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Last updated: February 01, 2021
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When out in the hunting field you need to be able to rely on your equipment to keep you both safe and alert. The best thermal scope is an essential component of a night hunter’s kit: within seconds you can go from zero visibility to seeing full structures and shapes for long range in front of you. A thermal scope for night hunting is one of the most valuable pieces of equipment to invest in if you take your excursions seriously.
We’ve taken the time to meticulously look into everything that the thermal scope industry has to offer. By considering key features such as size, mounting ability and design we’ve been able to draw conclusions about what the best products on the market should include. The thermal scope market is a largely saturated one and selecting the best thermal scope for hunting needs can be overwhelming.
We managed to narrow down the search to our top five picks so that your process of selection is simpler. We took time to put together detailed product reviews of each, complete with a list of thoughtful pros and cons that are worth scanning over. Head to the table of comparisons for a further summation of the most important information you need to know. After this, our buying guide will break down each key feature that your thermal scope should have so that you aren’t left in the field with a dysfunctional unit because you picked the wrong one. We took the experiences and reviews of experienced scope users into account so that this roundup would only feature the best of the best. Now you can become a pro as well.
Pulsar has sought to impress with this state of the art thermal scope. It’s the brand’s latest and greatest in a long line of thermal imagery solutions & despite being slightly pricy, has delivered impressive performance in night hunting around the world.
The body of the scope is as impressive as the technology. It’s entirely waterproof, dust-proof and fog proof. There’s no terrain or weather condition that this device won’t perform under. Simply attach it to your rifle using the necessary railing and you’re covered for hours of clear visuals in the dark. It’s also able to survive temperature extremes ranging from between -13° to 122°F. It’s frost resistant, though not guaranteed to function at one hundred percent efficiency in the presence of this element.
The Pulsar works off both an internal battery pack and an external power adapter — you won’t lose sight once the first battery set drains. The initial battery pack will last eight hours in the field at full charge. It can either then be replaced, recharged or connected to the external adapter for additional power.
The image quality refreshes at a rate of 50Hz; this gives you exceptionally clear visuals at a consistent speed. The device has the ability to digitally zoom by eight times.
The unit is compatible with Wi-Fi and live streaming of the hunt visuals is possible. What’s more, you’ll be able to record motion picture into the device’s memory card to review later. The device records in HD. The memory card has a storage capacity of 8GB.
Internal mapping is also available as a feature and works together with the field of view to plan out your route.
Overall this unit is highly impressive and well deserving of the title as best thermal scope for night hunting. All successful night hunters should take this thermal scope into consideration at some point during their hunting career.
Armasight has been a consistent and reliable name in the thermal scope world since the beginning of this unique industry. This high performing scope by the brand is worth all of the global praise it has received.
When the FLIR imaging systems broke onto the scene they set a new benchmark for thermal scope performance. The FLIR system comes built into this unit as a standard. The thermal imaging is as high quality as they come. The best part is that the FLIR detector comes with a 10-year warranty coverage.
The device is water and fog resistant — the body is durable & will handle a bump or two without any notable affect to the performance.
Despite being compact the unit has on board video recording abilities. It doesn’t however connect to Wi-Fi. The reticle colors on offer are black, white, red and cyan. The alternative color modes for the viewing screen include white hot, black hot and rainbow.
The system refreshes its visuals at 60Hz which is impressive. You’ll take on less strain to the eyes during long periods of use.
The battery life will depend on the operating temperature at the time of use. The average running time before needing a recharge is 12 hours. An external power supply can also be connected to make the device run even longer.
The unit comes with a wireless remote control that can make the device completely handsfree. The scope is shutterless and silent so there’s no risk of the thermal imagery disturbing the game or making your position known. Overall this high performing unit is a valuable investment that will reap many rewards during years of night hunts.
While still a high performing unit, this thermal scope by ATN comes in at a fraction of the price compared to many others in this roundup.
Multimedia really is the focus with this device. This is why it was our pick for best Wi-Fi capability thermal scope. The device connects seamlessly to an array of Wi-Fi enabled devices. This can be used for ballistics calculations, video streaming and recording as well as connectivity to iOS & Android apps. You’ll also be able to enjoy still photography in the field.
The compact body of this scope is durable and water proof. There’s a smart laser rangefinder integrated into the system that gives the user accuracy when measuring the distance between the individual and the target.
The battery life on this device is what really makes heads turn. At 22 hours of continuous use at full charge you’re at little risk of ever being left in the dark while on your hunt. The battery pack can also power other devices while out in the field by simply connecting them with USB cables.
The included remote control has the same battery life as the actual scope unit so one will never be without the other.
