Back in the old days, it’s a challenge to shoot accurately in low light conditions as the lack of illumination often impairs target acquisition. However, thanks to recent advances in night vision technology and support accessories, modern-day hunters could go after their preys in nighttimes with great confidence. Previously only available for qualified personnel in the military, night vision optics could be bought at various gun stores nowadays. Generally speaking, any shooter that is able to afford standard scopes could also acquire night vision optics without much difficulty. That being said, getting the best night vision scope is not exactly a simple task.
With hundreds of models and dozens of brands around, inexperienced shooters tend to have a hard time choosing the best night vision scope for hunting. Personal preferences and shooting habits further complicate the selection process. Fortunately, in the case you could use a couple of recommendations and shopping instruction, this article got something for you. Right down below, you would be introduced to some of the best night vision rifle scopes money can buy along with their specifications and features. In addition to that, a list of essential shopping hints is also provided to help you make a sensible investment.
Table of contents
- 1 History Of Night Vision Devices
- 2 Night Vision Scopes: Quick Overviews
- 3 Top 5 best budget night vision scopes Reviews
- 3.1 1/ ATN X-Sight II – Best affordable night vision scope for the money
- 3.2 2/ Armasight Nemesis – Best budget night vision scope for hog hunting
- 3.3 3/ Sightmark Photon XT – Best digital night vision scope for AR 15
- 3.4 4/ Firefield NVRS – Best night vision scope under $1000
- 3.5 5/ Yukon Varmint Hunter
- 4 Getting The Best Night Vision Scope: What You Must Do
- 5 Generations Of Night Vision Scopes: Essential Information For Novice Shooters
- 6 Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions And Answers About Night Vision Optic
- 7 Reputable Manufacturers Of Night Vision Scopes: Names You Must Remember
- 8 Night Vision Vs Thermal: Which One Is The Best Choice
- 9 The Legality Of Night Vision Scopes: An In-Depth Analysis
- 10 Taking Care Of Night Vision Scope: Top 3 Tips And Tricks
- 11 The Durability Of Night Vision Scopes: What You Must Know
- 12 Making A Night Vision Scope By Yourself: The Ultimate Guide
History Of Night Vision Devices
Night vision technologies have been introduced in the late 1920s, early 1930s but night vision devices only started seeing widespread service in World War II. Various combatants released several optics designed to help their soldiers shoot with a certain level of accuracy in night firefights. Originally, fighting at night is a rather risky ordeal: friendly troops could engage each other by mistake with devastating consequences. So 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 night vision devices.
Night Vision Scopes: Quick Overviews
Night vision scopes and night vision devices in general enable human eyes to see in low light conditions and environments. The optics gathers and then amplifies lights in the vicinity in order to provide you with images of your surrounding. Generally speaking, night vision scopes offer you a vision that is far superior to your natural eyes in near total darkness (albeit a green one). People that often deal with lacks of illumination while hunting and shooting greatly appreciate the assistance of night vision devices. In the old days, the use of night vision optics is restricted but nowadays, many places have fairly lax rules.
Top 5 best budget night vision scopes Reviews
1/ ATN X-Sight II – Best affordable night vision scope for the money
- Magnification: 5 – 20x
- Lens Diameter: 85 Millimeters
- Dimension: 11.36 x 3.5 x 3.45 Inches
- Weight: 2.55 Pounds
Searching around for a solid and advanced night vision scope? Then you need to check out ATN X-Sight II. Featuring excellent magnification settings, large objective lens along with respectable image resolution, the ATN optic is a high-quality product. Since it’s specifically designed to work in daytimes as well as nighttimes, the scope is able to work continuously 24/7. With 4 AA batteries, the scope could run for 8 – 12 hours or so but you could always purchase the optional battery pack which should enable the scope to last up to 22 hours.
Beside its primary night vision function, ATN X-Sight II also possesses various features to assist shooters on the field. Thanks to the built-in rangefinder, the ATN scope would 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 got you covered on that. By using the ATN Obsidian app, you could view what you have recorded so far.
- Good battery life
- Ergonomic interface
- Advanced features
- High acquisition cost
- Unresponsive customer service
2/ Armasight Nemesis – Best budget night vision scope for hog hunting
- Magnification: 6x
- Lens Diameter: 160 Millimeters
- Dimension: 15.3 x 4 x 2.8 Inches
- Weight: 4.2 Pounds
In the case you have money to burn, Armasight Nemesis is the best night vision rifle scope for the money. While its acquisition cost is steep, the Armasight possesses top-of-the-line features and state-of-the-art functions. Marketed as a Gen 2 model, the night vision scope got good focus range, intuitive control layout and admirable resistance/endurance. Since it could be fitted with Picatinny/Weaver mounts, position the scope on your rifle is a rather simple task.
