Even though night vision devices (NVD) were developed for military and initially used in various battlefield scenarios, we can’t deny the advantages NVDs give the everyday civilian user.
Since dozens of companies are manufacturing the night vision optics, the civilian market is flooded with quite affordable models that are becoming more and more common every day. Without question, NV dеvісеѕ have forever changed thе wау huntеrѕ and shooters аррrоасh hunting in lоw light hоurѕ.
At a Glance: Our Top Picks for Night Vision Scopes
Comparison of the Best Night Vision Scopes
Our Top Pick
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Why Use A Night Vision Scope?
The first thing you should know about night vision is that there are two primary types of night vision devices (NVD): the image intensifier tube devices and the infrared (thermal) devices. In this article, we will discuss night vision devices based on Image intensifier tube technology, also called "I²" in the industry.
The image intensifier devices are optoelectronic devices that collect available ambient light via optics at the front and amplify actual light through electronics from 15,000 times to 50,000 times.
From the jungles of Vietnam to the Arab deserts and up to the peaceful landscapes across the country, night vision systems came a long way and have evolved many times over.
Hunting and shooting at night can be very dangerous, but using night vision optics gives you the ability to be able to see objects clearly, even when it's pitch black.
You can use the night vision devices in many scenarios ranging from game hunting, trailing wounded game, night surveillance, or for range shooting as well.
As far as hunters are concerned, by using night vision, they can make old tactics and methods more effective while still maintaining a fair hunt.
Review of the Best Night Vision Scopes
Here, we have provided you in-depth analysis of some of the best night vision scopes available in the market so that you could choose the one which suits your needs & requirements.
Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3x42 Night Vision Riflescope
As the part of Sellmark Company, based out of Texas, the Firefield product line was launched in 2009 to offer the hunters and shooters more budget-friendly night vision products. While most offerings are made in China, the FF16001 NVRS 3x42 night vision riflescope is produced in Belarus.
The key features of the FireField Night Vision Riflescope are the first generation intensifier tube and powerful 100 MW LED infrared illuminator working at an 805nm wavelength. A built-in infrared illuminator helps a lot during extremely dark conditions, making it ideal for nighttime hog hunting. Utilizing Gen 1 scope technology, the Firefield Riflescope is generally affordable, though it has a somewhat average sight range of 75~100yds depending on available light.
In this price class, you also cannot expect a very large field of view, but 42' at 100 yards will be enough for the nightstand hunting. The eye relief is only 1.7 inches (45mm), but the extended rubber eyepiece protects your eyebrow and ensures perfect eye-to-scope alignment.
This NV model FF16001 boasts an almost ideal 3x magnification coupled with a 42mm lens for higher light gathering capabilities. The Firefield scope is equipped with an illuminated red duplex reticle with incremental brightness adjustment and multi-coated optics covered with rubber flip-up lens protectors.
The housing of this optoelectronic device is made of a rock-solid titanium alloy with a matte black finish. Besides lower weight (30.7 oz.), the titanium provides a remarkable resistance against corrosion and heat.
In the end, this NVRS comes with an integrated quick-release Weaver mount and two AA batteries.
As one of the best Gen 1 scopes on the market, the Firefield 3x42 night vision riflescope is an ideal entry-level solution for the beginners and casual shooters.
With a rugged titanium body, the Firefield scope can endure the physical challenges in pitch darkness, while its 3x zoom power would be enough to enable you to hit a three-inch bull’s eye at 100 yards.
Best for AR-15:
Night Owl Optics NightShot
If you are looking for tесh-сrаzу аnd gаdgеt-оbѕеѕѕеd NV rіflеѕсореѕ, then you may look to the other models, because this night vision riflescope by Night Owl Optics does just what it is designed for, provides simple shot placement.
Buying a NightShot, you will get an inexpensive, lightweight (20.8 oz.), and easy-to-operate night scope wіth аt lеаѕt 100 уаrdѕ оf dеtесtіоn rаngе аnd реrhарѕ uр tо 200 уаrdѕ оn а moonlight nіght. To enable that range, the NightShot is equipped with a built-in 850nm ІR іllumіnаtоr and an optional mоuntіng rаіl fоr аddіng аn аddіtіоnаl ІR.
