Hunters have to encounter their prey in its natural habitat when animals are active, which often happens to be during the night, early morning hours or late in the evening.
A night vision rifle scope will give you a technological advantage for optimal target acquisition in low light conditions. For complete darkness, many models feature an infrared illuminator that allows you to see.
We’ve reviewed the best night vision rifle scopes for hunting or target practicing at night.
Quick Answer: The 7 Top Rated Night Vision Scopes For 2018
- Armasight Nemesis Night Vision Rifle Scope
- Pulsar Helion XP Thermal Monocular
- Firefield Tactical Night Vision Rifle Scope
- Sightmark Photon XT Digital Night Vision Scope
- ATN ThOR HD 384 Smart Thermal Riflescope
- Armasight Drone Pro Digital Night Vision Scope
- American Technologies Network Xsight
Let’s take a look at the top rated night vision scopes, then we’ll go over how to choose the right scope for you in our buyers guide below.
Best Night Vision Scopes
Night Vision Scope Reviews
- Type: Active, Generation 2+, Multi-Alkali photocathode
- Optics: F/2.0 160mm lens, 6x magnification, 45-51 lp/mm resolution, 6.5° FOV
- Crosshair: Illuminated red center cross reticle
- Mount: Picatinny, MIL-STD 1913, or Weaver Rails
- Focus Range: 25mm to infinity
- Size & Weight: 15” x 4” x 2.8” (without mount), 4.2 lbs
- Extras: Detachable IR illuminator, flip-up back-up iron sights, remote control, Auto Bright Control, waterproof
The Armasight Nemesis 6x SD is a generation 2+ night vision rifle scope, which means its technology is near military grade.
It’s our editor’s pick because it offers amazing features at an affordable price and is a durable, highly reliable model. It’s perfect for long distance shots thanks to 6x image magnification and a 6.5° FOV.
This scope allows you to hit your target accurately at long range in difficult lighting. This is an active night vision rifle scope with a detachable IR850-XLR infrared illuminator for the best flexibility.
Note that the SD stands for standard definition, yet this scope features a high-quality image intensifier tube already.
You have the option to pick an even higher performing phosphor tube for improved definition, or the “Quick Silver” option with white phosphor for natural black-and-white night vision instead of green.
A unique feature is the illuminated red center crosshair, which can be adjusted and is well-defined as well as extremely thing for precise shot placement on even the smallest target. The scope mounts on Picatinny, MIL-STD 1913, or Weaver Rails for a very versatile rifle use.
The scope comes with bright source protection and Auto Bright Control. The controls are digital and user-friendly with straightforward windage and elevation adjustments.
With a remote control, you can remain absolutely steady while taking aim. The device is shock-protected and waterproof.
Multi-coating on the lens reduces reflections and adds further protection. Aircraft-grade aluminum provides rugged durability in harsh conditions. Back-up iron sights allow you to take a shot without night vision at all.
You can expect up to 60 hours of battery life with this night vision rifle scope. The Armasight Nemesis 6x SD is the best night vision scope with advanced technical features, shock-protected optics at a reasonable price.
- Type: Thermal imaging scope
- Optics: F50/1.2 lens, 2.5-20x magnification, 2x 4x 8x digital zoom, 640×480 sensor resolution, 12.4 x 9.3mm FOV
- Crosshair: Stadiametric rangefinder
- Mount: Standard photographic tripod mount
- Range: 1,900 yards
- Size & Weight: 8.6” x 2.28” x 2.16”, 1.1 lbs
- Extras: Wireless control, Wifi and Stream Vision companion app for Android & iOS, waterproof
The Pulsar Helion XP50 thermal monocular is a thermal imaging device designed for handheld use or with a standard tripod or monopod.
It has superb thermal imaging features that make it the excellent hunting companion for scouting, acquiring targets and detecting range.
It boasts a sensor with a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and 17 µm for detailed images with a refresh rate of 50Hz for dynamic and rapid motion.
The objective lens is interchangeable and this model features a F50/1.2 lens with a large FOV, paired by up to 8x digital magnification.
The Helion XP50 can detect adult size heat signatures from up to 2,000 yards away and big-gam-size signatures from up to 1,900 yards away.
