14 Best Thermal Scopes in 2020 (Reviews and Buying Guide)

Thermal Scope Buying Guide (Featured Image)

Hunting furry critters and putting down bad guys is all good and fun for roughly 12 hours a day.

For the other time, after the sun goes down, those critters naturally have the upper hand. They have learned to use their natural night vision and the cover of darkness to evade predators, search for food, and avoid high daytime temperatures.

Luckily for you, whether you’re putting food on the table or liberating a foreign country in turmoil, there is a modern tool that can basically turn you into the terminator and keep you plinking 24 hours a day, light or dark.

I remember the first time I got to use a thermal scope. It was a PAS-13 thermal weapon sight passed to me by my platoon commander. Looking through the scope, I couldn’t believe how easy it was to pick out the steel targets which were still hot from the high daytime temperatures of the Mojave desert.

I was pretty excited, thinking that someday I might get issued one, but then he told me the optic costs around 40 grand. Looking down at my PVS-14 night vision that was held together with duct tape, I was reminded that the Marine Corps is broke and realized I was never going to be issued one.

The good news is thermal scope prices have dropped a lot. Don’t get me wrong they’re still pretty expensive, but when shopping for thermals you have to utilize the “buy once cry once” mentality.

You can find videos of thermal optics in action all over YouTube. They’re commonly used in southern states like Texas by hunters attempting to solve “The Plague of the Pigs” where invasive hog species are wreaking havoc and causing millions of dollars in damage annually.

Many states have lifted all hunting restrictions so you can kill as many as you want, whenever you want, with whatever you want. If hunters can’t solve the hog problem, southern states may have to resort to poisoning the pigs’ food supply, which could have serious environmental consequences.

So, if you do decide to pick up a thermal scope head down and help our friends in the south solve their pest problem!

Nowadays you can find thermals all over Amazon and even in some chain sporting goods stores.

With prices being low and availability being high, it may sound quite simple to purchase a new fancy thermal scope, however, there are many different styles and many different variations to choose from. Without first understanding the science of thermal scopes and the lingo this new breed of tech comes with, choosing the best thermal scope for your intended use may be challenging.

This guide will help you understand how thermal imaging works, the different types of thermal imaging, identifying the type of thermal unit you need and will help guide you through the process of purchasing one so you can get on with bullet slinging all night long!

What is a Thermal Scope?

Thermal scopes fall into the field of infrared imaging technologies. The thermographic cameras that are built into thermal scopes use infrared technology to detect sources of radiation emitted from heat-producing sources.

This is made possible through the miracle of modern science, that is, scientists in this field learned that because all sources of heat with a temperature higher than absolute zero (a very, very cold temperature) emit a certain type of radiation within the infrared range on the color spectrum that is invisible to the naked eye; this radiation could be visualized on screen with or without illumination.

Thermal scopes utilize infrared radiation to produce an enhanced contrast image of what is viewed through the scope that allows the user to identify targets even in poor visibility.

Most scopes combine a small thermographic camera with an aiming reticle that allows the operator to quickly identify anything that gives off a heat signature.

The ability of thermal scopes to operate in complete darkness means the shooter can take the necessary time to place a well-aimed shot. For hunting, this means the takedown will be quick and a total surprise to the target or prey despite lighting conditions.

Night Vision vs Thermal Scopes – What is the Difference?

Here is a good video that provides an overview of how the two distinct technologies work. If you don’t want to watch the video, I have provided a summary below the video.

Night vision goggles (NVGs) work by detecting low levels of light and amplifying it. The distinct green color is used on purpose because the human eye is sensitive to green. You may notice some of the newer scopes use blue, but most still use green.

Night vision goggles allow the wearer to have enhanced visibility in dark conditions. They do require at least some ambient light to create a picture and cannot pick up on energy given off in the form of heat. This is a significant problem if using night vision on very dark nights or inside buildings when the lights are off.

Thermal scopes offer an entirely different experience and a much more enhanced visual capability in total darkness, even when there is no available light.

In these scenarios, thermal imaging scopes take advantage of the known scientific fact that all heat-producing bodies emit small amounts of infrared radiation, which is invisible to the naked eye and NV technologies.

The image produced by a thermal scope is less detailed than most types of NVGs, but objects are much easier to find through the scope and the forward-looking infrared (FLIR) technology that makes these thermal scopes possible is far more advanced than the technologies used in night vision.

How Do Thermal Scopes Work?

The images produced by thermal scopes are depicted in high contrast light between objects giving off energy and their less energized surroundings.

Remember, energy is heat and heat is what we’re targeting. If you’re shooting at targets that do not produce heat, thermal scopes will be nearly useless for you other than to show you what not to shoot at.

First and foremost, we need to understand what it is we are trying to see. Since our eyes cannot see most of the light in our world, we need to narrow down what we need to view.

In the case of Infrared light waves, there are three types.

Near-infrared is the closest to visible light.

Mid-infrared is what we use when we turn the TV on with a remote controller.

