Thermal Rifle Scope Review

Choosing the Best Thermal Rifle Scope for nighttime hunting

Best Affordable Thermal Rifle Scopes for night hunts

Hunting hogs and other predators at night is a lot easier using a scope that can see in the dark. By using a thermal rifle scope you can easily see in the dark. For years, these kinds of scopes were reserved for the military and were mostly out of reach to the individual hunter. The early night vision scopes that were affordable were just hard to use and were really just out of date old military hardware.

Today thermal technology has come far enough that the price point of a night vision scope has come down to a point that they can be affordable. The thermal imaging scopes available today offer high-resolution viewers with a host of add on’s and they can be used day or night. Unlike night vision scopes.

In this article, we review the top 5 affordable choices for a thermal rifle scope. With any product, there can be numerous high-end choices. This article focus on high quality and affordable products for the average shooter. For the basis of affordable, I have used the comparable cost of a traditional optic. I also understand that “affordable” is not the same for all shooters.

Top 5 Thermal Rifle Scopes

  1. ATN ThOR 4 384 1.25-5x Thermal Smart HD Rifle Scope
  2. ATN ThOR 4 384 1.25-5x Thermal Smart HD Rifle Scope

    Features;

    Gen 4 384x288 Thermal Sensor, Record Video on to a MicroUSB, Smart Shooting Solution, Wifi / Bluetooth, Recoil Activated Video, Smart Range Finder, 750 yards detection range (Human), up to 18 hours battery life,

    Check Price at Optics Planet Check Price at Amazon
  3. ATN ThOR-HD 1.25-5x Thermal Smart HD Rifle Scope w/WiFi
  4. ATN ThOR-HD 1.25-5x Thermal Smart HD Rifle Scope w/WiFi

    Thermal Smart HD Riflescope w/WiFi, GPS, 384x288 Sensor, Black, TIWSTH381A Color: Black, Magnification: 1.25 - 5, Objective Lens Diameter: 19, Night Vision Generation: Digital, Resolution: 384x288,

    Compare at Optics Planet Compare at Amazon
  5. ATN OPMOD ThOR LT 4-8x Thermal Riflescope
  6. ATN OPMOD ThOR LT 4-8x Thermal Riflescope

    ATN OPMOD ThOR LT 4-8x Thermal Riflescope, Black, TIWSTLT125OP Color: Black, Magnification: 4 - 8, Tube Diameter: 30, Sensor Resolution: 160x120, Display Resolution: 1280x720, Includes Mount when purchase at Optics Planet

    Compare at Optics Planet Compare at Amazon
  7. ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Edition 5-20x Smart HD Day/Night Riflescope
  8. ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Edition 5-20x Smart HD Day/Night Riflescope

    Ulta High Definition 4K, Sensor Record Video in 1080P 120fps, Night Vision, Wifi / Bluetooth, Recoil Activated Video, IR Illuminator Included, up to 18 hours battery life

    Compare at Optics Planet Compare at Amazon
  9. SightMark Wraith 2-16x28 Digital Riflescope SM18021
  10. SightMark Wraith 2-16x28 Digital Riflescope SM18021

    8x digital zoom 10 reticle options with 9 colors with 1080P HD digital imaging, Daytime color mode, and night vision mode with a flip of a switch, Fixed Picatinny mount type with an additional rail for accessories, Built-in HD video recording powered by 4 AA batteries with a runtime of 4.5 hours


    Compare at Optics Planet Compare At Amazon

Number 1 ATN ThOr 4 384 1.25-5X Thermal Scope

ATN ThOr 4 Thermal Rifle Scope

The ATN Thor 4 384 model scope is our top choice for an affordable Thermal imaging scope. Though at the upper end of the price limit it boasts a host of features that make it number one for the money.

