The world of firearms has evolved to include insanely advanced technology from where it was 100 years ago. Now, we have red dot sights, night vision, and other accessories that make shooting a great experience. Let’s not leave out a big one: the thermal rifle scope.
The thermal imaging scope has become increasingly popular over the years and has since moved into the public market. Not a lot of gunowners own one, probably because they aren’t too familiar with them. This advanced night vision technology is sweeping our world, not just in rifle scopes. You can also find the same technology in cameras and medical thermal imagers, if you aren’t sure what thermal imaging looks like.
Now that thermal imaging is being used in the world of guns, tons of possibilities and applications have been opened up for all kinds of shooters. A thermal imaging riflescope will allow the user to see in dark and tough conditions, which was a technological dream not but 50 years ago.
There’s two types of technology that allow us to see in the dark: night vision and thermal imaging. Night vision works by amplifying the light in a room or area to a level that the naked human eye cannot do itself. These kinds of scopes or other devices can level out the interference that might come from other sources like weather conditions or uneven darkness.
For today’s article, we’ll talk about thermal imaging. The thermal imaging concept is not as widely known in society as night vision is, but it is equally if not more effective. A thermal riflescope opens many doors for shooters that may not have been accessible before its creation.
This also means that the market for thermal riflescopes has become huge and may seem overwhelming if you don’t know what you’re looking for. There’s hundreds if not thousands of brands out there that each offer their own version of the thermal scope. There’s many different features, prices, and quality of thermal scopes out there that can suit any gunowner’s needs. Today, we’re going to break down some of the highest rated and best quality products for a range of budgets, features, and needs to make sure we give a good start for everybody.
So, let’s dive into more details and help you find the best thermal scope for your rifle.
- What is a Thermal Scope?
- Why Should You Buy a Thermal Scope?
- Things to Consider
- Best Thermal Scope On The Market
What is a Thermal Scope?
A thermal optic is one that takes a traditional rifle scope and combines it with the advanced infrared technology that we have today. A thermal imaging rifle scope will allow you to have a better look at your target during nighttime or other low light situations.
A thermal scope takes infrared light and uses it to make thermograms, or images; this is what gives the thermal scope its other common name of an infrared scope (IR scope). A thermal image is a picture that highlights points of heat in bright colors and keeps the cold ones darker. Therefore, it paints a picture of whatever you are looking at in thermal colors due to the contrasting heat points. Things like animals, humans, and motors will emit more heat than stationary things like plants or buildings.
How Does It Work?
Thermal imaging is a technology that has been long developed and studied, and started from something we all remember from middle school: the electromagnetic spectrum (don’t worry, I hated science too).
The electromagnetic spectrum is a chart that shows how different lights may travel in different wavelengths. The longer waves, like radio waves, have low energy. On the opposite side of the spectrum is gamma waves, which is the highest energy wave on the spectrum. The visible light that we can see is directly in the middle. Right next to that, on the longer side of waves, is where the infrared sits.
The infrared light spectrum is actually split into three categories: near-infrared, mid-infrared, and thermal-infrared. The thermal infrared light is the kind that is emitted from heat and harnessed by our thermal scope technology to give us that night vision. The other two categories are just forms of reflected light, which don’t really apply here.
The way that thermal scopes work is that they are outfitted with devices that can detect and concentrate the thermal infrared waves into a thermogram. Essentially, you will be seeing the object, but as it emits infrared light from the heat it contains.
A great example of this is the move Predator. If you’ve seen it, which I’m sure most people have, then you’ll know that the main alien in the movie sees through shades of red, blue, green, and yellow. This is exactly what it’s like to look through a thermal optic.
Thermal Imaging vs. Night Vision
So, what exactly is the difference between thermal imaging and the common night vision? Night vision is definitely more well known in today’s world, so it might be easy to get them mixed up. We all know night vision: from the night vision goggle to night vision binoculars, we’ve probably all had some experience with it. A thermal imager is probably not as familiar. Both of these two scopes will allow you to see in the dark… and that’s about all they have in common.
The biggest difference is the functionality of each type of scope. A thermal imaging scope will allow you to see figures based of the heat that they emit. A night vision scope requires the tiniest bit of light to be able to work. If there’s no light at all, the night vision won’t be able to help you see in the dark. A night vision monocular will just amplify the little light that remains to make it visible to the human eye. Night vision can’t work in complete darkness (no light) and can’t work in the daytime either (too much light).
When it comes to night vision, there’s something called and IR illuminator. This device is basically an infrared light source to help the night vision function in places of total darkness. They emit infrared light that can be picked up by the night vision scope.
