The Best Thermal Scopes for the Perfect Hunt

Last Updated: by Aiden Williams

Seasoned hunters will tell you that the night time is a good time to hunt too. A lot of animals are nocturnal and they’ll come out only when the sun goes down right until about the time when the sun comes up.

This is where thermal scopes come in. In this review and buying guide, we’ve analyzed the scopes available in the market and we’ve brought you the top 9 to choose from.

The Pulsar Thermion XM50 Thermal Rifle Scope is a smart choice if you’re just starting out. It comes with a variety of great features which also makes it an excellent choice for the regular hunter.

The 9 Best Thermal Scopes Are:

ProductDetails
1. Pulsar Thermion XM50 Thermal Rifle Scope

  • Magnification: 5.5 - 22x
  • Thermal Sensor: 50HZ
  • Detection range: 2500yrds
  • Objective lens diameter: 50mm
  • Weight:31.7oz
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2. Pulsar Trail XQ38 Rifle Scope

  • Magnification: 2.1 - 8.4x
  • Thermal Sensor: 50HZ
  • Detection range: 1350m
  • Objective lens diameter: 38mm
  • Weight:0.52kg
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3. ATN X-Sight 4K PRO 5-20x Day/Night Rifle Scope

  • Magnification: 5-20x
  • Eye Relief: 90mm
  • Reticles: Multiple patterns and color options
  • Weight: 2.2lb/ 1.01kg
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4. Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Night Vision Rifle Scope

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Reticle: Red Duplex
  • Detection range: 150m
  • Objective lens diameter: 42mm
  • Weight:30.7oz
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5. Pulsar Core FXQ38 Thermal Monocular

  • Magnification: 3.1-6.2x
  • Thermal Sensor: 50HZ
  • Color Modes: White Hot/ Black Hot
  • Objective lens diameter: 38mm
  • Weight:0.38kg
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6. ATN ThOR 4 640 4-40x Thermal Rifle Scope

  • Magnification: 4-40x
  • Thermal Sensor: 60HZ
  • Color Modes: White Hot/ Black Hot
  • Reticles: Smart Mill Dot
  • Weight: 2.35lb/ 1.06kg
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7. ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x Thermal Riflescope

  • Magnification: 3-6x
  • Thermal Sensor: 60HZ
  • Color Modes: White Hot/ Black Hot
  • Reticles: Multiple patterns and color options
  • Weight: 1.4lb/ 650g
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8. Bestguarder 6x50mm HD Night Vision Monocular

  • Magnification: 6x
  • Infrared Illuminator: 850Nm
  • Objective lens: 50mm
  • Viewing range: 1150ft
  • Weight: 1.54lb
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9. Trijicon REAP-IR Mini Thermal Rifle Scope

  • Magnification: 2.5 - 8x
  • Thermal Sensor: 60HZ
  • Detection range: 1200yrds
  • Objective lens diameter: 35mm
  • Weight:20.8oz/ 589.67g
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1. Pulsar Thermion XM50 Thermal Rifle Scope — Top Choice

Pulsar Thermion XM50 5.5-22x42 Thermal Riflescope

The Pulsar Thermion XM50 Thermal Rifle Scope is an advanced thermal scope that uses the classic magnesium alloy construction of traditional 30mm day scopes. The XM50 comes inbuilt with an HD AMOLED display and an amazing heat detection range of 2500yards.

The AMOLED display allows for 8 color modes and sharp imaging. It comes with an integrated still image and video recording with audio onto 16GB internal storage. You can also opt for streaming and video sharing on mobile devices by using the proprietary streaming app via WiFi.

Other features of note include a variable magnification setting and IPX7 waterproof rating. The scope will work flawlessly in bad weather and on high caliber rifles without damage.

