9 Best Night Vision Scopes [Expert Review 7 Buying Guide]

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Night vision scopes fill an important niche in the hunting, military, law enforcement, and shooting communities. We wanted to put together a current list of the night vision and thermal imaging rifle scopes out there and help people figure out what the best solution for them is in regards to seeing in low light conditions.

Before we dive into the specific products we’re recommending, we want to cover some foundational information about night vision to give context to our choices and allow you to critically evaluate each option and determine for yourself which one is best for you. If you already know about night vision, feel free to jump straight to the product recommendations.

We also have an FAQ section at the end so if you have a specific question you may want to check to see if it’s down there.

Understanding Night Vision - Just the Important Stuff

Night vision is pretty complicated technology, but the important stuff is easy enough to understand.



There are currently three generations of night vision recognized by the US military, though there are significant improvements that have been made on Gen 3 since it was released, and there is disagreement in the community whether Gen 3 models with those improvement should be referred to as Gen 4.

nightvision scope

There are a lot of differences between the generations, but the main one is the image intensifier tube technology. Other things like image quality, etc. come part and parcel with that, but the core difference between the generations is how the image is captured and converted into what you see on the other end.

All generations can use either green or white phosphor technologies. Green came first and is still the most common, but white is up-and-coming.

Gen 1

This has been around since the early 1960s, and still works fine for a lot of scenarios to this day. Essentially Gen 1 night vision is where an image is constructed from Infrared light instead of visible light. This infrared light comes from an IR emitter (think a flashlight but that emits IR light instead of visible light) that is paired with the scope.

The quality of image you can achieve with Gen 1 technology is fantastic, but it has some limitations. Number 1, the effective range is only as far as your IR emitter is good for, so 50 yards is probably your max, and even less in a wooded area.

Number 2, to anyone else using night vision your IR emitter is going to show up just as brightly as someone using a flashlight would to normal vision, so maybe don’t use this if you’re going up against other humans who may be using night vision. For hunting this is not a concern.

Number 3 is lifespan. Battery life certainly isn’t great, but the bigger concern is the lifespan of the device itself; it’s not like a traditional hunting rifle scope where it’s just kinda sitting there whether you’re using it or not. All night vision optics eventually fail, and Gen 1 devices will only last around 1500 hours of use.

Granted, if you use it an average of an hour per night, every night, it would still last you over 4 years, and Gen 1 devices are usually much cheaper than Gen 2 or 3, so lifespan may not be a big deal for you

Gen 2

Generation 2 night vision is where things start to get interesting. The technology changes quite a bit and Gen 2 night vision devices do not require an IR illuminator to function, instead relying on the available light and amplifying it.

Gen 2 solves the vast majority of the problems that came with Gen 1; there’s not nearly as much blooming when a bright light source enters the image, there’s no image distortion on the outer third of the field of view, and the lifespan of a Gen 2 device is much longer, around 5,000 hours compared to only 1500.

Not all Gen 2 devices are created equally; some are great and some are terrible, so you’ll want to do your homework on any of the Gen 2 devices that catch your eye to make sure they will have a quality image and perform to where you need them to. The catch-22 here is that the better a Gen 2 device is, the closer it will get to the price of a Gen 3.

Gen 3

Where Gen 2 had the introduction of completely new technology compared to Gen 1, Gen 3 is just the improvement and honing of that technology, were the effective range jumps from 200 to 300 yards, life expectancy goes from 5,000 hours to 10,000 hours, and the signal to noise ratio goes up considerably.

Images seen through a quality Gen 3 device can be incredibly sharp and clear. The biggest improvement from Gen 2 to Gen 3 is in lighted areas, especially urban areas. All Gen 3 devices will perform better when there are light sources in the field of view than Gen 2, but many Gen 3 devices are also autogated, which helps them perform even better in those situations.

Autogating is technology that prevents too much visible light from overloading the imaging tube, while keeping the rest of the image visible and clear. Other technologies that originally were considered Gen 4 have now been incorporated into Gen 3, including the “filmless” technology. I don’t know enough about night vision to explain what this is, but it results in a better image.





