Last Updated on March 30, 2021
Hunters tend to be diehards. Wherever the prey is, man is willing to go in chase. Regardless of what time it is, the weather, or any other factor, hunters will put up with just about anything on their way to the kill. Even sport shooters will venture out at night for the added challenge of shooting in the dark. And that’s not even to mention airsoft players who routinely spend hours shooting each other in the dark of night.
Whatever your reason for shooting at night, you’re going to need the proper equipment if you hope to hit your targets. That scope you’ve come to love and trust during the day isn’t exactly equipped to help you once the sun goes down. For that, you’ll need a night vision scope, and we’ve gathered some of the best budget options available. While some of the models in these reviews aren’t cheap, they’re a far cry from the many expensive models that can cost well over $1000.
|Best Overall||Sightmark Photon RT Digital Night Vision Riflescope||
|Runner Up||Night Owl Optics Night Vision Riflescope||
|Sightmark Wraith HD Digital Riflescope||
|Sniper Night Vision Scope||
|Bestsight DIY Digital Night Vision Scope||
It’s certainly not the cheapest scope we tested, but the Sightmark Photon RT Digital Night Vision Riflescope is our favorite. If you’re looking for some serious performance at an affordable price, then this scope has what you need. You’ll get 4.5-9x optical zoom magnification, with an additional 2x digital magnification, for a maximum magnification of 18x.
With an infrared detection range of 220 yards, you’ll be able to make long shots when it counts with this scope. Aiding in your shot are the six reticle options you can choose from, allowing you to find the reticle that’s the best match for you.
For those that like to share their shooting adventures, this scope provides two options. You can record video and sound directly to the scope, which can later be transferred to a computer via USB. Alternatively, you can stream what you see through the scope wirelessly with the Pulsar stream vision app.
On the downside, this scope burns through batteries pretty quickly. It takes four AA batteries, which only power the device for about 3.5 hours. They’re housed in a quick-change container, allowing for easy battery swaps in the field, but going through batteries quickly isn’t cheap.
With a built-in infrared illuminator that allows you to see up to 200 yards in typical nighttime environments, the Night Owl Optics Night Vision Riflescope is our runner up. It offers great performance, though falls short of our top choice in a few main regards. On the other hand, it’s a bit more affordable, which will make it more appealing to some people.
This model is weatherproof, making it perfect for hunters who are constantly braving adverse weather conditions. It’s also safe for daylight operation, so it can become your main scope, offering anytime use. The only downside is that it offers just four hours of battery life with infrared on high. With infrared on low, you’ll get seven hours of battery life, which is better than most models we’ve tested.
You can mount this scope directly to any Weaver or Picatinny rail mount, though you’ll need an adapter to attach it to a dovetail rail. It’s only suitable on rifles up to 30-caliber. Higher caliber rifles have too much recoil and can damage the scope or cause it to lose zero.
When it comes to affordably priced night vision riflescopes, Sightmark seems to be leading the pack with two excellent options in our top five. This model offers up to 16x magnification. However, that’s only 2x optical magnification and 8x digital magnification. Still, you do get 10 reticle options, allowing loads of customization for what you see when looking through the scope.
To share your shooting, this scope allows you to record HD video in 1080p. Full-color day mode lets you use the scope in bright light with no problems, while night vision mode offers both classic green and black and white options. For those who like to mount additional accessories on the scope, this one has a Weaver rail built-in.
One thing holding this device back is the poor battery life of just 4.5 hours on four AA batteries. But that’s not all you need to operate this scope. You’ll also need CR123 batteries, which aren’t always as easy to find. Both are necessary if you want to use this scope, making it much harder to deal with dead batteries in the field.
The Sniper Night Vision Scope is a bit pricier than the other options on this list. It’s also pretty hefty, adding a noticeable amount of weight to your firearm. But there are other things we really liked about this scope, such as the included lithium-ion batteries, which are rechargeable. This can save you a lot of money on batteries. And since two batteries are included, you’re still safe with a spare for the field.
This scope is equipped with 4.5x optical magnification. Additionally, you get 3x digital zoom, for a total possible magnification of 13.5x. You might find that this magnification comes in handy with a night vision range of over 300 yards! Unfortunately, the image clarity isn’t as sharp as we’d like; especially considering the higher price of this unit. Also missing for the price is any kind of warranty, which would add a lot of peace of mind for the user.
