7 Best Thermal Scopes [UPDATED]

by Travis Pike

December 19, 2023



Looking for the ultimate advantage in the dark? The best thermal scopes can easily tip the odds of any night hunt in your favor, probably the reason they are banned from many game hunts. However, for varmint hunting, their usefulness is unparralled.

That said, thermal optics are very expensive and there’s a multitude of categories them out there with dramatic differences in cost. That’s why I’ve put together an article catering to different users with a variety of purposes and price points. Let’s get right into it

What’s a Thermal Scope? 

Best Thermal Scopes Options

Let’s not get too far ahead of what we are talking about. A thermal scope is a device that attaches to a weapon and allows you to aim while viewing the thermal signature of a target. Thermal optics are not like traditional optics. They are essentially cameras that provide a thermal image to you. Heck, even calling it a camera isn’t accurate. It’s more or less a sensor and is different from a night vision scope.

Thermal scopes don’t just detect heat. That would create a crazy spectrum since everything has a little heat to it. What they really do is detect differences in heat and display them as various colors and contrasts. Thermal scopes can be used during the day and at night to provide a detection device unlike any other. 

How I chose the best thermal scopes

Drawing from years of shooting and writing, I’ve been fortunate to test an array of thermal scopes—some sent by companies, others field-tested at events. This hands-on experience isn’t just about toying with the latest gadgets; it’s about understanding what makes a thermal scope stand out.

My evaluation process combines technical analysis and practical use. These scopes aren’t just numbers on a spec sheet; they’re tools in action. I’ve scrutinized image clarity, resolution, and durability—essential components when you’re out in the field.

Variety matters. In this selection, I’ve aimed to cater to different users, acknowledging that shooters come from all budget brackets. It’s about finding the right fit for your shooting style and needs. These scopes have earned their spots based on quality, utility, and the real value they offer—irrespective of the hefty price tag that often comes with cutting-edge optics.

Why You Want One 

Thermal scopes can be used for a variety of purposes. Most civilian use revolves around hunting non-game animals at night. Hunting at night is often forbidden for game animals like deer, but for nuisance animals, like wild hogs, it’s often legal to hunt them anytime. Of course, check your state and local laws first. 

At night these optics make it very easy to spot animals. They literally glow against a thermal scope, and with the right thermal scope, you’ll be able to tell their size, shape, and what exactly they are before you pull the trigger. Positive identification is pretty dang important, and if you don’t know exactly what you are shooting at, you are in the wrong. 

Thermal Scope Image

Besides hunting, thermal optics can be useful for range defense. If you have livestock, chickens, or other animals that often fall prey to nightly predators, then a thermal optic can even the odds. Killing coyotes and similar animals in the middle of the night has never been easier. 

At the same time, these thermal optics work well for security purposes. Being able to observe and report on intruders while remaining armed can be valuable. If the threat is outside and trying to come in, a thermal optic can make it easy to see, although white light PID needs to be made before firing a shot. 

Thermal scopes are just handy and, honestly, a lot of fun. I prefer a thermal scope over other thermal optics due to their multi-use nature. I often use my own thermal scope to just watch animals in the ‘back 40’ part of my property. Watching rabbits, deer, and similar animals can be interesting even if I’m not hunting them. You haven’t lived till you’ve seen an owl take a rabbit in the evening under thermal vision. 

List of the Top Thermal Scopes

Okay, so now that we understand a bit about the thermal scopes, their types and benefits, let’s go ahead and start looking at my personal list of recommended thermal scopes.

