Best Night Vision Scope For The Money – Reviews & Buying Guide (2018)
Looking for an affordable, best night vision scope that increases your target precision at night?
If yes, this post is for you.
Whether you’re looking for a cheap night vision scope to help you practice shooting at night or hunt that pesky vermin, we’ve got you covered.
We understand the hassle that comes with picking the perfect night vision riflescope from the hundreds of thousands of models on the market today. And in this complete guide, we’ll show you how to get the perfect night vision scope for your needs easily and quickly.
We’ve compiled a complete buying guide on how to buy a quality NV scope. Plus, we’ve picked the 10 best of the best night vision scopes that come at an attractive cost.
And we also have some additional tips for you on how to use your new scope.
Let’s get started!
Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3x 42mm Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope
What is a Night Vision Scope?
A night vision scope is a necessity for any hunter planning to shoot in the dark or at night.
It’s a device specially made to help hunters and shooters locate their target easily at night. It allows you to act in the total darkness without giving away your location with flashlights.
As you already know, we human beings have limited visibility at night. And this stresses the need to have a night vision scope to help you get a more precise view of your target by intensifying the available light- from moon stars, etc.
Some of the models come with even more advanced features- like infrared light to act as the light source if the available light isn’t sufficient to give you a clear target image. Though the infrared light isn’t easy to detect, the lens can pick it up easily, along with any available light, and give you brighter images.
This specialized equipment also magnifies the image as well, to make it even more easier for you to see. Different models come with varying powers of magnification to suit your specific shooting needs.
It’s also worth noting that night vision scopes have become more available and accessible to all shooters…unlike some years back when they were only used by military and the Special Forces.
Even better, they’ve become quite cheaper and more affordable, while presenting you with even more advanced features to give you a unique hunting experience at night.
Our night vision rifle scope review list below will take you through the top-rated NV scopes that come with pocket-friendly prices...
10 Best Night Vision Rifle Scope Reviews:
1. Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3x 42mm Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope:
Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3x 42mm Gen 1 scope opens our list of the best-quality, cheap night vision scope reviews. It is a lightweight, sleek scope made from the durable and lightweight titanium. It comes with a fixed magnification of 3x, with 42 mm objective lens. Its durable body enables it to endure all the abuse you might throw at it. Plus, it comes ready for use in the harshest weather conditions you can think of.
Taking a closer look at this top-rated scope, you’ll discover that it comes with a quick detach mount that helps you easily mount it to all the standard Picatinny rails. That said, you’ll have an easy time transiting from your daytime iron sights to this nighttime optic. Its lens comes multicoated to allow for superior optical clarity while presenting you with focused, concise images. With this Firefield, you can shoot an object up to 200 meters away (or more if you’ve got the right skills).
The fact that the scope’s red crosshair reticle comes with an adjustable brightness level means you can tailor it to fit your specific shooting needs. The Firefield also comes equipped with a powerful, easy to access IR illuminator suited on the right side. Needless to mention, this makes it easy for you to get a clear picture of your target object when hunting in total darkness. With all these premium features, the Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3x 42mm remains the best Gen 1 scope for the money.
2. American Technologies Network DGWSXS520Z Xsight 5-20 Riflescope:
Our second spot goes to the ATN DGWSXS520Z Xsight 5-20 Riflescope, another powerful and highly popular night vision scope. Because night vision is generally expensive, it’s rare to see a great product like this, with an impressive set of features, selling at an affordable price. Mind you, it acts as a dual scope so that you can use it both day and night with no risks to the optics or the hunter.
One of the top reasons why hunters are going crazy about this scope is its high, effective magnification (which is also hard to find at such cost). It offers you a magnification range of 5-20, allowing you to easily and accurately shoot objects at various distances. Keep in mind that this is a digital magnification- meaning the zoom in effect remains smooth and doesn’t disorientate you. Moreover, it’s easy to adjust and fine-tune as you go. Since the scope utilizes HD technology, you’ll enjoy clear, accurate feedback at different magnification powers.
Amazingly, this night vision scope also allows you to record videos in 1080p as well as photos. The video recording is so easy that it starts recording through some recoil activated switch. That said, you can trust this ATN bad boy to record all your shorts with easy, and even stream them via Wi-Fi (yes, it has Wi-Fi streaming capabilities).