Thermal-infrared, which occupies the largest portion of the light spectrum is what we are looking for when implementing thermal scope technology. This type of infrared is emitted by an object instead of being reflected off of it like the other types of infrared above. This type of light is emitted due to the atomic release of energy.

To pick up thermal light that we cannot see, we must use special equipment with lenses that can focus on the thermal infrared light and then paint us a picture by rendering it with a processing unit.

There are typically 3 pieces to a thermal scope.

Optics: Are used to focus and sometimes magnify the target.

Infrared Detector: All energy gives off light, but the human eye can only pick up a very small portion of the light spectrum. The infrared detector focuses on energy in the air which is on a spectrum our eyeballs cannot see. Thermal light occupies the largest portion of the light spectrum, thus making the task of an infrared detector very difficult as nearly everything gives off at least some signature of energy.

Signal Processor: This is where the image is created by painting you a colorful picture the infrared detector is witnessing. Since you can’t see what the infrared detector can, the signal processing unit must translate the image into something viewing to the human eye.

There are two main types of thermal imaging.

Forward-looking infrared technology (FLIR; pronounced “Fleer,” like the baseball card company) is a specific type of thermographic IR technology type which is the IR technology used primarily in aircraft or satellite thermographic imaging.

Sideways tracking systems can only utilize a one-dimensional sweep of pixels, the digital dots which make up the resulting false-color IR image that is viewed by the operator.

How Are Thermal Scopes Used?

Thermal imaging has a lot of use cases.

Like I mentioned earlier, the most common civilian application is hunting, especially hog and coyote hunting.

Many farmers and hunters use thermal scopes to prevent hog overpopulation on their property, but because the pigs reproduce so rapidly their efforts have been futile, even with hunters killing them around the clock from helicopters and with state of the art shooting gear.

To see thermal rifle scopes in action just type in “Best thermal night hunting videos with the Trijicon REAP-IR” into YouTube. You can copy and paste the words between the quotation marks there into YouTube and the video I’m talking about should be the first one to pop up. Just a forewarning the video is pretty graphic.

Thermal imagers are also handy tools for search and rescue teams. This is demonstrated quite a bit on the television show “Alaska State Troopers” for search and rescue operations. Without thermal imaging locating lost hikers and party members in the extensive and vast open spaces of the Denali Wilderness Reserve would be nearly impossible.

Their usefulness is also demonstrated on the US Border Patrol focused television series “Border Wars”. On the show, they use thermal equipped Black Hawk helicopters to detect illegal border crossings and to direct ground agents to a group of suspects fleeing the area.

If you’ve ever seen this in action, you know how difficult it is, if not close to impossible, for a fleeing suspect to evade a thermographic tracking imaging device, whether it’s the FLIR module mounted to the Black Hawk of a FLIR-equipped thermographic scope being used in the same capacity while mounted to an agent’s assault rifle.

They’re commonly used by search and rescue teams, law enforcement, and military units. A few years ago, they were too expensive for the everyday outdoorsman, but the prices have dropped quite a bit enabling a price range friendlier for the general consumer.

You can pick up a high-quality thermal optic without having to worry about a lien being put on your house or shelling out your child’s entire college fund (only part of it needed)!

The technology has been used to successfully detect cancerous tumors, allergies in animals; in fact, the CDC even used thermographic imaging to scan for cases suspicious for swine flu during the 2009 scare involving that disease.

If you’ve walked through immigration at an international airport lately, you may have noticed a station set up with massive cameras. These cameras are thermal imaging cameras used to see if travelers are running unusually high fevers or carrying something abnormally full of energy with them.

11 Tips and Considerations When Buying a Scope

Do You Need a Handheld Thermal Monocular or Thermal Rifle Scope?

When considering how thermals will operate with your loadout, first you need to decide if a handheld device would suffice or you require a mounted thermal scope. There are many handheld monocular style thermal scopes that are excellent for target acquisition and spotting. Some shooters even spot targets with their thermal monocular scope then switch to their NVGs mounted on their rifle to take the shot because night vision usually gives a more detailed image.

You may not always need thermals activated while shooting and if you plan to use thermal imaging only to enhance your view of the field in front of you, you may not need a thermal scope but instead a handheld thermal monocular may be a cheaper option.

If you are firing in extremely low light or utter darkness, though, standard night vision isn’t going to do you much good and you’ll probably be wanting to squeeze shots off through the thermal imager itself. If that’s the case, you’ll have no choice but to outfit your boomsticks with a thermal imaging scope.


Since thermographic scopes utilize digital information to project a false-color image that is viewable by the human eye, the resolution is going to be the main determinant of image sharpness and clarity. This doesn’t just apply to thermal scopes, but in any digital imaging device, be it a digital camera, computer monitor, printer, or even HD or 4K TV set.

When the raw data is interpreted into usable image form, the output image is essentially a large array of different color dots called “pixels.” A common resolution, VGA, is quantified as 640×480, which literally means that, on a given rectangular viewing area, there would be 640 horizontal dots and 480 vertical dots. The larger the image projected, the higher the resolution needs to be in order to remain realistic and crisp.