ATN X-Sight 4k Pro Smart Rifle Scope

ATN X-Sight 4k Pro Smart Rifle Scope

  • Diameter: 70mm
  • Magnification: 5-20x
  • Length: 14.9 in

Night Owl Optics NightShot Rifle Scope

Night Owl Optics NightShot Rifle Scope

  • Diameter: 40mm
  • Magnification: 3x
  • Length: 13.19 in

Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Riflescope

Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Riflescope

  • Diameter: 42mm
  • Magnification: 3x
  • Length: 9.05 in

Sightmark Wraith HD 2-16x28 Rifle Scope

Sightmark Wraith HD 2-16x28 Rifle Scope

  • Diameter: 28mm
  • Magnification: 2 - 16 x
  • Length: 255 in

ATN ThOR 4 384 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope

ATN ThOR 4 384 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope

  • Diameter: 19mm
  • Magnification: 1.25-5x
  • Length: 13.1 in

Pulsar Trail 2 LRF Thermal Rifle Scope

Pulsar Trail 2 LRF Thermal Rifle Scope

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 8x
  • Length: 16 in

Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x560L Riflescope

Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x560L Riflescope

  • Diameter: 20mm
  • Magnification: 2.6 x
  • Length: 19.7 in

Pulsar Phantom Generation 3 4x 60mm 

Pulsar Phantom Generation 3 4x 60mm

  • Diameter: 60mm
  • Magnification: 4x
  • Length: 25 in

Armasight Nemesis 6x-SD Gen 2+ Riflescope

Armasight Nemesis 6x-SD Gen 2+ Riflescope

  • Diameter: 25mm
  • Magnification: 6x
  • Length: 15.3 in

How Quality Is Measured

For gen 1 devices, there isn’t really any specifications that will tell you how good the image is, but you can get a good sense by whether it appears on a list of reviews (like the one you’re currently reading) and what the reviews of the scope say on the website you’re looking to buy it from.

On gen 2, a key indicator of quality is the line pairs per millimeter, or lp/mm. Higher is better, with “standard” usually being between 45 and 50, and high definition being above 55. The easiest way to understand lp/mm is to think of it like scan lines on a TV or rows of pixels on a computer monitor or phone. More is better, but you tend to pay for it.

Gen 3 also uses lp/mm, but combines it with the signal to noise ratio to get what is called the Figure of Merit. You get the FOM by multiplying the lp/mm number with the signal-to-noise ratio. Not all Gen 3 product pages will state the FOM, but they should state the signal to noise ratio and the lp/mm number so you can calculate yourself if necessary to compare apples to apples.

Analog Vs. Digital

At the risk of getting into the weeds here, I wanted to quickly go over the differences here, because it can be confusing. Much like digital cameras started to replace film and tape cameras around 25 years ago, digital night vision (and day vision for that matter) scopes are starting to compete with traditional night vision optics.

The three generations mentioned above apply only to traditional night vision and not digital devices, which make up a significant portion of the market. Where a traditional night vision device takes the image through the lens and runs it through a photocathode where photons are converted into electrons, a digital device uses a sensor like a camera.

Image quality on digital devices varies widely, and often is compared to analog by people who say the image is “like a Gen 2” or “only Gen 1 quality”.

You can already get great image quality from digital night vision devices, but the real advantage comes with all the other features and toys that going digital brings you. Rangefinders, ballistic calculators, bluetooth, wifi, video recording, audio recording, all these things become possible when you are working with a digital night vision device.

Probably one of the most underrated features of a lot of digital scopes is weapon profiles. You can put it on a rifle, zero it, then save the weapon profile and put the scope on another rifle, zero it, and save another profile so all you have to do when you switch the scope from one to the other is swap profiles.


Even with a top-of-the-line gen 3 night vision device, there’s only so much you can do with it. The best NVDs will only get you out to about 300 yards, so you won’t get much utility out of magnification higher than about 12x, or maybe 16x at the maximum, and you won’t be taking incredibly long shots.

Considering that the vast majority of shooting (especially at night) will happen within that 300 yard range, this isn’t a huge deal. Another limitation of NVDs is their limited lifespan. Where a traditional daytime scope might be passed on for generations, a night vision scope is only going to last for a finite number of hours before the imaging tube simply doesn’t work anymore.

The lifespan of digital devices can be longer, but image sensors age as well, and do not perform up to the same level of quality for the entire duration of their lifespans. Along with this, the warranty you get with an NV scope won’t come close to the warranty on a traditional scope.

NVDs also do not work unless there is some form of ambient light. Since a gen 1 device requires an IR illuminator to work at all, this problem isn’t as big of a deal since you will always have that IR illuminator there with you. On a gen 2 or gen 3 device, however, if you are in a pitch black scenario all you’ll see is a green blob much like the black blob you’re seeing with your eyes.

