We as a species are scared of the dark for a reason; it’s instinctive, innate. It’s a warning passed down through eons of genetic code, urging us to take shelter.
Our eyes simply don’t have the capacity to function by light of moon and star alone - at night, we’re no longer top of the food chain.
Now we outgrow our fear of the dark before we even reach adulthood, and thanks to night vision technology, we can venture out into the void, without diminished capacities; the apex predator, back on top.
So, to sharpen your aim in the dead of night, we’re going to be reviewing five of the very best night vision scopes for your rifles available at the minute. We’ll be choosing scopes from a variety of price points, in different shapes, and with different features, each one a tactical and deadly addition to your hunting arsenal.
We’ll then shoot through an in-depth buyer’s guide and brief FAQ section to make sure that you’re not left in the dark on any account. Then you can continue stalking for that perfect scope beyond the computer glow of this article.
Not to worry, hunter. Here’s our top pick right here.
OUR TOP PICK
Punching illuminative holes straight through the adamantine darkness of our number one spot is basically a supercomputer forged into a scope...it’s that impressive.
The UHD 4K visuals provide what is probably a better resolution than your TV and 4-core Obsidian technology provides you with zero latency optics and a vivid color pallet.
The X-Sight comes with a ballistic calculator that assesses range, wind, angle, humidity, temperature, and weapon profile among other things, to instruct you on the most responsible and accurate shot.
Honestly, this thing does all but pull the trigger for you.
This scope can be used in daylight and at night, and it allows you to stream video footage directly to your phone using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Did we mention that it records your shots automatically?
No, well thanks to recoil activated video function it does, so you can concentrate on your shot.
If you’re thinking that all these bells and whistles are just going to drain the juice and leave lost, shrouded in darkness, you’re smart to be wary, but wrong all the same.
You can expect 18 hours of straight usage with this monster.
- Suitable for daylight and darkness
- UHD 4K sensor gives you amazing visuals
- Ballistic calculator assesses variables and instructs on the shot
- Built-in SD card
- Obsidian 4-core processor
- Stream videos directly to your phone
- Bluetooth and wifi capabilities
- Extra-low power consumption
- RAV video technology automatically records your shot
- Vivid color pallet
- SD port could be a little more thought out.
- Some may find all the functions too fiddly
Giving you the eyes of a cat in the cauldron-black forests of our number two spot is another 2-in-1 day/night scope with its own cache of high tech features to give you an edge in the dark.
Let’s check out the visuals first. The Photon RT comes with an upgraded 768x576 CMOS sensor with really impressive video and sound recording capabilities, and like our top pick, you can stream them on your phone using the Vision app.
With 2X zooming capabilities and an 850nm LED IR, as long as you’ve got the skills, you can strike a target through 280 yards of pitch-black night.
Another thing we love about this scope is the choice of six different reticles with four colorings it gives you.
By far our favorite feature is the one-shot zero function that enables you to zero in the RT with digital assistance after using just one shot as a point of reference.
Beyond the tech, this is a really sturdy general build. It has a great eyeshade.
It’s water and shock resistant, more than capable of surviving a light drizzle out in the woods.
Where this scope lags behind our top pick, in our opinion, firstly is the battery life.
You get approximately 4.5 hours from the AA batteries. Secondly, at 2.5lbs, it’s quite a heavy scope.
- 2X zooming capabilities
- Wifi connectivity
- Audio and video recording can be streamed to your phone using an app
- Comes with full eyeshade for blocking light in the day
- Can be used in daylight and in darkness
- 6 choices of reticle
- 4 reticle color options
- Built-in LED IR illuminator sight
- One-shot zeroing
- Quite heavy
- Short battery life
- HDMI cover sometimes pops open
Finding its way effortlessly through the darkness to our number three position, we have another Sightmark scope at a slightly more affordable price with all the essentials intact.
Despite being roughly a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than our second pick, Wraith actually comes with some slightly more expansive features.
For instance, you get 10 reticles over the RT’s 6, and 9 color options over the RT’s 4.
