Schmidt and Bender vs Nightforce Scopes – Which Are Better? (ANSWERED)

schmidt and bender vs nightforce, schmidt bender vs nightforce, nightforce vs schmidt and bender scopes, nightforce vs schmidt bender

Photo by Davidwhitewolf / CC BY

Nightforce and Schmidt & Bender—in the world of high end, hand crafted military grade rifle scopes, these two big (and pricey!) names stand out. These two companies build eye-wateringly expensive scopes for government snipers, elite benchrest shooters, and hunters who will only accept the finest scopes made on this earth.

Each company’s scope is a true work of art, and likely represents the most precise, most perfectly crafted rifle scopes ever made in history, which is exactly why we are going to compare scopes from each company to see how they stack up. Then we can finally decide who wins in the Battle of
Schmidt and Bender vs Nightforce.

Schmidt and Bender vs Nightforce Round 1: Nightforce NXS 5.5-20x50 vs Schmidt & Bender PMII 5-25x56

On paper, there isn’t that much difference between these two optics. Both have similar magnification and similar objective lens sizes. On the price tag end, the Schmidt & Bender generally comes in at a higher price (though, price fluctuations do happen). Once you’ve gotten over the sticker shock, let’s look a bit deeper.

For starters, the PMII from Schmidt & Bender (see full specs) is touted by the factory as the “winner of the United States Special Operation Command Precision Sniper Rifle program.” Now that is pretty darn high praise right there, and probably the price tag difference with the Nightforce. On the other hand, how many of you reading this article are operating at a SpecOps level and need an optic good enough to meet the needs of the most elite soldiers on earth?

Unboxing a Schmidt & Bender PMII 5-25x56

The Nightforce NXS is a pretty impressive piece of gear as well, and certainly good enough for military use. It tops out at 20x magnification instead of 26x, and has a 50mm objective lens instead of 56mm objective. Note, it’s pretty much impossible to find direct 1:1 scope comparisons between the two companies, so these differences in lens and magnification shouldn’t be seen as shortcomings.

Both scopes feature illuminated reticles, precision-adjustable turrets, are constructed by hand, and are built with military customers in mind. But since it is hunters and match target shooters reading this, you are probably wondering which, if either scope is better than the other.

The short answer is, unless you are ranking as one of the finest shooters alive, it doesn’t matter which of these scopes are the best. They both represent the pinnacle of their types, and both will perform pretty much any shooting task you need.

While the PMII has an edge with a bit more magnification and a larger objective lens, most people won’t find much difference there, unless they are seriously pushing the envelope.

The stark reality is most people looking at buying one of these scopes are going to be using it for match shooting or maybe hunting. With that in mind, if you need that 6mm larger objective lens, and 6x more magnification on the high end, then the PMII will be the scope for you. Otherwise, you are better off saving money and going with the NXS.

NFO Overview 15x 22x and 32x NXS Riflescopes HD

Schmidt and Bender vs Nightforce Round 2: Schmidt & Bender Zenith vs Nightforce SHV

At first glance, these scopes appear on paper to be nearly identical, with only small differences in magnification, and an identical 50mm objective lens. Certainly they are in the same class as each other, and perform the same tasks for the same markets, which as always are government snipers, elite bench shooters, and sometimes hunters.

However, the Nightforce SHV (see full specs) clearly wins the day with a scope that is both more feature rich and generally cheaper. Nightforce put an illuminated reticle in their SHV, while the Schmidt & Bender Zenith lacks that common refinement.

Nightforce SHV F1 4-14x Review

However, it begs the question of how often do you need an illuminated reticle? They are only really useful when shooting under low-light conditions, which means your average benchrest or match shooter has no real use for one. A sniper would though and so would a hunter, which makes you wonder just why it was left out. Heck, even cheap Chinese off brand scopes come with multi-color illumination these days, you’d expect that in a high-end, handmade German optic.

Bottom line, save some cash and get more features with the Nightforce. Unless you are chasing the prestige of a Schmidt & Bender name on your rifle, use the cash savings to buy more ammo.

Schdmidt&Bender 3-12x50 Zenith LMC rifle scope review

Schmidt and Bender vs Nightforce: A Little Background

Schmidt & Bender

Built out of the ashes of post WWII German recovery, Schmidt & Bender has been building rifle scopes by hand since 1957. First founded by two highly skilled craftsmen to provide scopes for German hunting rifle dealers, they eventually started building optics under their own brand. Today, they have factories in Germany and Hungary, and count elite military forces and high end precision rifle companies as valued clients. Not forgetting their hunting optics roots, Schmidt & Bender continue to build top quality scopes for hunting as well. From tactical to benchrest and hunting, if you can afford it, they have a scope for whatever you might need.


The brash American newcomer in the high end scope game, Nightforce has been making high-end scopes in Idaho since 1992. Unlike Schmidt & Bender, Nightforce focuses a lot more heavily on the military and tactical market. But since, of course, a great sniper scope is also a great benchrest scope, many of their products cannot be defined as “tactical” or “sporting”, but simply “holy cow that is an awesome, expensive scope!”

Of course the same can be said for Schmidt & Bender products . . .

Schmidt and Bender vs Nightforce Conclusion

It is difficult to compare four high-end, top-dollar optics without sitting down with elite shooters and trying them out in the real world. But if we look at the product specs, we can still learn a lot.

Given the markets these scopes are “targeted” to, one could honestly say it doesn’t matter which one you buy. Both will deliver world class performance in the right hands, and in such a way that is probably negligible in the differences. Buy the one you like best, and be happy you have such a great scope! Good luck!

  • 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.

Share the Post and Images

5 responses

  1. There is nothing better than a S & B rifle scope period so don’t be fooled! Yes there are other good scopes manufactured, but they are not a S&B!

  2. I buy Leupold for my hunting rifles. I see beyond 1000 yards quite clearly even though they are not designed for that distance. They are vx models and work great. I got a Zeiss on a 30-06 Mannlicher. It’ll be fine for that. But for the custom long range rifle- Schmidt and Bender.
    Night Force would be good too.

  3. hi i have both these scopes a nxs beast and a pm11 they are both faultless and to be honest i could not say which is better they are a work of art

  4. I have a nightforce shv 4-14×56 great scope. Installed on my 110fcp 338LM. For the price it is great. I would like to have a Schmidt Bender of the same style. I would like to compare them. Maybe some day I will buy the Schmidt Bender.

  5. NF scopes very clear and are great for paper punching but fall short of just about all when it comes to low light conditions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.