Best Night Vision Scopes for Taking That Shot in the Dark

Night vision scope technology seems like something out of a sci-fi or sniper movie, and many people may not know they are readily available for commercial sale. Although you may be surprised to learn it, night vision technology is becoming more available and is very useful for some shooters.

As a shooter, you may be considering what is the best night vision scope for you. Of course, all new technology can be a little expensive in the beginning. If you’re looking for a night vision scope for hog hunting or other uses, you want to get the best value out of your purchase.

Luckily, you’ve come to the right place for more information! I’ve compiled some of my best recommendations and some helpful information to help you pick the best night vision scope.

Comparison Table

Product NameMagnificationSize & WeightPrice
SightMark Photon XT 4.6X42 4.6x 398x75x80 mm & 23.6 oz (with batteries)
ATN X-Sight Pro 5-20X 20x 14.9 x 3 x 3 inches & 2.2 pounds
Bushnell Equinox Monocular 4.5x 6.5 x 2.4 x 3.9 inches & 1.38 pounds
ArmaSight Nemesis 6X 6x 15.3 x 4 x 2.8 inches & 4.2 pounds
Pulsar Trail XQ Thermal Rifle Scope 2.7x - 10.8x -
FLIR ThermoSight RS64 2x - 16x 14 x 11 x 5 inches & 5 pounds

In a Rush?

Want a quick answer? Here’s a sneak peek at 3 of my top picks.

Best for Budget – SightMark Photon XT 4.6X42

If you’re reading this article, you might be looking to experiment with night vision scopes to see if you like them, with budget at the top of your mind. SightMark offers the Photon line which allows users some basic night vision capabilities at a very reasonable starter price.

Best Handheld – Bushnell Equinox

Do you need a night vision scope for hunting for your rifle? Maybe you just need a handheld unit that gives you night vision tracking or scouting capabilities. The Bushnell Equinox offers a lot of utility at a comparatively lower cost.

High Level – FLIR ThermoSight

If you came here to find the best night vision scope for coyote hunting (or other hunting) and money is not a concern, this might be what you’re looking for. The FLIR ThermoSight offers amazing thermal capabilities at night time with great clarity and zoom in a rugged package.

Top Night Vision Scope Picks

Below, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite night vision scopes for your consideration. I’ve picked some from each category to have an option that represents each type of user.

Best Night Vision Scope Under $500 – SightMark Photon XT 4.6X42

best night vision scope

Do you worry that night vision scopes are too expensive for you to afford them? Many people do, and it’s true that high-end night vision scopes can be very cost prohibitive.

However, there is a great option for you under $500! Sightmark is known for making lower-cost options that work well, and they have introduced night vision capabilities with their Photon line.

The Photon XT 4.6 is a relatively small, lightweight, and effective night vision scope for your basic night vision needs. It mounts using standard 30mm rings and is among the lightest night vision scopes on the market.

With the Photon night vision scopes, a shooter can get into the night vision market easily. However, don’t expect the Photon to have the same clarity or features of the high end scopes.

With the built-in infrared illuminator, the Photon is great for illuminating small to medium sized game animals within a range of 100-150 yards. This is not an extreme distance, but it is more than adequate for pest control around your property.

Under $500, the Photon is the best night vision scope for hunting coyotes, hogs, foxes, possums, or other pests that may disturb or threaten your property. It would work great mounted on a quiet rimfire rifle, or a subsonic bolt-action rifle equipped with a suppressor.

 

Do you want to try getting into night vision without spending more than the cost of your rifle? The Photon may be a great choice for you!

What I Like:
  • Low Cost
  • Lightweight
  • Built-in IR Illuminator
  • Mounts with 30mm scope rings
What I Don't Like:
  • Additional IR Illuminator may be required for distances beyond 150 yards
  • Some parts of the construction use cheaper materials to save costs
  • Might lack the clarity of more expensive options

 

 

Best Night Vision Scope Under 1000 – ATN X-Sight Pro 5-20X

Do you have slightly larger budget and want to play around with some stuff with more cool tech features? Maybe sport hunting is your hobby and you’d like to record some of your night time hunting?