You can expect the same 2X zooming capabilities as the RT, but with slightly reduced 1080p resolution.
Video recording is still an option with this scope, but you do lose audio recording capabilities.
As far as night vision goes, you get a pretty flexible system.
Wraith allows you to choose between 2 different color pallets to best suit your vision: black and white, and the traditional emerald.
You can also expect a similar IR illuminator top the RT; however, it has a slightly reduced range of 200 yards.
Disappointingly, the Wraith couldn’t outdo the RT’s limited battery life, having the same 4.5-hour capacity itself.
On the other hand, weighing in at 2lbs, it is quite a bit lighter than both our top picks.
- X2 zooming capabilities
- Decent resolution
- Choice of 10 reticles
- Choice of 9 reticle colors
- Suitable for hunting in light and darkness
- Toggle between black and white, and emerald night vision
- IR illuminator can reach targets up to 200 yards away
- Super lightweight
- More of a short-range scope
- Short battery life
Our penultimate darkness destroyer is an even more affordable option with quality short-range capabilities and an original design.
The oblong shaping of this scope is sure to make your rifle stand out in a crowd, but it’s not the sleekest of designs, so the Nightshot won’t be for everyone.
With 3X zoom capabilities, you get a really versatile scope for the price here, especially when you consider the Wraith only has 2X zooming and costs quite a bit more.
We like this aspect of the Nightshot, but to essentialists, anything more than 2X may be considered excessive, especially for a short-range scope.
You get 3 reticle options here which is pretty impressive for the price.
You can even switch between white and black colorings to suit your vision and the natural light ambiance.
What really lets the Nightshot down is the plastic construction, although that does keep it incredibly lightweight.
We can’t complain with a price tag this good, but it’s also a shame it doesn’t come with the IR illuminator.
The benefit of no IR, however, is longer battery life. You can expect 7 hours plus on the four AA battery supply.
- 3X zooming capabilities
- Choice of three reticles
- Choice between black and white reticles
- Interesting shape
- Lightest scope on our list
- Long battery life
- Great price
- Can be used day and night
- Plastic construction
- IR not included
- Not a lot of range
- No video recording
Our final scope capable of peering through a wash of darkness is a fantastic low budget option with an impressive range.
This powerful tool has a total darkness range of up to 300 meters, which, for the price, is truly amazing, and it comes with an IR illuminator too.
Similar to the Nightshot, you get 3X zooming capabilities with this scope, which makes more sense considering its expansive range, and you get a respectable 1080p resolution.
It’s no 4K, but if it saves you spending 4K, we’re all for it.
Moreover, we were quite impressed with the light grasp of this scope. It really brightens up a shot in waning light.
We also really like that you can shoot photos as well as videos with this thing.
It’s nice to be able to collect some stills from a hunt rather than just shaky, long-winded video footage.
Our favorite aspect of this Sniper scope is build quality. For a starter scope, it’s solid as they come.
There are no irritating or distracting rattles, it’s made of aluminum, and it’s probably the most water-resistant scope on our list.
- Pretty good resolution
- Can be used day or night
- Solid build quality
- Video recording capabilities
- Can take stills
- 300m range
- Comes with IR illuminator
- Choice of black a white or emerald night vision
- Quite heavy
- Clarity in darkness at distance could be better.
Let’s take a moment to discuss a few things you should consider to help you decide what kind of NV scope is right for you.
Night and Day
All the scopes on our list are designed to be used in both the light of day and at night, but that doesn’t have to be the case if you don’t want it to be. Most night vision scopes are designed for use in complete darkness. Exposure to bright daylight is actually damaging to the sensor.
If you already have a scope for use in the day, there’s really no need for a 2-in-1 scope. The benefit of having separate scopes is that they’re highly specialized for a single application.
For instance, you won’t find a 2-in-1 scope that outperforms a day time scope at a similar price range, nor will it outperform a dedicated night scope.
A 2-in-1 scope does have its own benefits though. You don’t have to lug around as much equipment, you get the power to switch functions at the press of a button, and you don’t have to waste time and ammunition zeroing your second scope.