Because of this, you may understand it a little better if we talk in terms of the technical measurement of resolution, a measurement that remains constant no matter what the size of the screen on which you are viewing your thermal image – this is known as DPI or “dots per inch.” In thermal scope and other small screen applications, VGA resolution is sufficient to be on par with “high-definition” descriptors.

However, because there are so many counterfeits or “knock-off” scopes on the market, please make sure that you compare the actual specifications instead of simply relying on a sticker on a box or website that states “high definition thermal scope.”

I will recommend a couple of places to buy thermal scopes that have a good reputation, so you won’t have to worry about spending a bunch of money on a scope that ends up being a lemon.

No matter what website or store you decide to buy from, just make it a point to make sure you are actually getting what you think you are getting. Make sure there are verified customer reviews and the seller is reputable.

There are even some shady sellers selling fake scopes under the name of real high-end brands, so make sure the scope is manufactured and is being shipped from somewhere that makes sense.

Refresh Rate

This is a term that is used in all display equipment as a means of measuring the cycle rate that each pixel in an image is updated. This can be achieved using a variety of technical methods, all of which mean nothing to you and are calculations performed inside of whatever piece of display equipment you are using.

The optimal refresh rate of any device, including FLIR thermal scopes, is directly proportional to the resolution. An inefficient or incompatible refresh rate can cause all sorts of problems with the display and the image that is generated from the radiological data observed by scope.

The dictionary definition states the refresh rate is the rate at which identical frames are redrawn. When applied correctly and with the correct frame rate, the resultant image through the scope is the best quality image and motion that the device is capable of.

Again, if these settings are applied incorrectly, expect lackluster image quality and even possible damage to the screen from what is known as “burn-in,” a phenomenon that occurs when the silhouette of an image remains behind after it is viewed on-screen or on-device.

For more detailed and technical information on frequency, refresh rates, and frame rates, check out this article about refresh rates on Wikipedia here.

While the Wikipedia page does not mention thermal shooting optics, the concept and applications are identical across any imaging device or display.

Color Palettes

One of the first characteristics of a thermal scope you’ll notice will likely be which color palette it uses to display contrast in the image. There are many different palettes inside of two main categories, which are either Monochrome or False color. Some IR scopes may even include features to utilize both false color and monochrome palettes with a selector switch or menu settings.

Monochrome is essentially a grayscale used in different shades to differentiate thermal radiating objects. This particular scope will display objects with more energy as a darker or lighter shade than its surroundings and some monochrome IR scopes even come with the option to switch between which shade you’d like to use for which designation. Monochrome is typically best for hunting and shooting as it provides just enough information for the shooter to identify their targets without distracting them. Grayscale is often easier to use for further distances and may provide a better silhouette of the target.

False-color equipped thermals are called false-color because they don’t actually see the color of the energy in the air. Instead, they are simply processing the information they receive from the infrared sensors and then use a computer to create an image based on what it thinks it should look like. These typically come with a scale ranging from blue as low or no energy to dark red which indicates high amounts of energy. False-color thermal imaging is often more valuable for people in HVAC or use in electrical wiring applications as they provide an easier view of the range of temperatures. For hunting and shooting purposes, you likely won’t need a range and may even be distracted by the plethora of different colors.

Reticle Options / Styles

A reticle is a technical term for the series of fine lines that are used to line up the target in your scope. Thermal scopes come with a variety of reticle options, and the monocular-type viewing only scopes do not have reticles built-in, as they are not meant to be utilized to take a shot, but only to increase visibility in low-light or total darkness or to surveil a location undetected.

There are quite a few different styles of reticles, known more commonly as “crosshairs” in general usage:

  • Fine Crosshair
  • Duplicate Crosshair
  • German Retide.
  • Target dot.
  • Mil-Dot.
  • Circle (used in shotguns or CQB applications)
  • SVD-type.

The purpose of a reticle is to act as a visual aid to increase the accuracy of your shot by overlying an X and Y axis and their intersection over the target. Different reticle styles are designed for different types of weapons and shooting scenarios. Consider this when looking at the reticle options on your preferred thermal scope.

Aside from knowing the different styles and options of reticles mentioned previously, you need to determine whether or not you actually even need a reticle in the first place, or whether you will just be using your scope as a way to visualize things in absolute darkness that was impossible before.


This is another feature of thermal scopes (and all devices that include any form of digital image finder/camera, not just thermal) that allows you to visualize objects at a safe distance. The more distance between you and the target, the less likely you are to be detected. This is very important if you are using your scope for surveillance or if you are in law enforcement or the military and find yourself using a pair of thermal binoculars, a monocular, or scope.

Because of the nature of resolution and pixels per inch, an image that looks crystal clear with no zoom applied could become degraded and “pixelated” if the zoom exceeds the optimal resolution. This is why it is important to make an educated decision when you purchase this very crucial piece of technology, so you can understand and comprehend small variations in the specifications between different products and what those variations mean for your intended use.

