In grid-down situations, the night will always be a game-changer. This prolonged period of darkness is usually the time when lurkers and prowlers are most active, in search of their next big score.
When I think about it, it will most likely be the time “rabbits” will make their move on my “carrots”. By “rabbits”, I mean those bad people that want to take my “carrots” or supplies and provisions.
But how can you protect yourself during this time when you can’t even see the treat?
The short answer: Night Vision Rifle Scopes.
Night Vision in a Nutshell
Types of Night Vision Devices
Night Vision Rifle Scope Generations
What to Look for in a Night Vision Rifle Scope
Top Night Vision Rifle Scope Manufacturers
When the grid is down, the moon’s not out, and there’s just darkness all around, the ability to see amidst pitch black can literally spell life and death. This is where the night vision comes in.
As the name suggests, the night vision gives you the ability to see and function at night. This is made possible using two types of technologies, namely image enhancement and thermal imaging. Image enhancement and thermal imaging are both night vision technologies that utilize available light in order to see in the dark. But they are fundamentally different in the way light is utilized.
Image enhancement technology deals with the usage of tiny amounts of light emitted by an object. Even the smallest hint of light, whether it’s visible light or infrared, can be detected. These tiny amounts of light are gathered and amplified to make objects in the dark more perceivable.
On the other hand, thermal imaging deals with body heat and infrared light with higher frequencies. When bodies give off heat, light waves in the form of infrared light is released along with it. This light is perceivable by thermal imaging devices. The hotter an object gets, the more light it gives off, which makes the object more visible through thermal imaging.
Night vision devices are categorized into five general categories, which are monoculars, binoculars, goggles, cameras, and scopes. The technology behind each night vision device is almost always the same. These types are only different configurations of the same technology, which also have their own strengths and weaknesses. Depending on the use case, you can use one or the other.
Monoculars are modified telescopes but are more similar to binoculars and have a single eye unit. They are touted as one of the most versatile pieces of night vision equipment because of its compact size and relative weightlessness. They are normally used in tactical applications as a head mount, an attachment to rifle scopes, or as direct mounts on a weapon. Despite their versatility, they also feel quite unnatural, which lengthens the adjustment period.
Binoculars are devices used to magnify far away objects and has two eyepieces. Unlike monoculars, binoculars are way too heavy to be used as a head mount. They are mainly used in stationary situations to scope out large areas. One major flaw with earlier versions of night vision binoculars is that they have poor night vision capabilities. With added magnification, its night vision virtually doesn’t exist. Newer models are more powerful and can view faraway objects with night vision with relative ease.
Night Vision Goggles are one of the most popular devices, especially in tactical situations. That is because they are lightweight and have little to no magnification, which makes them a perfect choice as a head mount. They come in single-tube and double-tube models and offer better navigation because they feel more natural. They are best used in navigating small areas.
Cameras with night vision are used to send images of a location to a monitor for live display or a VCR for recording. Because they require sophisticated equipment that is usually immobile, they are mostly used only for surveillance in permanent locations.
Night vision rifle scopes are one of the best night vision devices you can have in your arsenal. They can be categorized into two main types. One type is a scope that has the magnification and permanent night vision called a weapon sight. The other has no magnification and is mounted on top of a regular scope. This is called a day and night system because it is mounted in the night and removed in the daytime. Although day and night systems are more versatile, most people usually prefer weapon sights since they offer more performance.
When looking to purchase night vision scopes, you may come across labels like Gen 1, 2, or 3. These terms describe the generation of a rifle scope, which also refers to the level of night vision technology used. The numbers also correspond to specifications provided by the US military that define what components to use, its performance requirements, and quality parameters.
The three main generations for night vision devices are 1, 2, and 3. Other designations such as 1+, 2+, 3+, and 4 are not official designations and are used only to refer to improvements made.
Generation 1 night vision scopes were among the first to be manufactured. They are among the oldest in the market today and have been in use since the early 1950s. Despite their market age, they are still one of the most popular choices for enthusiasts because they are inexpensive and easy to acquire.
Development of the first generation 1 night vision scopes were done in the Vietnam War by the US military. They were built to create significant improvements over the previous generation 0 devices.
Generation 1 night vision scopes are less powerful than their newer counterparts in terms of image distortion, lower light gathering ability, and quality range. Despite their obvious inferiority, they remain popular among enthusiasts everywhere.
Generation 2 night vision scopes boast significant improvements over their predecessors in both quality and overall life expectancy. One of the biggest changes implemented in generation 2 scopes was the addition of a microchannel plate. The microchannel plate helped boost the scope’s ability to amplify light considerably while also enhancing image quality by promoting less distortion.
