best night vision scope

9 Best Night Vision Scope Reviews 2021

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:

Our Top Pick

ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Rifle...

ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Day/Night Riflescope

  • Fantastic quality
  • Great battery life
  • Feature-packed
The runner up

ATN X-Sight II HD 3-14 Smart Day/Night...

ATN X-Sight II HD

  • Plethora of features
  • 1080P video recording
  • Daytime/nighttime use
The best affordable

Sightmark Night Raider 3x60 Night Vision...

Sightmark Night Raider 3x60 Night Vision Riflescope

  • Clear image
  • Affordable
  • Great battery life

Top 9 night vision scopes To Buy In 2021

Sightmark Wraith HD Digital Riflescope

Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32x50 Digital...
  • Day/Night mode – full color viewing for day use; black and white or classic...
  • High-definition sensor – high resolution imaging with video recording in 1080p...

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.

The Good

  • 10-reticle options
  • Extreme night vision
  • Has a 1080 HD sensor
  • Great magnification

The Bad

  • Bulky

Night Owl NightShot Optics

Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night...
  • Call for mounting advice: (800) 444-5994
  • Range: 100-200 yds. in typical nighttime environments

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. 

The Good

  • Durable construction
  • Effective up to 200 yards
  • Weatherproof
  • Surprisingly affordable

The Bad

  • Two hours of battery life with IR turned on

ATN X-Sight II HD

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ATN X-Sight II HD 3-14 Smart Day/Night...
  • Use Day & Night in HD resolution - our HD technology gives you crystal clear...
  • Day & Night Vision in Millions of Colors - best hunting optic that fits the...

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.

The Good

  • Ballistic calculator and rangefinder
  • Daytime and nighttime use
  • Built-in 3D gyroscope and an e-compass
  • Video recording up to 1080p

The Bad

  • Non-responsive customer service according to some users

ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Day/Night Riflescope

ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Rifle...
  • Ultra HD Sensor-Ultra HD 4K Sensor with our Obsidian 4 Dual Core Processor...
  • Ballistic Calculator-Hunt responsibly by making sure your shot hits the target...

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.

The Good

  • Fantastic overall quality
  • Incredibly long battery life
  • Excellent image quality during night and day
  • Fantastic features

The Bad

  • None at this price point

ATN ThOR HD 384

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ATN ThOR-HD 384 4.5-18x, 384x288, 50 mm,...
  • Excellent Image Performance with 384x288 Sensor - it is the ideal night vision...
  • Ballistic Calculator - the system allows you to calculate the trajectory of your...

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.

The Good

  • Overall great product
  • Three types of magnification with smooth zoom
  • Recoil-activated HD recording
  • A plethora of built-in features

The Bad

  • Not exactly night vision

Sightmark Night Raider 3x60 Night Vision Riflescope

Sightmark Night Raider 3x60 Night Vision...
  • Two-color range finding reticle (red or green)
  • High quality image and resolution

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.

The Good

  • Easy to use
  • Clear images
  • Affordable
  • Outstanding battery life

The Bad

  • Limited range on gloomy nights

Sightmark Photon XT 6.5X50L

Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42S Digital...
  • The extremely versatile Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42 delivers a higher...
  • 33% longer battery life

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.

The Good

  • Built-in IR illuminator
  • Excellent range
  • Affordable
  • Shockproof and splash-proof

The Bad

  • The improved battery source lasts 5 hours

Firefield NVRS 3X42

Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Night Vision...
  • High quality image and resolution
  • Lightweight and durable titanium body with water resistant IPX4 Rating

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. 

The Good

  • Affordable
  • Powerful magnification
  • High-quality image
  • Built-in IR illuminator

The Bad

  • Some users reported seeing black dots in the tube

Bushnell 4.5x40 Equinox

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Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Night Vision...
118 Reviews
Bushnell Equinox Z Digital Night Vision...
  • Digital Night Vision monocular with 4.5x magnification, 1 to 3x digital zoom and...
  • Day or nighttime use (Daytime color with IR off); built in Infrared Illuminator...

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.

