For the most part, when selecting a thermal scope or thermal sighting system, the buyer needs to be aware of several things.
First of all, in most cases you are going to get exactly what you are paying for with these systems. Low budget and low grade equipment will fail in the field or at best just provide a minimum of workable performance.
Secondly, stay with the name brands. These outfits have been building and designing these night sights for years and as such a whole lot of R&D has gone into them.
As the third point here is by staying with name brand outfits you are also buy better grade materials that make up your sighting system. The average thermal sight has a whole lot of science built into it and as such even a small deviation from the best approach to an issue will return less than positive performance.
The thermal sight can see whereas the old school Star Light or ambient light gathering systems just can’t hold up against them. While the light gathering units pull light even from starlight in the dead of a cold black night, the thermal searches for any source of heat. Humans and animals give off heat and that becomes the signature pattern for the scopes crosshair system after dark. As there are many different variations when it comes to thermal scope designs, I will select some different models and give you the reader some idea of what is different about each of them.
My Picks for Thermal Scope
- The Brand Worth For?
- Best Thermal Scope On The Market
- 1. ATN Thor HD 640 Thermal
- 2. ATN ThOR 4
- 3. ATN Thor LT
- 4. Torrey Pines Logic T12-N Thermal Imaging Sight
- 5. Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Thermal
- 6. Trijicon Electro Optics Sniper-Ir Thermal Clip On 35mm Compact
- 7. IR Defense IR Hunter Mark II 640 60hz 35mm Thermal Rifle Scope
- 8. Trijicon Teo IR- Hunter Teo. IRMKS-60 Thermal
- 9. Optic Guru Thor LT Thermal
- 10. Pulsar Core Thermal Monocular
- 11. Pulsar Trail XP38 1.2-9.6×32
- 12. Pulsar Thermion XM50 5.5-22×42
- 13. Armasight by FLIR Zeus
- 14. FLIR Thermosight Pro PTS233
- Thermal Scope Vs Night Vision Scope Vs infrared Vs Flir
The Brand Worth For?
Few strong brands are offering a range of quality thermal imagers widely used by military and law enforcement personnel. Still, their products can be often seen in the hands of civilians and other commercial consumers.
One of the more prominent names in the industry and a leader in infrared technology is a Forward-Looking Infrared system (FLIR). FLIR Systems are producers of a special variant of infrared thermal sensors that the majority of thermal optics uses.
The FLIR Systems are responsible for many innovative products and technologies that are used today, with most of their products being used for industrial purposes. Although the FLIR manufactures thermal imagers for a myriad of sectors including military-grade thermal imagers, their very expensive thermal weapon sights and monoculars are often used for hunting, animal research observation, and outdoor activities.
Another great company offering the peak of performance in the thermal vision industry is American Technologies Network, Corp. (ATN) with headquarters in San Francisco, CA. This manufacturer of superb night vision optics and thermal imaging gear is one of the leading companies in the sector of thermal technology offering thermal weapon scopes, monoculars and goggles.
ATN features a professional line of thermal vision, which is a fantastic choice for higher-end uses, but luckily most of their popular models come within mid-price range.
Pulsar by Yukon Advanced Optics is on par with the other two brands in most respects since it is built on a Mil-Spec platform. Pulsar is a renowned brand with a long reputation for producing night vision scopes, but from 2012 they have turned their hands to making thermal imaging devices with great success. Pulsar thermal scopes come with an affordable price making them a favorite of many hunters and wildlife enthusiasts.
Armasight makes good products that are not as popular as FLIR or ATN, but they are likely to become so. Besides night vision optics, Armasight Company is offering thermal Imaging products like scopes, goggles, and monoculars with the greatest price-to-performance ratio.
While Armasight focuses on supporting military and law enforcement professionals, they also produce a wide range of high-quality thermal imaging devices. Actually, the Armasight series of thermal optics are using the thermal imaging cores made by FLIR.
Best Thermal Scope On The Market
1. ATN Thor HD 640 Thermal
This is a thermal sight that is designed for the advanced shooter as in a professional operator, police, military, or government hunter. The system is complicated in that it will produce image stabilization, range finding and ballistics calculating. The unit also retains IOS and Android apps making this a very advanced system.