In terms of life expectancy, generation 1 scopes gave around 1,000 hours of usage. Meanwhile, the new generation 2 scopes gave up to 5,000 hours of usage time. I can’t tell you enough how useful that would be in situations where power is scarce.
The significant jump in generation 2’s performance comes at a steep price. Generation 1 scopes are usually priced at $100 to $400, depending on the quality. For generation 2, each unit is priced at $1,000 to $1,500.
Further changes were introduced to night vision devices in generation 3. The microchannel plates introduced in generation 2 devices gave significant improvements to the device, but not in the photocathode. This was fixed in generation 3 night vision scopes by changing the photocathode into gallium arsenide.
The changing of the photocathode material, along with several more changes to the microchannel plate, made generation 3 devices far superior to its predecessors. Generation 3 night vision scopes now had greater light amplification, had better resolution and produced significantly clearer images with less noise.
Just like in generation 2, generation 3 night vision scopes also came with a significant jump in cost, which are now typically priced at $3,000 to $4,000.
Generation 3 night vision devices are so advanced and expensive that they are typically reserved for law enforcement, the military, and homeland security. In fact, they are so high tech that their sale is restricted and cannot be shipped outside the US without special permits.
The 4th generation of night vision scopes is considered top-tier equipment with only the highest of grades. They boast qualities higher than Gen 3 and promises to set a new standard in how scopes are manufactured.
But as previously mentioned, the Gen 4 tag is unofficial and not really recognized by the US military. In fact, according to the US Army, Gen 4 equipment is actually enhanced Gen 3 devices that come with all scopes’ features.
Scopes labeled Gen 4 are not available in the civilian market and are mostly just available for military personnel and law enforcement. They are also quite expensive so only the most extreme enthusiasts can afford them.
When looking to buy night vision devices, chances are you can get everything you need by going for generation 2 or generation 3 monoculars or binoculars (when available). But the same method can’t be used for night vision rifle scopes.
Riflescopes are held to a different standard because they are used differently. While other devices are used as observation tools, scopes are used to see and hit a target. Even within the same generation, a variety of factors can spell the difference between a mediocre night vision scope and an excellent scope.
When in the market for a rifle scope for night vision, look out for these quality factors to make sure you get what you really need.
Magnification Power and Effective Range
As far as rifles go, accounting for the level of magnification is a given. Of course, you’d want your scope to see objects far away. But it’s a rookie mistake to go for night vision scopes with the highest magnification power.
The distance can affect the clarity of the images that you see in your scope. When considering the fact that night vision is dependent on light signals, you’ll see that the further away the object is, the more ineffective night vision becomes. In more powerful night vision scopes, the level of magnification can also increase processing times considerably.
Additionally, magnification affects your field of view. Generally speaking, a scope can have a field of view of 22 feet at a distance of 100 yards. Increasing your viewing distance decreases your field of view. This means that at distances greater than 100 yards, your viewing distance gets narrower.
One helpful metric in determining the best level of magnification for a scope is by looking at its effective range. The effective range doesn’t just look at how far you can see with your scope. It also covers the detection range, which is your ability to notice a moving target, and the recognition range, which is your ability to see what the moving target was. Simply put, it is the scope’s ability to detect and identify a target.
When choosing a rifle scope, carefully consider whether it can be effective at a certain range.
How clear your target is under your scope is critical, especially when hunting prey or searching for your target. It also helps you identify whether a potential target insight is a friend or foe, which will prevent friendly fire. This is measured in lines per millimeter (LP/MM). The higher the LP/MM rating of your night vision scope is, the clearer your target will be. Generally speaking, high-end scopes have LP/MM ratings of 60 to 70.
A scope’s resolution depends on quite a few factors. One of these factors involves the quality of the lens. High-grade lenses make superior night vision scopes as they provide little to no distortion to an image. Conversely, plastic or polymer lenses produce low-resolution images. While this may not be an issue at close range, this becomes a critical factor in precision kills at higher distances.
Image Quality and Clarity
Some night vision scopes may appear to have static or grainy images. Because night vision depends on the device’s ability to detect light, it also inevitably picks up noise from an object’s surroundings. The higher quality the scope is, the higher its ability to filter out noise when receiving image signals. This refers to its signal-to-noise ratio, which is also a helpful clarity metric that should be considered.
In post-SHTF, you won’t have much time to repair your equipment, much less have them repaired by someone else. That is why durability should always be a key consideration when choosing your night vision rifle scope. And because of the costs that could rack up for a rifle scope such as its electronics, tubes, etc., it can also be considered as a major investment. So it makes sense to choose one that can last you as long as possible.
