The Best Night Vision Scope — Reviews and Comparisons

Last Updated: by Aiden Williams

Shooting at night is a whole other sport. You do not only need to be an excellent marksman, but you also need to first see your target in order to make your shot. Unfortunately, the human eye is not engineered to see in the dark. This is where acquiring the best night vision scope comes in.

With an excellent night optic, you have easily won half the battle. But you need to be armed with the knowledge to select an appropriate scope from the myriad of scopes accessible in the market.

We have reviewed available scopes and selected the best 13. We hope these night vision scope reviews aid you in your search. We also included a buying guide that explains the specifications that make a scope exceptional.

The ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Night and Day Scope is a blend of the best features of the modern and traditional optic and is our choice for the overall best night rifle scope. It provides 5-20x modification setting with an enhanced high definition night vision mode. With clearer and brighter sight pictures even during low light conditions and a sophisticated color combination, this scope clearly outlines targets and makes nighttime long-range hunting possible.

The Best Night Vision Scopes Are:

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

  • Manufacturer: ATN
  • Item Number: DGWSXS5204KP
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 3 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Batteries: 2 CR123A batteries (required) included
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2. Armasight Nemesis6x-SD Gen 2+ Night Vision Rifle Scope

  • Manufacturer: Armasight
  • Item Number: NRWNEMESI62GDS1
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 4 x 2.8 inches
  • Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Batteries: 1 CR123A 3V battery required
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3. Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32x50 Digital Riflescope

  • Manufacturer: Sightmark
  • Item Number: SM18011
  • Batteries: 4 Lithium Metal batteries required and included
  • Included Components: Infrared flashlight, fixed Picatinny mount, objective lens cover, and user manual
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4. TheOpticGuru ATN Thor 4 Thermal Scope

  • Manufacturer: ATN
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 1.94 pounds
  • Batteries: 1 Lithium-ion battery included (required)
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5. Pulsar N450 Digisight Night Vision Riflescope

  • Manufacturer: Pulsar
  • Item Number: PL76617
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.9 x 2.9 inches
  • Included Components: Battery pack, carrying case, IR illuminator protective cover and port plug, battery charger with MicroUSB cable, lens cloth
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6. Pulsar Digisight Ultra N455 Digital Night Vision Riflescope

  • Manufacturer: Pulsar
  • Item Number: PL76618
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.9 x 2.9 inches
  • Included Components: Battery pack, carrying case, IR illuminator protective cover and port plug, battery charger with MicroUSB cable, lens cloth
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7. KOLINLOV Night Vision Scope

  • Manufacturer: KOLINLOV
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Battery: 18650 Lithium Battery needed
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8. Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x50L Digital Night Vision Riflescope

  • Manufacturer: SightMark
  • Item Number: SM106015
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 2.2 x 2.9 inches
  • Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Battery: 2 Lithium Metal batteries needed
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9. Bushnell 4.5X40 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision

  • Manufacturer: Bushnell
  • Item Number: 260140MT
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 5 x 3.2 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Battery: 4 AA batteries needed
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10. ATN X-Sight II HD 5-20 Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope

  • Manufacturer: ATN
  • Item Number: DGWSXS520Z
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 3.4 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 4.4 pounds
  • Battery: 1 CR123A battery required
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11. ATN Thor 4, 640x480, Thermal Rifle Scope

  • Manufacturer: ATN
  • Item Number: TIWST4641A
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3 x 3 inches.
  • Weight: 1.93 pounds
  • Battery: 3 CR123A batteries needed
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12. Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Riflescope

  • Manufacturer: Night Owl
  • Item Number: NIGHTSHOT
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 5.2 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Battery: 4 AA Batteries
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13. Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope

  • Manufacturer: Firefield
  • Item Number: FF16001
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Battery: 2 Lithium Metal batteries required
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1. ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope

ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope 5-20x - Ultra HD 4K technology with Superb Optics, Full HD Video, 18+ hrs Battery, Ballistic Calculator, Rangefinder, WiFi, IOS&Android Apps

The ATN day and night scope combines the latest technology with the conventional scope form to produce a scope that delivers the best of both worlds. Powered by an Ultra HD 4K sensor and an Obsidian IV dual-core processor, the X-sight is able to offer faster and clearer optics, higher resolution and vivid colors in low light situations.

