If you’re looking to skip straight to the good stuff, the ATN X-Sight II 3-14x50mm is the best night vision scope overall, considering performance and price.
Hunting at night isn’t ideal for all types of game, but for hogs and some other animals, hunting at night gives you the greatest advantage, provided you can see. This is where night vision hardware comes into play.
Crepuscular and nocturnal animals usually have outstanding night vision, so you’ll need some of your own if you want to get the most from your hunting trips.
Here’s what you need to know to choose the right night vision scope, so you can take advantage of the darkest hours:
Best Night Vision Scope
Best Gen 2 Scope
Best Scope Under $1000
Best Scope Under $500
What to Consider when Buying a Night Vision Scope
- Battery life
- Lens quality
- Image generation
When you’re out hunting, you’re going to be wandering around in the woods a lot and sitting in stakeout positions for a long time. And let’s face it, it’s easy to forget to turn off your scope when you’re in the middle of a hunt. You need a scope with enough battery life to last at least until you make it back to your rig to resupply, even with poor battery management.
While most standard optics are fairly minimal, and therefore not very heavy, night vision scopes can pack on a lot of electronic hardware for manipulating the digital image, and therefore a lot of weight. This won’t be a big issue for everyone, but shooters who do a lot of hiking with their rifle or who often shoot from unsupported positions may want to opt for a lighter scope.
Since the light needs to transmit through to a sensor, and then be digitally processed, it’s critical that the raw image is as crisp as possible, so that the digital rendering is clear. Any night vision scope should have fully multi-coated lenses. Multi-coating that increases infrared light transmission is a bonus and helps create a brighter image.
When it comes to night vision optics, the most important thing to consider is which generation the night vision sensor is. The general rule here is that the higher the generation, the further you can see and the clearer the image will be.
Most value-priced night vision optics are equipped with a gen 1 sensor, which is fine for seeing in the dark. However, if you’d like to mount your night vision optic on your weapon and use it for shooting, you’d be best served with a gen 2 or better sensor. Gen 2 night vision optics tend to be in the sweet spot for performance and value.
So, unless you absolutely need crystal clear detail, or you have a very high budget, you’ll probably want to check out some gen 2 night vision optics.
In any night vision scope, the reticle will be digitally overlaid on the picture. This means that a night vision scope can have multiple reticles, which is great for adding versatility to your nighttime kit. If you’re looking for a scope that you can mount on multiple rifles or use for several different types of shooting, look for a scope with multiple reticles.
Since night vision optics are electronic, the potential for a lot of additional features is pretty vast. Many scopes offer video recording and image capture, Wi-Fi connectivity, range estimation, and a whole lot more.
These are all awesome features, however, they do come with a price tag. So, choosing a feature set is mostly a matter of budget. If you find a scope that has a ton of features at a really low price tag, chances are the tradeoff is in the optical quality and the night vision sensor.
Before you get too deep in the weeds shopping for a night vision scope, take a moment to consider exactly what you need, and identify what’s most important to you. If you value photography and video related capabilities, then it’s fine to go with a fairly priced, feature-heavy night vision scope.
On the other hand, if image clarity and long range sighting capabilities are your priority, remember that your price will likely be a bit higher, and most of the scopes don’t have a lot of tertiary functionality, except at very high price points.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, here are the best night vision scopes, in order from most expensive to least expensive:
The Best Night Vision Scopes Of 2018 Reviews
BEST GEN 2 NIGHT VISION SCOPE
Armasight is one of the few manufacturers offering true gen 2 and gen 3 night vision scopes. Although this tends to raise the price point a bit, the image quality of these sensors is outstanding. The Armasight Nemesis 6x-SD is one of the premier gen 2 night vision optics available to the civilian market.
For battery power, the Nemesis uses a CR123 battery. This is good and bad. It’s good, because these batteries are powerful, and the Nemesis sports a 60 hour battery life (!). The downside here is that these batteries aren’t tremendously common, and you won’t be able to stop at any gas station and pick some up on the way out to your hunting spot.
