• Nikon M-223 2-8x32mm Precision AR-15 Optic Review

    Nikon M-223 2-8x32mm mounted atop a Smith & Wesson M&P15 TSOver the course of the latter half of 2012 I found myself consumed by the task of finding just the right optic for my AR-15. My quest was complicated by the fact that I specifically wanted an optic that had a low enough magnification on the bottom end to allow it to function reasonably well as a close-quarters reflex-style sight, but also have enough magnification on the top end to allow for precision shooting out to 300 yards or more. It was a tall order to meet, but after several months of exhaustive research I finally decided on and ordered a Nikon M-223 2-8x32mm with the Nikoplex reticle and Rapid Action Turret (RAT).

    Upon receipt and initial inspection of the M-223 I was pleasantly surprised to find it came standard with a couple accessories. Aside from the scope itself and the usual owners manual and warranty card, Nikon includes a set of plastic flip-up lens covers as well as a KillFlash Anti-Reflective Device (ARD). The lens caps are similar to those offered by Butler Creek but lack the quick open feature on the ocular end. The KillFlash ARD is a nice additional touch, but quite honesty it will be of little use or benefit for most users. One oddity that I did discover though is that the lens cap for the objective end of the scope is to large to fit the ARD and thus they cannot be used in tandem without wrapping the ARD with a few layers of electrical tape.

    One of the key factors that lead me to purchasing the Nikon M-223 was the Rapid Action Turret (RAT). Most every single scope I looked over the past several months had some ill-conceived, overly complicated and downright distracting reticle in it. For whatever reason every optics manufacturer out there has gone the way of tacti-cool over practical when it comes to reticles, and Nikon is no exception. When it comes to reticles I'm a firm believer in keeping it simple and fortunately for me Nikon also offers the M-223 with a standard duplex reticle. When combined with the Rapid Action Turret a standard duplex reticle will still give you the ability to quickly and easily shoot at different ranges without having to deal with all the clutter of multiple stadia lines or dots cluttering up your view of the target.

    Nikon's Rapid Action Turret System is nothing more than a calibrated turret designed to be used with a specific load with a specific muzzle velocity. In this case the prescribed combination consists of an AR-15 with a 16" barrel combined with a 55-grain bullet exiting the muzzle at 3,240 feet-per-second. This combination is an exact match to not only the M-193 Ball 56-grain military surplus ammunition, but also to Hornady's 55-grain HP Steel Match ammunition. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there weren't a few more factory loads out there that fit the bill as well.

    As packaged from the factory Flip-up lens caps, ARD, warranty card and users manual
    Close-up of the KillFlash Anti-Reflective Device (ARD) M-223 features nice large target-style turrets with very positive clicks

    The key benefit of the RAT is that once zeroed at 100 yards one can easily shoot at any distance out to 600 yards by simply dialing in the elevation turret up or down to the appropriate yardage mark. Not only is it quick and easy, but it's also very repeatable and reliable. The downside to such a system as you might have guessed is that it's limited to one very specific configuration. As such, if you handload for your AR-15, have a longer barrel, or want to shoot something other than a 55-grain bullet this option probably wouldn't be the best choice for you. In my case there were two key factors that helped influence my decision: 1) the intended use for my AR-15 is my personal defense and dispatching the occasional coyote, and 2) having done the math I've found it's cheaper to purchase any of the above mention factory loaded .223 ammunition than it is to reload. As such, the prescribed combination necessary to utilize the M-223's RATS is perfectly suited for my end use needs.

    Hitting the range I was again very happy with the performance and results provided by the M-223. Optically the lenses provide a very clear, crisp sight picture clear out to the edge of the lens with no discernible distortion. The elevation and windage turrets proved to be very accurate and repeatable while offering both a good tactful detent and crisp audible click for each click of adjustment. While my range is limited to only 200 yards I found the 100 to 200 come-up on the elevation turret to be spot on with the Hornady Steel Match ammunition used for testing.

    One thing I don't really care for on the M-223 is the magnification dial. The thin line of striations along the dial, the low-profile and rather smooth hump, and the very stiff movement combine to make it difficult to manipulate - especially if wearing gloves. Even if the stiffness fades with use over time, a dial with much larger and more positive traction is needed for quick, easy adjustment both with and without gloves.

    Elevation turret market in 25 yard increments from 100 to 600 yards Nice M-223 detail on the objective bell Elevation turret is 1/4 MOA click and calibrated specifically for 55gr bullets with a muzzle velocity of 3,240fps.

    So by now you're probably wondering why I'm reviewing an AR scope on a Savage site. Well, the truth is it's only an AR scope if you want to limit it to being an AR scope. By handloading one can easily tailor their own loads to match the prescribed velocity from your own rifle be it a Savage or anything else. Another option is to build a short-barreled (16") Savage truck gun in which the factory 55gr ammunition would match the ballistic requirements of the Rapid Action Turret.

    All said and done I've been very pleased with the Nikon M-223 2-8x32mm optic. It's an ideal compromise between a low magnification (1-6x) and higher magnification (3-9x or higher) variable scope that is well suited for short to intermediate range shooting. The quality is there, the repeatability is there, and it's relatively wallet friendly so what else can one ask for?

    Contact Information

    Nikon Inc.
    1300 Walt Whitman Road
    Melville, NY 11747-3064, U.S.A.

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. wbm's Avatar
      wbm -
      Have also been looking at this scope. I put the Nikon ProStaff 4-9 with BDC on my AR for the same reasons. I was very impressed with the BDC at 400-500 yard targets and the 4x at shorter ranges was just right. Looks to me like the M-223 may be even better.
    1. SlimySquirrel's Avatar
      SlimySquirrel -
      Nice Write up. Pretty sure you can input your own load data at the "Nikon Spoton" app too so it will work with any load.
    1. J.Baker's Avatar
      J.Baker -
      Quote Originally Posted by SlimySquirrel View Post
      Nice Write up. Pretty sure you can input your own load data at the "Nikon Spoton" app too so it will work with any load.
      That would be true if it were their BDC reticle, but my example has the standard duplex (Nikoplex) reticle. I went that route because I've gotten tired of all the overly complex and complicated reticles being used by the manufacturers - especially in the tactical optic market. It's as if there's an unwritten requirement that any tacti-cool reticle has to have a minimum of 100 stadia lines/hold-off points. It's crazy!
    1. Joe L's Avatar
      Joe L -
      I've got the 2-8 Nikon M-223 with the BDC reticle and 1/4 MOA turrets. I've used it on my Savage Model 10 .308 gun while waiting for my Bushnell scope. It doesn't really matter whether you are using the turrets or the BDC dots in the reticle, I am pretty sure you can use the Nikon Spot-on program to figure out what the distance markings correspond to for any elevation and temperature conditions, and ammo. I shot my 308 out to 500 meters using the M-223. Worked great.

      I also have the M-223 1-4x version that has been excellent as well, although it is off the AR-15 right now.

      Thanks for the review, MrFurious.


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