With a stadiametric rangefinder reticle, you can determine precise distances fast and easy with reliable accuracy. You have a choice of seven 7 color palettes for highlighting the hottest and coldest areas of your target with different colors.
You can capture video and still images and store them in the internal 8GB memory or transfer them to any device via Wifi. Thanks to an ease-of-operation interface, handling the device won’t make you lose sight of your objective.
With the free Stream Vision companion app, you can link your Android or iOS device and receive footage in real time and remote control the device or stream footage.
Harsh conditions pose no problem for the Helion XP50 as it is fully waterproof and can be submerged in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.
Rain and snowfall won’t impede operation as the integrated AMOLED display is designed for flawless operation at a temperature range of -13° to 122° F.
You can expect up to 8 hours of battery life with the device. The box includes a battery pack charging unit, USB cable, USB plug, and lens cleaning cloth.
If your looking for the best night vision monocular for your hunting, look no further than the Pulsar Helion XP50 thermal monocular.
- Type: Generation 1, active
- Optics: 42mm lens, 2.5x magnification, FOV 14
- Crosshair: Illuminated red duplex reticle of variable brightness
- Mount: Picatinny / Weaver mount
- Range: Object height 5.5 feet, illumination level 0,05 lux (quarter moon) – 165-180 yards
- Size & Weight: 10″ x 3.14″ x 3.34″, 1.93 lbs (without batteries)
- Extras: Integrated IR illuminator
The Firefield night vision rifle scope is the best model available under $300. It uses generation 1 night vision technology paired with a powerful integrated infrared illuminator. It mounts to Picatinny and Weaver rails and is designed for bolt-action rifles.
The device is not waterproof, but the durable titanium-alloy housing make it a durable and rugged device that can withstand shock and a lot of recoil. It performs without problems at a temperature range of -22° to 104° F.
With a 42mm lens, it gives you 2.5x magnification and a field of view of 14. The red duplex reticle is illuminated and features an adjustable brightness.
The scope is compact and lightweight. The ergonomic design makes sighting and shooting comfortable. Internal focusing greatly helps with target acquisition and you have the option of remote controlling the device.
You can get about 20 hours of battery life while use the IR illuminator, or up to 50 hours of operation without it.
The Firefield night vision rifle scope is the best cheap night vision scope with outstanding technical specifications that will serve you well.
- Type: Generation 2, active, CMOS sensor
- Optics: 42mm lens, 4.6x magnification, 656 x 492 pixels camera resolution, 4.3° FOV
- Crosshair: 6 preloaded reticles
- Mount: Standard weaver rails
- Range: 130 yards – object height 5.5 feet, illumination level 0.05 lux (quarter moon)
- Size & Weight: 7” x 2.9” x 3.1”, 1.475 lbs (with batteries)
- Extras: Day and night use, built-In 810nm LED IR illuminator, video out, resistant to bright light exposure, long eye relief, shockproof and weatherproof[/checklist]
The Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x 42S night vision rifle scope is a high-performance model available for under $500. It has been engineered for precision placement specifically at medium range.
With a 42mm lens and high camera resolution, it delivers a 4.6x magnification and a field of vision of 4.3°. Details are crisp up to 120 yards. For best results, the device features a built-in IR illuminator.
A unique feature are the digital reticles with six preloaded choice that allow for a operation at different ranges. Choose from the colors red, white and green.
Two duplex reticles are meant for rifle shooting and hunting game such as hog, varmint or racoon. You also have crossbow reticles for 320, 350, 370 and 400 fps models. A Mil-Dot option aids in rangefinding, and there is even a German style reticle.
With the integrated video out, you can capture anything you spot through the night vision rifle scope. The scope mounts on a weaver rail, and another rail allows you to attach additional equipment.
With digital windage and elevation adjustment, precision and ease-of-use are guaranteed.
The scope has a composite body of glass-nylon and metal and is IPX4 waterproof. It resists extreme weather and shocks very well. Unlike many other night vision scopes, you can use this model during daytime.
Battery life without IR illuminator is around 5 hours, and one hour less with the additional drain.