Technically, this is not traditional night vision unit with іmаgе іntеnѕіfіеr tubе, but rather a digital riflescope with built-in сhір, which соnvеrtѕ lіght dеtесtеd bу thе ІR іntо аn еlесtrоnіс ѕіgnаl and dіѕрlауs sharp images оn thе 640×480 ѕсrееn.
The Night Owl Optics NightShot is a low-cost riflescope that comes with a 3x magnification, the ideal magnification for hunting at night. Although this lightweight and compact scope features a polymer construction, it is designed to withstand the recoil of up to .30 rifle calibers, making it perfect night sight for the AR-15 based rifles.
Powered by 4 AA or lithium batteries, the NightShot is available with three different reticle types: сrоѕѕhаіr, dоt, аnd hаѕh mаrk rеtісlеs.
While this is not a device for shooting panoramic photography, the NightShot has a large clear field of view what is extremely convenient when you're using these optics in an open area.
The other hallmark of the Night Owl riflescope is digital technology, which will not enable you to make vіdео оr ѕоund rесоrds but will allow you to use this dіgіtаl ѕсоре іn аnу lіghtіng соndіtіоn.
Best for Hunting:
Armasight Nemesis 6x-SD Gen 2+ Night Vision Rifle Scope
Our next product for this review comes from a highly respected California-based NV optics manufacturer, a subsidiary of FLIR Systems, Armasight International Incorporated.
As you know, most of the NV units accessible to civilians are short to mid-range sights, but the Armasight Nemesis night vision riflescope with 6х magnification is designed purposely for long-range shooting.
While the Gen 1 night vision scopes with larger magnification factors have issues with relatively short ranges and a narrow field of view, the 6x Nemesis Riflescope offers much better a 6.5-degree field-of-view and close to mid-range accuracy in any hunting or tactical scenario.
The Armasight Nemesis 6X SD features cost-effective Gеn 2ЅD (Ѕtаndаrd Dеfіnіtіоn) night vision technology which provides a resolution of 45-51 lp/mm with a common NV grееn display.
The Nemesis has one of the thіnnеѕt reticles уоu’ll fіnd оn а NV rіflеѕсореs and will help you tо tаkе wеll-рlасеd ѕhоtѕ, even at extremely small targets. Much like a traditional riflescope, a Nemesis boasts variable reticle brightness. While the scope sports only one reticle style, its crosshair-type red reticle can be adjusted for wіndаgе аnd еlеvаtіоn аdјuѕtmеntѕ in 1/2 МОA increments.
As is standard, the scope is equipped with a detachable IR810 infrared illuminator, but you can substitute it with a more powerful IR illuminator which will enable you to see clearly at out about 500 yards. Additionally, the Nеmеѕіѕ еvеn ѕроrtѕ flip-up, backup iron sights and thrее ассеѕѕоrу mоuntіng rаіlѕ for other accessories уоu may wаnt tо mоunt tо іt.
Another critical feature is the Auto Bright Control (ABC) or the auto brightness control module for optimal sight picture.
As discussed a bit earlier, 3x to 4x is the ideal magnification for hunting at night, but if you are a serious hunter, more expensive scopes like the Armasight Nemesis would be a perfect solution for extremely long distance night shooting.
Best for the Money:
ATN X-Sight II HD 3-14x
The ATN series of NV sights called the X-Sight II is available as either a 5-20x or a 3-14x magnification and represents a shooting solution that will not break the bank. Based on digital technology, the X-Sight II scope is built around an adjustable 3-14x power magnification and 50 mm objective lens.
However, whereas this day/night optic offers an impressive zoom power, it has a minimal field of view, so it does take some time to find your target in the deep dark. On the other hand, the ATN X-Sight II sports some excellent features such as a ballistic calculator, range finder, Wi-Fi, GPS, electronic compass, and barometer.