Specs

  • Magnification: 5.5 – 22x
  • Thermal Sensor: 50HZ
  • Detection range: 2500yrds
  • Objective lens diameter: 50mm
  • Weight:31.7oz

Pros

  • Instant start-up feature helps conserve the battery
  • Palette of 8 colors for a customized display that includes Red, Ultramarine, Rainbow, Violet, Red Monochrome, and Sepia in addition to White-hot and Black-hot
  • Variable zoom for improved focus and target recognition at long distances

Cons

  • Battery life for both internal and external batteries is less than 5-hours

The XM50 mounts on whichever 30mm rings that are in the market and is easy to navigate and use. It can be used as a day scope as well and will provide excellent images both day and night.

Rating 3.6/5

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2. Pulsar Trail XQ38 Rifle Scope — Best Thermal Scope for the Money

Pulsar Trail XQ38 2.1-8.4x32 Thermal Riflescope

The Pulsar Trail XQ38 Thermal Rifle Scope features an 8-hour rechargeable battery pack that will last you all night hunting. You can also connect to external power sources such as a power bank which will help power up the XQ38 in extremely cold weather and also reduce the rate of discharge.

The XQ38 features a small 38mm objective lens which reduces its weight. Its variable magnification allows for a wide field of view which helps in quick target acquisition. It also helps to bring images up close for precise placement.

Specs

  • Magnification: 2.1 – 8.4x
  • Thermal Sensor: 50HZ
  • Detection range: 1350m
  • Objective lens diameter: 38mm
  • Weight:0.52kg

Pros

  • High recoil resistance of high powered rifles including smoothbore and airsoft
  • Picture-in-picture function that displays an additional image region on the screen
  • Stadiametric rangefinding reticle that enables distance measuring to objects with a known height

Cons

  • Limited color display options for the reticle
  • Limited streaming access of the application

The highlight of the XQ38 is the ability to live stream video and sound via WiFi to your mobile device using its free mobile application Stream Vision. Stream Vision allows you to receive the footage in real-time, stream online and also to remotely operate the scope using your smartphone.

Rating 2.9/5

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3. ATN X-Sight 4K PRO 5-20x Day/Night Rifle Scope — Most Compact

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 X-Sight 4K PRO 5-20x Day/ Night Rifle Scope combines the classic form of a traditional scope with advanced technology to bring you the best of both day and night optics.

Featuring an ultra-HD sensor powered by the Obsidian dual-core processor, the X-Sight delivers higher resolution images, faster optics and an impressive display of color.

The smart HD technology of this scope allows for day and night hunting. It also offers full HD video recording and recoil activated video so that all your adventures are captured and stored in the SD card.

This X-Sight offers 18-hours of continuous use which is a first in the digital scope market. Other smart features include a ballistic calculator and a smart range finder, all included in this reasonably priced scope.

Specs

  • Magnification: 5-20x
  • Eye Relief: 90mm
  • Reticles: Multiple patterns and color options
  • Weight: 2.2lb/ 1.01kg

Pros

  • Ballistic calculator that calculates for you the environmental conditions
  • The smart range finder assists you with good estimates of the target distance.
  • The one-shot zero feature allows you to sight in your scope with just one shot

Cons

  • Poor customer service

The X-Sight is a reasonably priced scope with excellent features. It also has a few software issues that can easily be resolved with better customer care.

Rating 4.2/5

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4. Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Rifle Scope — Lightest Thermal Scope

Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope

The Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Rifle Scope features a lightweight and durable titanium body to shield it from impact and harsh weather. It has a 42mm objective lens that allows for optimum light capture that enables clear vision in the dark.

Night vision is also boosted by the illuminated red duplex reticle with incremental brightness adjustments to help you quickly adjust to your environment. The IR illuminator enhances image details and increases the viewing range.

Specs

  • Magnification: 3x
  • Reticle: Red Duplex
  • Detection range: 150m
  • Objective lens diameter: 42mm
  • Weight:30.7oz

Pros

  • IR illuminator that optimizes image details and increases the viewing range in the darkness
  • 3x magnification delivers clear images in the short to medium range distances
  • Quick detach to weaver style mounting systems for an easy transition to iron sights while still maintaining zero settings
  • Cheap and durable thermal scope with nice features.