A thermal riflescope will allow you to detect your target regardless of weather, fog, or other conditions. Night vision will give you better clarity and detail of your target, but can become obscured by these conditions just like a traditional rifle scope.
Another difference is the price range. While you can buy a lower end night vision scope or night vision monocular for an affordable chunk, the infrared scope prices tend to run extremely expensive. If you’re looking to get thermal optics or a thermal monocular, be prepared for the hefty price tag that comes along with it.
Our suggestion is to have one of each of these tools, if you are in the debate. They may seem similar, but both provide very different functions. Night vision will amplify the poor light conditions to provide you a better scope image quality at night, while thermal optics provide you with a heat signature or a heat trace of a target. Both of these tools are great to have if you can afford the price. If not, take a step back and decide which or if any of these tools are something that you need. Pick whichever is right for you.
Let’s sort some of the differences into a visual to help you choose which type of scope might be best for you.
|Feature||Night Vision||Thermal Imaging|
|Functionality||Requires light; amplifies light||No light; detects heat|
|Image quality||Clear; not affected by cold||Not as clear; affected by cold|
Why Should You Buy a Thermal Scope?
There’s tons of applications for using a thermal riflescope. If you’re looking into buying one, it’s important that you understand what a thermal imaging scope can and can’t be used for.
The first, and probably most obvious, application of a thermal vision riflescope is night hunting. While night vision is still a great choice, it has some limitations that the thermal imaging technology just doesn’t. A night vision riflescope requires light to work, can’t detect targets, and can be obstructed by fog or other weather conditions.
A thermal sight is best used for hunting when it’s dark. Essentially, the thermal weapon sight can be used as a target spotting scope; it can easily pick out targets by their heat signature depending on the detection range of the scope. Not only that, but the heat signature is easily visible through rain, fog, snow, or other weather conditions, making it an attractive option for those who like to hunt those sneaky nighttime critters.
Surveillance & Detection
Oftentimes, thermal optics are used by police or military personnel on their weapons for surveillance and protection. A thermal imaging riflescope will allow the person who is conducting surveillance or searching for an enemy to easily locate their heat signature in tough conditions. This makes it easy to find someone who may be hiding from the police or just keep an eye on your personal property’s trail cam animals.
This also applies to search and rescue. Often, search and rescue teams will use thermal imagers to find a lost person or to try and trace where they may have gone. This technology has saved thousands of lives in this field.
This category doesn’t just apply to the professionals either. You can use thermal imaging on your firearm to keep your family safe at home if you need to in an emergency. You can easy find heat signatures of intruders that mean harm and other dangerous animals. You can also use the thermal optic to find a lost person, if you are in a situation where you cannot call for help, and can also help you find other targets that you might need to.
Things to Consider
When you’re looking to purchase a thermal scope, there’s plenty of features that may be offered by different brands or products. It’s important to know the features that are available and to narrow them down to the features that you want or need for your firearm.
This is especially important for this type of scope. As you probably know by know, these bad boys don’t come cheap. At all. So, you better know exactly what you want and exactly what you’re willing to spend on it. If not, you can end up wasting tons of money on something that you’ll regret.
There’s so much to consider like where you’ll be shooting, what you’ll be shooting, battery life, etc. Not a lot of people are going to drop this much money on something that they won’t use all the time, so really think hard about this one. Do you actually NEED a thermal scope and why? If you’re hesitating, then you might want to sleep on it some more. Most likely, if you aren’t solely a night hunter or anything like that, then you’ll want to save your thousands of dollars and put it towards something better spent.
The first thing to consider is where or what environment you’ll be shooting in. This is especially important because certain conditions might affect the way your scope works or offers a proper heat signature. If you’re typically used to shooting in the colder seasons, then be aware that the image quality of the infrared sight can be affected by colder temperatures.
On the flipside, thermal optics are best used for any kind of obscuring weather conditions. If you’re constantly be frustrated by that deer disappearing into the fog, then a thermal imager might be able to help you out. A thermal imaging rifle scope can have a great detection range through fog, dust, rain, and even snow. This way, you’ll be able to pick up your target no matter what with a great display resolution of their heat signature.
Just be aware that a thermal heat image won’t provide the same amount of detail that a night vision riflescope will. If that is your main concern, then a thermal imager might not be right for you.
Type of Use
For this purpose, we’ll divide the uses of a thermal scope into two categories: recreational and tactical. It’s important to consider what you’ll be using the riflescope for. If you’re just purchasing it for home defense or other tactical applications, then there’s probably some options that will be better suited for you. If you’re an avid hunter and want a thermal imager to help you out, then there’s riflescopes that are made just for that. Both of these are common uses for an average gunowner to purchase a thermal imaging optic.
