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5 Best Night Vision Scope Under $500 for Nighttime Hunting

Best Night Vision Scope Under $500

Back in the old days, it was a challenge to hit accurate shots in low light conditions as the lack of illumination often impairs precise target acquisition.

Thanks to recent advances in night vision technology and support accessories, modern-day hunters can go after their prey during the nighttime with great confidence.

Previously, night vision optics were only available to qualified military personnel. These days, even the best night vision scopes under $500 can already be bought at various gun stores.

Generally speaking, any shooter that can afford standard scopes can also acquire night vision variants without much difficulty. Even so, getting the best one for you is not exactly a simple task.

Best Budget Pick
Armasight Nemesis
Armasight Nemesis
Best Overall
ATN X-Sight
Best for AR 15
Sightmark Photon XT

The Best Night Vision Scopes Under $500 – Full Reviews

With hundreds of models and dozens of brands around, inexperienced shooters tend to have a hard time choosing the best night vision scope under $500 for hunting. Personal preferences and shooting habits further complicate the selection process.

Fortunately, in case you could use a couple of recommendations and shopping instructions, this article has all you need to know. Down below, we’ll be introducing some of the best night scopes you can buy on a $500 budget along with their specifications and features.

In addition to that, we also talk more about these budget night vision scopes in general as well as a list of essential shopping tips to help you make a sensible investment.

1. ATN X-Sight 4K Buckhunter 5-20x Daytime Riflescope

BEST OVERALL

ATN X-Sight

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Specifications:

  • Magnification: 5 – 20x
  • Lens Diameter: 85 Millimeters
  • Dimension: 11.36 x 3.5 x 3.45 Inches
  • Weight: 2.55 Pounds

The ATN X-Sight is a solid and advanced night vision scope that will not disappoint. Featuring excellent magnification range settings, a large objective lens, and high-quality image resolution, this ATN optic is a high-quality product that will give you a clear sight picture.

Since it’s specifically designed to work in daytime as well as nighttime, the scope can work well continuously 24/7. With 4 AA batteries, the scope can run for 8 – 12 hours or so, but you could always purchase the optional battery packs which can help the scope last up to 22 hours.  

Besides its primary night vision function, the ATN X-Sight also possesses various features to assist shooters on the field.  Thanks to the built-in rangefinder, the ATN scope can precisely notify you about the target distance in mere seconds.

Want to capture the moment before you take the shot? The convenient Recoil Activated Video (RAV) feature of the scope has you covered. By using the ATN Obsidian app, you could view anything you recorded in an instant!

Pros
  • Good battery life  
  • Ergonomic interface 
  • Advanced features
Cons
  • High acquisition cost 
  • Unresponsive customer service

2. Armasight Nemesis 6x Gen 2+ Night Vision Rifle Scope

BEST BUDGET PICK

Armasight Nemesis

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Specifications:

  • Magnification: 6x
  • Lens Diameter: 160 Millimeters
  • Dimension: 15.3 x 4 x 2.8 Inches
  • Weight: 4.2 Pounds

If money isn’t that much of a factor for you, then the Armasight Nemesis is one of the best night vision rifle scopes money can buy. While the acquisition cost is steep, Armasight is a top-tier brand that delivers top-of-the-line features and state-of-the-art functions.

This Gen 2 model night vision scope has a great focus range, intuitive control layouts, and has admirable resistance and endurance. Since you can fit it with Picatinny/Weaver mounts, positioning the scope on your rifle is fairly simple.

In terms of power source, the Armasight Nemesis relies on high-powered CR123A batteries to give it the power it needs to operate without interruptions.

Most of the time, a single CR123A could sustain the Armasight for 60 hours on average. Once the battery life runs low, the optic indicator will warn you that you have to put in a new one.

As the scope is able to work between 50 and 70 degrees Celsius, it should meet the needs and requirements of most serious hunters in any climate and situation.

Pros
  • Rugged body
  • Great handling   
  • Excellent clarity  
Cons
  • Very expensive
  • Slightly cumbersome

3. Sightmark Photon RT 6-12×50 Digital Night Vision Riflescope

BEST FOR AR15

Sightmark Photon XT

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Specifications:

  • Magnification: 4.6x
  • Lens Diameter: 42 Millimeters
  • Dimension: 15.66 x 2.95 x 3.14 Inches
  • Weight: 1.47 Pounds

Basic and simple, the Sightmark Photon XT is widely considered to be a good choice for people that desire something straightforward and effective.

