Nikon has long been a player in the sport rifle scope business and with the boom in popularity that ‘tactical’ scopes have enjoyed over the past decade; it was only a matter of time before Nikon got into the tactical scope game. This actually happened several years ago when they brought in some tactical experts to help them develop their scope and the Monarch X was the result of that. These scopes have been out for a while so it was time for us to review one. The Nikon glass has a good reputation of quality and it sounds like the Nikon Tactical offering was well researched, so we set out to determine how well the scope can serve in this role.
Nikon is well known in the camera world as one of the premier camera and lens makers and they have been making sport optics as well for a long time. Their glass has always been known to be good, especially on their higher end optics. This scope is known as the Monarch X which if my memory serves me correctly, is a fairly new name for their tactical scopes. I do not believe much changed with the name and their two scope offerings in this sector remain the 2.5-10×44 and the 4-16x50mm. The scope we reviewed here is the 2.5-10x44mm and comes with a sunshade, bikini cover, lends cloth and some flip up scope caps, though not butler creeks.
The scope has a 30mm Tube made from aircraft grade aluminum and is of a traditional design. The design is nothing fancy with the knobs sitting up on a rounded and elevated shoulder and the tube, like all good quality tactical scopes these days, is a one piece tube. The over all shape of the scope is pleasing and it is a nice scope to look at. The size of the scope falls right in the mid range area, not one of the “huge” scopes, but not compact either with a weight that is about average.
The entire scope has a matte black anodized finish with none of the normal gold Nikon emblems anywhere on the scope or the knobs. Those gold emblems that are on most of the Nikon scopes were replaced by simple engraved nikon emblems that are completely matte black. It is a similar appearance to the Leupold Mk4 scopes where they have removed all of their traditional Gold rings, etc. The subdued all matte black appearance gives the scope a purposeful look and of course makes it more tactical in nature, at least you will not have to tape or paint over the bright emblems.
The eye piece has a more traditional focus ring on it which is a non “fast focus” design. So the threads are fine which does take a bit longer to focus it in for your eyes, but offers a very fine adjustment range. It has serrations for gripping that eye piece focus ring with some sort of rubberized finish to aide in all weather use. The power selection ring is right in front of the eye piece and is separate from the eye piece allowing the use of flip up scope caps without a problem. The power ring has serrations as well and a large knob protruding from it to help with selecting the power while behind the scope. The markings are in white and easy to read from above the scope, but they are placed in a location that makes it impossible to easily read what power you are on from behind the scope. The power ring itself was smooth throughout the range and provided a good amount of resistance.
The elevation and windage knobs are of an exposed design with no dust covers and are fairly large. They are easy to grip with serrations on top with plenty of gripping surface. The clicks are very nice with a muted sound but with a nice positive tactile feel. I really like the way the knobs felt and operated and you are certain when a click is made by the feel, even when wearing gloves. The knobs have 4 set screws around the top portion which might be overkill, but you can be confident that the knobs will stay in place once zeroed and set.
There is 12 MOA of travel per rotation with a total of 80 MOA of elevation. This is a good amount of travel and one thing of note is that from the factory the mechanical zero on this scope was biased toward the lower end with 31 MOA of down and 49 MOA of up elevation. This was nice to see and helps provide maximum use of up elevation and combined with a 15 or 20 MOA base would provide a large amount of up elevation for long range engagements. It was also interesting to see exactly 80 MOA of adjustment, most scopes get “close” to their advertised amount but are usually a bit higher or lower, rarely exactly the published amount like with this scope.
The windage knob is the same size and shape as the elevation knob with the same 12 MOA per revolution. I did notice that the windage clicks seemed to be a bit stiffer than the elevation clicks. I am not sure if that would even out with more use and it was not a huge difference, but was interesting to note. The markings on the windage knob count up in only one direction, not in both direction like I prefer, but not a problem either. I will note that the knobs were clearly marked in two locations as to exactly which direction was up and which direction was right. These were easily viewable from behind the scope or from above which was a nice feature and was well thought out instead of just putting the indicator down on the shoulder where it is hidden by the rings, or only up on the very top of the knob where you have to move your head a large amount to see. This usually is not that big of a deal if you have just a single duty rifle, but if you have several, it can be a nice reminder of which direction to turn the knobs since the various makers of scopes are different.
The focus/parallax adjustment knob on the left of the scope is the same diameter as the windage and elevation knobs but is shorter in height and is a slightly different shape. The knob itself is very smooth and requires a fairly light amount of force to adjust. The functionality of the focus knob itself worked without a problem and the scope was easy to get a good crisp picture.
The optics on this scope is of high quality and the picture was very bright, clear and sharp. The quality of the optics is certainly on par with the other scopes in this scopes class and it compares very nicely with some of the better scopes out there, as it should at its current price point. The Monarch X scopes also have reticles that are glass etched instead of wire which is the ultimate in durability. We, of course, ordered the version with the mil-dot reticle, but it is also available with a duplex reticle as well. The reticle was sharp and had the proper dimensions and was the simple, clean and effective mil-dot reticle I love.
The scope has a good range of eye relief and should be no problem to use on high recoiling rifles and the good amount of up elevation also lends itself well to higher power rifles, though the magnification limitation of 10x might prevent it from being used on long range rifles, though 1200+ would be doable with the right shooter. The combination of a 44mm objective lens and lower power range does offer a larger exit pupil which aids in quickly picking up targets without scope shadow.
For our shooting tests we mounted the scope on a Kimber 8400 Tactical rifle, chambered in 308 Winchester, using Nightforce steel rings. This rifle ended up being the permanent home for the Nikon. As we expected, the clicks and adjustments were very precise and accurate with good repeatability. We fired the rifle and scope though various box exercises with groups at each corner and the adjustments were right on. The scope was clear and easily focused at longer ranges as well as short ranges and over all the performance is as you would expect from a mid to higher end scope.
Overall I was impressed with this scope and I think Nikon did their homework and their consultants paid off. When I looked at the rap sheet on the review I could not find any glaring faults. Sure, a fast focus eye piece or a windage knob that counted up both ways might be preferred, but those are minor and more of a personal preference issue than a deficiency. Perhaps the only thing possibly missing is an option for an illuminated reticle, but beyond that, the scope is a very solid offering for tactical use with very good optical performance as well as good ergonomics. There is a 4-16x50mm version of the Monarch X scope as well but it only has a disappointing 50 MOA of elevation adjustment which hurts all the advantages for shooting long range that the extra magnification provides. This 2.5-10x version does not offer anything earth shattering in terms of features or new innovations and some might even call it “run of the mill”. But if the basic design and concept of the tactical scope is not broken, then do not fix it. It seems to do all the required things a tactical scope needs to do, and does them well. I’m not sure what else an operator could ask for.
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