Battery Type and Life
Weight is always something to consider, especially since you’ll be carrying your rifle around for long periods of time when moving around. That is why the type of batteries your scope takes matters a lot. Does it take a couple of A batteries or will you need to lug around a car battery just to give it sufficient juice? You will also need to take a look at how long those batteries will last. It’s important to stay mobile but having to change batteries every so often puts that mobility at risk.
Value for Money
It goes without saying: the price is always a consideration and you should definitely stay within your budget. You shouldn’t have to sell a kidney or pass out due to exhaustion by donating all your body fluids just so you can have the most expensive scope in the market. Go for something that’s a top performer that doesn’t go over your budget.
Night vision optics have become quite ubiquitous over the years. They’re becoming even more and more accessible each day, with even the highest-tech gear becoming available to the average shooter. Moreover, the internet has opened many doors to improve access to technology.
With so many players already in the market today, it can be quite difficult navigating through all that noise. So to make the buying process easier for you, we’ve come up with our picks for today’s top scope manufacturers. We’ll also be taking a look at their top scopes already out in the market today.
ATN was founded in 1995 and has been working to develop only the best scopes in the business. Based out of San Francisco, the American Technologies Network specializes in night vision and thermal imaging scopes. They offer a wide array of night vision scopes that cater to anyone from the casual enthusiast to the most active naturalist, law enforcement, and military.
|IP Rating: Waterproof||Micro-Display: HD Display||Video Record Resolution: 1080p at 30 fps||Microphone: Yes||Battery Life: 8 – 12 hours|
|Battery Type: 4 AA Batteries||Dimensions: 11.36″ x 3.5″ x 3.45″||Warranty: 2 Years||Connectivity: Wifi (iOS and Android) and Bluetooth||System Resolution: 160 lp/mm||Field of View @ 1000 yards: 240ft|
The ATN X-Sight II is packed with features that tech-savvy shooters will definitely love. It has 1080 resolution video, GPS, image stabilization, WiFi, and even Android/iOS integration through its app. But its best feature comes with the range finder, which helps shooters better estimate how far a shooter is. Once the setup is completed, the scope automatically adjusts the point of impact, which takes out any guesswork involved.
|Magnification: 5-20x||IP Rating: Waterproof||Micro-Display: HD Display||Video Record Resolution: 1080p @ 30/60/120** fps||Microphone: Yes||Battery Life: 18 + hrs|
|Battery Type: Internal Lithium-Ion Battery||Dimensions: 14.9″x3″x3″||Warranty: 2 years||Connectivity: Wifi (iOS and Android) and Bluetooth||System Resolution: 600 lp/mm||Field of View @ 1000 yards: 240 ft (5°)|
If you loved the ATN X-Sight II HD, then you’re sure to fall in love with the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro even more. It boasts a stunning 4K display that displays your target in the best resolution imaginable, even during low light conditions. Aside from its ability to generate high-quality imagery, this night vision riflescope also has a built-in ballistic calculator that can help you get the best shot in any situation. Moreover, the scope also has dual-stream capabilities so you can record videos in 4K resolution at 120 fps and stream the footage on a mobile device simultaneously. All of these features do come at a cost, however, but they are sure worth the price tag.
Sightmark is a fairly new brand that has built an excellent reputation within the shooting community. It was established in 2007 and has never failed to “make the mark”. They are based out in Mansfield, Texas and manufactures a wide variety of rifle scopes at very affordable prices.
|Magnification: 6.5x||IP Rating: Weather Proof||Micro-Display: LCD Display||Video Record Resolution: Nothing Indicated||Microphone: Nothing Indicated||Battery Life: 72 Hours|
|Battery Type: 2 AA Batteries||Dimensions: 5.5 by 2.2 by 2.9 inches||Warranty: Limited Lifetime||Connectivity: Nothing Indicated||System Resolution: 64-72 lp/mm||Field of View: 25 degrees|
The Sightmark Photon XT may come in a lightweight package – but don’t let that small stature fool you. It comes packed with great features as it boats excellent magnification paired with long battery life so it can perform at a high level for longer periods of time. As a mid-range night vision scope option, it boasts great versatility as it offers great performance all around without sacrificing durability while still being lightweight.
|Magnification: 4-32||IP Rating: Water-Resistant||Micro-Display: FLCOS||Video Record Resolution: 1080/720||Microphone: Not Indicated||Battery Life: 3 to 5 Hours|
|Battery Type: 2 Pieces CR23A||Dimensions: 10.5″ x 1.87″ x 3″||Warranty: Limited Lifetime||Connectivity: Not Indicated||System Resolution: 1280×720||Field of View: 21ft @ 100 yd|
The Sightmark Wraith isn’t as feature-packed as other rifle scopes in its category. Additionally, with 4 x AA batteries giving you 4 to 4.5 hours of use, its battery life just sucks. But despite what it lacks, it’s still one of the best night vision scopes out there as it makes up for it with 8x digital zoom, HD sensors, and boasts multiple reticles giving you maximum versatility. It also has an 850 IR flashlight that comes in handy for long-distance targets further than 200 yards
Night Owl Optics
Night Owl Optics is a First Texas Products subsidiary based out of El Paso, Texas. With its decades of experience in the night vision industry, the company has developed a full suite of products that push the envelope in terms of quality, design, and performance. With years of research, product development, and user testing, the company continues to push the boundaries of innovation.
