Thermal scopes continue to grow in popularity, and there are very good reasons for that. One factor comes from 24/7 use in most environments, and regardless of the weather conditions, you find yourself in.
This is because the technology functions through the detection of radiation. Unlike night-vision devices, they do not need any visible light in order to produce images. While military, law enforcement, and security personnel have been using this type of scope for a long time, so have avid civilian trackers and hunters.
The bad news? Some of the best thermal scopes out there come with price tags that are out of reach for most shooters.
The good news?
There are good quality models available that come in at more than acceptable prices for what is offered.
Top 6 Best Thermal Scopes On The Market In 2023 Reviews
That’s why I decided to review six of the best thermal scopes currently on the market. As mentioned, this accessory is certainly one that requires a fairly serious outlay. However, this can be countered by the advanced build, technology, and included features that these optics offer.
Regular shooters looking to get the most from their day and night hunting trips should find such an investment more than worthwhile.
So, let’s get started with the…
1 Pulsar Core RXQ30V 1.6-6.4x22mm Thermal Imaging Riflescope – Best Easy to Use Thermal Scope
Pulsar may be a newer entrant to the thermal scope market, but don’t let that detract from what is offered. They produce quality thermal imaging scopes at prices that have to be seen as acceptable. A clear example of this is their well-received Core RXQ30V 1.6-6.4x22mm model.
Clarity is easy on the eye!
Coming with a durable, robust build, this scope will withstand harsh hunting environments. It also has an IPX7 waterproof rating that means use in any weather conditions is yours. The scope measures in at (LxWxH) 9.4 x 2.6 x 2.4-inches and will add just 17.6 ounces to your weapon.
Those shooters who are serious about hunting know that long sessions looking through a scope are to be expected. This can be demanding, and eye fatigue is a common concern. While not a magic bullet, Pulsar has addressed this through heat signatures that come in a green sapphire tint and are easier on the eye. The result is longer scanning and target surveillance with reduced eye weariness.
A good quality 384 x 288 core processor is complemented by a fast 50Hz refresh rate. This combo delivers your thermal images via a 640 x 480 AMOLED display. The display is frost-resistant and has been tested to deliver excellent performance in temperatures ranging from -13 to 122 deg F.
Three neat operating modes
The technology behind this scope means that a defective pixel repair feature works behind the scenes. When it comes to viewing options, you have the choice of Rock, Forest, or Identification modes. This means that depending upon the environment you are scouting or hunting in, the best possible images will be captured.
Magnification ranges from a low 1.6x- to a high of 6.4x with steps of 2x, 3x, and 4x digital zoom. This is complemented by an objective lens and main tube that both come in at 22 mm. Detection range is out to 985 yards, while target identification can clearly be made up to 250 yards.
Other features worthy of note are….
Pulsar has included some of the high-end features normally associated with their high-end models. Examples include One-Shot zeroing with freeze function, built-in laser range finder, QD mount, and external power supply capability. It is also possible to set up three different rifle profiles allowing three zero-saves.
Any shooter looking for an easy to use, highly effective, and acceptably priced thermal scope is in the right place.
- Quality build.
- Solid entry-level option.
- Good for the more experienced.
- Frost-resistant AMOLED display.
- Three operation modes give clarity.
- Acceptable price.
- No video mode.
- Limited battery life (carry spares!)
2 ATN OPMOD ThOR LT 4-8x Thermal Rifle Scope, w/Custom Reticle and FREE QD Mount – Best Budget Thermal Scope
Don’t let the title confuse you! This is an OpticsPlanet Modification model based around ATNs respected thermal technology. When it comes to low cost, this model has to be one of the best low cost thermal scopes out there.
Spot your target 24/7!
Shooters will find this a very easy to use thermal scope. It also offers rapid mounting/dismounting due to the included free QD mount. Featuring a black hot and a white-hot viewing mode, it allows users to spot any target in low-light, twilight, or complete darkness. It also comes with a one-shot zero feature that allows rapid adjustment after each trigger pull.
