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Nikon Prostaff P3 riflescopes
Courtesy Nikon

I used to be a professional photographer, shooting sports, weddings, portraits…you get the idea. In that world, Nikon vs. Canon is the same kind of debate as GLOCK vs. 1911 or 9mm vs. .45 ACP. After starting with Canon, I jumped to team Nikon and used their cameras and fantastic glass for more than 30 years. They never once let me down.

Now Nikon’s Sport Optics division has announced their new PROSTAFF P3 line of very affordably-priced riflescopes. And given my experience with them, I wouldn’t have the slightest hesitation dropping my hard-earned dollars on one.

Here’s their press release . . .

Melville, NY (February 2019) – Nikon proudly introduces the new performance benchmark for its family of dedicated hunting riflescopes:  the all-new PROSTAFF P3. This next generation of PROSTAFF riflescope was designed to deliver Nikon’s legendary optical performance and mechanical consistency over a lifetime of tough hunting use.

Featuring a 3x zoom ratio optical system designed specifically for the needs of hunters, the PROSTAFF P3 applies multiple layers of anti-reflective compounds to all glass surfaces for bright and vivid sight pictures, optimum light transmission and maximum brightness from first to last light.  Its generous eye relief is consistent throughout the zoom range to not only keep the user’s brow safe during heavy recoil, but to maintain positive cheek-weld during magnification changes.

PROSTAFF P3 riflescopes are built on an all-new, one-inch tube platform for enhanced durability and modern looks. All models feature aircraft grade aluminum tubes, turret caps, zoom rings and eyepiece focus rings with knurling that is easy to grip with bare—or gloved—hands.

Nikon Prostaff p3 riflescopes
Courtesy Nikon

Available in a wide range of models with reticle choices that include Nikon’s BDC, Nikoplex or Mildot—PROSTAFF P3 provides precise, ¼ MOA turrets with crisp movements that can be both heard and felt. These spring-loaded windage and elevation turrets can be instantly reset to “zero” after sighting-in for easy reference and in-the-field adjustments. All models are designed to be parallax-free at 100 yards, with the exception of the high-power 6-18x40AO models, which feature adjustable objectives for focusing from 50-yards to infinity.

The PROSTAFF P3 lineup includes matte and silver exterior finishes. As with all Nikon riflescopes, the PROSTAFF P3 is waterproof, fogproof and shockproof and is backed by Nikon’s No Fault Lifetime Repair/Replacement policy.

Nikon Prostaff 3
courtesy Nikon

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    • I believe it’s the Philippines for NIkon. Most all the glass out there is ground in Japan though.

      • I worked for two camera companies. Most lenses are ground in China. The Foxconn facility in Foshan has a 3-stage lens grinding process extending for about 100 yards in either direction.

  1. I’ve got an older Prostaff Rimfire Nikon 3-9x40mm AO w/ Nikoplex reticle, that is very nice. Would have preferred a 32mm objective. Great image, outstanding turrets w/ quick zero resetting knobs. Would definitely recommend it.

    I was little ticked that the turret number were in units of inches at 50 yards, so you gotta multiply by 2 to get MOA. I guess it is geared specifically for rimfire target competition.

  2. I have two or three Nikon Prostaff rifle scopes that I purchased in the last three years and they seem to be pretty darned spectacular as far as I can tell.

    In a previous TTaG article from the last couple days on scopes, I asked JWTaylor about crazy expensive scopes and he indicated that the crazy expensive scopes provide better images in very low light conditions. Has anyone compared very low light images in this Nikon Prostaff series to crazy expensive scopes?

    • If Nikon is putting the Nikon name on them instead of selling them under another brand, I’d expect them to be quite good.

  3. Okay, I am going to come right out and ask it: why would these scopes (Prostaff series) not provide virtually identical quality images to crazy expensive scopes?

    There are only six ways to screw up the image:
    (1) Inferior anti-reflective coatings
    (2) Incorrectly ground lenses
    (3) No internal baffles
    (4) Bad lens geometry
    (5) Bad lens alignment
    (6) Poor quality (transparency) glass

    Nikon claims to be applying outstanding anti-reflective coatings on every glass surface. I cannot see how a $1000 scope could have anti-reflective coatings that increase low-light image quality any better to the human eye.

    I know that Nikon grinds their glass correctly because images are focused sharp and crystal clear.

    I don’t know whether Nikon uses internal baffles to minimize stray reflections and maximize contrast. For that matter I have no idea if $1000 scopes do that either. (I don’t think one-inch diameter optical tubes have enough room for baffles.)

    Nikon lens geometry seems to be excellent since their images are sharp all the way to the edge of field of view. Is there some way that $1000 scopes have even better lens geometry that produces significantly better images in very low light?

    Nikon lens alignment is excellent since their images are sharp all the way to the edge of the field of view. I cannot see how a $1000 scope can be any better.

    Nikon glass quality (transparency) seems to be outstanding. Do $1000 scopes somehow use even more transparent glass that produces noticeably better images in very low light conditions?

    • For reference I have rifle scopes from other manufacturers in a similar price category. And while those scopes are very good, I can see subtle differences — mainly that their images are not quite tack-sharp all the way to the edge of the field of view like my Nikon Prostaff scopes.

      I have also compared, side-by-side, their image quality under two very demanding conditions:
      (1) Looking into a dark, shaded region on a bright, sunny day.
      (2) Looking for detail in a shaded region at twilight.

