Past has the time when night vision optics were expensive and unavailable for the general public. Nowadays, with the advancement of technology, these devices are more widespread, accessible, and affordable than ever before. What was once a military technology is now available to everyone who likes shooting in dark environments, murky caves, or open prairies.
If you're a gun or a hunting enthusiast who likes to shoot at night, night vision scopes are necessary. They're specially designed and built scopes for use in the dark environments and the rough and tough terrain with low visibility. However, you need to choose one that fits your needs the most, and for beginners, that might seem challenging, considering what the market has to offer.
Luckily, we're here to help you, whether you're a beginner or an experienced shooter, choose the best night vision scope that fits our needs. We've rounded up the best night vision scopes and compiled them into this article and a comprehensive buyer's guide on best night vision scopes. So, here's our top picks:
Top 9 night vision scopes To Buy In 2021
Sightmark Wraith HD Digital Riflescope
The Wraith HD 4-32x50 Riflescope fits many uses, extending its functionality above a simple night vision scope. It's a digital night vision riflescope that offers excellent performance during both night and day. The most noticeable characteristic of the Wraith is its magnification rate.
It features a 50mm objective lens that provides up to 32 times magnification with clear and bright images of your target. As one of the best NV scopes money can buy, the Wraith offers above-decent visibility at night. However, it may rely on an external lighting source, in rare situations, so the manufacturer equipped it with an 850nm IR flashlight.
Thanks to the additional light source, you can take the Wraith with you while hunting inside dark caves or thick, dark forests. With full 10-reticle options and nine different color displays, this NV riflescope allows you to precisely and accurately aim and hunt in the dark environments. If you're a hunter, you'll love the video recording feature on the Wraith.
It captures a stunning 1080 HD video footage with clear images that you can replay anytime you want. Just don't forget the batteries: the device runs for 4.5 hours of four AA batteries.
Night Owl NightShot Optics
The Nightshot is ideal if you're varmint hunting after the sun goes down, and the nocturnal vermin comes up. It's perfect for picking off hogs, coyotes, rats, and rabbits in the distances between 100 and 200 yards. The NightShot features a 3x magnification, a large field of view, and durable and waterproof construction.
It's compatible with both magnum and non-magnum rifles under 30 caliber bullets, and with a 30cal. non-magnum, mounting on both the Weaver and Picatinny rails. Thanks to the heavy-duty thermoplastic construction, this riflescope is lightweight and durable, featuring three reticle options and a built-in IR illuminator.
The reticle options allow easy adjustments for both daytime and nighttime shooting, including focus adjustments and additional adjustments to the built-in IR. All of this makes the NightShot perfect for newcomers to the night vision game since it's excellent as close-range hunting optics for pest control and removal. Not to mention the rugged design and quite an affordable price tag.
ATN X-Sight II HD
The E-Sight 2 is one of the most competitive riflescopes on our list, thanks to the sheer number of functions it has to offer. It’s one of the finest ATN riflescopes, and for a good reason – offering unapparelled features in the sub $1000 price bracket.
The X-Sight 2 provides cinematic-like HD images that are lively, bright, clear, and seamless, both on the darkest of nights and the sunniest of days. It's best known for its ballistic calculator and a rangefinder, which allow you to pinpoint quickly, aim at, and sort out the targets you want to shoot. With these features and the built-in 3D gyroscope, the X-Sight 2 provides unparalleled accuracy that matches your sharpshooting skills.
The gyroscope also prevents blurry images, while the e-compass points and leads you in the desired direction. It will keep all of your shooting performance recorded as a 1080p video file and keep you on your track at the same time. Furthermore, it allows you to stream your video through a Wi-Fi connection on Android phones and tablets.
ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Day/Night Riflescope
If you’re looking for a high-tech, do-it-all optics for under a $1000, the X-Sight 4K Pro is definitely a virtual computer mounted on your hunting rifle. It comes in two distinct sizes, the 3-14x magnification and 5-20x magnification, with a slight price difference between the two. Other than that, both models feature the same functions we'll describe below.
