10 Best Thermal Scopes For All Budgets [2022]

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Interpolitex 2013 thermal scope

Cover Photo Credit: Vitaly V. Kuzmin, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

ImageProductPrice
ATN ThOR 4 1.25-5x HD Thermal Rifle ScopeOur Top Pick – ATN Thor 4 Thermal ScopeCheck Price
Burris BTS 50 Thermal Rifle Scope Runner-Up – Burris BTS 50 Thermal Riflescope Check Price
AGM Rattler TS25-384 384x288 Thermal Scope Runner-Up – AGM Rattler TS25-384 Thermal Scope Check Price
ATN Thor LT 160 Thermal Rifle Scope Best Budget Option – ATN Thor LT 160 Thermal Rifle Scope Check Price
AGM Python-Micro TS35-384 Thermal Scope Best Lightweight Option – AGM Python-Micro TS35-384 Thermal ScopeCheck Price
Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal RiflescopeBest Thermal Scope Under $6000 – Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal RiflescopeCheck Price
Pulsar Trail 2 LRF Thermal RiflescopeBest Thermal Scope Under $4000 – Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50 Thermal RiflescopeCheck Price
Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle ScopeBest Unique Features – Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle ScopeCheck Price
Sig Sauer Echo3 Thermal Reflex SightBest Thermal Reflex Sights – Sig Sauer Echo3 Thermal Reflex SightCheck Price
Trijicon IR-Patrol M300W IRMO 300K Rifle Mounted KitBest For Surveillance – Trijicon IR-Patrol M300W IRMO 300K Rifle Mounted KitCheck Price

I’ve always thought that thermal sights are perhaps the coolest invention of our time, all thanks to the Predator movie. I still get chills from those scenes where the Predator stalks Schwarzenegger’s every move through its alien heat vision.

Speaking of predators, Texas has been dealing with an ever-increasing feral hog population, raising the bounties for feral hogs.

The state laws have continuously encouraged controlled hog hunting, “allowing anyone to hunt feral hogs without a license on private property with consent.”

Hunting hogs and coyotes during the daytime aren’t as viable, and night vision optics just don’t cut it, so most hunters have turned to thermal rifle scopes over these past years.

different thermal images
Different Types of Thermal Imaging

With massive price drops, ever-increasing demands, and the newest additions of manufacturers that never dipped their toes in thermals before, we get to see some really affordable and quality thermal scopes on the market today.

I don’t own too many thermal optics (the ATN Thor 4 is definitely my favorite), but I’ve done my homework and researched over 20 of the best thermal scopes on the market to compile this list.

I’ve considered the price, magnification ranges, features, and the overall quality of the scopes to help you narrow down your choices.

Let’s begin with my personal favorite.

Top 10 Thermal Scopes

Our Top Pick – ATN Thor 4 Thermal Scope

ATN ThOR 4 1.25-5x HD Thermal Rifle Scope

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 1.25-5x
  • Detection range: 750 yards
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 384×288
  • Display resolution: 1280 x 720 HD
  • Reticle: Multiple patterns
  • Eye Relief: 90 mm
  • Weight: ~30.9 ounces
Pros
  • Well-balanced thermal scope with a great value
  • Smooth zoom
  • Smart range finder
  • Ballistic calculator
  • One-shot zero
  • 18-hour battery life with USB-C recharging
Cons
  • A bit hefty
ATN ThOR 4 Boxed via 4MR Ranch
ATN ThOR 4 Boxed via 4MR Ranch

ATN is a leading manufacturer of thermal optics. Over the years, they basically opened up the thermal scope market and solved the “too expensive” issue with thermal optics.

Their ATN ThOR 4 Thermal Scope might be the best thermal scope with a reasonable price and no-nonsense design that any hunter can use, but don’t think for a second it’s a basic package.