The Sightmark Photon XT is the best budget night vision scope and well worth the money and a straightforward deal that will be enough for most hunters to accurately shoot at night.
- Type: Thermal imaging scope
- Optics: 50mm lens, 4.5-18x magnification, 384×288 sensor resolution, 6 x 4.7 angle of view
- Crosshair: Multiple Patterns & Color Options
- Mount: Picatinny quick release mount, interchangeable, A.R.M.S. #17® (single lever) & #35 (double lever), LaRue LT270, American Defense (AD-170)
- Range: 1,600+ yards
- Size & Weight: 8.1″ x 3.16″ x 3.14″, 1.85 lbs
- Extras: Video recording, recoil activated video, Wi-Fi, Companion App, Bluetooth, GPS, Smart Range Finger, E-Compass, barometer, weatherproof
The ATN Thor HD 384 is a thermal night vision rifle scope with smart capabilities. It uses an Obsidian Core computer that is highly specialized to process data from the scope’s sensors and crunch numbers fast.
Thanks to an ease-to-use interface, you have features like a ballistic calculator, smart range finder and e-compass available at all times.
As far as optics go, the scope uses a 50mm lens with 4.5-18x magnification. The smooth works silky smooth. The thermal sensor has a high resolution of 384×288 pixels.
You are able to detect thermal patterns from up to 1,600 yards away, depending on the size of your prey. You can see in complete darkness with the ATN Thor.
The scope really excels with many extras. The integrated barometre provides accurate data to dial in your settings, while the gyroscope makes spotting smooth thanks to image stabilization.
The e-compass always lets you know your exact direction. The ballistic calculator allows you to range in with ease, as all the math is done for you.
Your point of impact will shift automatically to give you the perfect shot. You can make use of profiles for different rifles and use environmental settings.
With the profile manager, keeping track of different rifles is no problem. Two clicks and a shift of the scope are all it takes to range your target with the smart rangefinder. Pair that with many options for a reticle and you’ll take precise shots.
The ATN Thor can record video and stills in HD to share your hunting experiences. You don’t even need to remember to start recording, because the device has a buffer.
With recoil activation, everything your scope sees before and after you took the shot is saved. The built-in GPS makes geo-tagging your recordings as well as your hunting a breeze.
The scope is weather-resistant and has a battery life of up to eight hours. For storage, you can use microSD cards from 4GB up to 64GB.
You can connect Micro USB and Micro HDMI cables and use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to stream or output your recordings. The ATN Obsidian app allows you to pair an Android or iOS smartphone or tablet.
With the ATN Thor HD, you get the best thermal scope. Its many smart features and high performance well warrant the higher price tag.
- Type: Digital, active, CCD sensor
- Optics: 108 mm objective focal length, 10x magnification, FOV 2.6° X, 2.0° Y
- Crosshair: Black or white, 7-pattern digitally controlled: dot, small or big crosshair crosshair with dot, Circle, rangefinder reticle, none
- Mount: Fits any Picatinny and Weaver rail with an adjustable quick-release mount
- Focus Range: 10m to infinity
- Size & Weight: 10.2” x 3.0” x 3.4”, 2.2 lbs
- Extras: Night and day use, detachable wide angle adjustable long-range IR illuminator, wireless remote control, digital video recording (optional), video in and out, works under severe conditions
The Armasight Drone Pro 10x night vision rifle scope offers the professional hunter many advanced features. It can be used both during the day and at night and it’s extremely sensitive to visible light as well as near-infrared thanks to a CCD sensor.
The waterproof design allows for use in adverse weather conditions and prevents internal fogging. You can operate this scope at a temperature range of -40° to 22° F.
The digital approach allows for eight different brightness settings with a total of seven reticles to choose from.
Manual adjustments of objective and ocular lense are possible, while you can also handle the scope with a remote control. Windage and elevation adjustments are straightforward.
You can connect an optional digital video recorder and have video in and out capabilities. Connecting external power is possible, while you get up to three hours of use on two lithium batteries.
The Armasight Drone Pro features a lightweight and robust design, delivers a rapid start-up and features a reliable high resolution digital display that allows you to stay on sight for a long time.
The Armasight Drone is the best night vision rifle scope in the medium price range.