This goes without saying really, but make sure a scope is compatible with your rifle before buying it.
One of the most important things to consider about your scope is obviously range. Moving around in the gathered hush of darkness, you’re going to be causing more of a disturbance than in the day, alerting nearby targets to your presence.
This is why long-range is preferable for a night vision scope.
Normally, the greater the range of a scope, the larger the price tag it carries, so if you’re interested in some distance sharpshooting, prepare your bank account for a deeper blow.
Clarity and Contrast
You'll almost definitely come across lots of snazzy advertising when it comes to the materials used to make the sight and the sensor.
There’ll be special coatings and glasses touted by companies as the ultimate aspect of clarity. While core materials do have a minor impact on vision, individual components are far from the be all and end all measure of a quality scope.
It’s not easy trying to decode a scope’s clarity as everyone’s eyes are different, so the best advice we can give is, wherever possible, try the scopes out. Compare them against one another and see what you like best.
Advertisement of resolution is also a little bit deceptive.
It’s true that 4K is better than 1080p or below, but if you’ve ever done any PC gaming in your time, you’ll know the difference in picture quality and fps is exceedingly minimal between the two.
Needless to say, you don’t want to be carrying around tons of extra weight on your rifle.
Hunting works best when you're patient and take your time on a shot. If your arms are tired before you’ve even set the video recording or lined up the shot, the scope is hindering more than it’s helping.
You’ll be shocked by the difference in battery life from scope to scope. You may come across anything between 4 and 20 hours from a full charge. Realistically, around 6 hours is probably enough for a good hunt.
You may be out there all night, but you’re only going to be utilizing the scope’s full capacities at certain intervals. That said, you don’t want to get caught out in the dark with no visuals. Ideally, one set of batteries will give you up to 10 hours of night vision.
This is sort of a luxury extra that won’t appeal to everyone, but if you are interested in recording your exploits, there are plenty of NV scopes out there with great quality recording capabilities.
Some scopes allow you to stream directly to your phone using Bluetooth or wifi connections.
This can be a pretty cool feature if you want to live stream or don’t want the hassle of moving a bunch of content from your scope to a computer.
Extra Physical Components
It’s important to note that video recording requires a few extra physical components like spaces for SD cards and USB ports.
If you’re a traditionalist, you may not want these extra complications.
Everyone has their preferences when it comes to reticle design which is why it’s good to look for an NV scope that gives you a few choices, and perhaps even color options too.
Most mid to long NV scopes will feature 2X magnification. It’s a nice, simple setup that covers a variety of ranges sufficiently. Others may have 3X, but that’s not to say they’ll see further, you just get an extra range between the shortest and longest magnification.
Some will prefer that middle setting. Others may feel like it’s unnecessary. If you’re buying an extra powerful long-range scope, more magnification options become more practical.
You can check the forecast and read the sky, but you never really know for sure what the weather will be like, which is why it’s good to check if a scope is at least water-resistant.
Don’t Send it Straight Back
If you don’t feel an instant connection, or your new scope feels a little awkward to you, fight the urge to return it. With any new bit of gear, a scope comes with a learning curve.
You need to spend some time with it, getting used to the functions and whatever differences there may be to your last scope.
Frequently Asked Questions
What night vision scope does the military use?
Most infantry uses something like a PVS-14 Monocular. Marines, however, use very advanced PEQ-15s.
Generally speaking, the military will have access to Gen 3 and 4 NV scopes. Anything above Gen 2 is rarely available as a retail product, and if you do find one, it’s going to carry a ridiculous price tag.
Can deer see an illuminator?
Yes, a deer can probably see the source and the dot, but it won’t understand the threat it poses.
Can night vision damage your eyes?
No. The military conducted thorough research on the effects of night vision on the human eye and found it to be harmless.
Into the Night
There you have it, sharpshooters, five awesome night vision scopes for augmenting your favorite rifle and conquering the darkness.
Each one of these scopes brings something unique to the table and provides you with a safe and responsible way to hunt at night time.