Reticle Options / Styles

A reticle is a technical term for the series of fine lines that are used to line up the target in your scope. Thermal scopes come with a variety of reticle options, and the monocular-type viewing only scopes usually do not have reticles built-in, as they are not meant to be utilized to take a shot, but only to increase visibility in low-light or total darkness or to surveil a location undetected.

There are quite a few different styles of reticles, known more commonly as “crosshairs” in general usage:

  • Fine Crosshair
  • Duplicate Crosshair
  • German Retide.
  • Target dot.
  • Mil-Dot.
  • Circle (used in shotguns or CQB applications)
  • SVD-type.

The purpose of a reticle is to act as a visual aid to increase the accuracy of your shot by overlying an X and Y axis and their intersection over the target. Different reticle styles are designed for different types of weapons and shooting scenarios. Consider this when looking at the reticle options on your preferred thermal scope.

Aside from knowing the different styles and options of reticles mentioned previously, you need to determine whether or not you actually even need a reticle in the first place, or whether you will just be using the optic for spotting purposes.

Range Finder

Some thermal scopes have the option of including an embedded rangefinder, thus combining yet another important shooting utility tool as a function of the scope. If you don’t already know, rangefinders are devices that are able of calculating the distance between you and your target, thus allowing you to make the correct bullet drop compensations, call out targets, and determine objective distances.

Battery Life

If you plan on using your scope in the field instead of for another application, such as home security, you definitely want to consider battery life when purchasing a thermal scope. Some scopes may come with the option of a standard battery (such as a Ni-MH) or a long-life battery (such as Lithium-Ion). If your application of the scope is going to require long use, then you must make it a primary factor because let’s face it – no matter how great your scope is, if you can’t power it up, it’s just dead weight.

Some scopes will come with battery-saving features such as auto shut off timers and shake to wake technology. If you’re using your scope often or the scope will be on a rifle that may need to be rapidly deployed, using shake to wake technology may be the best option.

Other Features

Examples of some of these special available options that may or may not come standard with your scope of choice includes wireless internet capability (Wi-Fi), the option to record thermographic video and stills; the ability to expand storage through the use of an SD card; image stabilization technologies; as well as some other very mission-critical options that are available on certain models.


Price is always a consideration when making a large purchase, and this is no different when it comes to thermal scopes. There are scopes that come in a variety of price points, with the most affordable FLIR scopes for viewing and surveilling only coming in just around $500.00; with the higher end, rifle-mountable, reticle-including shooter optics coming with a price tag ranging from $3000.00 to $10000.00. Thus, evaluate your options and make your choice accordingly versus what you require in your new scope.

Remember that with most firearm accessories, the buy once cry once mentality will often save you money in the long run. Even if your bank account cries out in great agony about buying a top-end piece, just think of the peace of mind you’ll have knowing you have a durable and reliable piece of technology you can use anytime.

Buying something cheap in the world of firearms usually results in the need to spend more money in the future and may even endanger your life. So instead of being left in the dark with no vision, buy yourself something that will last and is trusted.

Quick Answer: Here Are the Best Thermal Scopes

1. Trijicon IREAP

Trijicon IREAP

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Price range: Under $8000
Note: My choice as the best thermal scope under 10 grand

My review: This is an awesome mountable thermal scope that is very popular for hunting hogs and coyotes. I have used this thermal and I can’t believe the image quality. If you type in “Trijicon IReap hunting” into YouTube you will see tons of video of this optic in action. I actually put a video of the sight being used for coyote and hug hunting below, then attached another video of the scope being reviewed. Slightly less expensive than the Trijicon TEO-IR reviewed below, Trijicon thermal scope is just as awesome and is a bit smaller and more compact by intentional design. It features nearly all of the same bells and whistles as the Trijicon TEO-IR, but it is a little bit less expensive. Battery life is slightly less than the other Trijicon, coming in at 4 hours of active battery life. If you watch the videos below I think you will be truly impressed! I was reading reviews on Amazon and was surprised it didn’t have 4.5/5 stars or above, then I dug a little deeper and the only person that gave it a bad review was someone who felt that civilians shouldn’t be allowed to own this type of technology.

Here is a video showing this scope being used for hunting.

Key Features:

  • 35mm compact, lightweight 640×480 thermal sensor
  • Digital contrast enhancement (DCE) and digital focus control (DFC)
  • Stadiametric ranging
  • Edge detection mode.
  • Reticle position readouts with multiple reticle save locations and five reticle patterns.
  • Thumbstick system controller.
  • 12-micron technology sensor.
  • Uncooled Vox frame rate with a refresh rate of 60 Hz.
  • Magnification: 1x optical/8x digital display.
  • Digital OLED with e-zoom.
  • Polarity start-up time: 5 sec.

