Hunting is a discipline that requires quite a bit from the people who practice it. As a hunter, you need to have a keen sense of stealth, the necessary physical dexterity and endurance to stalk prey for prolonged periods, and quite a bit more. First and foremost in a hunter's skill set, however, is to possess eyesight comparable to a hawk's.
Just like the eagle-eyed bird of prey is the supreme hunter of the skies, you can be the best one on earth when you can see your target from far away. Unfortunately, hunting requires more than just the ability to see far; in that case, any old 20X scope would be able to get the job done. The best thermal scope can change that.
A thermal scope is a scope that can be used to track the heat that is being emitted by an object or a living being. Since the vast majority of creatures that we hunt will be warm-blooded, they will stand out against the background, as our surroundings are nearly always cooler than our blood.
Over the course of this article, we’re going to be presenting our thermal imaging scope reviews since it can often be a challenge to determine which model will work best for you. In our thermal scope reviews, we’ll be looking at the sets of features that make these scopes some of the best models on the market.
Beyond our reviews searching for the best thermal scope for hunting, we’ll also take a look at some of the features that you should search for in the ideal model. If you’re new to buying these scopes, you’ll find our buying advice invaluable, as you’ll be able to determine for yourself whether or not a product is best for you.
Best Thermal Scope
Winner: ATN ThOR HD 384 2-8X Thermal Scope
If you need the best infrared scope on the market, then you won’t find anything that can match this model from ATN. While this thermal scope may be very expensive, it is well worth the money, as you won’t have to purchase another one for some time to come due to this model’s durability and effectiveness. Specifications:
For example, this thermal scope features an excellent resolution of 384x288, which allows you to see your target clearly regardless of how far away you are from it. Long-range use of this scope is further improved due to the wide range of magnification that is possible with it, ranging from 2X to 8X.
Of course, there are also many additional features that come included with this thermal scope, and they all make it much easier to use. A few of these extras also provide some unique functionality, such as the RAV (recoil activated video) recording system, which automatically records every time you take a shot.
If you would rather choose to record on your own time, you can also set the scope to take photos and videos manually. This scope also comes equipped with an extra-long duration battery that can last for up to 22 hours of use. Overall, this is the best thermal scope we have reviewed, though you’ll have to pay a hefty price for it.
Runner Up: ATN X-Sight II HD 5-20x Day/Night Scope
While this may not be a cheap thermal scope, you’ll find that it is one of the more capable models on the market, as with most other scopes that are made by ATN. This model isn’t strictly a thermal scope, instead featuring two separate day and night modes, allowing you to pick and choose based on the conditions. Specifications:
This scope makes it much easier to spot targets, even in the daytime, because the millions of possible colors allow you to see camouflaged prey. This scope is also capable of recording video in full 1080p HD so that you can share your favorite hunting moments with the rest of your buddies.
You can either choose to start recording manually with this scope, or you can opt to use the recoil activated video system which will record automatically upon shooting. You can also take pictures and stream video with this scope, allowing others to see your hunt in real-time, provided you have an active connection.
If you’re interested in how this scope can help you shoot better, then you’ll love the inclusion of a ballistic calculator, which makes long-range shooting far more accurate than otherwise. The reticle on this scope is capable of being automatically adjusted so that you’ll see exactly where your bullet will end up.
Alternative: FLIR Scout TK Pocket-Sized Thermal Monocular
If you want a thermal scope for under 1000 dollars, then nothing will compare to the FLIR Scout TK, as it is compact and capable, two things that are essential in a monocular-style model. While this scope is reasonably priced, you’ll find that it features a decent level of detail with a resolution of 160x120. Specifications:
While this scope may not feature the longest range, it can still reliably detect a man-sized target at up to 100 yards away, which is plenty for hunting applications. This model will also save you money on batteries since they are rechargeable and they can last for up to five hours of continuous use.
You can even change the color palette that is used by this thermal scope, depending on whether you prefer a classic, black and white display or a more colorful one that resembles IRNV systems. Being able to personalize your thermal scope means that you can be as comfortable with it as possible.