Best Thermal Scopes

Burris Thermal Riflescope
  • Great For Beginners
  • Available in 35 and 50mm Lenses
  • Hot Tracking Feature
Check Price
SIG Echo3
  • Very Compact Design
  • Minimalist Design
  • Made with ARs in Mind
Check Price
Trijicon REAP-IR
  • Adjustable Refresh Rate 
  • QD Mount 
  • Efficient Reticle Designs
Check Price
Thermion XP50
  • Designed Like a Traditional Scope
  • Excellent Sight Picture
  • Long Detection Range
Check Price
ATN Thor 4 384
  • Capable Of Video And Photographs 
  • Powerful Magnification
  • Android and iOS Compatible
Check Price
AGM Python TS50-640
  • High Resolution
  • Built-In Mount
  • Battery Pack Compatibility
Check Price
Steiner Close Quarter’s Thermal Sight
  • Red Dot and Thermal Mixed 
  • Magnifier Compatible 
  • Multiple Thermal Modes
Check Price

Thermal Scope Specifications

Below is a list of our Best Thermal Scopes. So we can compare, we lined up the specs from each of the best thermal scopes below and help you make the best decision possible.

Burris Thermal Riflescope2.3X or 3.3X400x30023.2 to 25.4 ounces9.8 inches
SIG Echo31-6X or 2-12X320x24014.3 ounces4.3 inches
Trijicon REAP-IR1.2X640x48024.7 ounces8.4 inches
Thermion XP502X640x48031.74 ounces12.4 inches
ATN Thor 4 3844.5X384x28835.2 ounces13.8 inches
AGM Python TS50-6402X640x51228.8 ounces8.9 inches
Steiner Close Quarter's Thermal1X320x24013.7 oz5.2 inches

Best Thermal Scopes

Thermal Scopes are expensive. That’s why it’s important to know which ones are worth the extra cost. Because of this, here is the list of thermal scopes I recommend and in which order.

  1. Burris Thermal Riflescope
  2. SIG Echo3
  3. Trijicon REAP-IR
  4. Thermion XP50
  5. ATN Thor 4 384
  6. AGM Python TS50-640
  7. Steiner Close Quarter’s Thermal Sight

Reviews of the Listed Thermal Scopes

Now we’ve had a brief overview of our top picks, let us take the time to individually review each item. In this section we’ll be revisiting our specs, speaking into the product and looking at the pros and cons.

1. Burris Thermal Riflescope

Burris BTS 50 3.3-13.2x50mm Thermal Riflescope

Burris Thermal Riflescope

The Burris BTS Thermal Riflescope is the perfect addition to any nighttime shooting set up, be it tactical or hunting. It features a 4 power zoom and 5 different color pallets to help track your target’s heat signature in a wide range of weather conditions.

Burris Thermal Specs

  • Magnification 1X
  • Resolution 400×300
  • Weight 23.2 to 25.4 oz
  • Length 9.8 inches

Burris Thermal Riflescope Review

Ah, the Burris Thermal Riflescope – my top pick among the best thermal scopes out there. What sets this one apart? Well, first off, its close ties with Steiner, sharing that DNA in quality and affordability. The BTS series offers both a 35mm and 50mm variant, packing in a range of magnifications. I’m talking 2.3X with a digital zoom up to 9.2X for the BTS-35, and a sweet 3.3X with a whopping 13.2X zoom for the BTS-50.

Now, the resolution might not blow your mind at 400×300, but trust me, for the price, it’s a solid deal. That 50 Hz refresh rate? That’s your ticket to a clear view, perfect for hunting all sorts of critters, from deer to coyotes and hogs. And those color palettes? They’ve got all the options—black and white-hot, red hot, and more—to suit your style.

What really seals the deal for me is the Hot Track feature with the thermal sensor. It’s like magic, locking onto the hottest thing in your sight and sticking with it. Plus, the warranty? Top-notch. Now, it’s not the featherweight champ, but considering its features and price, I can live with that. Most times, when you’re out with a thermal scope, you’re not hiking marathons, right?

Sure, it might not be the absolute pinnacle, but for the price point, it’s a game-changer among rifle mounted thermal scopes. Trust me, for what you get at this range, this is the best thermal scope, hands down.

Burris Thermal Riflescope Pros and Cons

  • Hot Track Feature
  • Affordable Price Point
  • Awesome Resolution and Refresh Rate
  • Somewhat Heavy

Burris Thermal Scope Deals

2. SIG Echo3

SIG Echo3

SIG Echo3

The most innovative, direct view thermal sight in the world. The ECHO3 uses SIG SAUER® BDX® technology and can record both video and images in 11 different color palettes.