2. Trijicon Teo IR-Thermal Hunter

Trijicon Teo IR Hunter

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Price range: Around $9000

My review: This is the granddaddy of ’em all in terms of features, range, and price. This scope includes enhanced target recognition, stadiametric rangefinder; overlays with windage and range calculations, and just about any feature you could possibly want in a FLIR-based shooter optic thermal scope. At $9000, this is the most expensive scope that we have on our list, but the features included are worth it if you have this type of money to spend on a badass thermal scope. Trijicon is known to be expensive but it’s also among the most battle-hardened brands out there. Check out the video below it is has some awesome footage!


  • May see divorce summons when your spouse sees the receipt

Key Features:

  • 60 mm lens
  • Includes 640×480 thermal sensor
  • Enhanced target recognition.
  • Digital contrast enhancement
  • Stadiametric rangefinder with windage/elevation position readouts
  • 8x digital zoom 12-micron technology.
  • Multiple reticle options
  • Turret knobs for superior ergonomics
  • Full digital video.
  • Polarity start-up time: 5 sec.
  • Includes 7 batteries with a battery life of 6 hours.
  • Quick detach weapon mount.

3. N-Vision Optics Halo-LR

N-Vision Optics Halo-LR

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Price range: Around $7500 depending on availability

My Review: The N-Vision Optics Halo-LR is a newer thermal scope to the market and is by far one of the best for the money.

First and foremost, the N-Vision Halo-LR is using a 60hz refresh rate, which is immediately noticeable compared to other lower refresh rates found in cheaper consumer-grade thermal optics. The higher refresh rate means your sight picture is being refreshed 60 times per second, giving you a huge advantage over something that has maybe 30hz. High refresh rate thermal optics are insanely hard to manufacture but it seems like technology is catching up and the future of thermal optics is looking not only bright but super crispy and clear!

N-Vision has achieved such a great refresh rate inside of an overall fantastic optical package by using a 12-micrometer thermal chip, which is currently the smallest possible chip at the time of reviewing this product. This chip is significantly smaller and also outputs less heat, allowing the manufacturer to cram more technology in a smaller and lighter space.

Key Features:

  • Resolution of 640×480 and a refresh rate of 60hz paired up with a beautiful class-leading OLED display
  • A maximum thermal detection range of 2020 yards with a variable zoom of 1x, 2x, and 4x
  • Pre-loaded with 6 different thermal optimized reticles
  • Fully waterproof and minimally impacted by heavy rain
  • 50mm fully multi-coated germanium objective lens with anti-reflection
  • Weighs less than 30oz, making this one of the most feature-rich thermal sights in this weight range

4. Flir ThermoSight R-Series RS64 2-16X

Flir ThermoSight R-Series RS64 2-16X

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Price range: Under $5000

My review: This FLIR thermal shooting scope comes with 3 reticle settings and has a heat signature detection range of 355 yards. The 640×480 Vox resolution means that you will be able to get the best night/darkness vision possible, specifically designed for hunting excursions. The scope has an impressive excess of 4 hours of battery life while in operation, not standby. This intimidating scope also allows for the optimization of color palettes as well as video customization. At just over $5100, this scope is on the high-side of the medium range of thermal scopes. I put a video of the scope being used for hog hunting below.

Key Features:

  • 640×480 Vox HD active matrix LCD display
  • IPX7 waterproofing
  • Submersible
  • 30hz frame rate
  • 3 reticle settings optimized on any color settings
  • Clear thermal imaging up to 355 yards
  • 60mm focal length lens
  • 4+ hour battery life
  • 3” eye relief
  • Up to 16x magnification
  • Advanced proprietary ThermoSight image correction system
  • Simple 4 button operation design
  • Six video palettes including FLIR InstAlert

5. ATN OTS-HD 384 Thermal Smart HD Monoculars

ATN OTS-HD 384 Thermal Smart HD Monoculars

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Price range: Under $4000

My review: This offering from ATN is not meant for shooter optic applications, however, it is by far one of the most advanced thermal spotting systems on the market today. It is a monocular-type thermal imaging device that is perfect for home security and surveillance applications. As mentioned before, these types of monocular devices do not include any reticle; and their included feature set makes this device perfect for shooting high-resolution thermographic videos. ATN pulled out all the stops on this one and implemented the most cutting edge technology to perfect their thermal imaging systems. I put a video below so you can see the image quality.

Key Features:

  • 384×288 thermal sensor
  • Wireless internet (Wi-Fi) capability
  • 1280×720 HD display
  • High resolution video recording
  • 3D gyroscope
  • Geotagging capable
  • Built-in laser rangefinder
  • E-Compass
  • E-Zoom system enabling the device to focus and auto zoom on specific targets from 2-8x using smooth zoom
  • Apps available for viewing on your Android or iPhone screens

6. Pulsar Helion XP Thermal Monocular

Pulsar Helion XP Thermal Monocular

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Price range: Under $4000

My review: This is perfect for those who wish to share their adventures on the web! It is a great little thermal camera for recording video and taking photos. The thermal monocular comes with 8GB of onboard video storage and is damn near capable of going anywhere with waterproofing, frost resistance, extreme temperature resistance, fogproofing, and impact resistance. This bad boy comes with just about every bell and whistle you can pack into a monocular and comes with an industry competitive 8 hour battery life.

