Best Night Vision Scope Under $1000: Affordable but Capable

by Dave Chesson

April 22, 2024

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Night vision (NV) scopes offer great benefits, but their performance in low light can vary, despite their high cost. To get an excellent NV scope, do you need to buy the most expensive one though? Not necessarily. Dealing with coyotes on my property, I’ve put several NV scopes to the test. Some didn’t stand the test of time, while others didn’t quite meet my expectations. However, I did find a few that offered excellent value for money. I’ve also had the opportunity to try out some of my friends’ scopes – cause let’s face it, I can’t buy them all. So, in this guide, I’ll list top night vision scopes with fair prices and offer insights to help you choose the best night vision scope for your needs.

Best Night Vision Scopes

Why Get a Night Vision Scope?

Before we jump into discussing the best night vision scopes we have a few things to cover. First, let’s take a moment to understand their purpose and why they’re so highly valued.

Night vision scopes work by amplifying ambient light, which lets you see clearly in the dark. The best ones can digitally enhance images, which is a big help for hunters. Many of these scopes come with features like IR crosshairs or IR lasers, which improve their performance in low light.

Traditional night vision devices use something called an image intensifier tube to make images visible in low light. But now, we also have digital night vision scopes. These offer better image quality and have day and night modes, making them more versatile. They’re often more affordable too.

Whether you’re using night vision goggles or scopes, these devices give you a big advantage in low-light situations. As technology improves, most night vision scopes on the market are offering more and more options to suit everyone’s needs and budget, including high-quality optics. So, with the right night vision scope, you can confidently step into the dark, knowing you have the best tool for your needs.

How I Chose the Best Night Vision Scope

As a former Navy officer, I’ve tried plenty of night vision scopes for various purposes. From my experience, I can easily differentiate the good ones from the bad. When compiling this list, I put each scope through its paces, considering factors such as tracking, reticle, glass, display resolution, turret feel, and value.

But I didn’t just rely on my own opinion. I also talked to other shooters I know, people who really know their stuff, to see what they think about the scopes I’ve listed here. Their recommendations helped me compile a solid list of the best night vision scopes.

Remember, scopes are personal, and what works for me might not be your cup of tea. That’s why I’ve included a variety of options here, along with a handy buyer’s guide to assist you.

Night Vision vs. Thermal

Okay, I get it. You are eager to move on to the list at this point, and so am I. But before we do that, let’s quickly go over the key differences between night vision and thermal scopes.

You might be wondering why bother with this comparison, right? Well, it’s because knowing the difference between night vision and thermal scopes can really help you pick the right one for your needs.

Okay, so both of these scopes are designed to improve shooting accuracy and target identification, but they differ in how they achieve this goal. Night vision scopes amplify light to produce visible images in low-light conditions, whereas thermal scopes detect infrared radiation emitted by objects, enabling visibility in both day and night.

Night Vision vs Thermal
Comparison of night vision vs thermal color modes

The main differences between night vision and thermal scopes are:

Target detection capabilities: Night vision scopes are ideal for low-light settings and often come with IR light to enhance visibility. Thermal scopes can detect targets in complete darkness and even through fog or smoke.

Range: Night vision scopes typically have a shorter range compared to thermal scopes.

Cost: Thermal scopes tend to be more expensive than night vision scopes.

Versatility: Thermal scopes are suitable for a wider range of applications due to their ability to detect targets in various conditions.

Your intended use, budget, and the specific features you require should guide your decision between a night vision and a thermal scope. Keep in mind that some night vision scopes offer both day and night modes, providing versatility for different lighting conditions. Ultimately, the choice will depend on your unique requirements and priorities.

Now that we’ve covered the difference between night vision and thermal scopes, it’s time to dive into the list.

Gun University’s Choices of the Best Night Vision Scopes under $1000

Best Night Vision Scopes under $1000

Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32x50
  • Optical and digital zoom
  • IR illuminator
  • Built in picatinny mount
Buy on Amazon
AGM Rattler TS19-256
  • ADM quick detach mount
  • 8x digital zoom
  • USB C plug for external battery
Buy on Amazon
Night Owl Optics NightShot
  • Built in IR illuminator
  • Picatinny scope mount
Buy on Amazon
Best Thermal

ATN Thor LT

ATN Thor LT
  • One shot zero
  • Available external power kit
  • Uses standard 30mm scope rings
Buy on Amazon
Honorable Mention

ATN X Sight 4k Pro

ATN X Sight 4k Pro
  • RAV (Recoil Activated Video)
  • Spin to zoom wheel
  • Uses standard 30mm scope rings
Buy on Amazon

Best Night Vision Scopes under $1000 Specifications

Below is a table of the specs for our best night vision scopes under $1000.