Features of the ATN ThOr 4 384

  • Ultra-sensitive Gen 4 384×288 Thermal Sensor
  • Records Video onto a MicroSD card
  • Smart Shooting Solution
  • Wi-Fi (Streaming, Gallery & Controls) and Bluetooth 4.1 compatible with iOS and Android
  • Recoil Activated Video
  • Smart Range Finder
  • Ballistic Calculator
  • Profile Manager
  • 3D GS7 Gyroscope
  • 3 D Accelerometer
  • 3D Magnetometer
  • E-Compass
  • Smooth Zoom
  • GPS for geotagging and tracking elevation
  • 3 Year Limited Warranty

The ATN ThOr 4 384 model is the entry-level into their upper scale scope range. It comes standard with almost all the options of its more expensive counterparts. The only sacrifice being in the amount of magnification being limited at 5X and the maximum human-size identification range of 750 yards.

Neither of these two items in my opinion would affect the serious Hog or coyote hunter.

The scope offers a long run time having an 18-hour battery life using a rechargeable internal li-Ion battery. It also has a built-in range finder and ballistic calculator removing the need for the shooter to make a range and holdover calculation. The built-in Wi-Fi/Bluetooth allows you to connect directly to the scope using your smartphone to feed in environmental conditions to the scope. 

It also will record and display directly onto your phone or tablet. The record on recoil function allows you to record every shot without having to push a button.

I chose this scope was for several reasons. The first and biggest reason being its battery life. At 18 hours it is one of the best out there ensuring that the scope does not fail in the middle of your hunt. Also, the fact that the batteries are rechargeable is a big plus. When combined with all the other high-end functions included with this scope it makes number one on our list.

Specifications

Color                                           Black

Magnification                              1.25 – 5 x

Objective Lens Diameter           19 mm

Sensor Resolution                       384×288 pixels

Display Resolution                      1280×720 pixels

Video Record Resolution             1280×960 @ 30/60 fps

Refresh Rate                                60 Hz

Brightness Settings                     5

Eye Relief                                      90 mm

Field of View, Angle                    16 degrees

Diopter Adjustment Range         -5 – 5 DPT

Focus Range                                  5 m to Infinity

Minimum Focus Distance              5 m

Range of Detection                     750 m

Battery Type                                Internal Li-Ion battery

Battery Life                                    18 hours

Weather Resistance                      Yes

Length                                          13.1 in, 332 mm

Width                                             3 in, 76 mm

Height                                            3 in, 76 mm

Weight                                          0.88 kg, 1.93 lb

Finish                                             Matte

Included Accessories                   Eyecup, Lens Tissue, USB-C Cable, Scope Cover,30mm Standard and L-Shaped Scope Rings

Magnification Type                      Variable

Number 2 the ATN Thor-HD 1.25-5X Thermal scope

ATN ThOr-HD

Coming in as a close 2nd to our top thermal scope is the ATN ThOr-HD 1.25-5X. It features many of the same functions as the ATN ThOr-4 scope. However, this scope runs on 4 AA batteries and has a maximum expected battery life of 8 hours. The scope also comes with an integrated Picatinny mounting rail and is also one of the lightest scopes in our top 5 at 1.55 pounds.

Features of the ATN-ThOr – HD 1.25-5X digital scope

  • Smart Shooting Solution
  • Smart Range Finder
  • Recoil Activated Video (RAV)
  • Wi-Fi (Streaming, Gallery & Controls),iOS & Android compatible
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • 3D GS7 Gyroscope
  • 3 D Magnetometer
  • 3D Accelerometer
  • E-Barometer
  • Smooth Zoom
  • Profile Manager
  • Electronic Compass
  • GPS Geotagging, Elevation, etc.
  • IP rating weather resistant
  • Microphone
  • Micro HDMI
  • Multiple reticle patterns and color options available
  • Mount Picatinny, Interchangeable
  • 3-year warranty

This is still a great choice of thermal scope at a cheaper price point. The scope offers excellent clarity and range capabilities using the same Gen 4 384 x 288 Thermal sensor. It does have a slightly reduced field of view depending on the magnification setting, but all around a great scope.