The presence of a ballistic calculator enables you to determine precise ballistics for long-range expert shots. Factors that affect your shot placements like wind, range, temperature, humidity, and target angle can be preempted.

In addition to all the above features, it has a recoil activated video system that lets you concentrate on making your shot while it does its job of recording once recoil is detected. This recording feature also simultaneously streams to a mobile device even as it saves on the scope’s SD card, thereby providing additional protection against loss.

If the battery runs low while in the field, you can switch to the ultra-low-power mode for ample time to maintain visuals while returning to base.

It uses the standard Picatinny mount that can be instantly attached and detached, offers fast viewing and high resolution that is free of pixelation even while zooming. And lastly, it has a long eye relief that ensures you do not get ‘scope eye’ when you use it on a weapon with heavy recoil.

We love that despite its advanced features, this scope still maintains the conventional scope feel and form.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: ATN
  • Item Number: DGWSXS5204KP
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 3 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Batteries: 2 CR123A batteries (required) included

Pros

  • Amplified high definition day and night vision mode
  • High resolution, myriads of vivid colors and excellent optics
  • Recoil Activated Video (RAV) and HD video streaming and recording
  • Range and wind ballistic calculator
  • Low battery power usage. Over 18 hours of continuous operation
  • Water and weatherproof

Cons

  • Requires a software upgrade for top-notch performance

Conclusion

The excellent combination of state-of-the-art technology and traditional scope form results in an extremely efficient scope that would be an excellent optic to own.

Also, the fact that you don’t need to acquire an extra scope to use for your daytime hunting activities contributes to making this scope our choice for the Overall Best Night Vision Scope.

Rating – 4.2/5

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2. Armasight Nemesis6x-SD Gen 2+ Night Vision Rifle Scope — Best Night Vision Scope for the Money

Armasight by FLIR Predator 640 1-8x25mm Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope with Tau 2 640x512 17 micron 30Hz Core

The Armasight Nemesis features a gen 2+ image intensifier tube that delivers a resolution of 45-51 lp/mm. It combines a detachable infrared (IR) illuminator, illuminated and variable brightness reticle to make it perfectly suited for long-distance night shooting activities.

The adjustable brightness reticle is arguably the best in the market as it has extremely thin but well-defined crosshairs that do not only allow accurate shots but also make it possible even on small prey.

With 6x magnification, it provides substantial magnification settings for a night vision scope.  But this is not its only exceptional feature; it is able to provide optimum vision at 200 yards and beyond, which is more than most scopes in the market can offer.

We love that it features an auto-brightness control, bright source protection and an illuminated red cross reticle for optimum contrast.

We, however, wish this scope was entirely weatherproof instead of just being waterproof. This is because it is likely to be susceptible to fog, and other inclement weather conditions.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Armasight
  • Item Number: NRWNEMESI62GDS1
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 4 x 2.8 inches
  • Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Batteries: 1 CR123A 3V battery required

Pros

  • Superior image intensifier tube and high resolution 6x magnification setting.
  • Illuminated and adjustable brightness reticle
  • Fully multi-coated lens
  • Ideal for precise shot placements even on extremely small targets
  • 60 hours of battery life and low battery indicator
  • Constructed with aircraft aluminum, shock protected and water-resistant for durability

Cons

  • Not engineered for use during the day

Conclusion

The nemesis offers a better range than is easily accessible, is portable and sleek, has an incredible battery life of 60 or more hours and is water and shock-protected to ensure durability.

This is in addition to its being a great scope for both near and distant night-time shooting. All its incredible features contribute to its being our choice for the Best Night Vision Scope for the Money.

Rating – 4.8/5

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3. Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50 Digital Riflescope — Best Night Vision Scope Under $1000

Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32x50 Digital Riflescope

The Sightmark Wraith offers 4-32x magnification settings. Perfect for both day and night time use, the advanced 1920×1080 HD sensor provides full-color clarity during the day and by hitting the left arrow you easily switch to night mode. While hunting at night, you can reduce light dispersion by wearing the removable eye-cup.