Key Features:

  • 8hr rechargeable battery supply
  • 50Hz refresh rate
  • Integrated accelerometer
  • Stadiametric rangefinder
  • Operating temperature range of -13 to 122 degrees
  • Heat detection up to 2000 yards
  • Onboard video recorder with 8GB internal storage
  • Built-in wifi and Stream Vision app integration
  • IPX7 waterproof, dustproof, fogproof
  • 6450×480 resolution
  • Variable magnification up to 8x
  • 8 custom color palettes

7. Pulsar Trail XP50

Pulsar Trail XP50

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Price range: $4500-$5500

My review: This thermal scope from Trail is one of the best values per available features of any scope we have reviewed in the mid-range price section. At a price between 4 and $5000, its price tag sits right smack in the middle of the lowest and highest price ceilings for thermal scopes. I have attached a video of a Trail XP50 being used for coyote hunting. If you hit the link below the scope there is also a good video on the Amazon product page that goes more in detail about the scopes features.

Key Features:

  • Ultra-easy operator interface; simple to use without any training.
  • Come with an 8-hour rechargeable battery supply
  • 50Hz refresh rate
  • Integrated accelerometer
  • Built-in stadiametric rangefinder
  • Wide operating temperature range of -13° – 122°
  • Heat detection up to 2,000 yards
  • Onboard video recorder with an 8gb internal storage
  • Built-in WiFi and Stream Vision App – “Observe, Stream, Transfer, Upgrade”
  • IPX7 waterproof, dust-proof, fog-proof performance

8. Pulsar Trail XQ38 (Best Value Scope)

Pulsar Trail XQ38

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Price range: Under $4000

My review: Pulsar is one of the leading thermal scope companies, which is why I have several of there scopes on this list. This isn’t there most expensive scope, but it does get the job done is probably the best thermal scope for the money right now. Personally, I would buy the XP50 over the XQ38, but for the money, I would say the XQ38 is better. The two thermals are nearly identical on the outside, but they do have different lens sizes. The XQ38 has a 32mm lens with a wider field of view (16.3 degrees) with a base magnification of 1.2x. The XP50 has a 42mm lens with field of view of 12.4 degrees and a base magnification of 1.6x. Pulsar also makes a cheaper model (the XQ30) which is still a solid scope, but because this review is already going to be so long I decided to not add it to the list. This scope has most all the features a good thermal scope should have. It’s not going to give you the kind of clarity a more expensive Trijicon thermal will, but at this price point, this scope is a beast. It has an internal video recorder, rechargeable battery, built in memory, and a whole lot more.

Key Features:

  • 640×480 video resolution
  • 384×288 microbolometer resolution
  • 50 Hz frame rate
  • 50mm eye relief
  • 1350 meter range of detection
  • x2/x4 digital zoom

9. Armasight by FLIR Zeus 336 Thermal Scope

Armasight by FLIR Zeus 336 Thermal Scope

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Price range: Under $4000

My review: This FLIR scope is designed to be mounted on a rifle as a shooter optic sight. It includes a high-performance thermal imaging camera and it will fit on any Picatinny MIL 1913 or Weaver rail. It has the option of adding an external power supply as well as a recording device capable of shooting some awesome thermal videos. Ranging in the mid-$3000’s, this scope is pretty affordable, especially because of its shooting capabilities and specifications. The manufacturer usually backs their products with a 3-year warranty (at least at the time this article was posted) so you can rest assured even when using this scope in the most extreme conditions. Here is a video of the scope being used for hog hunting. Just a forewarning there is a lot of hogs being shot. Just keep in mind that hogs are a huge problem in Texas and if they were not hunted the state would likely have to take other measures like poisoning their food supply to solve the overpopulation problem.

Key Features:

  • Optical Magnification 3.4x(PAL)/ 2.8x(NTSC) for worldwide compatibility.
  • The latest Tau 2 17-micron uncooled FLIR core technology
  • Pixel Array Format: 336×256
  • AMOLED SVGA 800×600 resolution for great quality thermographs
  • Drop-down user interface
  • Fast 60Hz vertical refresh rate imaging
  • Digital zoom to 1x, 2x and 4x
  • User selectable options for White Hot/ Black Hot/ Rainbow/ and other Various Color Modes.
  • 6 variable, digitally-controlled reticle patterns available:
  • Reticle Colors: Black, White, Red, Cyan
  • Electronic zoom reticle tracking capability maintaining boresight
  • Imaging Filter Algorithms
  • Active Contrast Enhancement(ACE)
  • Second Generation Digital Detail Enhancement(DDE)Smart Scene Optimization(SSO)
  • Automatic Gain Control (AGC)
  • Silent Shutterless Non-uniformity Correction(SSN)

10. Armasight by FLIR Predator 336

Armasight by FLIR Predator 336

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Price range: Under $2000

My review: This Armasight FLIR Systems-manufactured thermal rifle site is a vision of beauty to behold. It is a feature-rich system (feature list to follow) device with the latest technologies. With 6 digital reticle settings and built-in MIL-STD-1913 rails, it comes ready to mount to your weapon of choice for operating in daylight or total darkness. For less than $2000, this is a more economical choice for shooters who don’t want to sacrifice too much quality but still want to pick up one of the best budget thermal imaging scopes on the market. I attached a video below of the Armasight predator below. Just a warning the video does show some hogs being killed.