Specifications

Color:                                      Black

Magnification:                                  1.25 – 5 x

Objective Lens Diameter:             19 mm

Night Vision Generation:             Digital

Resolution:                                        384×288 pixels

Eye Relief:                                          65 mm

Exit Pupil:                                           10 mm

Field of View, Angle:                      12.5 – 16 degrees

Diopter Adjustment Range: -5 – 5 DPT

Focus Range:                                     5 m to Infinity

Adapter:                                              No

Digital:                                                 Yes

Attachment/Mount Type:           Picatinny

Battery Type:                                     AA

Battery Life:                                       8+ Hours

Operating Temperature:              -40 – 55 Celsius

Weather Resistance:                      Yes

Length:                                                 6.85 in

Width:                                                  3.16 in

Height:                                                 3.15 in

Weight:                                               1.55 lb

Finish:                                                  Matte

Additional Features:      One-Shot Zero, Smooth Zoom, Smart Shooting Solution, GPS

Included Accessories:                    Quick Reference Guide, Batteries 4xAA, Soft Carrying Case / Batteries / Quick Reference Guide

Battery Quantity:                             4

Magnification Type:                       Variable 1.25 – 5 X

Number 3 ATN ThOr LT 4-8X

Thor ATN LT 4-8

Number three on our list is the ThOr LT 4-8 thermal rifle scope. This package includes a quick-release cantilever scope mount. Perfect for use on a AR 15 or AR 10 rifle. The scope is designed to be used with higher caliber rounds which are more suited when Hog hunting. The scope uses rechargeable Li-Ion batteries and has a continuous run time of approximately 10 hours. One of the other advantages of this scope is that it is one of the lightest in its class coming in at 1.4 pounds.

Features of the ATN ThOR-LT 4-8x

  • Black hot/white hot viewing modes
  • One-shot zero
  • Weather-resistant
  • Recoil resistant
  • Can be mounted onto crossbows, air rifles, and other platforms due to lightweight construction
  • ATN Obsidian Core LT
  • 3 D Accelerometer
  • Multiple reticle patterns

One of the drawbacks to this scope is that its thermal sensor resolution is not as high as our top 2 scopes. Coming at 160 x 12 pixels. This reduces its maximum detection range to 625 yards and is only truly clear to about 210 yards at night.

HUnting hogs with a Thermal Rifle Scope

Specifications

Color                                                     Black

Magnification                                   4 – 8 x

Tube Diameter                                 30 mm

Sensor Resolution                           160×120 pixels

Display Resolution                          1280×720 pixels

Refresh Rate                                      60 Hz

Reticle                                                  Multiple

Eye Relief                                           90 mm

Attachment/Mount Type             Ring

Battery Life                                        10+ hours

Operating Temperature                -28 – 48 Celsius, -20 – 120 Fahrenheit

Weather Resistance                       Yes

Length                                                  11.5 in, 292 mm

Width                                                   2.2 in, 56 mm

Height                                                  2.2 in, 55 mm

Weight                                                 1.4 lb, 650 g

Additional Features                        3D Accelerometer, ATN Obsidian Core LT, White Hot/Black Hot Color Modes

Included Accessories                     ATN OPMOD ThOR LT 4-8x Thermal Riflescope, Black, TIWSTLT125OP, FREE QD Mount and Custom Hog Hunting Reticle

Magnification Type                         Variable

Number 4 ATN X Thermal Rifle Sight

ATN Thor X-Sight

This is one of the cheaper scopes offered by ATN coming in at $799.00, this is a feature-packed thermal sight. It offers 18 + hours of continuous use and also boasts an impressive magnification range of 5-20 X. Designed as complete color digital rifle scope it is just as comfortable during the day as it as night. Using a rechargeable Li-Ion battery that saves on having to replace batteries constantly. This scope also has one of the highest display and record resolutions.

Features of the ATN X Sight

  • Ultra-High Definition 4K Sensor
  • Record Video in 1080P 30/60/120 fps
  • Wi-Fi / Bluetooth
  • Recoil Activated Video
  • Up to 18 Hours Battery Life
  • Night Vision
  • One-Shot Zero
  • Ultra-Low Power Consumption
  • Ballistic Calculator
  • Smart Range Finder
  • Recoil Resistance
  • Streamline Design

Some of the drawbacks of this sight are the increased weight it adds to the rifle. Coming at 2.2 pounds it is one of the heaviest scopes on our list.