In term of power source, Armasight Nemesis relies on high-powered CR123A batteries to give it the power it needs to operate without interruptions. For most of the time, a single CR123A could sustain the Armasight for 60 hours on average which is nice. Once the battery runs low, the optic indicator would 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 the world.
- Rugged body
- Great handling
- Excellent clarity
- Very expensive
- Slightly cumbersome
3/ Sightmark Photon XT – Best digital night vision scope for AR 15
- Magnification: 4.6x
- Lens Diameter: 42 Millimeters
- Dimension: 15.66 x 2.95 x 3.14 Inches
- Weight: 1.47 Pounds
Basic and simple, Sightmark Photon XT is widely considered to be a good choice for people that desire something straightforward. While the Sightmark is technically a Gen 1 model, it’s nonetheless highly versatile with reasonable magnification and many reticle options. From crossbows to assault rifles, the scope could be mounted on a variety of platforms depending on the user demands. Due to the presence of Weaver rails, you could attach additional accessories to the optic whenever there is a need.
Considering the fact that the windage/elevation adjustment system of Sightmark Photon XT is digital, you should be able to make changes without much difficulty. In most of the case, the Sightmark scope could offer shooters an impressive resolution of 656 x 492 as far as 120 yards. Made to be shockproof and weatherproof, the optic is 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.
- Easy to zero
- Nice focus range
- Reasonable price
- Limited runtime
- Barely acceptable quality control
4/ Firefield NVRS – Best night vision scope under $1000
- Magnification: 3x
- Lens Diameter: 42 Millimeters
- Dimension: 9 x 3.1x 3.3 Inches
- Weight: 1.91 Pounds
Shopping on a limited budget? If that is the case, Firefield NVRS could be just what you are looking for. The Firefield optic is often thought to be the best affordable night vision scope available for purchase on the market. Although it’s essentially a Gen 1 product, the scope is still able to deliver much-needed assistance to people who often hunt in the dark. The inexpensive price of the optic attracts numerous budget-minded shooters as they could not go after high-end examples.
With 3x magnification and 42 millimeters objective lens, Firefield NVRS would allow ordinary shooters to acquire targets as far as 165 yards. The scope high power IR illuminator makes it very simple for people to recognize potential preys in low light conditions. Using top-grade titanium, the body of the optic proves highly resilient but still remains fairly light so you could handle it with relative ease. A convenient quick-detach Weaver mount is present as well and that means you could get the scope ready in a blink of an eye.
- Reliable and dependable
- Straightforward operation
- Admirable structural strength
- Designed mostly for outdoors
- Mediocre mounting hardware
5/ Yukon Varmint Hunter
- Magnification: 2.5x
- Lens Diameter: 50 Millimeters
- Dimension: 10 x 3.1 x 3.3 Inches
- Weight: 1.93 Pounds
Specifically made for hunters, Yukon Varmint Hunter is the best night vision scope for hunting the market has to offer. Featuring a highly flexible mount, you could mount the Yukon optic on a lot of weapons from traditional bolt-action rifles to modern day firearms. 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 infrared illuminator ensures that you receive clear target images in total darkness without much difficulty.
Being adaptable to digital cameras, Yukon Varmint Hunter permits you to capture your hunting moments so you could share them with friends and family members. Thanks to the precise nature of the adjustment system, you should have no trouble making accurate changes to the elevation/windage settings at moment notice. The optic utilizes 2 AA batteries for energy and it should run for 50 hours without IR. As proof of its quality, the scope is backed with an attractive limited lifetime warranty.
- Commendable vision clarity
- Good investment for the value
- Well constructed and durable
- The images get blur occasionally
- The instruction manual is a bit complex
Getting The Best Night Vision Scope: What You Must Do
- Check Out The Acquisition Cost
People often assume that because of the use of high-grade technology, night vision optics often have expensive price tags. Although it’s true that the costs of night vision scopes are higher than conventional models, it’s possible to locate quality and affordable examples. With time and effort, you should be able to find night vision 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 of the case, dirt cheap product would not be able to deliver top-notch performance on the field.
