Until recently, I would start the article about night vision scopes as devices badly needed by every man as apex predator at the top of the food chain. However, according to the newest study, humans are positioned at the halfway point on the food chain in the company of anchovies and pigs. 

Well, let's get back to the topic we are discussing now. The night is predators’ time, but when the man overcomes the fear after dark, using the best night vision devices, he will own the night and he will be able to become the master of darkness.

Hunters are an intelligent species and the years before the releasing night vision equipment to the commercial market; they rely on green lasers and green lights because they know that some predators and varmints are unable to detect certain shades of green that are visible to the human eye.

Today, you can find at least 20-30 companies manufacturing night vision instruments for the civilian applications. What used to be top-classified military technology now can be found at consumers` market as pretty common and reasonably priced equipment suitable for any shooter who can afford a conventional riflescope.

Besides military and tactical uses, night visions are mostly used by sportsmen for target shooting and hunters when stalking predators and nocturnal game such as coyotes or wild hogs.

Types of Night Vision Scope

Having been in the market for over 80 years, Night vision optics has gone through several development stages known as generations. These devices are a rapidly growing sector and all of them are based on the exact technology used to amplify light.

Night vision scopes evolved through several Generations or Gen for short. These Generations are differed by the type of image intensifier tube, resolution and refinement of optical clarity. Most consumer models of night vision scopes come within Gen 1 and Gen 2 level of night vision quality. Both Generations feature technology that will allow you successful mid-range hunting, which is up to around 100-300 yards.

If you are looking something significantly different from civilian sportsman grade optics and you are sort of long-distance hunters that aren't limited by any kind of budget, then you should consider the newest technology currently used by the military. These are known as Gen 3 and Gen 4 devices, and they provide an extraordinarily crisp and clear picture and range over previous generations.

How It Works?

In the most straightforward words, traditional night vision devices are light amplification devices and they work by gathering and amplifying any ambient light or IR light ambient light through electronics. Digital night vision units can give results similar to the Generation 1 devices, but they require an infrared light to allow you to see images at night.

If we neglect thermal imaging devices, there are two types of night vision where more conventional night vision scopes also known as Image Intensification (i2) devices use analog tubes to amplify light and scopes that use IR illumination or popularly but wrongfully called "digital" because of their digital nature. Both digital and analog night vision devices rely on some form of light, be it visual or IR using near, short, and mid-infrared wavelengths for their detection. In contrast, the far-infrared wavelengths (thermal IR) stay reserved for the thermal scopes.

The infrared waves bounce and reflect off of surfaces enabling night vision scopes to use image intensification by gathering light and creating a visible image.

While i2 night vision devices are applying a true light amplification technology, we have the newest digital night vision, which uses IR light instead of the visible light, which it picks up and alters it to a visual image.

How Does Digital Night Vision Work?

Digital night vision doesn't amplify light via intensifier, but the light entering the objective lens as an optical image is converted into an electrical signal via a complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) sensor. A digital image is then enhanced electronically and turned into a picture on an LCD screen. The digital night vision scopes can be used in daylight.

Compared to Starlight technology using an intensifier tube, digital night vision scopes are equal and a tad better than the First-generation analog night vision devices.  However, manufacturers are improving these products consistently, currently offering digitals with more advanced night vision tubes ranging from Gen 1 to Gen 3 FLAG.

Can I Use a Night Vision Scope During the Day?

Unlike traditional night vision optics, digital units can be used both during the day and at night. For a digital scope, time of day isn't essential so you can use it as you would a classic glass rifle scope.

While the traditional night vision scope, if you are using it during the day,  will be damaged by sunlight as too much light can damage the sensors, a digital scope will often have full color and great resolution.

There is one downside with digital night vision as looking through digital optics for a prolonged period can cause some eye strain. 

Why Does Everything Look Green Through Night Vision Scopes?

With the first NVD, an amplified electronic image on a phosphor screen was greenish in color and it was made deliberately.

The reason for the green pictures lies embed in human eyes nature, since it's easier to look at green screens for more extended periods and because the human eye can distinguish more shades of green than any other color.

Currently, this feature greatly depends on the technology, as the night vision tech has evolved over time, and different generations incorporate different colors on LCD screens.

How Long Does a Night Vision Scope Last?