Hunting or Recreational
If you’re someone who typically hunts in areas of dense weather or foliage, then a thermal imaging riflescope can be a game changer for you. This scope will allow you to detect any target at a certain detection range. And I mean any target; no deer is safe from your newfound accessory. You can also see through game camouflage, which is something that most animals will try and pull a fast on you with.
Just keep in mind that the heat signature you see won’t tell you accurately what the target is. So just be careful. You don’t want to end up shooting a coyote and ending up with the neighbor’s dog.
Defense or Tactical
While you might not be able to make out the face of your intruder, the thermal imager will certain see right through their hiding disguise and reveal the target. It can’t see through walls but it will allow you to detect the intruder if he’s attempting to hide in the shadows somewhere.
A thermal imager will also help you find your way in the dark. Unlike night vision, thermal doesn’t rely on light to work. You can effectively use the thermal optic as a navigator, especially if you’re engaging or observing multiple targets at once. The thermal riflescope will be extremely valuable in that situation.
This is what might make it or break it for a lot of people. The price of a thermal imager is pretty outrageous for an average person. You’re spending thousands of dollars for a tiny piece of metal that you screw on the top of your rifle. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?
If you’re in a situation where you think you might ever need a thermal imager or would feel safer having one on hand, then you definitely want to consider your options. A thermal imaging riflescope has so many applications; the technology has even saved peoples’ lives. If you’re still hesitant because of the price, that’s okay too. There’s plenty of other options for you.
If the price tag of a thermal scope is just too scary, there’s another cheaper substitute that you can go for. There’s something called a thermal monocular. A thermal imaging monocular is a handheld device that can be used in place of the thermal scope itself. The monocular functions just the same as the thermal scope would and has a detection range of up to 300 yards for heat signatures. This option is also significantly less expensive than the riflescopes.
If you’re an avid night hunter, then the thermal monocular is a great addition to your arsenal. You can take the monocular with you whenever you go out to do some night hunting and it can be used with your night vision riflescope to help you out. This way, you can still detect and see your target, but without shoveling over the huge money.
The battery life of a scope is particularly important. Thermal imaging in itself is a complex piece of equipment which means that it needs a power source. It’s important to read up on the scope before you buy it to make sure the battery life will last you however long you need it to. I mean, what use is your scope if it’s dead? You’ll want to make sure the scope won’t die on you and that it can hold a good charge. Some other things to consider are:
- The battery life of one charge.
- How long you can use it in one session.
- How long it takes to charge.
- How often you have to replace the batteries.
- How expensive the replacement batteries are.
The battery life is an especially heavy category that you need to consider when choosing the best thermal scope for you. We can’t have it dying on you when you finally have your shot lined up.
Magnification is an option that might come with a lot of thermal scopes. Most of these scopes will have specific magnifications that can be used efficiently with the scope and won’t reduce the display resolution or slow the scope’s refresh rate down. If magnification is important to you, just make sure you look into it before you buy it. You’ll want to understand its limits where it applies to the scope that you end up choosing.
Thermal imaging alone is already a crazy piece of tech, so what else could possible come with it? Come on now, this is the 21st century. EVERYTHING has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth these days. Some scopes can even come with GPS too. While all these features are pretty cool, they also add to the already hefty price tag of the thermal scopes. So, just ask yourself. Do I really need to stream my thermal scope to my smartphone? If your answer is no, then you probably won’t miss all this extra fancy stuff.
The sensor resolution of a thermal imaging riflescope is something entirely different from the display resolution. The sensor resolution will affect the clarity of the scope’s picture. You might have a scope that has a great display resolution, but a sensor resolution that is much lower. Therefore, the end product won’t be as clear as if it were just the scope itself.
This will depend on how far you think you’ll be shooting from. If you’re typically a long distance hunter, then something that has a better detection range will be ideal. For home defense, you might not need something so far. It all depends on your personal preferences.
This one is also specific to the thermal scopes. The refresh rate is how fast the scope’s software will reload the heat detection image that you see. If the refresh rate is faster, then you’ll be able to see your targets quickly and detect their movements closer to real time. Slower means that your scope will essentially lag, which might cause some problems when you’re trying to follow a moving target.
Best Thermal Scope On The Market
Now, what you’ve all been waiting for. I’ve gone through the market and picked out some great products to fit a wide range of shooters, needs, preferences, and budgets. So, let’s dive into the top 5 thermal scopes to get you a quick start on your search.
1. Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Thermal
The Trijicon Teo is known for its insane clarity of the glass and the thermal imaging as well. The thermal picture is bright and clear, which will allow you to see even the smallest of targets, like rodents, when you’re using it.