- Type: Digital, passive, HD 1080p ATN L130 sensor
- Optics: 85mm lens, 5x-20x magnification, 160 lp/mm resolution, 5° FOV
- Crosshair: Multiple Patterns & Color Options
- Mount: Picatinny, interchangeable, A.R.M.S. #17 (single lever) & #35® (double lever), LaRue LT270, American Defense (AD-170)
- Range: 1,800+ yards
- Size & Weight: 7” x 2.9” x 3.1”, 1.475 lbs (with batteries)
- Extras: Night & day use, video recording, recoil activated video, Wi-Fi, Companion App, Bluetooth, GPS, Smart Range Finger, E-Compass, barometer, weatherproof
The ATN X-Sight II HD 5-20x is a digital night vision rifle scope suitable for both night and daytime use. At a lower cost, you get high effective magnification and a range of smart features.
Same as the ATN Thor, this scope uses Obsidian technology to deliver digital functions with easy access.
The 85mm lens is paired with a magnification of 5x to 20x, a 5° FOV and a system resolution of 160lp/mm. The high-resolution sensor has distinct night vision capabilities going up to near-infrared.
With gyroscope, barometer and e-compass, weather data, direction and smooth spotting are no problem. Use the ballistic calculator to do all the math of ranging in for you. Set up profiles for various rifles and manage them with the integrated tool.
The smart rangefinder is as easy to use as making two clicks and shifting the scope. You can choose from many reticles to find one that suits your preferences.
Record video in HD and share it easily, and thanks to recoil activation, you will always have footage of these critical moments before and after taking the shot. No victory goes unrecorded. The GPS lets you geotag all pictures and recordings.
The scope is weather-resistant and delivers 8 to 12 hours of battery life. It is compatible with MicroSD cards up to 64GB for storage. Connect the scope via Micro USB and Micro HDMI or use Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to pair an Android or iOS device using the ATN Obsidian app.
In my opinion the ATN X-Sight is the best night vision scope under $1000. It’s a high definition rifle scope with smart features both beginners as well as professionals will love.
Night Vision Scope Comparison Table
|Night Vision Scope||Type||Optics||Mount||Focus Range||Size & Weight|
|Armasight Nemesis Gen 2+ Night Vision Rifle Scope||Active, Generation 2+||F/2.0 160mm lens, 6x magnification||Picatinny, Weaver Rails||25mm to infinity||15” x 4” x 2.8”, 4.2 lbs|
|Pulsar Helion XP50 Thermal Monocular||Thermal imaging scope/monocular||F50/1.2 lens, 2.5-20x magnification||Standard photographic tripod mount||1,900 yards||21” x 2.28” x 2.16”, 1.1 lbs|
|Firefield FF26014T Tactical Night Vision Rifle Scope||Active, Generation 1||42mm lens, 3x magnification||Picatinny, Weaver Rails||5.5 feet - 165-180 yards||10" x 3.14" x 3.34", 1.93 lbs|
|Sightmark Photon XT Digital Night Vision Riflescope||Active, Generation 2||42mm lens, 4.6x magnification||Weaver rails||5.5 feet - 130 yards||7” x 2.9” x 3.1”, 1.475 lbs|
|ATN Thor HD Smart Thermal Night Vision Scope||Thermal imaging scope||50mm lens, 4.5-18x magnification||Picatinny||1,600+ yards||8.1" x 3.16" x 3.14", 1.85 lbs|
|Armasight Drone Pro Digital Night Vision Rifle Scope||Digital, active, CCD sensor||108 mm objective focal length, 15x magnification||Picatinny, Weaver Rails||10m to infinity||10.2” x 3.0” x 3.4”, 2.2 lbs|
|ATN X-Sight II 5-20 Night Vision Rifle Scope||Digital, passive||85mm lens, 5x-20x magnification||Picatinny||1,800+ yards||7” x 2.9” x 3.1”, 1.475 lbs|
How to Choose the Best Night Vision Rifle Scope
You should consider several factors to pick the best night vision rifle scope for your needs. We’ll explain important aspects and what to look for in a model. Range and optics are important, but you also need to pay attention to size and weight as well as mounting options.