With this optic, you can customize your scope from 10 reticle possibilities and 9 available color options. You also get up to 4 and a half hours of battery life from the 4 included AA batteries and an unlimited power expansion option from an external Micro USB port.

This micro USB slot also allows you to export photos and videos from the scope. In addition, a micro memory card slot lets you record videos or photos and also update the application.

We particularly like that the Sightmark night vision scope offers two color modes for night shooting: green or black and white. This is in addition to the removable 850nm IR flashlight that has a detection range of about 200 yards.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Sightmark
  • Item Number: SM18011
  • Batteries: 4 Lithium Metal batteries required and included
  • Included Components: Infrared flashlight, fixed Picatinny mount, objective lens cover, and user manual

Pros

  • Full-color day and green or black and white night viewing modes
  • 10 reticle options and 9 color choice settings to choose from to customize the reticle
  • 4 and a half hours of battery life. An external micro USB port for more options
  • High definition video and photo recording
  • Weaver rail included to add additional accessories
  • Lifetime limited warranty

Cons

  • No audio recording feature
  • Rather bulky

Conclusion

Considering how much of an excellent job this scope does even at its less than a 1000 dollar price, it is our choice for the Best Night Vision Scope Under $1000. With its efficiency, it is a steal at the current price.

Rating – 4.3/5

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4. TheOpticGuru ATN Thor 4 Thermal Scope

theOpticGuru Thor LT Thermal Rifle Scope w/10+hrs Battery & Ultra-Low Power Consumption (3-6X)

ATN Thor 4 is a thermal sensor and so is extremely ideal for night-time hunting. Even in foggy weather conditions, you can depend on this thermal scope to give you a clear view of your target.

This is because instead of depending on any available light, this scope rather detects the heat energy of the target. This also means that you can zoom in without losing your clear image quality.

With an in-built rangefinder, this optic perfectly calculates distance, eliminating the need for additional equipment. Also, the presence of a ballistic calculator helps with all range, wind, target angle, and humidity calculation. All you need to do is enter the environmental data and the calculator does the rest.

The addition of a dual streaming and high-definition photo and video recording feature is also an amazing advantage. With this feature, you can record hunting activities to share with friends or for defense in legal issues.

We like that ATN offers a rebate of up to 500 dollars on this NVD. It helps ameliorate the expensive price.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: ATN
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 3 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 1.94 pounds
  • Batteries: 1 Lithium-ion battery included (required)

Pros

  • Usable in total darkness as it detects heat energy
  • A ballistic calculator that helps with great shots
  • In-built rangefinder
  • Ultra-low power consumption
  • Dual streaming and HD video recording
  • Offers rebate

Cons

  • Expensive

Conclusion

The ATN Thor 4 Thermal scope offers state-of-the-art technology. Of course, because it is a thermal scope, it is absolutely perfect for use at night as it only requires to sense heat energy to home in on a target.

Altogether, it is one of the best scopes in the market and if your budget allows, you should definitely pay good money for this piece as it is worth it.

Rating – 4.6/5

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5. Pulsar N450 Digisight Night Vision Riflescope

Pulsar Phantom Gen 3 Select 4x60 MD Night Vision Riflescope

The pulsar ultra N450 has a 600-yard detention range and a 1280 x 720 CMOS sensor for high definition pictures or video. This sensor also helps with saving high-quality pictures and videos for remote viewing.

A stream vision application allows you to take and save videos in the scope’s 16GB internal memory or stream to a remote location or even directly to Youtube.

The picture-in-picture feature helps you magnify your target without moving your sights from the field of view. With an immediate startup time of 3 seconds, getting your target is so much easier and faster.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Pulsar
  • Item Number: PL76617
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.9 x 2.9 inches
  • Included Components: Battery pack, carrying case, IR illuminator protective cover and port plug, battery charger with MicroUSB cable, lens cloth

Pros

  • 660 yards detention range with an 850 nm IR illuminator wavelength
  • Incorporated video recorder with software that can be upgraded
  • Less than 5 seconds startup
  • Addition of stream vision application helps with streaming to a remote mobile device
  • Wide-angle eyepiece
  • Recoil resistant and fully waterproof

Cons

  • Large and heavy

Conclusion

This optic contains a lot of digital features that offer a variety of advantages. It is better learned while using the optic.