The sensor is what gives the Teo the high display resolution. The refresh rate of this super high-end sensor is 60Hz, which is typically what you’d run in a well-made video game. This will not only let you see your targets easily, but also accurately track their movements.
The downside to this advanced screen is that it can be blinding at times. The screen tends to be pretty bright.
A lot of gunowners use thermal scopes and night vision hand in hand to get the best target picture at night. However, the insane clarity and high tech frame rate of the Teo is enough to use it completely on its own without the need for night vision.
The reticle itself is customizable too. You can choose from 5 different reticle styles, provided to suit your needs and shooting style. There’s also an option to save the reticle location on the scope, so you can switch the optic from one firearm to another and still have the same zero.
There’s also 6 different contrast settings that will allow you to adjust based on the shooting circumstances. You can adjust the contrast to give you the perfect picture no matter the environment.
This scope also introduces an entirely new feature called edge detection. What this does is effectively reduce the night blindness that might result from too much white in the picture. With edge detection, only the outline around the detected target will be white, while the rest of the picture will go black. This way, you won’t be blinded when you look through the scope.
Another downside to this is the manual calibration of the imaging. This means after about a minute, you’ll have to close the lens cap and recalibrate it yourself, which can be something to get used to.
The eye relief on this optic is pretty short, but there’s a rubber spacer to make sure you stay comfortable. The rim of the scope won’t dig into your eye and won’t bruise it or hurt you. It also allows you to zone in on your target more clearly when you see nothing but the scope.
This scope is also extremely durable and can last years without needed repairs. This scope can withstand tons of physical damage and weather conditions, making it perfect to take it with you wherever you need it.
It’s also pretty small and lightweight for a thermal sight. This is ideal for night hunting and other times when you’ll need to stay concealed.
Because they are so small, the batteries only last about 4 hours of constant use before needing a change. At least the batteries are easy and simple to change, even in the dark. You won’t have to struggle too much to try and change them in a pinch if the scope goes dead.
- Has a high display resolution.
- Has a high refresh rate.
- Has 5 reticle options.
- Has 6 contrast options.
- Has the edge detection feature.
- Is durable.
- Is lightweight.
- The screen brightness can be blinding.
- Requires manual recalibration.
- The batteries last for only 4 hours of constant use.
- It’s expensive.
2. Pulsar Trail XP38
The Pulsar Trail is a great option that balances price and quality features.
The glass clarity and the imaging clarity are great for the price. You’ll be able to see all those little critters that you’ve got your eye on without any sacrifice for the details. Just because it’s cheaper, doesn’t mean there’s a quality sacrifice.
The reticle itself is set in the second focal plane, which means you can zoom in and the reticle picture will stay the same size. This will allow you to retain your accuracy while still being able to use the magnification feature.
Not only that, but there at 13 different reticles that you can choose from. You’ll be able to use whichever one suits your personal preference and your shooting style.
There’s also a feature that allows you to display a separate zoomed image while having the original field of view remain around it. This way, you’ll be able to zoom in on a smaller target and still be aware of the surrounding area.
The detection range of this scope is 2,000 yards, which means you’ll be able to make all those long distance shots you’ve always wanted to.
This thermal sight is also extremely durable. It is waterproof, shockproof, and fogproof. It can also withstand recoil from powerful weapons and other physical damage that might be sustained by a mounted rifle scope.
The sighting adjustments are relatively simple to use, but are not as precise as some other scopes out there.
The scope has a feature to hold up to 3 zeroes at a time, which is a great feature if you want some convenience. However, it’s been reported by other users that sometimes the zeroes don’t hold like they’re supposed to. The zero is known to drop sometimes or won’t save. It can be difficult to use this feature properly and save your zeroes.
- Has a high display resolution.
- The reticle will stay the same with magnification.
- Has 13 reticle options.
- Has a far detection range.
- Is durable.
- It’s affordable.
- The sighting adjustments are not as precise.
- The zero save feature is buggy.
3. Pulsar Digisight Ultra
The Pulsar Digisight presents at nearly half the price of a typicaly thermal sight but also can stand up to some of their features.
The reticle and the glass are very clear and crisp. You’ll be able to see anything you need to. For the price, the clearness of the imaging is impressive and won’t disappoint.
Not only that, but there’s 10 different reticle options and different colors that you can choose from. This means that you get tons of customization options. All of these options remain in the second focal plane so the reticle won’t move with magnification. This sight also offers some other ballistic reticle settings as well, which are like first focal plane reticles.
This scope also has the zoom picture feature. This way, you can zoom in on your target and still retain that field of view on your scope that is around the target. You’ll remain aware of all surroundings and will retain the wide field of view that is originally in the imaging picture.