ATN ThOR 4 Night Test via 4MR Ranch
ATN ThOR 4 Night Test via 4MR Ranch

The ThOR 4’s secret weapon is its cutting-edge Obsidian IV dual-core processor with outstanding thermal sensitivity, high-quality image contrasting, and visibility around the 100-200 yard range.

The detection range goes up to 800 yards, while the identification range is 240 yards. There are also the 2-8x and the 4.5-18x models, and if you want a better resolution sensor, there’s the ATN ThOR 4 2.5-25x 640×480.

It has the longest battery life I’ve ever seen in a thermal scope.

With low power consumption, smooth zooming, a 384×288 thermal sensor, ballistic calculator, built-in rangefinder, and video recording, it’s made to be as straightforward as possible.

ATN ThOR 4 Mounted via 4MR Ranch
ATN ThOR 4 Mounted via 4MR Ranch

If you’re looking for a standard thermal scope with all the obligatory functions, I suggest you snag an ATN ThOR 4 in the 384×288 configuration before the prices go up. There’s always heavy demand for these.

Runner-Up – Burris BTS 50 Thermal Riflescope

Burris BTS 50 Thermal Rifle Scope

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 3.3-13.2x50mm
  • Detection range: 1,000 yards
  • Refresh rate: 50 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 400×300 pixels
  • Display resolution: 1024×568 pixels
  • Reticle: Multiple
  • Eye Relief: 48 mm
  • Weight: 25.4 ounces
Pros
  • Durable construction
  • Easily customizable
  • Has a rangefinder
  • ‘Hot Track’ feature is very useful
  • Various reticle and color palettes
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Heavy
Burris Thermal Scope Hands-on
Burris Thermal Scope Hands-on

Built to meet high magnification standards, the Burris BTS 50 Thermal Riflescope magnifies your sight up to 13.2x50mm, which makes it one of the strongest magnifying thermal scopes on the market.

Burris Thermal Scope Night Test via TXGamehunters TV
Burris Thermal Scope Night Test via TXGamehunters TV

It’s for every hunter who’s looking for a sharp image for long-range shooting and a nice field of view.

What makes this a top-tier option is its rangefinder feature, ten different reticle choices, five unique color palettes, and its almighty “Hot Track” feature that helps the shooter track, detect, and follow the warmest object in the FOV.

The BTS 50 is hefty and durable, while the well-made, shock-proof construction protects the delicate lens nicely.

Burris Thermal Scope Night Test #2 via TXGamehunters TV
Burris Thermal Scope Night Test #2 via TXGamehunters TV

The interface has a lot of combined buttons and dials, but it’s intuitive enough, and once you get the hang of the controls, you’ll love how customizable and adjustable it can really be.

Adjusting the contrast and brightness of the scope’s current image can be done on the go, and dialing in your shot via different hash marks on the reticle is super easy. It might be exactly what you’re looking for in a thermal scope.

Burris Thermal Scope Mounted via TXGamehunters TV
Burris Thermal Scope Mounted via TXGamehunters TV

Second Runner-Up – AGM Rattler TS25-384 Thermal Scope

AGM Rattler TS25-384 384x288 Thermal Scope

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 1.5-8x
  • Detection range: 1,000 yards
  • Refresh rate: 50 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 384×288
  • Display resolution: 1024×768
  • Reticle: 5 reticles; 3 colors
  • Eye Relief: 45 mm
  • Weight: 15 ounces
Pros
  • Great for foggy/forecast weather
  • Lightweight
  • Direct video streaming with 16GB storage
  • Impressive detection range of 900 yards
Cons
  • Low battery life of 4.5 hours
AGM Rattler TS25-384 Hands-On
AGM Rattler TS25-384 Hands-On

The now-discontinued Pulsar Core RXQ30V was one of the most popular thermal scopes that hit the market in 2017.

Lucky for us, the AGM Rattler TS384 model is very similar in build and function. It has significantly better image quality, a lens with a better focus, built-in video recording, and a QD mount. Though it costs a bit more, it’s a fantastic alternative.