The Good

  • Fully accessorized
  • Adjustable IR brightness
  • High-performance optics

The Bad

  • Short battery life

Buyer’s Guide

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:

  • GEN 0 – These devices were the first iteration of night vision technology from the period before the end of WWII. The first military night vision devices were used in WWII by the German and later on by the US forces. However, the technology demanded an active IR light to produce a viable image. Given the technology of the time, these devices were bulky, fragile, and had relatively low-quality images. The IR lights used by this generation of devices were also quite bulky and visible by others in the surrounding area, giving away the shooter's position.
  • GEN 1 – This was the first generation of devices that used passive or ambient infrared lighting, instead of an external IR light source. They are an adaptation and an improvement of GEN 0 technology, but are still quite bulky and require moonlight to function correctly. The GEN 1 night vision optics are still available to the general public, at a surprisingly affordable price. However, they tend to have blurry edges and a lower resolution than recent technology. As such, they're best used for close-range shooting and at-night target practice.
  • GEN 2 – Gen 2 was developed in the '70s and featured both an improved image-intensifier and the photocathode, which resulted in a better and brighter image. This allowed for an improved illumination in low ambient-light environments such as gloomy or moonless nights, requiring no additional external infrared lighting. The improved lighting and the low weight and more compact size justify the price of these devices, which are currently the most available and widespread night vision optics on the market. 
  • GEN 3 – pretty much an adaptation of the previous generation, Gen 3 devices have a gallium arsenide photocathode inside the image intensifier and an ion barrier film. The additions of these elements provide much more electron, thus producing a brighter image of a higher resolution, without the need for an external IR light. They're also exceptionally lightweight, compact, and extremely durable.Due to their lightweight, durable and shockproof construction, the GEN 3 devices are currently used by the US military. Many of the GEN 3 devices are unavailable on the civilian market unless they're stolen or counterfeit. Besides, they're quite pricey.
  • GEN 4 – Fourth generation scopes are currently the most high-tech scopes in production. They feature an automatic power supply system, allowing you to make adjustments and provide a crystal-clear image. However, they're only reserved for military professionals, with a significant downside – extreme price. 

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:

  • Budget – Compared to standard night vision devices, NV scopes are a tad more expensive since they have to include magnification and other functions. Of course, this dramatically affects the price, so consider your budget before making a purchase.
  • Use – If you’re a recreational shooter, paying top dollar for a highly advanced optics isn’t a sound choice, unless you have money to spare.
    However, hunters are the primary users of Gen 2 devices, as they provide clear enough image for nighttime hunting, at an affordable price. These devices are usually more durable and resistant to elements, such as rain and wind. With a fair amount of magnification provided by the Gen 2 NV devices, you'll always have a clear visual of your target. When it comes to tactical use, which always implies human lives, you want the best image possible. Gen 3 or even Gen 4 devices allow for optimal surveillance and observation conditions, regardless of whether you're taking the shot or not. These devices encapsulate the previous two uses, recreational shooting and hunting, but aren't necessary for such use.
  • Resolution – The resolution of the NV optic is interpreted as the image intensifier's ability to differentiate between objects that are closer together. It's defined and measured in line-pairs per millimeter (LP/MM), with higher numbers meaning better resolutions and a sharper and clearer image. This doesn't affect the brightness of the image, and the brightness doesn't factor in the device's resolution. Still, the resolution is tied to the NV scope's generation, with higher generations featuring bigger resolutions and a clearer image.
  • Magnification – magnification plays a vital role when it comes to scopes since it depends on how far you are planning to shoot. Shooting at night is tricky in itself, but get's trickier without proper magnification. Even so, you can't expect magnification levels of daytime optics; night vision scopes usually go up to 15x magnification, with digital zoom. Choosing the right magnification depends on several factors, like the magnifying power, the shooting range, and the device's measurements. Typically, the more magnifying power means more weight and a heftier price tag.
  • Durability – Modern optics are a combination of glass and electronics, both of which are fragile components. That's why it's imperative to choose the most durable device within your budget limits. Night vision scopes are rated according to the recoil force they must withstand: light, moderate, or heavy recoil. Apart from recoil, you should look for water and dust resistance. If the device is waterproof or water-resistant (two very different things), it's also dust-proof or dust-resistant. Night vision optics aren't really affordable, so it's best not to assume your equipment's durability if you're unsure about it. Material plays a vital role in your equipment's durability, and aluminum plays a better role than plastic. It's better at withstanding drops, falls, and kicks, though it comes at a higher cost. You can quickly get away with plastics for light hunting or target practice. But when night falls, and things get serious – invest in an aluminum-body night vision scope.

Conclusion 

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.

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