Rating – 4.5/5

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6. Pulsar Digisight Ultra N455 Digital Night Vision Riflescope

Pulsar Phantom Gen 3 Select 3x50 Night Vision Riflescope with Quick Detach Mount

This optic has a 550-yard detention range and a 940nm IR illuminator wavelength. With this scope, you can hunt small animals from a considerable distance at night.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Pulsar
  • Item Number: PL76618
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 2.9 x 2.9 inches
  • Included Components: Battery pack, carrying case, IR illuminator protective cover and port plug, battery charger with MicroUSB cable, lens cloth

Pros

  • 550-yard detection range and 940 nm IR illuminator wavelength
  • Picture-in-picture mode for target magnification
  • Less than 5 seconds of instant startup time
  • Rechargeable b-Pack power system for 8hours of battery life
  • 16GB of internal memory for video recording
  • High caliber recoil resistance and fully waterproof

Cons

  • Bulky

Conclusion

Similar to the ultra N450 range with two major differences: the detection range and IR illuminator wavelengths. Of course, these changes translate into price variation too, but whichever one you are willing to purchase would give you great value for money spent.

Rating – 4.5/5

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7. KOLINLOV Night Vision Scope

KOLINLOV Night Vision Scope for Riflescope Long Viewing Range Night Hunting Clear Vision with Camera Infrared Flashlight and 4.3 inch Display Screen

This scope features a night vision camera for excellent clarity in the darkness. The presence of an infrared technology makes it an excellent scope for night hunting activities. It can also be used for daytime hunting activities which eliminates the need for another daytime scope.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: KOLINLOV
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 inches
  • Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Battery: 18650 Lithium Battery needed

Pros

  • Ideal for night hunting with its night capture feature
  • Infrared technology for night vision
  • Supported for daytime use
  • Easy installation

Cons

  • No image capture or video recording

Conclusion

This night vision scope has a 4.3-inch display screen and LCD monitor for easy viewing. It also features a night vision camera system for clearer vision at night.

Rating – 5/5

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8. Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x50L Digital Night Vision Riflescope

Sightmark Photon RT 4.5-9x42S Digital Night Vision Riflescope

It is ideal for surveillance and engineered for durability.  It produces a clear picture quality and has an in-built infrared illuminator that helps with vision in low-light situations. To ensure further durability, the scope shuts off automatically once it is exposed to bright light.

It is well-built and made with high-quality polymer formation and Sightmark offers a limited lifetime warranty on this product.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: SightMark
  • Item Number: SM106015
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 2.2 x 2.9 inches
  • Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Battery: 2 Lithium Metal batteries needed

Pros

  • High resolution and quality image
  • Strong and sturdy construction
  • In-built IR illuminator
  • Durable titanium body

Cons

  • Bulky

Conclusion

This gen 1-night vision riflescope is remarkably good for its price and generation.

Rating – 4.2/5

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9. Bushnell 4.5X40 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision — Best Cheap Night Vision Scope

Bushnell Equinox 260140MT 4.5X40 Equinox Z Night Vision And Rifle Mount Combo

This Bushnell lightweight night vision device features zoom capability, a wide field of view and optical clarity. It provides an amazing viewing experience even in low-light situations. More of its features are video recording, daytime color, tripod-mounting compatibility, and image capturing.

We like it for its portability and lightweight design. Also because it comes with its own mount as an added component.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Bushnell
  • Item Number: 260140MT
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 5 x 3.2 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Battery: 4 AA batteries needed

Pros

  • High-performance lens
  • Image capture and video recording feature
  • Tripod-mounting capability
  • Adjustable infrared brightness
  • Tripod mount included

Cons

  • Has a short battery life

Conclusion

The Bushnell Equinox Z night vision device comes with a mount and when attached hardly puts any additional uncomfortable weight on your rifle. Due to its affordability, it is our choice for the Best Cheap Night Vision Scope.