The AGM Rattler TS25-384 Thermal Scope is compact and built to withstand harsh environments with an aircraft-grade aluminum body.

It has 4.5 hours of battery life, but it’s just enough for a hunting session. Furthermore, it’s complemented by an external 5V power bank and standard CR123 batteries that are easy to find.

AGM Rattler Mounted via Feral Texas Outdoors
AGM Rattler Mounted via Feral Texas Outdoors

It’s great for short to medium-range thermal imaging with a base magnification range that goes up to 8x, a detection range of 900 yards, and 384×288 50Hz thermal resolution with an OLED monitor.

AGM Rattler TS25 At Night Test via Hickory Flat Boars
AGM Rattler TS25 At Night Test via Hickory Flat Boars

Overall, the Rattler is a long stride over the Pulsar Core that fills the void of an affordable and viable mid-tier scope on the market. It’s a powerful little unit with refreshing features that fit the bill for both tactical and hunting operations.

Best Budget Option – ATN Thor LT 160 Thermal Rifle Scope

ATN Thor LT 160 Thermal Rifle Scope

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 3-6x
  • Detection range: 475 m
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 160×120
  • Display resolution: 1280 x 720 HD
  • Reticle: Multiple patterns
  • Eye Relief: 90 mm
  • Weight: 22 ounces
Pros
  • The cheapest thermal scope on the market
  • Lightweight
  • Simple and straightforward
  • High-quality 17-micron sensor
  • 60Hz refresh rate
  • One-shot zeroing
  • 10+ hours of battery life
Cons
  • Low resolution
  • Limited range
ATN ThOR LT Thermal Scope via 704 Tactical
ATN ThOR LT Thermal Scope via 704 Tactical

If you’re an infrequent night hunter and you’re looking for the cheapest option, I give you the ATN Thor LT 160.

Undoubtedly one of the most affordable thermal scopes on the market, it’s compact, lightweight, and stripped down to its bare necessities. It has the most basic thermal sighting with white hot and black hot viewfinder settings.

The ATN Thor LT 160 is limited to low-range hunting, but it’s very easy to use. Additionally, here’s our list of best rifle scopes under $500 if you’re looking for affordable rifle scopes.

It works fine on the 80 to 150-yard range with its 160×120 resolution, 17-micron sensor, 30 mm aluminum alloy tube, and 60 Hz that’s great for hogs on the run.

ATN ThOR LT Night Test via Gun Talk Media
ATN ThOR LT Night Test via Gun Talk Media

The built-in lithium-ion battery provides 10 hours of operation, and the one-shot zero reticle makes zeroing a cinch.

The ATN Thor LT 160 might be bare-bones, but it’s made from high-quality materials that do exactly what they’re intended to do for an extremely low price.

Finally, a word of advice: don’t be confused if you see ATN products with the “TheOpticGuru” name tag—they’re an Amazon seller that mainly focus on ATN brand products. It’s not a scam.

ATN ThOR LT 160 4-8x Thermal Scope Mounted via Trad Archer
ATN ThOR LT 160 4-8x Thermal Scope Mounted via Trad Archer

Best Lightweight Option – AGM Python-Micro TS35-384 Thermal Scope

AGM Python-Micro TS35-384 Thermal Scope

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 1.9x
  • Detection range: 600 yards (350 yards recognition)
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 384×288
  • Display resolution: 1024×768
  • Reticle: Various reticle types and color palettes
  • Eye Relief: 2.36 inches
  • Weight: 13.28 ounces
Pros
  • One of the lightest thermal scope on the market
  • High-resolution OLED display
  • Wi-Fi transmission and video/image recording via app
  • Accuracy correction feature
  • Can withstand temperatures from -4 to 122 F
  • 3-year warranty
Cons
  • Not for long-distance hunting
AGM Python Micro TS35 Hands-on
AGM Python Micro TS35 Hands-on

Here’s another optic from AGM.