This limits the usefulness of NVDs inside buildings at night especially if there is no power in the building or any light sources. Any moon light or starlight coming in through windows may not be enough for the NVD to get a usable image.

Night Vision Technology vs. Thermal Imaging

night vision vs thermal scopes

This is where thermal imaging comes into play. Night vision and thermal imaging are two separate imaging systems, but their use cases overlap a bit. Sometimes when you think you need a night vision device, a thermal imaging device would actually be a better fit and vice versa.

Thermal imaging is just heat-sensing and converting it into a visible image. It’s fantastic for those no-light situations since it does not require any light, visible or otherwise, to function and give you a sharp outline of the target you may be searching for. Night vision simply doesn’t work in complete darkness, because there’s nothing to amplify and convert into electrons.

“May” is the operative word here. The problem with thermal imaging is that you can’t identify your target; you can’t necessarily tell one person from another unless there are obvious physical differences like height or build. If you’re hog hunting and all you need is the biggest hog, then this is probably not an issue, but for those working in law enforcement or military, this is a real problem.

A common middle-ground of sorts is to use both. Use thermal imaging for discovering targets that blend in well to their surroundings and then switch to a night vision scope for identification and shooting.

9 Best Night Vision Scopes

We tried to cover a lot of ground in these recommendations and we’ve included thermal imaging scopes, digital scopes, and analog night vision scopes.

1. ATN X-Sight 4k Pro Riflescope

best night vision scope

The X-sight 4k from ATN is a great example of what becomes possible with a digital scope. The quality of the night vision image sits somewhere between a gen 2 and gen 3 night vision device, and it comes with an IR illuminator to get the best results. It’s the next-gen offering from ATN after the ATN X-Sight II HD.

It also connects with your phone and accessories via bluetooth and can even connect to wifi to live stream the image coming through the field of view. It can record video in full HD and incorporate data from accessories to intelligently calibrate the proper aiming point based on windage, elevation, and distance to the target.

The core of this scope is the ATN Obsidian 4, which is essentially the name of the computer that runs all of the digital features, and it has a powerful operating system that allows it to interface with the accessories and display all the data it gets through the scope to your eye.

Adjustments to the reticle are also done digitally, and most of the normal specs of a riflescope don’t apply here because it’s essentially a video camera in the shape and form factor of a scope (as opposed to an analog night vision scope which is a monocular in the shape of a scope). It handles recoil well and even has a feature that will activate video recording when it senses recoil.

The recoil activated video (RAV) will continuously buffer the image coming through the scope and when it senses recoil, it will grab the video leading up to the shot and keep recording until you tell it to stop. It’s not a cheap scope, but even with the ballistic calculator accessory added on it’s price is competitive with most high-end brands.

Eye relief is a comfortable 3.5 inches. Overall, this scope has a lot of versatility and can do an incredible amount of heavy lifting for you.

ATN X-Sight 4k Pro Rifle Scope

The price of ATN X-Sight 4k Pro Rifle Scope varies, so check the latest price at

2. Night Owl Optics NightShot Riflescope

night vision scopes reviews

We’re taking a big leap from all the bells and whistles to none of them, but we’re also knocking a digit off the price tag and keeping things a lot more accessible. This is another digital scope but the image quality is comparable to what you’d get from a gen 1 analog night vision. In other words, it’s not great but still much better than just using a regular scope.

Magnification is fixed at 3x rather than being adjustable, and you can purchase an optional IR illuminator as an accessory if you’re not getting the performance you want from the ambient light. Being digital, you can select from three different reticle options, and the elevation and windage adjustment are more traditional than on the ATN, with turrets in the expected places.

The Night Owl is a battery hog, though. Even without powering the infrared illuminator attachment you’ll only get about 11 hours of life from 4 (yes, 4) AA batteries, and if you are using the illuminator on high that goes down to less than 5 hours. It gets better if you’re using lithium batteries instead of alkaline, but lithium is also much more expensive.

The NIght Owl is also not certified for use with any rifles over a 30 caliber. Considering that there are loads smaller than 30 caliber that kick harder than some loads larger than 30 caliber, I’m not sure that is the best rule of thumb, but if you’re using it with .223 or 5.56 then you’re definitely good to go. The eyepiece is rubberized, which is nice if the scope tries to kiss you.

Night Owl Optics NightShot Riflescope

The price of Night Owl Optics NightShot Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

3. Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Riflescope

night vision scope reviews

The Firefield is an analog gen 1 night vision scope. It is also fixed at 3x magnification, and is almost identical in price to the Night Owl. There are a few key differences, however. Because the Firefield is an analog gen 1, it requires the use of the infrared illuminator to function, but the image quality will be about the same.