Rating – 4.1/5

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10. ATN X-Sight II HD 5-20 Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope

ATN X-Sight II HD 5-20 Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope w/1080p Video, Ballistic Calculator, Rangefinder, WiFi, E-Compass, GPS, Barometer, IOS & Android Apps

The ATN X-sight 5-20 riflescope gives value for money spent. It is sturdy, solid and has an ergonomic design. This optic offers a day and night mode, video capturing feature, a ballistic calculator and in-built rangefinder.

These features all make it unnecessary to purchase and carry more pieces of equipment while hunting. With the recoil activated video option, you can concentrate on shooting while the scope automatically saves pictures and videos.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: ATN
  • Item Number: DGWSXS520Z
  • Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 3.4 x 3.5 inches
  • Weight: 4.4 pounds
  • Battery: 1 CR123A battery required

Pros

  • Smooth zoom feature finetunes adjustments for perfect magnification
  • Can also be used during the day
  • Ballistic calculator for element calculation
  • Smart range finder feature specifies range of target with two clicks
  • Recoil activated video and wi-fi streaming

Cons

  • Has a low battery life

Conclusion

This optic is one of the best scopes for night vision hunting.

Rating – 4.1/5

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11. ATN Thor 4, 640×480, Thermal Rifle Scope — Best Low Light Scope

ATN ThOR 4 4-40x, 640x480, Thermal Rifle Scope w/Ultra Sensitive Next Gen Sensor, WiFi, Image Stabilization, Range Finder, Ballistic Calculator and IOS and Android Apps

With the ATN patented Obsidian IV dual-core, it is able to capture clear images at far ranges even in total darkness. Because it is a thermal scope, the total absence of light does not affect its performance. An in-built ballistic calculator eliminates the need for calculation between shots.

A dual-stream video recording feature simultaneously streams video to a mobile device while also recording to the SD card in the scope. This video recording feature is automatically activated by recoil detection.

With an ultra low power feature, this optic can run for 16 hours.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: ATN
  • Item Number: TIWST4641A
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 3 x 3 inches.
  • Weight: 1.93 pounds
  • Battery: 3 CR123A batteries needed

Pros

  • Clear images with higher resolution even in total darkness
  • Powered by ATN’s Obsidian IV dual-core
  • Ballistic calculator for kill shots
  • Over 16 hours of use due to ultra low power feature
  • Dual stream and video recording feature
  • Recoil activated video so you can focus on making your shot

Cons

  • The price is on the high side

Conclusion

This optic does not require any light to be able to home in on the target; it is thermal so reads heat energy. Therefore, it is our choice for the Best Low Light Scope.

Rating – 4.2/5

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12. Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Riflescope

Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Riflescope with IR illuminator, Black, NIGHTSHOT

The Nightshot features a resolution display of 640×480 and a 100-200 yards range in normal nighttime situations. It also has an in-built 850nm infrared illuminator. These features combine to make it a good night vision device.

It is a digital device that keeps the gadgets to a minimum, incorporating only the necessary features of that world to the scope. It also uses standard mounting systems like the Weaver or Picatinny rail mount. However, it is not compatible with any rifle with ammo over 30 caliber.

We particularly like that even though it is a bargain that does excellently well as a night vision device, it is still able to offer features that make it usable during the day too. This reduces the stress of shopping for a daytime scope too.

Finally, durability is ensured by constructing its outer layers with engineered thermoplastic and weatherproofing it.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Night Owl
  • Item Number: NIGHTSHOT
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 5.2 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Battery: 4 AA Batteries

Pros

  • High resolution and image quality
  • Range of 100-200 yards
  • 3 different reticle options
  • Made with engineered thermoplastic and weatherproof
  • Suitable for night and daytime use
  • In-built 850 nm infrared illuminator

Cons

  • Low battery life

Conclusion

The Nightshot delivers on long-distance vision in the dark better than any other scope in its price range. This is probably due to its high-quality in-built infrared illuminator.

Rating – 4.0/5

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13. Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope — Best Night Vision Scope Under $500

Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope

This Firefield night vision riflescope is the perfect option if you want to enjoy all the advantages of an excellent scope on a budget. Sporting a 3x magnification setting and 42 mm OLD, it offers a clear picture and higher light-gathering abilities. An in-built IR illuminator increases image details and viewing range even in total darkness.