Though small, The AGM Python-Micro TS35-384 is reliable, shockproof, and sturdy, thanks to the aircraft-grade aluminum construction.

It has a tight, IP67-rated waterproof design that can withstand all kinds of extreme weather conditions.

It’s great for those of you who are new to thermal optics due to the intuitive controls. Moreover, it comes with awesome features like Wi-Fi data transmission and electronic accuracy correction.

AGM Python Micro TS35 Mounted via North Texas Piggin Products
AGM Python Micro TS35 Mounted via North Texas Piggin Products

As for the imaging quality, AGM is well-known for it. The 384×288 thermal imaging resolution is crisp and detailed, and the OLED 1024×768 display is convenient enough for such a small scope.

AGM Python Micro TS35 Night Test via Feral Texas Outdoors
AGM Python Micro TS35 Night Test via Feral Texas Outdoors
AGM Python Micro TS35 Sighted In
AGM Python Micro TS35 Sighted In

The 35 mm lens system, 600-yard detection, and 1.9x optical magnification are not for long-distance shooting, but it works well around the 80-100 yard range, and the 50 Hz is a nice touch for chasing rabbits.

It uses two standard CR-123A batteries and an external power supply via a Micro USB port.

The AGM Python-Micro is a thermal sight made to be as compact and lightweight as possible.

Best Thermal Scope Under $6000 – Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope

Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 3-24x
  • Detection range: 2400 yards
  • Refresh rate: 50 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 640×480
  • Display resolution: 1024×768 AMOLED
  • Reticle: 13 electronic reticles
  • Eye Relief: 2 inches
  • Weight: 31.75 ounces
Pros
  • Image Boost technology
  • Picture-in-picture digital zoom
  • Abundance of sight profiles
  • Field of vision can go up to 46 feet
  • IPX7 waterproof rating
  • Three-year warranty
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Heavy
  • For such a price, Pulsar could’ve thrown in a Bluetooth feature
Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope
Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope

What I understood from gossip and forums is that the Pulsar Thermion is so good, you can see the color of the hogs you hunt. Pulsar really missed their opportunity to advertise the XG50 like that.

Pulsar’s Thermion XG50 dominates the market around the $5000 range. It’s the ultimate package with Germanium lenses for night hunters who are looking for long-range applications with a 6.5 Creedmoor or a .308 Winchester around the 250-yard.

Pulsar Thermion XG50 Mounted via Outdoor EDventures
Pulsar Thermion XG50 Mounted via Outdoor EDventures

The BAE 640×480 12-micron thermal core is a rare one, but it’s unsurpassed in recoil-activated video recording and image stills. It detects heat signatures up to a whopping 2400 yards, one of the longest ranges in the thermal market.

Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope Night Test
Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope Night Test

It offers eight color pallet options, and the Image Boost technology with Germanium lenses as well as the picture-in-picture digital zoom greatly enhance your viewing quality.

With an impressive range, a convenient field of view, and razor-sharp image quality, I really can’t say that the price of the Pulsar Thermion XG50 is a downside.

Addendum, check out our list of best 6.5 Creedmoor muzzle brakes while we’re talking hunting.

Best Thermal Scope Under $5000 – Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50 Thermal Riflescope

Pulsar Trail 2 LRF Thermal Riflescope

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 2-16x (x8 zoom)
  • Detection range: 1800
  • Refresh rate: 50 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 640×480
  • Display resolution: 1024×768 AMOLED
  • Reticle: 10 preloaded reticles
  • Eye Relief: 50 mm
  • Weight: 28.2 ounces
Pros
  • High-tier imaging quality and resolution
  • Made for long-range hunting
  • Recoil-activated Image and video recording with Wi-Fi and app
  • Carrying case included
  • IPX7 waterproof
  • Carrying case
  • Picture-in-picture zoom
Cons
  • Extremely expensive
  • Limited battery life
Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50 Thermal Scope
Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50 Thermal Scope

If you have the buck to spare, going for the Pulsar Trail 2 XP50 is a no-brainer, and believe me, it’s pointless to waste more money.

