What's in a Name?

Good-looking, well-built and optically superior, Nitrex is an optics brand to be reckoned with.

Not that many years ago, I fell in love with a cardboard box. She was slender, had a sunny complexion and snuggled nicely where other boxes felt awkward. As has often followed my infatuations, this box left me. I got over it eventually, but the name stayed with me: Nitrex.

Made to fit the pocket, the slim yellow-and-gray Nitrex boxes held five bright, nickeled cartridges at the ready. A while back, Speer dropped the Nitrex brand of big game ammunition because, I'm guessing, the Federal brand made rifle ammunition from Speer redundant as both are now owned by ATK.

This year ATK has resurrected the Nitrex name, but not in ammunition. It's now the call sign for a line of imported riflescopes and binoculars. All models feature fully multicoated lenses to deliver the brightest images allowed by their exit pupils.

ATK offers four Nitrex scopes: 1.5-5x32, 3-9x42, 3-10x50 and 6-20x50 AO. The AO scope's dial is the traditional front-end ring, not a turret-mounted knob. Parallax for the other three is set at 100 yards.

Windage and elevation adjustments are finger-friendly knobs that move point of impact 1/4-minute per click. The 6-20X has eighth-minute clicks for finer adjustments. The 6-20X has a finer TrexPlex reticle than its siblings too, and it can be fitted with a three-inch alloy sunshade.

As is customary in scopes for the American market, ATK kept the reticle in the second focal plane.

Nitrex scopes have European-style fast-focus eyepieces. Eye relief ranges from 3.3 inches to 3.6 inches. One-piece tubes are nitrogen-purged to eliminate fogging. Matte black is the standard finish, but you can also specify a black gloss or silver 3-9X, a black gloss 3-10X or a silver 6-20X.

I installed a 3-9x42 Nitrex on a Remington 700 Ti in .30-06. Its profile allows me to use low rings, and there's plenty of tube for perfect placement, fore-and-aft. The matte finish is as dull as you'll want afield and seems durable.

The eyepiece and power dial move smoothly but with due restraint. I was pleased that eye relief did not seem to change from low power to high and remained generous. A session running the windage and elevation dials with the rifle secured in a Caldwell Steady Rest showed routine return to zero. Optically it was bright and sharp, with a flat field and little color fringing.

There's no more useful scope for big game hunting than a 3-9X, and this one has about as much light-hungry glass up front as you can fit into a low-mounted tube. Mechanically and optically, it's a better scope than the $300 price suggests. You can buy a 3-10x50 for about $330, a 6-20x50 for $400.

ATK also imports its Nitrex binoculars. The 8x42 and 10x42 weigh 25 ounces and feature tripod adapters. The rubber armoring on these center-focus, roof-prism glasses makes them easy to grip in cold and wet weather. Phase-correction coatings enhance image quality.

If you travel light, the Nitrex 8x25 or 10x25 should suffice. Each weighs only 11 ounces.

A 10x42 Nitrex binocular I examined delivers bright, razor-edged images. I'm not as keen about eyecups that pull straight out instead of twisting (they're easily compressed), and I'd as soon have smooth barrel contours instead of ribbing and the Nitrex label in bold relief. But these are minor criticisms. I do like the click-detent diopter dial--and the price, just $290.

ATK has done its homework. These Nitrex scopes and binoculars perform well and won't prevent you from snaring that next sub-prime mortgage.

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