Hands-On: Nikon Buckmaster 2 Review

The Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 serves as a benchmark for quality, affordable riflescopes. A close look at the Buckmaster gives the hunter/shooter a good idea of what to look for in an entry-level scope. Read on to find out my two favorite picks to serve as an alternative to this now discontinued icon.

In late 2019, Nikon announced that it was withdrawing from the rifle scope and red dot business. Nikon simply claims that the scope market was a “net negative” for the company. Others argue that it was politically motivated, but to the average hunter/marksman, the reason is irrelevant.

There are plenty of products to fill the void left by Nikon’s departure from the market. So why review a scope that’s discontinued from a company that no longer manufactures scopes? Simple, early on, Nikon set the bar for manufacturers producing affordable scopes for the everyday hunter. A look at the Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 tells you a lot about what to look for in an entry-level scope.

I own two Buckmasters, and I’m glad to have them. My Buckmaster 3-9x40 sits on top of one of my most revered rifles, a 25-year-old Ruger M77 MK II in .270 Winchester. This companion has served me well, scoring more deer and hogs than I can count. I have no plans on replacing it.

Review Summary

The Nikon 3-9x40 Buckmaster is a fine entry-level scope with surprisingly good sharpness and contrast for a scope in the sub $200 price range. My experience with the Buckmaster mounted on the .270 Winchester shows it to be a durable and dependable optic. This scope has held zero for many hunting seasons on the Ruger M77 MK II. The glass, while certainly not stellar in quality, is distortion-free and fog-proof. The short eye relief and narrow field of vision are the major drawbacks.

Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm

Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40

The price of Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40  varies, so check the latest price at

In A Hurry? Here Are The Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 Quick Specs

Magnification

3-9x

Eye relief

3.6 inches

Field of View

10.9 - 35.7 ft @ 100 yards

Tube Size

1 inch

Turret Adjustment

1/4 MOA

Internal Elevation Adjustment

80 MOA

Internal Windage Adjustment

80 MOA

Parallax Setting

Fixed 100 yards

Reticle

Nikon Duplex

Length/Weight

12.3 in / 13.1 oz

Early On, Nikon Set The Standard For Affordable Hunting Optics

nikon buckmasters ii 3-9x40 bdc

In 1917 the three leading optical manufacturers in Japan merged to form the Nippon Corporation. The Nippon name was soon changed to Nikon based on their successful line of photographic cameras.

Nikon began making riflescopes during World War II for the Japanese military. Nikon would become one of the world’s premier makers of riflescopes, binoculars, and range finders in the decades that followed.

Nikon made its way into the US sporting optics market in the 1950s. Throughout ht e 1960s and 1970s, Nikon captured a significant part of the US market, no doubt piggybacking on the success of their camera line. Nikon’s basic, fixed-power riflescopes gave the US sportsman well-made, affordable options.

The lineup of Nikon scopes expanded to include variable magnification scopes for almost any budget or purpose. Nikon never abandoned their commitment to providing the average sportsman with the equipment needed for their hunting and shooting activities throughout the years.

The Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 and the improved Buckmaster II are examples of that commitment. However, the winds of change are blowing throughout the world of shooting sports. Sadly, Nikon’s long-time presence in the shooting optics market is no longer.

Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm

Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40

The price of Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40  varies, so check the latest price at

Let’s look at the Nikon Buckmaster particulars and examine two alternate scopes that fill the same bill.

Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 Nikoplex Reticle

nikon buckmaster 2 reviews

Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 Nikoplex Reticle

The Nikoplex reticle is glass etched for a crisp appearance. If there was ever a “plain Jane” reticle, this is it. Thick four posts frame the target quickly. The center crosshair is the right thickness for a three by nine.

Reticle subtensions on the post points are 4 MOA at 9x magnification. This scope is intended for hunting at modest point-blank ranges.

Consider the Remington 130 gr Core-Lokt .270 Winchester ammo used by hunters around the world. For a six-inch vital zone, set your scope to shoot 2.4 inches high at 100 yards. The results are a 240 yard zero with a point-blank range of 283 yards, even with a very modest BC bullet. In other words, for the average whitetail inside 300 yards, point-and-shoot.