The Pulsar Trail 2 XP50 incorporates the same 640×480 sensor as ATN standards with impeccable resolution and highly-detailed thermal imaging that can filter out bushes and animals.

With 2-16x magnification, smooth zooming, 50 Hz refresh rate, 1800-yard detection range, laser rangefinder, and ten reticle options, it’s built to track down the most elusive fox this side of the Mississippi.

Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50 Thermal Scope Night Test
Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50 Thermal Scope Night Test

I really like the PiP mode (Picture-in-Picture) because it lets you magnify the reticle area at the top, giving you an unobstructed close-up of your target. I haven’t seen any other thermal optic that can do this.

Additional features include built-in video recording, WiFi capability, 16GB of internal memory, a rechargeable battery pack of 8 hours, IPX7-rated waterproof design, frost-resistant AMOLED display, and one-shot zeroing.

There’s nothing much more to say, really. It’s an impressive, bank-breaking thermal package built for the most serious of hunters. Here’s our list of best sniper rifles while we’re talking long-range applications.

Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50 Thermal Scope Mounted via all4hunters
Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50 Thermal Scope Mounted via all4hunters

Best Unique Features – Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope

Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 2.8-3.4x; 3-12x
  • Detection range: ~1,500 yards
  • Refresh rate: 30 Hz / 60 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 336×256
  • Display resolution: 800×600
  • Reticle: 6-Pattern digitally controlled reticles
  • Eye Relief: 45 mm
  • Weight: 1.5 pounds
Pros
  • High-quality Germanium lens
  • Compatible with Picatinny or Weaver rails
  • Light and compact
  • 60Hz core
  • Output for video, recorder, and replay
  • Silent onboard shutter corrections
  • External battery supply
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Fragile lens
Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope via OpticsPlanet
Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope via OpticsPlanet

Armasight is another prominent manufacturer of thermal scopes, and the Zeus 336 is a powerful addition to their roster that can be attached to any Picatinny and Weaver rails.

The scope has a 50 mm waterproof Germanium lens with a magnification power of 3-12x, a pixel array format of 336×256, and a wide zoom designed for long-distance hunting around the 500-yard mark, detecting objects up to 1,500 yards.

Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope Mounted via OpticsPlanet
Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope Mounted via OpticsPlanet

The 60 Hz means smooth leading and tracking the fastest varmints, predators, and deer with ease.

What makes the Armasight Zeus 336 stand out is its features like the quick-detach lever, noiseless shutter corrections, single mounting point, optional recorder, replay, and high-quality video output not found in other scopes.

Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope Night Test via OpticsPlanet
Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope Night Test via OpticsPlanet

The FLIR Tau 2 VOx microbolometer core is the culprit for the high price, and it offers impeccable image quality, crystal-clear imaging, and excellent visibility in absolute darkness, fog, or rain.

The thermal camera made by FLIR doesn’t emit visible RF energy or light to give away location, as most SWAT teams and law enforcement agencies use thermals with this feature. So, Armasight didn’t really cater to hunters here.

Best Thermal Reflex Sights – Sig Sauer Echo3 Thermal Reflex Sight

Sig Sauer Echo3 Thermal Reflex Sight

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 1-6x23mm; 2-12x40mm
  • Detection range: 1,000 yards
  • Refresh rate: 30 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 320×240 pixels
  • Display resolution: 454×454 pixels
  • Reticle: Multiple
  • Eye Relief: Unlimited
  • Weight: 14.3 ounces
Pros
  • Compact, lightweight, and durable
  • Great mid-range AR-15 and pistol caliber platform
  • MOTAC™ feature
  • Plethora of reticles and color palettes
  • 6-hour battery life
Cons
  • Narrow FOV
  • Not the best sensor for the price
Sig Sauer ECHO3 Thermal Optic Mounted via Beyond Seclusion
Sig Sauer ECHO3 Thermal Optic Mounted via Beyond Seclusion

