NightForce vs Leupold Scopes – Which Are Better? (ANSWERED)

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When you think of great scopes, I mean truly great rifle scopes, the kind that you cannot even look at for under four figures, NightForce and Leupold are going to be two names that quickly come to mind. And for damn good reason. Both companies have an unquestionable reputation for high end, top quality rifle scopes. These are the scopes you buy if you are a hardened professional shooter needing the absolute top quality optic or to top off your custom dream rifle with worthy glass.

On that hypothetical (or real) high-end rifle, the trigger is smooth and breaks like glass the same spot every time, the barrel comes from a custom maker and has been carefully built to ensure the most exacting accuracy, the stock fits you perfectly, and the whole thing is finished exactly how you want it. Now what to put on top? Certainly not an ordinary scope but which one? There are so many, and often people find themselves asking “Which is better in a battle of NightForce vs Leupold?” Well, like the eternal 9mm vs .45 debate, it is a question that cannot be truly answered, but you can have a heck of a lot of fun asking it.

Round 1 – NightForce vs Leupold: Leupold Mark 4 vs NightForce SHV

Let’s look at price, design, and features. Both scopes feature an illuminated reticle, so we can get that out of the way. An illuminated reticle is simply the only way to go if you are even thinking about shooting in low light conditions, and both these beauties offer that. Now for the price, the NightForce (see the full line here) usually wins, but I’d argue if you are looking for scopes in this price range, a few hundred bucks won’t make much of a difference, but I’ll give the nod to the NightForce here. The Leupold has a 30mm tube, with 6.5 to 20 power magnification and a 50mm objective lens. Pretty solid stuff there. Compare with the NightForce and its 5-20 magnification, 30mm tube, and 56mm objective lens. Conclusion? Run with the NightForce if you don’t mind a slightly larger front objective lens and the possible issues with mounting it on your rifle.

Round 2 – NightForce vs Leupold: Leupold VX-6 vs NightForce ATACR

Once again, both scopes feature an illuminated reticle, so they are happily even there. On price, well, that gets interesting. The Nightforce is usually more than the Leupold (though check current prices since there are fluctuations). In all fairness, however, the ATACR is one amazing rifle scope. The ATACR shows its tactical origins, while the more modestly priced VX-6, like most Leupold scopes, is strictly sporting in origin. Each is at home on top of a high end AR and both fill a similar role. Having said that, the VX-6 sports a 30mm tube with a 50mm objective lens and 3-18 power magnification, and the ATCAR has the same 30mm tube with somewhat greater 5-25 magnification and an oversized 56mm objective lens. Conclusion. If cash is king then buy Leupold (see the full line here). If you can throw money around like Donald Trump, though, by all means buy the NightForce. Other than the cost, the practical differences between the two scopes is such that only a highly advanced shooter could care, but if you are in that elevated realm, the conclusion of NightForce is obvious.

Leupold and NightForce Side by Side

Leupold is the old man in the game. A venerable, century-old company in Oregon, Leupold has been building high end rifle scopes since after WWII, and many a soldier, sportsman, and target shooter have enjoyed the quality and performance Leupold has to offer. In fact, they’ve built their entire identity around two things: tradition and quality. Leupold caters to sportsmen and the quiet sort of professional who respects a well established name. Particularly among American hunters, Leupold is the first and last name they will consider when looking at high end optics. It’s simply a matter of tradition and reputation, both of which Leupold has in spades.

NightForce is the new, brash kid on the block who has some pretty hardcore gear to back up the attitude. Born of Australian hunting tradition, where nighttime hunting with spotlights is both legal and wildly popular, NightForce built scopes worthy of the Australian outback with low light shooting conditions in mind. They have quickly developed a reputation for rock solid, precise long range scopes, and their designs show it. Massive 56mm objective lenses, oversized 30mm tubes, and the sort of precision adjustments that will let you see and shoot off a mosquito’s private parts at half a mile are the order of the day.

So which is better in the battle between NightForce scopes vs Leupold optics? Honestly, I’d leap at the chance to own a scope from either company. Without a doubt, if you are into high end tactical scopes, NightForce makes the best. Their optics are designed around a shooting culture that doesn’t exist in the US but built so as to be extremely desirable for tactical purposes, but equally functional for hunting or sport shooting. Everything about them revolves around precision, magnification and low light conditions.

Leupold makes scopes for American hunters, and one could even argue they have defined that market to an extent. Somewhat more modestly priced, they are also a bit more modest in features. We don’t hunt deer by spotlights in this country (well, unless you are a redneck poacher) and Leupold has a well-established market base and serves that market very well. In the end, if you want the absolute biggest and baddest, or just to be different, buy a NightForce scope. You’ll be pleased. If you are more conservative in your tastes, and want to enjoy the same scope several generations of American shooters have, run with Leupold. Either way, you are getting an incredible scope built to the highest standards of quality.

  • Owner of, Boyd Smith is a major handgun enthusiast, and although he owns Glocks, he prefers the revolving wheel type. His go-to guns are a Smith & Wesson 642 Performance Center for carry and a Ruger GP100 in the nightstand biometric safe (he has kids). He loads both revolvers with old-school 148-grain Federal Gold Medal .38 wadcutters. It’s OK if you think he’s a wimp. Email him.

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3 responses

  1. I know personally one of the NF staff would go through scopes to find sweet ones for himself. Stick with a real USA business 5 generations strong like Leupold employing hundreds of people and a whole industry. Nightforce is Australian owned by Lightforce. Interesting to note how many USA senior staff have left in last few years especially ex Eotech and of course Jeff Huber.

  2. Leupold for Shot Show 2018 and 2019 had released a new tactical scope the Mark 5HD on a 5-25X56 and 7-35×56 on a 35 mm scope. This scope was not used here in this article as it does give NF a stiff competition. The features, the quality are top notch. More and more PRS and competition shooters are switching to Leupold because of this and see them more and more in the competition arena. Check it out and see for yourself.

  3. Ok so along with my super smart friends I’ve done my own review we will call it the Leopold vs Nightforce review . My uncle’s Cousin sister’s brother’s former roommate best friend found a Leupold freedom pig plex in a dumpster behind the Woolsworth .Then I spent my lifesaving s on the nightforce ATACR F1ZS .1MRAD ILLUM PTL TREMOR 3 C571. This was the most hardcore head to head review I’ve ever conducted and I tell you what? Them “Throw another shrimp on the Bobbie, Joey boxin Aussie’s” shocked the darn tootin out of me .The outcome was a real shocker to my good ole boy guts. I need to tell y’all that my pig plex didn’t stand a chance against the nightfever that ain’t it , ah I Got it the nightlife Nightow nightowl, i got it! the nightforced l lATACR F1ZS .1MRAD ILLUM pro tremor3 C571 this Australian made optical eye looking scope is like so much better for aiming my gun at stuff. That my review of the nighttrain and the pig plex, It’s almost as if these 2 scopes were in a completely different category. Anyways to all the Hulk a maniacs out there don’t forget to say your prayers and Drink Hulk Hogans python powder every day and everynight night, and Whatcha gonna do when Hulk Hogan and the world’s largest arms destroy you!

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