Best Night Vision Scopes Reviewed and Rated

Hunting during the night is impossible without the right tools at your disposal. That’s why night vision scopes are the preferred accessory of many hunters, with a varied selection to choose from. No matter what you’re looking for in a night vision scope, there are so many options that it is almost impossible to not find it. We selected the best night vision scopes to review and rate for you.

Our Top 3 Picks

Firefield FF26014T
  • Firefield FF26014T
  • 5 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 3 Pounds
  • Price: See Here
Bushnell Equinox Z
  • Bushnell Equinox Z
  • 4.6 out of 5
    Our rating
  • Tripod Ready
  • Price: See Here
ATN X-Sight II
  • ATN X-Sight II
  • 4.2 out of 5
    Our rating
  • 7 Reticle Options
  • Price: See Here

Best Brands

Night vision scopes have the great honor of not having a dominant brand. Although names like ATN, Orion and Bushnell are well known, when it comes to night vision scopes they are one of many. Advances in technology have made it easier for other companies to innovate, with products that are always a step ahead of the rest.

Maintenance and Cleaning Tips

Keeping small particles like dirt, dust and sand out of the lens will keep it in top shape. These cleanings should take place after hunting, or at the very latest the day after. This will allow you to take a microfiber cloth and carefully get rid of any buildup without scratching the lens. And if the cleaning needs to take place out in the field, then water with an approved cloth is the best way to handle it. Just don’t apply any pressure!

How to make the best decision when choosing a night vision scope

Deciding between an advanced model that uses wifi and a traditional model that uses advanced tubing technologies can be hard. Having a better idea of what you want to do with a night vision scope will help sway the decision, so here are the two categories in depth.

Traditional

Better at gathering light, lighter, and more compatibility with a range of weapons. But you’ll miss out on many things, including integration with other high-tech hunting items. Going traditional with a night vision scope while the rest of your hunting materials are high tech makes no sense, and causes trouble down the line.

Advanced models

You’ll usually get smartphone integration with apps, Bluetooth connectivity, better software zooming and firmware updates that improves older features. The tradeoff is price, since you’ll be spending a lot more for features that you may never use.

10 Best Night Vision Scopes

 

1. Firefield FF26014T

1. Firefield FF26014T
This Firefield model manages to have just the right mix of technology and traditional features to attract all kinds of hunters. It has been faithfully used for years in both day and night hunts, with great results. There are some nice touches of greatness with its housing, with the greatest strength being its adaptability.

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Best of Both Worlds

Firefield created a night vision scope that doesn’t beat its users over the head with innovation but still eases in a lot of groundbreaking features. Compatibility also plays a good role in the making of this model, and it’s even suitable for bolt action rifles.

Features and Specifications

Titanium alloy housing
Weighs 3 pounds
Dimensions are 13.9x5x4.7 inches
Extended weaver mount
Internal focusing ability
Flip up lens covers and multi coated optics
Pulse infrared illuminator

Price/Value

As the top model on the list, the price is supposed to be a bit high- that’s forgivable. The FF26014T is the best night vision scope value that you can get. Not only is it the most compatible, but it holds up well over the years.

Decision Time

Picking between #1 and #2 on the list is a toss-up for many people, so if the price is right for either item, make a choice based on that. Firefield put a lot into the features of this night vision scope and it earns the #1 spot.
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Compatible with several types of guns
  • Internal focusing provides comfort during heavy shooting
  • Increases range in the darkness
Cons
  • Price

2. Bushnell Equinox Z

2. Bushnell Equinox Z
Of course in the #2 spot would be one of the bigger brands with Bushnell, with the Equinox Z coming with a range of respectable features. The biggest of them all is how it manages to be one of the lowest priced on the list while still having a lot of great night vision abilities.

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Pricing

This is a high quality night vision scope that is also one of the lowest priced in the industry. You get an incredible bargain from top to bottom, and you get the backing of one of the biggest brand names in the industry.

Features and Specifications

Infrared illumination day/night cycles
Image capture and Video recording capabilities
Tripod ready
Water resistant housing
1-3x zoom
Mount with removable rail

Price/Value

You really can’t beat the price of this model, so the value is a given. There really are no big downsides to the Equinox Z that would make it a bad buy.