|Magnification: 3x||IP Rating: Weatherproof||Micro-Display: LCD||Video Record Resolution: None||Microphone: None||Battery Life: 3 to 4 hours|
|Battery Type: 4 AA Batteries||Dimensions: 13.9″x2.71″x 4″||Warranty: 1-year limited warranty||Connectivity: None||System Resolution: 460 – 640 pixels||Field of View @ 1000 yards: 240 ft (5°)|
Simple in design but packs quite a punch in terms of affordability and performance. This digital Gen 1 riflescope comes with a built-in IR illuminator, 3X magnification, and a high-resolution 640X480 display with a detection range of 100 to 200 yards. This is one of the best choices for a night vision rifle scope if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative.
Firefield was established in 2009 and has steadily built a reputation around the industry over the years. The company was built around the time when the world was in an economic crisis. At the time, they realized no one could afford the overpriced scopes saturating the market. They saw there was a need for cheaper, more affordable alternatives for night vision scopes and thermal imaging products. Since then, the company has sought to provide shooters with high-quality optical equipment at affordable rates.
|Magnification: 3x Magnification||IP Rating: Weather Proof||Objective Lens Diameter: 42 mm||Video Record Resolution: None Indicated||Microphone: None Indicated||Battery Life: 20 to 50 hours|
|Battery Type: 2 AA Batteries||Dimensions: 9″ x 3.15″ x 3.35″||Warranty: 3 years||Connectivity: None Indicated||System Resolution: 30 lp/mm||Field of View: 21m at 100 m|
Not all Gen 1 scopes are built equally. Some are more superior than others. The Firefield NVRS is definitely on a league of its own. You can’t just find anything at this price range that boasts durable titanium housing, 3X magnification, a built-in 805 nm IR illuminator, an illuminated duplex reticle with variable brightness control, and an IPX4 weatherproof rating. Above all, it’s lightweight and quite affordable.
Armasight is one of the biggest names in the night vision industry. Established in 2011, the company has since been acquired and is now known as FLIR. But despite the change in their name, they have not sacrificed the quality of the products they manufacture. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, the company continues to produce high-quality scopes and imaging equipment for their vast clientele, which range from the beginners and casual shooters to the most intense enthusiasts.
|Magnification: 5x||IP Rating: Water Resistant||Lens System: F1.6, F108mm||Video Record Resolution: None Indicated||Microphone: None Indicated||Battery Life: 40 hours|
|Battery: 1x CR123A Lithium 3V||Dimensions: 12.7″ x 4.6″ x 4.1″||Warranty: Limited 2 year warranty||Connectivity: None Indicated||System Resolution: 30-40 lp/mm||Field of View: 10 degrees|
If you’re looking for a high-performing yet affordable night vision scope, then the ORIAN might be for you. It promises to be a great buy with a powerful 5X magnification setting, a detachable 810 IR illuminator, and a rubberized aluminum housing, which further increases its durability. It also boasts water resistance and the ability to handle extreme temperatures. It’s a Gen 1 night vision rifle scope that performs like a Gen 2, which promises to be a great buy.
|Magnification: 3x||IP Rating: Water Resistant||Generation: Core||Lens System: 108mm, F/1.5||Microphone: None Indicated||Battery Life: Up to 40 hrs|
|Battery Type: CR123 Lithium 3V (1)||Dimensions: 10.8×3.4×3.7 in||Warranty: 2-year limited warranty||Connectivity: None Indicated||System Resolution: 60 – 70 lp/mm||Field of View: 10.5°|
You’ll get the best performance in the night with the Armasight FLIR Vampire. As a night vision rifle scope, that name is awesome. What’s even more awesome is that it has many powerful features, including its 60-70 LP/MM resolution that promises crystal clear imagery. It has a built-in IR illuminator, rock-solid aluminum housing, and a strong battery life that can get you as much as 40 hours of performance.
Choosing a night vision rifle scope doesn’t have to be an overly-complicated process. You just have to factor in some important considerations like the ones given above while also considering your preferences.
Our picks for the best night vision rifle scopes are a mix of Gen 1 to 3 scopes and are some of the finest equipment out in the market today. We went with the perfect mix of low-mid-high end scopes to give you a wide selection of choices to help make your choice easier.