Specifications

Color                                                                     Black

Magnification                                                   5 – 20 x

Objective Lens Diameter                              70 mm

Tube Diameter                                                 30 mm

Reticle                                                                  Multiple

Illumination Color                                           None

Image Intensifier Color                                 Green Phosphor

System/Lens Resolution                               600 lp/mm

Display Resolution                                          1280×720 pixels

Video Record Resolution                             1920×1080 pixels

Refresh Rate                                                      30 Hz, 60 Hz, 120 Hz

Resolution                                                          3864×2218 pixels

Eye Relief                                                           90 mm

Field of View, Linear                                       240 ft at 1000 yds

Focus Range                                                       10 m to Infinity

Minimum Focus Distance                             10 m

Range of Detection                                         10 m

Diopter Adjustment Range          -5 – 5 DPT

Lens Material                                                    Glass

Operating Temperature                                -40 – 55 Celsius

Battery Life                                                        18 + Hours

Weather Resistance                                       Yes

Water Resistance Level                                 Water Resistant

Shockproof                                                         Yes

Fog proof                                                            Yes

Length                                                                  13.8 in, 14.9 in

Width                                                                   3 in

Height                                                                  3 in

Weight                                                                 2.2 lb

Fabric/Material                                                 Aluminum

Included Accessories                                     2 x Standard Rings, Eyecup, L-Shaped Ring, Lens Tissue, Ring w/Picatinny Rail, Scope Cover, Sunshade, USB-C Cable

Battery Quantity                                              1

Package Type                                                    Box

Memory                                                              Up to 64GB SD card

Magnification Type                                         Variable

Dimensions                                                        13.8x3x3 in

Number 5 Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50 Digital Riflescope

Sightmark Wraith Digital Rifle scope

Last on our list is the Wraith HD 4-32 Digital Thermal by Sightmark. This is new to the marketplace for 2020 and so far, has enjoyed mostly good reviews from its users. This is not a true thermal scope in that it requires the use of an IR attachment to project an infrared beam onto the target. This limits the range of the scopes use at night to around the 200-yard mark. It also does not come with all the ballistic integrations of the more expensive ATN thermal rifle scopes. However, at a price point between $529 to $599 depending on the vendor, it is still worth considering.

Specifications and Features of the Sightmark Wraith Scope

Type of Sensor                                                                  CMOS sensor

Sensor resolution, pixels                                              1920×1080

Display Type                                                                      FLCOS

Display Resolution, pix.                                                1280×720

Built-in Video Recorder Availability                        Yes

Maximum memory card supported,                       Gb         64

Format of video clip                                                       AVI

Resolution of video clip                                                1080/720

Format of photo files                                                     JPEG

Resolution of photo files                                              1080/720

Memory capacity                                                             Approximately 7 hours video with 64Gb SD card

Magnification                                                                   4 – 32 x

Diameter, Lens, mm                                                       50

Digital Zoom                                                                      1-8x

Lens Focus, mm                                                                                80

Relative aperture,                                                           D/f’        2.5

Field of view,                                                                     m@100m             7

Field of view,                                                                     ft@100yd            21

Minimum focusing distance,                                       ft/m       12/3.6

Eye Relief                                                                           2.4 / 60 in / mm

Diopter Adjustment                                                       -6 to +3

Emitter                                                                                 LED

Equivalent IR Power,                                                      1060 on high, ~540 on medium, ~400 on low

Night Vision Detection Range                                     200 / 183 yd / m

Power Supply                                                                    6 v

Battery life, hours                                                           3.5 video mode / 4.5 preview mode

External Power Supply                                                  5V via micro USB

Number of Preloaded Reticles                                   10

Reticle Colors                                                    Black, white, red, blue, green, cyan, orange, yellow, magenta

Body Material                                                                   Aluminum

Accessory rail mount                                                     Picatinny

Operating Temperature                                                5 to 122 / – 15 to + 50 F / C

Waterproof Rating                                          IP55 water-resistant

Nitrogen Purged                                                              No

Shockproof                                                                         Yes, 3ft