SIG Echo3

  • Magnification 1-6X or 2-12X
  • Resolution 320×240
  • Weight 14.3 oz
  • Length 4.3 inches

SIG Echo3 Review

SIG Echo3 caught my eye for a few reasons, earning its spot as my second choice among the best thermal scopes.

The Echo3’s design is intriguing. It almost feels like a close-range reflexive optic, especially with the 1-6X variant. There’s also a 2-12X variant if you’re into a bit more magnification, but I feel the smaller design fits this scope better, especially with its 320×240 resolution and 30Hz refresh rate that does a great job of detecting heat signatures.

SIG gives you options—like a wide variety of color palettes, including a Predator impression that’s seriously impressive. You can also record videos and take pictures, adding a fun element to observing wildlife or documenting your hunts. The MOTAC motion-controlled battery monitoring is a smart addition, helping conserve battery life by powering down when idle and instantly powering up when in use.

Now, battery-wise, it runs on two CR123 batteries, lasting about six hours with normal use. But here’s what sets it apart—a big open screen. Instead of being stuck looking solely through the scope, you maintain your situational awareness while using the optic. It’s a big plus for on-the-fly situations.

However, while it’s a neat design and super light, it doesn’t quite match the quality of the Burris for me, especially at a similar price point. Maybe if the cost were lower, it could easily slide into my first-place recommendation.

SIG Echo3 Pros and Cons

  • Open Design
  • Minimalist Design
  • MOTAC Tech
  • Not Great for Magnified Use

SIG Echo3 Deals

3. Trijicon REAP-IR

Trijicon REAP-IR

Trijicon REAP-IR

Trijicon’s REAP-IR delivers powerful thermal imaging in a compact, easy to use package. The core of the system is the advanced 12 micron thermal image sensor that provides superior image quality in virtually any lighting condition.

Trijicon REAP-IR Specs

  • Magnification 1.2X
  • Resolution 640×480
  • Weight 24.7 oz
  • Length 8.4 inches

Trijicon REAP-IR Review

Trijicon has always impressed me with their optics—ACOG, RMR, Acupoint—each a winner. The revelation that they make a thermal sight, the REAP-IR, took me by surprise, but after some quality time with it, I’m sold. The REAP-IR, sporting a catchy name, is a compact thermal optic featuring an efficient 12-micron sensor and a surprisingly clear 640×480 resolution in its small lens.

I opted for the smallest variant with a 24mm objective lens, offering 1.2X base magnification and an 8X digital magnification, totaling 9.6X at its peak. What sets this apart is the adjustable refresh rate—switching smoothly between 30Hz and 60Hz. Trijicon’s array of reticles, including MRAD and MOA models along with BDCs for various calibers, is impressive.

The controls, designed as a thumbstick, are a delight to use, a significant departure from the traditional wheel design. The quick detach mount is a thoughtful touch. However, my gripe lies in its short battery life, not quite matching up to the Sig mentioned earlier. And yes, it’s the priciest in my lineup, but the REAP-IR rightfully claims the title of the best premium thermal scope on the market.

Trijicon REAP-IR Pros and Cons

  • Adjustable Refresh Rate
  • Awesome Resolution
  • Efficient Size and Weight
  • Short Battery Life

Trijicon REAP-IR Deals

4. Thermion XP50

Pulsar Thermion 2 XP50

Thermion XP50

Pulsar’s Thermion 2 XP50 Thermal Imaging Riflescope delivers superior thermal imaging in virtually any environmental conditions.

Thermion XP50 Specs

  • Magnification 2X
  • Resolution 640×480
  • Weight 31.74 oz
  • Length 12.4 inches

Thermion XP50 Review

The Pulsar Thermion XP50 strikes a balance between traditional scope design and top-tier thermal capabilities. With a wide 50mm objective lens, it’s not the most compact, but its 640×480 sensor delivers an exceptional sight picture. The detection range of 1800 meters makes it a dream for hunters and shooters. Despite digital zoom affecting resolution, the high quality ensures a clear picture.

