches recoil before the eyepiece hits your eyebrow. When I tested the scope the 4″ was OK at 32x power, but al lower power you could take your eye even further away, but only by about an inch or so. The Nikon Monarch riflescope 8-32x50ED is better than many variable power scopes where the optimum eye relief varies considerably with power. It is better to be fairly constant so you can get used to a certain stance in shooting – you don’t want to be switching too much between powers with a variable power riflescope.
The Monarch 8-32x50ED was particularly clear and bright, even for the 50 objective lens. The ED glass has been explained, but it sure makes a difference to the clarity, particularly at higher magnifications. Apparently this ED glass has been used on Nikon’s telephoto lenses as standard, and has been applied to the Monarch riflescope – but only to the 8-32×50 as far as I can ascertain. It also offers excellent color compensation.
Nikon also have what they refer to as an ‘Ultra Clear Coat’ on their lenses, claiming it to boost the transmission of light through them to 95% as compared to the 90% of the lower-priced basic Prostaff range. This really is excellent, particularly in low light conditions.
The SF in the model name we tested means that it is fitted with a side parallax adjustment, SF standing for Side Focus. This works as normal, only it has a locking device whereby you pull out a locking ring to free the adjustment, make your adjustment, and then push the ring in to lock it in place. The adjustment then can’t be moved by accident. The adjustment moves in 1/8 MOA clicks offering precise parallax adjustment at ranges from 50 yards to infinity. The same 1/8 MOA adjustment is available on the accessory target-style windage and elevation adjustment knobs and caps.
Bullet Drop Compensation
Nikon’s Monarch BDC models offer BDC reticules which possess four circles on the bottom half of the vertical reticule axis, corresponding to 200, 300, 400 and 500 yard holdovers for standard cartridges. For magnum cartridges, with higher muzzle velocities of about 300 fps, they are each 100 yards higher.
Simply target using the appropriate circle for the appropriate range and cartridge type. This is a fairly simple no-frills BDC system that still requires a bit of skill and know-how to use accurately. BDC does not come as standard, but each scope can be configured using the system, so if you want it you have to specify.
The model we tested came with a couple of useful accessories: a sunshade and two flip-up lens caps. That makes sure you can’t lose your lens caps. Apparently they are only available with this scope model, although they can be ordered as after sales accessories from Nikon for lower priced models such as the Prostaff and Buckmaster range.
This is a good riflescope with some very useful features. The standard book price tag is possibly a bit high but you can it for over $200 less online, so in that respect it is very well priced for what you get. The glass is very clear with excellent color and the extra features are worth having, particularly the side parallax locking ring that helps maintain the setting even when knocked.
Perhaps the 32 power magnification is a bit high for this scope, unless you have a rest or bipod when using it, and the 20 MOA internal adjustment is perhaps not quite enough for longer distances. Nevertheless, for its intended use it is a magnificent riflescope and you will have to look far and wide to get better value for money (at the online price) than the Nikon Monarch 8-32x50ED SF BDC.