      In my opinion the Nikon Prostaff series produced ever-so-slightly better images in both of the above conditions at distances between 70 and 120 yards. And I really had to look back and forth between both scopes several times to be convinced that the Prostaff was a teensy weensy bit better rather than my imagination (e.g. confirmation bias) telling me that the Nikon was better.

    • The most expensive scope I’ve ever had is a $400 Bushnell Engage 4-16×44, which I thought was a bit better than the two Prostaffs I’ve had, albeit those were roughly $200 scopes. I’ve also got a Leupold AR 3-9×40 that I got a great deal on at $200 (usually $300) that’s a bit better IMO. I don’t doubt that the $1000 scopes are better or that the $2500 scopes are even better yet, but the $200-500 range seems plenty good enough for my needs. Perhaps 20 years ago shelling out the extra cash was more of a necessity, but there’s plenty of really good affordable scopes these days.

      With most any product there’s a rule of diminishing returns. With scopes that might mean tolerances measured in microns instead of thousandths or inches (for instance) which might make a difference to a discerning eye, but explodes the cost. Add the fact that we have more sophisticated machinery that makes relatively cheap production more precise. I think you do get what you pay for in the sub-$500 range though.

      • Governor Le Petomane,

        I can definitely see where a $250 scope would not be anywhere near as good as a $1000 scope 20 years ago. Now, fast forward to today. As you hinted, manufacturing equipment is incredible these days and I can easily imagine that the manufacturing processes are 1/10th the cost of 20 years ago for something like precision lens grinding and polishing as well as anti-reflective coating deposition.

        I really want to know exactly why a $1,000 scope is significantly better than a $250 Nikon Prostaff scope. I don’t think it is due to coatings. And I cannot see lens shape/precision being a factor since their images are sharp and crisp. That really only leaves (as far as I can tell) the optical transparency of the glass itself in question. And for the tiny amount of material involved to make glass lenses for rifle scopes, I am having a hard time imagining that the highest possible transparency glass is going to add something like $750 to the materials cost of a rifle scope.

        Does anyone know if the best available glass (highest transparency and lowest dispersion) really is $750 more than “good” quality glass used in $250 rifle scopes?

        And does anyone know if the type of anti-reflective coatings that Nikon uses somehow create dispersion that other ($750 more expensive) coatings do not create?

        • Over on that other post raz-0 made some pertinent observations. First focal plane vs. second, consistent eye relief, zoom ratio, etc. One I’d add is accuracy of adjustments – I don’t think most sub-$500 scopes (or maybe sub -$1500 for that matter) have perfect 1/4moa adjustments. This wouldn’t matter much if you use a bullet drop reticle for all your long distance shooting though.

          Like I said though, diminishing returns. Want a product that’s 10% better it’s going to cost double. Double the price again you only get 5% better. To me, if you need a low light scope go with a mid priced 3-9×50. Unless you think you’re going to be making 600 yard shots in the dark or something. But then if you’ve got the money burning a hole in your pocket, knock yourself out.

        • Governor Le Petomane,

          I can see how first focal plane versus second focal plane could definitely increase cost. I forgot about that aspect of the design and function.

        • I’d also add that I’d be reluctant to even look through a $2000 scope for fear the difference would be a lot more noticeable than I think. If that’s the case I don’t know what I’m missing and I don’t need to know. I can find a better use for that extra $1700.

  4. I have a Nikon P-223 x12 and two P-rimfire x12 scopes that I think were great value. They are both a little finicky on eye relief but once you’re in the box they are great. I have considered one of the Nikon Black scopes for my .224 Valkyrie, but I also have a Vortex Viper HS-T x24 that I would buy ahead of them on price from what I’ve seen recently. I’m sure the Black scopes are great glass, but for $100-$200 cheaper you can get the Viper which is also good glass and not as picky on the eye relief.

    At the moment, I’ve stolen the Viper HS-T x24 from my .308 bolt for the .224 Valkyrie, so I’ll take suggestions for a replacement either way. I’m pretty well set on putting a Vortex Diamondback Tactical x24 on the .224 Valkyrie because I think the glass will be good enough and because I like the Christmas tree reticle.

    • My wife runs the diamondback tactical 24 on her Valkyrie and it’s great. I plan on picking up another one when they’re on sale.

  5. “In that world, Nikon vs. Canon is the same kind of debate as GLOCK vs. 1911 or 9mm vs. .45 ACP.”

    A more apt comparison is Ford vs. Chevy, IMO. I think the quality edge goes to Nikon compared to Canon.

    Ex- FM-2n owner here. Nikkor glass is simply wonderful stuff. Had me a tasty compact 35-105 3.5 Nikkor on it for a number years, until life melted down.

    I wouldn’t have been able to afford it had I not been working in pawn shops at the time…

  6. …so are these first or second focal plane? I’m having some trouble tracking down details.

  7. I ruined a 2.5-10-50 Prostaff5 I had a stripped ring cause me to accidentally drill a hole rite into the scope tube nikon replaced it with a P3 3-9-50 nikon rifle scope its turning out to be my all time favorite hunting scope putting them down without a single miss nikon is the best

  8. I’ve talked a lot bout the Nikon P3 3-9-50 hunting rifle scope by nikon turning out to be one fantastic yet affordable hunting rifle scope for deer and pigs maybe an a occasional democrat or slim liberals against donald Trump lol libs don’t take it to serious just for laughs

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