ATN X-Sight Pro 5-20XThe X-Sight Pro offers a little more in the way of features while maintaining a very reasonable price point.

This scope is really part scope, part computer, and part video camera. Let’s investigate some more of the very cool features it has.

The X-Sight Pro acts and looks relatively like a normal rifle scope, and has a typical magnification range of 5 to 20 power (3 to 14 is also available). The technological side comes out with its litany of other features:

  • Day and Night Vision – use as a regular scope during the daytime or activate the night vision.
  • 4K Video Recording and Streaming – Record your hunts and every shot you take with the built-in video camera. This is available in both day and night time mode. The scope can record video to an internal 64 GB SD card while simultaneously streaming to another device such as a tablet or cell phone.
  • Recoil Activated Video – Can be set to record video seconds before and after your shot, activated by the recoil of firing your rifle. This means no worries about missing your chance to press record.
  • Ballistic Calculator – Experienced shooters know that distance, humidity, wind, elevation, and many other factors impact your bullet’s path. You must calculate all of these to make your shot, but it can require lots of concentration when making a fast shot. The X-Sight Pro contains built-in ballistic calculators that predict your bullet’s flight path and help you make the perfect shot.

 

That’s a lot of features! If you’re considering stretching your budget a little bit, there’s a good chance that the X-Sight Pro packs enough utility to make it worth your while.

What I Like:
  • Day and night capabilities
  • Lots of features to record your hunts
  • Built-in ballistics calculator simplifies the shooting equation
  • Useful range of magnification
  • Lots of Value
What I Don't Like:
  • Adds a lot of weight
  • Image quality can sometimes be a compromise
  • Best-used with additional accessories sold by ATN (Extra cost to your initial purchase)

 

Best Handheld Night Vision – Bushnell Equinox Monocular

Ask yourself, are you best suited with a night vision scope attached to your rifle? Perhaps your night vision needs can be best met with an external system.

Bushnell Equinox Monocular

When integrating night vision with the aiming capabilities of a scope, compromises will always have to be made. That’s one reason to consider if you might actually want a separate handheld device for your night vision needs.

The Bushnell Equinox offers a compact tool that allows a user to see and track objects easily in the darkness. On its own, the monocular is cheaper than fully integrated night vision scopes – and you get more illumination and vision than you would get from a similarly-priced scope.

The monocular has a zoom capability of 4.5X, so you can reasonably extend the distance you can see in the darkness. It also has an adjustable focus to get a clear image at different distances.

One of the great features of this monocular is the ability to record images, videos, and audio. Featuring a 32GB SD card slot, you have plenty of room to record your scouting.

If you need night vision scouting capabilities but don’t necessarily need them attached to a rifle scope, this could be the right option for you. A handheld unit like this one is highly usable for night time scouting, keeping an eye on livestock and animals, private security purposes, or any other time you need a light and handy solution to see in the dark.

What I Like:
  • Easy to pack in a bag or with the rest of your gear
  • Less cost than a dedicated scope
  • Record images, video, and audio
What I Don't Like:
  • Still requires a weapon-mounted solution for dedicated night time hunting
  • One more piece of equipment to maintain, keep track of, and carry

 

Mid-Level Night Vision Scope – ArmaSight Nemesis 6X

Since night vision scopes can get expensive, going up the price scale definitely does give incremental returns on quality. As you start getting into mid-level prices, you will see enhanced clarity of picture and a longer usable sight distance on dark nights.

ArmaSight Nemesis 6X

The ArmaSight Nemesis is a great example of this. It’s priced about mid-level compared to other night vision scopes, and it brings large improvements in quality and usability.

The Nemesis is a simple 6X scope with a thin crosshair reticle.

