If you’ve seen or used night-vision devices, you’re probably familiar with the black and white or black and green monochromatic color scheme that often characterizes this technology.
The greatest advantage of night vision is that it allows you to see in the dark without disclosing your position.
Best Night-Vision Scopes
- Armasight Night Vision Long-Range Clip-On System
- ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Edition 3–14x Smart HD Day/Night Riflescope
- ATN NVM-14-3P Night Vision Monocular with ITT Pinnacle Image Intensifier Tube
- ATN ThOR-HD 5–50x 50 mm Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope
- Night Owl Optics NightShot 3x NV Riflescope
- AGM Global Vision Comanche-22 Medium Range Night Vision Clip-On Systems
- Pulsar Digisight Ultra LRF N450 Digital Night Vision Riflescope
- Burris BTS 50 2.9-9.2x50mm Thermal Riflescope
Armasight Night Vision Long-Range Clip-On System
There are two ways to provide night-vision capability to the soldier, hunter, or marksman: a dedicated night-vision rifle scope or a system that attaches to an existing day scope. The Armasight Night Vision Long-Range Clip-On System falls into the latter category.
As the Armasight LR-CO System mounts directly in front of your day scope, no re-zeroing is required. Your eye relief will remain unaltered and consistent. You will need sufficient rail space forward of the scope to mount the system, however.
Compatible with civilian and military rifle scopes with a magnification up to 12x, the Armasight LR-CO System is suitable for shooting at ranges up to 1,000 meters. With features such as bright light cut-off, wireless remote control, low-battery indicator, the LR-CO is a feature-rich design that should meet the needs of a variety of customers. In addition, the LR-CO is available with either Generation-II or Generation-III night-vision technology, depending on your budget and specific requirements.
Using a quick-detach mounting system, the Armasight LR-CO attaches directly to any MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny rail and can be removed for storage or transport.
The LR-CO will run on a single 1.5-volt alkaline AA battery or 3-volt lithium battery.
As the LR-CO is not a scope but a night-vision accessory, it does not provide additional magnification. You’ll need to rely on your day scope for that.
The Armasight is on the heavy side, weighing 2.86 lb., so you’ll need to consider balancing weight against function.
ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Edition 3–14x Smart HD Day/Night Riflescope
Night-vision rifle scopes can be prohibitively expensive, costing thousands of dollars. There are, however, more moderately priced options available to help you determine whether night-vision technology is right for you and your rifle.
The ATN X-Sight is a smart day/night sighting system that combines a smart rifle scope with an HD video camera to enhance your shooting and hunting experience.
The camera features a recoil-activated video function that begins recording to the SD card when you fire the rifle. This way, if you’re on a hunting trip, you can preserve that once-in-a-lifetime shot for others to see.
A rifle scope should be durable, and the X-Sight fulfills that requirement. The ruggedized electronics are housed in a hardened aluminum-alloy body, ensuring that impact won’t damage the sighting system.
Regarding any powered optical sighting system, you have to consider battery life. The X-Sight’s battery provides 18 continuous hours of power, so you’ll be able to shoot from dusk until dawn without replacement.
As with any rifle scope, night vision, or standard, zeroing the sighting system is necessary to achieve any semblance of accuracy. Zeroing or sighting in the rifle scope involves adjusting the windage and elevation until the point of aim and the point of impact coincide at a particular distance. The X-Sight’s one-shot zero feature allows you to zero the rifle scope with one shot, saving time and ammunition. After selecting the correct device type in the system’s settings, choose “Zero Reticle.”
The X-Sight stores multiple unique profiles that correspond to different firearms. This way, you can dismount the X-Sight from one hunting weapon, attach it to another, and load a separate profile to input a weapon-specific zero. In addition, you can use separate profiles to input zeroes for different ranges with the same firearm and ammunition.
Keeping the rifle steady, fire a shot at a zeroing target and note the point of impact. Without disturbing the position of the white reticle, move the red reticle to the point of impact and hit “OK.”