Decision Time

If it had a few more bells and whistles then the Equinox Z could have easily taken the top spot. As it stands, being second on the list isn’t bad at all. This is a highly recommended by for all users that want a long lasting night vision scope.
Pros
  • Uses AA batteries
  • Weighs only 2.6 pounds
  • TV out cable is included
  • Superior visuals during day or night
Cons
  • Only 2 adjustment levels for the LCD screen

3. ATN X-Sight II 5-20

3. ATN X-Sight II 5-20
Now into the top three, the ATN X-Sight II 5-20 Smart Riflescope is a high tech masterpiece with an endless set of features. A good amount of buyers are still figuring out the more advanced features, which shows how much this particular model has to offer. This is basically an upgrade of the #9 night vision optic, and it really knocks it out of the park!

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Extreme Magnification

With up to 20x magnification, this night vision scope goes where no other can. The ability to see far off into the distance without compromising quality is a really fun feature, and one that doesn’t require a lot of getting used to.

Features and Specifications

Wi-Fi streaming
5-20x magnification
Upgraded Obsidian II Core
160 lp/mm system resolution
Bluetooth 4.1 compatible
Over 7 reticle options

Price/Value

The best way to decide if this is a great value for an individual consumer is to see if they like the #9 night vision scope. If so, compare it to this mode and note the price difference. All of these advanced features won’t matter to a consumer unless they plan to use at least half of them.

Decision Time

ATN created an amazing night vision scope, and then improved upon it with this model. Buyers that like a lot of technology in their hunting will swoon over this choice.
Pros
  • New crossbow reticle
  • 7 different reticle colors
  • Easy firmware upgrades
  • Can take stunning HD video/photos
  • iOS and Android apps gives user complete control
Cons
  • Requires technical knowledge
  • Ends up being 3-4th most expensive model on the list

4. Armasight ORION

4. Armasight ORION
Armasight created the Orion with the idea that buyers should have a choice between the fancy new technology infused night vision scopes and the more traditional models. Even though there is nothing fancy about the Orion, it can track anything at night.

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A Reason to Appreciate Gen 1+

There are some minor quicks in Gen 2+ technology that have made some hunters favor IIT Generation 1+, which is what the Orion is built on. It is still the highest performing night vision scope in the Gen 1+ category, and defined what a good crisp visual should look like at night.

Features and Specifications

5x Magnification
Rubberized body
Illuminated red cross reticle
Optics are shock protected
Range of focus 10m to infinity

Price/Value

The price is high, but not so high that it will put the Orion out of the range of a lot of customers. This particular model is made to last for years, so will be a good addition to any collection.

Decision Time

With its powerful magnification and crisp details, this sneaks into the top 5. There are a lot of great traditional night vision scopes on the market, and this is one of the best.
Pros
  • Water resistant
  • 40 hour battery life
  • Nightvision optics are second to none
  • Best of class in the IIT Generation 1+
Cons
  • No IR indicator
  • Weighs 3.7 pounds

5. Armasight Nemesis

5. Armasight Nemesis
Possibly the most expensive night vision scope on the list, the Armasight Nemesis is a powerful beast that makes hunting during the night much easier. No expense was spared in making it unbeatable in the field, and a top five product as a result.

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Powerful where it counts

Sporting an IIT Gen 2+ tube, users will get resolutions of 45-51 lp/mm. Only a few other models on the list can come this close to perfection, and it just goes to show why the price tag is so high.

Features and Specifications

6x Magnification
5 degree FOV
Water resistant with limited two year warranty
Auto bright control with bright source protection
Back up iron sights
Weaver rails compatible
Simple push button controls

Price/Value

The price is going to scare away a lot of potential buyers, which is why this model isn’t higher up on the list. For customers that have deep wallets, this is going to be the purchase that they want to make.

Decision Time

A lot of people have invested the money needed to purchase the Nemesis, and they’re all satisfied. Buyers that can fit this in their budget will meet similar results if the features meet their needs. But if the price seems a bit too high for your liking, then check out the other night vision scopes on the list with similar specifications.
Pros
  • Detachable IR illuminator
  • Shock protected all glass tube
  • Thin adjustable brightness crosshairs
  • Three accessory mounting rails
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Weighs 4.2 pounds

6. Yukon NVRS

6. Yukon NVRS
At this point in the list, the Yukon NVRS Titanium may come as a surprise. It is an older version from the company, with the updated model still being no comparison to this one. As a powerful night vision scope, it is still unmatched within the company, with only a select few being able to challenge the flagship product.