You won’t have to worry about eye relief, either. Your eye will sit nicely against the scope so there will be no issues with the eye relief distance.
The Digisight is also proven durable. It is waterproof and resistant to low temperature climates and environments. That way you’ll never have to worry about your imaging accuracy being affected by the cold weather. A lot of thermal sights are susceptible to the effects of cold weather, but the Digisight is not one of them.
This scope is very easy to adjust and holds a great zero. You won’t have to worry about buggy software that drops a zero or trying to redo it again. There’s also the option to create zero profiles, each of which can hold up to 10 distances of zeroing. This saves you tons of time, effort, and creates an insanely versatile scope for any situation.
The Digisight also provides 2 IR illuminators that allow you to shoot perfectly at night. This gives you plenty of range and illumination options that will guide you through any night hunt. Most other thermal scopes will force you to buy an IR illuminator separately in order to use it in some conditions.
- Has a high display resolution.
- Has 10 reticle options and 6 color options.
- It’s durable.
- It holds a zero.
- It’s affordable.
- The detection range is only 500 yards.
- The night detection range is only 300 yards.
4. ATN Thor 4
This option is a little on the pricier side, but gives you great clarity and distance for the price.
The imaging is extremely crisp on this scope. You’ll be able to see your target clearly from up to 1000 yards away.
The reticle is duplex and it has a ballistic rangefinder that will help you zero in your target easily and accurately.
The sensor resolution is also extremely high quality and won’t leave you questioning if you’re actually looking at your target or not. Your target will light up like a lamp in the dark and won’t leave you hanging on whether or not you got something.
The eye relief is a decent range that is common for most rifles. This is a pretty comfortable distance that can be used for long periods of time without fatigue or discomfort.
The scope is also durable and can stand up to both physical damage and weather conditions. The electronics inside were made with durability in mind, so you won’t have to worry about them getting damaged with repetitive use.
The scope itself weighs less than two pounds which won’t kill your shoulders when you’re trying to use it. For the weight, the battery also lasts up to 18 hours, which won’t leave you without a sight in the dark.
The zero adjustments are super easy to use and accurate; you’ll get a one shot zero in no time. It will also effectively hold a zero. Not only that, but the scope has a feature to record all of your best shots. Epic vids to share with your buddies. You can also save zero settings for different guns, which makes the scope easily very versatile.
It has a magnification option which can be great for zooming in on some tough targets. However, the imaging is known to become a little pixelated when you zoom in, which can present some difficulty.
The memory card that comes with it is also a little small for the purposes, so you’ll might want to buy a bigger one.
- The imaging and display resolution is extremely clear.
- Has a detection distance of up to 1000 yards.
- The sensor resolution is high.
- It’s durable.
- It has a longer battery life of 18 hours.
- It’s accurate and will hold a zero.
- It’s expensive.
- The magnification can make the image pixelated.
- The provided memory card is small.
5. AGM Rattler
This thermal scope is one of the cheapest ones that exist on the market today, but that doesn’t mean it lacks any quality or great features.
The imaging is smooth and gives you a wide field of view. While it might not live up to the super high-end level of thermal scopes, the imaging quality you get for the price is amazing. The only drawback to this is the way the scope focuses. The Rattler will focus on the target and blur the background around it, which might decrease your situational awareness.
This thermal riflescope also is equipped with the window zoom feature, which means you can zoom in on one section of the target and still leave the rest normal, giving you a great field of view and allowing you to see those extra details on your target at the same time.
While there’s no laser range finding option, there are hashes on the reticle that you can learn to do it manually. This way, you can estimate how far your target is, how big it is, and what your bullet drop rate is going to look like. It will take some practice to be able to do this in the field, though.
The scope has two power modes: normal and standby. Normal, unfortunately, will take 10 seconds to power on the scope. If you place it in standby though, you’ll be able to flick it on and off instantly. It’s pretty much like a sleep mode, which will help you conserve battery power.
With only 3-4 hours of constant battery life, you’ll want to save all you can get.
This scope also has the option to save up to 5 zeroing profiles. Not only that, but these profiles can be for different guns too, which will make the scope extremely versatile.
It has plenty of brightness settings, both for daytime and night vision.
It also has 5 different reticle designs and 4 different colors to choose from. This way, you can customize the scope to your exact preferences, making the shooting experience the best it can be.
- It’s cheaper.
- You get a good image for the price.
- It has 2 different power modes.
- You can save 5 zeroes.
- It has different brightness settings.
- It has 5 reticle designs and 4 colors.
- The scope leaves out background details to focus on the target.
- The range finding option is manual and requires skill to use.