I love the picture-in-picture display feature as it is perfect for precise shot placement. It’s a rugged, IPX7-rated scope, ready to handle recoil without breaking a sweat. It allows for five zeroing profiles for different rifles or loads, but it’s not the most budget-friendly. For thermal hunting, though, the Thermion XP50 might just be the best thermal optic out there.

The only caveat? It’s heavy, so consider that if weight is a concern. However, if you’re after traditional scope design and exceptional image-in-image quality, this one’s a winner.

Thermion XP50 Pros and Cons

  • Awesome Clarity
  • Picture In Picture Is Amazing
  • Traditional Scope Design
  • It’s a hefty optic

Thermion XP50 Deals

5. ATN Thor 4 384

ATN Thor 4, 4.5-18x

ATN Thor 4 384

ATN Thor 4 384 is designed to withstand the pressures of High Caliber weapons. Turn on RAV and let the ThOR record directly to your SD card. 1st ever digital scope with over 16hrs of continuous battery power. The ThOR 4 is built out of Hardened Aluminum Alloy with Impact Resistant Electronics.

ATN Thor 4 384 Specs

  • Magnification 4.5X
  • Resolution 384×288
  • Weight 35.2 oz
  • Length 13.8 inches

ATN Thor 4 384 Review

The ATN Thor 4 384 opened my world to civilian thermal optics. Balancing affordability, clarity, and magnification, its 4.5X base magnification suits brush hunting. Yet, at 18X, the resolution takes a hit. While hefty, its feature-packed design compensates.

Its 384×288 resolution and 60Hz refresh rate create detailed views of rabbits at 50 yards. With a range of features like picture and video capabilities, color pattern choices, and multiple reticles, it’s versatile. A beta test for tracking other hunters adds uniqueness.

But why isn’t it ranked higher? Well, it’s heavy for its capability and pricier than the Burris, which is also stellar. It’s a solid option, but the Burris or Sig might serve better.

ATN Thor 4 384 Pros and Cons

  • Awesome Price Point
  • Tons of Features
  • Great Refresh Rate
  • Heavy and Long

ATN Thor 4 384 Deals

6. AGM Python TS50-640

AGM TS50-640 Python

AGM Python TS50-640

This long wave infrared, uncooled, thermal imaging weapon sight combines easy to use, ergonomic controls with the latest in thermal imaging technology

AGM Python TS50-640 Specs

  • Magnification 2X
  • Resolution 640×512
  • Weight 28.8 oz
  • Length 8.9 inches

AGM Python TS50-640 Review

You know, the AGM Python TS50-640 is a bit of a beast. Seriously, that 640×512 resolution coupled with a 2X built-in magnification? It’s like looking through a crystal-clear window, especially with that quick 30 Hz refresh rate. Trust me, tracking critters with this thing is a breeze!

And the zoom? Oh yeah, it goes up to 8X, and the imaging palettes are insane—white/black hot, rainbow, and a bunch more. I’ve used it for hunting, and it’s on point for IDing targets, whether it’s a pesky coyote or something else.

But, here’s the kicker—the battery life. It’s not the longest. Like, you might want to pack an external power source if you’re heading out for a while. On the upside, it’s tough as nails and got this slick QD mount.

Ranked sixth in my book because of its stellar clarity and imaging prowess, it’s a solid pick for hunting or security gigs.

AGM Python TS50-640 Pros and Cons

  • Super Clear Sight Picture
  • Good Refresh Rate
  • Compact Design
  • Low battery life

AGM Python TS50-640 Deals

7. Steiner Close Quarter’s Thermal Sight

Steiner Close Quarter Thermal

Steiner Close Quarter’s Thermal Sight

The Close Quarters Thermal (CQT) is a see-through thermal sight that overlays onto a direct view of the real world. Designed for soldiers to use in close quarter combat, the CQT is the next gen for predator hunters.

Steiner Close Quarter’s Specs

  • Magnification 1X
  • Resolution 320×240
  • Weight 13.7 oz
  • Length 5.2 inches

Steiner Close Quarter’s Review

I first handled the Steiner Close Quarter’s Thermal Sight at SHOT Show a few years ago, and it’s what got me into the world of thermal sights. The Close Quarter’s Thermal Sight is actually a red dot weapon sight with a thermal overlay that provides a standard clear image with a see-through thermal image overlay. Hot stuff glows green with a normal sight picture. 