The night vision analog tubes are not forever, but depending on the components and quality of image intensifier tube they will last for 1,000 to 1,500 hours - which is a very long time for a non-professional user.

Compared to the traditional NVD, the digital night vision tends to be more durable and that's the reason why their hunting scopes have become very popular in recent years. Using extremely light-sensitive components and proper care, digital night vision devices can last a lifetime or at least decades.

The NV scopes with high-quality Gen 2 white phosphorous tubes can be expected to provide somewhere near 5,000 hours of use. Night vision riflescopes with Gen 3 tubes Gen 3 is rated to give the user between 7,500 and 10,000 hours of tube life.

How To Set Up A Night Vision Scope In Front Of A Riflescope?

The night vision scopes come in two forms: stand-alone and clip-on configurations. While the stand-alone NV scope may need a dedicated rifle for the night, using a night vision clip-on scope attachment you will use the same familiar riflescope, reticle, adjustment turrets and other controls you are trained.

Night vision Clip-on systems come without magnification and reticle and they are installed in front of the day optic.

 These add-ons for day scope you can attach directly onto the scope using a unique ring or on an extended Picatinny rail in front of the day scope. You should mount the clip-on NVD as close to the daily scope as possible to avoid altering the zero.

Which Night Vision Scope Is Best?

The night vision devices (NVD) are becoming more and more common every day, even in the consumer market. With a vast and over flooded choice of NV optics one should choose products from the proven industry leaders and brands offering the most advanced technology for the military, but also budget-oriented rifle optics for the wide variety of civic activities that benefit from night vision. 

Among dozens of night vision products manufacturers, we will single out American Technologies Network or ATN Corporation, Armasight by FLIR, Pulsar and Firefield.

How To Buy Night Vision Scopes?

Today you can buy for a couple of hundred dollars an intro-level Generation 1 night vision devices. Still, also there are the highly sophisticated Gen 3 and Gen 4 scopes that can cost several thousand dollars and primarily intended for specialized niches, like the military and security.

Of course, the best decision can be made if you can try and use a specific device, but usually, we are destined to online purchases of night vision devices. Decision made in that way shouldn't be doomed in advance, because you as a potential buyer should do a lot of research prior to night vision scope purchase.

How to Choose a Night Vision Scope?

Budget

When you decide to acquire a night vision scope, the first consideration is your budget. Currently, an entry-level night vision riflescope is possible to find for about $500, but high-end products often cost at over $1,000.

Resolution

The resolution clarity of night vision rifle scope depends on the optic’s generation. While the digital and Generation 1 will be perfectly suitable for hunting hogs and coyotes out to 200 yards, for more extended ranges you should look for the latest night vision generations.

Magnification

Unlike day optics, magnification at night scopes much more affects field-of-view. That said, most time you’ll see the NV scopes with magnification topped out at around 15x with digital zoom. Hence, you want a night optic with a moderate amount of magnification (3x or 6x), which will provide you with a decent FoV so that you won't lose your target at as little as 50 yards in the dark.

Range

When we talk about the range, we know that shooting in the dark is hard and maybe dangerous as you can't see clearly what is beyond the target. At this place, we'll make a note about ethics that should dictate you don't use night vision optics for shots over 200 yards or on protected game animals. In fact, on all but the smallest of varmints and at close ranges it is unethical to use night vision scopes.

External Considerations

Generally, the civilian buy the night vision scopes for hunting, and it means your precious night gear should be strong and durable to withstand harsh weather conditions and the recoil of your particular weapon.

Usually, the budget scopes feature plastic bodies perfectly suitable for plinking or casual hunting, but when things get serious, aluminum housing will keep your optoelectronic device better than plastic.

How to Mount a Night Vision Scope?

In order to sight the scope, you should remind you for zeroing a regular rifle scope, since the process is very similar for both of them. While there are targets made explicitly for use with night vision, you can make yours utilizing different materials for target rings than the background.

Many night vision scopes come with the mounting system making it simple to attach them to any normal Picatinny or Weaver rail.  In another case, you can use standard rings as you would with a traditional scope shape.

How to Zero Night-Vision Scope?

When zeroing night vision scope, you want to start at closer range than with a daytime scope. After you made bore-sighting and aligned the bore of barrel of the gun with a night vision scope. Once you're happy with bore-sight, Place the rifle on whatever rest you're using and fire a shot downrange.