The scope mounts to a standard Weaver rail and is both waterproof and shock resistant. This means it can stand up to hard use in the field and the abuse that high-recoil rifles can put on sensitive scopes.

Generation 2 night vision technology increases the brightness and the clarity of the picture, making this a very competitive option. It may be worth the purchase if you want to make a step up in the experience of what you see through the reticle.

Keep in mind that the weight of this scope is over 4 lbs, which is pretty heavy. In some cases, that alone can increase the weight of your rifle by 50% or more.

On the plus side, this scope has a good working battery life of 60 hours and is powered by small, simple CR123A batteries.

What I Like:
  • Thin reticle for fine aiming
  • Very good vision quality out to long distances
  • Long battery life and small replacement batteries
  • Very durable and shock resistant
What I Don't Like:
  • Adds a lot of weight to the rifle

Thermal Scope – Pulsar Trail XQ Thermal Rifle Scope

Thermal imaging is a little different from dedicated infrared night vision, but I wanted to include this as another option.

Pulsar Trail XQ Thermal Rifle Scope

Whereas night vision units amplify the energy of ambient electrons to increase the amount of light available, thermal units work by recognizing sources of heat. Unique heat signatures given off by animals make them easy to recognize even in the dark or where obstructed by brush or other light cover.

Obviously, the potential for thermal imaging on a hunting rifle is impressive and justifies the extra cost.

The Trail XQ rifle scope features a very usable magnification range of 2.7 to 10.8 magnification, right in line with traditional hunting scopes.

The display can be switched between “black heat” and “white heat” to suit a shooter’s preference, and the digital reticle can be changed for 13 different options. Additionally, the scope incorporates easy one-shot zeroing to make a monotonous task easier.

Like some of the other scopes I’ve talked about, this one features built-in high definition video recording. The user can record straight to the internal 8GB SD card or stream to an Apple or Android device for live streaming and video recording.

 

Another cool feature of this scope is the picture-in-picture feature. By dedicating a small portion of the screen to enhanced zoom, you can get a close view on your target while keeping the rest of your field of view unobstructed.

The Trail XQ has thermal detection capabilities up to 1900 yards (that’s in excess of one mile!) and features a range-finder to give you the data you need to make your shot.

The biggest negative of this scope is going to be its 8 hour battery life. Included with the scope is a recharger for the battery pack, but this limited life is going to make extended hunting trips difficult.

What I Like:
  • Thermal Imaging gives you an extra edge on finding targets
  • Waterproof scope
  • Usable range of magnification
  • Built-in video recording and streaming
  • Built-in rangefinder
What I Don't Like:
  • Relatively high price
  • Short battery life keeps you close to your charger

Professional Thermal/Night Vision Scope – FLIR ThermoSight RS64

FLIR is one of the original names in night vision, and one of the most highly respected.

FLIR ThermoSight RS64The ThermoSight is a high-quality, durable, professional-level thermal scope with many features that make it an excellent the best night vision scope for hunting at a high level.

The scope features a magnification range of 2 to 16 power, perfect for a variety of hunting situations. Using FLIR thermal vision with an adjustable color palette, the hunter can easily see animals from a distance of over 300 yards.

The scope itself has a quick detach features and mounts to any Picatinny standard rail. It is rated for semi-automatic hunting rifles up to .308 caliber, making it a perfect best night vision scope for hog hunting or coyote hunting.

For the size and quality, the unit weighs a reasonable 2 and a half pounds, which is comparable to or better than many other night vision scopes.

The scope does require a battery and has a battery life of 4 hours at a time. It charges with a standard USB port and also accepts external battery packs.

As far as night vision optics go, thermal does one better by highlighting animals by their heat signature. If you are looking for the best night vision scope for hunting, and are willing to pay the price associated with professional level equipment, a scope such as this one could give you the very best chance at finding your targets.

Although this scope doesn’t have a built in video recorder as some others do, it does have a video out attachment through which a hunter could connect a device to capture video.

