Choosing night vision is hard. And if you’re on a budget? Even harder!
But what if I told you that it doesn’t have to be?
Night vision used to be only accessible for those with a ton of money, but not anymore. And with this guide, shopping for budget friendly night vision is easy. It includes everything you need to know to find high-quality, reliable night vision without draining your bank account.
We’ll start by going over what, exactly, night vision is and how the technology affects the price. Next, we’ll talk about how to choose the night vision device that works for you.
Then we’ll get to what you’re really interested in: the night vision scopes themselves. For each, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about that particular night vision device. And we’ve already shopped around and compared prices for you, so each review also has a link to where you can get it on Amazon or Optics Planet so you can easily get the best deal.
Objective Lens Diameter
Firefield Night Vision Riflescope
ATN X-Sight II 4K Rifle Scope
5 - 20 x
ATN X-Sight 4K Rifle Scope
3 - 14 x
Sightmark Photon RT Riflescope
4.5 - 9 x
Night Owl Vision Scope
Ready to get started?
How Exactly Does Night Vision Work?
Night vision devices allow the user to see in low light conditions where they would not be able to see (at least not well) using the naked eye. They do so by collecting what ambient light is available, plus infrared light that’s not visible to the human eye, a process called image enhancement.
There are a few different generations of night vision and each new generation introduced new technology, improving the performance of the devices. There are devices of each generation on the market today.
The original night vision technology was Gen 0. These devices use an infrared illuminator, which is basically a flashlight that emits infrared light. The night vision device then picks up the infrared light after it reflects off of surrounding objects, using what’s called an image intensifier.
Gen 1 eliminated the need for an IR illuminator by using passive infrared technology. Instead of emitting their own infrared light, they pick up both natural infrared light and ambient visible light.
However, an IR illuminator provides more light for the device to pick up and improves performance when little ambient light is available, so many Gen 1 devices still have IR illuminators.
Gen 2 works basically the same as Gen 1, but with some technological improvements that improve resolution, performance, and reliability. Gen 2 devices are also more sensitive, allowing them to function in even lower light conditions, such as during a new moon.
Gen 3 still uses the same basic technology as the last two generations, but has some slight changes that allow yet another improvement in resolution and sensitivity, plus a longer lifetime. The U.S. military uses Gen 3 night vision technology.
Gen 4 is the latest and greatest in night vision technology. It allows better performance in both high and low light conditions. It also allows night vision devices to immediately adapt to light fluctuations where previous generations would be temporarily blinded if, for example, a light was suddenly turned on.
As you can imagine, Gen 4 is very expensive still and virtually unheard of in civilian night vision devices. In fact, most civilian devices are Gen 0 and Gen 1 devices. You can also find Gen 2 and Gen 3 devices, but they’re going to be beyond the budget that we’re looking at here.
Here we’re primarily going to talk about the best night vision scopes, but there are also night vision monoculars, binoculars, and goggles.
Thermal imaging is also sometimes considered night vision, but it’s technically its own thing.
Thermal imaging detects radiated heat to create an image, so it doesn’t require any visible light. Thermal imaging devices also tend to be quite a bit more expensive, especially compared to early generation night vision, so we’ve only included traditional night vision here.
How Do You Choose the Best Night Vision Under $1,000?
Because night vision devices are pricey, you want to make sure you’re choosing the right one. You want to get the most out of your money, after all.
In addition to the generations we discussed above, there are a few other things you’ll want to consider to make sure you’re choosing the best possible night vision device for you.
Image quality is the most important factor when choosing any type of optical device. The point of these devices is to help you see better, so if they don’t provide a high-quality image, they’re, well, pointless.
As with other optics, that means that night vision devices need to have clear, high quality lenses. However, it also means that they need high quality sensors.
Without a good sensor, it’s kind of like using a scope without glasses or contacts if you have bad vision. No matter how good everything else is, if the thing that’s supposed to pick up the light and process it into an image can’t do that, then it’s still a useless device.
The sensitivity of the sensor also affects the range of the device. The farther you want to be able to shoot, the more sensitive the sensor needs to be.
For Gen 0 devices, you also need a high quality IR illuminator. The illuminator is responsible for producing the light for the device to pick up, so if it doesn’t produce enough light, the device can’t function at all.
In the case of digital night vision scopes, you’ll want a high resolution display.
The magnification level is up to you. Like with other optical devices, there are fixed and variable magnification options. Fixed magnification scopes tend to be more affordable.
Also like with other optics, the farther you want to shoot and the smaller your target, the higher the magnification that you need.