Beyond this scope’s features, you’ll find that it also comes with a range of extras that make it easier to use. For example, there is a lens cap that is included to ensure that your scope remains unscratched. There is also a neck lanyard that will prevent the scope from falling to the ground, especially when hunting.
Overall, this thermal scope is the ideal option for those who need the best thermal scope at a lower price point.
Thermal Scope Vs. Night Vision
Many people are confused by the difference between night vision and thermal imaging, and it makes sense since they operate using similar methods. Both of these kinds of scopes or visual devices use the infrared spectrum to improve your visibility, but they differ in what they display.
While a thermal scope shows you heat waves as lighter areas, a night vision scope will use infrared light to improve what you can see in the dark. A thermal scope will not necessarily allow you to see in the dark, so there are also infrared thermal night vision scopes which combine both of these functions.
Benefits Of A Thermal Scope
So how does a thermal scope benefit you? The main advantage to using one of these scopes is that you’ll be able to spot targets that would otherwise be hidden by foliage or other obstacles. Since any body heat that is emitted by your target will be displayed as a brighter area, you’ll be able to spot any prey with ease.
On What To Pay Attention When Choosing Your Thermal Scope
Before you buy yourself a brand new thermal scope here are few things you should pay attention on:
When it comes to choosing the best thermal scope for the money, you'll have to consider the size of it, even though that may not seem like such a critical characteristic. Most of the time, a larger thermal scope will either be more powerful, or it will feature higher definition, but there are also downsides.
Most thermal scopes are already relatively bulky, but as you reach the larger models, they start to inconvenience you. Most hunters don’t want to have to deal with a firearm that is larger than it has to be, as it makes it harder to remain stealthy and it also makes it harder to handle your hunting rifle.
You’ll also want to consider the purpose of your thermal scope, as you can use them for a variety of different applications. First off, you can use one of these as a rifle scope, and that tends to be a common use, though others prefer to use these as a secondary (spotting) scope, as they are less versatile than standard models.
A thermal scope may cause some issues due to a smaller field of view when compared to regular ones. If you want to be able to see a larger area through your scope, then you’ll likely want to leave a standard model mounted to your gun while using a thermal scope for target acquisition.
When it comes to digital thermal scopes, you’ll have to consider the image resolution when making your choice, as a hi-res scope will make it much easier to see your target. Of course, you’ll also have to consider your budget, as high-resolution thermal scopes tend to be quite pricey when compared to other models.
The resolution of your digital thermal scope will determine the number of pixels that it can display, so it will typically need to feature more powerful components. As we already mentioned, thermal scopes that are capable of more detail will usually be larger so that they can contain all of the needed parts.
When choosing the right thermal scope, you'll also want to take a look at the additional features that come included with it. Some models will come with extras that make it easier to aim or shoot while some will include additions that improve their ease of use or even their durability.
This is one of the most advanced features that you can find on a thermal scope, provided that it is in computerized form. There are more basic forms of ballistic calculators which are known as bullet drop compensators (BDC marks), which use the average height of a target to determine a ballistic trajectory.
More advanced thermal scopes will come equipped with a ballistic computer that will determine where you should aim based on your rifle's caliber and your distance to the target. There are many ways to determine how far away you are from your quarry, which leads us to the next extra.
When determining your bullet’s trajectory or where you need to aim, one of the most important things that you can know is how far away you are from your intended target. Many scopes feature markings which will allow you to estimate your range to the target, though these aren’t precise.
A rangefinder will make it much easier for you to find out how far you are from the target that you're hunting. Most modern rangefinders work using lasers. A laser is shot at the target, and the rangefinder calculates how long it takes for the laser to reach it, giving you your distance.
We hope that our thermal rifle scope reviews have made it easier for you to determine which model is the best one for your needs. Thank you for taking the time to read through this article, and feel free to leave a comment down below to let us know what you think.