The Firefield has 36 lp/mm (lines per millimeter), which essentially means that the picture won’t be pretty but it will be visible. If you’re trying to spot a specific hog among the passel then this won’t be much help.

Battery life is better here with 20 hours, and the scope has a titanium body, which makes it incredibly tough, shockproof, and nearly unbreakable. It should work out to 150 meters although I have not personally tested that claim, and with it being a gen 1 device I would imagine that would only be possible with a full moon, perfectly flat landscape, and more than a little luck.

It comes with a weaver mount so it will go on either a Picatinny and weaver rail. It’s water resistant and mostly weatherproof. It’s a way to get good, old-fashioned night vision at an affordable price, but don’t expect to get much more than that.

Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Riflescope

The price of Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

4. Sightmark Wraith HD 2-16x28

best night vision scope for the money

Sightmark is a brand that a lot of shooters are familiar with, and their general reputation is for making decent optics at budget prices. If you’re looking for something absolutely mind-blowing, then keep moving, but if you don’t want to pay too much and want something that is a little better than it should be at the price, then the Sightmark Wraith is a good option.

It’s a digital scope that offers both traditional green night vision and white options, which can help improve contrast. You’ve got 10 different reticles to choose from in 9 different colors, so you can set it to whatever works best for you. It has 5 different weapon profiles and will record in 720p. It even has reticles designed for use with a crossbow, along with a couple options of a standard duplex reticle.

The 2-16x magnification is technically true, but misleading. The optical magnification (done via the physical position of the lens elements) is only 2x, but you can add digital magnification of up to 8x, which gives you the maximum of 16x.

Digital magnification is applied after the image has already passed through the lens and been captured, so you’re not actually getting more detail when you apply it, you’re just making the existing details bigger, which means the bigger you go the crappier the image will look. You won’t really notice any image degradation for the first 2-3x of digital magnification though.

Overall the Wraith is a cool scope with decent night vision capabilities that can also do double duty in the daytime.

Sightmark Wraith HD 2-16x28

The price of Sightmark Wraith HD 2-16x28 varies, so check the latest price at

5. ATN ThOR 4 384 Smart Thermal Riflescope

night vision rifle scope reviews

The ThOR 4 (I’m not sure why the “h” isn’t capitalized) from ATN is a thermal imaging riflescope rather than a night vision scope, but it’s a very impressive scope with powerful capabilities. It has many of the same advanced features as the ATN X-sight and great compatibility with the same accessories.

Comparing a thermal imaging scope to a night vision scope is not really comparing apples to apples. First, they’re a lot more expensive, and the Thor 4 is no exception. The detection range here is 750 meters, which is much, much further than even a top-of-the-line gen 3 night vision device.

night vision scopes

The resolution of the sensor doesn’t sound particularly impressive at only 384x288 pixels, but thermal imaging is a completely different beast, and the displayed image is sharp enough that you can see the contours of hair and fur on game with enough magnification.

You can also shut off the typical thermal-looking image where the hotter something is the more red it is shown and use either white-on-black or black-on-white image format to give better contrast. What you see when you look in the eyepiece is just an LCD screen. This format doesn’t translate into long battery life, relatively speaking, but otherwise it’s great.

ATN ThOR 4 384 Thermal Riflescope

The price of ATN ThOR 4 384 Thermal Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

6. Pulsar Trail 2 LRF Thermal Riflescope

night vision scopes review

Remember earlier in this article when I mentioned that thermal imaging scopes were not cheap? Yeah, the Pulsar is the case in point. It’s a digital scope with virtually all the same technological capabilities of the ATN night vision scopes, but it has a detection range of up to 1800 meters, a sensor with about 4x the total resolution, and an even more sophistication Image Boost Technology.

The housing is a magnesium alloy, which is lightweight and still incredibly strong. It has 16 gB of internal memory for recording video and eight different reticle options based on what type of shooting you are doing and your preferences.

One of the really handy features is the picture-in-picture that will show you an even more magnified view of what you’re aiming at while preserving the majority of your sight picture. Battery life is going to be similar to a night vision device.

Like all thermal scopes, the image seen through it will be much better than a night vision device in the event of fog, smoke, or rain. The closer something (like smoke particles) is to a night vision device, the brighter it will appear, to the point that rain and even the smoke from your own shots can occlude your view in some cases. Thermal scopes don’t have this problem.