3. Vortex Optics Crossfire II Dead Hold BDC Reticle Riflescope:
The Vortex Crossfire II 3-9x also appears on our list as one of the top-quality night vision scopes that enjoy extensive usage among all night hunter and shooters. It comes with an insanely affordable cost, making it the perfect choice for all hunters on a tight budget. Just like all the other Crossfire riflescopes from Vortex, this model has gone complete redesigning such that it exceeds the performance standards of models in the same price range.
The popular NV scope presents you with a magnification of 3-9x which makes it possible for you to fire short and long-range shots accurately. It comes with an objective lens of 40mm which is big enough to facilitate the collection of as much light as possible. The 1-inch long tube also presents you with a fully multicoated lens to help maximize light transmission, increasing the details of your target image. Above all this, it comes with a longer eye relief of 3.8 inches to keep you safe from your rife recoils.
With customized hashmark design, you don’t have to do any guesswork on windage and holdover corrections when using this riflescope. And being a single-piece hard anodized aircraft grade aluminum tube, you can rely on this scope to see you through countless night hunting sessions. Don’t forget it comes with O-ring seals to allow you to allow you to use it harsh weather conditions as well.
4. Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42S Digital Night Vision Riflescope:
Another cheap night vision scope we’ll recommend to all serious hunters and shooters is the Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42S. Its manufacturers, Sightmark, is a reputable name in the optics industry due to their red dot optics. Now, they’ve taken up the challenges to produce you with the best night vision scope by offering you this uniquely designed scope that’s 30% lighter than the competition.
The scope offers you a 4.6 power optic, which is doubtlessly higher than normal (especially when you consider the feather-light design). It features a 42mm objective lens that offers you a wide and clear field of view. The scope presents you with up to 6 rifle reticles available in red, white, and green, to facilitate a wide variety of uses. Of these reticles, we have 2 crossbow reticles (designed for a range of feet per sec ratings), two duplex reticles (ideal for close range), and 2 mil-dot reticles (for longer range shooting).
We were quick to note the fact that this scope comes with digital elevation as well as windage adjustment tool which facilitates simple, more precise adjustments. The video output device integrated into the scope helps you record your hunts. Above all this, it comes with a top-performance battery that has 33% longer lifespan than the competition. Clearly, Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42S is one of the top night vision scopes for hunting!
5. ATN ThOR HD 384 Smart Thermal Riflescope:
Here’s another high-quality product from ATN you’d want to invest in to enhance your night hunting experience. For your info, this is a state-of-the-art night vision scope, which explains why ATN markets it as “Smart” scope. It provides you with some of the rarest features you can get in a riflescope- including gyroscope (all 3D), magnetometer, accelerometer, and so much more.
One of the most outstanding aspects of this scope lies in its superior thermal detection mechanism. That is, unlike the other models we’ve discussed in this post, it uses heat energy instead of light to allow you to see clearly in the darkest hunting areas. The thermal technology works hand in hand with the integrated 384x288 Sensor to deliver the ultimate image performance. Furthermore, it comes with a smooth zoom operation which makes it possible for you to magnify your target without losing what’s already showing in your field of view- unlike the step zoom systems.
Because it allows High-Resolution Video recording and photos, you can enjoy recording all your hunting trips along the way. The fact it has Wi-Fi streaming capabilities makes the recording process even more fun. Despite housing all these features and capabilities, you’ll find this model bearing a lightweight design, making it easy for you to manage/use.
6. Crossfire II 4 - 12x40mm AO Riflescope:
Our 6th spot goes to the Crossfire II 4 - 12x40mm AO Riflescope, another product proudly designed by Vortex Optics. Like all the other scopes in the Crossfire series, this model comes formatted for optimal performance and reliability for night hunters and shooters. And like the other products on this list, it does not hurt your pockets.
The Crossfire II features a high magnification power of 12x which makes it ideal for accurately shooting your targets at both short and long distances. Like our previous Vortex, it also comes with a fully multi-coated lens to maximum absorption of the available light- allowing you to view more details of your target at night. Another similar feature to the other Crossfire is the customized hashmark design which goes a long way in eliminating the windage and holdover corrections.