The image quality returned by the sight is high quality and using the 640X480 sensor, the night vision detects even very small amounts of heat energy downrange. The sight will allow the shooter to see targets giving off heat in complete darkness.
Shot placement and ranging control are taken care of via the ballistics program system built into the sight. This will aid the shooter in gaining the corrected data (DOPE ) regarding the correct sighting adjustment at longe range targets. This suggests that the scope is built to pull in heat registered target at long ranges. As to exact range, the information I have checked through is not giving any specific range limits.
The unit retains HV video recording and well as very fast zoom magnification as applied to intended targets.
2. ATN ThOR 4
There is an upgraded model of this sight ATN Thor 4. 640×480. This new model carries an upgraded next Gen sensor system with WIFI, Image Stabilization, and range finding abilities as well.
The second generation scope also carries the Android Apps and ballistics calculator. As in the first model this scope is of a professional grade and designed for serious night vision work in the field. That being warm target events or area shooting applications in a military type setting.
3. ATN Thor LT
This third in the series of ATN scopes is an advanced model but at a more workable price considering the number of features involved in the sights design. This is a thermal scope that will pull targets at longer ranges and do so with excellent image quality.
The scope is designed to run on minimum power levels and that means better battery life in the field. This is an issue I have found with my older series ATN system in that battery power is drained fast. Take coyote hunting for a night long event. You are likely not to make it to first light using some of the older system. Not to say this scope is going to make that trip regarding performance time ether, as weather conditions and time on target can make some major differences in sighting performance levels.
This scope is built in the traditional design, it uses a 30mm well constructed main tube built with a hardened aluminum alloy.
The scope retains a 10+ hour battery life (in general terms), the sight makes use of a “one shot zero” system so as to save of ammunition when pulling in that bullet to a correct impact point.
This scope is very lightweight and I can say for a fact that some systems I have used turn a firearm like a Ruger Mimi 14 or Ar-15 by example to doubles its normal carry weight. This makes for slower response time when moving from a rest to active shooing position, and also tends to result in fatigue if humped across country for very long. In short, this scope works at defeat some of the illustrated issues.
4. Torrey Pines Logic T12-N Thermal Imaging Sight
In general, I do not feature optics that are very hard to squire or out of production. In this case, this sight is not currently available at this time. I have included the sight because of its very compact design and that is interesting when a simple sight can be transferred to both rifles and shotguns through the use of a simple Weaver base mounting design.
This sight is very compact and designed much like a HUD display or red dot window sight. It is hard to even understand how enough technology was introduced into this sight so as to allow it to function as a thermal sighting system.
This sight retains an onboard image processing enhancement mode. Manual and automatic NUC capability, temperature readouts and battery power readouts as well.
The sight retains an auto power saving mode and multiple display views. The effective range is 120m, 80 x 60 pixels, with a box reticle and no crosshairs marked by FLIR Leptons, frame rate 30Hz, shutter, and a total carry weight of 109 grams. In short a major package in a very small container. Weaver style mounting is fast and carries the ability to remove and remount in seconds.
5. Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Thermal
Moving into the real big guys that require your oil well to come in before buying, we have the professional grade ( military ) Mini thermal riflescope. These scopes are so expensive that they are almost never stacked on the dealer shelves.
The system is state of the art, the production quality is outstanding and their primary use in the field is to see varmint, game, or bad guys where required after dark.
The scope is a 35mm compact system 640 x 480 thermal sensor, digital contrast enhancement ( DCE ), digital focus control ( DFC) stadiametric ranging and an edge detection mode reticle. The scope carries much more in terms of application technology and a study in detail is required if interested in moving into this range of night vision optical systems,
- Scope dimensions 6.5 x 3.0 x 2.95 inches.
- Scope weight 20.8 oz
- Battery life 4 HRs CR 123.
6. Trijicon Electro Optics Sniper-Ir Thermal Clip On 35mm Compact
This compact sight is designed to fit upfront of an optical day sight or stand alone for night operations. Size matters here and this is a specialized sight for both day and night work when required. ( changeable in terms of quick mounting )
The scope has a no-shot zero function, control and is optimized for 4X32 ACOG. In effect a combat style sight first and foremost.