Now with adjusting button commands on your scope, you need to chase your impacts to get zeroed. As the reticle usually is moved by pressing control buttons, place the reticle precisely over the hits you did with the first calibration shots. Hold the button to enter the new settings and you now have a sighted your night vision scope. Finally, fire a control group and repeat process at your desired range.

Best Night Vision Scope Reviews

In this guide, we'll display eight models of different technology types evenly represented on the civilian market.

  1   ATN X-Sight II HD 5-20x Smart Day/Night Riflescope

American Technologies Network Corporation or ATN for short is renowned manufacture of a military line of products, well known for their durability and high price tag. Their X- Sight II series of products is offering a technologically advanced scope packed with features but at a very agreeable price.

ATN X-Sight II HD 5-20x Smart Day/Night riflescope comes in newer consumer technology known as digital night vision.  Instead of looking through the glass lenses, you’ll look at a high-quality LCD inside the scope. Compared to the traditional night vision devices, digital scopes can be used day and night, similar to thermal technology.

The ATN X-Sight II is built around variable 5-20x power magnification lens, but maximum zoom power you want to use only in daylight activities.

Equipped with the 85 mm objective lens and the excellent Obsidian II Core computer, the X-Sight is a no-brainer for hunters who plan to take varmints or other game at night. While it provides a nighttime vision in HD 1080p resolution, the Obsidian core offers an extremely high tech ballistic calculator, which can shift the estimated point of impact on the fly.

An ATN X-Sight II 5-20x package includes an 850mW infrared illuminator that you can attach to the scope body for use in pitch black scenarios. Useful recognition distance for X-Sight II is around 250 yards with a Field of View (FoV) at 100 yards- 24 feet.

Although available in a great price, The ATN X-Sight II 5-20 comes pre-programmed with seven reticle styles and three primary view settings. The ATN digital imaging technology allows you to use this scope in full-color Day view, standard night vision Green night view and Black and white night view.

As earlier said, this ATN smart rifle scope comes loaded with an astonishing list of features like a built-in rangefinder, an E-Compass and GPS functionality. It also has some virtues found on much more expensive units such as the ability to stream HD video of your shots over WiFi, or the “Recoil Activated Video” (RAV) setting, which activates 1080 P HD video recording with a recoil detection system.

As earlier said, this ATN smart rifle scope comes loaded with an astonishing list of features like a built-in rangefinder, an E-Compass and GPS functionality. It also has some virtues found on much more expensive units such as the ability to stream HD video of your shots over WiFi, or the “Recoil Activated Video” (RAV) setting, which activates 1080 P HD video recording with a recoil detection system.

W/Ballistic Calculator, Rangefinder, 1080p Video, WiFi, E-Compass, GPS, Barometer, IOS & Android Apps

  2   ATN X-Sight 4K Pro 5-20x Smart Day/Night Riflescope

 

Two years after launching their famous line of digital scopes called the X-Sight II, ATN Corp has released the upgraded series with more innovation known as the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro. The X-Sight 4K Pro comes with a 4K sensor and new Obsidian 4 dual-core processor bringing you're an image quality about on par with an analog Gen 2 night vision optical products.

The ATN X-Sight 4K Pro lineup is available in models at either a 3-14x or 5-20x magnification.

Since the digital night vision devices are pretty worthless by night without an IR light, the X-Sight 4K Pro package includes a high-powered IR illuminator that allows you for an image detection range to 300 yards.

Along with smooth zoom function between 5x and 20x magnification, the scope offers a 4K LCD monitor for ultra-crisp 600lp/mm resolution to pick out fine details.

The 4K Pro scope features a two-step process rangefinder system and a built-in ballistic calculator usually found on higher priced thermal scopes. There are many other extras like the ability to record through the scope, WiFi streaming and recoil activated recording system.

Unlike the previous model, the 4K Pro scope is powered with two non-removable CR batteries, which provides continuous run time for over 18 hours.

At just a hair above 2lbs, the ATN S-sight 4k Pro is a lightweight unit that with a typical 3-inch eye relief resembles somewhat classic daytime scopes.  Though it comes without traditional windage and elevation knobs, the ATN 4K PRO offers logically placed and easily accessible commands.