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Light as a Feather

The Titanium only weighs 30 ounces, which is like a quarter of what the other night vision rifles weigh. Even still, it has a tough body that can take years of abuse and changes.

Features and Specifications

5x Magnification
200 yard detection distance
½ MOA per click
100 yard infrared illuminator distance
45 millimeter eye relief

Price/Value

The price settles in at around the midrange, which is good since this is considered a high end product. This is probably a top 3 compact night vision scope, so taking that into account makes the purchase worth it.

Decision Time

It isn’t uncommon for older models to outshine some of their newer iterations. The Titanium is an incredible value that provides traditional night vision scope capabilities with an affordable price. Don’t miss out on this purchase if you want something that works out of the box.
Pros
  • Lasts up to 50 hours on 2 AA batteries
  • Diopeter adjustment is easy to manage
  • Flip up lens cover
  • Remote switch for on/off
  • IPX5 water intrusion protection
Cons
  • Magnification level is a bit low
  • Lacks recording and video features

7. Armasight Vampire

7. Armasight Vampire
This one is an old favorite of many hunters, with a name that suits it purpose. The Armasight Vampire is a premiere night vision scope that is basic in its design and function, yet superior in what it does. A lot of great scopes have been designed based on this particular model.

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Internals

This was probably the last great scope that made full use of CORE (Ceramic Optical Ruggedized Engine) technology. It takes full advantage of the optics to deliver an unmatched resolution that is crisp in either day or night.

Features and Specifications

Quick release mount (weaver)
Low battery indicator
Illuminated reticle with brightness customization
All-glass IR transmission multicoated optics
Fog and water resistant
2 year warranty

Price/Value

The Vampire is one of the highest priced night vision scopes on the list, but is also one of the most in demand. If you want precise and finely tuned technology, it is going to cost a bit. Since the Vampire has been vetted by so many professionals at this point, it’s worth the price.

Decision Time

Buyers that have a little professional know how will fall in love with the Vampire. It’s one of Armasight’s best, and continues to be a high profile product.
Pros
  • Infrared illuminator is detachable
  • CORE technology provides stunning resolution
  • Solid aluminum body
  • Comes with standard tactical rails
Cons
  • Price
  • Requires a bit of experience with parts

8. Sightmark Photon XT

8. Sightmark Photon XT
Going from the ATN X-Sight II to the more traditional Photon XT is like two different worlds. With this particular night vision scope, there is less to learn by more to master. It’s one of the most versatile offerings on the market and really makes night hunting a fun task.

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Battery Life

The supreme battery life of the ATN X-Sight II allows for 33% more use than other leading night vision scopes. With less bells and whistles, they are able to strip the device down to its bare necessities. This keeps it from burning through precious battery when it doesn’t need to.

Features and Specifications

30% lighter than other night vision scopes
Six red/green/white digital reticle options
810nm LED IR Illuminator
Weatherproof and Shockproof
Optional video output for recording

Price/Value

The price is a bit high for what is offered, but this is a night scope that pays for itself over time. Battery consumption is a lot less than with other tech heavy models. The build quality also seems improved, both inside and out.

Decision Time

Without all the bells and whistles, the Sightmark Photon XT delivers a pretty solid experience. Don’t let the high price turn you away, as this night scope is one of the better ones available.
Pros
  • Additional weaver included
  • Carrying Case and cleaning cloth included
  • Handles bright light well
  • Display is high resolution
  • Excels at medium range
Cons
  • Video output option can add unnecessary bulk
  • Is a bit pricey for a traditional model

9. ATN X-Sight II 3-14

9. ATN X-Sight II 3-14
Now this is where things start to reach futuristic levels! The ATN X-Sight II is from the newest batch of night vision scopes, and has everything right down to advanced tracking and supreme magnification. There is nothing that this model can’t do, and it’s one of the more favored selections when customers are shopping.

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Guaranteed

A good warranty is hard to find, especially with products that have electric components. The included 2 year warranty for this model is a breath of fresh air that will make a lot of customers comfortable with the purchase.

Features and Specifications

Wi-Fi streaming
Full GPS functions for location and geotagging
3-14x magnification
Two year warranty
iOS and Android apps for smartphone control
Bluetooth version 4.1 support
Micro USB and Micro SD
1080p Recording

Price/Value

The price is high, but considering all that comes with this night vision scope it is hard to pass up. You’re basically getting a trail hunting camera and night vision scope all in one. And with the addition of automatic recording on a kill shot, it is a must for catching that magical moment.

