The Nikon Prostaff 3-9 x 40 scope and more telling on myself.

Monday, July 2, 2012

I tested the HW98 with the Nikon EFR scope on board. It was an excellent combination.

I tested the HW98 with the Nikon Prostaff 3-9 x 40 on board. The official name, apparently, is PROSTAFF Target EFR (Extended Focus Range) 3-9×40, and I had a “Fool’s Gold” moment when testing it.

Fool’s Gold is one of my favorite movies. It opens with two divers working dredges on the bottom near a Caribbean island. They are sucking up huge quantities of sand in the hopes of finding sunken Spanish treasure. The compressor that powers their dredges is on their dive boat. The compressor is old and rickety. It catches fire, and in short order results in the sinking of the dive boat behind the divers. When the dredges stop working, the divers surface to see why. The boat, of course, is nowhere to be seen. The one diver figures it out immediately. The other is frantically looking around. “Where’s the boat?” he asks. “It will come to you,” the other diver says. That’s what I call a “Fool’s Gold Moment.”

So, having set the scene, here’s what happened to me. Brown Santa (aka the UPS guy) shows up with a long package from In it, are the HW98, the PROSTAFF Target EFR (Extended Focus Range) 3-9×40, and a set of low one-inch Sportsmatch scope mounts.

The next day is absolutely splendid, a gorgeous day for airgun testing. I whistle up my son to help me dump all the packing peanuts into a big plastic garbage bag, so that I can get at the goodies. I pull out the HW98 and say, “Whoa, nice gun!” I pull out the Nikon EFR scope and say, “Whoa, nice scope!” Before you can whistle Dixie, I have pulled out the Sportsmatch rings and am happily twirling Allen wrenches, mounting the Nikon scope to the HW98.

As soon as that is complete, I trundle outside with the gun/scope combination and pull out the WorkMate, camp stool, boat cushions, and pellet trap to begin the testing process. When I sight in a new gun/scope combo, I use a trick that Tom Gaylord taught me: I shoot first a couple of shots at 10 feet. No, that’s not a typo – 10 feet. I set the scope on the lowest power and the focusing ring on the shortest distance, bang off a couple of shots, and look at the results. If the shots are pretty well centered from side to side and 1-2 inches below the spot I was aiming at, I know that when I back up to 10 yards, I’ll still be on target and not shooting somewhere off in the weeds.

The sample that I tested would focus much closer than 10 yards.

Now here’s a surpise: the Nikon EFR scope is supposed to have a minimum focusing distance of 10 yards, but the sample I tested, set at 3X, showed the target pretty crisply in focus at 10 feet. This scope has what I would call a modified duplex reticle. When you look through it, the crosshairs are thin at the middle and then thicken at the ends. Everything is symmetrical, and there is a small dot at the juncture where the crosshairs meet.

I backed up to ten yards, put the boat cushions on the WorkMate, sat on the camp stool, and began putting pellets down range. I was impressed with how crisp, clear, and bright the image was in the Nikon EFR scope. Most scopes are crisp when properly focused and generally clear, but few have the brightness of this Nikon scope. Looking through it really was a pleasure, and all the mechanical bits – the focusing and the power adjustment – working smoothly as well.

All the mechanical bits, including the turret knobs, worked smoothly and easily.

There were a couple of other things that I like about this scope. It is relatively small, just 12.5 inches, and light, just a tiny bit under a pound. Mounted on the low Sportsmatch rings, it hugs the receiver of the HW98. Now why is that important?

I have written about this elsewhere: but here’s the gist of the argument – “to reduce apparent hold sensitivity in a springer, mount the lightest scope you can, and mount it as low as you can. This should raise the center of gravity as little as possible, resulting in more consistent shooting.”

I began to suspect that something was just a tiny bit off when I noticed that this green sticker was not where you see it now but on the lefthand side of the scope. That should have been a clue!

Now here’s my Fool’s Gold Moment: after I completed all the testing, I was looking at the gun/scope combo on my bench and something looked screwy to me, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then, in the back of my head, I heard that diver’s voice from the movie: “It will come to you.” I kept looking and finally I realized the problem. I had mounted the scope rotated 90 degrees – the elevation knob was on the left hand side of the scope tube and the windage knob was on the top where the elevation knob should be. Because the reticle is symmetrical and looks the same in all directions, I never noticed the problem while looking through scope, and I didn’t even figure it out when I was adjusting the knobs. Duh!

Nevertheless, if you are looking for a bright, crisp scope for your favorite springer (or for any of your airguns) for general purpose shooting, don’t let my Fool’s Gold moment deter you – I can highly recommend the Nikon 3-9 EFR.

Til next time, aim true and shoot straight.

–    Jock Elliott


  1. Dennis Rowe says:

    Jock: This scope looks real good on paper and seems to be what I am looking for for a recently purchased Stoeger .177 X20 Suppressor. I discovered the scope on the web on July 2 and began searching for some expert reviews. No luck until my apparent Real Gold moment, in finding your review, posted the same day. Thanks! Many of the Leapers scopes have features that I don’t need/want i.e: lighted reticle, bug busters (I own a flyswater). So anyway, do you have any thoughts on how well you expect this baby to hold-up on a moderately powered springer? Dennis

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I don’t have this scope for long-term testing, but I certainly didn’t experience any problems with it in the short term that I had it mounted on the HW98.

      Nikon generally enjoys a reputation for making good gear, so I would expect it to hold up on a moderately powered springer. It sure is a nice scope.

  2. Lope A. Santos says:

    l have watched that movie too.. it is replayed on our cable here in Manila Philippines twice of three times a month .. l will make sure that l will not have the Fool’s Gold Moment when my new scope arrive for the Post Office …
    lovely story … pleasure to read …

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Thanks for the kind words.

  3. Markus says:

    What distance did you shoot in at?

    1. Jock Elliott says:


      ABout 10-13 yards, if I remember correctly.

  4. Harold says:

    I bought two Nikon Prostaff scope for airgun this month for my newly acquired airguns. Over last 40 years, I developed trust for things made in Japan. You found out they are a lot better than you think over time. Thus far, I can firm this scope can focus to less than 10 feet – more like 7 feet in sharp contrast, that is a surprise to me when I inspected it in my room. Try other optics see you can find another one that can do this. It is bright, same like the Hawke airgun scope I have, but I can only focus that scope to 10 yds. Both almost the same price, the Hawke is 30.00 more with 4-12 . I will find out which one is end up the winner years later. But I trust Japanese quality.

  5. Steve says:

    What model sports match rings did you mount it on?


    1. Jock Elliott says:


      Sorry, I don’t remember. You could ask the good folks at what they recommend.

  6. Rafa says:

    For bird hunting from 25 to 60 meters (yards) do you recommend this version or the bdc version?


    1. Jock Elliott says:


      I would recommend this version.

  7. Seb says:

    Just bought this scope today thanks to your write up.
    It really is a brilliant scope for springers!! Loving it.


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