Truth will be told today! If you’re here, it’s because you have to be.
It would be nice to spend around $3000 or more on a high-end night vision scope that would make you the envy of your hunting pack or work squad, but that day will have to wait.
For right now, the budget is boss, and the boss says to stay cheap.
But are there night vision scopes under $500?
Can you buy real night vision for even cheaper?
Yes you can.
Here are the cheapest night vision scopes, what you need to know about them, and if they’re any good.
Best Cheap Night Vision Scopes
|Bering Optics eXact Precision Monocular NV Kit||CHECK PRICE|
|Vector Optics 2.5x50 Gen 1||CHECK PRICE|
|Bestguarder NV-S-01||CHECK PRICE|
|Bestguarder WG-50 6X50 HD Monocular||CHECK PRICE|
|NiteOwl NV-G1||CHECK PRICE|
|Best Sight NV Hunting Camera Scope||CHECK PRICE|
How cheap is cheap night vision?
In this lineup, night vision rifle scopes will range in price from $100-$400.
Does cheap night vision really work?
Good question! Budget scopes are not made equal, and when they sport significantly lower prices compared to what you’re accustomed to seeing, it does make you wonder if it’s a toy or a real NV scope.
There are various types of “scopes” in this price range, and most will work in a fashion. There will always be compromise, so if you’re expecting Gen 3 night vision performance or long-range detection, your expectations are way too high.
Bring it on down several notches because you’re limited to Gen 1 IITs, very few digital sensor scopes, and some other options that may require thinking outside the box.
The scopes in this lineup have night vision technology that works. They are the scopes where the saying “it’s better than having nothing at all” came from. This is what budget night vision really looks like.
Best Cheap Night Vision Scope Reviews
1. Bering Optics eXact Precision Monocular NV Kit
Monoculars are not designed to be rifle-mounted… or are they? At least the Bering Optics eXact Precision monocular is made to be.
- Mount included
- Gen 1
- Wide FOV
- Battery life
- Need red dot sight
The eXact Precision is a 2.6x44 monocular. It’s a Gen 1 night vision monocular, so it has a real image intensifier tube, green phosphor display, and can provide up to 70 hours of operation from one set of batteries.
Right off the bat – it’s real night vision. Right off the bat – it can’t be used during the day. You’ll either need to put the rifle away or dismount the monocular. Speaking of dismounting, it does come with a Weaver mount that fits to a Weaver rail.
It should be positioned behind a red dot sight, but you very well may need a red dot riser or riser block to align the dot appropriately with the monocular. This should be done since the dot will be your aiming point.
Since it’s a quality Gen 1 IIT, it does very well in ambient light conditions compared to cheaper alternatives. With 35-40 lp/mm resolution, imaging quality is great out to 100 yards and you can double that for recognition.
Very clean and stable imaging from a real optoelectronic brand can make all the difference in the field.
2. Vector Optics 2.5x50 Gen 1
Real night vision scopes are tough to find for this price, but Vector Optics puts one right into your budget. It’s a 2x50 Gen 1 scope – not a bad find.
- Rifle scope
- Gen 1
- Mount included
- ¼ MOA turrets
- Water/fog proof
- Short eye relief
It’s a low powered rifle scope that is appropriate for its close-range detection. It’s not your most powerful rifle scope, but it does have a Gen 1 tube with 36-40 lp/mm resolution and a good field of view of 17-degrees.
It’s a very simple platform with its included Picatinny/Weaver mount and ¼ MOA turrets. Buying a dedicated, standalone night vision rifle scope means you don’t have to use any other sights on your rifle – it’s its own complete package.
The scope is completely fog and waterproof, so there’s no need to feel nervous if it starts raining during your patrol. What you should feel nervous about is using a high recoil rifle with the Vector Optics scope because it has unforgiving eye relief. This means it’s only suited to low recoil calibers. Target practice and knocking off varmints one by one is on the schedule tonight.
As a functioning night vision scope, it’s worth the low cost. Plus, it may be one of the only rifle scopes in this price range with real night vision. Backed by a 1-year warranty, the Gen 1 scope may see you through your nighttime fun for longer than you may expect.
3. Bestguarder NV-S-01
The NV-S-01 is a cross between a digital scope and a camera scope setup. It has a CMOS sensor and multiple digital features, but it requires a camera to be attached to the eyepiece of a daytime scope. Let’s explore this hybrid night vision device.
- Video record
- Built-in IR
- Necessary hardware included
- Special batteries required
The Bestguarder is a combined IR light and display unit. It’s why it appears so bulky, and unfortunately, you still only have a 2.4” display screen for all that heft. You will be able to see color images during the day, and when activating IR, you’ll have the monochrome display.
You may be able to get past its awkward look if you want video recording and photo benefits. You can save everything to an SD card and connect to WiFi to surveil the scene from a device. To access these features, there is an interface on the camera module that is attached to the camera sleeve. The sleeve houses the camera and is what provides the visual on the target.
Due to this setup, you must have a conventional day optic on your rifle. To fit the camera sleeve to the eyebell of the day scope, the NV-S-01 comes with the necessary hardware to fit together the pieces. It is not compatible with eyebell diameters larger than 50 mm.
You will also need special 18650 batteries that must be purchased separately. While only two are required, it is a digital scope, meaning, it’s likely a battery hog so you’ll want plenty on hand.
This hybrid system is interesting, but it does eliminate the need to mount an extra component – the IR. Since it’s built-in, it’s already taken care of. As a digital scope that works for both day and night, it’s a viable option.