Pulsar Trail 2 LRF Thermal Riflescope

The price of Pulsar Trail 2 LRF Thermal Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

7. Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x60L Riflescope

night vision scopes

The Photon is more about doing the basics well and not thinking much about features. Beyond a few different reticle styles to choose from, there really isn’t much different about this digital night vision scope to an analog one. The image quality is here is right around a gen 2 NVD, so it’s a noticeable improvement over the Wraith.

That said, it lacks a lot of the nice features that the Wraith has, and it’s more expensive to boot. It’s more affordable than the ATN offerings, and gets you some impressive image quality for the price, but if you want all the toys that often come with digital rifle scopes, then the Photon may not be the one for you.

It comes with a built-in IR illuminator that should help you get out as far as the fixed 6.5x magnification will get you. At 6.5x, you probably won’t be shooting any closer than 25 yards, which means this is pretty well designed for things like hog or varmint hunting. It won’t be great for anything really long-range either, but is a good mid-range scope.

Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x60L Riflescope

The price of Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x60L Riflescope varies, so check the latest price at

8. Pulsar Phantom Generation 3 4x 60mm

night vision rifle scopes review

Our list would not be complete without at least one gen 3 NVD on it, and the Pulsar Phantom fits the bill. The image quality coming off of this thing will blow your mind if you’re used to digital or gen 1 night vision. It has a 60mm objective lens along with a 57-64 lp/mm resolution. 60mm on an objective lens is huge, and guarantees at the 4x magnification that you’re getting as much light as possible.

The 57-64 lp/mm guarantees that the image will be sharp and clear and so detailed that you can even identify faces in many conditions. You have different reticle options, though only a couple, and it’s nitrogen-purged to prevent fogging in rainy conditions. The 4x magnification will keep you from any long-range shooting, but that’s not necessary most of the time anyway.

The Phantom has plenty of durability and will withstand the elements just fine, and the ultra high resolution of the image is phenomenal. It’s hard to find consumer or civilian-oriented gen 3 night vision, but most of what you can find will be high quality and serve you well. Keep in mind that it will usually have a price tag to match, though.

Pulsar Phantom Generation 3 4x 60mm

The price of Pulsar Phantom Generation 3 4x 60mm varies, so check the latest price at

9. Armasight Nemesis 6x-SD Gen 2+ 

best night vision rifle scopes

To wrap up the list, here is a solid, dependable gen 2 night vision rifle scope. It’s advertised as “Gen 2+” which seems to mean whatever the manufacturer wants it to mean, and in this case the image quality seems to be a little bit better than what I would consider to be the expectation of a gen 2 night vision scope. Granted, I’m no expert on night vision.

It comes with a detachable IR illuminator, and it will work OK without it, but if you are able to use the illuminator than it can be nice except in rainy or foggy situations. You don’t get multiple reticle choices but it is brightly illuminated and works great with the 6x magnification. The ArmaSight will also automatically adjust the brightness based on conditions.

Because it’s gen 2 and doesn’t require an IR illuminator, it can be used in tactical scenarios as well as hunting.

Armasight Nemesis 6x-SD Gen 2+

The price of Armasight Nemesis 6x-SD Gen 2+ varies, so check the latest price at

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Best Night Vision Scope For the Money?

Well, if that isn’t the million dollar question...Speaking purely from my own experience and knowledge, I would say that the ATN X-Sight takes the cake. It’s not the cheapest, but the quality and features you get for the price are pretty crazy and unique in the industry. The biggest drawback is that you kinda have to buy into the whole ATN ecosystem to get the most out of it.

If all you want is night vision on a budget, then the Night Owl NightShot digital is the cheapest way to get decent quality, but it will lag far behind options that are only a few hundred dollars more.

The Sightmark Wraith HD is worth a mention here as well, as you can get a lot of great digital features like weapon profiles but not pay nearly as much as for an ATN. Image quality suffers especially if you try to push the magnification to its limits, but “usable” is a lot more important than “pretty”, and the Sightmark does well at that.

If you want something versatile that can be used in multiple situations, then you’ll have a different #1 choice than someone who wants something designed perfectly for one specific use case.

What’s Better, Thermal or Night Vision?

For shooting at night in the rain or fog, definitely thermal. Ditto for shooting at targets that blend well with their environment. For getting a higher resolution image at under 300 yards in good weather, standard night vision is better.

Overall, if money is no object, I would probably recommend thermal for most night hunting because the detection range is much further out, it will work just as well if the weather turns on you, and none of your targets will be able to blend in to the background (unless of course you happen to be hunting something cold-blooded).