The laser range finder allows you to determine the distance to the target for zeroing and other purposes. You also have an onboard ballistic calculator.
ATN NVM-14-3P Night Vision Monocular with ITT Pinnacle Image Intensifier Tube
Using Generation-III night-vision technology, the ATN NVM-14-3P is a highly versatile NVD monocular that you can use in a wide variety of applications. In a head- or helmet-mounted setup, you can use the NVM 14-3P for observation and other non-combat and non-hunting purposes, such as reading your map and compass or administering first-aid in the field.
As a weapon-mounted monocular, you can use the NVM-14-3P in conjunction with a daytime optic, such as a rifle scope, reflector sight, or holographic sight, by mounting it on the rail in front.
When ambient light declines, the NVM-14-3P’s Total Darkness Technology increases the monocular’s capabilities. On a moonless night or when cloud cover is dense, the sight’s IR illuminator can substitute for available ambient light, increasing visibility under low-light conditions. In addition, the Pinnacle Image Intensifier tube provides crystal-clear images, regardless of external light.
Fully submersible to a depth of 20 meters, the NVM-14-3-P is highly resistant to the elements, rendering it a durable and efficient system for highly varied environmental conditions.
At only 11.28 oz. and 4.5” in length, the ATN Monocular is a relatively lightweight and compact NVD suitable for various weapons platforms and applications. Attaching the NVM-14-3P to carbines/short-barreled rifles and rifle-caliber pistols, the low bulk will not compromise maneuverability or comfort when carrying your weapon for prolonged periods.
Whether you need night-vision capability for police surveillance, tactical training, military operations, search and rescue, hunting, or private security, this device is suitable for a wide variety of applications, both general and specialized.
ATN ThOR-HD 5–50x 50 mm Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope
In addition to ATN’s range of night-vision smart scopes, the company also manufactures thermal-imaging optical systems. While night-vision devices typically collect and amplify visible and near-infrared light, they can become less useful when ambient light sources are non-existent. Thermal-imaging systems collect infrared (IR) light from heat sources and translate this information into a heat map.
This heat map consists of different color values, depending on whether the target is hot or cold. One of the key advantages of thermal imaging systems is that they provide enhanced contrast between a heat source, such as an enemy combatant or game animal, and the cooler background. As a result, thermal-imaging optical sights can benefit both the soldier and the hunter.
As with the ATN X-Sight, the ThOR-HD offers high-definition video recording, a smart rangefinder and ballistic calculator, and one-shot zero capability. The recoil-activated video (RAV) function allows you to focus on the target — the sighting system will record footage for you.
Night Owl Optics NightShot 3x NV Riflescope
For the budget-conscious shooter who wants a capable night sight, the aptly named Night Owl Optics NightShot is the most affordably priced night-vision rifle scope on the list. Featuring 3x magnification, the NightShot has a range of 100 yards — suitable for relatively close-range hunting.
Weatherproof, the NightShot is water-resistant and can withstand rainfall and other adverse weather conditions. The NightShot has a battery life of approximately three hours using four AA batteries, so you’ll need to monitor the power during longer journeys.
The NightShot also allows you to select from three different reticle types, in either black or white.
The NightShot is best suited to lighter calibers, being rated for calibers .308/.30-06 and below. The manufacturer specifically warns against using this optic with magnum calibers (e.g., 7mm Remington Magnum, .300 Win. Mag.).
AGM Global Vision Comanche-22 Medium Range Night Vision Clip-On Systems
Another clip-on night-vision system for your rifle, the AGM Global Vision Comanche-22, is designed for medium-range engagements and is, thus, more suitable for intermediate-power rifles. Weighing 1.65 lb., as opposed to the Armasight LR-CO’s 2.86, the AGM is lighter and more convenient to use with a carbine or short hunting rifle.