- Glance Over The Scope Profile
Due to their sophisticated construction, most night vision optics tend to be heavy and bulky. The weight that these optics add to your rifle increase as the magnification level goes up which cause certain troubles. Hunter that have to move from spot to spot and make off-hand shots need to maneuver their rifle quickly. A cumbersome night vision scope would inevitably have negative impacts on the mobility of the scope it’s mounted on. So in the case you hate to get around with a heavy weapon, you should prioritize lightweight night vision optics. You don’t have much to worry if you hunt from a stationary position though.
- Inspect And Exam The Battery
As you already know, most night vision optics require batteries to work as designed and once the battery run out, the optics would be useless. That is why it’s of utmost importance for you to thoroughly assess the runtime of the battery used by your preferred night vision scope. For most of the time, it’s not a bad idea to make sure that your night vision optics utilizes long-lasting, easily-obtained battery. Since it’s highly likely that you have to bring spare battery along, it would not hurt to stick to models that use compact batteries. The last thing you ever want to experience is to see the spare battery take up precious room in your pocket as well as backpacks.
- Take Focus Range Into Consideration
It goes without saying that night vision scopes have shorter ranges compared to regular scopes, numerous models sacrifice range in exchange for field of view. Nonetheless, you should take a good look at the maximum focus range that available night vision optics could offer theoretically. Focus range is the range that 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 scopes is a subjective value at best. Fluctuations in lighting condition could quickly change the focus range.
- Thoroughly Assess Any Secondary Features
A couple of night vision scopes on the market are incorporated with additional functions like weather sensors, day-night vision, video recording and so on. Overall, secondary features could improve your experience on the field but remember that each addition function adds 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 scope. In most of the case, it’s unwise to get a model that happens to possess too many unnecessary functions.
Generations Of Night Vision Scopes: Essential Information For Novice Shooters
Wonder what kind of night vision optics you could run into on the market nowadays? Here is a guide on the optic generation, take a look at it and you could easily grasp the fundamentals.
- 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 the category are known for being cheap, you could purchase them without leaving a hole in your wallet. On the other hand,most optic that are classified as Gen 1 lack important refinements found on Gen 2 and Gen 3 examples. As a result, the performance of Gen 1 night vision scopes is unsurprisingly basic and limited.
- Generation 2: Work In Most Applications
Featuring recent technologies, Gen 2 night vision scopes are more expensive than Gen 1 models but not as high as Gen 3 products. Compared to Gen 1, Gen 2 delivers higher image resolution, longer battery runtime and greater life expectancy. Therefore, Gen 2 examples are indeed good investments for hunters that need something quality and straightforward.
- Generation 3: Best Of The Best
Employed by militaries around the globe, Gen 3 night vision scopes are the best choices if you have money to spare. The best Gen 3 night vision scope should offer you virtually everything you need to hunt successfully in low light condition. With extended focus range, top-of-the-line battery life and many other advantages, you would never feel disappointed while using Gen 3 night vision optics
Top 5 Frequently Asked Questions And Answers About Night Vision Optic
- How far am I able to see with a night vision scope on the field?
To put it plainly, it’s impossible to judge the range of a night vision scope as there are a lot of variables out there. 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 drop to around 150 yards or so. In addition to that, the amount of surrounding light has considerable influences on the range of the night vision scope. Yet for most of the time, late gen optics often have superior performance compare to earlier units in similar conditions.
- Why do people say that auto-gating is extremely important?
As night vision permit the users to see in the dark spaces, sudden bursts of 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. For most 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, auto gating shall automatically turn off the scope to protect your eyes. Because of that, auto gating is considered to be vital to a night vision scope
- Is there a way to measure the quality of images provided by night vision scopes?
To judge the resolution of the average night vision scopes, you need to rely on its LP/MM rating (short for Line Pairs per Millimeter). The higher the number, the more detail the sight images and a rating of 64 -72 LP/MM is usually the best. That being said, most applications of night vision do not need such high resolution, some claim a rating of 45 LP/MM is quite sufficient. Anyway, remember to thoroughly test out the scope you like before heading to the counter. Night vision scopes are sizeable investments and you don’t want to make wrong choices.
- What is the average lifetime of a night vision scope?
Depending on the time it takes for the tube coating to deteriorate, night vision scopes last between 5.000 hours and 15.000 hours. The rule of thumb here is “the newer the generation, the longer the potential lifespan”. Want to get the most out of your night vision scope? Then just shut it off when not in immediate use. In the case you want something that sticks around longer than that, thermal units are among readily available alternatives. Compared to other night vision examples, devices that utilize thermal technologies don’t rely on coatings and alike to work. Take good care of them and they shall serve you for years without any trouble.