Compared to the previous X-Sight II model, X-Sight 4K Pro Smart is a compact optic that mounts on the standard 30mm rings. However, the scope is shipped with standard ring, L-shape ring and One with a Picatinny rail, allowing it to be a perfect match on both bolt action and the AR-15 style rifles.

ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope

  3   Pulsar Digisight Ultra N455

 

Pulsar is a favorite brand of consumers' night vision equipment with quality products in all 3 types of night vision scopes. Pulsar is offering distinctive products in thermal imaging and Image Intensification (I^2) technology which use analog tubes, as well as in Digital night vision niche. The last one is the lowest priced night vision on the market but still offers pretty good images quality for adequate recognition and better-shot placement.

The Pulsars` Digisight Ultra 400-series follows in the footsteps of its hugely successful predecessors Digisight N750 and N355. Improvements of the N455 over the N355 are visible in a flip-up protective cover that incorporates a bigger 10mm aperture for daytime use and 20% greater field of view.

Like previous models, the newest Digisight version comes with the onboard, detachable illuminator, and you can choose one with the 940 nm that operates in the invisible range or a model with an 850nm IR illuminator frequency for a bit more reach.

The Digisight Ultra N455 boasts a 1280x720 CMOS sensor coupled with a 1024x768 AMOLED display enabling it nighttime detection of a human-size target at a range of up to 550 yards.

The N455 Ultra Digisight features 4.5X, 9X, and 18X magnification settings and 2x/4x digital zoom with continuous and stepped options.

The Digisight Ultra N455 also features Pulsars popular Picture-in-Picture digital zoom. It’s an excellent electronic capability, which allows the shooter to see an enlarged image of the aiming area and the full field of view.

Similar to other digital night vision scopes, the Digisight Ultra comes with multiple choice of reticles. In 455 Ultra case, it sports 10 reticle options in 6 colors.

The N455 is equipped with a recorder and an internal memory to be later transferred to a PC/laptop or mobile device via wired or WiFi connection.

The N455 feature high shock resistance and it can withstand .375 Magnum recoil by manufacturer's statement.

Pulsar rechargeable IPS5 5A-h power system is a quick-detach pack that provides over 5 hours of operation on maximum mode.

Digital Night Vision Riflescope

  4   Pulsar Phantom Gen 3

 

Pulsar Phantom is a typical representative of Image Intensification (i2) devices, an analog technology the most widely used in law enforcement and military applications. The Pulsar Phantom riflescope is based on Gen III Intensifier Tube using GaAs (gallium arsenide) photocathode.

Coupled with great 57-64 lp/mm resolution, this 3rd generation intensifier tube provides considerable improvements in brighter, the clearer image at medium- to long-distances with the softer tones of green.

The generous 60mm objective lens comes with a soft rubber cap with a pinhole which is tethered to the housing to prevent loss.  Combining military-style design, and high magnification with a large 60mm objective lens, the Phantom series of night-vision weapon scopes is the best suited for modern night hunting, navigation, viewing through the glass and facial recognition.

When compared to 1st and 2nd generation tubes, Gen 3 tubes offer 800 yards range for crisp observation and shooting distance of over 300 yards under average lighting conditions.

The 4x60 Phantom Gen 3 Night Vision scope housing is engineered from durable duraluminum and glass-filled nylon composite, making it rugged and reliable in most adverse hunting conditions and tactical applications.  Besides, an optical channel is purged with nitrogen and waterproof to IPX6 standard.

This Pulsar higher generation tube riflescope with a suffix MD means it sports a red and green illuminated Mil-Dot reticle with adjustable brightness and a low battery indicator.

Typically for Pulsar scopes, the Phantom has all main controls positioned on top of the body for easy and intuitive accessibility. For comfortable slip-free adjustments, all adjustment knobs are knurled.

While the scope is powered with one AA battery or one CR123A battery, it can operate from 5 to 8 hours depending on IR use.

The Phantom riflescope is shipped with an integrated quick-detach mount enabling you to detach and re-attach the scope quickly without having to re-zero the weapon sight.