While the Sightmark is technically a Gen 1 night vision scope, it’s nonetheless highly versatile with a reasonable magnification range and many reticle options.

From crossbows to assault rifles, this scope can be mounted on a variety of platforms depending on the user’s demands. Due to the presence of Weaver rails, you can easily attach additional accessories to the optic whenever there you need to.

Considering the fact that the windage and elevation adjustments of Sightmark Photon XT is digital, you should also be able to make changes without much difficulty.

In most cases, the Sightmark scope can offer shooters a clear sight picture with an impressive HD resolution of 656 x 492 for as far as 120 yards. Made to be shockproof and weatherproof, this optic is also fully capable of performing with distinction in less than ideal environments.

The scope requires 2 AA batteries to work and it would run smoothly for around 4 – 5 hours before new batteries are needed.

Pros
  • Easy to zero
  • Nice focus range
  • Reasonable price
Cons
  • Limited runtime
  • Barely acceptable quality control  

4. Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope

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Specifications:

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Lens Diameter: 42 Millimeters
  • Dimension: 9 x 3.1x 3.3 Inches
  • Weight: 1.91 Pounds

If you’re shopping on a tight budget, then the Firefield NVRS could be just what you’re looking for. The Firefield optic is often thought to be the best cheap night vision scope under $500 available for purchase on the market.

Even though it’s essentially a Gen 1 product, the scope can still deliver much-needed assistance to people who often hunt in the dark.

The inexpensive price point of the optic attracts numerous budget-minded shooters that can’t go for more high-end products.

With a 3x magnification range and 42 millimeters objective lens, the Firefield NVRS allows ordinary shooters to acquire targets as far as 165 yards. The scope’s high power and built-in IR illuminator make it very simple for people to recognize potential prey in low light conditions.

Using top-grade titanium, the body of the optic proves highly resilient but still remains fairly light so you can handle it with relative ease. A convenient quick-detach Weaver mount is present as well, making it easier for you to install the scope at will.   

Pros
  • Reliable and dependable
  • Straightforward operation
  • Admirable structural strength
Cons
  • Designed mostly for outdoors
  • Mediocre mounting hardware  

5. Yukon NVRS Titanium 2.5×50 Varmint Hunter

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Specifications:

  • Magnification: 2.5x
  • Lens Diameter: 50 Millimeters
  • Dimension: 10 x 3.1 x 3.3 Inches
  • Weight: 1.93 Pounds

Specifically made for hunters, the Yukon Varmint Hunter is the best night vision scope under $500 for hunting that the market has to offer. Featuring a highly flexible easy-to-use mount, you can mount the Yukon optic on a lot of weapons.

From traditional bolt-action rifles to modern-day firearms, this scope should be compatible.

Due to the sizable 50-millimeters objective lens, the scope is able to gather light effectively and efficiently all day long. The presence of a powerful built-in infrared illuminator ensures that you receive clear and bright images in complete darkness without much difficulty.

Being adaptable to digital cameras, the Yukon Varmint Hunter permits you to capture your hunting moments so you can share them with friends and family members.

On top of that, thanks to the precise nature of the adjustment system, you should have no trouble making accurate changes to the elevation/windage settings at a moment’s notice.

This optic utilizes 2 AA batteries for energy and it should run for 50 hours without a built-in IR illuminator. As proof of its quality, the scope is backed with an attractive limited lifetime warranty.

Pros
  • Commendable vision clarity
  • Good investment for its value
  • Well constructed and durable  
Cons
  • The images get blurry occasionally  
  • The instruction manual is a bit complex  

How Does Night Vision Work?

Night vision scopes enable human eyes to see in low lights and environments. The optics gather and then amplify lights in the vicinity in order to provide you with high-quality images of your surroundings.

Generally speaking, a good night vision scope offers you a vision that is far superior to your natural eyes in near-complete darkness (albeit a green one).

People that often deal with a lack of illumination while nighttime hunting and shooting greatly appreciate the assistance of night vision devices.

In the old days, the use of a night vision rifle scope was restricted but nowadays, many places have fairly lax rules.

Things to Consider to Get the Best Night Vision Scope

Man looking through night vision rifle scope

#1 Check the Acquisition Cost

People often assume that because of the use of high-grade technology, a night vision rifle scope often has an expensive price tag. Although it’s true that the cost of a night vision riflescope is higher than conventional models, there are still good-quality and affordable options.

With time and effort, you should be able to find these optics that go as cheap as $100 or so. That being said, you have to keep in mind that there is a rather subtle link between capability and price.