The SIG Sauer Echo3 is a rare thermal reflex tracker with an immense 1-6x23mm rangefinding capability and a MOTAC™ (Motion Activated Display) feature that’s practically made for mid-range hog hunting, which also preserves battery life.

sig sauer echo 3 thermal
View of the Sig Sauer Echo 3 Thermal Reflex Sight

It’s an unusual yet compact package, measuring only 4.3 inches in length, weighing 14.3 ounces, and sitting 3.3 inches above your rifle. It can fit perfectly on most AR carbine and pistol platforms.

The Echo3 has a BDX-enabled Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connection that pairs well with any BDX-compatible laser rangefinder optics. You can modify your reticles via the BDX mobile app.

Sig Sauer ECHO3 Thermal Optic Configuration via Beyond Seclusion
Sig Sauer ECHO3 Thermal Optic Configuration via Beyond Seclusion

It offers a couple of great ballistic reticles with range-adjusted holds that work great with SIG Sauer’s trademarked LevelPlex Anti-Cant System with a 0.5-degree scope cant sensitivity.

Other necessary features are the intuitive joystick-like button on the interface with six brightness settings, an IPX4 waterproof rating, a quick-disconnect mount, minute 0.5 MOA adjustment increments, and lots of elevation and windage adjustment travel.

Although the 10-degree field of view with a 1-6x magnification power is decent, it has a pretty narrow one at that. The clarity works great around the 100-yard mark, but the sensor sensitivity of 12 µm is a bit low-tier for such a high price.

Sig Sauer ECHO3 Thermal Optic Night Test via Beyond Seclusion
Sig Sauer ECHO3 Thermal Optic Night Test via Beyond Seclusion

Otherwise, it’s a great motion-activated hog and predator hunter in a carefully-designed compact package with all the right features in mind.

Best For Surveillance – Trijicon IR-Patrol M300W IRMO 300K Rifle Mounted Kit

Trijicon IR-Patrol M300W IRMO 300K Rifle Mounted Kit

Specifications:

  • Magnification: 1x19mm
  • Detection range: 2,000 yards
  • Refresh rate: 60 Hz
  • Sensor resolution: 640×480 OLED
  • Display resolution: 640×480
  • Reticle: Multi-Reticle
  • Eye Relief: 27 mm (1.1 inches)
  • Weight: 16 ounces
Pros
  • Unmatched thermal screening quality
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Waterproof and shockproof
  • Multiple mounting options
  • Video recording
  • Trijicon Lifetime Warranty
Cons
  • You can find a used 2013 Cadillac for a lower price
  • two-hour battery life
IR Defense Patrol M300W via Copper Jacket TV
IR Defense Patrol M300W via Copper Jacket TV

Last but not least, the IR-Patrol Surveillance Kit is more of a doomsday security and surveillance package for the ultimate “get off my lawn” experience.

IR Defense Patrol M300W via Night Vision Outfitters
IR Defense Patrol M300W via Night Vision Outfitters

Definitely not your everyday option, but some patient hunters and spotters like to lie in wait in a clearing, so this works great for deer hunting at night.

It comes with a Wilcox Flip Mount Base that allows you to do side flipping, and it can be mounted in various ways.

The IR-Patrol rifle kit has the Trijicon IR-Patrol M300W Thermal Imaging Monocular with a 1x 19 mm magnification and a 640×480 OLED sensor resolution. It’s recoil-rated for calibers up to the .308 Winchester.

IR Defense Patrol M300W Night Test via Night Vision Outfitters
IR Defense Patrol M300W Night Test via Night Vision Outfitters

It has a 600-yard detection range, brilliantly crisp and clear sight, and the 60 Hz refresh rate allows for very smooth tracking, especially of those pesky coyotes.

Sadly, the battery barely lasts for 2 hours.