For durability, its body is made from titanium and it is water-resistant. It also has a detachable weaver mounting system that makes it easier to switch to iron sights or change optics without losing return-to-zero reliability.

We like the idea of a flip-up cover for the lens to protect it from harsh weather conditions in the field and during storage. Altogether, we consider this optic to be one of the best gen 1 scopes on the market.

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Firefield
  • Item Number: FF16001
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 5 x 3 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds
  • Battery: 2 Lithium Metal batteries required

Pros

  • High resolution and image quality
  • In-built IR illuminator
  • Adjustable reticle brightness
  • Durable titanium body and lens cover
  • Ergonomic design and fast detachable weaver mounting

Cons

  • No image or video recording capability
  • IR illuminator is not bright

Conclusion

The high resolution and image quality, in-built IR illuminator, adjustable reticle brightness, and overall ergonomic design all for a less than 500 dollar price contribute to make this scope our choice for the Best Night Vision Scope Under $500.

Rating – 4.1/5

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Buying Guide

To help you select the best night vision scope, we compiled basic information we think you should have.

What is a Night Vision Scope?

A night vision scope is basically a device that intensifies vision at night by producing images in extremely low levels of light. As darkness falls, the human eyes gradually starts to function adequately. This is actually very natural. But knowing that most animals are nocturnal or crepuscular, what happens when a hunter chooses to hunt during periods of darkness?

A night vision scope, which is really light amplification equipment, becomes necessary in illuminating dark areas. Before the advent of night-vision scopes, hunters tried to fill this need by using flashlights, lamps and other archaic forms of illumination.

But these tools proved counterproductive as they not only jeopardized the safety of the hunter by exposing his location but also served as a beacon for the target to flee from danger.

A night vision scope is much more effective in hunting your quarry as they amplify as little light as possible to the user’s gaze without lighting up the environment. That way, the hunter can remain hidden while the prey is stealthily hunted.

Brief History of Night Vision Scopes

The night vision scope technology has only gotten better over the years. There are myriad of models and types to choose from, each manufactured with varying types of technology.

Night vision scopes have come a long way through ‘generations’ and can now be operated by anyone. Recent generations of night vision scopes are compact, relatively affordable and perform better.

However, this has not always been the case. The first scopes introduced during the Second World War were developed for the military and Law enforcement agencies. They were bulky, very expensive and required expertise to be operated. They were mainly used for tactical purposes.

Types of Night Vision Scopes

Night vision scopes are classified into generations. This categorization was introduced by US manufacturers through the US government. The time before World War II is sometimes described as Generation 0, while the periods after are referred to as Generation 1, Generation 2, Generation 3 and Generation 3+.

Basically, these generations represent the progression of the technology of scopes. They are differentiated by the image intensifier technology, which uses a light source to illuminate targets.

Generation 1

These devices are an improvement on what was obtainable during the Vietnam War. They were patented by the US Army and relied on available light sources instead of infrared light sources.

Although these are the most common and affordable type of scopes, they come with many disadvantages like blurry images, bulky sizes and requiring the presence of moonlight to function properly.

They used an S-20 photocathode and their intensifiers generated a light amplification of around 1000. They have the lowest quality of image intensifiers. Subsequent generations had modified image intensifiers that created clearer images.

Generation 2

Second generation scopes were improved over the first generation and are generally preferred over the other by professionals.

This generation produces brighter and better image quality, especially around the edges of the lens. They are able to achieve this through the addition of a micro-channel plate with an S-25 photocathode. The microplate vastly increases the number of electrons that reach the phosphor surface. The light amplification by their image intensifiers is around 20,000.

Thus, they are able to provide heightened illumination in low ambient light environments, resulting in improved image resolution and reliability.

This is the preference of people who shoot at night as a hobby. The second-generation scopes are also readily available and the most preferred type by a broad range of users.

Generation 3

The third-generation night vision scopes are able to offer even better image resolution due to an improvement in the photocathode. They’re now being made with gallium arsenide, a special compound.