You’ll be pleased by the long eye relief of 3.9 inches offered by this scopes as it enhances your safety. And because it is a one-piece tube with hard anodized, aircraft grade aluminum construction, you can trust it to take any abuse you throw at it. Additional features you’ll love in this scope include resettable MOA turrets and nitrogen purging and O-ring seals for weatherproof and fogproof performance.
7. Bushnell 4.5X40 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision W/ Mount - 260140MT:
For unequaled night vision at an affordable price, the Bushnell 4.5X40 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision is the perfect product for you. This particular model comes equipped with high-performance glass objectives alongside exceptional zoom capability to help reveal the unknown of the darkness.
The night vision scope presents you with a magnification power of up to 4.5x which is sufficient for clearly viewing your target at greater distances. Even with its low cost, this Bushnell can provide you with outstanding optical clarity as well as a wider field of view in the low light conditions. Since it comes with integrated infrared illumination, it’ll work in complete darkness as well.
Other impressive features we found in this riflescope include Video recording, image capture, daytime color, tripod mounting capability, and even extremely long battery life. All these features team to ensure you have the best hunting experience at night, an extremely affordable price.
8. Armasight ORION 5X Gen 1+ Night Vision Rifle Scope:
The Armasight ORION 5X Gen 1+ Night Vision Rifle Scope also won a place on our list with its unwavering dependability and reliability. It's arguably one of the most dependable, best-performing riflescope in the generation 1 category. It’s a mid-range NVD that offers all serious hunters, shooters, and security personnel excellent target acquisition and aiming capabilities. Remember it provides you with all these premium features and capabilities at an affordable cost.
The super-rugged and durable night vision scope offers you a powerful imagination of up to 5x to meet all your mid-range and long-range hunting needs. Besides, it offers you a powerful, long-range IR illuminator to eliminate the challenge of shooting precisely in extremely low light conditions. As if that’s not enough, it presents you with an illuminated red crosshair reticle that enhancing your targeting capabilities at night like nobody’s business!
On top of all this, it’s worth noting that this scope comes with 100% waterproof design. This keeps it protected from elements like spills, splashes, submersion into the water, etc. - meaning you can use it in the harshest environments without having to worry about possible damages. The shockproof design plus rubberized body further protects the scope from any abuses it might encounter along the way.
9. Sightmark Photon 6.5x50S Digital Night Vision Riflescope:
Also from Sightmark, we have the Sightmark Photon 6.5x50S-a digital night vision riflescope designed to give you the best night hunting experience. Featuring an attractive price tag, this model comes with a shockproof and weatherproof design, making it ideal for use in the harshest weather conditions. And unlike most of the night vision scopes out there, it presents you with longer eye relief for your own safety.
The Sightmark presents you with multiple (up to 6) white/red/green reticles to give you a better shooting experience. These include two duplex articles for hog and varmint hunting, two crossbow reticles compatible with a wide range of crossbows, one mil-dot reticle for range finding and holder overs, and one German reticle for shooting in low light conditions or moving targets. Because the optic comes with a built-in 810nm LED IR illuminator, you can easily see your target object even when hunting in moonless nights or total darkness.
The digital windage and elevation adjustment system takes your accuracy to a whole new level. This system not only eliminates the manual, mind-boggling sighting job but also enables you to be super-accurate in your rifle positioning. Other notable features in this scope include the 640×480 Resolution for crisp detailing, and video output feature that helps you record all your hunts and adventures in the field for sharing with your friends and family.
10. Armasight Vampire 3X Night Vision Rifle Scope:
If you’re looking for a Gen 1 scope that incorporates the features and specs found in Gen2 scopes as well, then Armasight Vampire 3X is for you. While this scope has a slightly higher cost than all the other modes on our list, it still falls in an affordable range compared to the high-end models with the same features and capabilities.
One thing that sets this riflescope from the rest is the new CORE (Ceramic Optical Ruggedized Engine) technology it comes with. The unique technology makes the scope truly different from the standard Gen 1 scopes you’re used to. In other words, you can expect better edge clarity, improved photosensitivity, and high resolution with this scope. Thanks to the scope’s fixed magnification of 3x, you can trust it to work well for medium and long-range shots.