The X-Sight 4K Pro is the latest marvel in the NV scopes industry, since it packs quite the technological punch, coming in a traditional riflescope form factor. It features a low-light 4K sensor powered by a dual-core processor, for unprecedented image performance on a Smart riflescope. It mounts on most standard rails and features a smooth zoom function that doesn't fatigue the eyes.
Thanks to the 4K sensor, the X-Sight offers higher resolutions with millions of vivid colors during daytime use, and unparalleled details when used in night vision mode. It records and streams videos to your mobile device at HD resolutions and with 120fps. The incorporated ballistic calculator and the built-in range finder and a 3D-gyroscope ensure that your shots hit the target. The cherry on top: the device offers more than 18 hours of continuous work.
ATN ThOR HD 384
The ATN’s ThOR HD 384 could very well be one of the most popular thermal night visions on the current market, and for a plethora of reasons. And the top reason is that you can shoot the nocturnal vermin hidden under cover of the thickest of bushes, fogs, or downpours.
As a thermal device, the HD 384 detects heat signatures, rather than gathering ambient light. To achieve this, it uses a specialized, high-quality 384x288 thermal sensor that detects the heat energy coming from your prey. And as with all the ATN devices we reviewed so far, the HD 384 is feature-packed with technological wonders.
The built-in rangefinder will quickly calculate the distance to your target, while the ballistic calculator takes the wind, humidity, rain, and other conditions into its equation. This will enable you always to shoot accurately while hunting. Of course, like most high-end devices, the ThOR can be used during both the day and the night.
Suppose you like recording or streaming your shots, the HD 384 features a recoil-activated video recording and Wi-Fi streaming. It will allow you to record all your hunting trips in HD while using your smartphone as a viewfinder.
Sightmark Night Raider 3x60 Night Vision Riflescope
Sightmark is a manufacturer of some of the most exciting and well-made night vision optics on the market, and Night Raider isn't an exception. It’s on a simpler side, but it’s quite robust and durable optic for nighttime hunting.
Night Raider is a Gen 1 device, so you can expect a Gen 1 performance. However, things aren't the way they sound – quite the contrary. The Night Raider features quite large, 60mm lens that provides clarity and a wide field of view. For a Gen 1 device which, let's be honest, don't pack a punch, the Night Raider provides surprisingly clear images.
It provides impeccable performance for a Gen 1 device and features a 200-yards effective range, perfect for both close-range and medium-range shooting. It also features a stabilized energy source that prevents recoil from disrupting the battery's power to the device. Of course, the device offers an astonishing 70 hours of continuous work and an IPX4 waterproof rating, making it impervious to rain.
The integrated IR light works well in most conditions; however, the manufacturer opted to add a mounting rail for an additional IR source. That said, the device lacks all the fancy gadgetry other products on this list feature, but you can't really expect more from such an affordable product.
Sightmark Photon XT 6.5X50L
The Photon is a respectable night vision scope from Sightmark that's best suited for both beginners and tactical shooters. As a scope, it offers superior and reliable performance, providing you with the clearest image possible, even in the darkest of nights. Without a doubt, the Photon is one of the best sights for hunting. But what makes it so?
Well, this Gen 1 device brings all the necessary performance to the table, but with higher magnification and an illuminated reticle. But unlike other Gen 1 device, the Photon is significantly lighter than its competitors and offers 30% more juice in terms of battery life. It certainly won't let you down, even if you spend the night stalking your prey.
Though slightly longer than traditional scopes, the Photon mount to any rail. Despite the low weight, its size doesn't affect the balance and feel of any lightweight rifle, allowing you to handle your gun with ease. However, it doesn't come up with any fancy functions, which is understandable, considering its price.
Still, if you're looking for an uncomplicated night vision scope that's both functional and affordable, the Photon XT might suit you perfectly.
Firefield NVRS 3X42
The Firefield NVRS 3X42 is probably one of the best products the budget market of Gen 1 devices has to offer. And for a low budget product, this NVRS comes full of surprises. It's relatively lightweight for a Gen 1 device, and extremely durable, considering the titanium-made body. It's also water-resistant up to a point, which means you can use it during any downpour, without detrimental effects to the device.