- Do I need special skill to operate night vision scopes?
Overall, any person would be able to run around in the dark with a standard night vision scope no problem. Nonetheless, if you want to master your optic, it’s strongly recommended that you spend some money on familiarization lessons. Certain sellers of night vision devices offer informative training courses to raw users to help them harness their optic potentials. If you have never used a night vision scope before, it should not hurt to sign up for such programs. Of course, if you happen to know someone that has experiences with night vision scope, you could opt to train along with that person instead.
Reputable Manufacturers Of Night Vision Scopes: Names You Must Remember
It’s true that even optics from the most well-known brands in the industry would not always guarantee satisfaction. That being said, it’s still a good idea to make sure that you get your night vision scope straight from manufacturers with familiar names. As with anything else, the market of night vision device is competitive so brands with less than ideal products could not 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 supports and services compared to lesser known brands
Here are a couple of manufacturers that 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 examples with excellent features. If you want a basic, no-nonsense night vision scope yet only have a tight shopping budget, prioritize Firefield models.
- 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 night vision device earns a lot of praises 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 have up to $10,000 or just $150, there is 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. 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, is another great name to keep an eye out for. In the case you are shopping for your first night vision scope, it’s not a bad idea to start with a Yukon product.
Night Vision Vs Thermal: Which One Is The Best Choice
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 and that is precisely what thermal scopes are designed capitalizes on in theory. It’s simple to detect well-hidden preys in the middle of thick bushes with infrared devices as animals could not hide their heat signatures. On the downside, you are often unable to acquire detailed images while using thermal optics. In order to achieve precise shot placements with thermal pictures as your only references, you have to practice a lot.
So in the end, what offer more value? Night vision scopes or thermal scopes? Well, 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. Considering the radiation-detecting nature of thermal scopes, their performance remains constant whether you use them at nighttime or daytime. But if you want high detail images and only hunt after sunset, night vision scopes shall be your best bets. Furthermore, night vision scopes optics are capable of enduring incessant shot recoils without much difficulty.
The Legality Of Night Vision Scopes: An In-Depth Analysis
As night vision devices used to be reserved for trained personnel, some people afraid that they might get into trouble by possessing night vision scopes. In reality, as long as you have the money to back the purchase, it’s possible to secure state-of-the-art night vision optics. You don’t need to apply for licenses and permits in order to carry scopes that utilize night vision technologies. No matter if you are a law enforcement officer or just a hunter, you could buy and own any night vision scope that you like. That being said, it’s a federal crime for you to smuggle night vision devices out of the U.S so keep that in mind.
Used Optics: Pros And Cons
Since the acquisition cost of newly manufactured night vision scopes tends to be high, some people mull purchasing secondhand examples in order to save money. It goes without saying that getting used optics would be a cheap way to enhance your vision in the dark. Nonetheless, it’s quite hard for ordinary people to tell how many hours used units have on them. As a result, if a dealer confidently claims that his/her secondhand night vision devices are “in great shape”, it could be a blatant lie. The majority of used units on the market nowadays have seen intensive service in agencies and industries so their remaining lifespan is far from ideal.
Unlike used vehicles, there is no such this as mileage meter on night vision scopes. Therefore, if you have to get a night vision unit anyway then might as well invest for a brand new product. The last thing you want to experience is to see your night vision scope malfunction while hunting in the dark. Whatever money you save through the purchase of secondhand optic, it’s going to worth the reliability as well as dependability of an unused example.
Taking Care Of Night Vision Scope: Top 3 Tips And Tricks
- Stay Away From Excessively Bright Lights
Night vision scopes are to be used in low light situation and exposure to bright lights would degrade their performance. Even when the devices have an auto-gating feature and light sensing mechanisms, you must never place night vision scopes 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 examples come with their storage cases so it’s quite simple for users to accommodate night vision optics. Just pay close attention and everything would turn out to be fine at the end.
- Remove The Battery After Each Use
In the case you have no plan to use your night vision scope for more than a few days, you need to remove the battery. Such an action 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 has negative effects on the battery and ruins your night vision scope so be careful about storage space. Furthermore, don’t leave the optics on longer than you have to since it wastes battery and tarnishes the coating.