- It only has 3-4 hours of battery life.
- It takes 10 seconds to power on in normal mode.
6. ATN Thor HD
The Thor HD thermal scope is essentially a fully-featured model when it comes to scopes made by ATN. This scope also comes a little high priced compared to the ones we’ve looked at in this article. You’ll also get a rangefinder and ballistic calculator for the additional money you’re paying for this one.
The rangefinder and ballistic calculator features may go a long way toward assuring precision and eliminating guesswork in all situations, allowing you to hit the precise point every time you shoot with the scope.
In essence, this optic is intended for shooters who wish to undertake long-range, repetitive shooting in dark situations without the need for another piece of equipment, such as a ballistic computer or rangefinder.
The 384×288 Sensor ensures that the shooters get an excellent image while looking through the scope.
It is the perfect thermal scope because it can detect heat energy along the shooter’s line of view rather than light energy that is detected in other scopes. You can see perfectly in full darkness thanks to this thermal imaging technology.
The Ballistic Calculator system calculates the bullet’s trajectory, assisting you in hitting the target on the spot. This feature helps in shot placement by altering the Point of Impact.
The built-in Smart Rangefinder makes life easier for shooters than ever. If you know how to use a rangefinder, then you’ll be able to enhance your target shooting abilities.
The scope also has a smooth zoom and viewpoint that allows you to enlarge an object without losing sight of what is in your field of view.
You can also record all your shots with this scope. If you don’t have the budget for this sight you can ATN X Site LTV. The ATN X Site LTV is actually a night vision scope and not a thermal scope.
7. ATN Thor LT Thermal Scope
The Thor LT rifle scope is a beginner-friendly thermal scope and it comes at an affordable price point for the majority of shooters.
Long-range usage of the scope is limited because of the scope’s thermal specifications, like the low resolution and restricted power range.
This Thor LT model, on the other hand, is ideal for most hunters who are used to going closer to the prey they want to take down, and it is efficient for hunting at less than 200 yards range.
ATN’s most recent releases are the LT collection of thermal optics and the LTV line of night vision optics. It’s smaller, simpler, and, most significantly, less expensive from this manufacturer. Although some people still prefer to spend thousands of dollars on a thermal scope that has all the bells and whistles in a digital scope and capabilities they’ll almost certainly never use. This LT line of scope introduces practical and useful features at a very reasonable price.
The thermal imaging may not be as good as the 320 upgrades, much alone the 640 version, it’s more suited for close-range heat detection. ATN claims that it has a recognition range of 240 meters, a detection range of 475 meters, and an identification range of 160 meters.
The detection range may appear to be limited, but the scope specifications complement each other nicely.
It has a restricted 3-6x zoom because of its 160 resolution, which is why we believe it is suitable for short-range thermal applications. However, with a refresh rate of 60 Hz, the sight is perfectly capable of keeping up with objects that are moving.
The LT 160 scope is a low-cost solution for first-time thermal purchasers and those with a restricted budget. The sight is an incredible steal, with a 3-year guarantee. If you’re still not convinced, try locating a thermal for less than this.
The scope lacks almost everything that the Thor 4 scope features in order to provide such low prices to shooters. The entire point of this LT scope is to deliver only the core functionalities, which are also what many purchasers seek.
What would you miss? Video recording, rangefinder, streaming, ballistics, and so forth. What you do get is a smaller thermal camera with long battery life, zoom, One Shot Zero, and decent quality.
Why should you spend more on a thermal with a resolution of 160×120, a resolution of 17 microns, and a zoom range of 3-6x?
This Thor LT scope is an independent thermal scope; you don’t need to pair it with another sight. In other words, it is not a clip-on or a monocular designed to be attached to another riflescope. The affordable price may fool you into thinking it’s of low quality. It features numerous reticles that you can choose from.
This thermal scope comes with a scope cover, an eyecup, lens tissue, and USB cable, but no scope mount is provided. You’ll need to buy a mount separately, and it has 30mm scope rings that suit the 30mm tube.
Because it is thermal, it does not need to be taken from the weapon during the day. You can still use it for hunting, tracking, and shooting. However, it lacks the “natural” color palette seen via daylight scopes with a glass lens.
The LT 160 scope is as tough as any other ATN scope. It is composed of the same durable aluminum alloy as its more expensive counterparts. The scope is also recoil-resistant and can endure the pressure from a large caliber rifle, and it is weather-resistant.
This Thor thermal scope is quite light, which is another distinguishing aspect of LT the scopes in general. The Thor 160 weighs only 1.4 lbs which is ideal for any rifle configuration where weight is an issue.
