I recently received a Nikon AR223 1-4x20 scope for my Mini 14. I hadn't planned on adding an optic to the rifle, but I wanted to reach out a little bit farther and decided a small, low-powered optic would be ideal for the gun as it's fairly compact (I have the 16.5" Tactial Model in a Hogue Stock) and deserves a similarly compact optic.
My current setup is the AR223 1-4x20 set in Warne QD Medium, Matte Black Ruger Rings. With the scope set for my particular eye relief, it clears the rear sight and still allows me to get a good cheek weld (which is something I was concerned about when viewing images of Mini 14/30 Rifles online that had been equipped with optics). I decided to forego the Weigand Picatinny Rail/Weaver Rings to save on height as much as possible. I don't have the rifle in front of me but if I recall correctly, there's about 1/16" clearance between the top of the rear sight and the bottom of the scope tube. Clearance is clearance, but I wanted to point this out because I think a 30mm scope tube in Medium rings would bump the rear sight if it fit at all. If I had gone with a different 30mm optic, I would think high rings would be more appropriate.
But I digress...
When I opened up the optic and took it out of the package, I was impressed with the build quality. It has a good size, albeit just a tad longer than I'd like it to be. It's got some extra tubing on the fore end, which I'm assuming is serving the purpose of shading the lens as I wasn't able to get it to flare or wash out in my brief use with it at the range. It also has a really nice matte black finish. It's not rough, but not smooth either. It has a nice feel and just looks top-notch. There's nothing flashy or blingy about it, which is good for a scope built to accompany a black rifle. Nothing gives away your tactical hiding spot quicker than a bright gold Nikon logo gleaming in the warm, Vietnamese afternoon sun. Overall, it's solid and comes out of the box with flip-up caps pre-installed. I don't normally use flip-up caps, but these are nice. They're the perfect fit and the snap closed securely and flip open with good authority. They're easy to use and protect the optic. They're especially helpful as I've got the optic on QD rings so I can just flip it closed, remove the scope and toss it in my bag or case without fumbling around with caps. They add to the quickness and compactness of the scope, and the best part is I didn't have to pay extra for them or even futz around with getting the right sizes from another manufacturer (which is a nightmare from what I've read). They are great, though because in a tactical or combat scenario, the last thing a shooter should be doing is fumbling around with lens covers and then digging through pockets and pouches to find a spot for them or to recover them when the situation has passed.
The "zoom ring" (for lack of a better term) is stiff, but very usable and not uncomfortable at all. It's in a good spot that allows easy adjustment without much fumbling. With more use, I should be able to make adjustments to the zoom and turrets without taking my eye from behind the optic. The focus ring (is that what it's called on a scope?) is located under the flip-up caps. Really Nikon? I think you can adjust it by turning the flip-up cap, but then you end up with a flip-sorta-up cap that's flipping open at an awkward 36° angle or something goofy. Tisk, tisk, They could have put this forward of the flip-up caps or found a better way to attach the flip-up caps to the optic so that it didn't interfere with the focus ring. In Nikon's defense, I don't really use the focus ring, but people with vision impairments or glasses might need to use it and it's in a tough spot.
My only other concern during my initial inspection of the optic was the turrets. They're... what's the word? Ah, gigantic. Yes, gigantic is appropriate here. They're roughly an inch in diameter and stick out probably an inch on both the X and Y-Axes, making this compact optic, not so compact. They're not a deal-breaker by any means, but they are rather large. I think Nikon could have made them at least half as long to keep them more in line with the width of the rifle. They do, however, have positive clicks and they are easy to grasp. It rarely gets cold enough here to wear gloves, but if it were cold enough for gloves, these could be used with gloved hands accurately. The clicks are nice and solid and audible. Interestingly, Nikon gives no way to lock them down. They turn freely and have no caps or other way to cover them to prevent accidental turning. In Nikon's defense they are resettable. After you sight in your rifle, you can pull the turrets straight out (or up, depending on which turret you're handling) and spin the adjustment knob freely without changing your settings. You can return it to "0" so that if it does get bumped, you can quickly see at a glance that it's not where it needs to be and put it back.
