Nikon Laser IRT 4-12x42mm Riflescope
By Chuck Hawks with Bob Fleck
The Nikon Laser IRT (Immediate Ranging Technology) 4-12x42mm riflescope represents what I believe to be the immediate future of riflescope evolution. So many hunters carry a laser rangefinder these days that integrating the rangefinder into the rifle's aiming system, the riflescope, just makes sense.
There are those who will say that they don't want a battery in their riflescope, but the reality is that there is already a battery in their laser rangefinder. The Instruction Manual (really a folded sheet rather than a booklet) that comes with the scope states that the 3V CR2 Lithium battery (supplied) will allow the laser rangefinder function to operate properly at temperatures ranging from -10 to +50 degrees Centigrade. The Nikon Laser IRT functions like a normal riflescope if you don't activate the rangefinder feature, and it continues to do so if the battery is dead or removed. When activated the distance to the target is displayed in a very lightly tinted area at the top of the scope's field of view, in yards (from 33 to 766), by LED's.
The main body of the Laser IRT appears to be made of aluminum and wears a matte black external finish. Its optics are fully multi-coated. The view of the target through the Laser IRT is just like the view through any other high quality riflescope, with a magnified image of the target and an aiming reticle. The magnification (4x to 12x) is selected by manually turning a rubberized ring in front of the European fast focus eyepiece, again like conventional scopes. The fingertip adjustable windage and elevation dials click in 1/4 MOA increments.
Here are the key features that Nikon claims for the riflescope part of the Laser IRT:
And here are the key features that Nikon claims for the laser rangefinder part of the Laser IRT:
The Laser IRT is as rugged, waterproof, and fogproof as any other Nikon riflescope. The optical system is waterproof to a depth of two meters for up to 5 minutes submersion. The battery compartment is water resistant, not waterproof, and may flood if the scope is submerged. This has no effect on the optical system, although it will temporarily knock out the rangefinder. Remove the battery and thoroughly dry the compartment to restore function.
The Laser IRT riflescope comes with mounts that attach to any Weaver style base. This scope is made in the Philippines, where an increasing number of good scopes are being produced.
The mounting system is very flexible and incorporates great mounting latitude. There is a dovetailed rail along the bottom of the scope to which the supplied mounts attach. There are five traverse square grooves in the front end of this rail. The front mount base incorporates an integral square bar that fits these grooves. The front base is clamped to the scope's rail in any one of the five traverse grooves; this prevents the scope from slipping under heavy recoil. The rear two thirds of the rail's length is smooth (no lateral grooves) and the rear mount can be positioned anywhere along this part of the rail. The scope's front and rear mounts are positioned along the rail so that they align with the rifle's front and rear Weaver style mount bases, and clamped to the Weaver base in the usual manner.
Because this system eliminates conventional scope rings, this system also insures that the scopes reticle is level. No more turning the scope a little bit this way or that trying the get the horizontal crosswire horizontal.
This mounting system should accommodate practically any rifle to which a Weaver base can be attached, whether varmint rifle or big game hunting rifle. We mounted the Laser IRT on the .223 caliber Savage/G&S Online Custom Varmint rifle (there is a review of this rifle on the Product Review Page), and also on a .243 caliber Savage Model 14 Classic big game hunting rifle that happened to be on consignment from Savage for review, with absolutely no problems in either case. This scope, in fact, could have been mounted on every one of the dozens of centerfire rifles that we had on hand. Here are the specifications of the Nikon Laser IRT 4-12x42mm riflescope.
The Laser IRT is supplied with eyepiece caps, 2-piece mount bases for Weaver style mounts, an infrared remote control unit, batteries for the rangefinder and remote control units, a Nikon cloth, Instruction Manual, and warrantee registration card. If equipped with the BDC reticle a Guide booklet explaining the BDC reticle is included.
Why, you might ask, is an infrared remote control unit supplied with the riflescope? After, one has to shoot a rifle manually, and the rangefinder/scope is mounted right on top of the rifle. There is a convenient "on" button for the rangefinder on the left side of the scope. However, in some situations it might be easier to have a rangefinder activation switch on either side or the forend, or on some rifles immediately behind the action.
The remote control unit is about the size of a plastic wristwatch and is mounted on an elastic cloth band, also much like a wristwatch. This is intended to be secured around the rifle stock at a location convenient for one finger operation. So attached, it eliminates the necessity to remove a hand from the rifle stock to activate the rangefinder function. We found the remote control useful when shooting the rifle from an unsupported, hand held position. When shooting from a bench rest or with the rifle on a bipod, we judged the remote control unnecessary, although it might be handy for a left-handed shooter.
I would suggest that a 4-12x scope is a bit large for most big game hunting rifles and situations. I would like to see Nikon introduce a companion 2.5-8x Laser IRT riflescope specifically for big game hunting, and a 6-18x (approximate) dedicated varmint rifle scope with side focus parallax correction. Actually, I am sure that, as integrated laser rangefinder/riflescopes become more common, new models along those lines will inevitably be introduced.
Nikon presumably chose the 4-12 magnification range for their first laser riflescope as a compromise applicable to both (some) big game rifles and varmint rifles. I like a 4-12x scope just fine on varmint rifles in calibers ranging from .17 HMR to .223 Remington. For big game hunting I like more field of view at the low end than 4x provides (2x or 2.5x being ideal), and for very long range varmint rifles in calibers such as .22-250, .220 Swift and .243 Winchester I'd prefer a little more magnification at the top end.
Our sample Laser IRT scope was supplied with Nikon's Bullet Drop Compensating (BDC) reticle. It is also available with a standard Nikoplex reticle, which having now seen the BDC, I'd prefer. The Nikoplex is simpler, and to me simpler is generally better in scope reticles.