Key Features:

  • Fast 60 Hz refresh rate
  • Latest Tau-2 17-micron FLIR core technologies
  • Optical magnification capable up to 2x and digital zoom to 4x.
  • Choice of 6 different reticle sights in 3 different colors.
  • Constructed with aircraft aluminum frame.
  • Extended battery life with an optional extra battery pack.
  • Objective Lens Type: Germanium
  • Type of Focal Plane Array FLIR Tau 2
  • Pixel Array Format 336×256
  • Pixel Size 17 μm
  • Display Type LED VGA 640×480
  • Turn-on Time, max 3 sec
  • Digital Zoom 1x, 2x and 4x
  • Image Palettes White Hot, Black Hot, Fusion, Rainbow, Globow, Ironbow 1, Ironbow 2, Sepia, Color 1, Color 2, Ice-Fire, Rain, and Custom
  • Reticle Type 6-Pattern Digitally Controlled: “Dot 4 MOA”, “Line Dot”, “Cross Center Dot”, “Cross”, “Crosshair”, and “No Reticle”
  • Reticle Color Black, White, Red, Cyan
  • Boresight Adjustment Type Digitally Controlled
  • Analog Input and Output Format PAL / NTSC
  • Field of View – ang. (X / Y) 13 degrees / 10 degrees
  • Objective Focal Length 25 mm
  • Objective F-number 1:1
  • Eye Relief 45 mm
  • Focusing Range 3m to infinity
  • Diopter Adjustment Manual
  • Diopter Adjustment Range ±5 diopter
  • Battery CR123 Lithium 3V (2) or CR123 type rechargeable batteries with voltage from 3.0V to 3.7V (2)*
  • Battery Life at 20 °C (68 °F) Up to 3 (optional up to 10 hrs)
  • External Power Supply Optional Extended Battery Pack with rechargeable batteries (up to 7 hours) or 6 VDC/ 600mА external power source
  • Weapon Mount Type Picatinny MIL-STD 1913 and Weaver Rails
  • Operating Temperature -40 to +50°C (-40 to +122°F)
  • Storage Temperature -50 to +70°C (-58 to +158°F)
  • Environmental Rating Water and Fog Resistant
  • Overall Dimensions 194×68×78 mm (7.6”×2.8”×3.2”)
  • Weight (w/o Batteries) 0.63 kg (1.4 lbs)

11. FLIR Systems Scout III-240 Thermal Imager

FLIR Systems Scout III-240 Thermal Imager

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Price range: Under $2000

My review: This FLIR monocular is a step in quality from the Scout TK model reviewed earlier. This increase in price comes with a TON of advantages over the other; including the ability to see tiny heat signatures at a 1200 feet (400 yards) range. This is a field-tested monocular that is great for coyote and hot hunting. Just keep in mind this is a viewer only so you will need night vision scope or another thermal scope if you are planning on doing any night hunting. It is relatively cheap when compared to the higher end models we will be reviewing in this guide, but includes specifications that make it perfect for visualizing thermal signature images in a pretty clear 640×480 resolution and super-fast 30 Hz – 60 Hz vertical refresh rate. It is one of the best thermal viewers available – with super-fast power-on options, compact size, and a whole slew of gradient choices, including black hot, white hot, Gradedfire and InstAlert (a trademarked detection palette algorithm).

Key Features:

  • Detects heat signatures over 1200 yards away
  • E-Zoom
  • Customizable color palettes
  • Thermal imaging in all lighting conditions
  • Weather proof design with IP67 waterproofing
  • 5-hour rechargeable battery
  • 680×480 LCD display
  • 30hz or 60hz refresh imaging
  • Pocket size design
  • Weighs 12oz

12. ATN ThOR 4 Scope (Best Cheap Thermal Scope)

ATN ThOR 4 Scope

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Price range: Under $2000

My review: This sub-$2000 reticle-enabled shooting optic FLIR scope from ATN has an ultra-sensitive and cutting-edge sensor, which, according to the manufacturer, is able to capture very sharp, crisp, and clear images even at the furthest range specifications with improved resolution, sensitivity, and color gradients, even in total darkness or other low-visibility situations. The scope includes an image stabilization system, as well as a ballistic calculator that improves accuracy by calculating wind, range, optimal settings for multiple weapons, and all sorts of other useful settings. This is an all in one monster of a system and leaves nothing to be desired. Getting a Thor4 is easily one of the best cheap thermal scopes out there! Here are some cool videos showing the scope in action.