- Beware Of Abrasive Outdoor Elements
As with normal rifle scope, night vision scopes are vulnerable to a variety of abrasive elements in the outdoors. So it’s widely advised that you quickly outfit your optic with transparent glass filters to preserve the lens quality. The filters let you use the scopes as usual and it ensures that the lens is immune to scratches too. When it comes to cleaning the lens of a night vision scope, refrain from wiping its surface with abrasive cloths. In other words, treat the lens of the scope as if it’s your camera. Once you are done with the cleaning, leave the scope out for a bit to prevent moisture build-ups.
The Durability Of Night Vision Scopes: What You Must Know
When it comes to night vision devices in general, people often ask themselves: “What happen if I accidentally drop them?”. Well, the short answer is that you would likely compromise the precise assembling of the optics and render them useless. In order for night vision scopes to work as designed, 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 careful handling is vital. 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. These examples tend to come with an extended warranty which talks a lot about 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 the military has priorities. But whether you are using an entry-level night vision scope or a premium one, pay attention to the mounting. If you secure the scope firmly then you don’t have to worry too much about dropping it by mistake.
Making A Night Vision Scope By Yourself: The Ultimate Guide
You are broke but still want to outfit your rifle with a night vision scope? If that is so, this guide could tell you how to assemble one from scratch. Of course, a DIY scope is not as good as purpose-built products but it’s far better than nothing.
Components You Have To Prepare
All night vision scopes require a functional image intensifier to provide viewable images to the users in low light conditions. There are numerous models in circulation and you could get them from a variety of sources but spend at least $100. In addition to that, you are going to need to look around for an objective lens assembly, an adapter ring along with a magnifying loupe. These parts form the core of your night vision scope so don’t get stingy. Finally, in order to make the unit compatible with rifle operation, purchase a pressure-activated laser sight and rail mounts.
Aside from the items above, some miscancellous components would come in handy like caps, battery holder, PVC pipe, duct tape…If needed, the use of other material with more or less similar qualities is tolerable. Once you manage to get everything, it’s finally time to get down to business.
- Step 1: Test The Image Intensifier
The first thing to while putting to together a night vision scope is to see if the image intensifier is in working order or not. Since the tube is exceptionally sensitive to light, refrain from exposing it bring light sources and perform the test in dark areas of the house. Besides that, directly hook the image intensifier to an energy supply with an appropriate rating to get it to glow. Remember that if you give the tube more power than it could handle, its circuitry would likely suffer permanent damages.
Important Note: Several image intensifiers feature threaded holes as terminals so insert a screw and get the wire on it. Whatever you intend to do here, avoid soldering the terminal unless the product explicitly states that you could do so. The heat build-up caused by soldering might inadvertently interfere with the power connection which disables the tube for good.
- Step 2: Fabricate A Suitable Eyepiece
Grab the plug and the adapter (both must be threaded), fit in the lens then proceed to cut off everything on them excluding the threads. Make the hole big enough to accommodate the plug after you plug it in through the end caps. Also cut another hole into the plug so you could look through the lens with relative ease. Sand down the outer ridges of the plug before attaching the parts together with the help of electrical duct tape. In the case you have done everything correctly, you should possess a fine eyepiece for your night vision scope now.
- Step 3: Build The Objective Assembly And The Scope Power Compartment
Thing are straightforward at this point, glue the mount to the adapter, drill a hole for the threads and glue the adapter to the caps. After that, screw in the lens and now you got yourself a completed objective assembly for your night vision scope. The next task is to make sure that the scope receives a sufficient amount of electricity so it could operate without interruption on the field. To achieve that goal, simply grab a battery holder and screw it into the housing. As you have to do some wiring, drill holes so the wires could go through. All you have to do is to get the polarity right and that should be pretty much it.
- Step 4: Paint The Night Vision Scope
Small amounts of lights occasionally pass through PVC and that might cloud up the picture of your night vision scope. In order to prevent that from happening, you have to cover the surfaces of your scope under layers of paint. As paints could tarnish the lens, temporary remove glass components in your scope or at least cover them with something. Get to a well-ventilated space, process the scope with sandpapers then throw a couple coats of primers on it. Wait a bit for the paint primer to dry completely then paint the scope using the color of your choice.
- Step 5: Adjust The Focus And Get The Mount In
At night, tweak the position of the objective slightly to get it to focus to a distant object (walls, trees,…). Once you reach the ideal quality, secure the lens in place so it could no longer move without human interaction. In the final part, outfit the scope with mounts that suit its shape and set it up on your rifle.