Since I view any 4-12x scope as most suitable for a medium range varmint rifle, I'd like a fine crosshair and dot reticle better than either reticle now available. Scope manufacturers would do well to offer a fine crosshair and target dot reticle option for all scopes with a maximum magnification of 12x or more.
The BDC reticle with which our test scope was equipped is a sort of hybrid version of the German 3-post and crosshair type reticle with a very narrow horizontal "gate," or fine crosswire area. Below the intersection of the crosswires are a series of four circles strung down the vertical wire. Each of these circles subtends approximately 2 MOA (2" at 100 yards). With a flat shooting cartridge such as the .223/50 grain or .243/85 grain loads that operate at "magnum" muzzle velocities of 3100-3300 fps, the idea is to zero the rifle so that the bullets strike point of aim at 200 yards. The first circle below where the crosswires intersect serves as a 300 yard aiming point, the second 400 yards, the third 500 yards, and the bottom circle represents 600 yards. The questionable morality of shooting at any living animal with a hunting rifle at the latter ranges is not discussed in the Instruction Manual.
To the credit of the authors of the little booklet "Guide to Using the Nikon BDC Reticle" (included with all scopes featuring this reticle) they recommend not shooting at game at ranges beyond which you can place your first shot into a 10" paper plate every time. And I would add, "from impromptu field positions after hiking up hill and down dale," since few of us carry a heavy bench rest along, or can keep our respiration and heartbeat "at rest--normal" when we are deer hunting. That, they say, is your personal lethal hunting distance.
They also state that to use the BDC system you must experiment and practice with your specific rifle and load on a 500-600 yard range. They advise using cardboard targets at least four feet tall and two or three feet wide to catch the bullets, and "larger is better since we must catch all the bullets fired." That is good advice, but tends to illustrate the inevitable lack of precision inherent in ultra-long range rifle shooting. There are simply too many variables in the field to make such shots a viable option for the hunter who respects the game animals he or she seeks.
Anyway, it's a well written little manual that offers good advice to the shooter who wants to experiment with the BDC reticle, and has access to the physical space required. Since the Izaak Walton gun range where we test rifles and scopes offers a maximum target distance of 200 yards, we were not able to do so.
The concept is great and execution looks good, but how well does the Laser IRT riflescope actually work? To answer that question we eagerly headed to the aforementioned Izaak Walton rifle range south of Eugene, Oregon. This outdoor facility offers bench rests and covered shooting positions with 25, 50, 100, and 200 yard target stands.
The weather featured rain showers and a high temperature of about 48 degrees F. The wind was troublesome with gusts of about 14 MPH. All in all, not the best day to spend at the range.
As mentioned, we tried the Laser IRT on our famous Savage Custom G&S Online .223 varmint rifle and also a 2007 Savage Model 14 Classic hunting rifle in .243 Winchester caliber. Bob Fleck and I did the shooting and the subsequent evaluation.
I am happy to report that the Laser IRT performed as expected. The 1/4 MOA windage and elevation adjustments are accurate and allowed us to zero the rifles with a minimum of hassle. The Nikon optics provided sharp, clear images of the target. Optical aberrations and flare are reasonably well controlled. There is some loss of resolution at the edge of the field of view, but not enough to be a problem. There is no provision at the front of this scope for a sun shade, an oversight that should be corrected. Since we were shooting at 100 yard targets, we simply used the central crosshair of the BDC reticle as our aiming point. The scope's rangefinder function worked great and we had a lot of fun playing with it.
The 3" eye relief provided by the Laser IRT is sufficient for a .223 or .243, and also for most other standard rifle calibers. It is a bit deficient for medium bore and magnum caliber rifles, however. We would like to see future Nikon Laser IRT riflescopes intended for use on big game hunting rifles designed to provide 4" of eye relief. The Laser IRT 4-12x42 does incorporate a rubber eyepiece ring to help protect the shooter's eyebrow from cuts, but we'd rather not rely on it.
The Savage rifles did their thing in their usual highly accurate manner. The Custom G&S Online Model 12, with its right hand bolt but left side loading/ejection port, is the easiest rifle to shoot from a bench rest that we have ever used. The somewhat futuristic looking Laser IRT scope looked especially appropriate on this very modern, synthetic composite stocked stainless steel rifle. (You can order one of these beauties from the Savage Custom Shop for yourself by telephoning Customer Service Coordinator Effie Sullivan at 413-568-7001.)
The beautiful Savage Model 14 Classic is improved for 2007 and should strike fear into the hearts of CXP2 game everywhere, particularly when topped with a Laser IRT riflescope. (You will find a complete review of this rifle on the Product Review Page.) No operational problems of any kind were encountered with the scope or the rifles.
Gentle reader, the Nikon Laser IRT is a blast to use. The novelty of having a fast, accurate laser rangefinder built right into a fine riflescope had us hitting the "on" button to measure the distance to all sorts of targets. We found that it is actually much easier to aim and hold steady than a handheld laser rangefinder, as the whole rifle is aimed at the object to be ranged. This is a very natural way to point a rangefinder. And, of course, it offers a lot more target magnification, when desired, than the usual 6x or 8x handheld rangefinder.
I can't wait to use the Nikon Laser IRT 4-12x42 riflescope on our upcoming "Great Oregon Varmint Massacre III." Now the sand rats of Eastern Oregon have even more to worry about! If a 4-12x riflescope fits your needs and you find yourself frequently using your hand held laser rangefinder in the field, you should get yourself one of these Nikon Laser IRT riflescopes. We give it a four star (****) rating.
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