The Armasight Vampire 3X also comes equipped with a tactical, Picatinny rail system, allowing you to have total control over which accessories to add during your hunting or target practice. With its fog and water-resistant design, you’ll have no issues using this scope in the harshest weather conditions. Overall, this scope is sturdy, lightweight, and compact, and the best night vision scope for AR 15.
Choosing The Affordable Night Vision Scopes For Hunting: Buying Guide
It’s no secret that the number of night vision scopes on the market today are countless. They all come from different brands and vary in terms of overall quality, durability, features, and cost.
Heck, they even come with different looks!
That said, you don’t expect the journey of getting the perfect model for your shooting needs to be easy.
BUT…if you consider the following tips during your shopping, things will get much easier:
Check the scope magnification
The most important thing to look for in a night vision scope is its magnification power.
For most of the models out there, the magnification falls between 1.5x and 5x. If you’re planning to hunt the nocturnal animals, then we’d recommend you to look for scopes with higher magnification range. This is important as it increases the distance between you and your target prey, minimizing your chances of getting easily detected.
In general, look for a model with a magnification power of up to 3x. This is the perfect range for all your medium to long distance shooting ranges.
How much does the scope weigh?
The weight of the night scope should also guide you into getting the perfect scope.
Ideally, you should look for a scope that comes with a lightweight design. This will ensure that your hunting accessory doesn’t add bulkiness to your hunting gear and is easy and comfortable to transport to any place.
Besides, a lightweight night vision scope ensures you don’t add unnecessary weight to your rifle whenever you mount it.
Go for popular brands
Another tip that will help you easily find the best night vision scope that blends with your specific needs involves buying from the popular brands.
Go for brands that have built reputation overtime, with top-quality products that work exceptionally well, enhancing your shooting accuracy at night.
Such brands include ATN (American Technologies Network), Armasight, Sightmark, Firefield, Pulsar, Yukon, to name but a few.
Check the scope generation
Did you know that the night vision scopes you see around can be classified into different groups?
Well, these groups include generation 1, generation 2, and generation 3. (Generation 4 scopes are coming out soon). Needless to explain, the models in different generations vary; with the models in the higher generation boasting better quality and features. In other words, generation 3 comprises the most advanced night vision scopes (though it’ll soon be rivaled by generation 4).
Sadly, you’ll have to dig deeper into your pockets to get the higher-quality models compared to the gen 1 models.
What is its price?
You’ll also need to come up with a reasonable budget when shopping for a night vision scope.
Let the features and quality of your dream NV scope guide you in setting up a budget. If you’re facing hard economic times, you can still find a great optic that works just fine. However, you don’t expect the cheap models to come with all the bells and whistles.
As a reminder, our night vision scopes review list above comprises the 10 most affordable models whose performance and quality is above the stars.
Check for an easy to use scope
As the experienced hunters and shooters will tell you, there exist difficult to use night vision scopes on the market. They are quite cumbersome and will cost you headaches and errors before you get used to them.
We bet that you don’t want to end up with such a model, right?
Look for a scope that comes with an ergonomic, user-friendly design. In addition to lightweight design, ensure it comes with a small profile to make it easy for you to make different adjustments.
Above all, ensure the scope is easy to mount and detach from your rifle.
Pro Tip: What do you intend to use your night vision scope for?
The easiest way to get the perfect scope for you is actually knowing why you want the scope in the first place.
As I’ve told you earlier, a night vision scope has a wide range of applications- e.g., target practice, airsoft competition, plinking, hunting, and survival.
When you have a clear purpose for your night vision scope in mind, it becomes easy to select a model with the right features to meet your needs.
Using a Night Vision Scope On an AR 15
Apart from providing vivid night vision, AR 15 scopes available on the market have some special features.
These features include; wider fields of vision, infrared illuminators, prolonged battery life, and advanced reticle systems.
Different types of night scopes use different technologies. The most common ones are; Thermal imaging, Near-infrared illumination, and low-light imaging.
These technologies apply to the AR 15 and also for search and rescue, observing wild animals and plants, night security, etc.
Image intensifying is the most commonly used night vision method. On-chip Gain Multiplication CCD Cameras are becoming very popular in surveillance and low-light security.
