If you do not have time for the details, here are our top picks for night vision scopes for hunting:
- Pulsar Phantom Gen 3 4x60mm Night Vision Rifle Scope
- Sightmark Night Raider 3×60 Night Vision Riflescope
- Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope
- ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Riflescope
- Sniper HD 4.5×50 Digital Night Vision Riflescope
- Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Riflescope
- Yukon NVRS Titanium 2.5×50 Varmint Hunter
- Sightmark Photon RT Digital Night Vision Riflescope
- Bushnell 4.5×40 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision W/Mount
- Armasight CO-X Gen 2HD MG Night Vision Scope
- Pulsar Trail LRF XQ38 Thermal Rifle Scope
- ATN ThOR HD 384 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope
Night vision technology was once only available for military and law enforcement personnel. Today, night vision riflescopes (NVRS) are used by sportsmen to hunt predators, varmints, wild hogs, and other nocturnal game.
Night vision and thermal optics are still considered cutting-edge technology, and understanding what to look for can be confusing. If you are interested in finding the best night vision scopes for hunting, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll dive into night vision scopes of all shapes and sizes. We’ll also explore some of our top picks to help you narrow down the options and find the right optic to suit your hunting needs.
- Why You Need a Night Vision Scope for Hunting
- What to Consider When Buying a Night Vision Scope
- Comparison Table
- Top 12 Night Vision Scopes Detailed Reviews
- 1. Pulsar Phantom Gen 3 4x60mm Night Vision Rifle Scope
- 2. Sightmark Night Raider 3×60 Night Vision Riflescope
- 3. Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope
- 4. ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Riflescope
- 5. Sniper HD 4.5×50 Digital Night Vision Riflescope
- 6. Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Riflescope
- 7. Yukon NVRS Titanium 2.5×50 Varmint Hunter
- 8. Sightmark Photon RT Digital Night Vision Riflescope
- 9. Bushnell 4.5×40 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision W/Mount
- 10. Armasight CO-X Gen 2HD MG Night Vision Scope
- 11. Pulsar Trail LRF XQ38 Thermal Rifle Scope
- 12. ATN ThOR HD 384 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope
- Top Night Vision Scope Brands
- Thermal Vs Night Vision
- What About Digital Night Vision?
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Final Verdict
Why You Need a Night Vision Scope for Hunting
When most people think of night vision, they think of the green-hued footage from their favorite military movie. Although night vision technology was originally developed for military use, it is no longer confined to the battlefield.
As night vision and thermal technology have progressed, devices that use this technology have become increasingly more affordable. With better civilian accessibility, modern hunters have turned to night vision to help them find success in their favorite outdoor sport.
Here are just a few reasons you need a night vision scope for hunting.
Feral pigs are an invasive species that causes millions of dollars in property damage each year. Found in more than 39 states and four Canadian provinces, the North American wild hog population has surpassed 5 million animals and continues to grow rapidly.
Since feral hogs have no natural predators, hunting is the only viable solution to the growing problem.
If that isn’t enough to convince you that hog hunting is a worthwhile endeavor, consider this: the growing number of hogs presents a serious threat to valuable native game species, including whitetail deer, turkeys, waterfowl, and upland game. It is our responsibility as avid hunters, to hunt hogs to preserve our precious hunting heritage.
Most states have liberal bag limits and long seasons. However, since hogs are most active at night (especially during the hot summer months), you’ll need a way to see them after the sun goes down. A quality night vision or thermal scope is the perfect tool for the job.
Coyotes are another problem species with a booming population. With numbers spreading into locations previously devoid of these canine predators, coyotes have become a major threat to the whitetail deer and wild turkey populations.
Predator control is essential to maintaining healthy game populations, and as coyote populations continue to grow, so do the numbers of coyote hunters.
Since coyotes tend to be nocturnal (especially those animals living in close proximity to humans), a night vision scope is key to hunting success.
What to Consider When Buying a Night Vision Scope
Night vision scopes utilize more complex technology than day scopes, so they aren’t able to offer the same high levels of magnification. Finding a night vision scope that offers magnification higher than 10x is a stretch.
However, you shouldn’t expect to make sniper-like shots at extreme distances with an NVRS. The detection ranges of most hunting scopes fall well within 800 yards, so powerful magnification isn’t necessary.
Most night vision scopes for hunting offer magnification between 3x and 5x, which is an acceptable range for hunting hogs and coyotes. Magnification at these levels also helps keep your hunting device smaller, lighter, and easier to afford.