There is a mass of technical details regarding the optical system, and that overload of information is best left to the serious buyer when the times come to put down the hard cash for the product.
During the writing of my last of three rifle books, I interviewed US Army snipers that were fighting in the middle east and learned first had as to exactly what those brave men encountered in the field. Without question systems like those offered by Trijicon would meet those kinds of needs.
Trijicon night optics meet the task at hand.
7. IR Defense IR Hunter Mark II 640 60hz 35mm Thermal Rifle Scope
This scope is designed for the hunter and retains a BAE core Microsoft detection range of +1000 yards. Resolution quality is 640 x 480 with a video frame rate of 30hz. The magnification on the scope is 2.5 x 20 and the battery life of the system is 5 hours of continuous use. The power supply is made up of 2 CR 123A batteries.
- Warranty period for the total unit is three years.
- Size mounted 10.3 X 5.4 X 5 inches, Total weight 2.5 pounds.
- Manufacture IR Defense
8. Trijicon Teo IR- Hunter Teo. IRMKS-60 Thermal
Up at this point in time, the primary emphasis has been professional night vision optics. Now the worm turns toward the hunter and still in the area of a very high end product but built for the point and shoot gunner that wants to see his target at long range, take it out and proceed on to the next gun hunter situation. Not that this scope has no added tools because it has all the bells and whistles attached to its core system. But the primary setup is a straight forward night sight, and shoot perfected American built after dark gunning system.
Tack this baby onto your AR-15, Ruger Mini-14, or Ak 47, and your home free after the lights go out.
Features on the scope include the following. The scope retains a 60mm objective lens, 640 x 480 thermal sensor enhanced target recognition (etr), and digital contract enhancement (dce). The unit also makes use of a stadiametric rangefinder along with windage and elevation position readouts. The unit has a fixed digital zoom system as well.
9. Optic Guru Thor LT Thermal
This sight offering is priced a bit lower than some of the others presented here but still retains many of the other advanced thermal scopes features. Keep in mind that when you moving to a thermal night sighting system, you are moving into a whole different world of technology and that always comes at a price. This equipment regardless of the manufacture is not cheap as you have well observed by now,
The Optic Guru will still push well over a grand in price but retains an advanced heat detection system.
The scope will allow you to see in total darkness, fog, smoke, and even heavy vegetation.
The system is built around a 30mm main tube which allows standard weaver style mount or other base ring systems to secure the scope to your firearm.
High performance with low power requirements. The unit will use a battery every 10 hours of service. This scope is designed as a lightweight unit, I can attest to the fact that my starlight systems ( lower costing ) double the weight of my rifles and shotguns when set up for field use. Estimated effective range 300 to 400 yards when correctly adjusted for viewing.
For the most part, the primary advantage of this scope is it is exactly what it needs to be, a thermal sighting system for night shooting. No other tacked on junk to get in the way. Military snipers I have again interviewed regarding night shooting, and some did just that for full tours in the sandbox stated that their systems spotted, sighted, and took on the enemy. As such, end of the story, versus making movies, factoring range, and checking the weather on the same optical system.
During one review I was issue one of the highly complicated scopes and found that it was nasty to adjust, took time away from hunting in terms of setup in the field, and in general was not my kind of equipment at all. I guess I am a hunter/shooter first and not much of a tech nerd at all.
10. Pulsar Core Thermal Monocular
Currently, at the civilian market, you can find three types of thermal imaging devices, known as standalone thermal scopes, thermal clip-on attachments and thermal monoculars. As a hybrid version of monocular and standard scope, the Pulsar Core FXQ50 gives you the best of both worlds.
This clip-on device is a handheld thermal imager for spotting wildlife, but it also can be attached to your regular daylight riflescope and used as a thermal imaging night sight. In both roles, the FXQ50 CORE model is capable of detecting targets out to 1,800 yards while you will able to engage a man-sized object out to 1,200 yards without any issues.