Image intensifiers usually operate by amplifying the minimal light in the surroundings to give clearer vision.
To achieve this, an objective lens focuses light on the photocathode of the image intensifier. The images produced are more intense, and they glow.
If you’ve ever questioned why the night vision scopes for an AR 15 and other rifles are green, it is because the human eye has the ability to differentiate more shades in green compared to other colors.
On-chip gain multiplication cameras are gaining popularity because of their high sensitivity even in low lit areas. Also, they have high-speed imaging.
Thermal imaging is loved by many people because it provides the highest level of heat sensitivity.
An AR 15 or any other rifle that has thermal imaging will have the ability to detect cars and human beings from a far away distance, and the vision will not be distorted by other existing sources of light.
Another great kind night vision is IR illumination. It is perfect if you wish to remove distracting shadows and view figures, letters, and other tiny objects.
This type of night vision is unique compared to other technologies as it can be used for facial identification. Moreover, it is not affected by weather conditions like fog, snow, mist or rain.
In your search for the best scope for your AR 15, you shouldn’t only look at the night vision abilities as that is already obvious.
Rather, you need to study the magnification power, manufacturer’s warranty, durability and the price.
While you may not want to get anything super-cheap for an AR 15, there are loads of excellent night vision scopes out there that come at a fair price.
So, it would be best to do some adequate research before you settle on one.
For your info, the ATN ThOR HD 384 Smart Thermal Rifle scope is a great thermal imaging scope for an AR 15. And, you may consider it on your search if you want.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is a night vision scope?
A night vision device is simply a special optoelectronic device that enables you to see targets that are in darkness and far from you. The scope usually displays monochrome images.
2. Do I need any special training before I start using a night vision scope?
Though these hunting scopes are special, they don’t require you to undertake any special training before you can start using them. They’re straightforward to use and, though you don’t expect to use them like a pro on the first day, continued practice will get you used to them.
3. What’s the difference between night vision and the thermal vision?
Though there are a couple of differences between night vision and thermal vision scopes, the primary one revolves around how they create images.
The night vision scopes simply amplify the available light to help you see your target easily in the dark. And in case there’s no light available, they use the infrared illuminator to act as a flashlight.
Thermal vision, on the other hand, forms images by utilizing the body heat signature or the heat amount your target object produces. It records the heat available, which enables it to form a series of images or video for you.
4. What does infrared illuminator mean in night vision riflescopes?
Primarily, a night vision scope is made to amplify the available light for it to show you the object you’re targeting in the dark. If there’s no light present, it can’t work.
The manufacturers have overcome this challenge by introducing infrared illumination, a feature that produces a straight beam of infrared light in front of your scope to act as the light source.
5. How far can I shoot with a night vision scope?
The shooting distance of a night vision riflescope usually depends on its magnification power. Besides, the generation in which it falls in can also affect its range (that is, gen 1, gen 2 and gen 3 scopes can shoot accurately within 80 yards, 200 yards, and 300 yards).
Other factors affecting the shooting distances include light conditions, and use of other shooting accessories, like lasers and infrared flashlights that magically increases the range.
6. What are the key differences between the various NV scope generations?
As you already know, the night vision scopes exist in up to 3 generations. The classification is based on the difference in their features and performance.
For instance, the gen 1 NVDs use image intensifier tubes while the gen 2 models use micro-channel plate.
Gen 2 and 3 usually have a better gain and resolution than the gen 1 models.
7. How does a night vision device work?
The device works by collecting the available light through the objective lens and intensifying it as it travels through the amplifying tube to form the desired object image.
8. Are night vision scopes restricted for use by the civilians?
No. unlike what most people believe, no laws restrictions have been put forward regarding ownership of the NVDs by the civilians.
The restrictions might only arise when the manufacturers are faced with high demand and low supply of the products.
9. What should I use a night vision scope for?
The main areas where night vision scopes find extensive usage include military, law enforcement, shooting practice/competition/plinking, hunting, and in survival situations.
Scoping At Night: Pro Tips
Don’t know how to use a night vision scope? Or haven’t scoped at night before?
In this post, we’ll take you through some expert tips on how to “Own The Night” with your new night vision scope.