- Deciding on the Right Model
- Types Of Night Vision
- Infrared Illuminators
- Night Vision Generations
- Night Vision Scope Considerations
- FAQs: For Night Vision Rifle Scopes
- Best Night Vision Scope Brands
Deciding on the Right Model
Night vision optics has become an affordable and reliable technology, and our selection features top models in various price ranges. For your night vision rifle scope, you’ll want a clear and focused picture with a reliable, illuminated reticle.
In order for it to be compatible with your equipment, you need to look at the mounting options. The range is also important, depending on what kind of prey you’re hunting, as you won’t be able to get close to all animals.
For inferior light conditions, consider as scope with an infrared illuminator for better sighting. Extras should not be your first choice for selecting a model, but a remote control or a device pairing are nice-to-have features.
Types Of Night Vision
Night vision devices convert traces of visible light as well as near-infrared to visible light. A thermal imaging device goes further into the infrared spectrum and detects thermal infrared.
You’ll see night vision rifle scopes and night vision devices classified as passive or active, which simply specified whether or not they add to the light available. Active devices illuminate the scene by shining an infrared beam.
As we’ve explained, an infrared illuminator shines infrared light and makes your night vision image a bit brighter. It’s a great help during dark nights and poor light conditions.
Their range is limited, and they increase in size the more powerful they are. This will add extra weight to your rifle scope. A detachable infrared illuminator is recommended and allows you to stay flexible, only mounting it as needed.
Night Vision Generations
Night vision devices on the market belong to one of three available generations, often shortened to Gen1, Gen2, and Gen3.
- Generation 1: This technology has been around since the early sixties and operates slower with less capabilities. A Gen1 scope has a useful sight range of about 75 yards, a shorter battery life and a life expectancy of roughly 1,500 hours of use. Image resolution is low.
- Generation 2: These devices have practically replaced the previous generation and brought much better clarity as well as increased range. Average useful sight range is about 200 yards. Device life expectancy is about 4,500 operational hours, and you get much better image resolution. Further enhancement led to Gen2+ devices which are superior to Generation 2 technology, but not yet as good as Gen3.
- Generation 3: This is military grade technology, which comes at a higher price tag. Average useful sight range is about 300 yards (or more). You can expect 10,000+ hours of operation and the best low light performance as well as high resolution.
- Digital: These night vision devices use high performance digital imaging systems to capture light with a sensor and enhance it with processing power. You are effectively looking through a digital camera. These devices an offer cheaper night vision.
Night Vision Scope Considerations
The optics of a night vision rifle scope include the objective and ocular lenses, which influence the maximum magnification factor. Also important are the resolution and the Field of View (FOV for short).
The FOV is specified as an angle, referring to the field of view (of your “natural view”) to which the scope will restrict you.
A larger field of view allows you to see more at the same time without moving the sight. Magnification is the “zoom level” and refers to how much the image will be enlarged.
The objective lense diameter refers to the size of the frontal lens and determines how much light can be gathered to form an image. A larger lense lets in more light, but limits your FOV.
The exit pupil specifies the diameter of the light beam coming out of the scope into your eye. A larger pupil makes it easier to receive the beam of light and keep track of moving animals.
It will also reduce eye fatigue. Resolution is critical for acquiring a clear image with a night vision rifle scope. If the resolution is too low, you cannot identify a target and cannot take a shot.
Resolution is expressed in lines per millimeter (lp/mm) – a higher value means more clarity.
A night vision rifle scope has a lower range than a regular rifle scope. What is important is the recognition range, which specifies the range in which you can expect to be able to identify a target and therefore use your rifle.
However, it is a subjective value as it depends on the amount of available light as well as on the optics used. Some manufacturers specify range for different light conditions, such as full moon, starlight, or an overcast sky.
The more powerful they are, the more unwieldy night vision rifle scopes become. You should try and match the level of technology to what you’ll actually need in order not to overload your rifle with too much bulk and weight.
Lighter optics are an advantage for brush hunting and off-hand shooting. If you’ll remain stationary or assume position on an outlook, you might have less issue with slower weapon moving speeds.