The zoom on the ATN is smooth and will magnify your targets without ever losing what’s in your FOV (Field of View). Overall, this is an affordable unit that is best for the hunter who likes to make use of the recorded footage to better their skills in future. It’s also the best thermal scope for hog hunting when weighed up against other options.
What we liked:
Compact size and weight
Impressive battery life
What could be better:
Limited color spectrum for visuals — can be hard on the eyes
This unit is the little brother to the Armasight FLIR system that we looked at earlier. It holds the same state of the art FLIR technology with slightly fewer features than the more expensive ones from the range.
In spite of this, the body of this scope is what really impressed us. It’s virtually infallible — proofed against all the elements possible, it works well in any temperature and can handle being thrown around. Hopefully none of these factors are ever put to use, but it’s wonderful to know that if necessary, you’re covered.
Like the rest of the Armasight range, the device comes with a standard 3 year warranty and a 10 year warranty coverage on the internal FLIR system.
The scope has 4x digital zoom abilities and a 45mm eye relief. Battery life with this scope ranges up to 10 hours at full charge. Naturally, the external temperatures can significantly reduce this timeline. The color palettes inside the viewing screen can be altered to your eye’s preference. They include white hot, black hot, fusion, rainbow, globow, ironbow 1, ironbow 2, sepia, color 1, color 2, ice-fire, rain and custom. That is more variants than we see in many of the higher end units and definitely a welcome addition to this impressive scope.
The device also has rapid start up technology. This saves battery in the long run because it allows you to switch the unit off when not in use knowing you can fire it up again very quickly when a target comes near.
Don’t let the low price of this ATN Thor fool you — this is an impressive thermal scope that provides many valuable features to any professional hunter.
The 384×288 image sensor delivers high quality visuals during both day and night hunting. The rangefinder is built in and features ATN’s newest Smartfinder technology that is taking the imaging world by storm.
Despite being so affordable, this device has full Wi-Fi connectivity that allows for video streaming. You can also record footage directly into the unit for later use. The connectivity will link to your phone or tablet so that the scope and software can communicate with one another. It has both iOS and Android capabilities.
The ballistics calculator of the ATN allows you to accurately determine the exact location and distances of the target in question. It will show you your point of impact and this greatly increases the accuracy of your shot.
The zoom doesn’t disrupt the FOV. It’s smooth and steady & has self corrective abilities so that a shaking hand won’t alter the visuals too much.
Standard to the ATN range, 22 hours of battery life will be the performance of this scope when on full charge. For such a low priced unit this is impressive!
Overall we’d recommend this device for anyone looking for an affordable best thermal scope for coyote hunting. It’s an inexpensive yet high powered thermal scope than will deliver years of satisfactory imagery.
What we liked:
Impressive battery life
What could be better:
Not as durable as other units
Things to Consider
A thermal scope for night hunting should be a positive addition to your exist-ing hunting gear. It shouldn’t weigh you down or become an annoyance in terms of transportation. To ensure that your thermal scope embodies all the necessary features to make your night hunt a success, make use of this buyers guide and the features that it explores.
Why it’s worth investing in a top-quality thermal scope for hunting
Sure, there are much cheaper and more basic thermal scopes on the market for you to purchase. While you’ll save some money initially, you won’t always be getting the best deal. Sometimes spending a bit more to get a higher quality unit is a good idea, especially with devices that give you sight in the dark.
The way thermal scopes work is through generational advancement in the area of thermal imaging technology. As this technology gets better with time, so do the scopes the tech is used in. Since this technology directly affects the human eye, you want to be sure that the scope you’re using isn’t going to cause any RSI injury to your retinas.
Investing in a top-quality thermal scope for hunting usually guarantees the following:
Less strain on your eyes after repeated use
Longevity of the device
The newest and best technology fitted into the scope
The best possible imagery making your hunting as accurate as possible
Features to consider when choosing a thermal scope
The only thing to do now is slowly narrow down one of our top five picks to your favorite one. They’re all high performing and impressive in their own ways, which can make picking only one quite tricky. Isolating the features that are most important to you is the easiest way of narrowing down your search. Read through each and find the one that resonate most with your needs.
Magnification ability of a thermal scope is important. You not only want to be able to see in front of you in the dark; you also want to see far away game at magnified levels. This makes it easier to close in on a shot with greater accuracy than before. The Pulsar Trail XP50 has impressive magnification capabilities that won’t distort imagery.
When selecting your thermal scope consider the following regarding the magnification:
Is the scope’s magnification ability suitable for the range of field that you’ll be hunting in?
Does the magnification offer ability to shift depending on what kind of lens is attached to the scope?
Will higher magnification affect the quality of the image being relayed through the eye piece?
Night & Day Modes
Most thermal scopes have the ability to shift between night and day modes quite seamlessly. A thermal scope can be just as effective and helpful during the day as it is at night.