The optic has two modes. The first is the outline mode I described above. When the sun goes down, you can use full thermal to find the picture. Heck, you can just turn the thermal mode off and use it as a red dot if you so choose. Steiner includes multiple reticles, easy-to-use controls, and a heads-up display. It’s also super tough and waterproof for total submersion for up to two hours. This is a duty grade optic for police, military, and of course, the everyday Joe. 

The CQTS is a 1X red dot sight but can work with flip-up magnifiers. Still, for close-range use, the CQTS is an absolute game-changer. No longer do we need a massive optic to use thermal vision. The Steiner changes the game and shrinks optics to a crazy low level. It’s very easy to use, rugged, reliable and would be an awesome tool for home defense and short-range hunting. Pop in a magnifier, and you get true magnification without resolution reduction. 

Steiner Close Quarter’s Pros and Cons

  • Super Small and Lightweight
  • Perfect for Close Range Use
  • Multiple Modes for day and night-time use.
  • It Cost 10K

Steiner Close Quarter’s Deals

All About Thermals – Buyers Guide

When it comes to buying a thermal scope, there are a lot of things you should know. I’ve created this buyer’s guide to help take you to the next level and better understand some of the most important aspects of picking a thermal scope so that you are better prepared.

I won’t be covering the science of thermals or how they work, so, if you would like to learn more about that, you can check this out.

To get started, let’s first look at the different types of thermal optics on the market.

Types of Thermal Optics

There are various thermal optics out there on the market: , Clip-on devices, and handheld thermal monocular devices.

  • Thermal scopes – Thermal scopes are made to be mounted onto your weapon and act as an aiming device. Like any other scope, you have to zero the optic, and an internal reticle allows you to aim with the scope. 
  • Thermal clip-on devices – Thermal clip-on devices mount in front of your optic. These allow you to use your scope with a thermal attachment to give you thermal capabilities. They can be handy on weapons you use all the time. However, they require more room and have their own intricacies worth noting. 
  • Handheld thermal monoculars – Monoculars are handheld or mounted on helmets and similar devices. They are used purely for observation purposes and can be a ton of fun, and are often much smaller and easier to tote around. They are not designed to work with weapons and cannot be zeroed, and do feature reticles. 

Specifications and Features You Should Know About

NOw that we understand the different types, let’s look at the different features and specifications you should pay attention to when shopping for a thermal imaging scope.

Resolution and Microbolometer 

Inside your thermal scope sits a microbolometer that detects temperature patterns and establishes the resolution of your thermal scope. Resolution is measured in pixels, and the higher the number of pixels, the high resolution you’ll have. Resolution determines how clear and detailed the picture is. A higher resolution delivers a clearer picture and helps maintain clarity as magnification increases. 

A high level of resolution for thermal optics sits around 640×480. That’s a very clear resolution that delivers an excellent sight picture. However, resolutions around half that or more often provide a pretty solid picture. For example, a 384×288 resolution is by no means bad, especially if you keep the magnification on the low side and work within average hunting ranges. 

The higher the pixels, the larger the field of view. This means you can see more of the world and see it clearer. This makes it easier to track animals and find animals. Field of view can be super important at night.

Refresh Rate 

Thermals are kind of like cameras and screens. They have a refresh rate that helps determine how the living sight picture works. Refresh rates for thermal scopes come in at 9Hz, 30Hz, 50Hz, and 60Hz. When you look through a thermal scope, you are staring at a screen, and the refresh rate is the time it takes to refresh that image. The higher the Hz, the better the refresh rate

A low refresh rate creates a lag in the image. The lag may be nothing more than fractions of a second, but that can translate to quite a bit when hunting an animal. Anything about 30Hz is perfectly usable for a scope. Refresh rate and resolution can be a trade-off at times. It’s easy to find 60 Hz optics if you don’t mind 320×240 resolution. I’d choose a higher resolution with a 30 Hz refresh rate for a thermal scope. 