The IR-Patrol is absolutely worth it, but only if you’re a hunter that frequents night hunting as a living, not a hobby.

Thermal Scopes – A Definite Buyer’s Guide

Thermal sights were mostly focused on military use and were outrageously overpriced for the civilian market ten years ago. We’re talking over $10,000.

Compared to these newer, cheaper models, they didn’t offer much in terms of resolution, clarity, longevity, and efficiency.

Nowadays, most folks just trust their gut and go with popular brands like Pulsar, FLIR, AGM, Trijicon, ATN (American Technologies Network), and Armasight to go hog and varmint hunting.

There are many brands with different models, so sometimes it’s a good idea to compare the sub-variants of the scopes.

However, if you want to know what you really need in a thermal scope, here’s an informative buyer’s guide. I managed to highlight and mention every little bit of info to help you paint a better picture when choosing the best thermal scope.

Other extras like battery life, rangefinders, GPS features, Bluetooth, or bullet drop compensators depend entirely on your preference.

Magnification

Depending on whether you’re looking for short, mid, or long-range applications, thermal scopes can range from 1x to 16x and above.

The more you zoom in, the smaller your field of vision gets. A higher magnification level may also reduce your image’s resolution, which slows down the refresh rate, so keep that in mind.

The only thing you need to know is that 100 to 300 yards of range are enough for hog hunting, depending on your rifle’s caliber, of course.

Most mid-tier thermal scopes on the market are viable up to 300 yards, so it’s pointless to look for 3x magnification power.

If you’re operating at 100-200 yards, go for mid-range scopes.

Digital vs. Optical Magnification

Then there’s the digital vs. optical zoom issue.

While sights with optical zoom deliver a crystal clear image, even at maximum magnification level, sights with a digital zoom are more affordable.

Brands like Pulsar use a combination of both optical magnification and digital zoom on some of their products.

Resolution of the Scope and Sensor

Don’t mix up the resolution of your scope and your thermal sensor resolution—they’re some of the most crucial parameters of your scope that decide the overall price.

Many people don’t realize that the thermal sensor is just as important as the display resolution of the scope.

Some scopes will have a lower thermal sensor resolution but a higher display resolution, and their thermal image won’t be as clear as the scope.

Focus on the refresh rate and overall screen resolution. This usually means trying it out yourself, but I recommend test screenings so you can see which images are suitable for you.

Scope Detection Range

First things first.

When you hear detection range, it implies the maximum distance you can see that a living thing with body heat is within your scope.

Identification range means you’re able to distinguish the shape of what you’re looking at, whether it’s a man, hog, deer, or Bigfoot.

Recognition range is the tactical shooter’s jargon. In this range, the facial features are visible, and you’re pretty much able to tell whether it’s your neighbor or someone else.

Some thermal scopes allow you to detect targets up to 4,000 yards, while budget scopes can only go up to 1,000 yards.

It’s important to know that this factor is directly proportional to the lens diameter and field of view or angle of view. The larger the diameter, the smaller the angle, the better the detection distance.

I recommend you stick to the 100 to 200-yard range for hog hunting, and this usually means thermal scopes with a 1,000 to 2,000-yard detection range.

As for reticles, I recommend a four-line crosshair reticle for night-hunting. It works for me.

Refresh Rate – 30Hz or 60Hz?

Much like the refresh rate in PC monitors, the more refresh rate your scope has, the more frequently it refreshes the image. This is important, especially when you’re aiming at a fast-moving target like a fox or a hog.

Usually, most scopes have a 30 Hz or 50 Hz refresh rate, which is enough for most.

However, if you want an extra smooth image with a clear shot, go for a 60 Hz scope, especially if you’re hunting fast varmints.

Durability and Weather Resistance

Last but definitely not least, look for tightly sealed thermal scopes like the AGM Rattler TS25-384 that can protect the lens from dust, moisture, and heat.

Protecting your lens is an absolute imperative, and shockproof steel or aluminum constructions work best.