ScopeMagnificationLength (in)Width (in)Weight (oz)
Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32x504-32X10.51.87536.3
AGM Rattler TS19-2562.5-20X7.418.418.4
Night Owl NightShot3X14.753.020.8
ATN Thor LT3-6X11.52.222.4
ATN X Sight 4K Pro3-14X13.83.036.3

Best Night Vision Scopes under $1000

Here is our list for the best product

  1. Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50
  2. AGM Rattler TS19-256
  3. Night Owl Optics NightShot
  4. ATN Thor LT
  5. ATN X Sight 4k Pro

Best Night Vision Scope Under $1000 – Reviews

Time to get to the reviews.

1 Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50 : Editors Choice

Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32x50 Featured Image

Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50

A digital night vision scope with full color daytime setting, 10 reticle options and 9 color setting choices.

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  • Tracking and Reticle A
  • Glass and Display Resolution B+
  • Turret Feel B+
  • Value A+

Our Grade

A-

Reader’s Grade

A-

Based on 5 Reviews

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Sightmark Wraith 4-32×50 Specs

  • Magnification 4-32X
  • Length 10.5 in
  • Width 1.875 in
  • Weight 36.3 oz

Sightmark Wraith 4-32×50 Review

The Sightmark Wraith HD has been my go-to night vision scope for quite a while now. I’ve always been on the lookout for a scope that offers a balance between quality and affordability, and the Wraith fits the bill perfectly. It’s even won my editor’s choice for the best affordable night vision scope, and that’s saying something.

When I first mounted it, I was immediately aware of its heft; it practically doubled my rifle’s weight. Despite this, the scope’s efficiency is remarkable. It runs on just four AA batteries, and an external micro USB port allows for extended use, which I found quite convenient.

One thing that blew me away was its performance in both target acquisition and tracking. The scope offers 10 reticle options, giving me a versatile range of choices for different shooting scenarios. The scope never disappoints me, whether I’m out spotting coyotes or honing my skills at a range.

The sensor is another standout feature. It’s an advanced 1920×1080 HD sensor that switches effortlessly from full-color clarity in the daytime to night mode. However, I did feel that they could tweak the screen brightness a bit for better adaptability during night conditions. In terms of night vision, though, the Wraith easily outshines its competition in this price bracket.

While the turrets are responsive, they don’t offer the tactile feedback you’d find in pricier models. Yet, the scope holds its zero very well, a crucial factor for any seasoned shooter like myself.

Now, the scope does have a video recording feature. It’s a neat addition, but in all honesty, I’ve never used it. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like it’s a bit of a ‘nice-to-have’ rather than a ‘must-have,’ especially considering it likely adds to the weight and bulk of the scope.

The Wraith’s IR illuminator is another feature that I was both impressed and frustrated by. On one hand, it performs beyond its claims, allowing me to see details up to 300 yards away. But on the flip side, it’s also a power hog. Leaving it on for too long makes the scope practically useless.

Before getting the Wraith, I wish I had known a few things. For instance, having a portable charger is a smart move for prolonged use. And if you’re using a bolt-action rifle, an extended picatinny mount will be a big help for better eye relief. The UI also requires some getting used to, so spend some time on that.

Overall, the Sightmark Wraith is the ‘Goldilocks’ of night vision scopes for me. It’s neither too cheap nor too expensive, offering a balanced mix of quality and affordability. While it’s not perfect, the flaws are minor and easily outweighed by its strengths. Read the full review on the Sightmark Wraith.

Sightmark Wraith 4-32×50 Pros and Cons

  • Versatile reticle options.
  • Advanced HD sensor.
  • Holds zero well.
  • Best ROI for the price
  • Heavy and bulky.
  • IR illuminator drains the battery.

2 AGM Rattler TS19-256 : Best Premium

AGM Rattler TS19-256 Featured Image

AGM Rattler TS19-256

A budget thermal sight with 5 reticle types and 3 color modes.

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  • Tracking B
  • Glass C+
  • Reticle B
  • Turret Feel C
  • Value A

Our Grade

B

Reader’s Grade

B

Based on 1 Reviews

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AGM Rattler TS19-256 Specs

  • Magnification 2.5-20X
  • Length 7.4 in
  • Width 2.5 in
  • Weight 18.4 oz

AGM Rattler TS19-256 Review

Before even mounting the AGM Rattler TS19-256 thermal imaging scope onto my rifle, its specs already impressed me. The resolution of 256 and a 25 Hz refresh rate, combined with a 12-micron sensor, caught my eye right away. It promises a lot of value for its price point.