Decision Time

This is a hard one to pass up, even if the price is a little hefty. With all of the features included, make sure you spend some time getting to know the ins and outs of the device. It will be well worth your time!
Pros
  • Smartphone apps are easy to use
  • Photos and videos are superior
  • Night vision mode is powered by Obsidian II Core
  • Rangerfinder technology is a game changer
Cons
  • Overwhelming for some users
  • High learning curve

10. Firefield FF16001

10. Firefield FF16001
The FF16001 NVRS is not as high tech looking as some of the others on the list, but still provides an incredible laundry list of features. It can mount on a compatible rifle within seconds and is considered a great entry model for hunters that have never had a night vision scope before.

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Compatibility

There is no learning curve for attaching or detaching this night vision scope. The easy to use weaver mount is the best thing about this model, with a quick detaching feature that works without any struggle. Handling this during the night won’t be a problem at all.

Features and Specifications

Up to 3x magnification
Built in IR system
Body is made of grade A Titanium
Weaver mount with quick detach
Weighs 1.8 pounds
Dimensions of 9×3.2×3.4

Price/Value

At around the mid to high price point, the FF16001 NVRS is a good buy for anyone looking for a solid night vision scope. The ease of use is what makes it a valuable buy, and should be more than enough to keep the majority of buyers happy after purchase.

Decision Time

There are a lot of great night vision scopes available, yet sometimes it’s the ones that don’t go overboard with the extras that seem the most inviting. This is a good choice even if you’re a professional hunter, and will be in your arsenal for years to come.
Pros
  • Even at 3x magnification the image is crisp
  • Images overall are detailed and the resolution is sharp
  • Strong body while still being lightweight
  • Isn’t as bulky as other models
Cons
  • Built-in IR is not intuitive
  • Not as powerful as other night vision scopes

Criteria For Evaluation

Like any other list that was based on scopes, we based our scoring on the lens first and foremost. A lot of the night vision scopes on the list were even across the board, even when taking their glass into consideration. So we added in weight/size, ease of use, available accessories and lastly durability. At no point was the list majorly swayed by what generation the product was, and we instead focused more on the meat and potatoes of the features. This allowed for a very unbiased look at what hunters and regular consumers would look for in their quest for the perfect night vision scope.

Lens Quality

You can judge a night vision scope by the quality of the lens the company uses. Just like a regular scope, focusing on this part is key to finding the right model. We only included the best in the industry, so the line was blurred a bit when trying to decide which was better. When looking to optimize the list so that the best glass was at the top, we started by placing night vision scopes that had a large objective lens. Larger lens means better light gathering techniques, and more often than not also meant a wider field of view. These two things are key for any type of user, along with how well the hardware works with the glass. Even if the lens was superior, it still had to pass the magnification test. We look at how well individual models zoom in during different light situations, and how clearly they show objects on the move. A small trick to finding out the best glass on a night vision scope is seeing how well it performs while in motion. Any scope can look good when looking at a stationary object, so the real test is seeing how bad the blur is when scoping out a target. That means zooming in and out while focusing on a moving object, and in some cases finding out just how much of the image is cropped when zooming to the max. Max zoom on some models created some interesting results in low light, and disqualified some night vision scopes completely since they couldn’t make out an object. Users that are stationary when tracking will approve of how the list is ordered, with slight favoritism going to any lens that had less than a 30% image reduction when at the max magnification.

Learning Curve

Not all night vision scopes are used for hunting, so we had to order the list in a way that showed a balance for hunters, recreational users, professionals, hobbyists and even collectors. When facing a situation where there was a tie, then we leaned towards hunters, since that is a larger part of the market. No matter a customer’s level, night vision scopes should not require a high learning curve, even for users that have never owned a regular scope. Some variables were inconsistent with this since we couldn’t account for the difference in skill levels of all users. Even for an experienced user, there might be a high learning curve with some products, and lower with others. With that in mind we looked at how the product was prepared for the everyday consumer.

Easy to Use

Products that were easy to use based on their included instructions, online support and overall online presence gained a significant advantage. Products that had little or no online presence were pushed further down the list, and for good reason. Customers that opt to look online for more information about their product would get discouraged if they couldn’t find any support forums, videos or even comments based on the model they just purchased. This is a common occurrence when the manual doesn’t cover a specific question that you have. It’s all about making things easier on the customer, and the top five products on the list reflect that attitude. Professionals don’t like headaches just like normal users, so ease of use is important. Both Picatinny and Weaver have their pros and cons, but either one installs with no issues. It’s the most foolproof installation you’ll deal with concerning scopes and guns, and everyone has their own preference. Rail types ended up being one of the better parts of this category, and was the easiest to call.