The design is robust enough to put up with the expected wear and tear you will put it and yourself through. Tested to operate in temperatures between -20 and 120 Fahrenheit, it is also weather resistant. Measuring in at (LxWxH) 11.5 x 2.2 x 2.2-inches, this is one of the best lightweight thermal scopes you can buy. It will add just 1.4 lbs to your rifle and can also be mounted on crossbows and air rifles.
Recoil resistance is another factor, and the scope will handle high recoil. In this respect, it should be noted that eye relief is 3.5-inches. The included battery offers a more than acceptable ten hours of use from a full charge.
Mid to longer-distance targeting is yours…
Variable magnification of between 4-8x is complemented by a 50 mm objective lens and main tube diameter of 30 mm. Sensor and display resolution come in at 160 x 120 pixels and 1280 x 720 pixels, respectively, with a refresh rate of 60 Hz.
You also get a custom, multi-pattern, multi-color reticle which is seen as being particularly effective for hogs, making this the Best Affordable Hog Hunting Thermal Scope on the market.
To top things off, this ATN OPMOD ThOR LT 4-8×50 thermal scope also comes with an eyecup, scope cover, lens tissue, USB-C cable, and the mentioned free QD mount.
- ATN Core with OpticPlanet modifications.
- Effective one shot zero.
- Acceptably lightweight.
- Quality reticle.
- Ten hours use. Battery included.
- Very good entry-level choice.
- Low price.
- Black Hot/White Hot color only.
- Some claim the zoom is blurry.
3 AGM Global Vision Rattler Thermal Scope – Model No: TS25-384 – Best Value for Money Thermal Scope
Purchase of this AGM Global Vision scope will certainly rattle your piggy bank! Having said that, it still comes in under the $2,000 mark and offers a lot for the price.
Never mind the weather!
AGM Global Vision provides a good choice of the best value thermal scopes out there. This model comes in at the low end of their pricing range. It has a 25 mm lens that is ideal for short to medium-range shooters. Note: AGM also offers a 35 mm lens version (at a higher cost) that fits very well with medium-range targeting.
Made from robust polycarbonate, it measures in at a compact 7.37 x 2.46 x 2.33-inches and weighs just 1 lb. The design lends itself to 24/7 use in any weather conditions, and it is tough enough to withstand bumps, drops, and knocks.
You will benefit from 2.14 magnification and 8x digital zoom. Color choice of White Hot, Black Hot, Red Hot, or Fusion offers 384 x 288 resolution and high sensitivity detector. Refresh rate is 50 Hz, and the 0.39-inch OLED display monitor gives 1024×768 resolution. AGM states that the detection range is up to 710 yards, with the identification range a healthy 382 yards.
Scope or monocular use. The choice is yours…
Whether you are scouting or hunting, this scope offers flexibility of use. Attach it to your scope or use it as a handheld monocular. The mentioned 1 lb weight means both options offer ease of handling.
Power comes from two CR123 batteries, and an expected 4.5 hours of continuous operation can be expected. However, there is also an external 5V power bank battery pack. This connects via a USB connector to ensure a huge increase in run time. Also included is an onboard Wi-Fi module. This allows for photo captures as well as live video streaming via the downloadable app.
Those scouts and hunters who enjoy the wild outdoors at any time of day or night will find this thermal scope a very good partner!
- Tough and robust build.
- As lightweight as they come.
- Scope or monocular use.
- 24/7 operation in most weather conditions.
- Battery powered and also comes with a Power Bank charger.
- Varied color-mode operation choices.
- Clarity of view.
- 50 Hz refresh rate.
- Onboard Wi-Fi.
- Some may want more reticle choice.
4 ATN ThOR 4 640 1-10x Thermal Smart HD Rifle Scope – Best Thermal Scope For Recording
ATN is a major player in terms of the best thermal scopes available. They offer a wide choice of optics that include the latest technology. Choosing just two models to review is no easy task, but here’s a pair that will not let you down. Starting with their feature-filled ThOR 4 640 1-10x model:
Shooters have a choice of five models. Three come as ‘standard’ but in different shades of ‘Mossy Oak’ while the other two are offered in black. One of these is also classed as standard; the other (most expensive) includes the ATN Auxiliary Ballistic Rangefinder.