In most cases, dirt cheap products would not be able to deliver quality performance on the field.

For the best of both worlds, a cheap night vision scope under 500 is usually the sweet spot for most people.

We even have a buying guide on regular riflescopes under 500 dollars if you’re interested.

#2 Glance Over the Scope Profile

Due to their sophisticated construction, most night vision scopes tend to be heavy and bulky. The weight that these optics add to your rifle increases as the magnification level goes up. This can cause trouble for some people.

Hunters that have to move from one spot to another and make off-hand shots need to maneuver their rifle quickly, so a cumbersome night vision riflescope would inevitably have negative impacts on the mobility of the scope it’s mounted on.

In case you hate lugging around a heavy weapon, you should prioritize getting lightweight optics instead. However, if you’re going to be in a stationary position, then this isn’t something to worry about too much.

#3 Inspect and Exam the Battery

As you already know, most night vision optics require batteries to work as designed. Once the batteries run out, the optics would be useless for night use.

For this reason, it’s of utmost importance for you to thoroughly assess the runtime of the battery life of your preferred night vision rifle scope.

Most of the time, it’s not a bad idea to make sure that your scope utilizes a long-lasting, easily-obtained battery. Since it’s highly likely that you have to bring spare batteries along with you, it wouldn’t hurt to stick to models that use compact batteries instead.

The last thing you want to experience is to have spare batteries take up precious room in your pocket as well as backpacks.

#4 Take Focus Range Into Consideration

It goes without saying that a night vision scope has a shorter range compared to regular scopes, and numerous models sacrifice long-range distances in exchange for a greater field of view.

Nonetheless, you should take a good look at the maximum focus range that night vision scopes could offer.

The focus range is the range that which the shooter is able to recognize a potential target through the lens and send out some rounds toward it.

It’s worth noting that the focus range of the average night vision riflescope is a subjective value at best. Fluctuations in different lighting conditions can quickly change the focus range value.

#5 Thoroughly Assess Secondary Features

Some of the best night vision scopes on the market are incorporated with additional functions like weather sensors, day-night vision, video recording features, and so on.

Overall, secondary features could improve your experience on the field, but remember that each additional function can add weight to the optics along with your rifle.

As a result, it’s strongly advised that you think carefully about any secondary features that you want to have on your night vision rifle scope. In most cases, it’s unwise to get a model that possesses too many unnecessary functions.

History of Night Vision Technology

Night vision technology was first introduced in the late 1920s to early 1930s. However, night vision devices only started being widely used during World War II.

Various combatants released several optics designed to help their soldiers shoot accurate shots in typical nighttime environments.

Originally, fighting at night is a rather risky ordeal: Friendly troops can accidentally engage each other, leading to devastating consequences.

It goes without saying that success in night combat requires a combination of experienced soldiers and well-thought strategies. All of that motivated the research along with the rapid adoption of these high-tech devices.

The Generations of Night Vision Scopes

Wondering what kind of night vision scopes you could run into on the market nowadays? Here is a guide on the different optic generations throughout the years.

Two night vision scopes

Generation 1: Venerable, Simple, and Affordable

The technologies used by standard Gen 1 night vision scopes have been around since the 1960s and they should meet the demands of the casual hunters.

Models in this category are known for being more affordable. You can purchase these scopes without leaving a deep hole in your wallet.

On the other hand, most optics that are classified as Gen 1 lack important refinements found on Gen 2 and Gen 3 products. As a result, the performance of Gen 1 scopes is unsurprisingly basic and limited.

Generation 2: Works in Most Applications

Featuring more recent technologies, Gen 2 night vision scopes are more expensive than Gen 1 models but not as expensive as Gen 3 products.

Compared to Gen 1, Gen 2 delivers a better sight picture quality, longer battery life, and greater life expectancy. Therefore, Gen 2 examples are indeed good investments for hunters that need something straightforward and of high quality.  

Generation 3: Best of the Best

Employed by militaries around the globe, Gen 3 night vision scopes are the best options if you have money to spend. These scopes should offer you virtually everything you need to hunt successfully in low-light conditions.

With an extended focus range, top-of-the-line battery life, and many other advantages, you will never feel disappointed with Gen 3 night vision optics.

Reputable Manufacturers of Night Vision Scopes

It’s true that even optics from the most well-known brands in the industry won’t always guarantee satisfaction. That being said, it’s still a good idea to make sure you get the best night vision scope under $500 straight from manufacturers with familiar names.