When hunting, animals tend to blend into the natural surroundings of the nature. This is how they protect themselves from being noticed. A thermal scope only sees temperature and thus you’ll be able to see the game regardless of how well camouflaged they are because their temperature is vastly different to that of the plants.
Color modes are important when it comes to thermal imaging. The color palette abilities of the image relaying device inside the eye piece can have great effect on the human brain.
A green or blue pallet is usually preferable, as it’s the easiest on the human eye.
Most scopes will also be able to alternate between monochrome, sepia, red and yellow as needed. It really all depends on what color your eye responds to the best. You’ll know by flipping through them while out in the field.
The detection range of your scope will determine how much land the scope is able to provide visuals for. This number is usually delivered in meters. The bigger the detection range the more you’ll be able to see in the field.
Having sufficient detection range abilities in your scope ensures that you’re getting the highest amount of visuals into your view. This makes it more likely for you to find game to hunt down. Smaller detection ranges are acceptable if you’re hunting in a confined space or hill blocked area. Take note of the detection range abilities of your scope before purchasing — this isn’t something that can be added or altered in the device later on.
If there’s one feature to take very seriously when looking to purchase a thermal scope it’s eye relief. This is something that will save your eyes and brain while out in the hunting field.
Looking at a screen for long periods of time can play havoc on the retinas and consequently the brain. Usually the first symptom of this is premature exhaustion, which isn’t good if you’re intending to be in the field all through the night.
Wi-Fi Connectivity, Streaming and Recording
The modern advances in this kind of technology have brought many new additions to standard thermal scopes. One of these is the ability to emit Wi-Fi and stream video recordings to an external source. The ATN Thor HD has impressive Wi-Fi and multimedia capabilities built into the device.
This is a handy feature to have if you know of anyone who might be interested in real time footage of your hunt in the field. While this feature is usually standard to higher end scopes, you’ll have to make double sure that your selection includes it.
On top of being able to live stream, the scopes can also usually record video and photograph to a memory card located within the scope itself. This footage can be accessed later and reviewed.
Durable Construction and Build
Night hunting is anything but safe and delicate. Your thermal scope should be able to keep up with a few bumps and falls along the way without becoming totally defective.
The body of the thermal scope should be made from durable, quality materials; aluminum is most commonly used. They should also be, at the very least, water resistant although complete waterproofing is obviously more preferable.
A warranty is a valuable thing when investing in a thermal scope. Since higher end units don’t run cheap, you’ll want some security on your investment. Most thermal scope retailers offer at least three-year warranties on each purchase. This ensures that should anything go wrong with the unit while out in the field, that was not intentional harm, you’ll be covered.
When investing in a thermal scope we recommend a unit with at least a two-year warranty period. Some go up to five; of course this would be a welcome addition. The Armasight FLIR Zeus comes with a 10-year warranty on the internal technology of the unit making it a winner in many people’s books.
Thermal scopes attach to rifles via mounting rails or clasps. They’re easy to slide on and off as needed & won’t add much extra weight to your rifle. Always take note of the mounting ability of your thermal scope prior to purchasing so you don’t end up with something that’s not compatible with your rifle.
Yes, thermal scopes work as well during the day as they do at night as they rely on heat and not light. During the day heat is as easy to read as it is once the sun goes down. You’ll enjoy full use of your scope during both times. In fact, day time use of thermal scopes while hunting is effective for identifying game that are camouflaging themselves and blending into the scenery.
A thermal scope is better in the long run as it has the ability to work both during the day and at night. You can use it for both day hunting and night hunting. Night vision scopes are limited to night use only so they’re only smart investments if you know you’ll rarely hunt by day, or enjoy the challenge of looking for the target with the help of sunlight and your normal vision.
The clear winner in this round up of the best thermal scopes for hunting was the Pulsar Trail XP50. We love everything about this unit, from the price to the overall look and feel of the device. That being said, it’s also a feature packed scope that embodies all of the characteristics we identified as most important! Definitely the best of the bunch!
Coming in a very close second was the Armasight Zeus by FLIR. This is a brand that we know and love; It’s been the frontrunner in quality thermal scopes for years and this unit is no different. Again, feature packed and performance driven, the Armasight is our winner of best high-performance thermal scope for night hunting.
This roundup wouldn’t have been complete without the ATN Thor unit that fell into third place. Coming from another brand that makes waves in the thermal imaging world, this unit is a well priced solution to any serious night hunter’s needs.
Now that you’ve heard all there is to know, it’s time to weigh up all the options and select your number one best thermal scope for hunting.
We’ve done the hard work for you — we’ve essentially given you eyes in the dark! You’re welcome!