Field of View (FOV)
Field of View (FOV) refers to how wide an area you can see when you look through the scope. It is usually expressed in feet at 100 yards.
For example, a scope with an FOV of 22 feet allows you to see an area 22 feet across at 100 yards.
FOV is important for hunters who regularly shoot moving targets. A scope with a wide field of view and a lower magnification will help you acquire targets more effectively. As a result, you’ll be able to make faster, more accurate shots.
The farther a scope’s detection range, the further away you will be able to distinguish a target from its nighttime background. Basically, a scope with a high detection range will allow you to see further.
However, detection range should not be confused with identification range. Hunters must do more than detect their targets. For safety, we also need to properly identify them.
The identification range of your NVRS will be significantly shorter than the detection range. The image clarity and resolution of the device can also help you properly identify targets at longer ranges.
Every NVRS requires battery power, no matter what type of technology it uses. The type and number of batteries your optic uses can have a major impact on its effectiveness.
Large batteries add extra weight that can be a huge hindrance in the field. Also, certain types of batteries can be expensive to replace.
Most importantly, you want to know your scope’s battery life. The lower generations of night vision can suck the life out of your batteries pretty quickly, and the last thing you want is to run out of battery power in the middle of a hunt.
|Pulsar Phantom||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Sightmark Night Raider||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Firefield NVRS||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Riflescope||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Sniper HD||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Night Owl Optics NightShot||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Yukon NVRS Titanium Varmint Hunter||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Sightmark Photon RT||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Bushnell Equinox Z||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Armasight CO-X Gen 2HD MG||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|Pulsar Trail LRF XQ38 Thermal Rifle Scope||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
|ATN ThOR HD 384 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope||VIEW ON AMAZON →|
Top 12 Night Vision Scopes Detailed Reviews
1. Pulsar Phantom Gen 3 4x60mm Night Vision Rifle Scope
Gen 3 is currently the pinnacle of night vision technology. It’s what the United States military uses to dominate battlefields around the globe, and now you can use it to dominate the woods with this high-tech riflescope from Pulsar.
With a long viewing range and incredible image resolution, there literally is no better way to shoot after dark. If you’re after coyotes, hogs, or other nocturnal predators, this is the perfect scope for the job.
In addition to its remarkable imaging capabilities, the Pulsar Phantom is loaded with high-end features. This scope offers 3x magnification, a generous 700-meter range, a wide field of view (FOV), and highly intuitive controls. It also has mounting capabilities for a digital camera adapter.
This night vision scope is built for rough hunting conditions. It is Constructed from a fiberglass reinforced nylon composite.
The Pulsar Phantom features a law enforcement-grade modular IR illuminator. It is also o-ring sealed and nitrogen purged to ensure reliable fogproof performance.
With amazing night vision capabilities and a ton of extra features, it should be no surprise that the Pulsar Phantom also comes with a high-end price tag. However, if you’re looking for dependability, durability, and excellent image equality, then consider the Phantom well worth the monetary investment.
2. Sightmark Night Raider 3×60 Night Vision Riflescope
The Sightmark Night Raider riflescope utilizes passive starlight and Gen 1 technology to help you see at night. Although the device doesn’t require an infrared light source, it does include an integrated IR illuminator to boost viewing capabilities in absolute darkness.
The optic offers 3x magnification, a large 60mm objective lens, and an ample 70 hours of battery usage. It works quite well at short to medium ranges and pairs well with most .30 caliber weapons, making it a great option for hunting feral hogs across open fields.
This entry level night vision scope weighs a pretty hefty 38 ounces, which could have a major effect on your rifle’s balance and maneuverability. However, the scope is solidly built and priced well for a basic night vision optic.
3. Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope
This highly affordable night vision scope from Firefield is perfect for hunters on a shoestring budget. It uses basic Gen 1 technology, which delivers respectable imaging at a price point that won’t send you into sticker shock.
Engineered specifically for use with AR-15 platform weapons, this entry level night vision optic is durable, yet lightweight. Made with a rugged titanium body, the Firefield NVRS has an IPx4 splash proof rating, so you can take it hunting even in wet weather.
It also features a quick-detach mounting system that makes swapping optics a breeze. You can easily detach this riflescope to switch it with your day scope or use your iron sights.
When you reattach the NVRS, you don’t have to worry about your zero. It’s already reliably set and ready to go.