If you’re not interested in spending more on a single optic than most people spend on a rifle, optic, and other accessories combined, then night vision is going to be better for you. It all comes down to priorities: usability or affordability.

What Is The Best Night Vision Scope For Hunting?

I would again have to point towards the ATN X-Sight. It’s designed from the ground up for hunting, and can even work with accessories to paint a target and send its location to your hunting companions on where the target is so you can coordinate and work together to bring it down.

It’s worth mentioning again that you have to buy into the whole ecosystem of accessories to get all the potential out of an ATN scope, but even the scope by itself has a multitude of features that other scopes try to mimic.

It may also be worth considering whether you just want to combine your regular optic or red dot with night vision in some way whether via goggles or an NVD mounted to your firearm. Night vision scopes are great, but the optic side is separate from the night vision side, and when you combine the two into a single unit there’s going to be either a loss in quality or a jump in price.

If you don’t want to go digital, then the Pulsar Phantom is a good (albeit expensive) choice for many of the same reasons as the ATN X-Sight.

What Night Vision Scope Does The Military Use?

The answer to this isn’t super straightforward. The army, for example, does not use night vision scopes; they use goggles and have been rolling out their ENVG-B goggles that combine traditional night vision with thermal imagery into a single image that has the benefits of both. In the daytime, the goggles can also provide a lot of information via a heads-up display.

Most other night vision devices used by militaries are done via contract and often are designed and manufactured specifically for the branch of military that the contract is with. These are typically not available for purchase by the civilian market. These devices can take the form of a binocular, monocular, or riflescope.

What Is The Cheapest Night Vision Scope?

There are probably cheaper out there, but the cheapest I know of and would feel comfortable recommending are the Night Owl NightShot and the Firefield Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope. They are virtually the same price and have similar image quality. The Night Owl is a digital scope and the Firefield is an analog one.

The NightShot has the advantage in terms of features and detection range, but the Firefield is more durable. They both have a 3x fixed magnification so visibility will be pretty similar between the two.

Night vision isn’t cheap, generally speaking, so finding scopes that most people would consider affordable is pretty tough, and you don’t get a whole lot at those lower price points. If you want high quality night vision with the features necessary to make it a great shooting experience, you need to be ready to pony up some serious dough.

Non-Scope Options Like a Bushnell Night Vision Monocular

There are other options besides just rifle scopes that can give you adequate night vision depending on your needs. Something like the Bushnell 4.5x40 Equinox Z is a digital NVD and might be everything you need out of night vision. It has a digital zoom and can record photos and videos as well.

Why Are Thermal Scopes So Expensive?

Mainly because of how difficult the technology is to pull off properly. Thermal imaging sensors are a completely different beast from light imaging sensors, and to convert the data from a thermal sensor into a visible picture that we can see and understand with our eyes is not an insignificant challenge either.

There are benefits that thermal scopes have over traditional night vision, and overall they are usually superior, which contributes to the price differential. There are some situations where a high quality night vision device is preferable to a thermal scope, but those high quality night vision devices are also comparable in price to a thermal scope.

Thermal sensors also cannot ‘see’ through glass, so a special element called Germanium has to be used to construct the lenses of a thermal scope, which adds a significant amount to the price.

Can Night Vision See Through Glass?

Yes, night vision operates on visible and infrared light, both of which pass through glass just fine. Thermal sensors cannot see through glass, but night vision devices can. The effect of glass on a night vision scope will be fairly similar to the effect of it on the human eye; if it’s at an angle that it’s reflecting light, then it will be incredibly bright and make it difficult to see anything.

If it’s at an angle where the light is passing perfectly through and it’s nearly invisible to your eye, it will most likely be nearly invisible to the night vision device as well.

Final Thoughts

Most shooters think that night vision is out of reach for them, and that may be true, but you can find plenty of options in the sub $1000 range to get a great night vision scope that will allow you to do your hunting after the sun has gone down.

If you’re a casual hunter or just want to be able to hunt in dusk and dawn lighting conditions, then it may be better to find a daytime scope with great performance in ow light conditions. There are a lot of options between the three different generations of night vision, digital vs analog night vision, and thermal scopes, so hopefully this article has helped clear up some confusion.

Most of these should be available on either Amazon or OpticsPlanet, though there are a few other specialty sites online that you can find a lot of night vision equipment. Have you used any of these scopes? Are there any that should have been on this list but aren’t? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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