Maximum Recoil                                                              .308

Tube size, in/mm                                                             N/A

Length                                                                                  10.5 / 266 in / mm

Width                                                                                   1.875 / 63 in / mm

Height                                                                                  3 / 75 in / mm

Weight, oz                                                                          36.3 (with batteries)

Elevation Range of Adjustment                                 70 MOA

Windage Range of Adjustment                                  170 MOA

Windage & Elevation click value                                               1/5 MOA

Battery Type                                                                      4xAA

Battery Life (with IR)                                                      2 hours on high (2x CR123A Battery Type for IR)

Field of View                                                                     4 (horizontal) degrees

IR Wavelength                                                                 850nm

Night Vision Versus Thermal Rifle Scopes

Thermal Rifles scopes differ from night vision scopes. In some ways, they are more usable as they detect thermal radiation. They can also be used in all light conditions, unlike night vision scopes. The drawbacks of thermal rifle scopes are that you can see animals and humans well. However, the plants and terrain will only appear in a greyscale and can be hard to judge.

Advantages of digital scopes

The vast selection of digital scopes on the market today is growing. In this list, I have touched on only the top 5 in the affordable price range that is comparable to a regular optic scope. However, there currently 13 major manufacturers offering Thermal digital rifle scopes. Prices of these scopes range from $499 to over $10,000 for a scope.

The features being offered in these scopes are taking a lot of the work out of shooting for the shooter. Almost all the scopes being offered on the market today have built-in range finders and ballistic calculators. These will calculate the range to target and formulate a firing solution for you. It will even automatically adjust the reticle to reflect the desired Point of impact.

This means that even an average shooter can hit the intended target with a lot more accuracy.

They also offer a slew of different options from reticle type and color selection, video shot recording, and GPS tracking, just to name a few. Though none of these options are truly needed, they do increase the enjoyment of using the scope.

Dis-advantages of Digital Thermal Rifle Scopes

The biggest downfall of anything that relies on batteries to operate is the batteries. Sooner or later that digital optic sitting on top of the rifle is going to become a paperweight. If you are out on a 7-day hunt trip and you forget your spare batteries, you are done as soon as the power goes.

The other issue I can see with these types of scopes is that a new shooter just getting into the sport may never learn how to use a true optic scope. Or understand the ballistics behind the bullet performance. This will eventually lead to the loss of skill among shooters. (Not any time soon but still a point to keep in mind).

Another point to keep in mind is that you are looking at a video screen when using a digital scope. It is not the same as looking through an optic type scope.

As far as I could find the digital thermal rifle scopes are legal to own in all states. However, here in Arizona, they are not legal for hunting. Arizona law “R12-4-303” section 2 paragraph D states the following items are not legal for taking wildlife.

 Electronic night vision equipment, electronically enhanced light-gathering devices, thermal imaging devices or laser sights projecting a visible light; except for devices such as laser range finders projecting a non-visible light, scopes with self-illuminating reticles, and fiber optic sights with self-illuminating sights or pins that do not project a visible light onto an animal.”

Section 2 Paragraph “d” of Arizona Law R12-4-303

The Arizona Game And Fish regulations also prohibit the use of electronic digital sighting systems that give the hunter an unfair advantage. So, it is important to check your local and state laws before bolting on that new thermal sight and heading out into the dark.

A great reference for the state laws is at this website: https://www.coyotehunting101.com/coyote-hunting-regulations/

They have compiled a list by state of the laws regarding predator hunting. It is still wise to check with your local game and fish department. Ignorance of the law is no excuse and if you get caught doing something illegal in your state there is a good chance you lose not only the sight but also be looking at a hefty fine.

Are Thermal Rifle Scopes worth it?

The answer to this can only be determined by the end-user. They are a great tool for taking out predators. Especially if you are a farmer that is having your livelihood threatened by mostly nocturnal predators. Wild hogs can tear up farming land and are not naturally found here in the USA.

I do see them as the future of sighting devices going forward. Like all thing’s battery operated it is all about the power. And in my opinion, the power is the biggest hurdle. Once they figure out how to make these devices recharge themselves then I believe they will become the mainstream sighting system.

Stay Safe and shoot often

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