The Pulsar CORE FXQ series includes two models of thermal clip-on thermal imaging attachments called the Pulsar CORE FXQ38 and the FXQ50. Both models should be mounted in front of your daytime scope, making it a bit longer and streamlined.
While externally almost identical, the version with the 50mm focal length lens has the capability for a 2x digital zoom adjustment and 5x in total, which is a better solution for higher powered daytime riflescopes. Moreover, when using it as a handheld device in combination with an optional 3.1x magnification eyepiece accessory FXQ50 offers you an increased magnification to 6.2x.
The Pulsar CORE FXQ50 features three automatic operating modes that include the optimal combination of parameters to carry out the best possible image in specific viewing conditions.
This versatile thermal clip-on unit can be mounted in front of most hunting daytime riflescopes and it has on the top 4 function/power buttons and a focus ring near the front.
At fast refresh rate of 50Hz and a high-resolution 384×288 sensor, FXQ50 can be used both in broad daylight and night conditions. This CORE FXQ device is equipped with a monochromatic green 640×480 OLED that features excellent contrast and sharpness.
The Core FXQ50 thermal Clip-On attachment comes with an eyepiece and an adapter that install to a corresponding Pulsar mount, sold separately. Pulsar CORE FXQ thermal imaging attachment will turn your normal scope into a thermal scope without affecting zero.
This lightweight and very compact thermal imaging converter are powered by two CR123A batteries that provide about 4 hours of continuous operation.
Although this unit was designed for the hunter in mind, it has a wide range application including night hog and predators hunting, observation, as well as search and rescue operations.
11. Pulsar Trail XP38 1.2-9.6×32
With so few players in the thermal optics field, Pulsar brand is unique by their high-quality products with many extras such as the ability to save and store actual view or transmit your video stream to an external device.
Pulsar Trail product range offers models based on the 384×288 and 640×480 pixel thermal imaging sensors. Trail scopes with XQ index are based on a lower resolution, whereas the XP models come with a new cutting-edge 640×480 thermal sensor and have 17-µm pixel pitch.
The Pulsar Thermal Imaging Sight Trail XP50 boasts a high refresh rate of 50Hz to enable you quickly tracking even the moving targets. The Pulsar Trail XP50 uses high 640×480-pixel resolution sensor core to detect heat signatures of the human-size target out to 2,000 yards with the highest level of detail.
The nighttime hunter will get a clear, instantly recognizable image with optical magnification ranging from 1.6x to 12.8x. Besides, you may use digital zoom out to 8x for rapid target acquisition. As a Trail’s top model, XP sports thirteen different reticle options and choices of color palettes including the white-hot or black-hot display.
The Trail package includes a remote control and a picture-in-picture zoom, which provides you with a magnified image of the reticle area.
Using Pulsar rechargeable B-pack lithium-ion batteries, you get an incredible eight hours of run-time with an option of purchasing an additional battery pack for up to 20 hours of battery life.
Pulsar’s Trail series of thermal riflescopes is the best value for the money as it offers the dedicated hunter a highly specialized piece of equipment designed for the use both at night and in the daylight.
12. Pulsar Thermion XM50 5.5-22×42
Unlike most of the thermal imagers on the market, the new generation of Pulsar thermal weapon sights comes with a sleek and streamlined exterior that resembles a traditional, daytime riflescope.
Featuring an all-metal (magnesium-alloy) optic housing and built on a 30mm main tube, the new series of Pulsar Thermion standalone thermal riflescopes changes the game in thermal technology.
Like with other Pulsar families of night vision equipment, they released two series of Thermion scopes with prefixes XP and XM. Both series come with XP choice of 38mm and 50mm front objective lenses, but the flagship XP is available in 640×480-microbolometer sensor resolution with a 17μ pixel pitch. At the same time, the more reasonably priced XM features 320×240 microbolometer sensor resolution with 12μ pixel pitch.
Behind the quite unremarkable outward appearance of the optronic device, the Pulsar Thermion XM50 boasts a 2,500-yard detection range, a stadiametric rangefinder and built-in recording with recoil activation.