The Firefield NVRS also features an onboard infrared illuminator, quality multi-coated optics, and a brightness adjustable illuminated duplex reticle perfect for hunting.
The range of the NVRS is only about 75 yards, so you’ll want to get your targets in close. However, this is a great optic for hunting feral hogs over a bait station.
4. ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Riflescope
If you don’t want the hassle of switching between a daytime and nighttime optic, the ATN X-Sight solves the problem. Not only does this riflescope offer excellent daytime performance, it also allows you to see targets out to 150 yards in pitch black conditions.
This high-quality digital riflescope comes packed with a ton of extra features, including a built-in ballistic calculator, rangefinder, compass, thermometer, and 3D gyroscope. It also has 4K video recording capabilities.
The X-Sight Pro even has recoil activated recording and Wi-Fi streaming capabilities, so you and your friends never miss any of the fast-paced hunting excitement. This NVRS will automatically start recording 10 seconds before the shot, and cut off recording 10 seconds after.
With ATN’s unique “One-Shot Zero” feature, setting up your scope couldn’t be easier. You simply make one shot at the center of the target, and then move the correction reticle over the bullet hole while keeping the main reticle on the bullseye. The scope will then automatically adjust the reticle, so the following shots hit your aiming point.
This fantastic multi-purpose hunting optic is almost like a high-tech computer you can mount directly to your rifle.
5. Sniper HD 4.5×50 Digital Night Vision Riflescope
This digital day/night riflescope allows you to see bright, full-color images in sunlight or in black and white (or classic green) in night vision mode.
The scope features multi-coated optics, a wide 5mm objective lens, and an on-board infrared LED illuminator (850nm IR). These features work together to deliver high-quality resolution on targets up to 300 yards away, even in total darkness.
The Sniper HD also provides 4.5x optical system magnification and 3x digital zoom capabilities, so you can get up close and personal with your targets without ever leaving your hunting stand.
In addition to high-quality digital night vision, the Sniper HD also allows you to record photos and video from your after-dark hunts.
6. Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Riflescope
This relatively inexpensive night vision scope form Night Owl Optics was engineered with after dark hunting in mind. Perfect for popping small game, varmints, and predators out to 100 yards, this digital riflescope is surprisingly rugged for an optic in this price range.
The NightShot is made from durable engineered thermoplastic rather than standard aluminum. This strong, lightweight material keeps the overall weight of the riflescope well under two pounds, making it perfect for lugging over long distances or rough terrain.
You can easily mount this optic to your hunting rifle with the included Weaver or Picatinny rail mounts. Other great features include 3x magnification, a built-in infrared illuminator, a generous field of view (FOV), and a choice of three different reticle designs.
One downside to this digital riflescope is the battery life. It comes with four AA/lithium batteries that are only enough to power your scope for two hours at the highest IR setting. You’ll definitely want to carry some back-up batteries in your hunting pack, just in case.
7. Yukon NVRS Titanium 2.5×50 Varmint Hunter
This affordable Gen 1 NVRS features quality multi-coated optics and an extra wide 50mm objective lens. The result of these two key features is impressive light gathering capabilities and high quality optics for bright images and sharp resolution. It also comes with a built-in infrared (IR) illuminator to further enhance image brightness.
The Yukon Titanium Varmint Hunter also features a mil-dot type red-on-green illuminated reticle. There is an external knob that allows you to easily adjust the reticle brightness to suit your personal preferences.
As the name implies, this night vision scope has a housing constructed of highly durable titanium. It also has a sleek profile and longer mount design that make it easy to pair with a variety of rifles, including semi-autos and bolt actions.
8. Sightmark Photon RT Digital Night Vision Riflescope
This high-quality digital NVRS from Sightmark is a great value for the money. Although it doesn’t exactly fall into the “budget” scope category, the image quality and on-board features equal those found on much more expensive models.
The Sightmark Photon RT has a generous 250-yard detection range. While you definitely won’t be picking off coyotes at 500 yards with this model, it really excels at picking up targets in the 100 to 200-yard range.
The model is lightweight, compact, and easy to mount on your AR-15 or other modern sporting rifle. It also has a built-in LED IR illuminator, respectable digital resolution, six reticle options, and a highly convenient one-shot zero function.
This rifle scope also comes jam packed with tons of cool high-tech features, including built-in video and sound recording.
Although the recording quality may not match the resolution on some of the more expensive digital models, it is better than acceptable. Plus, you can live stream footage to any smart device using the Stream Vision app.