Turrets

nikon buckmaster 3 9x40 review

Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 Turrets

Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 Turrets

The Buckmaster turrets are practical and functional. 80 MOA of windage and elevation adjustment will put you on zero with any standard base and rings. The clicks are firm and positive. Use the serrated knob for ¼ MOA adjustments. You can then loosen the turret screw with a coin or screwdriver and set the cap vernier to zero. But why bother? I zeroed this scope years ago, and the caps haven’t been off since. Before each hunting season, I run a clean patch down the tube and fire one shot at 100 yds. Always on the money. OK, let’s go hunting.

GLASS

nikon buckmaster 3-9x40 review

The image through the scope is very clear with a good color rendition. There is very slight edge blooming at 9x magnification. The etched glass reticle is crisp, and crosshair thickness is visible in low light conditions without being obstructive. Image brightness is on par with other 1-inch main tube scopes, costing much more.

The glass is fully multi-coated for image enhancement. Non-reflective internal coatings eliminate glare. The Buckmaster is fog-proof and nitrogen purged. I consider the Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 scope to be a quality optical instrument.

MECHANICAL / DESIGN

The zoom control has a raised, serrated ring that provides a positive grasp. I find the zoom control to be a bit stiff, but it moves smoothly. The quick-focus eyepiece has the right amount of friction and resistance to prevent unintentional movement.

The eye relief is skinny at just 3.6 inches with a modest eyebox. Shooters will need to maintain a good cheek weld and positive shooting grip, especially with mid to high recoil ammo.

The scope feels solid at 13.1 ounces and comes in at 12.3 inches in length. The one-piece main tube is constructed from high-quality aircraft-grade aluminum finished in non-glare matte black.

Pros / Cons

Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40mm Riflescope

PROS:

  • Price (when available)
  • Weatherproof o-ring sealed
  • Excellent lens coatings
  • Legendary Nikon Optics

CONS:

  • Discontinued, Nikon out of the scope business
  • Plain reticle with scant ranging capability
  • Short eye relief and narrow eyebox

SOME ALTERNATIVES TO CONSIDER

So, Nikon packs it in on the riflescope front and, after looking at the goods, you want a suitable 3-9x stand-in. What’s next? Take a look at these alternatives to the Nikon Buckmaster.

PRODUCT

DETAILS

Products

ALTERNATIVE

Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm Riflescope

Vortex-Optics-Diamondback

Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm Riflescope

  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Magnification: 3-9x
  • Length: 11.6 in
ALTERNATIVE

Burris Fullfield IV 3-12x42mm Riflescope

Burris Fullfield IV 3-12x42mm Riflescope

  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Magnification: 3-12x
  • Length: 12 in

1. Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm Riflescope

 Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm Riflescope

The Diamondback is Vortex Optics entry-level rifle scope line. In the case of Vortex, less money does not necessarily mean less quality or less value. You can score a Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40 for about $200 street price.

The Vortex Diamondback may not be a premier rifle scope, but it is one of the most popular budget rifle scopes. Vortex stands behind all of their scopes with their no-questions-asked, unconditional, fully transferable lifetime warranty.

For the point-and-shoot crowd, the Vortex Diamondback comes with the V-Plex reticle, which is their version of the now-standard four-plex design. However, you may opt for the “Dead-Hold” BDC reticle, giving you a more advanced ranging solution.

Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm Riflescop Reticle

For “High Power” (i.e., 308 Win) ammo at moderate Ranges (100–400 yards), use 100 yard zero on main crosshair. Bullet Drop 1st Hashmark: 200 yards 1.5 MOA, 2nd Hashmark: 300 yards 4.5 MOA, 3rd Hashmark: 400 yards 7.5 MOA, Top of Bottom Post: 500 yards 11.0 MOA.

The shooter will need to determine the exact reticle yardages by shooting with their specific ammo. Most online ballistic calculators like “Nikon Spot On” can then be “calibrated” to match the ballistic profile for precise come-ups, but that’s a subject for a separate article.

I like the Diamondback scopes from Vortex. The one-piece main tube is made from aircraft quality aluminum. The scopes are argon purged, fully multi-coated, for proof, and shockproof.

