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Night vision scopes aren’t just for the military. With an explosion of invasive animals such as wild hogs, coyotes, and armadillos, hunting at night has never been more popular—and sometimes necessary. Instead of relying on a nice, moonlit night to make your hunt successful, you should embrace the improvement in night vision technology. The picture quality has gone up, the price has come down, and there’s an option on the market that will fit your needs and budget.
Here are the best night vision scopes you can buy for hunting:
How We Picked the Best Night Vision Scopes
Not all night vision scopes are built the same. There’s a wide variety of options available, and they’ve all got target markets. Undoubtedly, there are times when you need the absolute best of the best. Other times, less is more. But no matter the price or features, one thing almost always holds true: you get what you pay for—at both ends of the spectrum. That isn’t to say you have to spend thousands to get a quality night vision scope. You just need to find one that best fits your needs.
We picked the best scopes on the following criteria:
- Build Quality: What materials went into making the night vision scopes, and how does that translate into the finished product? What is the image quality like? Is the scope durable? The build quality of a scope will make or break its performance and can be the difference between a great night out hunting or an evening full of missed opportunities.
- Intended Use: Will you be using the night vision scope for population control of nuisance hogs? Or will you be using it for predator hunting? How you use the scope will help determine what aspects should be focused on when making a final selection.
- Cost: Does the scope provide good value for the money? Am I getting what you would expect, or more, at a given price point?
Best Night Vision Scopes: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall Night Vision Scope: ATN X-Sight 5 LRF 5-25x
- Magnification: 5-25X
- Reticle: Multiple Patterns & Color Options
- Weight: 2.2 pounds
- Built-in laser rangefinder
- ATN’s Reticle Editor allows you to design your own reticle online
- Depending on your load, you can program the variance between hash marks in Mils
- 4K recording and streaming
- 14 hours of battery life
- Even though it’s easy to use, there may be more bells and whistles than some users want to deal with
The ATN X-Sight 5 scope blends state-of-the-art features with a lightweight design. It even has the ability to record and stream your hunt in 4K. The online reticle editor allows you to design your own reticle and program it to a specific load, making sure you always hit your mark. Add the built-in laser rangefinder, and you’ll be dialed for night hunting.
With all of these high-end features drawing power, you’d expect battery life to suffer. Wrong. The average life of the battery is a surprisingly long 14 hours, so you don’t have to worry about changing batteries in pitch black during your hunt. This scope is advanced as it gets, and while the price tag is over a grand, it offers good value for the included features.
Best Budget: Night Owl Optics NightShot
- Magnification: 1-3X
- Reticle: Three different adjustable reticle types
- Weight: 1.4 pounds
- Choose from 3 different reticles depending on the use
- Built-in IR illuminator
For someone not sure if they want to drop a serious chunk of change on a night vision scope, the Night Owl Optics NightShot is an affordable option. While you shouldn’t expect perfection from this lower-priced unit, it is still impressive. Shooters can pick their reticle depending on use and even adjust the reticle color. There’s a built-in IR illuminator that is ideal for targets out to 150 yards, and an optional high-power illuminator can be added for extra distance. While the battery life is weak, the unit weighs less than two pounds, which is a big deal since some of the more expensive scopes are much heavier.
Best Clip-On: EOTECH ClipNV-LR
- Magnification: Designed for use in conjunction with 4x-20x scopes
- Reticle: N/A
- Weight: 35.3 ounces
- Not a standalone scope, so it won’t affect your regular daytime optic
- Fast QD mounting system
- Has integral auxiliary Picatinny rail for IR illuminators/designators
- Runs on 1 AA battery
If you’re looking to add night vision to a rifle that you also daytime hunt with, look no further than the EOTECH ClipNV-LR. With a QD mount that attaches in front of your daytime scope, this night vision optic is optimized for scopes with a magnification of 4-20X. Best of all, it has absolutely zero impact on your daytime ballistics. Simply clip it onto the front of your optic, and you’re ready to go. No need to re-sight your scope in. All of the controls are easy to use and ergonomically placed, plus there’s an extra integral piece of rail for attaching other accessories. This scope is what some may call “dumb expensive,” but there’s a premium price for an accessory that allows you to hunt during the day and at night without changing optics.