What I Like:
  • Wide magnification range
  • Very clear vision to extended distances
  • Adjustable color palettes to help you pick out heat signatures
  • QD optic mount
What I Don't Like:
  • High price is a barrier to all but the most dedicated hunters and professionals
  • Battery life of only 4 hours

 

What You Need to Know About Night Vision

When making an investment like a quality night vision optic, you want to know that you are making the right choice with your purchase. Let’s talk about some basic knowledge you need to make the decision.

How Much Do You Need?

Ask yourself what your requirements are for the best night vision scope for your purposes. A professional hunting guide or pest control specialist might have different needs from a hobbyist or a land owner.

If all you need is a little bit of capability to see in the dark and take relatively close-ranged shots at small animals, you can save a lot of money by going with a lower-priced optic (like the SightMark Photon I suggested above).

It may even be the case that your best night vision scope for hunting is simply a handheld unit. This will allow you to see in the dark and identify animals from a distance, and you will get much better quality night vision for a lower price.

Consider if you can justify the experience of owning a very expensive night vision scope or if you just need a basic tool to do a simple job.

My Generation  

Not all night vision is “true” night vision. Some night vision scopes are actually digital and built more like camera technology, and will have the limitations of a camera.

True night vision technology essentially transmits an image and uses an image intensifier to make the existing light brighter and easier to interpret.

When shopping for night vision devices, you might notice them listed as having a certain “generation”, which can be confusing for new buyers.

Essentially, the generation refers to the complexity of the image intensifying technology. Generation 1 would be the earliest, while higher generation numbers are more developed. The later the generation (higher number), the higher the expected price and complexity.

On the other hand, later generation technology creates a much clearer and sharper picture. If you are a professional or rely on your night vision scope for serious uses, it may be worth the investment of a later generation device.

Night Vision vs. Thermal

You’ll notice that I’ve listed some thermal imaging scopes alongside night vision scopes. Although thermal scopes do allow you to see in the dark, they work differently from a true night vision device, and it’s useful to understand the differences.

Thermal imaging works by detecting the heat signatures of different objects and displaying them as a frequency of light. Because most hunted animals are warm-blooded and give off their own heat signatures, thermal scopes make them easy to see in the dark and through partial obstruction such as bushes and trees.

A good thermal scope will greatly increase your capability to detect animals during the night time, especially those with bright color palettes which easily grab the shooter’s attention. Even with a night vision scope, contrast can be an issue, and thermal helps animals stand out.

Thermal does have its limits, though. In high ambient temperatures, some objects may stand out (think a rock in the desert, reflecting the sun). Conversely, the technology would work well in the snow where there is a large temperature difference between an animal and its environment.

Thermal scopes can definitely be more expensive and have high battery and equipment requirements. Despite this, they can be very useful for certain types of predator and pest hunting and even for professional security uses.

All About the Money Shot

Many of the scopes I’ve listed here either have built-in video recording capabilities or an output for recording to one. For many people, this can be an important feature.

If you’re a hunting or shooting hobbyist, recording your shots can be a very cool feature to capture memories and trips. For some, it can be even more than that.

Hunting guides, for example, might benefit from video recording capabilities because they can provide their client with a video of their hunt so they can always remember it and share it with their friends. Professional animal removal or destruction services might get a lot of use out of the feature also, as they can use the video to provide later analysis of the job.

If this feature is important to you, it might be worth investigating a night vision scope that has it built in. Otherwise, you will have to reflect the cost of recording features separately.

To Conclude

Night vision scopes can be a very useful tool for the shooter, hunter or professional. Properly selecting the right tool will help you do the job you want without worry or frustration.

Now that I’ve helped you learn a little bit about the different options for night vision scopes, I hope you’re in a good place to make a decision for yourself.

Remember, if you’re using night vision scopes for hunting at night, always make sure of the laws you have to follow and the proper safety rules. No hunt is worth getting arrested or getting somebody hurt!

Until next time, stay safe and good luck with your best night vision scope!

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