You will get 1080p HD video recording capability with this scope, allowing you to share whatever you see behind your crosshairs. Overall, it’s a great unit, though we feel it’s outperformed by several other options that are actually lower in price.
If you’re shopping based strictly on price, then you might consider the Bestsight DIY Digital Night Vision Scope to be one of the more attractive options. After all, it’s one of the cheapest night vision scopes on the market. But you’re sacrificing quite a bit with this device.
First, you can’t look through the eyepiece anymore. You can only look aim via the screen, which is attached to the top or side of your scope. That’s going to add quite a bit of extra bulk to your gun, which can make it more difficult to maneuver into tight positions.
This scope isn’t the most durable. It’s only suitable for low-caliber weapons. Anything with a bit of punch will knock this scope out of zero with every shot, making for a very frustrating experience. While it’s not a horrible device, the Bestsight DIY Digital Night Vision Scope isn’t one that we’d recommend.
If you’re new to night vision scopes, it can be difficult to compare different models. First, you have to know what to compare them on, which is where this buyer’s guide comes into play. In it, we’re going to discuss the most important traits you should be comparing on different night vision scopes to determine which ones are a good fit for your needs.
Though the following traits don’t cover all the various features you can get on a night vision scope, they are the most important. Compare these traits among different models to get a good feel for how each device will operate when you’re in the field.
Even though these scopes allow you to see at night, they only work up to a certain distance. That distance is different on each scope, and it has nothing to do with the scope’s magnification. Night vision range is about how powerful the infrared emitter on your scope is.
Some models with excellent night vision offered ranges well in excess of 200 yards. There were even a few models that managed ranges of more than 300 yards. But most scopes offered night vision ranges of 100-200 yards. Naturally, the longer your night vision range, the farther you can accurately shoot at night.
Magnification on a night vision scope works just like magnification on a regular scope. It simply allows you to see farther objects at greater distances. Essentially, 10x magnification makes an object appear 10 times larger or 10 times closer to you than it actually is.
There are two types of magnification and they differ greatly.
Optical magnification is created through optics, such as lenses. This type of magnification offers excellent clarity, even at the top end of possible magnification.
Digital zoom offers digitally enhanced magnification. This can allow a scope to provide greater magnification than the optics allow for. The problem is that digital zoom isn’t clear like optical magnification. As you increase digital magnification, you decrease clarity and start to degrade the clarity of your picture.
Night vision scopes rely on batteries to power them. Without batteries, these scopes won’t provide any type of night vision. But most of these devices have pretty poor battery life, meaning you’ll be changing batteries pretty often.
Most of these scopes operate on four AA batteries and offer about 3-4 hours of battery life. As you can imagine, constantly replacing AA batteries in groups of four can get pretty pricey. Some models include rechargeable lithium-ion batteries instead, which we greatly prefer.
Unfortunately, some night vision scopes require more than just four AA batteries. These often require a specialty type of battery as well, such as CR123, making it even more difficult to deal with dead batteries in the field.
While shooting is often a solo experience, many people like to share their adventures. With today’s technology, this is easier than ever before. Many of these night vision scopes even have video recording or streaming built-in. This allows you to easily record exactly what you see when looking through the scope, so you can share that birds-eye view with anyone interested in knowing what it looks like when you take that shot.
Night vision scopes can reach some staggering prices. Some models sell for thousands, with top models even cresting the $2000 price point. Every model on this list is well below $1000, but there’s still quite a bit of price discrepancy between these models. While price isn’t everything, it can often be a determining factor. Especially when two models are very close in performance.
After shooting so many rounds while testing scopes for these reviews, we’ve become pretty comfortable with night shooting. This allowed us to make informed comparisons between the different devices we tested. Finally, we settled on our favorite.
The Sightmark Photon RT Digital Night Vision Riflescope outperformed the other options in our testing. It’s got some great features, such as built-in video and sound recording or the ability to wirelessly stream. You also get 4.5x-9x optical magnification, plus, an additional 2x digital zoom for 18x maximum magnification. Add to that the impressive 220-yard infrared detection range, and it’s no surprise that this scope earned our recommendation.
Another great option, the Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Riflescope was our runner up. It’s got a night vision range of up to 200 yards and a lengthy seven hours of battery life with infrared on low. It mounts directly to Weaver and Picatinny rail mounts, is completely safe for daytime operation, and is even weatherproof for those dreary days in the field.
Featured Image Credit: akeem jones, Pexels
Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.
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