They, however, still retain the microplate of the second generation. But this MCP is now coated with an ion barrier film to increase its tube life. This ion barrier diminishes the modification expected from the gallium arsenide photocathode as it causes fewer barriers to pass through. It also enlarges the halo effect around bright spots or light sources.

The image intensifiers amplify light to around 30,000 to 50,000.

The downsides of this generation are that it consumes more power than the Gen 2 scopes. They’re also not easily accessible and are extremely expensive. They are usually meant for use in decidedly professional settings.

Generation 3+

Since the classification of the generation of night vision devices, in general, is dictated by the US Army and they are yet to authorize the use of the name Generation 4, these devices are still regarded as generation 3+, despite the fact that there is a marked improvement in their performance over the previous generation.

These night vision scopes use an automatic gated power supply to regulate the photocathode voltage, allowing the optics to instantly adjust to altering light conditions.

They are the apex of night vision rifle scopes. Unfortunately, they are not easily accessible and are rather expensive. These scopes are usually customized for the military. Because they may contain features that make them convenient for raids and tactical operations by the military, they’re not usually available for civilian purchase.

Truth is, this grade would be overkill for civilian activities. The other three generations are adequate for civilian activities.

Why Do You Need a Night Vision Scope?

The human eye is extremely restricted. It is not built to see in the dark. This greatly impedes our ability to carry out activities in darkness. A night vision device intervenes to compensate for this deficiency by using technology to provide illumination in the dark.

Night vision scopes are the most reliable form of enhancing vision in low-light conditions as they are usually soundless and do not extend their illumination to the carrier and his environment, as other light sources do.

Because they use the most minute source of light to illuminate the vision of the hunter, they serve to protect him from dangers associated with his location being exposed to both his prey and other predators.

Moreover, higher generations of night vision scopes can be used during the day as well. So, you get double the benefit.

How Does The Night Vision Scope Work?

Night vision scopes amplify ambient light to produce images. They draw from available light sources and enhance images through some processes so the human eye can see in low-light conditions. These light sources might be natural (like the moon and the stars) or artificial.

This process goes thus: the objective lens obtains available natural light from the environment, or in cases where there is no ambient light, artificial lights like infrared are collected instead.

These photons are then converted into electrons by the image intensifier tube. Once the transformation is complete, they travel to the photoelectric cell, where the electrons are multiplied in number.

The electrons revert to light particles (photons) once they hit the phosphor lens. Because they are now more in number, thanks to the multiplication by the photoelectric cell, the light produced is brighter.

The image your eyes see is not the real image but an amplified electronic image. The image produced is usually monochrome, eg, shades of green. This is because the human eye sees green in more shades than it does other colors.

These different components that make up a night vision scope are protected in water and shatterproof housing. Phosphor screens usually have a limited life span but they do last for thousands of hours.

 

Important Factors To Consider Before Buying A Night Vision Scope

The best night vision scope comprises certain features that differentiate it from the thousands of scopes available out there. As much as we have compiled a list of our best choices, here are some of the features that set these scopes apart, you can also use them to evaluate if a particular scope is competent.

Range Capacity

The range capacity of a night vision scope is particularly important since magnification is usually limited in order to improve clarity. The more light the scope can gather, the easier it is to recognize the target.

It is, therefore, necessary to verify that the scope has a high recognition range as this would mean that it produces images with better clarity.

The standard range for most night vision scopes is between 100 and 200 yards, although some do offer longer ranges.

Magnification

Contrary to the accepted way of choosing long-range rifle scopes, here, the lower the magnification, the better. Most night vision scopes have a very limited magnification setting.

This is necessary because they need to collect ambient light to produce clear images. And the shorter the range, the better the images that are produced.

Generally, most scopes are either fixed or they only magnify images between 3 to 5 times. Those with the highest quality sometimes go as high as 20 times. Night vision scopes, therefore, forfeit magnification for clarity.

Resolution

Simply put, the resolution of a night vision scope simply refers to its capacity to differentiate between objects that are close together.

The quality and clarity of an image are determined by the resolution of the night vision scope. This means that a higher resolution would translate to sight pictures with great quality. You should select a scope with a resolution of 640x480p or thereabouts.

