NcStar, at least in my mind, is best known for their line of VERY affordable scopes on OpticsPlanet. I’ve never had a real inclination to check out their gear as optics quality isn’t normally something I skimp on. But then Nick sent me this octagonal shaped scope to test out, and now that I’ve put my hands on on one, I have some formed opinions based on real world experience. I still wouldn’t buy one…
Removing the scope from the box, you immediately notice the shape. The aptly named Octagon has eight sides versus the much more typical round scope body. NcStar claims this shape aids in both durability and style. I didn’t go beat it against rocks during my test, but it held up to the recoil of an AR-15 shooting .223 Rem. As far as style goes, I’m probably not the best judge as I normally wear cargo shorts in public. If you think a Glock is pretty, you might check this out. Another standout item is the rubberized coating covering the scope. Having looked at purchasing a scope lapping kit in the past, my sensibilities were offended at the thought of not using metal on metal contact for a scope and rings. It held zero pretty well during my testing, so it must work, but I didn’t find it to be confidence inspiring.
Next out of the box was the set of includes rings. I had hoped they’d be similarly octagonally shaped inside to match the scope. This would allow a totally aligned mounting system which, if done correctly, could eliminate the issues of using a level in the pursuit of leveled scope perfection. Alas, the inside of the rings are circular meaning some mating surfaces between scope and rings are receiving more pressure than others. Again, no failures of the scope during my testing, but future durability might be impacted by this design choice. I’m not certain that I stripped the mounts during installation, but I never was able to get the nuts securing the mounts “tight”. Every time I would tighten them down, the other end of the threaded rod would retreat even further inside the mount. I finally gave up on achieving some indication that it was going to have a hard stop, called it good enough, and moved on.
After mounting the scope to any Picatinny rail section you desire, it comes time for the installation of the included CR 2032 battery that powers the illuminated reticle. I tried taking a clear picture of this reticle, but was mostly thwarted. What you see above is the scope set on the lowest power for the red color (it also has blue). There’s an incredible amount of light bleed out on the reticle as well as the inside of the tube which makes focusing on the reticle fairly difficult. I turned it on to check that it worked, and then never used it again as I found it largely distracting.
The power adjustments work fine and there’s a nice tactile knob to use for throwing the lever from 1.1X to 4X, though I ran the scope on 4X for the duration of the test. Included in the kit are also some octagonal shaped flip up scope covers, one of which was immediately lost during normal usage after it popped out and I lost it. After turning off the lit reticle, I peered through hoping for crystal clear glass, and was largely disappointed. This glass is mediocre at best and when run side by side with the 1.5X – 4X Leupold I normally use on this rifle, the disparity only becomes stronger. The NcStar glass generally doesn’t transit as much light, and lacks the clarity normally seen on even entry level scopes from Leupold.
When it came time to finally shoot using the Octagon, I found that achieving zero was fairly easy. The capped turrets were easy to access and adjust giving the operator tactile feedback about changes made. Each turret is graduated in “1 click = 1/2 inch at 100 yards” measurements which is close enough to 1/2 MOA for me. Once zeroed, I ran the octagon through a box drill at 25 yards using a support for the forend and bag for the rear end of my gun. As you can see above, I shot 3 shots at position one, turned the horizontal knob 12 clicks to the left, shot 5 shots at position two, and so on and so forth through position 5. Once returned to the original position, position five and position one did not overlap letting me know that this scope failed a box drill. I did not bother measuring group size, spread, or distance between the centers of these groups since the scope failed that test.
Specifications: NcStar 1.1 – 4 x 20 Octagon Scope
• Variable Power 1.1X – 4X Magnification
• Octagon shaped Rubber Armored scope body for durability and unique style
• 45 degree offset Rheostat Knob
• Dual Illuminate Reticle in Blue and Red, with multiple brightness settings for each color
• Quick Focus Eyepiece
• Fully Multi Coated Lenses
• Includes 30mm Scope Rings, Scope centerline set at AR15 1½” scope height
• Uses standard 30mm Scope Ring, does not require special 30mm rings.
• Integrated Flip-Up lens covers
• Reticle: P4 SNIPER
• Magnification: 1.1X – 4X
• Objective Dia. (mm): 20mm
• Tube Dia.: 1”, outer Rubber Armor @ 30mm Diameter
• FOV (Feet at 100 yards): 82.7’ – 22.5’
• Eye Relief (in): 3.9” – 3.3”
• Net Weight (oz.): 13.8
• Length (in): 9.6”
• Click Value : 1/2 M.O.A
• MSRP: $99.99
• Street Price: $79.79 from Optics Planet $79.36 from Amazon
Overall Build Quality * * *
The Octagon feels cheap in the hand. It is cheap after all, but it still feels poorly built. Watching the scope mounts strip out upon initial installation didn’t help that feeling and the rubberized coating was a weird addition as well. Nothing else stripped and it didn’t spontaneously burst into a bucket of parts so I’ll give it three stars
Holding zero * * * * *
The Octagon seemed to hold the same zero each time I brought it to bear, and if you treat this as a set it and forget it scope, you might find some use out of it.
Optical Quality * * *
You can see through the glass which I found to be a pro, though the picture is generally dim. Illuminating the reticle doesn’t help as the whole sight picture gets washed out by a sea of red or blue.
The Octagon cannot pass a box drill. You should not rely on these turrets to return to zero after making a change. Subsequently, this scope is relegated to “set it and forget it” status
Overall Rating * *
If you need a scope to sit on top of your gun, you need it to look a little weird, and you’re not interested in doing much shooting with it, the NcStar Octagon is going to be about the cheapest scope on the market that meets that criteria. If you’re interested in shooting with it, you won’t be able to use the turrets adjust elevation and windage on the fly, as you’ll need to rezero after making any changes. That’s a showstopper for me, and should be for you too as its an indication of poor build quality, which should be expected on a sub $100 scope. Don’t skimp out on optics. If you need an aiming device, and you only have $80 to spend, buy a decent set of irons.