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We’ve all seen what night vision looks like in military spies movies and TV shows, and it definitely looks complicated and high-tech. Historically, night vision devices were only reserved to the military, but are now commercially available (and relatively more affordable for the manufacturers to produce) for the general public as a result of technological advancements.
Night vision scopes are necessary for amplifying light in dim-light situations. They’re ideal for nighttime since they allow you to see in the dark beyond what the human eye is capable to do. They can be used for many situations, like home security, hunting, sea navigation, camping, fishing, wildlife enthusiasts, search and rescue operations, and for militaristic purposes. Night vision scopes are commonly used amongst hunters for carrying with them in their hands or mounting on their riffles. The best night vision scopes should not only be built with durable construction, but should also provide clear images.
There are 3 types of night vision technologies:
If you’re interested in learning about how actually night vision technology, you can read all about it here!
Night vision isn’t limited only to scopes as they can be found in binoculars, glasses, cameras, monoculars, and googles.
This video below goes in great depth regarding the advantages and disadvantages between night vision and thermal. You can see the difference with the side-by-side videos and this can help you decide which option you would like to purchase for yourself.
Purchasing a night vision is not an easy task since it requires a good amount of research. We are here to guide you in the right direction by providing you a list of the top 10 best night vision scopes that we recommend!
Before we dive into the top 10, here’s a short list of the top 3 best night vision scopes so if you’re short on time or in a hurry, you can get all of the important information quickly.
Before all the generations, there was a Gen 0, which was used in World War II and dates back to the 1930s. Nowadays, Gen 0 is no longer in production but, it has been replaced with the improved versions of Gen 3.
They were first introduced during the Vietnam War and still required some light to work properly. They were quite heavy and bulky but compared to Gen 0, significant improvements regarding image quality and brightness were made. As of now, Gen 1 devices have still kept their design but have undergone significant improvements with the latest technological advancements.
They are the best choice for those who need a more affordable option in the market but still want some of the qualities found in the higher models. Some of the limitation in Gen 1 are that the range doesn’t extend beyond 75-100 yards, whereas Gen 2 can provide a better range at 200 yard or more. Their battery lives are also shorter and have a shorter life expectancy.
Gen 2 improved on Gen 1, especially around the edges where Gen 1 night vision scopes would not be as bright. Gen 2 models did not require some sort of light unlike the previous generation. While most hunters use gen 1, some hunters use gen 2, which are considered to be the best option in terms of performance, quality, and resolution. Subsequently, their battery life last longer and are expected to last much longer than Gen 1 models.
Generation 3 is typically used by military and police as such, they are not commonly found in the commercial market for the general public. They are the highest grade but also the most costly. They offer the longest range at 300 yards or more. Their field of view as compared to the latter is significantly better. Their life expectancy lasts the longest and are more reliable out in the fields.
Just a quick note, if you encounter a night vision scope that’s labelled as Gen 4, it’s used for advertisement and there’s no real classification for Gen 4 according to the US army. They’re basically the same as Gen 3 (they’re also priced in the same range of 5k to 6k. But this is up to debate, some hunters believe that there is a Gen 4 and should be treated as it’s own category.
It’s important to not get too caught up with generations as features, specifications, and intended use are more important when shopping for a night vision scope. Solely going by generations can get quite costly and could leave you unhappy with your purchase.
In this video below, you can see the differences between Gen 1 and Gen 3.
Here’s my list of the top 10 best night vision scopes that function properly in all environments! They’re truly some of the best in the market. The magnification power, objective lens diameter, weight, generations and important features are mentioned.
The ATN X-Sight II Hd is a digital night vision scope that suitable for night and day. It’s constructed upon an obsidian core processor, this not too heavy nor bulky equipment is powered on lithium AA batteries. While the battery life on this device won’t last the longest it will still give you a few hours provided you carry a large external battery pack (it can get heavy but at least you will be covered, without one you’re looking to spend 1 hour with your night scope before it dies on you).
The night vision functionality works extremely well, offering great clarity and sharpness. The X-Sight II allows you to adjust light sensitivity as well as switch from day view to black and white night view, or green night view. Choosing between the 3 modes is a personal choice, but I would say that the green night view offers the best image quality. Clarity is incredible but performs slightly better in broad daylight as compared to total darkness.