Cons

  • Difficult to use quick detach feature
  • The IR illuminator works for only about 20 yards in complete darkness

The NVRS is a good scope for short-range hunting. It also works better if there is ambient light from the moon. With this scope, you’ll get a little more great features than you pay for and it’s lightweight makes it easily mobile.

Rating 3.9/5

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5. Pulsar Core FXQ38 Thermal Monocular

Pulsar Core FXQ38 Thermal Monocular/Front Attachment

The Pulsar Core FXQ38 Thermal Monocular is a compact and lightweight thermal scope that also doubles up as a monocular. Clip-on thermal scopes are a smart choice for people who typically have one rifle for both day and night use.

The clip-on is attached directly in front of the daylight scope and uses daylight scope’s magnification to extend the viewing range.

The FXQ38 eyepiece allows you to scan the field, then easily attach it to the rifle to use as a thermal optic.

It features a crisp geranium glass lens that displays in black-hot and white-hot viewing modes. It also features a high-resolution AMOLED display that displays objects up to 1350 yards.

Specs

  • Magnification: 3.1-6.2x
  • Thermal Sensor: 50HZ
  • Color Modes: White Hot/ Black Hot
  • Objective lens diameter: 38mm
  • Weight:0.38kg

Pros

  • One of the most affordable clip-on thermal scopes in the market
  • Compatible with 40 – 50mm lens diameter daylight scopes and still maintain a constant position of POI.
  • Uses a quick-release bayonet mount to detach in seconds
  • 4-hour battery life and a universal power adapter to connect to external power sources via MicroUSB and DC
  • IPX7 waterproof rated

Cons

  • Does not have the ability to record or stream videos
  • Does not have crosshairs so you’ll still need the daylight scope at night

The FXQ38 is an impressive thermal scope that is friendly for night hunt beginners or individuals looking to experiment with thermal scopes.

Rating 3.6/5

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6. ATN ThOR 4 640 4-40x Thermal Rifle Scope — Best for AR 15

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

The ATN ThOR 4 640 4-40x Thermal Rifle Scope is one of the most technologically advanced thermal scopes in the market. It is a 4th generation scope that delivers excellent image quality from the furthest range using an ultra-sensitive next-generation sensor.

The scope uses the powerful Obsidian IV dual-core processor to run the high-resolution sensor and crunch huge files smoothly without stress.

The processor not only runs fast but it also runs cool making this the first digital scope in the market with over 16-hours of continuous battery power. It is also designed to withstand the force of high caliber rifles by incorporating the hardened aluminum alloy construction with impact-resistant electronics.

Specs

  • Magnification: 4-40x
  • Thermal Sensor: 60HZ
  • Color Modes: White Hot/ Black Hot
  • Reticles: Smart Mill Dot
  • Weight: 2.35lb/ 1.06kg

Pros

  • Ballistic calculator that allows you to enter your range and environment data
  • Profile Manager that allows you to save all your data for every weapon that you use the scope on
  • Recoil Activated Video feature automatically video records before and after you take the shot

Cons

  • Poor Customer Service

Some users have noted that the internal software that runs the electronic features doesn’t integrate well with the companion app. They’ve also had problems with the clarity of images at long range. This is an excellent scope but their poor customer care on the companion app is a big letdown.

Rating 3.9/5

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7. ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x Thermal Riflescope — Best for Coyote Hunting

ATN TIWSTLT136X Thor LT 3-6x Thermal Rifle Scope w/10+hrs Battery & Ultra-Low Power Consumption, Black

Lighter than the average scope, this ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x Thermal Riflescope will give you more agility while hunting and observing your prey. The lightweight advantage makes it versatile to mount on other weapons such as air rifles and crossbows.

The scope is made of hardened aluminum alloy which protects it from adverse weather and hard recoil. You’ll be able to use this thermal scope with high power rifles without damaging the scope.

Get maximum performance from the internal lithium-ion battery of up to 10-hours of continuous battery power to cover the entire duration of the hunt.