Know your hunting zone well in advance
One of the key tips for getting the most out of your night scoping involves knowing your hunting location well in advance.
You can do this by visiting the location in the daytime. While there, check for things like roads, livestock, buildings, domestic pets, etc. if you’re hunting in private land, communicate with the farmer to gather useful information on where he had seen the fox or the whitetails.
While still at it, it’s also important to look for tell-tale signs of the animal you plan to hunt. These include pathways, holes in the fences, etc. if you’re hunting the fox, be sure to check its scent scat or feathers and bones on the animals that fox might have feasted on.
Above all, look for the best position for parking your truck at night.
Ensure you remain undetected by your target animal
Another essential tip for scoping at night involves playing the game careful so that the creature you’re ambushing doesn’t notice you.
Keep in mind that these animals have excellent eyesight as well as a high sense of smell. Thus, you’d want to take the necessary precautions to ensure your target doesn’t detect you first and run away. Observe maximum silence while out there, and wear clothes that don’t produce noise.
Keep off perfumes, aftershaves. Avoid taking spicy foods before heading to the hunting location.
Use IR in case of low light availability
As we’ve said earlier, the night vision scopes work by collecting the available light and amplifying it to let you see your targets clearly.
However, if you’re hunting in a location with limited light availability- say moonless night- then you’d want to make use of the IR (infrared illuminator) that comes with most scopes out there. This will act as our flashlight, proving you with an unlimited light source.
Make use of the Gain control option
Most NV scopes come with the manual gain control option that allows you to adjust how bright you want your image to appear.
If hunting in total darkness, you might notice that the image formed have little white sparks all over (this is scintillation and can affect the image quality).
By dialing on the gain a little bit, you’ll find a sweet spot with less sparks, allowing you to enjoy a better view of your target.
Long range shooting at night
If you plan to shoot at greater distances at night, then I’ll recommend you to go for a scope that comes with a higher magnification range.
The expert shooters recommend anything from 3x and above as it does pretty well for both medium and long-range shootings.
Why Are These Scopes Different?
All along our post, we’ve described these night vision scope as special, unique tubes. This might have got you wondering what makes them so special (or what makes them different from the other scopes out there).
In this section, we’ll get into more details on what makes these models from the other hunting riflescopes…
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that these scopes are designed with the darkest hunting/shooting situations in mind (i.e., they’re meant for night hunting).
With that in mind, you expect them to employ a unique working mechanism compared to the other models.
The key technologies used by these scopes include Thermal imaging, near-infrared illumination, and low light imaging.
The special tube works by simply intensifying the available ambient light to present you with a more precise vision of your target object. To achieve this, the scope’s objective lens focuses the light (photons) on the intensifier photocathode. The light energy (photons) then release the electrons in the cathode.
Once released, these electrons move through the openings inside the microchannel plate as they bounce off the walls- generating more and more electrons.
The end result is a cloud electrons cloud that displays the original image with more intensity. Besides the image being more intense, the electrons also glow on striking the phosphor screen. This explains why your night vision scope comes with a green lens (because your eyes can excellently detect more shades in green than other colors).
Unlike the daylight scopes, the night vision scopes are divided into several generations based on their features and capabilities. The generation 1 models are usually cheap and ideal for amateur hunters and shooters.
If you want something more advanced, with better quality and performance, you’d want to consider buying the gen 2 or gen 3 models. Gen 4 models are usually used by the military.
It’s also important to note that night vision scopes usually come with a higher Pricetag than the other scopes out there. While it’s quite easy to find a daylight scope that costs under $100, you might not get a quality night vision scope at the same cost.
From this post above, it’s crystal-clear that night vision scopes have opened up an entirely new world for hunters and shooters alike. Now you can hunt or even practice shooting in the dark, thanks to these special scopes.
Unlike long ago when these scopes were limited to the military, special forces, and law enforcement only (and came with exaggerated price tags), anyone can now obtain a quality night vision scope with a reasonable budget.
What’s more, they have incorporated more advanced features and designs to offer you the best hunting experience at night.
Having read our detailed buying guide for an NVD as well as our 10 top-rated night vision scopes review list, we’re confident that you can go ahead and pick the perfect model for your needs.