Apparently I'm the village idiot and I didn't do this when sighting it in for the first time and when I got home, I ended up accidentally turning the windage turret when removing it from the case so now I'll have to redo my sighting in to get it back where it needs to be. You can bet that I'll return them to "0" after my next range trip. It's mildly annoying that you can't lock them down. I realize this optic is made for an AR rifle and they are used in "tactical" environments so making adjustments on-the-fly would be handy, but being that this is a 1-4 optic, I highly doubt any shooters will be making significant adjustments in the field to compensate for extreme distances. Apparently the BDC version of this optic has settings out to 600 yards, but a 4x optic at 600 yards seems like a stretch to me. Besides, I'm not sure the Mini has the capability to reach out that far with any consistent amount of accuracy. Either having the ability to lock the turrets down or making the detents significantly stiffer would alleviate this problem altogether. Okay... enough of my idiocy and how Nikon could prevent it.
Optical clarity was surprisingly good. I don't put much faith in a 20mm objective. I would think it would be pretty dim or not quite as effective in lower light situations. However, when I sighted the rifle in, it was roughly 6:30pm and the sun was below the tree line. It wasn't dark by any means, but I didn't have high hopes for the optic at that time of day. I was really pleased when looking through it, though and I was able to quickly and effectively acquire my targets. It was certainly bright enough to use up until 7:00 and I would guess it would be usable well after.
In keeping with the clarity discussion, the reticle is the Point Blank Reticle. It's essentially four thick lines that are cut down to very thin lines with a dot in the center. I think the dot is a little bit big for what it is, but for shooting at anything from 25-75 yards, it's fine. It's not a precision bullseye reticle for 100 or 200-yard targets, but the Mini 14 is not a precision bullseye rifle for 100 or 200-yard targets so its a moot point. For plinking at close to medium range, it's perfect and I tried it at 1x, 2x, 3x and 4x with great success. There isn't a tin can in 3 counties that will be safe from me and my Mini with this optic.
I don't really buy into the whole "Ballistically Matched" mumbo jumbo on the optic. I shoot the cheapest ammo I can get my grubby paws on and I'm not hand loading for precision. Also, being that this scope with this particular reticle doesn't have the BDC markings, I'd have to use Kentucky Windage or the Nikon software to figure out where to hold or how many clicks to turn my turrets to hit at a certain distance. Again, I'm not a bullseye shooter. I'm a plinker. I like shooting cans and potatoes and water bottles at 25, 50 and 75 yards. If I were putting this on a precision AR rifle, well... I wouldn't put this on a precision AR rifle. I'd get something with more reach (2-7 or 3-9) and add a Burris FastFire III or something similar on top of it for close-quarters work.
Nikon is marketing this optic to the AR-users, which I think is fair. It's a good optic for close to medium range targets. It allows on-the-fly adjustments and is easy to use with an intuitive layout. There is no illumination so you don't have batteries to worry about or backlighting. I probably wouldn't want to use it in a dimly lit indoor firefight, but then again, I don't find myself in many firefights these days (or ever). I don't think it's good enough to use out at the 600-yard marker. I had trouble seeing an 8" Shoot n' See target at 100 yards. If I had to pick an ideal range for this optic on an AR or Mini 14, I'd put it at 50-65 yards. I wrapped up my first shooting session with the optic on a tin can. I placed it at about 15 yards and chased it all the way out to about the 50-yard marker.
The price is fair for what you get (especially with the plethora of online sites offering coupons and deals on it) and the pros far outweigh the cons. Speaking of pros and cons, see below for my brief list:
• Good Clarity
• Included Flip-Up Covers
• Good, Tactile Feedback on Turrets
• Smooth Zoom
• Resettable Turrets for Easy Reference
• Good Value*
• Turrets Are Much Too Large
• Turrets Don't Lock Down (Easy to Accidentally Adjust)
• Flip-Up Caps Cover Focus Ring (?)
• A Bit Too Long (Not a Deal-Breaker)
*NOTE: I do this on most of my reviews. Just because something is a good value (PRO), doesn't mean that it comes at a good price (CON). For the money, this scope is a good value. You get a lot for what you spend. However, for the price-conscious or penny-pinching, budget gunners, this scope comes in at a much higher price than its cheaper, Asian-made brethren. So, while this optic is pricey, it is a good value for the amount of money you're shelling out. Just wanted to clear that up so that no one thinks I'm contradicting myself by saying that the optic is too expensive, but a good value.
Thanks for reading and I'll be sure and get you guys some images just as soon as I can. Send me any questions or concerns and I'll do my best to address them, but I'm no expert so bear with me.