Get this scope to zero with just one shot. The no-stress one-shot zero feature allows you to move the zero reticles to your first POI.

Specs

  • Magnification: 3-6x
  • Thermal Sensor: 60HZ
  • Color Modes: White Hot/ Black Hot
  • Reticles: Multiple patterns and color options
  • Weight: 1.4lb/ 650g

Pros

  • Features a classic ergonomic design that is compact and lightweight
  • 1280x720p HD display in either black or white hot modes
  • Advanced heat detector sensors enable increased visibility in total darkness
  • Can pick up thermal movement at 500 yards and species recognition at 150yards

Cons

  • It does not have a selectable user preference feature

This scope is reasonably priced with superior features to make your night hunt expedition a success.

Rating 4.2/5

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8. Bestguarder 6x50mm HD Night Vision Monocular – Best for Hunting & Surveillance

Bestguarder WG-50 6x50mm Digital Night Vision Infrared IR Monocular with 32G Memory and Camera & Camcorder Function Takes 5mp Photo & 720p Video from 1300ft Distance for Night Hunting or Viewing

The Bestguarder 6x50mm HD Night Vision Monocular is a compact night vision scope that delivers high performance for a great price. Its 50mm objective lens is a little larger and heavier than most compact monoculars but it offers superior light capture in low light environments.

It features a lower magnification of 6x which is designed to deliver superior optical quality. High magnification in monoculars makes it difficult to sight and hold focus in dim light.

The monocular’s digital viewing system uses an infrared-sensitive 5Megapixel CMOS sensor to boost light enhancement quality using 4 infrared levels. It also features an 850Nm infrared illuminator that has a range of up to 1150ft in near-total darkness.

Specs

  • Magnification: 6x
  • Infrared Illuminator: 850Nm
  • Objective lens: 50mm
  • Viewing range: 1150ft
  • Weight: 1.54lb

Pros

  • Take HD 5MP color photos in daylight and black and white photos at night with date & time stamping
  • 720mp video recording with sound and 32GB Micro SD/ TF card
  • Built-in TFT screen that features the settings menu in 7 languages
  • Wide application use for night hunting, surveillance, search & rescue, night navigation

Cons

  • Does not have an autofocus feature which can be bothersome

Its ability to view long distances in near darkness makes this monocular the perfect companion for hunting and scouting game.

Rating 4.1/5

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9. Trijicon REAP-IR Mini Thermal Rifle Scope — Best Tactical

Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Therma Teo IRMS-35 Reap-IR Mini Therma

The Trijicon REAP-IR Mini Thermal Rifle Scope is a first-class thermal scope and extremely effective. It’s one of the best scopes you could mount on your tactical rifle. It delivers excellent performance through its advanced features that make it well worth the money.

The REAP-IR features a 640x480p which is currently the best resolution you can find in the market but when compared to other brands, the REAP-IR is considerably smaller and lighter. Combined with a 2.5x magnification and a 60HZ fast frame rate, it is perfect for night hunters, border security, special ops and tactical.

It features the clearest reticles with 5 different patterns for customization. The reticle adjustments screen has a digital read-out that displays the adjustments information. The reticle also integrates multiple save locations to allow you to mount the scope on different weapons and still maintain your sight.

Specs

  • Magnification: 2.5 – 8x
  • Thermal Sensor: 60HZ
  • Detection range: 1200yrds
  • Objective lens diameter: 35mm
  • Weight:20.8oz/ 589.67g

Pros

  • Covert stadiametric rangefinder with adjustable height and width to quickly establish the distance of the target
  • Has an edge detection feature that puts out a dimmer display to reduce night blindness after coming off the screen
  • The 12-micron sensor allows for reduced size and weight of the thermal scope

Cons

  • It is expensive at the $8000 range
  • Has a low battery life of 2-4 hours

One of the highlights of the REAP-IR is the military-grade edge detection feature that is not found on any other commercially available thermal scopes.