Whichever model you opt for, this is a seriously feature-packed scope at a fairly serious price. Having said that, avid hunters looking for that important edge will appreciate it. Along with smooth zoom, WiFi, GPS, and smartphone control (iOS and Android), you get full HD video recording via the included SD card.
Capture your memories…
This smart shooting solution is also Bluetooth 4.1 compatible and offers a RAV (Recoil Activated Video) feature. RAV ensures the action starts as soon as the trigger is pulled. It also gives you the ability to share your hunting sessions with family and shooting buddies. This can also function as a ‘teaching tool.’ Through re-running and studying hunting trips, you will learn what you are doing right and what can be improved on.
It includes Gen 4 dual-core thermal sensor technology, and ATN has taken reliable features from past generation models while adding upgrades. Their new suite of applications includes such things as a ballistics calculator, 3D accelerometer, and electronic compass.
Ergonomic design – close to long distance accuracy…
This stylish thermal scope has an ergonomic design that means ease of operation is always at hand. It has variable magnification of between 1 to 10x that is complemented by a 19 mm objective lens.
Quality resolution is also yours in more ways than one: Sensor resolution comes in at 640×480 pixels, Display resolution is 1280 x 720 pixels, while video record resolution is a very crisp 1280 x 960 pixels. Refresh rate is high at 60 Hz.
Use it anywhere…
Designed to be weather resistant, it is a robust, matte-finished optic. The smart dot reticle comes with five brightness settings to ensure good imaging in any conditions, day or night. Field of view angle is 32 degrees, and focus range runs from 5 meters to infinity. The diopter range is adjustable between -5 and 5 dpt while eye relief is 3.54-inches.
The ATN ThOR 4 640 1-10x is powered by an internal Li-Ion battery that gives 16+ hours of life. Detecting your targets will not be an issue as this stretches to 830 meters (907 yards).
Included in the purchase price of this quality thermal scope is an eyecup, scope cover, and lens cloth. You also get a pair of standard rings, an L-shape ring, a USB-C cable, as well as a 3-year limited warranty.
- Quality smart thermal scope.
- Five brightness settings.
- Close to long-range target ability.
- Clarity of view.
- RAV feature.
- Save all of the action.
- Quite a serious investment.
- Not for beginners/occasional shooters.
5 ATN ThOR LT 3-6x50mm Thermal Riflescope – 5 Color Choices – Best Affordable Thermal Scope
Price-wise, this second ATN choice brings us back to planet earth! It offers a 160 sensor and variable magnification of 3 to 6x. In terms of color, there are two models in black and three different Mossy Oak shades.
A solid choice for those new to thermal scopes…
This is ideal for those new to thermal optic use and, surprisingly, comes in just under the $1,000 mark. 3-6x variable magnification, a 50 mm objective lens, and 30 mm main tube means short to mid-range accuracy is yours. The design also lends itself to recoil resistance even when using high caliber rounds.
“Inside intelligence” is seen through ATNs Obsidian LT Core. It has a sensor resolution of 160 x 120 pixels, display resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, and the refresh rate is 60 Hz. Users will also appreciate the multi-pattern reticle while taking advantage of White Hot as well as Black Hot color modes.
It has a traditional scope look and is made from robust aluminum alloy. This means day or night hunting in a variety of different environments and weather conditions is yours. The included advanced heat detection sensors allow shooters to see in total darkness through dense fog/smoke and heavy brush.
QD Mount & One-Shot zero…
Dimensions are (LxWxH) 11.5 x 2.2 x 2.2-inches, and it will only add 1.4 lbs to your weapon. The QD (Quick Detach) mount means swapping between rifles is quick and easy, while doing so will still retain zero.
As for the one-shot zero function, this means no wasting time or ammunition. Simply move the zero reticle to your first point of impact, and that is it. Field of view (degrees) is 11×8.3, and eye relief comes in at a comfortable 3.5-inches.
Battery life is also ample. The internal Li-Ion battery is charged via a USB type C charger and from full charge gives in excess of 10+ hours.
- Quality at a low price.
- Day/Night use in most conditions.
- ATN Obsidian Core.
- One shot zero.
- QD mount – retains zero when swapped.
- 10+ hours of battery use.
- QC issues.
- Any repair return takes weeks.