Weight and Size

On the lighter side of ordering the list, we looked at weight and size. Not lens size, but overall size of the entire night vision scope and whether it affected performance. Bulky models were pushed further down the list, even if they scored high in other areas. And items that were heavier than usual were pushed really far down, with some of the heavier variants left off of the list entirely. We weren’t too harsh in this area, even if some of the bulkier items didn’t get the attention they deserved. Without compromising key features, the slimmer night vision scopes were pushed to the top since they conformed more to current industry standards. No one wants to lug around extra weight on their gun if they don’t have to, especially when better options are available at a lower weight. Bulky night vision scopes can also be a pain to store in cases and bags, leading users to take them apart when traveling. Avoiding the disassembly part completely saves you time so that you can get into position faster.

Accessories & Durability

Accessories and durability was the last thing on our list, with weather resistant models getting an extra point. All of the available products are shockproof, so including that as a criteria was unnecessary. Durability was rated on a company’s reputation, previous models in the series (if any) and any in-house features like the ones provided by Bushnell. The tubing had to be on par with the lens quality, so that it could take a couple of drops to the non-fragile areas. Accessories weren’t rated on quantity, and were aimed more for swaying the vote towards compatibility with other products. Night vision scope users will always have a lot of accessories to choose from to outfit their model with. So when we reordered the list based on accessories, the scopes that had the most universal options were rewarded with a higher spot.

FAQ

Are there dangers to night vision?

The dangers with night vision are usually associated with misuse rather than intended use. That means modifying the equipment without permission, staring into intense light with the magnification on high and improper mounting of the scope. All of these things can be avoided, and most importantly, issues that are caused by modifications can be dangerous and void your warranty. Always follow the instructions when taking the scope out of the box for the first time, and always pay attention to any warnings that are mentioned within the manual.

What is the ideal environment to use it in?

A common mistake first time customers make when purchasing night vision scopes is not factoring in environment variables. If your sole intent for night vision scopes is to use them in pitch black darkness, then your results will be less than desired. Likewise, using a night vision scope in a lighted area where a regular scope would be more efficient is something else that can be tricky. Always know the environment you plan on using your night vision scope in and you won’t run into any issue with compatibility. And in the long run it will save you money on upgrades you don’t need.

Can night vision scopes be upgraded?

Yes, but it isn’t as straightforward as applying a piece or taking it to a professional. Consumers can upgrade their generations from Gen 1 all the way up to the latest Gen 3, for a cost. Compatibility is the first thing that will come to mind, and is a major concern that cancels out more than half of the possible upgrades. The majority of the upgrades are not covered under warranty, so if you have a newish product then you’ll be taking a risk. Yet the biggest deterrent of upgrading night vision scope is the cost. Unless you are absolutely tied to your current setup, there is little reason to upgrade your old tech to new tech. The cheaper and more efficient option would be to buy the upgraded equipment which will come with a brand new warranty and its own set of safeguards.

Will the warranty be voided if a professional dissemblers the device?

Absolutely, even if it is for a minor repair. Now there is no way for brands to 100% identify if someone tampered with their product, so professional disassembly is more for consumers that want upgrades or modifications. It’s also something to consider if you are out of warranty, although purchasing a new night vision scope would be preferable. And when time is of the essence, sometimes a local professional is the best option available. Always check in with the company that made your scope to see if they have a local repairman. This is better than taking it to a professional with no association with the company since it won’t void your warranty. There is also the added benefit of knowing it will be in the hands of someone has experience dealing with your particular product.

Is durability tied to brand prestige?

Brand recognition is mentioned a lot with any product, so it’s not surprise that brand prestige is strongly tied to durability. Products from popular brands are less likely to break down, and usually have in-house methods to ensure they last for a long time with no issues. And buying from a big brand doesn’t always mean that the price will go up, as there are plenty of average priced night vision scope brands with high durability. In short, the most important thing is going to be the glass that is used with the scope. If that part of the product is solid, then consider that a measuring stick for the rest of the night vision scope.

What is the best generation?