9. Bushnell 4.5×40 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision W/Mount
Although the Bushnell Equinox Z works well as a handheld night vision device, you can also easily mount the optic to your hunting rifle for use as an NVRS. It offers both day and night performance, so you won’t have to swap out optics for any of your hunting adventures.
The Equinox Z features high-performance glass, 1x to 3x zoom function, and an extremely long battery life. Like most other digital night vision scopes, the Equinox Z also allows you to capture full-color images and record audio and video, so you can easily share your hunts with friends and family members.
Although the Bushnell Equinox Z doesn’t have a ton of fancy features, it functions reliably as a digital night vision scope, making it perfect for budget-conscious hunters.
10. Armasight CO-X Gen 2HD MG Night Vision Scope
Perfect for predator hunting, the Armasight CO-X is a Gen 2 night vision device that easily attaches to your rifle right in front of your favorite daytime scope. You can easily remove and reattach this highly versatile clip-on device without ever having to re zero your optic.
Although this device is compact and lightweight, you shouldn’t be fooled by its pint-sized design. The CO-X optic is packed with premium features, including an auto shut-off feature, a wireless remote control, and Gen 2+ night vision technology. It also has a manual gain control that adjusts image brightness according to ambient light conditions.
11. Pulsar Trail LRF XQ38 Thermal Rifle Scope
Although thermal imaging isn’t technically night vision, it does help you see in the dark. The Pulsar Trail LFR picks up heat signatures from as far away as 1475 yards.
Although target details can be somewhat fuzzy with thermal imaging, that kind of distance is difficult to achieve with even Gen 3 night vision technology. Plus, thermal imaging cuts through fog, dust, and vegetation so you can see what’s lurking on the other side.
The Pulsar Trail features 8 GB of internal memory so you can record all the details of your hunt. It also has a built-in rangefinder, 13 different reticle designs, and both white-hot and black hot viewing modes.
Hunters will enjoy the 2.1 to 8.4x magnification, wide and richly contrasted field of view (FOV), and the handy picture-in-picture mode, which allows you to see a highly detailed image of the aiming area.
Built for rugged hunting conditions, the Pulsar Trail LRF is IPX7 waterproof-rated, so you can trust it to work even in the wettest hunting conditions. It also has a high recoil resistance rating, so it is perfect for use on heavy hitters like 12 gauge shotguns and .375 H&H rifles.
12. ATN ThOR HD 384 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope
Although this digital thermal imaging rifle scope is on the high end of the price spectrum, it is loaded with high tech features. Gear junkies will particularly appreciate features like the on-board ballistic calculator, GPS geotagging, the laser rangefinder, and high resolution HD video and photo recording capabilities.
The ATN ThOR even has recoil activated video (RAV) and Wi-Fi streaming, so you can share every heart-thumping moment of your hunts with all your friends.
The thermal sensor picks up heat signatures out to 1000 yards. It also features smooth zoom technology, so you can easily magnify your target without losing your field of view.
Although this isn’t the toughest scope on our list, it doesn’t disappoint in terms of durability. It is weather resistant, dust proof, and is submersible to 3 feet for up to 30 minutes.
Top Night Vision Scope Brands
The world of night vision devices can be pretty confusing, especially for hunters who are unfamiliar with the technology.
If you’re in the market for a new night vision riflescope but aren’t sure where to start, here are some of the best brands on the market. These companies consistently design and manufacture high-quality, reliable night vision optics for hunting.
Armasight is an international company that specializes in night vision and thermal imaging technology. The company is a subsidiary of FLIR, the company that manufactures night vision devices for the United States military, and designs hand held night vision monoculars and cutting-edge thermal imaging sights.
Although Armasight caters to military and law enforcement personnel, many civilians trust the company’s products for their own night vision needs.
American Technologies Network (ATN)
Founded in 1995, ATN produces innovative optics for tactical professionals as well as civilian shooters. Always on the cutting-edge of night vision and thermal technology, ATN builds high-end optics to extremely exacting specifications.
Pulsar is a leading global manufacturer of thermal and digital intensified imaging devices. Unlike many other night vision companies, Pulsar focuses only on products for civilian use, particularly for the hunting market.
In addition to thermal and digital night vision devices for hunting, Pulsar also produces high-quality laser rangefinders, spotting scopes, and binoculars.
Sightmark focuses on shooting sports. Drawing inspiration for their civilian optics from the latest military and law enforcement technology, Sightmark designs riflescopes, reflex sights, red dots, and bore sights, in addition to quality night vision devices.