Although there are still scopes that possess a 4K resolution. You might prefer going for one of those. The aim is to get a high resolution to ensure excellent picture quality. The unit for measuring resolution is Line Pairs per Millimetre (lp/mm).

Generation

As previously mentioned, night vision scopes are divided into generations. These generations generally refer to the progression of the technology of scopes. Availability and affordability also become an issue the higher the progression goes.

Generation I and 2 do not possess as much resolution as the other higher two but they’re also very suitable for hunting or night shooting as a hobby. They are the most common and affordable night scopes. First-generation scopes usually have a range of 75 to 100 yards while the second generation extends to 200 yards.

Generation 3 and 3+ (or 4 as they are unofficially called) possess extremely high image intensifier resolution. This is because they are engineered with state-of-the-art technology. It, however, means that they are extremely expensive and are sometimes not meant for civilian use.

Recording Capability

Some night vision scopes come with the ability to record images or videos of your shot. This is possible because they have a camera attached which is automatically activated to begin recording immediately recoil is perceived.

Scopes that have the image and video recording ability are usually more expensive as this is not a common feature.

Scopes that record images or video are beneficial as a way of capturing remarkable memories of your hunting experience. They could also serve as a means of providing evidence of activities if you run into trouble with the Law due to your hunting activities.

Reticle

Scopes with a BDC reticle are accurate at estimating bullet drop. They are fully marked and therefore efficient for night time shooting. The reticles in these scopes make use of Bullet Drop Compensation which is a series of estimation points that are stacked in a straight line beneath the center of the crosshairs.

These estimation points enable you to accurately place a shot’s impact point as they correspond to your rifle’s zeroed range.

Night vision devices with BDC reticles are not common. Red dot optics and simple duplex reticles are more readily available. But you can attach magnifiers and other tools to your standard scope to make it more efficient.

Durability

The need for a sturdy night vision scope can not be over-emphasized. Hunting or night-time shooting is a rigorous activity that can expose your scope to hostile environmental and climate conditions.

Apart from being constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum or other high-quality materials, most scopes are also treated to withstand water, fog, and shock. They are referred to as weatherproof. This means that you can use your scope even in inclement weather conditions without fear of damage to your scope.

Also, some night vision scopes have been anodized: they have been through a process that makes their external housing rust and corrosion-resistant. This process also results in reducing the reflection of the sun off your scope, which can help in camouflaging your position.

Battery

The battery life of a night vision scope is a very essential point to consider as scopes depend on battery power to function. For your scope to be beneficial to you, it has to be powered by a battery that lasts long and is also easily replaced.

The life of the battery would ensure you’re able to go about your hunting activities without fear of your battery running out of juice at an inconvenient moment.

The type of battery is important because if your scope uses a type of battery that is not easily found, you might run into problems with replacement when the battery you’re currently using packs up. Good night vision scopes would have a long-lasting battery life to enable you enjoy uninterrupted and long periods of shooting.

Glass Quality

The quality of the glass of a scope is important as it is through the glass that light gets into the tube. The scope needs as much light as it can get to transmit images. High-quality glass would readily transmit available light that would result in clear images. The quality of the glass also contributes to the durability of a scope.

The glass of a scope is very fragile. But a good scope would have a very high-quality to ensure durability and high-quality images.

Daytime Use

Buying a scope that can be used both during the day and at night is equivalent to having two scopes. Apart from the fact that you’d be getting good value for money, you also do not have to bother with constantly switching between both rifles.

While this can be a great feature, do not take the word of the manufacturer. Confirm that the scope does function as promised.

Final Thoughts

Night vision scopes are primarily designed to help you see clearly at night while concealing your location. This one function should always be at the forefront of your mind as you select your night vision scope. We have reviewed some products that we consider the best at this time at performing this function.

We also attached a buying guide that explains the requirements for a good night vision scope. Following our own specifications, we have selected the night vision scope with the best features of all those reviewed as our overall best.

The ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Day/Night Rifle Scope is our best choice because it excellently performs the functions of a night vision scope and is also great for daytime use.

We hope you think so too, but if you don’t, there are 12 other scopes that might match the exact specification you are looking for.

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