Using the standard 30mm rings, the Thermion thermal sight resembles a classic hunting riflescope with traditional-style aircraft-grade 30 mm-tube. In addition, somewhat similar positioned controls to offer you the natural feel of the Thermion behind a bolt-action rifle.
The classical bell-shaped 50mm objective features the fully coated high-quality Germanium front lens, while the system yields a 5.5x native magnification with up to 4x digital zoom. The Thermion comes with seven “standard” digital reticles in up to 4 colors and an integrated still image and video recording feature.
Each Thermion riflescope comes with the large focus ring, the three-button control panel on top of the eyepiece and three tall turrets. Whereas the left side knob is used for the reticle brightness controls, the top turret is keeping the replaceable battery of the dual power system, and the third one that typically housing windage control now hides the USB port.
Anyway, with its elegant, streamlined and traditional appearance, the Thermion XM50 will provide the cutting-edge thermal Imaging for professional outdoorsmen who appreciate traditions and seek technological superiority.
13. Armasight by FLIR Zeus
The Armasight Zeus 336 series arrives in 10 different models, perfect for professionals, casual thermal scope enthusiasts as well as for scanning fields or game tracking.
Unlike cheap thermal scope, this Armasight thermal sight is based on the proven microbolometer core. In fact, this Tactical Riflescope is using the latest FLIR Tau 2 VOx microbolometer core. The FLIR uncooled, long-wave infrared technology allows you to easily detect objects up to 1,500 yards, with positive identification of deer and human-size targets at 1,000 yards.
It is enabled with 4 times optical zoom and variable magnification ranging from 3x to 12x magnification, assisted by a 4x digital e-zoom function for even tighter work. As its name suggests, the Armasight 336 thermal scope comes with 336×256 pixel array format, whereas this particular model offers a 60-Hertz refresh rate. The higher refresh rate ensures smooth target tracking even while moving at high speeds.
While the front scope side features 50mm Germanium objectives, the ocular is instead a traditional lens, an AMOLED SVGA display with a resolution of 800×600. The AMOLED display has 8 different brightness levels, and eye relief is 45mm from the display.
The Armasight Zeus 336 Thermal Scope weapon sight offers multiple reticles and color pallets options for clearer contrasts. The Armasight Zeus 336 thermal imaging riflescope features a video-out capability and comes with wireless remote control.
As the smallest and lightest in its class, the Zeus 336 can be used as a handheld imager or magnified spotting scope. However, this Armasight Zeus thermal rifle scope is based on the MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny Rail) with a quick-release locking mechanism so it would be a prime choice for mounting on AR-15 style rifles.
14. FLIR Thermosight Pro PTS233
FLIR has long been the forerunner in thermal Imaging for the military and with the acquisition of Armasight, they start developing a line of thermal optics for civilian purposes. After their Predator and Zeus line, Flir released the newest series of thermal scopes called Thermosight. The ThermoSight Pro lineup includes their models named as the PTS233, PTS536, and PTS736.
Our suggestion is the smallest one, entry-level thermal scope, the PTS233. It comes with a smaller thermal sensor allowing it to be lighter and more compact than similar counterparts. Since it is equipped with 19mm, f/1.0 germanium lens and optical magnification of 1.5X, the PTS233 is obviously developed for use at closer ranges. It means that the Flir Thermosight PRO PTS233 can detect target a little over 500 yards with the effective detection range to be between 300 and 400 yards.
The FLIR Thermosight PRO PTS233 thermal scope uses an uncooled thermal detector made out of Vanadium Oxide that comes in 320×256 resolution. This compact thermal riflescope uses the same 12-micron FLIR Boson thermal core as the other two models
This Flir ThermoSight Pro weapons sight provides brilliant, clean thermal Imaging to the viewer who has been upgraded to AMOLED with 800×600 pixels.
Being the top of the line series in this industry, the FLIR ThermoSight Pro line sports the fast 60 Hz refresh rate designed to offer crisp and smoother images of moving targets.
Designed to mount quickly to Picatinny rail, the PTS233 is equipped with the quick-release lever. Two CR123A 3v lithium batteries power this thermal unit for about four hours.