The HD technology combined with image stabilization give you decent vision day or night and an opportunity to film the shot in full HD 1080p. The ATN X-Sight II HD offers seven different reticle options including a standard BDC and a mil-dot with a choice between green or black & white.
With an incorporated Picatinny mount and four AA or lithium batteries, this unit weighs just a hair over 2.5 pounds.
This feature-packed digital optic comes loaded with many technological advances ranging from ample magnification and light gathering ability to the built-in weather station. Whereas the ATN X-Sight II fits nearly every budget and need, it comes with a few drawbacks as expected from that price class.
Best Night Vision Scope Under $1000:
Sightmark SM18016 Photon RT Digital Night Vision Riflescope
A newer model of the Sightmark SM18008 Photon XT 4.6x42S is the SM18016 Photon RT Riflescope, which is a substantial improvement over the Photon XT in a few important areas.
First, the Photon RT sports an improved 768x576 CMOS sensor with a 40% higher resolution than the one in the XT. It also has a built-in invisible 940nm IR illuminator. Finally, it boasts a variable digital magnification, which is 4.5x and 9x.
That way, the revamped photon RT 4.5x42 enables general target detection out to 220 yards while producing high-quality images up to 150 yards away, even on the darkest nights.
Whereas the Photon with the S suffix uses an LED IR illuminator and the L models come with a laser IR illuminators, the Photon RT SM18016 model without letter mark uses a 940nm illuminator with a totally invisible light that gives a slightly reduced useful range (up to 150yds).
Since the Photon uses digital technology, and as such, is not impacted by bright light exposure, you can use this night vision optic during the day, though the images can be grainy and somewhat blurry.
Besides the standard 640x480 LCD display and new 2x digital zoom, the updated SightMark Photon RT 4.5-9x42 features an integrated video and sound recording and the Stream Vision App which pairs with the 8GB of built-in memory.
The updated SightMark Photon RT has a shockproof metal body that is IPS5 water-resistant, but at 30.7 oz without batteries, it also adds considerable weight.
The LED display, an IR illuminator, and illuminated reticle that comes in six options and four different colors are powered with 4 AA batteries.
The updated Sightmark’s Photon RT series is a great entry-level night vision scope and an excellent alternative for nighttime hog hunters who do not want to spend the money on a high-end night vision or thermal scopes.
Since it uses standard rings to mount to any rail, it can be the perfect match for any lightweight AR carbine that you would use for pig hunting in dense brush.
Best Digital Night Vision Scope:
ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope
The newest offering from the ATN is dubbed X-Sight 4K PRO Smart and utilizes an Obsidian IV Dual Core Processor with a low light Ultra HD 4K M265 sensor. The ATN X-Sight 4K PRO Series provides you with an enhanced HD Night Vision Mode coupled with a host of sensors and apps.
Besides a ballistics calculator and range finder, the ATN Obsidian Core technology measures wind, uses a built-in compass, and barometer, as well as things such as the angle to target, temperature, and humidity. As an advanced digital NV unit, X-Sight provides GPS location and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a recoil-activated video system (RAV).
Applying the same pattern found in their other product lines, the ATN offers their X-Sight 4K series in two magnification configurations: 3-14x or 5-20x. The mid-range 3-14x night vision digital optics come with 50mm objective bells and 30mm main tube. Both versions feature an extended 90mm eye relief, various reticle patterns, and lightweight aluminum housing.
Equipped with a standard 850nm IR flashlight, this ATN X-Sight is good for 150 or so yards, but you can use an included 30mm ring with rail to mount a more powerful illuminator that will provide you with a couple of hundred yards longer range. However, that handy improvement will make for a heavier and bulkier device.
Overall, the new X-Sight 4K Pro series improves on some of the minor shortcomings of the ATN X-Sight II, but it is still suffering from buggy software and the quality control is not reliable.
Unlike classic NV sights with image intensifier tubes, the digital ATN X-Sight 4K Pro features a slimmer design resembling traditional riflescopes.
Utilizing a much better design more like a riflescope and weighing 2.1 lb with batteries, the ATN X-Sight 4K PRO, mounted on a basic AR with a 16" barrel, will make a handy and lightweight combination for almost any hunting scenario.