As with anything else, the market for these devices is competitive, so brands with less than ideal products won’t last for long. Therefore, if a brand remains in business long enough that its name becomes easily recognizable, it must have done something right.

Moreover, famous names are more willing to offer their consumers post-purchase support and services compared to lesser-known brands.

Here are a couple of manufacturers you should keep in mind while shopping for the best night vision scope:   

  • Firefield: Being new to the whole night vision market, Firefield is already able to release solid products with excellent features. If you want a basic, no-nonsense night vision scope, yet only have a tight budget, Firefield models are a great go-to.
  • ATN: Arguably the leading brand in the night vision industry, ATN is the name to look out for if you want scopes of reasonable quality. ATN earns a lot of praise from civilians as well as law enforcement forces around the globe.
  • Armasight: A big name in the business, Armasight ensures that it has an appropriate night vision for every firearm enthusiast. No matter if you can cash out $10,000 or just $150, there’s probably an excellent Armasight optic that matches your financial capability.
  • Sightmark: Established in 2007, Sightmark has seen steady increases in popularity, and it’s now a famous manufacturer of optic goods today. As the brand delivers high-quality scopes at affordable prices, Sightmark quickly attracts the attention of many budget-minded shooters.  
  • Yukon: Committed to providing its customers with the latest technologies available, Yukon is another great name to keep an eye out for. In case you are shopping for your first night vision scope, it’s not a bad idea to start with a Yukon product.

The Legality of Night Vision Scopes

As night vision devices used to be reserved for trained personnel, some people are still afraid that they might get into trouble by possessing them.

In reality, as long as you have the money to back the purchase, it’s possible to secure state-of-the-art night vision scopes with no problem whatsoever.

You don’t need to apply for licenses and permits in order to carry scopes that utilize night vision technologies.

Whether you’re a law enforcement officer or just a hunter, you can buy and own any good night vision scope that you’d like, as long as you can afford it.

However, you should know that it’s a federal crime to smuggle these devices out of the U.S., so keep that in mind.

The Durability of Night Vision Scopes

When it comes to night vision devices in general, people often ask themselves, “What happens if I accidentally drop them?”

Well, the short answer is that you could likely compromise the precise assembling of the optics and even render them useless.

For these scopes to work as designed for night use, all of their components have to be in good shape. A minor dent is enough to turn a night vision device into a nice paperweight, so it’s vital to handle them with care.

Considering just how costly the scopes are, it’s necessary to get a good hold of them while on the field to avoid possible mishaps.

That being said, specific military-spec units are indeed able to take more bumps and hits than other commercial products, especially those that use aircraft-grade aluminum. These examples tend to come with an extended warranty, which goes to show how their structural integrity and general endurance.

You need to pay quite a bit to acquire such a unit though, and the supply is not exactly stable since military personnel will always have priority.

Although, whether you’re using an entry-level or the best night vision scope under $500 out there, you should still always pay attention to the mounting.

If you secure the scope firmly and properly, then you don’t have to worry too much about dropping it by mistake.

Taking Care of Night Vision Scopes

Man cleaning night vision scopes

1. Stay Away From Excessively Bright Lights

Scopes that use night vision technology are meant to be used in low light situations, so exposure to bright light can degrade their performance.

Even when the devices have an auto-gating feature and light-sensing mechanisms, you must never place them directly in front of light sources.

Store them in a dark, well-ventilated location and also cover their lens until you are about to head out. Fortunately, most products come with their own storage cases, so it’s easier for users to take care of them.

Just make sure to keep this tip in mind and your night vision riflescope should stay fine for a long time.     

2. Remove the Battery After Each Use

In case you have no plan on using a good night vision scope for more than a few days, it would be best to remove the battery. This is necessary if you wish to protect the delicate electronic components of the optics and minimize the potential risk of battery leakage.

Needless to say, store the battery in a dry and cool place for future use. High humidity can have negative effects on the battery and it can ruin your night scope.

Be careful about storage space and don’t leave the optics turned on longer than you have to. This will only waste the battery and can tarnish the coating as well.

3. Beware of Abrasive Outdoor Elements

As with a normal rifle scope, night vision variants are vulnerable to abrasive elements outdoors. We advise that you quickly outfit your optic with transparent glass filters to preserve the lens quality.

These filters let you use the scopes as usual, but it ensures that the lens is immune to scratches too.

When it comes to cleaning the lens, refrain from wiping its surface with abrasive cloths. In other words, clean and treat the lens of the scope as if it’s your camera or phone screen.