Lens Size 

Lens size can be another trade-off. Lenses for thermal optics are made from germanium, which is super expensive. The bigger the lens, the more germanium, the higher the cost, and you also deal with larger, heavier optics. The larger lens size does give you a higher detection distance and picks up thermal signatures easier. 


A micron number with a thermal scope identifies the efficiency of the scope. Thermal scopes with a low micron number are more efficient. Like everything else so far, this is also a trade-off. A low micron scope might be more efficient, but that doesn’t mean it is ultimately better for your end goals. 

When it comes to magnification, you have to focus on these microns. A lower microns level allows you to have more magnification with a smaller lens size. That’s not to say that a lower micron level is ultimately better. It’s just smaller with a decent resolution. Smaller does matter when it comes to a rifle scope. Do you want a boat anchor attached to your rifle? Probably not, but maybe. 

If you are shooting coyotes and hogs at night from a tripod set up, then you won’t mind the weight. You might go with a 17 micron optic with a larger lens to have a clearer picture overall at the cost of a larger, heavier, and ultimately more expensive optic. 

Scope Detection Range 

Detection range is the ability for an optic to see heat. Detection range is often the maximum range you can see a thermal signature. That thermal signature might be nothing more than a blob, though. Detection range is important, but it’s not the end all be all of thermal scope ranges. You also need to factor in recognition range and identification range. 

Detection range might show you a blob moving around. It’s picking up the heat, but the blob is not exactly a clear image. Your detection range of, say, 600 yards allows identifying a heat source. The recognition range allows you to determine what you are looking at. That blob becomes a four-legged animal, and that range might be 300 yards. 

Identification range is when you can determine what animal it is specifically. A four-legged animal now becomes a hog, and that identification range is 150 or 100 yards. These ranges are tricky, and thermal scope companies can be a lot like radio communication companies. 


Thermal scopes do not come with the same type of magnification you get from a traditional rifle optic. Magnification is digital, and you are essentially zooming the image in. If you take out your cell phone and zoom the camera to the max, what happens? You lose resolution, and the same thing happens with thermal optics. 

The lowest level of magnification offered with your optic is what the resolution is based on. So if you purchase a 4-18X optic, the 4X is the real magnification, and anything beyond that is the digital magnification and reduces resolution. Keep that in mind. That extra magnification might not mean much when the resolution is too low for it to matter. 

Recoil Rating 

Remember, these aren’t scopes in the way we think. A normal rifle scope is fairly simple, and even budget brands like Nikon can produce recoil-proof scopes for magnum-powered rifle rounds. Thermal scopes are almost more computer than scope. All those electronics can be beaten to hell and broken with too much recoil. 

You need to research the durability of your optic and how it works with the weapon you want to equip it to. Extra durability costs extra money. Basic thermal optics typically work fine on calibers 308 and below. Moving into the 338 Lapua Magnum territory might prove difficult, though. Do a little research before you break your expensive thermal optic on your 300 Winchester Magnum. 

Battery Life 

Thermal scopes chew through batteries, and it’s just the nature of the optics. They consume a lot of power. While they have gotten better, it’s still wise to make sure the battery life will work for your situation. Battery life seems to last anywhere from three hours to twenty-four hours. Sometimes they are rechargeable. Other times, they use disposable batteries for on-the-fly changes. 

It’s wise to understand the battery situation before it dies in the midst of a hunt! Some thermals can use external battery sources, which can mix disposable and external battery sources. It can be super handy at the cost of weight. 

Heat It Up 

Thermal scopes might be the most fun I’ve had with a gun in years. It tickles me to be able to see and potentially shoot at night with extreme accuracy. Owning the night is quite satisfying. Admittedly, it’s an expensive endeavor, and thermal and night vision, in general, is a buy once cry once deal. Hopefully, you’ve learned a thing or two and found the right thermal scope for you.


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About Travis Pike

Travis is a former United States Marine Corps Infantryman and currently a firearms writer, instructor, and works in Emergency Management.

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