Additionally, the weatherproof rating on your scope is a bit overrated. Just don’t literally submerge your scopes in the water if you can help it.

FAQs

Do I Need a Thermal Scope for Night Hunting?

Thermal scopes are invaluable optics for your rifle that give you easy zeroing and impeccable target acquisition at night.

They’re necessary if you’re hunting nocturnal game like coyotes, hogs, and other varmints and predators during nighttime and low-light conditions.

Thermal optics are usually mounted on AR-15, a bolt-action rifle, or any chamberings like the .300 Winchester Magnum, .308 Winchester, 6.5 Creedmoor, or the .243 Winchester for coyote.

What Is the Best Thermal Scope for 200-Yard Hunting?

The ATN Thor 4 Thermal Scope is definitely one of the best thermal scope options on the market today that grants you great vision and target acquisition in the 200-yard range.

With an attractive price, and all the necessary features like comfortable eye relief, ballistic calculator, easy one-shot zeroing, recoil-activated video, and exceptionally high battery life, it’s an absolute gold standard in thermal optics.

How Far Can a Thermal Scope Detect?

This entirely depends on the thermal scope’s detection range.

Most budget thermal scopes have the lowest detection range of 900 to 1,000 yards, while high-end thermal scopes have a detection range of up to 4,000 yards.

Can a Thermal Scope Penetrate Walls?

No, thermal scopes cannot penetrate walls. Not even windows or glass since the glass acts as a barrier that blocks the infrared light.

Can You Hunt With a Thermal Scope During the Day?

Yes, you can hunt with thermal optics during bright daylight. Though it might be slightly more difficult to see, it’s still possible to have decent visibility and a clear shot at your target.

Can You See Through Fog With a Thermal Scope?

Yes, you can. Thermal optics can penetrate and see through fog, smoke, rain, snow, and even dust storms.

How To Zero A Thermal Scope

Zeroing a thermal scope is not that different from zeroing a standard rifle scope, along with similarly adjusting windage and elevation.

However, you’ll need different targets that are made specifically for thermal scope zeroing, though you can always make your own.

Here’s an informative video.

When you purchase your new scope, you first need to start at a closer range, in comparison to a regular scope.

  1. Shoot your target with the aligned reticle at the center of the target. It usually takes one shot to align the reticle to your rifle, and the impact point should be visible and stand out.
  2. Don’t move your rifle and adjust your reticle until it precisely reaches the tip of the point of impact.
  3. Zero every 50 yards until you reach a suitable range.
  4. Customize your settings if you want to make Y and X scale adjustments.
  5. Save your reticle position and shoot again.
  6. If it hits a dead center target, you’ve just zeroed your scope.

Consult your manual or manufacturer if you have any issues with zeroing your thermal scope.

Conclusion

A well-made thermal imaging rifle scope gives you impeccable target acquisition during the nighttime, making zeroing in on your target easier. Though they’re more expensive than night sights, thermal optics work great both in the day and night time.

They are perfect for AR-15 rifles and rifles with chamberings in hog-shooting calibers such as 6.5 Creedmoor, .300 Blackout, and even 7.62-39 for AK-47 platforms.

Most of these scopes even have a rangefinder and video recorder for your convenience. However, my criteria were the effectiveness in various ranges, clarity, battery, and extras, and then weighing all those features against the price.

I know one thing for sure—the ATN ThOR 4 I use is a relatively new but well-made thermal optic for what it’s worth. It has all the essential features for mid-range hunting, and it’s pretty much straightforward so that anyone can use it with ease and for a long time.

Picking the best thermal scope for you means fully examining your needs, your rifle’s specification, your hunting routines, and your budget.

Stay safe, shoot straight.

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Author

Brady

Hi there, I'm Brady and I'm the owner of GunMade.com. I have been an avid gun enthusiast and hunter since I moved to the Midwest over 15 years ago. It's my passion to share my knowledge and expertise to help you find the best guns in your price range.

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