Thermal Vs Night Vision
You need a reliable way to see in the dark if you’re going to do your part to control the predator and wild hog populations. But is it best to use a night vision or thermal scope to get the job done?
Night vision and thermal optics both have their advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a closer look at the technology, so you’ll be better equipped to decide which one will work best for you.
Night Vision Technology
Even though the basic principles of night vision technology is fairly simple, the devices themselves are pretty complicated.
Basically, night vision works by gathering ambient light from the environment and intensifying it. Usually, the light from the moon and stars is enough. However, if there isn’t enough natural light, night vision scopes use an IR (infrared) illuminator to help you see.
Scopes that use this night vision technology use a complex system of ion barriers, micro channel plates, gallium arsenide, photocathodes, and several other parts with confusing high-tech terms.
Understanding exactly how night vision works isn’t all that important. Most hunters really just want to know how these technologies perform in the dark.
Night Vision Generations
Standard night vision devices utilize different “generations” of technology, ranging from Gen 1 through Gen 3.
Gen 1 is the original and most affordable technology. The technology progresses from there with each subsequent generation improving in detection range, image clarity, resolution, battery life, and life of the unit. With each step up in generation, you’ll also see an increase in price.
The best quality hunting scopes will utilize Gen 3 night vision technology. However, these devices are expensive, and many are priced well outside the average hunting budget.
Thermal Imaging Technology
Although thermal imaging also helps you see in the dark, the technology is quite different from standard night vision. Instead of intensifying ambient light, thermal imaging detects subtle differences in heat to create a digital picture of the landscape.
Since animals emit more heat than inanimate objects, they stand out considerably when viewed with a thermal optic.
Thermal optics can detect warm targets at greater distances than standard night vision. High end thermal imaging devices can detect warm-blooded targets out to 1000 yards. They can also detect body heat through fog, dust, and even thick vegetation.
Thermal imaging lacks the detail that night vision provides. Animals often show up as glowing bodies, which can make careful shot placement through vital areas problematic.
What About Digital Night Vision?
Digital night vision is the newest technology to hit the hunting scene. Digital night vision captures light through an objective lens and then processes it to create an image that is then viewed on an LCD screen.
Although the technology is newer, digital night vision is typically cheaper than traditional night vision. Digital image quality is usually comparable to a Gen 2 night vision scope. However, the major advantage of digital night vision devices is that they can be used during the day and at night.
Many digital night vision riflescopes also come with extra high-tech features like video and photo capabilities, rangefinding technology, and on-board ballistic calculators.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is an IR Illuminator?
An infrared (IR) illuminator is a device similar to a flashlight that emits light in the infrared spectrum. SInce infrared light has a wavelength longer than visible light, it is invisible to both human and animal eyes.
Although you won’t be able to see the light from your IR illuminator, your night vision device can use it to create brighter, clearer images.
Do I Need an IR Illuminator?
Most night vision scopes have built-in IR illuminators. Although these on-board IR illuminators vary in quality and intensity, they are usually suited for short range viewing.
If you need to see targets at longer ranges, or in the darkest environments, you should consider adding a handheld or attachable illuminator to your hunting gear.
Is Night Vision Legal?
Night vision and thermal optics are legal to use in the United States, except for the state of California. However, it is illegal to transport night vision equipment outside of the country without a valid export license issued by the U.S. Department of State Office of Defense Trade Controls.
A night vision or thermal optic can be a major investment, but it can be a valuable and necessary tool for after dark hunting. If you want to shoot predators or wild hogs after the sun goes down, you won’t want to hit the woods without a quality NVRS.
We hope our list of the best night vision scopes for hunting will help you find the perfect optic for your next outdoor adventure. No matter which model you choose, be sure to spend some time at the range practicing with your rifle/optic set-up. The best way to achieve hunting success is with weapon accuracy and proficiency, and the only way to accomplish that, is with practice.
Alice Jones Webb is a writer, life-long hunter, experienced shooter, and mother of 4 up-and-coming shooting and outdoor enthusiasts. She grew up flinging arrows and bullets at Virginia whitetails, turkey, and game birds, but her favorite hunting experience is chasing bull elk in the Colorado backcountry.
Never one to sit still and look pretty, Alice is also a self-defense instructor and competitive archer. She currently resides in rural North Carolina with her children, non-hunting husband, and a well-stocked chest freezer.