Here is another good video that coves the features of this scope.

Ballistic calculator system

  • Range
  • Wind
  • Temperature
  • Angle of target
  • Humidity
  • Bullet ballistics
  • Dual stream video recording in HD resolution that records to the SD card as well as your mobile devices
  • Recoil activated video

Key Features:

  • 1.25-5x zoom capabilities
  • Gen 4 sensor with 384×288 resolution at 60hz
  • 1280×720 HD display
  • Quick detach mount
  • ATN ABL Laser range finder system
  • Remote controller
  • 18+ hours of battery life

13. ATN ThOR HD 384


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Price range: Under $1500

My review: This ATN Thor HD 384 Smart Rifle Scope has all of the features of the previous ATN monocular-type viewer-only scope. However, this model is a shooter optic with reticles, meant for rifle mounting. Just like the other ATN scope reviewed here, this rifle mounted thermal device is packed with features, including wireless internet (Wi-Fi) capability, 3D gyroscope, geotagging capable, and a built-in rangefinder, compass, zoom; as well as apps available for viewing on your Android or iPhone screens. I attached a video of the thermal being used for hunting below.

Key Features:

  • 384×288 thermal sensor
  • Wireless internet (Wi-Fi) capability
  • 1280×720 HD display
  • High resolution video recording
  • 3D gyroscope
  • Geotagging capable
  • Built-in laser rangefinder
  • E-Compass
  • E-Zoom system enabling the device to focus and auto zoom on specific targets from 1.25-5x using smooth zoom
  • Apps available for viewing on your Android or iPhone screens

14. Sig Sauer Echo 1

Sig Sauer Echo 1

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Price range: $1100
Note: This is a Reflex Sight

My review: For the money, this isn’t a bad thermal, just keep in mind it’s a very cheap thermal scope, so don’t expect a high resolution image. For most everything Sig Sauer, you’ll pay once and cry once. This brand could be the poster child for that phrase! If you have the money and you’re looking for the highest end technology encompassed inside the most durable constructed units, Sig Sauer is a strong go to brand. That said, I personally wouldn’t buy their Echo 1 thermal reflex sight. I would save up and spend a little on one of the scopes listed above, but if this is all the budget allows, it will get the job done. I put some videos below so you can get an idea of what the image quality is like.

Key Features:

  • Uncooled Vox microbolometer array
  • 5 default reticle options
  • Ability to design and implement customized reticles
  • Color matrix LCD display for both day and night
  • White or black hot heat configurations plus customizable color palette
  • Electronic zoom system capable of 1x or 2x.
  • Top mounted peep sights
  • SIG SAUER ROMEO1 adapter plate
  • IPX-6 waterproofing
  • Designed and assembled in the USA
  • The intended viewable range for this scope is 25 feet – 300 feet.

15. FLIR Scout TK Pocket-Sized Thermal Monocular

FLIR Scout TK Pocket-Sized Thermal Monocular

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Price range: Under $1000
Note: Designed for Viewing Only

My review: Coming in around $500, this is the cheapest thermal optic on this list. It is a very affordable handheld monocular you can actually pick on Amazon. The TK is quite a formidable competitor in this market and allows for full water submersion with the implementation of IP 67 waterproofing. If I were looking for a small pocket size thermal imaging system and didn’t want my bank account to cry, this is likely what I’d buy. Despite it being so small, you’ll still get a range of 100 yards and the camera couldn’t be easier to use. You can watch the video below to get an idea of what the image quality looks like. All in all, it’s a cheap thermal camera that is pretty good for viewing at short distances.

Key Features:

  • 160×120 resolution
  • 640×480 LCD display
  • 5 hour rechargeable battery life
  • Ip-67 waterproofing and submersible
  • Compact pocket size design
  • 100 yard (90m) range
  • 20×16 field of view
  • Comes with a neck lanyard, usb cable, and lens cap
  • Only weighs 6oz

Final Thoughts

If your wife or someone or someone you know is trying to talk you out of picking up a thermal optic, whether it be a scope or monocular, don’t listen to them. Think of all good choices you’ve made that that people tried to talk you out of in the past. It’s likely picking up a thermal will fall into that category of decisions.

Utilizing a thermal scope or thermal monocular really feels like something out of a science fiction movie but thankfully it’s 2019 and all of these cool gadgets are widely available. Thermal technology is certainly expensive, and I highly advise the buy once cry once mentality here to avoid being disappointed with low-quality products and untrustworthy brands.

This article should have covered just about everything you need to understand the basics of thermal optics and I hope it guides you well on your quest to achieving night time dominance whether it be from a helicopter hunting boar or on the battlefield liberating countries from evil dictators.

If you think I’ve missed something or you’ve purchased a thermal optic, feel free to share in the comments! I am always available to chat about tacticool gear!

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