If you don’t have a good thermal monocular or goggles as part of your optical equipment, you’ll have to rely on this scope for heat signature detection. This lightweight scope allows you to place the rifle and optic on the shoulder for a longer period of time than a huge option.
8. BURRIS Thermal Rilfescope
If you own a Burris scope already, you’ll need to add a Burris BTC to round up your optics set. Others see Burris as a breath of fresh air for consumers searching for brand variety outside of the Pulsar, ATN, and other thermal producers.
The Burris BTC 50 optics is the bigger model among the two clip-ons, with the BTC 35 having an objective lens diameter of 35mm. Because they are clip-on optics, they should be utilized in conjunction with your daylight optic.
They are often more expensive than standalone optics, but they let you to keep your reticle and all the features of daytime sights. You’re simply adding thermal.
It does not have a reticle and cannot be used as a solo scope, although it may be used as a monocular. It does, however, include a Hot Track option that places a crosshair on the hottest objects visible inside the Field of View.
You have a good imagery for thermal night hunting, surveillance, and pest removal up to about 1000 yards with the 1024×768 color OLED display, big 50mm lens, 17-micron sensor, and a refresh rate of 50Hz.
The scope’s battery life is on the low side; this is because thermal scopes are power hogs. However, there are certain battery-saving options that might let it last longer during a hunt.
During a hunt, you may follow trails, locate elusive predators, and keep a lookout for trespassers. With superb thermal characteristics, a simple UI, and simplicity, the BTC scope makes it easier for you to see in dark places.
The Burris BTC interface consists of four buttons which include a power button, an Up button, a Down button, and a Menu button.
The Zoom function is controlled via the Up button, which lets you switch between 1x, 2x, and 4x zoom.
The scope’s Mode button allows you to make rapid adjustments. There are Snow, Desert, Default, Forest, and City scene modes for pre-calibrated brightness settings for the environment you’re in.
The Down button allows quick access to the four color palettes: White Hot, Green Hot, Red Hot, and Black Hot. Burris’ trademark palette, Red Hot, is similar to the White Hot but adds a red hue heat signature.
The objective bell of the BTC scope also features a focusing ring. It enables you to focus on targets at varied distances.
The scope has a one-shot zero application that allows shooters to select zero for different ranges. You can zero the scope at any time of day or even at night.
The BTC scope is a clip-on scope; it may be detached from your daytime scope and used as a portable monocular by attaching an eyepiece guard. Remove the eyepiece and reconnect it to the daylight scope once you’ve located your target. There is no need to recalibrate or rezero the clip-on; it is ready to use.
The BTC has 17-micron sensor, 400×300 resolution, and a refresh rate of 50Hz. With an objective lens diameter of 50mm, the bigger micron sensor captures significantly more information.
The Hot Track is a wonderful feature. This function can be toggled off and on, and it displays a reticle.
The battery of this BTC scope is found on the left side compartment of the scope, that is entirely waterproof when the cover is tightened. It operates for more than 3 hours on double CR123 batteries. The Automatic Power-Off conserves battery life. You may also use the provided cable to connect to an external power.
Despite the fact that it requires double CR123 batteries, the total weight of the optics is maintained to a minimum. The complete item weighs around 1 lb.
9. FLIR Armasight Zeus Pro
When it comes to high-end technology, the FLIR Zeus Thermal Imaging scope is hard to beat. However, it is offered at a high price, so you are not impulsive about a purchase. It has some of the most advanced technological features, and it is used by the military to perform different operations.
While few individuals can afford this scope, knowledge about it is limited.
One of the most important aspects to consider is the unit’s structure. The inside section of the scope is made of aircraft-quality aluminum. It is waterproof, so if you totally immerse it in water, it will not get damaged.
While dropping the scope may not be the greatest choice, it does have some impact resistance if you mistakenly drop it. It is possible to descend from a height of one meter without any consequences or concerns. From a personal standpoint, we do not suggest dropping the scope, in fact, you should handle it with caution.
The primary reason for purchasing this scope is to utilize it for thermal images and you can be sure it will deliver. It features more than just normal night vision tech.. The scope’s video input may be linked to your smartphone using an app. Thermal images can be seen using this feature.
Everything is powered with a 3-volt CR123 battery, which can be recharged using the charger. The images you will see throughout your scan are of high resolution, making you to see your target considerably better. With the batteries, it remains lightweight, weighing little under 5 pounds.
The 8X magnification of this scope further enhances your viewing experience and the thermal image. If you want to zoom out, you can go as low as 3.2X magnification. The massive objective lens (100mm) makes it an ideal choice for usage during the day, and the superb light absorption allows it to be used even in low-light circumstances.