You should keep in mind, however, that the effective range of night vision is generally more limited by the range of the sensor than by the magnification. They tend to be best suited for short to medium range.
If you want something for more long-range use, don’t just grab any high magnification night vision optic. Check the sensor, too, to make sure it’s effective for the range you want.
With that said, some night vision optics can also be used during the day. For those optics, higher magnification can allow you to stretch your range during the day, while the night vision sensor allows you to shoot at closer ranges at night.
Night vision is more sensitive to damage than other types of shooting optics by virtue of the technology involved. That makes it especially important to choose a night vision device that won’t be damaged by shocks or moisture.
You’re unlikely to find a truly waterproof night scope in this budget, but a water resistant one should still stand up to whatever weather conditions you encounter. Just don’t drop it into water.
Look for a shockproof night vision scope, at least up to the caliber you intend to use, to ensure that the sensitive internal components aren’t damaged by recoil over time.
Best Night Vision Scopes Under $1000
1. Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope
First up is, one of our most affordable picks, the Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope.
The high powered built-in IR illuminator provides plenty of light, even in total darkness, while the 42mm objective lens is very effective for gathering that light. The sensor has a 165 yard range of detection and the lenses are multicoated.
The reticled features red LED illumination for good visibility in the dark. It’s got a simple duplex pattern that’s good for precise shooting and fast target acquisition. The reticle features incremental brightness adjustment, so you can set it to just the right level for the light conditions and your own preferences.
The windage and elevation turrets feature ¼ MOA clicks and a 60 MOA adjustment range.
The quick detach weaver mount allows you to quickly mount or remove the scope without messing with the zero so you can adapt your optics set up to new light conditions. The Firefield NVRS is also quick to power up, so you’re ready to go within moments of turning on the device.
This night scope uses just 2 AA batteries, which is nice since they’re so easy to find. It has a 20 hour battery life with the IR illuminator on and a 50 hour battery life with it off.
The titanium body features IPX4 water resistance, so it’s lightweight but stands up to impacts and tough weather conditions. The flip up lens covers protect the optic from damage and the eyepiece is flexible and ergonomic for a comfortable fit against your face.
The scope features a 45mm (1.78) eye relief, which is pretty short, and a 21m field of view (FOV) at 100m.
It comes with a carrying case.
Firefield Night Vision Riflescope
The price of the Firefield Night Vision Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at
2. ATN X-Sight II HD Day & Night Rifle Scope
Next is the ATN X-Sight II HD Day & Night Rifle Scope. As the name suggests, this scope is suitable for both day and night use. That sets it apart from many other night vision scopes, which can only be used in the dark and can actually be damaged by daytime use.
The scope actually has a day view mode, plus a green night view mode as well as a black and white night view mode.
The 3-14x model will suit most people. However, if you do want higher magnification, there’s another model that starts at 5x magnification and goes all the way up to 20x. Both have smooth zoom between magnification settings.
Both models are packed with all kinds of cool features. For example, they have a built in ballistic calculator with a profile manager that saves your ballistic and zeroing data. Multiple reticle color and pattern options allow you to choose the right combination for you.
The ATN X-Sight II also features 1080P full HD video recording (with sound) at 30 fps. Recorded video can be saved to a card in the scope’s MicroSD slot. Recoil Activated Video (RAV) means you don’t have to remember to hit “record” to get a video of each shot.
Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity allow you to control the scope and view streams from your iOS or Android smartphone. Micro USB and Micro HDMI attachments allow for wired connections.
In addition to those features, the ATN X-Sight II also has a Smart Rangefinder, barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, and GPS. The Obsidian II Core computer manages the scope’s various sensors and processes so it runs quickly.
The scope is weather resistant and has an 8 to 12 hour battery life. It uses 4 AA batteries, but you can also buy a rechargeable battery pack that offers 22 hours of battery life. It has an interchangeable picatinny mount for attaching to your rifle.
ATN X-Sight II 4K Rifle Scope
The price of the ATN X-Sight II 4K Rifle Scope varies, so check the latest price at
3. ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day & Night Vision Rifle Scope
The ATN X-Sight 4K Pro is an improved version of the X-Sight II. Like the X-Sight II, the X-Sight 4K Pro comes in 3-14x and 5-20x versions.
It also has many of the same features as the X-Sight II, like 1080P Full HD video recording, WiFi streaming, Recoil Activated Video, Multiple reticle color and pattern options, smooth, zoom, and Bluetooth and WiFi for iOS and Android.