Night vision rifle scopes are delicate, incorporating sensitive optics, electronics as well as chemical elements. They tend to be little forgiving with shocks and mishandling. For rough conditions and adverse weather, pick a waterproof and more rugged model.
FAQs For Night Vision Rifle Scopes
Q: How does night vision work?
A: Night vision device (NVD) gathers what little light sources such as the moon or the stars might emit and enhances it.
Ambient light passes through an objective lens and then passes a photocathode tube, where the photons of the light are converted to electrons. Phosphors are green, which is where the typical green image of NVDs comes from.
An image intensifier amplifies the electrons through an electrical and chemical process, and a multiplier creates more photons from these electrons.
After passing through a phosphor screen the image is again converted to visible light, and you can observe it through the ocular lens. Digital devices use light sensitive digital sensors and digital signal processors to deliver an enhanced image.
Q: What are the different night vision generations?
A: Night vision was first developed for military used and was used as early as WWII.
Each new generation of devices brought advancements in clarity, performance and light amplification, as well as reduction in price of older models.
Generation 1 – technology was used in Vietnam. These were the first scopes to use passive infrared. Today, they are not suitable for tactical applications and are hardly used in hunting anymore.
Generation 2 – brought smaller, more portable and lightweight devices with an increase in performance and clarity. Further enhancements led to was is commonly called Gen2+ – devices suiting nearly all hunting needs.
Generation 3 – saw further refinement and is what most combat troops use. Despite what you might hear, Gen3 devices are legal to own and use within the US.
Generation 4 – could be called experimental: these devices have no protective coating on the microchannel plate. They’re more efficient yet have a significantly decreased use life. You’ll hardly find these devices in civilian use.
Q: What is an infrared illuminator?
A: Night vision devices work by amplifying and enhancing what little light there is, so technically they don’t work in complete darkness. An infrared illuminator sends out a beam of infrared light, which is not visible to the human eye.
However, the device can pick it up; think of it like a flashlight for your scope. The range of infrared illuminators varies but can reach out to a 100 yards. Their power is greater at shorter distance and they work for up to 40% to 60% of the scope’s viewing area.
Q: What precautions should I take with a night vision rifle scope?
A: Any night vision device is a sensitive piece of technology that needs to be handled with care. Avoid dropping or shaking the scope and don’t subject it to any shocks.
Don’t turn on the scope in daylight and avoid aiming it at a bright light source. Don’t touch the objective lens with your fingers and only clean it with a soft, non-abrasive cloth or brush.
Keep the scope in a case when not in use, and only mount it when you know you’ll be using it.
Q: What is the difference between a thermal device and a night vision device?
A: Night vision works by enhancing light, allowing you to see in inferior light conditions. Thermal imaging shows heat: hot or warm areas show up as red or orange in your sight, with color intensity signifying hotter areas.
A thermal device aids you in spotting targets by enabling you to see the body heat of your prey. The great disadvantage is that thermal imaging commonly has a lower resolution, resulting in heat blobs rather than an identifiable target.
The range of thermal devices is limited as well when compared to night vision optics. Generally you get much better resolution with an NVD (at least in the same price range).
Best Night Vision Scope Brands
Armasight is company specialized in night vision and thermal imaging technology located in San Francisco, California. Their products cover a wide range of prices and are known for their high quality.
American Technologies Network (or ATN for short) is also based in San Francisco and manufactures all their products in the US. Same as Armasight, their products are popular with hunters, but also law enforcement and military employees.
Firefield entered the market targeting recreational hunters and users of night vision devices. They provide high quality at affordable prices.
Sightmark from Texas supplies may outdoor retailers with their products and their scopes help hunters of all levels “make the mark.”
The best night vision rifle scope for your needs should feature a high resolution and clear image and work well within the range you need.
It needs to ergonomic and fit your style of hunting, and it should be designed for the conditions you’ll encounter, be that wet weather, extreme heat or cold and snow.
Start there and then consider extras you’ll want or need, such as an infrared illuminator or thermal imaging. When matched well with your rifle and situation, a night vision rifle scope will greatly enhance your experience and allow you to take precise shots even in the worst light conditions.
We hope you’ll find our guide useful in picking the right model and hope you enjoy your hunting adventures with night vision!