The 42mm lens provides clear shots at approx. 70-100 yards from your target, on a clear and moonlit night. Another surprise was the built-in IR illuminator, which is unusual at this price point, to say the least, but it does a good job illuminating the moonless nights. That way, you can still see your target decently, to make a good shot.
Of course, the Firefield can be used during the day, as it features incremental brightness adjustments, which allow you to adapt to your surroundings quickly. The quick-mount system is also an excellent addition, as well as the ergonomic design, affordable price, and overall quality you get for your money.
Bushnell 4.5x40 Equinox
Bushnell is probably the most versatile device on our list since it doubles as a night vision rifle scope and a night vision handheld device. Now, most would assume that it has a load of shortcomings, as a price for such versatility. Well, we're here to say that it doesn't.
The Bushnell Equinox z, which is its full name, ships out with accessories like the tripod mount, and a carrying case, which only adds to its hefty price tag. But if you want to shoot more than just your pray, the tripod is handy when it comes to shooting and capturing videos. That's where its fancy features end since it's mostly about practicality, and functional night vision, then anything else.
It provides excellent viewing image during the daytime, and 750 feet viewing distance during night, with the built-in IR illuminator, switched on. It features a 4.5x magnification through its multicoated lens that provides exceptional optical clarity. The entire device is quite rugged and operates on 4AA replaceable batteries.
Like we said at the beginning of this article, picking out the best night vision scope isn't the easiest of tasks. The market is massive, and even the most experienced shooters and gun specialists are having a hard time picking out a product, let alone beginners. This buyer's guide aims to provide beginners and remind experts on the basics of night vision scopes and how to choose the best one. We'll introduce you to the night vision, how exactly it works, different types, and what to look for when picking a new product.
What exactly is Night Vision Technology?
Night vision devices work by gathering light, including the infrared light emitted by hot objects, animals, and humans. That light is enhanced and projected into an image visible to the human eye, in different shades of green, which appeals to our eyes. Human eyes are naturally sensitive to green color, so green was a logical choice. But how does this translate to hunting?
Well, nighttime brings out all sorts of a different game, such as nocturnal animals and predators. And since our eyes have natural limitations when it comes to night vision, we resorted to flashlights, lamps, etc. However, those light sources might scare away your prey or give away your location to other predators. Luckily, with the advancements of technology, night vision scopes become readily available to hunters, allowing them to see their prey without being seen.
How does it work?
The invisible light comes in on the one end, and the visible image comes out the other. Some would call it magic, but it's actually a small technological wonder, in its own right. Night vision devices, including scopes, pick up ambient light given off by the natural nighttime light sources – the moon and the stars. They also pick up infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. The light or light particles (called photons) enters through the objective lens and hits a photocathode, which converts photons into electrons.
Once converted, electrons travel towards a photoelectric cell that works as a photomultiplier. Here, the electrons multiply in number and travel towards a phosphorous screen. Upon impact, these electrons are reverted into bright flashes of light, which, due to their number and consistency, form an image visible to the human eye. That image is further light amplified and displayed in green shades because our eyes are more sensitive to the color green and can easily differentiate between different hues.
The technology is so light-sensitive that older generation scopes were only suitable for low-light environments. However, with recent improvements in technology, newer models can be used during both the night and the day.
Different types of night vision scopes
Though it was invented by the Germans, during WWII, the night vision technology was patented by the US Army. The night vision technology has evolved significantly since its inception, and significant staged in its development were categorized by the US Army. These are its categorizations:
There are significant differences in technology, design, and price when it comes to night vision scopes. Most civilian hunters and sportsmen will do just fine with a Gen 2 device, or even Gen 3 if they’re on a larger budget.
How to choose the right night vision scope?
Choosing the right product often depends on several factors like budget, use case, specifications, etc. Here’s what you need to know:
In conclusion, shooting at night is definitely better with a night vision – otherwise, you risk shooting a fellow hunter. To prevent that from happening, we recommend our top pick, the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Day/Night Riflescope, due to the sheer number of features it possesses. It's one of the most competitive NV optics out there that will undoubtedly serve you well, but at a price. For those on a budget, we recommend Sightmark Night Raider 3x60 Night Vision Riflescope, whose price doesn’t do it justice. It’s one of the best, most affordable NV scopes out there.