This night vision scope offers excellent features, such as the smart rangefinder. Unlike traditional scopes, this scope allow you to not have to manually range your target, calculate the drop, accommodate for the slope before your target moves. This saves you ample time. With the X-Sight II, you can record 1080P Full HD videos and take high-quality photos to share across social media platforms thanks to internal storage and RAV (recoil activated video). You can live stream your adventure with the help of the wifi and bluetooth. The red buttons are easy to use and allow you access to all of the features on this scope and it features a built-in microphone for voice recordings (excellent for tutorials).
The app is an excellent addition to the scope, especially if you’re teaching someone to hunt. Since you’re able to see exactly what the other person using the X-Sight II can see with their night scope, you can help them guide where and when to shoot. You could also show the new hunter how to hunt and shoot with the help of the viewfinder. You can also change the settings via the app. The app alone makes it a worthwhile purchase. However, I would say that this night scope performs the best at lower magnifications. Also, if you choose to buy this for yourself, don’t forget to purchase a microSD card
Here you can see how the smart range finder performs while you’re locked on a target.
The Firefield FF16001 NVR offers incredible features for its price point. It’s a lightweight night vision scope that offers 3 times magnification. The body is constructed of durable and indestructible titanium. The optics are multi-coated for clear images.
This model requires 2 AA batteries but can last upwards to 20 hours with the illuminator (without the illuminator, the equipment can last up to 50 hours). For the price, it’s one of the best night vision scopes in the market. This unit includes a quick detach weaver mount so you can’t mount and demount quickly. It’s water resistant but I would not recommend submerging it underwater. You can use this scope in the day (preferable dusk) but make sure you are not directly poting towards the sun or you risk damaging your equipment.
A lightweight Gen 1 night vision scope that offers high quality resolution and a built-in IR illuminator. I find that this night vision scope works incredibly well upwards to 100 yards but visibility might not be the best in different weather conditions. The crosshairs and red-duplex reticle can be adjusted. A rugged scope that’s well-built and offers excellent performance, it’s truly one of the best Gen 1 scope that mounts easily to your riffle.
The Sightmark Photon RT 4.5-9x42S offers incredible versatility and value. It performs no matter the time of the day and it’s highly customizable for all environments.
It features a WiFi remote via the Stream Vision App, a built-in video and sound recording system, and a power input. So, you can record your adventure. This unit requires 4 AA batteries, which gives you about 2-3 hours of usage. It’s water-resistant and features a 2x digital zoom. The LED IR illuminator targets up to 220 yards (I’ve been able to see clearly beyond that). The IR illuminator lights up your target even in total darkness. The field of view is 22.5 ft at 100 yards and the objective lens provides clear, bright, and vivid images.
The 6 reticle options can be adjusted with 4 colors to cather to all environments. It’s truly one of the best lightweight night vision scopes that money can buy! But, I recommend carrying extra batteries to extend your scope usage. It’s shockproof and includes a USB port, which can be used to attach a power bank to it. While it’s a great night vision scope with extra additional scopes, I would recommend upgrading your IR illuminator.
Here’s an in-depth video of the Sightmark Photon RT 4.5-9x42S, you can also see how it performs in the field.
The ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope is a technologically smart rifle scope that offers great video quality. You can also get this scope in 3-14x magnification, but I recommend the 5-20x magnification since its performs a little better on higher magnification compared to other models. It includes a gyroscope and an image stabilizer so you can smoothly use the unit and spot your target. An e-compass so you are aware of what directions you should take.
It features a 4K ultra HD sensor and has an incredible lifetime battery of 18 hours thanks to its Lithium Ion Battery. It offers HD Night Vision mode and higher resolution. You can use the ATN obsidian app to control your unit and to view live streaming. Once you are connected to WiFi, you can review your recordings in the app. You can see upwards to 300 yards quite clearly.
I like that this unit has the live feature and the range finder, 2 features that bring up the quality of the night vision scope. The battery life is also incredible. Overall, an excellent unit that is durable and performs incredibly well for a digital night scope. Of course, you may experience a little bit of pixelation at higher magnification but nothing too drastic.