Rating 4.6/5

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Buying Guide for Finding the Best Thermal Imaging Scope

Until recently, thermal scopes were only used by elite military teams and were very costly. Nowadays, they’ve become much more affordable because technology has gone a long way in making them cheaper to manufacture.

There are many thermal imaging devices on the market and you can even get some cheap ones on Amazon for just a few hundred dollars. But, what features do you need to consider in your purchase?

We’ve made this buying guide help you with exactly that.

What is a Thermal Scope?

All objects emit heat in the form of infrared radiation. Infrared is naturally invisible to the naked eye but thermal imaging devices have made it possible to see infrared images on a screen with or without light.

Thermal scopes have an inbuilt thermographic camera that uses infrared technology to detect objects emitting infrared energy. The camera translates the infrared energy into visible light that can be seen by the human eye.

A thermal scope is typically comprised of three parts. The lenses which are available in different diameters, a thermal sensor that detects the infrared energy, and a signal processor where the processed infrared image is displayed.

The Difference between Night Vision and Thermal Imaging

Both night vision and thermal imaging assist in detecting and identifying objects at night. The major difference is that night vision devices cannot be used in the daytime because the intensifier tubes that make night vision work may get damaged.

Thermal imaging works well in both day and night and does not require ambient light to produce an image while night vision does. Thermal imaging is used to detect the object while night vision is used to identify what the object is.

 

How Do Thermal Scopes Work?

Infrared can be split into three categories:

  • Near-Infrared which is the closest to visible light
  • Mid-Infrared which is used by electronic devices such as remote controls
  • Thermal-Infrared which takes up the largest part of the infrared spectrum. Thermal infrared means that it is emitted by an object rather than reflected by the object.

Thermal scopes project the heat energy emitted by an object into visible light, that is, colors that are visible to the human eye. A special lens in the scope takes in the infrared light and transmits it into a microprocessor.

The microprocessor translates the different heat energies into different visible colors. This process is done 30 times every second to complete a thermal image.

How is Thermal Imaging Useful?

The most common civilian application of thermal scopes is hunting. Most wild game is nocturnal and if you are serious about hunting, you’ll need a scope that allows you to hunt when night falls.

Thermal scopes are also widely used in law enforcement, search and rescue, border patrol, and tactical military use. Most of the scopes used here have military-grade features that allow them to be effective in this application. They are also more compact and lighter making them easy to move around with.

Other uses include surveillance such as home security because CCTV does not work well at night and night vision does not work in daylight.

Firefighters use them to locate people in distress through smoke and darkness and even spot a fire through a wall. They are also used to detect fevers and high temperatures in human beings.

Things to Consider When Buying a Thermal Scope

Thermal scopes are generally much more expensive than traditional scopes. This is because the technology that the scope needs to function is usually not produced in as large volumes as regular daylight scopes.

Thermal scope lenses are also expensive as they do not use glass like other scopes. Germanium, a rare and highly expensive metal, is normally used in place of glass.

Nevertheless, it is very much possible to get a good thermal scope without breaking the bank. But other than the price, we’ve highlighted a few other features that should be taken into consideration.

Magnification

Magnification is important for identification when you’re out in the field. This is especially true for hunters because they need to keep a safe distance.

The magnification required on the scope depends on the range of the hunt. Most thermal scopes are reliable up to about 300yards even though some scopes offer a detection range of up to 2500yards.

Also, the more the image increases, the field of view becomes narrower and the refresh rate gets slower. The resolution is also affected which in turn affects the image quality.

Most scopes feature either a digital zoom or an optical zoom. Optical zoom uses the lens to magnify the object in view. It is usually able to retain most of the image quality.

Digital zoom requires software which may result in a lower quality image. The smart choice would be to get a scope that utilizes both features.

 

Resolution

The resolution of your scope will determine the quality of images that get displayed. A high resolution coupled with a high refresh rate results in clear and crisp images.

Another advantage of having a high resolution is the ability to magnify images without losing image quality. Low resolutions produce a pixelated image that looks distorted.