Best Clip-on Night Vision Scope:
Armasight CO-X ID MG
Clip-on attachments play a very important role for the military operators, law enforcement officers, and anyone looking for a single scope for their rifle. You may find many clip-on solutions on the market, but they tend to be much bulkier and heavier then Armasight attachments.
Armasight produces the widest and the most advanced selection of night vision clip-on systems out of all night vision makers on the U.S. market. These models are classified in several lines and versions designed to cover every scenario a hunter or professional operator may have interest in.
There are a number of Armasight night vision clip-on devices based on the Gen 2 image intensifier tube, providing the resolution of 45-51 lp/mm and higher. The Improved Definition (ID) version NSCCOX00012MDI1 offers a resolution of 47-54 lp/mm.
All of the Armasight devices connect via simple attachment directly onto the objective bell of your daytime optics with the help of a special adapter or can be installed on a Weaver or Picatinny rail in front of your existing scope. As a benefit, Armasight engineered their CO-X night vision clip-on sights to eliminate any need for re-zeroing or sighting in.
Like other models, the Armasight NSCCOX00012MDI1 model has no magnification, so it is recommended to pair with daylight optical system featuring 6-8x magnification. The set contains an XLR-IR850 infrared, detachable illuminator for easier sighting of your prey, allowing you for taking accurate shots in the 130-200yd range. The AA or lithium-ion CR123A battery powers the clip-on system and you can use it for target acquisition and aiming continuously for up to 60 hours.
The MG in this Armasight device stands for the manual gain control, which allows a user to adjust image brightness to adapt to ambient light conditions manually. While the Armasight CO-X night vision clip-on attachments are some of best on the market, these devices generally come with limitations, as they do not offer comparable image quality, like dedicated vision scopes, nor are they as light and streamlined as a weapon sight.
The body of Armasight CO-X clip-on sight is made of aircraft aluminum and with the weight of only 25 oz. It is not only lightweight and waterproof, but it is also resistant to the recoil of high-powered rifles using ammo with 3,800 J muzzle energy such as 30-06 Springfield cartridges.
Although it is purpose-built to work in conjunction with compatible day optics, you can pair the Armasight CO-X ID MG night vision clip-on sight with binoculars and spotting scopes alike or use separately as a night vision monocular.
Types of Night Vision Scopes
As decades passed, night vision technology was further improved with different generations (Gens) that can be defined by specific technology advancements. To date, there have been four generations and each of them should give you the image brightness and detail you need according to your budget.
While the NV generation you will buy is dependent on the size of your wallet, the more important decision for you is what type of night vision equipment you need. Currently, there are four main types of night vision optics.
The first one is a monocular, the most versatile type of all the nighttime devices. It is a single eye unit that usually comes without magnification, but it can be mounted onto a weapon in front of the daily scope or adapted to a camera for photography.
Night Vision Scopes
The second option is a night vision scope designed for rifle mounting and can be divided into two subcategories: a standard night vision scope similar to the regular rifle scope or the other type developed as a clip-on attachment to a daytime rifle scope.
Night Vision Goggles
The third type is night vision goggles that can have either a single lens or stereo lens. Goggles allow you dual eye viewing, have no magnification, and can be head-mounted.
Night Vision Binoculars
Night vision binoculars are the last type that contains two eyepieces and comes with magnification built in, but unlike goggles, they are too heavy to head mount.
What Makes a Night Vision Scope Great?
Since the NV scopes can get very expensive, it would be ideal if you are able to rent or borrow some night optical device (NOD) to get some hands-on experience before you go shopping.
However, for most of us, the only possibility is to read online reviews and discussions to help make an informed buying decision.
There are a few aspects that make a night vision scope great, but the first, and most important quality, is clarity. Compared to the conventional daily optics, the resolution clarity of night vision scopes is on the lower level, so you probably will not be able to identify a person from 500 yards. The resolution in night vision scopes is measured by lines per millimeter (LP/MM), and the higher this number is, the more clarity you get.