Here’s an in-depth review and an unboxing of the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope, you can see how well this unit performs and some of the features that are included. I find watching videos coupled with reading an in-depth review helps consumers to see if they are interested in purchasing the product (especially since some things are just better seen than read).
The Night Owl NightShot provides 3x magnification that’s meant to be used with rifle calibers of .30 calibers or lower. It’s not recommended to use with mid-size or heavier rifles so this makes it an excellent choice for those looking for a budget-friendly option. It’s a versatile scope that can be used for different activities. The magnification isn’t the highest, but it’s just enough for hunting.
A budget-friendly night vision scope that features a built-in IR, this unit allows you to see up to 100 to 200 yards. It’s powered by 4 AA batteries, which should typically last 3 hours with continuing usage. Bringing spare batteries should extend the life of your scope. Another downside of this unit is that the field of view is quite limited. But for its affordability price, it’s a great night vision scope that doesn’t compromise on the important features nor does it cut any corners. It’s truly an impressive budget-friendly scope with decent optics.
Here’s an unboxing and review of the Night Owl NightShoot.
The Armasight FLIR Vampire 3x Night Vision Riflescope is a Gen 1 riffle scope that feels very militaristic. It features better clarity of images and the resolution is much higher (compared to other Gen 1 models).
This unit is a prime example of why generations should not be taken too much into account. Although this night vision scope is advertised as a Gen 1 model, it acts and performs very much like a Gen 2 model thanks to its core technology. It’s excellent at capturing and amplifying light. The reticle can be adjusted to 10 different options. The lenses are made of multi-coated glass optics. The battery life should last up to 40 hours.
Since it’s not a digital scope unlike some of the options offered on this list (digital scopes are great because they are highly reliable and affordable but suffer a little in zoom magnification). Don’t forget to cover the night vision scope with the provided rubber cap since this is not a digital unit, ambient light can damage the tubes. The image quality is far superior than a digital night vision scope, but you can’t record unless you have a phone camera attached to it. The only issue I can find with this unit is the weight, which is on the heavier side. However, that’s to be expected because of the higher optics.
Here’s a review of the Armaright Vampire 3x from another perspective plus, you get to see the scope in action!
The Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x50L features 6 reticle options in 3 different colors that offers an enhanced view of your target. The night scope provides ample clarity at a distance of up to 200 yards. It provides a decent battery life of around 4-5 hours and uses 2 AA batteries. I recommend carrying additional batteries just in case, but your Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x50L comes with a battery life indicator so you should know when the batteries of your unit are about to run out.
It includes a port for your videos to be sent to a video recorder or an external LCD screen with the RCA plugs. It includes a built IR illuminator and features 3 brightness settings (high, medium, and low). The illuminator is very bright and clear. The unit also features high shock resistance, easy mounting on a riffle, and it’s compact! Overall, it’s better suited for hunting in large hunting areas due to its higher magnification. It can be used for day and night. It’s not necessarily a budget-friendly scope, but for the money, it’s well worth it!
Here’s a short clip of the Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x50L in action in different ranges.
The Pulsar Digisight N550 is a digital night vision scope that is easy to mount and demount on your riffle. It includes a built-in IR illuminator. Some of the features allow you to adjust the eyepiece, control the brightness, and adjust the parallex. Also, direct sunlight won’t damage your unit because it’s digital.
Meanwhile not a budget-friendly night vision scope, this unit features a compact build with excellent optics. It’s run on 4 AA rechargeable batteries (lithium batteries are a good option). This is important because the battery life on this is not very powerful (max time is 2 hours). The built-in LCD screen also makes you aware of the battery life and you can actually view everything or record it!
There are 6 different options for the reticles and it works best at a 100 yards. It even works clearly in the daytime as long as the brightness is adjusted and turned down. You can also plug it in to your laptop so you can record your hunts. A great unit that performs extremely well for the price point (although it’s a little pricey). It’s between a Gen 1 and Gen 2 model and offers nice little additional features.
This is what the image of the Pulsar Digisight N550 look like in the night!
The ANT ThOR-HD 640 1-10x is great investment for those who are serious about hunting and are comfortable spending a good amount on their optics. It’s powered on 4 AA batteries, which provides you about 8 hours of continuous usage.