Generation 3 is without a doubt the best for visual clarity. When looking at it from a consumer’s point of view, the latest generation is still playing catch up with prices and overall features. So for the retail side, Generation 2 seems to be the sweet spot. You’ll get the most competitive price, and on top of that will also get the latest night vision features that are still being developed. Generation 1 is still ranking high on many lists, so it really depends on the model that you go after. Once you find one that fits your needs, it’s hard to go back a generation.

Are night vision scopes easy to adjust?

Night vision scopes differ from night vision goggles in this regard, as the latter is easier to adjust. There is an entire skillset associated with adjusting your night vision scope for maximum accuracy and clarity. Buyers that are coming from regular scopes can’t just jump in like there isn’t a difference. The learning curve is going to be on an individual basis, with some consumers learning in minutes, and others learning in weeks. It shouldn’t take long to get used to your new night vision scope, even if you’re used to a different brand.

What is a good distance to see from?

It depends on whether you’re talking about detection range or recognition range. When hunting with a night vision scope, recognition range will be much more important if you want to land a clean shot. Detection range won’t really help much with accuracy, but could be useful for other means. In the buying process, this is where specifications may do more harm than good. No matter what the specs say, it all comes down to the conditions you are using the scope in. Optimal conditions for any night scope will yield you positive results most of the time. Specifications that are listed usually favor these optimal conditions, which aren’t real world situations for hunters. So rather than using the specs as a complete guide, use them instead as a sampling of the products overall feature set.

Is light necessary for night vision to work?

Yes. Night vision scopes don’t allow you to see in complete darkness. Instead they amplify what little light there is to give you a better visual of the area. On some select models, they get around this by using IRI technology. It is hit or miss, but worth a look if buyers need something for complete darkness. One of the many downsides to the technology is that it greatly reduces the viewing area by focusing on an invisible beam of light. You’ll get good distance at a cost, in some cases up to 100 yards out.

What accessories are available for the products?

There is no shortage of accessories for night vision scopes, with the most important being the lens cover. Not all scopes ship with covers, so that should be the first purchase to keep your product from getting damaged. And in case you lose your covers, having backups ready to go is ideal for any hunter. Besides the usual adapters for compatibility and mounts, what’s becoming more famous are the eyepieces. Various eyepieces are available that improve the quality of the image you see, and some can even extend zoom functionality. If you want to take a step further, there are video kits available that you can install that won’t void the warranty. With these kits you can take pictures and videos while you are using your night vision scope.

How long is the average life?

There is no definite lifespan to go by, since everyone uses their equipment differently. As an estimate, thousands of hours are available for the life of the product if you turn it off when not in use. Taking good care of the scope also helps with the longevity of it, so for many users a technology upgrade would be the only reason to purchase a new night vision scope. They’re really well built from the ground up, providing a level of hardiness that comes from the development of regular scopes. A lot of the cons of regular scopes are not often found with their night vision counterparts.

How effective are generation 1 devices?

Try not to think of Generation 1 night vision as inferior, although technically it is. The main things that improve with each generation is image quality. And while the later gens are an improvement on that front, some models may take a step back in other areas like ease of use. For consumer grade, Generation 1 &2 are the most purchased night vision types on the market. A good way to look at the value of Generation 1 is with a German engineered car. The older model runs great, just like the newer models on the road. Where they differ are the improvements made in other areas due to years of research. With night vision scopes, the generations just point you in the direction of the technology that has advanced the furthest, but not which one is the best.

How far do night vision scopes let you see?

Night vision technology isn’t magic, so the best way to describe how it works is knowing the difference between detection range and recognition range. The former will let you focus on an object while the latter will let you see the details of the object. This is where powered reticles come into play at night, and lets you hunt detected preys even if they are slightly outside of your recognition range.

What is an IR illuminator?

It is a device that projects an invisible light that can only be seen with proper night vision equipment. In the correct setting it can help short, medium and long accuracy with your night vision scope.

Does durability increase with traditional night vision scopes?

Yes, since there are less internal components to worry about. Traditional night vision scopes will also have a longer lifetime guarantee.

How big of a difference are the generations in price?

This depends heavily on which generation you’re going to. Gen 1 is obviously going to be the cheapest, but Gen 2 and 3 is where the lines start to get blurry. Looking for individual features is a better way to find out the worth of the night vision scope you’re going after, since Gen 1 models can be expensive if they’re considered flagship models.