Setting up was easy, though the rifle mount seemed better suited for lighter recoil rifles, as per my experience and other reviews. The scope itself is lightweight and doesn’t add bulk to your rifle. Button functionality and the user interface are sufficient, serving their purposes without any fancy extras.

Where this scope truly shines is its feature set. It comes with an internal recording function and an onboard Wi-Fi module. Being able to record and share my hunting experiences is a nice feature, but like with the Sightmark Wraith, is not something I have used yet. It also offers multiple pallet modes like white-hot, black-hot, fusion, and red-hot, giving me the flexibility to adapt to different environmental conditions.

Battery life is a mixed bag; it runs on CR123 batteries that can drain quickly. Although there’s an option to use an external power source via its USB connector, this affects its portability. I recommend investing in a good-quality battery pack for extended use.

As for image clarity, while it’s respectable, it’s not in the same league as high-end scopes like the ATN Thor or a $6k Pulsar, especially at distances beyond 60 yards. However, for shorter ranges, the image clarity was more than satisfactory.

The effective range of around 150 yards was sufficient for most of my hunting needs. It particularly impressed me with its night vision and resilience under harsh environmental conditions. It’s essential to note that this scope, like all thermal imaging scopes, falls under specific export regulations.

To sum it up, the AGM Rattler TS19-256 offers a solid package for its price. If you’re new to the world of thermal scopes or looking for a secondary ‘buddy scope,’ it’s an excellent choice. Just remember to have an extra power source for extended use. Overall, it’s the best premium thermal scope one could ask for. Jump over to our full review on the AGM Rattler.

AGM Rattler TS19-256 Pros and Cons

  • Feature-rich at a good price.
  • Lightweight and user-friendly.
  • Multiple pallet modes for adaptability.
  • Limited battery life.
  • Not suited for long-range shooting.

3 Night Owl Optics NightShot : Best Budget

Night Owl Optics NightShot Featured Image

Night Owl Optics NightShot

A low priced, entry level, night vision scope with limited range and battery life.

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  • Tracking B+
  • Glass B+
  • Reticle B
  • Turret Feel B
  • Value A+

Our Grade

B+

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

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Night Owl Optics NightShot Specs

  • Magnification 3X
  • Length 14.75 in
  • Width 3.0 in
  • Weight 20.8 oz

Night Owl Optics NightShot Review

When I first came across the Night Owl Optics NightShot, I was skeptical, especially since I’m an avid hunter accustomed to a variety of night vision scopes. However, this scope, priced under $300, turned out to be a pleasant surprise in several ways.

Firstly, the tracking capabilities impressed me. I sighted my NightShot at 50 yards as recommended, and it held zero flawlessly throughout multiple hunting sessions. Although some users have reported issues with this, the company seems responsive in offering replacements.

The glass quality isn’t top-tier like high-end models, but it’s perfectly fine for the price. I could spot targets at a reasonable distance without straining my eyes. The scope offers three reticle options, and switching between them is straightforward with the user-friendly digital interface. The turrets for windage and elevation adjustments work well, although they lack the tactile feedback of premium scopes.

One of the features I appreciate is its simplicity. Compared to more expensive models, the NightShot has a straightforward interface with fewer menus. This makes it less complicated and ideal for someone new to night vision scopes like myself. The scope also boasts additional features like built-in infrared illuminators, three levels of screen brightness, and compatibility with both Weaver and Picatinny rail systems.

However, claims that this scope allows visibility up to 250 to 300 yards are exaggerated. In my experience, it performs up to 75 yards on a full moon night, which is reasonable considering its price point.

The build quality initially seemed lightweight and a bit plasticky, but those concerns evaporated once I mounted it on my rifle. It felt sturdy and reliable, dispelling any initial misgivings.

The main downside I found was its battery life. I would strongly recommend carrying extra AA batteries for extended hunting sessions, as changing them can be cumbersome.

In conclusion, while the NightShot doesn’t perform as well as scopes like the ATN X Sight 4k pro or the Sightmark Wraith, it significantly outperforms other scopes in its price range. If you’re new to night vision scopes or looking for an affordable entry-level option, the NightShot is a great place to start. However, for more advanced hunting needs, you might want to look elsewhere.

