Is Nightforce SHV 5-20x 56mm Worth it?

LAST UPDATED: November 6th 2020
GUIDE: Chris Browning

If you’re a long-range hunter in need of a scope, you might think finding the perfect one is like chasing a unicorn. What you want is a scope that offers precision views of your target whether you’re close or far away. You also want a product that will last a long while.

The Nightforce SHV 5-20x 56mm might be the perfect scope for close and distant hunting. You get a choice of scope reticle, excellent adjustment capability, Nightforce’s ZeroSet™ feature, a warranty, and much more.

Though it’s expensive, this scope has even won the 2016 Editor’s Choice Award from Hunt Alaska Magazine and the 2015 Award of Excellence in the Optic Product of the Year from Sporting Classics.

Things to Consider Before Buying

This scope is an excellent resource for the serious hunter, both in close- and long-range hunting. You’ll want a scope with a wide range of customizable features that will work no matter what you’re hunting. With powerful magnification, a large objective lens size, and choice of standard IHR or optional illuminated MOAR reticle, this Nightforce can certainly deliver.

On the other hand, if you’re new to scope ownership, this one might be a bit much for you. There are a lot of adjustments and additional features and it may seem a bit overwhelming if you’ve never owned a scope before.

Whatever your needs or scope experience, you should consider what your purchase budget is and look for a scope within that limit. While cost versus quality is certainly a truth, you don’t necessarily have to choose the most expensive scope on the market to get a well-functioning rifle scope.

Features of The Nightforce SHV 5-20x 56mm

Product Specs


Rifle Scope


Product Features

Two-time award-winning scope

3.15-3.54 inch eye relief

Excellent at long range


  • The 56mm objective lens gives excellent light to the scope.
  • Two-time award-winning.
  • Optional illuminated reticles.
  • 3.15-3.54 inch eye relief.
  • Second focal plane.
  • Excellent at long range.
  • Parallax adjustment.


  • Large size.
  • Not excellent at close range.
  • Heavier than average.
  • Expensive.

Objective Lens

When talking about rifle scopes, size really does matter! The objective lens is the part of the scope that brings light into the tube. The bigger the objective lens, the brighter the target will appear inside the scope. But, larger objective lenses also mean more weight and may get caught up in tree branches or brush when out in the field.

According to Optics Planet, 40-44mm objective lens size is the average. This Nightforce goes way beyond that, bringing your targets into greater brightness. You’ll get the same crispness and clarity no matter what your magnification level is. It’s especially important if you hunt at dawn and dusk, when fading light interferes with a clear target.


This Nightforce scope gives you a total of four reticle choices. It’s available in IHR (International Hunting Reticle) with bars at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, either unilluminated or illuminated, or an MOAR-20 Center Illuminated reticle. The both reticles feature a floating crosshair in the center.

Keep in mind, this is a second focal plane scope, so the reticle won’t change when you zoom the scope.

MOAR-20 MOA Center Illuminated Reticle

This reticle has 1 MOA windage and elevation markers and 0.125 MOA lines right on the reticle. It makes finding smaller targets at longer ranges easier. It also features a floating center crosshair for quick acquisition and ease of use in the field. The illumination makes it easier to pick up in low light conditions.

IHR Reticle

This type of reticle is less cluttered than common setups, as it only has bars at 3, 6, and 9 o’clock, but the floating center crosshair allows for rapid pick-up. It’s available illuminated or unilluminated. Illuminated reticles will be easier to see in low light conditions such as at dawn or dusk.

Adjustment Features

The internal adjustment range of this scope is (elevation in MOA/Mil and windage in MOA/Mil) e: 80/21.8 w: 50/13.6. The MOA click value on the knobs is 0.250.

Many scopes under 10x magnification don’t offer a parallax adjustment, as it’s not really needed at close range. But the Nightforce offers high magnification as well, so the parallax adjustment of 25 yards to infinity on this scope is a definite plus.

ZeroSet™ Feature

This is part of the scope’s adjustments that allow the user to quickly set their scope back to zero, even after multiple elevation adjustments. Without ZeroSet™, making elevation changes to your scope in time-sensitive situations or bad lighting is a challenge. This feature should also keep your zero even after firing multiple shots.


This scope is made from a single 30mm (1.18 inch) aircraft-grade aluminum tube. According to Nightforce, their scopes are tested in a pressure tank to simulate 100 feet of water for 24 hours to ensure they are waterproof. Before a scope is sent to a customer, it undergoes 70-130 quality control checks (depending on the model). The Nightforce scope is shockproof and durable, and should last a long time with no problems.

The springs for windage and elevation control are made of titanium and spend 2 weeks inside a polishing tumbler to guarantee there are no burrs to interfere with smooth action. Each lens is hand-bonded with Nightforce’s proprietary Mil-Spec bonding agent.

Eye Relief

In scopes, eye relief refers to the distance you can draw your eye away from the eyepiece while still retaining a clear field of view. The Nightforce scope offers eye relief from 3.15-3.54 inches. There are scopes that offer more eye relief, but these numbers are actually rather high.


Because this scope has a larger objective lens, it sacrifices weight. It’s a little on the heavy side at 29.1 ounces. If you do a lot of deep woods hunting, adding this weight to your rifle may make a big difference at the end of the day.


Nightforce does offer a warranty on its scopes, but at this time, I’m unable to determine what exactly that warranty is.


This Nightforce scope may seem rather pricey to some shooters. It’s certainly not going to break the bank, but it’s definitely an investment that you should consider carefully. If you’re a serious target shooter and price isn’t an issue, this might be an excellent option for you.

Alternatives to the Nightforce SHV 5-20x 56

The Nightforce SHV is a scope clearly designed for the long-range target shooter or hunter who doesn’t care about the price. But, if you’re not in that category, you might take a look at these alternatives to the Nightforce.

1. Vortex Viper HS Long Range

Vortex Optics Viper 6.5-20x50 BDC RiflescopeIf you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, you might check into this Viper Vortex. It’s got a slightly narrower magnification and only a 6mm smaller objective lens.

You’ll even get better eye relief and the scope is almost an ounce lighter.

2. Trijicon AccuPoint

Trijicon AccuPointThis scope is very similar to the Nightforce, with the same magnification but a 6mm smaller objective lens.

It comes with a green Mildot reticle and is a shade lighter in weight.

Our Final Thoughts

This type of scope is certainly not for the “Sunday shooter”. It’s a pricey investment, but one that’s a good choice for serious, long-range shooters. For that particular group of shooters, this will be an excellent scope for long-range clarity and accuracy.

The Nightforce SHV is a durable, well-made and thoroughly tested product. It’s high-class in that it offers many reticles for customization. The scope is made of tough aircraft-grade aluminum and is both shock- and waterproof.

You’ll get a warranty with this scope and it’s even won some awards: the 2016 Editor’s Choice Award from Hunt Alaska Magazine and the 2015 Award of Excellence in the Optic Product of the Year from Sporting Classics.

If you like this article, have a look at more Gun Scopes Reviews.

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