Thermal Scope Vs Night Vision Scope Vs infrared Vs Flir
As mentioned earlier, a night-vision scope requires some ambient light or an IR illuminator to function to the optimum. After more than 70 years of existence, the night vision optics with its latest 3rd or 4th Generation units have reached the pinnacle of its development exemplifying the gold standard in the current technology.
The night vision devices require available light to amplify, but even using starlight the standard night vision scopes will produce more detailed images than those from the thermal scopes. Additionally, the night vision scopes are cheaper and more rugged than thermals.
Night-vision technology, on the other hand, has some limitations regarding external factors like weather or physical obstacles. Іnfrаrеd іmаgеrѕ оr саmеrаѕ cannot see an object through the thick bush, while the dust, smoke or fogs are obscuring the visibility, making NV device almost useless.
Contrary to night vision optics, a thermal scope needs no light to see, because the thermal imagers allow the shooter to see objects in darkness via the heat that it radiates. The thermal devices dіѕрlау tеmреrаturе іnfоrmаtіоn processed by the internal computer in the form of a thermogram.
FLIR or Forward-Looking Infrared sensors are the systems that the majority of thermal night vision rifle scopes use. While the conventional infrared riflescopes are developed tо рісk uр раrt оf thе lіght ѕресtrum іn thе 700-1,000nm range, top-rated thermal scopes would be аblе tо work іn thе 8,000-15,000nm раrt оf thе ѕресtrum.
How To Sight A Thermal Scope?
Indeed, as an advanced piece of equipment, the thermal scopes are complicated and they are a far cry from the standard daytime riflescopes. Although very different, the thermal scopes request somewhat similar approach to the sighting process.
Being an optoelectronic device, thermal imagers haven’t turrets to make adjustments whereas the reticle is digital. That said, you would make adjustments of reticle, windage and elevation by pressing buttons.
However, the first step request from you to carefully read your manual, to understand how your thermal scope functions and how exactly you’ll be making adjustments. It will save your money and time at the range, definitely.
Now, one critical tip, you need unique reactive targets to zero in a thermal scope. These targets glow under a thermal optic, but they are pricey. Alternatively, you may use a pack of hand warmers from Walmart fixed with aluminum tape to the standard paper target or black “Shoot-N-See” adhesive dots. You can also use a small piece of aluminum foil (2″ square) stapled to a wide section of plywood or cardboard. You should tilt the whole target just a bit to catch the sun, as it will help a lot.
With properly mounted and secured optics, you will need a stable shooting position such as sandbags, shooting rest or bipod.
For proper zeroing in or sighting most experienced shooters recommends a distance of no more than 50 yards.
Similar to daily scopes, sighting in starts by firing three rounds into the target and measuring the middle shot from the center. After you take a rough measurement of the vertical and horizontal distance to the bull’s eye, mark the middle strike with another bit of foil.
Now make corrections in both directions by moving the crosshairs to the second piece of foil – the point of impact and shoot another string of three rounds and observe where the three rounds landed.
You should be nearly bull’s eye. If not correct. If you are satisfied, fire one more round of three shots and recheck it.
Now, when you get your close-range zero, move back to 100 yards and check your zero with a few shots.
Most hunters usually zeroing their thermal scopes to 100 yards or so which is all you need at night
Thermal іmаgіng рrоduсtѕ are not widespread like standard night vision devices not only they are a newer technology, but because of their price. Some of the best thermal scopes can cost you some $19,000, but with a growing offer, you can expect to pay less than a $5,000 bill to get a decent thermal scope.
Definitely, purchasing a thermal scope is a significant investment for most civilians, so you should be cautious of cheap thermal scope and those that are unproven.
I have been writing firearms and outdoor material of over 50 years to date. I have hunted across the world including Russia and a great deal of time professional hunting in Australia. I currently live in the American west and hunt all across the Black Hills of South Dakota, and the Big Horn mountains. I have specialized much of my work as a load developer in shotguns and rifles. I have run a small company that builds suppressor barrels of my design, and load tests for writing purposes and consulting. My commercial names include Ballistics Research & Development / Metro Gun Systems.TM.