Pulsar Phantom Generation 3 Select 4x 60mm MD Night Vision Riflescope

  5   Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x50L

 

Combining the digital night vision riflescope and daylight sight, the Sightmark Photon series of digital night vision scopes is one of the most exciting designs on the market. As one of the lightest you'll find, with its sleek, compact body it more resembles the traditional rifle scopes than to the high tech optoelectronic devices.

Featuring a simple construction and bare-bones approach to controls, this is very much a "Plain Jane" night vision optics. Just being lightweight with an overall streamlined design makes this weapon sight an enormous night vision scope for the light bolt action or an AR-15 and similar pattern rifles.

The model with manufacturing number SM18007 comes with impressive 6.5x magnification and large 50mm objective lens to provide optimal brightness and vivid detailing at up to 200 yards. Though you will not see targets so clearly as looking through the scopes with 4k resolution, this Sightmark Photon XT 6.5x50L with a resolution of 640×480 will deliver exceptional definition and clear images.

 The Photon XT also comes with inbuilt 780nm IR laser illuminator (hence L in the description) that works perfectly to deliver 200-yard detection range.

The Sightmark Photon XT Night Vision lineup is the new, improved and modified version of the hugely successful Photon 3.5X hybrid night vision riflescope series.

Being improved version of the very successful Photon 3.5X, the Sightmark Photon XT features 6 digital reticles in red, white, and green. These six reticles are available as two Duplex reticles for hog and varmint hunting; 2 reticle patterns for using with crossbows, one German-style reticle for the low-light job and one Mil-Dot reticle for rangefinding and holdovers.

The scope operates on 2 x AA battery and it is advertised as capable of longer battery life for 1/3 over previous generations.

That is an extremely versatile night scope with durable and lightweight glass-nylon and metal construction that has recoil-resistant performance up to 1,000 g, or in other words, it can handle the recoil of a 308 Winchester.

  6   Sightmark Photon RT 4.5-9×42S

 

The Photon RT series is the upgraded version of the Sightmark Photon XT series scopes, and it is available in 4 different models. Although the optics from the Photon RT line look very similar in terms of overall shape and design, they come in different magnification ranges (4.5x and 6x) and illuminator types. The model without the "S" at the end is standard scopes having a  940nm illuminator, whereas the Photon RT with letter "S" indicates that it comes with the 850nm illuminator.

A difference between these two units is reflected in the visible red light of illuminators with an IR wavelength of 850nm, and invisible infrared light is coming from the 940nm illuminator model.

While the target detection range on the 940nm illuminators is limited of up to 150 yards, the illuminators with infrared light in the 800s range like our 4.5x42S scope can help you see up to 250-280 yards away in total darkness.

Unlike its predecessors, the Photon RT 4.5-9×42S sports an upgraded sensor with a 40% better resolution than XT series. Along with the new 768×576 CMOS sensor, the scope has a 640×480 LCD display for clear, bright and vivid images.

The Photon SM18015 scope comes with perfect 4.5 to 9--magnification power for short-range shooting at hogs or coyotes. Unlike the 6.5x model, the 4.5x model is geared more towards 100-200 yard shots. Compared to fixed magnification on the previous series, now both models feature a digitally enhanced magnification. It means that with a 2x digital zoom, you can only switch between 4.5 and 9.0x.

The Photon RT has 6 different reticles with 4 interchangeable colors, ranging from two suitable for crossbows to Plain Duplex to the classic German number 6 crosshair.

Although reasonably priced night vision digital scope, the revamped Photon RT comes with one-shot zero function, improved battery life, the external power port and finally the ability to connect to your mobile device wirelessly.

The scope is also is water and dust resistant to withstand a lot of inclement weather, a feature that hunters would appreciate.

This Photon scopes like all RT models, feature a traditional scope design compatible with standard 30mm scope rings. On top of that, this one boasts a modest 42mm bell objective making it particularly suitable for low-profile configurations on lightweight carbines or an AR-15 style rifle. It's the Best Digital Night Vision Scope for the Money

  7   Night Owl Optics NightShot

 

In night vision and low-light optics industry is noticeable a fall in prices because the shooting world yearned for a low cost, “thе” budgеt-frіеndlу” NV rіflе ѕсореs. One of those is NіghtЅhоt digital rіflе ѕсоре from thе Nіght Оwl Орtісѕ Company that is priced well below $500 and is a great overall value.

