Nikon’s affordable Prostaff 5 3.5-14×40 fits perfectly into the niche of the Western varmint scope. An optical Goldylocks, Nikon’s Prostaff 5 3.5-14×40 is “just right” for daylight hunting on the open plains and mountain ridgelines of the American West.
Ten years ago, CZ invited me on an “industry hunt” to showcase their new 550 American in 6.5×55 Swede (one of the “perfect” cartridges). They threw on Nikon scopes that were in their vault and we went out to pluck some pronghorn in the Devil’s Tower country of Wyoming.
From sighting in, I was hooked—but not as a big game optic. I’m not a tech-weenie, but merely concerned with what actually works in the field and how much it costs. The practical Nikon scopes we were using were the 4.5-14×42 Buckmasters, a budget version of Nikon’s Monarch line.
This Buckmaster was the best Western varmint scope I’d ever come across. Two of my rifles later wore them. It no longer exists—but its successor has the working features and the same low price ($300 MSRP). Nikon’s current Prostaff 5 3.5-14×40 is still the huckleberry for the prairies.
But what makes a “budget” scope? Just lack of a few layers of lens coating—the ones that bring in extra light at the micro-edge beginning and the last minutes of the hunting day—under canopy and heavy overcast. So if you’re after Bambi in a West Virginia December, Nikon’s top-drawer Monarch line is a better choice. But if you’re busting coyotes outside Calhan, CO, badgers east of Bisbee, AZ, or prairie dogs south of the Platte, the cheaper Prostaff scope is every bit as good.
When your targets are at 50 yards—and then quickly at 550 yards—you need to be able to adjust parallax quickly and not lose sight picture—or get a case of “the wigglies.” More on this later.
Author’s opinion: Every scope manufacturer wants to sell “gee whiz” reticules that promise the world and yet only deliver really complex visual puzzles. Every serious marksman I’ve met prefers a simple duplex and will invest in extra ammo and range time to calculate hold-over on a given chambering and loading. Some marketing genius at Nikon decided to call their classic duplex reticule the “NikoPlex.” Go figure. But the actual scope rocks, so we can disregard this silliness.
Turrets are clearly marked in large font. Those of us in the “fat, middle aged” stage of life can appreciate this visual kindness on the part of the Nikon staff. Note the metric equivalents. Many inexperienced varmint shooters might want more magnification, but when the spotter has a wide-view set of binos and is spotting over a huge area, scopes with anything more than 14 power will be hard-pressed to find the target references offered by their guides. When in the truck, I leave my scopes set at the lowest power, in case a coyote bolts out of the creosote bushes.
The Prostaff 5 seen here in Warne rings on a 1913 rail atop a Remington action, and wearing a sexy gray Bell & Carlson stock with “spider web” pattern (Note: there is only one B&C employee who can do the “spider web,” and he refuses to let other employees watch him work (are we smiling?)). A Hornady “SuperFormance” 6mm Remington is waiting to make a clover-leaf.
I’m sorry, but anyone in marketing knows that the color blue is reserved for feminine hygiene products. Excuse me while I throw up a little. Such a fine product clothed in, well, something more appropriate to…Massingale’s.
The key advantage of the Nikon is the side-adjustable parallax. This really lifts the scope above its competitors, allowing the shooter to rapidly engage targets at dramatic differences in range, without breaking position . Shooter’s Ridge’s “Gorilla Bag” (seen here) is a monstrously heavy POS—until you’re at a rural range and the angles, up or down, are significant—and then it’s your best friend.
In the background, the author’s truck “Anubis” waits patiently at the Silver State range outside Beatty, Nevada. Nye County Sheriff’s Deputy Lynn lent his rifle and firearms knowledge to this evaluation. He found no fault with the scope, but would certainly add a glare-reducing tube to the objective lens. Lynn is the classic Western Lawman: calm, reasonable, professional (and at a proportionate six-five, just a bit intimidating). He patrols an area roughly the size of Switzerland. A family man and enthusiastic rifleman, his is the last face you want to see if you have perpetrated a crime.
Nikon Prostaff 5 3.5-14×40 NP Specifications:
Field of view: 7.2-28.6 feet at 100 yards.
Tube diameter: 1 inch.
Eye relief: 4 inches.
Eyepiece diameter: 44mm.
Weight: 17.3 ounces.
Length: 13.6 inches.
Adjustments: ¼ inch.
Parallax: 50 yards to Infinity.
Side focus: Yes.
Use: Centerfire at all ranges.
Reticle: NikoPlex (Duplex)