6 Armasight Zeus Pro 640 4-32x100mm Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight – Best Premium Thermal Scope
Shooters who have very deep pockets and demand quality thermal imaging should find the Armasight Apollo-Pro MR640 fits the bill.
Mil-Std use in any environment…
This highly robust thermal scope has been designed to operate in the harshest of environments and is Mil-Std-810 compliant. Whether you are a serious hunter or armed for tactical operations, this optic has your back.
It comes with an integrated digital compass as well as a digital inclinometer. This makes calculating distance, direction, and every angle of incline highly accurate. The result is incredible Mid to Long-range targeting with each shot.
Not the lightest option available…
Measuring in at (LxWxH) 10.4 x 3.5 x 3.9-inches, it weighs a noticeable 2.9 lbs. Variable magnification runs between 4-32x, and this is complemented by a 100 mm objective lens (Germanium lens options available).
The thermal sensor is the latest TAU-2 17-micron uncooled FLIR core technology. In terms of resolution, this is 640 x 512 pixels, while enhanced viewing clarity comes from the SVGA 800×600 pixels AMOLED Display. The standard model comes with a 30 Hz refresh rate, the higher-spec unit 60 Hz.
Trademark imaging filter algorithms
Armasight has worked hard to provide exclusive features in this top-quality clip-on thermal scope. Here are five trademark abbreviations you will quickly become familiar with:
- ACE (Active Contrast Enhancement)
- SSO (Smart Scene Optimization)
- IBHEQ (Information Based Histogram Equalization)
- Second Generation DDE (Digital Detail Enhancement)
- SSN (Silent Shutterless Non-uniformity Correction)
Put all of this together, and then add a wireless 5-button remote with the mounted DVR option. By doing so, users can take still pictures as well as having video recording capacity. As for digital e-Zoom tracking, this is yours at 2x/4x /8x.
The scope is powered by either four AA Alkaline or 123A batteries and comes with a battery indicator. There is an included Type C USB connector for recharging. To ensure comfortable shooting, it offers 3.5-inches of eye relief while the advanced technologies inside ensure maximum efficiency.
Six digitally controlled reticles
Shooters can make best use of the six onboard digitally controlled reticles. These are: “Dot 4 MOA”, “Line Dot,” “Cross-Center Dot,” “Cross,” “Crosshair,” and “No Reticle.”
As for color palettes, these come in White Hot/Black Hot/Sepia/OEM Custom and other color variants. This allows customization to suit specific conditions and personal preferences.
When it comes to the best high-end thermal scopes currently available, this one is right up there. It is ready to perform 24/7 and clearly seeks out targets through smoke, haze, dust, and fog. Quick attach/detach is also yours, thanks to the reliable quick-release locking mount.
Once purchased, make sure to return the warranty as this gives limited cover for three years.
- Built to the Mil-Std-810 rugged spec.
- The 100 mm lens gives quality imaging.
- Picture/Video record functionality.
- Reticle & color palette choice.
- e-Zoom tracking @ 2x, 4x, 8x
- Loaded with trademarked features.
- Easy to set-up/use.
- Very expensive.
- Customer service.
Best Thermal Scopes Buying Guide
Next up, I’ll go through six considerations that need to be taken into account when looking at the best thermal imaging scopes. The one I’ll be starting with is usually left until last, but this time it needs to be your first decision.
There is no denying that the best scopes for nighttime use out there are a significant investment. Prices vary considerably from lower four figures right up to five figures that are beyond the reach of most. This makes it essential that you set a firm budget price and stick within those limits.
By doing so, you are concentrating on what is available for the money you are prepared to spend. This will save a lot of frustration because higher priced, all-singing/all-dancing scopes that are out of reach can be forgotten.
Do take time to look at the warranty offered and what previous purchasers have said about customer service. With such a complex accessory, you need to know where you stand if problems arise or you need something fixed.
Have a good think about what your current shooting range is. Then assess whether you intend to gradually increase that range or are comfortable in the zone you are in. It is quite likely that those choosing a thermal optic will have had experience with standard rifle scopes. That being the case, think of what magnification you have been using and how well it fits your needs.
As with standard scopes, thermal scopes come in either variable or fixed magnification models. Variable magnification gives a wider range of targeting distance and a wider field of view. If going for variable magnification, you have a choice of digital or optical magnification.