There is a difference between sensor resolution which is the image developed by the thermal sensor and the scope resolution. The scope resolution is generally higher than the thermal resolution but ideally for best results, both should be high.

Some scopes will feature an inbuilt software that smoothens pixelation caused by high magnification and a slow refresh rate.

Refresh Rate

This is the rate at which the scope refreshes the view. Frequent refreshing of the image produces a clearer image. A slow rate produces a lag in the image being viewed.

Most thermal scopes feature a refresh rate between a minimum of 30Hz and 60Hz. You can get a reasonably priced thermal scope with a 50Hz refresh rate.

If you’re viewing objects that are moving fast, a high refresh rate will produce clear images but if you intend to view still images or objects that are moving slowly, a 30Hz refresh rate will be adequate.

Thermal Sensor

The thermal sensor in the scope will distinguish the temperature differences between the objects in view. The quality of this sensor also determines the range at which it can pick up heat signatures and the quality of the image produced on the screen.

These sensors assign the different temperatures it picks up with different colors that are displayed on the screen.

Modern technology has advanced the resolutions produced by these sensors from low resolution into a higher resolution to produce visibly detailed images.

 

Range

Another important feature that is related to the sensor is the temperature range. This range determines the minimum and maximum temperatures that the sensors can identify.

Some scopes can detect heat up to 1000yards, one scope even has a 2500yards feature. Realistically, a thermal scope is only effective up to a few hundred yards. It is also safer to shoot near while in the dark.

But the long-range scopes have the advantage of offering you a wider field of view for surveillance and scouting.

Color Palettes

Thermal scopes come in monochrome or color options. Some scopes allow for the integration of the two options. A monochrome scope displays the heat map in greyscale.

Depending on the settings, the scope will display objects with more heat as darker or lighter than the surrounding objects. Monochrome palettes work better in long-range hunting or surveillance because they provide a better silhouette image.

Color thermal scopes are widely known as false color because they use a computer to process the image. It typically scales from blue for low energy to dark red for high energy when it produces the heat map.

These scopes work well in the dark and in hazy environments. In hunting, it is useful to detect movement when scouting in thick bushes. It is also commercially used in installations and maintenance of HVAC and electrical installations.

Although both options are highly effective, the monochrome thermal scopes cost significantly less in the market.

Reticles

Reticles are crosshair pointers that help you to close in on a target. Thermal scopes have different reticle options commonly known as crosshairs. The different options are for different weapons and usage.

The most common reticle styles found in thermal scopes include the four-line standard reticle and the single-dot reticle. Four-line reticles are most useful in the dark while the single dot is useful for day scopes.

One thing to note is that monocular type thermal scopes do not have an inbuilt reticle, they are dependent on the reticle of the day scope attachment. Some scopes also come with a variety of reticle patterns that you can switch in between as needed.

Battery

The battery life is an essential factor when considering which thermal scope to get. For your hunt to be worthwhile, you’ll need at least 5 hours of continuous battery life.

Some scopes come with extra battery packs and USB features that allow you to charge the scope with a power bank. Other scopes come with a longer battery life of up to 18-hours.

Other considerations should be if the scope comes with power-saving features such as auto-shutoff and instant-startup features.

Weight

While it is exciting to get a scope with all the best features, it also means it’ll probably be heavy. Consider that it will be mounted on your rifle, which also needs to have the capacity to carry extra weight. You’ll also be carrying it for extended periods while tracking coyotes out in the bush.

Generally, heavy scopes have more usable features and are more durable. A lightweight scope that weighs up to about 1.5lbs will be more agile and easier to use when tracking animals in the bush.

Conclusion

Thermal scopes are high-value investments so it is necessary to determine beforehand exactly what the scope will be used for. This will help you narrow down the features required making it easier to decide on which scope to get.

We recommend the Pulsar Thermion XM50 Thermal Rifle Scope which we’ve found to be an excellent all-around scope. It is also an excellent choice if this is your first time trying out a thermal scope. It is a reasonably priced day and night scope and has great features for the average hunter.

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