The Night Shot brings nighttime hunting into the budget realm, so you need to lower your expectations according to the price point of this digital rifle scope.

Compared to the mild price versions such as Ѕіghtmаrk Рhоtоn RТ 4.5-9×42, thе humblе аnd truѕtу NіghtЅhоt doesn’t come with any extras except basic things.

The Nightshot comes with a built-in 850nm IR illuminator providing you with an effective range of around 70-80 yards in complete darkness, even though in an open area, you can identify targets out to well over 150 yards if the conditions are right.

This night vision scope uses an infrared illuminator integrated atop the objective bell at the end of the scope. Whereas the іllumіnаtоr саn’t bе rеmоvеd, NіghtЅhоt ѕроrtѕ а mоuntіng rаіl fоr additional accessories, like more powerful IR source.

This Night Owl Optics product has 640×480 resolution and three different reticle types coupled with a fixed three-power magnification. For every beginner, these features would provide a 100-200 yards range in most typical nighttime environments.

Though somewhat cumbersome, the Nightshot features lightweight, polymer construction, so it only weighs 1.3 pounds. On top of that, this inexpensive and easy-to-operate night scope with the thermoplastic body is sealed to be water and dustproof.

The scope is powered by common four AA batteries or lithium batteries and it will allow you about 2-5 hours depending on IR usage.

The Nightshot comes with a built-in Picatinny mount and is ideal fоr mоuntіng tо a АR rіflе, but if уоu’rе соnсеrnеd аbоut rесоіl it is designed for rifles up to .30 caliber in non-magnum versions.

  8   Firefield NVRS 3x42 Gen 1

Night Vision Riflescope

 

In the era of ubiquitous digital night vision devices, the Gen-1 night vision riflescopes are becoming rarer and rarer even though they can give you a good image for shots at around 150 yards.

If you are an avid hunter of hogs and predators and don’t want to be left out when your friends are out night hunting, the Firefield NVRS 3×42 is definitely something you should consider, especially if you are on a strict budget. 

The Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen-1 Night Vision Scope is the perfect choice as an entry-level scope easy to use and with the intuitive controls but without those bells and whistles found on high priced scopes.

You cannot expect from this Gen-1 scope to do miracles, but at short to medium range it is capable of giving good images allowing the shooter getting first-round hits in the dark of night.

For those shots in a pitch dark, this cheap night vision scope comes equipped with an integrated 805nm (IR wavelength) illuminator that can allow you to go about 75 yards with perfect clarity. Coupled with a fixed 3x zoom, multi-coated optics and 42mm objective lens, this IR illuminator enables you to detect your target at 200 yards, but in perfect conditions with modest starlight.

The resolution is impressive with 30 lines per mm, giving you enhanced image detail and clarity in less-than-ideal conditions.

The scope boasts an illuminated red Duplex reticle with incremental brightness adjustment, making it ideal for smaller targets at 150 yards or more.

With a generous 45mm eye relief distance and 42 feet of field-of-view, this Gen-1 night vision scope is almost an ideal upgrade for modern sporting rifles or lightweight carbines.  While the other night vision scopes in this price class are built out of almost entirely of plastic, the Firefield NVRS comes with lightweight titanium alloy body making it splash-proof by IPX4 Rating.

Furthermore, a Firefield Gen-1 night vision scope is powered by typical 2 AA batteries providing you about 20 hours of work with activated IR.

With its basic commands, a Firefield has a very little learning curve to the beginners enabling them to use this optics very efficacy and accurately.

Conclusion

The night vision scopes were entered the civilian market a few decades ago and they are definitely worth purchasing. The night vision technology can give superior results in more effective varmint control, whereas they provide a new level of safety and efficacy for hunting at night.

Naturally, like any advanced technology, night vision optics has few downsides. The digital, Gen 1 and Gen 2 night vision scopes, as the most common devices in civilian hands, desperately need an attached infrared unit (illuminator) because they are unusable unless they're used on the clearest of nights.

Compared to the thermal imaging systems, some people consider night vision an outdated technology. However,  the night vision equipment has its place in night time human activities as it gives you much more clarity, definition and more detail overall than thermals.

Anyway, these sophisticated electro-optical devices, when coupled with thermal imaging monoculars, would give the most effective and safe nighttime weapons system these days.