Another tradeoff Armasight made for more performance is in the weight. The Nemesis weighs in at just over 4 pounds. It’s one of the heavier night vision scopes on the market, and weighs half as much as some AR-15 rifles, so be prepared to add some heft to your gun.
The Nemesis features fully multi-coated lenses that use Armasight’s proprietary IR transmitting lens coating, so the night vision senor can soak up light from as much of the spectrum as possible. This means that you’ll get good night vision capabilities even in the most minimal light, where other scopes might produce a grainy image.
On the other end of the brightness spectrum, the Nemesis features auto brightness adjustment that detects light sources and changes the brightness to prevent washout. If there’s just too much light for night vision, the Nemesis will automatically turn off and turn back on once the light is low enough.
Additionally, the objective lens is ridiculously large, larger than most daytime scopes. Then, Armasight uses an F/2.0 lens system (for the uninitiated, F/2.0 is a system used to measure camera apertures. Lower numbers are usually better) for generating a professional quality image. All this boils down to an incredibly clear picture.
The Nemesis features a cross-style reticle that’s illuminated in red for optimal contrast with the image, so you never lose track of your aiming point. Internal adjustment controls make it easy to adjust for range and windage on the fly.
Lastly, the Nemesis is equipped with a detachable infrared illuminator, so that you can use this scope in total darkness, if you need to.
If you’re a hog hunter, this is the best night vision scope for hog hunting. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s the best. For AR-15 owners and other hunters, this scope will meet and exceed your needs.
Best Night Vision Scope Under $1000
Sightmark has a solid reputation in the night vision industry, producing a wide variety of civilian and mil-spec night vision optics. What’s even better, is that Sightmark offers their mil-spec products to the civilian market. This is how we’ve got the Sightmark Photon RT 6x50.
The Photon RT is a tactical night vision scope, but it’s quite capable for hunters as well. The Photon RT is powered by 4 AA batteries, so the power supply is easy to replenish. With 4 AA batteries, you get 3.5 hours of continuous operation, which is enough to get through an outing without toting a ton of batteries.
The Photon RT is built for mobility, so it’s got a streamlined design and a relatively low weight. The entire package comes in at just a hair over two pounds, which is a tad heavier than your standard daytime scope, but fairly light for a fully featured night vision scope.
Sightmark uses fully multi-coated lenses in all their night vision optics that transmit the most light possible to the sensor, so you get a clear digital image, free of any graininess or artifacts. Additionally, the Photon RT has a nice all-purpose, 6x magnification that minimizes the amount of glass in front of the sensor for a better picture, without compromising on long range performance.
The Photon RT has six reticle options, which include reticles for rifles and crossbows of various speeds, so you can get night vision capabilities, no matter what you’re hunting with.
For image generation, the Photon RT uses a 758x576 LCD display that provides a sharp, high-resolution image that’ll help you spot game in any situation. The Photon RT is also capable of taking videos and photos. Files are stored in an onboard 8gb flash drive, which holds about 5 hours worth of video. That’s enough time to record anything important that happens during a hunting trip and then some.
Once you’ve got all your photos and videos recorded, they can all be downloaded to other devices via Wi-Fi or USB connection.
All in all, the Photon RT is a great tactical night vision scope with the versatility to work for hunting as well. Tactical shooters will find that this is the best night vision scope for an AR-15 at this price point.
Best Night Vision Scope Under $600
ATN is one of the most popular and reliable night vision manufacturers in the business. They always manage to pack a lot of functionality into their products, while keeping the price reasonable. The ATN X-Sight II 3-14x50mm is one of the best ATN night vision scopes available in terms of features and price.
First things first: the X-Sight comes with a proprietary ATN battery pack that lasts for up to 22 hours of continuous use. This is long enough for even the most prolonged stakeouts, and might even last through multiple hunting trips with good battery management.
Additionally, the battery is rechargeable, so it doesn’t present any ongoing cost of operation. Then, ATN battery packs are interchangeable, so you can power multiple devices with the same battery.