To learn more, read our full review on the Night Owl NightShot.

Night Owl Optics NightShot Pros and Cons

  • Holds zero flawlessly.
  • User-friendly interface.
  • Affordable entry-level option.
  • Limited visibility range.
  • Short battery life.

4 ATN Thor LT : Best Thermal

ATN Thor LT Featured Image

ATN Thor LT

A budget friendly thermal scope available in a few deferent magnification ranges with a one shot zero feature.

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  • Tracking B+
  • Glass B+
  • Reticle C+
  • Turret Feel C+
  • Value A+

Our Grade

B

Reader’s Grade

C+

Based on 2 Reviews

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ATN Thor LT Specs

  • Magnification 3-6X
  • Length 11.5 in
  • Width 2.2 in
  • Weight 22.4 oz

ATN Thor LT Review

Coming into this review, I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest fan of ATN’s scope options. However, the ATN Thor LT pleasantly surprised me in some key areas, although it had its limitations. What immediately impressed me was the exceptional tracking capabilities. The thermal imaging, though in black and white, was incredibly clear for up to 70 yards. The 60Hz refresh rate eliminated any lag, and the glass quality was top-notch. Unlike many other scopes I’ve used, the Thor LT remained fog-free in various weather conditions, which is a significant advantage.

The fixed reticle presented a bit of a learning curve, especially for someone like me, who is accustomed to MOA/MRAD adjustments. However, once I got the hang of it, I found it to be highly effective and accurate at different ranges. The turret design is basic but functional; it served me well during high-pressure hunting situations.

That said, the scope does have some downsides. The effective range drops off sharply after 70 yards, and I found the sensor to be a bit underpowered. Additionally, the magnification options are limited to just 4x and 8x, with nothing in between. I’ve also heard that ATN’s customer service isn’t the best, so the 3-year warranty might not be as reassuring as it sounds.

In conclusion, the ATN Thor LT is an excellent entry-level thermal scope for its price range. It performs admirably where it counts: tracking, glass quality, and overall reliability. However, if you’re particular about thermal imaging and are willing to invest more, I’d recommend looking into higher-end options or considering a night vision scope instead. It’s a solid choice within its limitations and price, but it’s not for everyone. Read the full-length review on the ATN Thor LT.

ATN Thor LT Pros and Cons

  • Exceptional tracking capabilities.
  • High-quality, fog-free glass.
  • 60Hz refresh rate eliminates lag.
  • Limited effective range.
  • Restricted magnification options.

5 ATN X Sight 4k Pro : Honorable Mention

ATN X Sight 4k Pro Featured Image

ATN X Sight 4k Pro

An affordable night vision scope with several features including ballistics calculator and several reticles to choose from.

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  • Tracking B+
  • Glass C+
  • Reticle C+
  • Turret Feel C+
  • Value A

Our Grade

B

Reader’s Grade

TBD

Based on 0 Reviews

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ATN X Sight 4k Pro Specs

  • Magnification 3-14X
  • Length 13.8 in
  • Width 3.0 in
  • Weight 36.3 oz

ATN X Sight 4k Pro Review

After extensively testing the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro, I found myself both intrigued and somewhat cautious. On the plus side, this isn’t just another night vision rifle scope; it’s a compelling blend of traditional and modern tech functionalities. I was particularly drawn to its day and night vision capabilities. While not on par with military-grade equipment, the quality was impressive, given its $700 price tag. The scope’s ability to record hunts and its suite of features like Bluetooth, rangefinding, and intuitive navigation really added to my hunting experience. Additionally, the One Shot Zero feature and Bluetooth streaming offer great teaching tools for new shooters.

However, it’s not without its drawbacks. The scope rings it comes with are sub-par, and they’re likely the reason behind complaints of the scope not holding zero. Although the device performed well on my .308 AR-10, it’s the accessories you should blame for any zeroing issues. I also had concerns about the included IR illuminator for night vision. It’s just passable; a serious night hunter would benefit from investing in a better illuminator. Another downside was the digital display, which became a bit murky at higher magnifications. Also, I experienced a momentary freeze in the scope display at a critical moment, making me question its reliability under pressure.

Given its impressive suite of features and performance, the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro certainly deserves an honorable mention among the best night vision scopes. It is a scope of the future, with a range of features that traditional scopes just can’t match. Yet, it has its limitations, notably in visual clarity and reliability. If you’re a tech-savvy hunter looking for a feature-rich scope, it’s worth considering. But for those prioritizing rock-solid performance over frills, I’d say its competitor, the Sightmark Wraith, might be a more reliable choice.