The clarity and sharpness of the sight picture is a definite improvement over their Crossfire model, which is only $20-$50 less expensive. This hunting scope is a definite contender for the Nikon Buckmaster spot in any hunter’s gun cabinet.

Vortex-Diamondback

Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm

The price of Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm  varies, so check the latest price at

Want to know more about best vortex scopes? Check out our guide. 

Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm Specs

Objective Lens Diameter

40 mm

Magnification

3-9x

Tube Diameter

1 in

Reticle Focal Plane

Second Focal Plane (SFP)

Field of View

44.6 - 14.6 ft at 100 yds

Eye Relief

3.3-3.5 in

Color

Black

Weight

14.4 oz

Length

11.6 in

Illumination Type

Non-Illuminated

Adjustment Click Value

0.25 MOA

Parallax

100 yds

Fogproof

Yes

Finish

Matte

W/E Travel at 100 Yds

70 MOA

Pros / Cons

Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm BDC-Riflescope

PROS:

  • BDC reticle provides good ranging
  • Good quality at a great price
  • Glass is clear and distortion-free
  • Legendary Vortex lifetime guarantee

CONS:

  • Zoom ring less handy than the others
  • Eye relief could be longer

2. Burris Fullfield IV 3-12x42mm Riflescope

Burris Fullfield IV 3-12x42mm Riflescope

When looking for a Burris equivalent to the Buckmaster, my first inclination was the Burris Fullfield II 3-9x40, which would be a $160 exact drop-in replacement for the venerable Nikon. After further consideration, I decided to recommend the Burris Fullfield IV 3-12x42 instead.

Save up for a nice dinner and bar tab but eat a baloney sandwich instead and spend the extra $60 bucks on upgrading to the Fullfield IV with the Ballistic E3 reticle. You won’t regret it. This pair reminds me very much of the Vortex Diamondback over the Crossfire comparison. For a little more money, you get a lot more scope.

The Burris IV 3-12x42 has an improved 4x zoom system with multicoated lenses for edge-to-edge clarity and low light performance. There is no distortion at 12x. 

Burris E3 reticle subtensions

The reticle is crisp without glare in direct sunlight. The fast focus ocular is firm but not stiff. Turrets are positive without mushiness. The increased magnification range gives confidence on longer shots.

The Burris Ballistic E3 reticle is worth a look. It provides a lot of information without being overly complicated. You can always point-and-shoot, but with a little practice, the reticle gets you out to 400 yards with hash marks and quickly compensates for windage with ten mph wind dots. For those that do not like the “tri-plex” style of the E3 reticle, Burris also offers this scope with their Long-Range MOA and C4 Wind MOA (illuminated) reticles.

Burris Fullfield IV 3-12x42mm Riflescope

The price of Vortex Diamondback 3-9x40mm  varies, so check the latest price at

Burris Fullfield IV 3-12x42mm Specs

Objective Lens Diameter

42 mm

Magnification

3-12x

Tube Diameter

1 in

Reticle Focal Plane

Second Focal Plane (SFP)

Field of View

38.0 - 9.0 ft at 100 yds

Eye Relief

Exit Pupil, 3.5-3.8in, 4-11 mm

Color

Black

Weight

17.6 oz

Length

12.0 in

Illumination Type

Non-Illuminated

Adjustment Click Value

0.25 MOA

Parallax

100 yds

Fogproof

Yes

Finish

Matte

W/E Travel at 100 Yds

70 MOA

Pros / Cons

Burris Fullfield IV 3-12x42mm Ballistic E3 Reticle

PROS:

  • Generous eye relief
  • E3 reticle is simple and effective
  • Good low-light performance and light transmission
  • Wide field of view

CONS:

  • Higher price than the others

BOTTOM LINE:

Nikon started well and just got better over their decades of rifle scope production. Their exit from the market was a disappointment for many deer hunters. I’m sure that Buckmaster scopes will live on many rifles for many years to come as a legacy to the Nikon name.

However, don’t be discouraged because your favorite camera maker doesn’t make scopes anymore. Pick one of these satisfactory alternatives, and don’t look back.

Check out our detailed guide on best 3-9x40 scopes, if you are looking for some more Nikon Buckmaster 3-9x40 alternatives .

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