Aside from the complex functions required for thermal imaging, it also contains standard functionality for usage during the day. For most optics, the enormous 45mm eye relief is at the top of the list.
The attachment is fast-release, and it can be installed on practically any rifle that has a standard Weaver or Picatinny rail. This Flir Zeus scope is not suitable for sluggish rifles or guns that are not semi-automatic, as it may be difficult to adjust. One advantage is that recoil cannot easily alter the scope’s zero.
Apart from the excessive price, it is difficult to find anything wrong with this scope. The night vision system is covered by a 10-year guarantee, while the remainder of the item is covered by a 3-year warranty.
Not everyone will appreciate the FLIR Zeus Thermal Riflescope. It is a military-style scope; thus, you might need some military training.
10. IR Defense IR Hunter Thermal Scope
If money isn’t a problem, it’s difficult to beat the performance of the IR Defense thermal scope. This amazing thermal device combines the toughness of military sight with the precision of today’s top riflescopes.
Internal optics feature a shock-resistant 35mm lens that has been completely multi-coated to provide only the greatest infrared light transmission and contributes significantly to the scope’s thermal stability.
This scope has a 2.5x zoom and an amazing 20x digital magnification making the combo to have a 1800-yard detection range.
The scope’s housing is made of one-piece 6061-T6 aluminum. It is fully recoil and shock resistant. The sight is waterproof to about 3 feet and can withstand being completely immersed for 15 minutes, a characteristic that is uncommon in thermal imaging riflescopes.
Most thermal scopes usually auto-adjust brightness and contrast throughout the display, which can cause a variety of problems. The ETR, which stands for Enhanced Target Recognition, guarantees that just the targeted region of the display is modified, resulting in a crisper image.
How long can a Thermal Scope be used?
Thermal scopes often last over 8 hours with a single battery charge. Most models will take between 2 and 10 hours to complete. ATN recently developed ultra-low consumption scopes that can operate continuously for 18+ hours.
Why is a thermal scope costly?
Thermal optics are often pricey owing to the special internal components. These scopes also have price disparities for things like wifi connectivity, palette changes, ballistic applications, and others. Thermals, on the other hand, begin at a realistic price range of roughly $1000.
What is the range of Thermal Scopes?
The range of the thermal riflescope is determined by parameters such as magnification and sensor resolution. In general, even low-cost thermal scopes can sense heat up to 1000+ yards.
High-end thermal scopes can detect targets up to 4,000 yards away; however, target identification might be a different story.
Can You Use a Thermal Optic to Hunt In Daylight?
Yes, you can use a thermal scope for hunting during the day without destroying the components. Thermal scopes sense heat signatures rather than enhancing light. The dual-use feature is a significant advantage of selecting thermal optics overnight vision scopes.
What is the finest thermal vision brand?
There are several high-quality manufacturers on the market; however, most European brands only provide thermal sights or clip-on components designed to be used with a regular scope. Rangefinding scopes and hand-helds are typically available in Russian and Southeastern European units; however, quality varies. American companies like Burris and Trijicon sell civilian versions of the military-grade thermal scopes.
Can I use a thermal sight for hunting?
Thermal optics are often prohibited while hunting game animals such as deer. However, most jurisdictions permit its usage for non-game animals such as raccoons or coyotes. You’ll need to verify your state’s hunting restrictions for further information.
How does a thermal scope function?
Thermal riflescopes are optical instruments that detect heat radiation that makes an object to glow when viewed through thermal imaging. The ordinary human eye can’t see in this spectrum, that is why this optical aid is required for enhanced night vision.
Is it possible for a thermal riflescope to see through trees?
No, they cannot see through a tree’s branch or trunk (it lacks X-ray vision). You can actually detect heat in a forest and highly wooded environments, but you cannot see through.
Mike Hardesty is a published freelance gun writer. With dozens of articles and reviews published in Pew Pew Tactical, Snipercountry.com, and TTAG (The Truth About Guns), Mike is considered a firearms expert. His special area of expertise is handguns.
Mike is a long-time shooter. He has been punching paper targets, taking deer and other game and shooting at competitions since about 1975. Other related pursuits include reloading and bullet casting. He currently reloads for over 10 calibers, both handgun and rifle. His reloads, particularly for 9mm, were in great demand during the height of the ammo shortage among family and friends. He donated hundreds of rounds to informal shooting sessions. He was quoted as saying “I do not sell my reloads but I sure will help my guys shoot ’em for free!”. He has a few cherished firearms that he has inherited or otherwise procured — those are his favorites.
He earned B.S. and M.S. degrees from Indiana State University in 1974-1975.
He’s a firearm experts and is the founder of mhardesty.com.