Once you are done with the cleaning, leave the scope out for a bit to prevent moisture build-ups.

Night Vision vs. Thermal: Which Is the Better?

night vision vs thermal vision

Scopes that utilize thermal technologies have no need for lights to work on the field as they rely on temperatures. The higher the temperature of a target, the more radiation it emits. This is precisely what thermal scopes capitalize on for their design.

It’s simple to detect well-hidden prey in the middle of thick bushes with infrared devices as animals can’t hide their heat signatures.

On the downside, you are often unable to acquire clear images while using thermal optics. In order to achieve precise shot placements with thermal pictures as your only references, you would have to practice a lot to get used to it.

In the end, which offers more value: Night vision or thermal scopes?

To come up with a sensible answer, you have to ask yourself what qualities you seek in a rifle scope.

If timely detection is your main concern, then a thermal scope would suit your demand best. Considering the radiation-detecting nature of thermal scopes, their performance remains constant whether you use them at nighttime or daytime.

On the other hand, if you want a high-quality image or clear sight picture and only do night hunting, night vision scopes offer what you will need. Furthermore, they are capable of enduring incessant shot recoils without much difficulty.

Frequently Asked Questions

Man looking through a night vision scope

1. How Far Can I See With a Night Vision Scope?

To put it plainly, it’s impossible to judge the range of a night vision riflescope as there are a lot of variables to consider. For example, a good Gen 3 optic allows you to spot a human figure at 300 yards.

However, it’s pretty difficult to reliably judge whether that person is a man or woman until the distance drops to around 150 yards or so.

In addition to that, the amount of surrounding light has a considerable influence on the range. Yet most of the time, late gen optics often have superior quality performance compared to earlier units in similar conditions.

2. Is Auto-Gating Extremely Important?

As night vision permits the users to see in the dark spaces, sudden bursts of bright light might white out the device and cause temporary blindness. In order to prevent that from happening, it’s essential that your night vision scope possesses an auto-gating function.

Most of the time, auto-gating makes sure that the brightness of the sight images stays at an acceptable level. Once it detects lights that are deemed to be too bright for comfort, the auto-gating would automatically turn the night scope off to protect your eyes.

Because of this, auto-gating is considered to be vital to a night vision scope.

3. Is There a Way to Measure the Quality of Images of a Night Vision Scope?

To judge the high-resolution display of the average night vision scope, you need to rely on its LP/MM rating (Line Pairs per Millimeter). The higher the number, the more detailed the sight images. A rating of 64 -72 LP/MM is usually the best you can get for crystal clear vision.

That being said, most applications of night vision do not need such high HD resolution. Some claim that a rating of 45 LP/MM is already quite sufficient.

Remember to thoroughly test out the scope you like before heading to the counter. These are sizeable investments and you don’t want to make wrong choices.

4. What Is the Average Lifetime of a Night Vision Scope?

Depending on the time it takes for the tube coating to deteriorate, the best night vision scopes under $500 can last between 5,000 hours and 15,000 hours. The rule of thumb here is that “the newer the generation, the longer the potential lifespan.”

If you want to get the most out of your scope, then it would be best to just shut it off when you’re immediately not using it.  

In case you want something that sticks around longer than that, thermal units are readily available alternatives. Compared to other night vision examples, devices that utilize thermal technologies don’t rely on coatings and alike to work.

As long as you take good care of them, they can serve you for years without any trouble.

5. Do I Need Special Shooting Skills to Operate a Night Vision Scope?

Overall, any person with regular human sight would be able to run around in the dark with a standard night vision scope with no problems. Nonetheless, if you want to master your optic, it’s strongly recommended that you spend some money on familiarization lessons.

Certain sellers of offer informative training courses to beginners to help them harness their optic’s potential.

If you have never used a night vision riflescope before, it wouldn’t hurt to sign up for such programs. Of course, if you happen to know someone that has experience with them, you could opt to train with that person instead.   

Conclusion

We hope this article gave you all the information you need to pick the best night vision scopes under $500 for your needs.

Just remember that there is no best of the best scope. It will always come to down what you and your shooting skills will require.

FINAL TIP: If you’re looking for rifle scopes that perform well under low-light conditions, you can check out our review of the best lowlight riflescopes for hunting.

 

CHANGELOG:

June 9, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
May 17, 2022 - Added 1 new article link
May 12, 2022 - Made major updates to content and formatting, updated article title
October 4, 2021 - Added new product link options
September 21, 2021 - Reviewed and updated article links, marked 2 products as discontinued/unavailable

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