Best Day & Night Use: Sightmark Wraith HD 2-16×28
- Magnification: 2-16X
- Reticle: 10 reticle options in 9 different colors
- Weight: 1 pound
- Full-color day use
- Night use can be switched from traditional green to black & white depending on user preference
- Ability to record hunt in 1080p HD recording
- Programmable for 5 different weapon profiles
- Not true 16x magnification; 8x of it is digital
A truly multi-purpose night vision scope, the Sightmark Wraith pulls double-duty as both a night vision optic and a fully-capable daytime scope. It is packed with features, including the ability to store multiple weapon profiles, and has 10 different reticles to choose from. The Wraith’s sensor can pick up targets out to 200 yards away at night, making it perfect for hog and varmint hunting. Plus, it works equally well as a full-color daytime optic that can even record your hunt in 1080p HD video.
Best for Hog Hunting: Pulsar Digex C50
- Magnification: 4-16X
- Reticle: 10 different reticle types
- Weight: 4 pounds
- See animals out to 550 yards
- Picture-in-picture mode allows for precise aiming without sacrificing the overall field of view
- SumLight software gathers low ambient light for use without an IR illuminator
- WiFi and app compatibility
- 10 hours of battery life
Whether you’re after the meat or your goal is to protect your property, there’s no better night vision scope for hog hunting than the Pulsar Digex C50. A 10-hour battery life means you can stay out all night dropping hogs while also recording the footage to share with your hunting buddies. Even though it’s equipped with an IR illuminator, Pulsar’s new SumLight software does a great job at gathering small amounts of low ambient light and using them for an even better view in the dark. With the ability to see out to 550 yards and picture-in-picture capabilities, you can really reach out and touch the hogs with this night vision scope.
Things to Consider When Buying a Night Vision Scope
Hunting with a night vision scope is an effective way to increase success on animals like hogs, coyotes, armadillos, and other species. But your choice of optic is going to depend on the type of game you’re hunting and how you plan to hunt them. Here are three important decisions before buying a night vision scope:
How are you planning to use the scope? Will it only be for hunting nuisance hogs and other predators at night? Or do you need a scope that can double as a normal optic during the day? These important questions are going to help narrow down your options.
You also need to consider the distance you plan on shooting at and the magnification of the scope. Optics with a higher magnification are usually more expensive. But if you determine the effective range you plan to shoot at, you may learn that you don’t need a scope with crazy magnification.
Price isn’t always indicative of quality. There are plenty of overpriced pieces of junk on the market, and there are equal numbers of underpriced overperformers. Figure out your budget and then focus on use and features. This will allow you to find exactly what you need at a price you can accord.
Q: Can I use a night vision scope during the day?
That depends. If your scope is strictly designed for night vision, then no, you cannot use it during the day. Doing so will damage it. If, however, you have a scope that is specifically designed for night vision and daytime use, then yes, you can use it during the day. Just make sure you are using the correct settings.
Q: Is night vision legal for civilians?
While many people conjure up images of special ops soldiers using night vision on high-risk missions, the truth is that night vision is perfectly legal for civilians to own and use. Night vision is a great tool for hunters, trappers, and when scouting for game.
Q: What is the difference between thermal imaging and night vision?
Thermal imaging, otherwise called infrared, doesn’t require any light to allow you to be able to see in the dark. Night vision, on the other hand, works by amplifying visible light in the immediate vicinity.
Best Night Vision Scopes: Final Thoughts
Whether you absolutely need a night vision scope or you just want one because they’re cool, we’re not here to judge. The technology is pretty sweet, and our favorite scope for nighttime is the ATN X-Sight 5. But if you are looking to save some money, consider the Night Owl NightShot—it cost under $400 and will get the job done for most after-dark hunting adventures.
Why Trust Us
For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.