Like with other hunting equipment, you need to consider the type of shooting you’ll be engaged in, and then choose the NV scope, which is right for your specific conditions and use case. A major rookie mistake is to purchase the NV scope with the best magnification, but in this twilight world, the truth is, less magnification is usually better.
Generally, you should be looking at a night vision scope with 3x or 4x magnification, because at higher magnifications the image can become blurry, and the field of view can also decrease so dramatically that you can easily lose your hog in the field at as little as 50 yards in the dark.
Durability is a key factor, especially if your hunting rifle is chambered with some high-powered caliber with a substantial recoil. Another important consideration is the environment, where an NV scope can become damp and muddled with lots of snags like twigs, rocks, and insects. As you probably know, these optoelectronic devices are quite sensitive so they can be damaged pretty easily.
With these things to consider, there are other considerations like ergonomics and type of batteries. As these devices are large energy consumers, it is practical to look for the NV scope powered by a standard battery, like AA, or buy high-grade rechargeable batteries.
Since the market for NV products has dramatically increased over the last few years, it has resulted in hundreds of different models. Keep an eye out when buying because there is not much middle ground when we talk about cost. NV devices are either cheap or expensive, meaning that if you are serious about hunting at night, almost any recommended choice would be something with a higher price tag.
People Also Ask
The motto "See the unseen" belongs to the most famous manufacturer of daily optics but that quote could rightfully carry night vision products since this electronic equipment would enable you to see more detail in complete darkness, though the colors are not there because they produce only a green output image.
Although the night vision systems have been in use for more than 80 years, it is still the most misunderstood technology in optics.
How Do Night Vision Scopes Work?
Since the night vision scope is an optoelectronic device, it simply intensifies images that are picked up in minimal light conditions and makes them into a visible image. NV optics can also be classified as active and passive night vision systems. While both of them work by increasing the intensity of residual light, active scopes use an artificial source like infrared light (IR flashlights or infrared illuminators) and convert that into a visible image, whereas the passive ones simply amplify available light to allow the human eye to see more detail when it’s dark. The image produced is typically monochrome, most frequently green because the human eye can see in more shades than other colors.
Can You Use a Night Vision Scope During the Day?
Most night vision scopes are designed to be used only at night because the natural sunlight will damage the light sensing tubes. In other words, if they are exposed to bright light, you could permanently damage their light capturing abilities.
There are day/night digital scopes with the capability to be used at night, as well as during the day since their lens acts like a camera that captures the images and projects the images on to a mini LCD display. To avoid a daylight overload of your night vision unit, some companies developed protective lens covers with specially calculated holes to allow the night vision optics to be used during the day with the lens cover firmly in place.
Another alternative is to use a clip-on night vision devices that attach to the objective of a regular daylight scope.
What's Better Thermal or Night Vision?
Given the current development, affordability, and availability of these devices, we have to agree with some experts that you should have both if you can afford it. The most preferred use pattern would be to use thermal optics to detect and locate the animal and then switch to the night vision scope to identify game and place an ethical shot.
If you are not satisfied with that answer, then you should know that thermal imaging devices are able, to some degree, to see through the smoke as well as in obscure terrains like the brush and thick timber. On the other hand, a night vision scope needs some light. If you use it in pitch black, then you will need some artificial light for illuminating the products.
In the end, looking through the thermal imagers, you will not have a detailed image, whereas the night vision scope will provide you much more clarity and definition, allowing you to make an accurate, ethical hit on the animal you're shooting at.
What is the Difference Between Night Vision and Thermal Imaging?
Unlike traditional night vision systems that intensify available light to allow our eyes to see more detail, a thermal unit measures the difference in heat between an object and the surrounding area and creates an electronic image of what is radiating that heat.
As previously mentioned, night vision scopes cannot be used in daylight in contrast to thermal scopes that can be used during the day. Since they detect radiation, thermal optics do not need moonlight or IR flashlights to illuminate the area and provide you with an image of your target.
While the thermal optics are much more expensive than NV products, they also tend to be heavier and bulkier than night vision scopes.