The advantages of the Comanche-22 are several. As with the Armasight LR-CO, the Comanche-22 allows you to convert your standard day scope into a night sight. The result is that you’re able to maintain the same zero and eye relief and use the same reticle, regardless of ambient lighting conditions. When the sun sets, attach the Comanche-22, and you’ll be able to detect game animals more effectively.
Pulsar Digisight Ultra LRF N450 Digital Night Vision Riflescope
The Pulsar Digisight Ultra LRF N450 is a digital night-vision rifle scope with an integral laser range finder, hence the LRF designation. As an active night-vision rifle scope, the Digisight Ultra uses an onboard IR illuminator, ensuring that you’re able to detect your target even in total darkness. The IR illuminator extends the target detection range to more than 500 meters, allowing for long-range accuracy under low-light conditions.
The integral rangefinder offers multiple modes for measuring target distance, but one of the most innovative features is the THD (True Horizontal Distance) mode. When set to THD, the rangefinder estimates range while accounting for your elevation in relation to the target. This allows the rangefinder to more accurately calculate the true horizontal distance for maximum accuracy.
Burris BTS 50 2.9-9.2x50mm Thermal Riflescope
A thermal-imaging rifle scope, courtesy of manufacturer Burris, rounds out the list. Thermal imaging has the advantage of providing high-contrast target images, which can be especially useful for tracking and shooting fast-moving animals, such as coyotes, at night.
Featuring seven color pallets and ten different reticles to choose from, the BTS 50 Thermal Rifle Scope has an integral stadiametric rangefinder, providing accurate estimates of target distance so that your shots will always land where you need them to.
The BTS 50 also sports hot-track technology. In this system, the rifle scope places a tracking box on the part of the target that generates the greatest amount of heat. This not only draws your attention to the target but also incentivizes you to focus your reticle on the most vital part of the animal.
Night-vision devices, or NVD, encompass optical sighting systems for firearms and goggles for observation.
● Night Vision
The objective lens collects ambient light to provide a visible target image — e.g., starlight, moonlight — and near-infrared light. The lens transmits this light to the image intensifier tube, which contains a photocathode. The purpose of the photocathode is to convert photons into electrons.
As these electrons pass through the I2 tube, a microchannel plate multiplies the number of electrons using a series of microscopic channels and electrodes. The electrons collide with a screen coated with phosphors. As the electrons overlap with the photons, they can produce an image. The electrons excite the phosphors, causing them to release photos, which you perceive through the ocular lens as a target image.
Night-vision devices allow you to see in near-total darkness. These devices use an image-intensifier tube to amplify light from both the infrared and visible parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.
● Thermal Imaging
While technically distinct from light-amplifying night-vision devices, thermal-imaging goggles, binoculars, monoculars, and rifle scopes serve some of the same purposes. However, rather than amplifying visible and near-infrared light, thermal imaging systems translate infrared light, generated by heat, into visual information on a monochromatic or color display.
● Night-Vision Scopes
A night-vision rifle scope allows you to aim your rifle at a target that would be invisible to the naked eye. Whether you prefer to use a light-amplification or thermal-imaging device, NVD of various types are traditionally used by military personnel under low-light conditions. However, as technology has advanced, NVD have become increasingly accessible to private citizens.
The two most common civilian applications for night-vision scopes are night-time hunting and after-dark competitive target shooting. Hunters typically shoot hogs, coyotes, and other varmints at night. However, there may also be specialized defensive applications for night-vision sighting systems for preppers/survivalists, depending on preparedness criteria.
The Bottom Line
If you need to see in the dark without revealing your location, a night-vision device, or NVD, is the solution. NVD are available in a variety of configurations; however, not every night-vision device is created equal.
Relatively low-cost NVD often use Generation-0 or 1 technology, which, while functional, is also less sophisticated and reliable. If you want a superior night-vision scope, you’ll have to choose Generation-II or III; however, that’s also more expensive. Find the system that suits you and your weapon best.