To learn more, read our full ATN X Sight 4K Pro review.

ATN X Sight 4k Pro Pros and Cons

  • Impressive day and night vision.
  • Feature-rich with recording and Bluetooth.
  • One Shot Zero simplifies zeroing.
  • Sub-par scope rings.
  • Questionable reliability under stress.

Best Night Vision Scope – Buyer’s Guide

If you’re in the market for a night vision scope, there are several factors to consider to make sure you choose the best option for your needs. But don’t worry, here’s a comprehensive buyer’s guide that you can follow to make an informed decision when choosing a night vision scope.

Factors To Consider When Buying a Night Vision Scope

Magnification: Magnification plays an important role in determining the effective range of a night vision scope. Higher magnification allows for better target identification and engagement at longer distances. However, be mindful that increasing magnification often results in a narrower field of view.

Field of View (FOV): Field of view refers to the area visible through the scope at a specific magnification. A wider FOV provides better situational awareness and makes it easier to track moving targets. However, increasing magnification typically decreases the FOV. Consider your shooting environment and the need for a balance between magnification and FOV.

Image Resolution (lp/mm): Image resolution, measured in line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm), directly impacts target identification. Higher lp/mm values result in clearer and more detailed images, making it easier to discern targets, especially in low-light conditions. Consider scopes with higher lp/mm values for enhanced visibility and accuracy.

Generation of Night Vision Technology: Different generations of night vision technology offer varying levels of image clarity and sensitivity. For example, Gen 2+ scopes typically have lp/mm values ranging from 45 to 51, while Gen 3 devices can have lp/mm values up to 64 to 72. Choose a scope with the appropriate generation of night vision technology based on your requirements and budget.

Eye Relief: Eye relief is the distance between the eyepiece and the user’s eye when the full field of view is visible. It is especially important when using a night vision scope with high-caliber rifles prone to intense recoil. Adequate eye relief helps protect the user’s eye from recoil impacts and ensures a comfortable shooting experience.

Focus Range: Consider the scope’s ability to focus at different distances, especially if you anticipate shooting varmints or targets at varying ranges. A versatile scope with adjustable focus allows for clear and precise targeting at both short and long distances.

Versatility in Applications: Evaluate the scope’s versatility for different shooting scenarios and environments. Look for features such as adjustable magnification, multiple reticle options, and compatibility with accessories like rangefinders and ballistic calculators. A versatile night vision scope adapts to various shooting conditions and enhances overall usability.

Price Range: Night vision scopes come in a wide range of prices, from $1,000 to $15,000 or more, depending on factors such as technology, features, and brand reputation. Consider your budget constraints and prioritize features based on your needs and shooting requirements.

Summary

In conclusion, choosing the ideal night vision scope involves understanding the differences between night vision and thermal scopes, evaluating range and versatility, and navigating costs and additional features. By taking these factors into account and considering your specific needs, you can confidently select the perfect night vision scope to enhance your shooting experience and success in low-light environments.

Best Night Vision Scope – FAQs

What’s better night vision or thermal scopes?

For detection and identification purposes, thermal scopes provide much better results than night vision. Many recommend using a thermal monocular for detection, and an ATN X-Sight 4K for identification and shooting.

What night vision scope does the military use?

The US military currently uses the PVS-14 Night Vision Monocular, which is also the preferred choice for many foreign (NATO) forces. This highly reliable goggle has been produced in huge numbers and will remain a staple of night vision technology for years to come. Sadly, these are not available for civilian purchase and use or else I would’ve included them on this guide.

What is the main difference between night vision and thermal scopes?

Night vision scopes use light to create visible images, while thermal scopes detect infrared radiation to provide visibility in both day and night.

How does magnification affect the field of view in a night vision scope?

Magnification affects the field of view in a night vision scope by reducing it; the more you magnify, the smaller your field of view becomes. However, this does not mean that you should avoid magnifying your scope. Magnification can be beneficial in certain situations, such as when you need to identify a target at a distance. It can also help you to pick out details that would help you to pick out.

What is the significance of lp/mm in night vision scopes?

lp/mm is an important metric in night vision scopes as it directly impacts image resolution and target identification, making it crucial to ensure optimal performance.

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About Dave Chesson

Dave Chesson is prior Navy with a specialty in international arms dealing for the US government across multiple countries. Having traveled the world and abided by ATF and ITAR, Roy has a unique background in legal as well as practical capabilities of weapons deployment and use.

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