Next: weight. The X-Sight isn’t the lightest night vision optic on the planet; it comes in at just over 2 pounds. It’s heavy enough that you’ll feel it more than your standard hunting scope, but it’s still very manageable for hiking or using for long durations in most shooting positions.
The lenses are fully multi-coated, and clear enough that the X-Sight gathers a clear enough image to record in HD without any real image degradation from light loss.
The image is where the X-Sight really shines, simply because it has so many things you can do with the image. First, the X-Sight provides a heads-up display overlay on the image, so you can see the range, wind direction, and cardinal direction right on the screen while you’re aiming.
In terms of magnification, the X-Sight delivers a 5-20x range with a smooth zoom, so you can fine tune your magnification for any distance or target size.
The X-Sight also comes with a ballistic calculator that automatically calculates and adjusts the point of impact for long range and angled shots. Then, the X-Sight is also Wi-Fi capable so you can use your phone or tablet as a viewfinder, and record HD video.
Lastly, the X-Sight is capable of both daytime and nighttime operation, and offers HD night vision, so you can use this scope as your one, all-purpose optic if you want.
All things considered, the X-Sight is easily the best night vision scope for the money, given the middle-of-the-road price point and how much it does for you.
As a side note, the X-Sight 5-20x has a little brother that comes in as one of the best night vision scopes under $500: the ATN X-Sight II 3-14x50. It has all the same features, but with a slightly lower magnification range.
Best Night Vision Scope Under $500
Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Rifle Scope
Night Owl Optics specializes mostly in non-ballistic night vision like binoculars and spotting scopes. However, their first offering in the night vision rifle scope category—the Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Rifle Scope—is a very solid piece of gear.
The NightShot functions with 4 AA batteries. This is handy because AA batteries are easy to get and cheap. 4 AA batteries will net you about 3 hours of constant use, which is respectable from a scope that doesn’t use a proprietary energy source.
One of the standout qualities of the NightShot is the weight. This scope weighs in at just over a pound, which means it’s not much heavier than your standard hunting scope. This is exceptional considering the additional electronics in a night vision optic.
Night Owl focused on image quality for the NightShot, so the lenses are fully multi-coated to generate the clearest image possible while reducing artifacts in the digitally rendered picture.
Additionally, the NightShot has a modest 3x magnification, which isn’t super high, but it’s plenty for shooting out to 200 yards or so. Also, the lower magnification reduces the amount of glass light has to pass through in order to get to the night vision sensors, so it helps keep the image clear.
For total darkness, the NightShot is equipped with an infrared illuminator to light up targets without giving away your position. This is great for hunting under cloudy skies or looking into shaded areas in the dark.
To help you make the shot when you need it, the NightShot is equipped with three different reticles, so you can get the accuracy you need in any situation. Additionally, the display is 640x480, for high resolution that helps you spot and acquire targets.
To protect all the electronics, the NightShot is weatherproof, so you can take it out for a hunt any time without worrying about it getting wet.
Overall, the NightShot is the best budget night vision scope for anyone looking to start hunting with night vision optics.
THE BEST NIGHT VISION SCOPE FROM OUR REVIEWS
For all but the most demanding hunting applications, most hunters will be happy with a night vision scope that falls under the $1000 mark.
For those that need enhanced viewing distance and image clarity, the prices ramp up quickly. However, there are a good number of gen 2 night vision scopes in the $1600 range that will meet the highest demands.
ATN X-Sight II 3-14x50mm
The ATN X-Sight II 3-14x50mm is the best value night vision scope, and will work for the vast majority of shooters.
Those who need the best long range performance, and perhaps want to mount a night vision optic on a bolt gun, should check out the Armasight Nemesis 6x-SD.
Shooters looking for a night vision optic for their AR-15 should consider the Sightmark Photon RT 6x50.
Now that you’re all set with which night vision optic you need, it’s time to get out for some true no-light hunting!