The ATN X-Sight 4K Pro also has a Smart Rangefinder, ballistic calculator, gyroscope, accelerometer, e-Barometer, electronic compass, and MicroSD card slot, like the X-Sight II.
So what makes the X-Sight 4K Pro an improvement on the X-Sight II?
For one, the Enhanced HD Night Vision Mode offers and Ultra HD 3864x2218 sensor offers even better performance in the dark. One Shot Zero makes it easier than ever to zero the scope while the Smart Mil Dot Reticle allows you to customize the reticle based on ballistic conditions and your round.
Dual stream video allows you to record videos and stream at the same time, both in HD resolution.
The ATN Obsidian IV Dual Core handles all of these processes even more smoothly and with lower power consumption for 18 hours of continuous power.
The scope fits most 30mm rings and comes with two standard rings. It’s weather and recoil resistant.
ATN X-Sight 4K Rifle Scope
The price of the ATN X-Sight 4K Rifle Scope varies, so check the latest price at
4. Sightmark Photon RT Digital Night Vision Riflescope
The Sightmark Photon RT is another variable magnification option, this time with 2x digital zoom. The Photon RT is available in a 4.5-9x42S model and a 6-12x50S model.
It’s similar to the ATN X-Sights, but without quite all of the same bells and whistles, so it’s a bit cheaper.
The Photon RT has built-in video and sound recording and allows remote viewing of the scope’s video output through the Pulsar Stream Vision app, available for both Android and iOS. You can stream to YouTube or to a smart device. You can also use the Stream Vision app for wireless photo and video transfer. You can use the microUSB port for wired uploads to your computer.
The scope has 6 reticle options and allows you to use each in 4 different colors. The one-shot zero function makes it easy to zero with any of these reticle combinations.
The 4.5-9x model has a 220 yard detection range, while the 6-12x model has a 280 yard dection range.
It also has a built-in 850nm LED IR illuminator so the scope can be used even in complete darkness. The brightness of the IR illuminator is adjustable so you can use the right amount of light for your setting. The scope can also be used during the day and won’t be damaged by exposure to bright light.
Speaking of damage, the Sightmark Photon RT is shockproof and IP55 water resistant.
Our biggest complaint is the battery life, which is just 3.5 hours. Fortunately, it uses 4 AA batteries, so you don’t need to make sure special battery packs are charged for quick swaps in the field.
The scope also uses quick change battery packs and comes with a spare. The battery packs hold the AA batteries, so you can just pull the dead batteries out and put the spare pack with fresh batteries in. You also have the option of using an external power bank through the microUSB port.
The weaver rail along the side of the scope allows you to mount additional accessories.
Sightmark Photon RT Riflescope
The price of the Sightmark Photon RT Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at
5. Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Scope
Finally, let’s wrap things up with another more affordable pick.
The Night Owl Optics NightShot is another fixed magnification night vision scope. Like the Firefield scope we talked about first, the NightShot has 3x magnification. The sensor isn’t as sensitive though, and Night Owl says it has a 100 yard range in a “typical nighttime environment.”
It is worth noting that other manufacturers give their ranges in ideal circumstances, with a bright moon and stars for ambient light and no fog or clouds to block light. It’s difficult to say what the difference in range actually looks like in the real world, but I do like that Night Owl gives a more honest estimate.
The NightShot is also the most lightweight night vision scope on this list by far, weighing just 1.3 pounds. All the others weigh at least 30.7 ounces (almost 2 pounds).
This comes at the cost of some ruggedness though. The scope is intended to be used with non-magnum rifle calibers no greater than .30. Mostly, however, it’s due to the lightweight thermoplastic housing. The scope is still weatherproof and is even safe for daytime use.
The NightShot has three different reticle patterns for you to choose from and each can be displayed in either black or white to suit your environment.
Night Owl Vision Scope
The price of the Night Owl Vision Scope varies, so check the latest price at
That about wraps things up on the best night vision under $1,000.
Each of these is a great option that serves its particular purpose well. Some are basic, some have all kinds of extra features, and some fall somewhere in between. But each is easy on your wallet — at least relative to other night vision devices.
Consider your particular needs to decide which one is best for you.
Want some more night vision recommendations? Check out our list of the Best Night Vision Scopes. Want something a bit different for low or no light shooting? Then take a look at our recommendations for the Best Thermal Scopes.
What are your thoughts on our budget-friendly night vision scopes? Is there one in particular that caught your eye? Think you’ll be adding it to your gun? Know of another night vision device under $1,000 that you think we should have included? Share your thoughts in the comments.