Some of the features of the ANT ThOR-HD 640 1-10x are smart shooting solution, smart range finder, WiFi, bluetooth, RAV, internal microphone and multiple reticles available in different colors. There are countless extra features that make this unit an excellent purchase. It can support a range of at least 150 yards and more. You can also share your adventures by recording them and the Obsidian App makes it easier to watch exactly what you can see through your unit. As the name implies, it’s an incredibly strong, durable, and irresistible night vision scope that just works!
If you want to see an in-depth review of the features and how to operate this unit, check out the video below!
The Bushnell Equinox Z 4.5×40 has a wide variety of optics ranging from spotting scopes, tripods for spotting scopes, and monoculars. It’s powered on 4 AA batteries and includes great zooming capabilities, video recording, image capture, and can be used day and night.
An outstanding buy for the price point, this is a Gen 2 model that’s on the more affordable side without limiting on important features. It offers excellent clarity and is a recommended buy for beginners because of it’s price and ease of use. You can keep an update on the battery life of your device with the display, as well as other informations. The IR helps capture better, clear, and crisp images even in total darkness. However, while this is a great optic, it’s important to know that it has a narrow field of view.
I stated earlier that night vision scopes serve many purposes. One of the most common purpose is for hunting wild hogs, which has especially proven to be a problem in Texas and surrounding southwest/southeastern states. As such, the options that have been offered in this list are excellent for those of you who are looking for scopes that will specifically cater to your needs for hog hunting. Of course, you can also use them for other intended purposes but they function exceptionally well for getting rid of feral hogs. And, if you’re experiencing difficulty with your crops and farms because of
Hunting, as argued by the Texas Hog Hunting Association, is one of the most humane way of eliminating the wild hog problems since these feral animals cause devastating harm to land and crop (rather than poisoning them). This organization provides excellent high quality and reliable information on hog hunting. If you’re in Texas, their community is quite active and composed of landowners, hunters, and ranchers who work together to eliminate hog problems effectively. They offer some of the best education found on the internet!
A night vision scope uses thermal imaging technology. Human bodies emit heat; due to the thermal imaging technology, you can see images of anybody in the dark. The target is displayed in green color. The green color is used for displaying images because the green color is most receptive to human eyes.
Infra-red light is used in night vision scopes. Thermal imaging technology is used for detecting infra-red light. Human bodies emit heat. The thermal imaging technology used in the night vision scope detects that heat. It then produces the image of the human body. By using this technology, night vision scopes capture infrared light and display the image in the dark.
The shooting range of night vision scope depends on the model you have. Most of the night vision scopes which are common provide a shooting range of 30 yards maximum. Most night vision scopes use infra-red illuminator, which usually works the best for short-range indoor use. Night vision scopes, which are more efficient, provide a shooting range of 200 yards.
No, night vision scopes cannot work during the day. In every night vision scope, an image is only produced by the moonlight and starlight. During the day due to sunlight, the shadows will make the device unstable. So whenever there is sunlight present, the night vision scope will not work efficiently.
When you’re ready to purchase a night vision scope, don’t forget to read the manufacturer’s guide for additional information. You can also hop on YouTube and watch videos on your device if you need further clarification. If you still have any questions, you can directly contact the company and they will be more than happy to answer your questions. That was also another reason as to why we included them in our top 10 best list. Customer support, especially with pricier items like night vision scopes, is incredibly important!
If you intend to travel with your night vision scope, I strongly recommend reading the TSA guidelines on transporting firearms and ammunition. Make sure you contact your airline to check if you can bring firearms with you on your trip and ask if there are any limitations fees. However, you should be allowed to carry your night vision scope with you in carry on bags and checked bags. Don’t forget to declare any ammunition or firearms to the agent. If you’re traveling outside of the US with your hunting equipment, check out the regulations by the U.S Customs and Border Protection Services.
Regardless of the activities you plan to pursue with your night vision scope, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the many aspects of hunting, shooting, and gun safety if you plan on using your unit for these purposes. But, if you need some reassurance on the best 3 options, I would recommend the ATX X-Sight II HD for its advanced technologies at a great price point, the Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3×42 for its rugged and durable built, and the Sightmark Photon RT 4.5-9x42S for its vast amount of incredible features.