Digital or Optical?
As can be imagined, the digital models use software in order to zoom into images. While these are technically sound, they are often not so clear when on the highest magnification settings. On the other hand, optical magnification uses lens adjustments when zooming in. These tend to be clearer regardless of the variable magnification range setting you choose to use.
Shooters wanting a quality fixed magnification scope will find models that offer brighter images and are much easier to use. This is because there will be no distractions such as magnification setting or parallax adjustment before taking that all-important shot.
Resolution and Refresh rate
The resolution of your thermal scope will dictate image clarity. If the resolution is too low, your viewed images will be difficult to distinguish. This is regardless of how powerful the sensor is.
The conditions you are shooting in can often demand detailed images if you are to hit your target. With this in mind, it is recommended to go for the highest resolution your budget will allow.
As for refresh rate, this refers to the number of times images change per second. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. If you are to achieve accurate aiming (particularly when following a moving target), the refresh rate should be high. The higher the refresh rate, the less blurriness, and more seamless image transition will appear.
In general, you will find refresh rates come in at 30 Hz, 50 Hz, or 60 Hz. Go for as high a refresh rate as your budget allows.
Detection and Identification range
Don’t confuse the two! As the term suggests, thermal scope detection range relates to the distance these optics can effectively sense heat signatures. Identification range is the distance that allows you to clearly identify the target.
One example given above (Pulsar’s Core RXQ30V 1.6-6.4x22mm scope) states: A detection range reaching out as far as 985 yards with an identification range of 250 yards. These sorts of ranges should be more than sufficient for the vast majority of shooters.
Two important things to check when looking at detection and identification ranges are: First, ensure the effective range of your rifle goes well past the scope’s stated detection range. Second, dependent upon your accuracy over given distances, there is no need to overdo things in terms of identification range.
The design and technology behind the best quality thermal scopes means that they often come with multi-reticle choice. This gives you the ability to try out different reticles in changing environments.
However, if you are a dyed-in-the-wool enthusiast for a certain type of reticle, then consider sticking with your preferred reticle. The other option, choose a multi-reticle thermal scope but ensure it includes your favorite one.
Size and weight need consideration. If you are hiking over long distances through tough terrain, then keep this in mind. If you generally shoot from a stand, this will not be such an issue.
Then think about how important it is to have WiFi capability. This gives you the ability to capture still images and record your hunting exploits. While lots of shooters may appreciate this feature, others have no real interest in it.
Prices vary accordingly, and the complexity of operation must also be considered. If you do go for wireless options and your budget allows, then RAV (Recoil Activated Video) certainly helps. This feature will certainly help when it comes to fully concentrating on those all-important kill shots.
Looking for More Great Options That Allow You to See in The Dark?
Or check out my in-depth ATN S-Sight LTV 5-15x Night Vision Scope review.
You might also be interested in our reviews of the Best Ruger AR 556 Scope, the Best Scope for Hog Hunting, the Best Rimfire Scopes, the Best Scope for 6.5 Creedmoor, the Best Simmons Rifle Scopes, the Best Scope for AK-47, the Best Vortex Scopes, and the Best Mini 14 Ranch Rifle Scopes currently on the market.
So, Which of These Best Thermal Scopes Should You Buy?
Keen hunters looking to increase day or night detection and identification ranges of prey will benefit from a thermal scope. While costs of the best night scopes can be significant, the hi-tech features and functionality need weighing up. If this balance (and your bank balance!) can be justified, take the leap and purchase one of these smart optics.
Of the models I reviewed, my personal favorite is the…
This is a compact, lightweight optic designed for 24/7 use in any weather conditions. Flexibility comes from its use as a rifle scope or a handheld monocular. The 2.14 magnification, 8x digital zoom, and 25 mm lens makes it a solid choice for short to medium range targeting.
Detection range is up to 710 yards, with the identification range coming in at a healthy 382 yards. Image clarity is good, and the 50 Hz refresh rate ensures ease of tracking moving targets.
To add to the pleasure, there is also an onboard Wi-Fi module. This allows you to capture and relive all of the action at your leisure!
Happy and safe shooting.