4. Bestguarder WG-50 6X50 HD Monocular
The thing about monoculars is that they’re a monocular first and foremost. They’re designed for free-hand use and lack a reticle. Even so, it can still be mounted to a rifle.
- Video recording
- Built-in IR
- AA batteries
- Requires rail adapter
The WG-50 is a very high-performing monocular. That’s great news if you’re looking for a handheld optic, but the whole point is being able to mount it. Fortunately, you can. It comes with a Picatinny rail that is long enough to use with a rail adapter mount. The rail is actually intended for attachment of additional accessories, but in this case, it will serve as a mounting point.
The downside is you must purchase the Bestguarder SYA rail adapter separately as there is no bundled package. It’s a rail-to-rail connection, so as long as you have a Picatinny rail on your rifle, you’re good to go. It’s likely best paired with a heads-up red dot sight.
The monocular itself has impressive imaging quality and may very well provide better than 100-yard performance. Since it’s digital, it has the capability of video recording which is a nice bonus feature if you’re willing to mess with it once you’re out in the field. It will drain battery life, but with standard size AA batteries it shouldn’t be an issue. They’re easily accessible and more so than specialized batteries that other cheap alternatives may require.
This isn’t a long-term fix, but it’s a consideration to satisfy your immediate needs. Besides, once you’ve upgraded, it can be your monocular-only monocular – with night vision.
5. NiteOwl NV-G1
NiteOwl – not Night Owl. The two are different brands and are completely unrelated. Night Owl has been around for a while, and NiteOwl is new. What have they brought to market? A night vision camera scope system.
- Camera scope
- Day & Night
- Display adjustments
- AA batteries
- Must have day scope
This is a camera scope system that seems to be picking up in trend and popularity. It’s a relatively new technology that is cheap, but it provides an avenue for those on a budget to afford some sort of night vision.
This setup consists of a 3.5” screen, IR light, camera module, camera sleeve, and battery pack. The entire system can be used during both daylight and nighttime. You must have a day scope ready to mount the camera system to. It’s also essential that the day scope have a side focus or adjustable objective because this is how you will focus the image. You’ll also be using the scope’s reticle as the aiming point.
It is an advantage for many that this camera system takes AA batteries because they’re easy to find and are affordable. But it needs a lot – 3x AA for the IR and 8x AA for the battery pack. It’s a power hog, and it only runs for approximately 1.5 hours.
It’s really a simple setup to use and get put together thanks to all the included mounting hardware. When you’re on a budget as tight as this, there is little room to complain about the options. At least you still have some night vision to work with, and it costs less than $200 bucks.
6. Best Sight NV Hunting Camera Scope
Without night vision camera scope systems, you wouldn’t have any type of night vision at this price point. It’s super affordable and could work for nighttime shooting fun. Heck, it’s so low priced that you should buy it just to satiate your curiosity.
- Camera scope
- 5” screen
- Day & night
- Display adjustments
- Special batteries required
All camera scope systems must have a day scope to be mounted to. The Best Sight has a camera that sits inside a sleeve and is attached to the eyepiece of the day scope. You can twist and turn the sleeve to align the reticle and use the in-house focus wheel to get the reticle sharp and clear.
The Best Sight has an advantage over others of its kind – its huge 5” display screen. Granted, it doesn’t have the best imaging quality and detection at long distances with the included IR light, but you can always switch it out for a more powerful one. It may very well give you less pixilation and more clarity at 100 yards.
Unfortunately, it requires specialized 18650 batteries. It’s been said to be a pain to find the right ones that fit within the battery compartment, and like most camera scope systems, you won’t get more than two hours of operation.
It’s simple to use, has a 3-button interface for display settings, and a simple day/night switch – that’s it. It doesn’t need anything more, so if you thought you could video record with it too, you’re wrong. The whole point is to keep it simple and keep it cheap. That’s exactly what the Best Sight NV Camera Scope is.
What to Look for in a Cheap Night Vision Scope
What should you know about budget night vision scopes? We lay it out honestly without sugar. If it’s sweet enough for you, you won’t be disappointed. If you’re left with a sour taste from the truth, spend more – it’s that simple.
If you’re looking for cheap scopes, you’ll find them. How do they perform? It’s a gamble. You get what you pay for.
With that in mind, these are not your long-term night vision optics. While Gen 1 scopes can certainly last for a long time (approx. 1000 hours of use), you may want to upgrade after acquiring a taste of having decent night vision. All other night vision options in this price range will leave you wanting more sooner than later.
How much does cheap night vision cost? You can find cheap scopes between $100-$400. Most are not actual scopes but are outfitted to provide the same benefit – sight in the dark off your barrel.
Types of Cheap Night Vision
- Generation 1 Image Intensifier Tube – Gen 1 is the cheapest night vision IIT in the market. Hardly seen in this price range, but there are a few. They are better than they used to be, but in no way can be compared to Gen 2 quality and performance. Limited to the green phosphor display.
- Digital Night Vision Scope – The cheapest digital scopes will cost around $500. These are all-in-one units with CMOS sensors, display, digital features, and lenses built into one, bulky rifle scope. Appropriate for use during the day, they may have both Day and Night modes and additional digital features.
- Monocular – Night vision monoculars are not an ideal approach to acquiring night vision on a rifle setup, but it can be done. There are monoculars that can handle some amount of shock/recoil, and some come with mounting hardware to make it easier. Usually paired with a red dot sight, they are mounted to low recoil weapon systems.
- Camera Scope – Kind of a misnomer because this isn’t a rifle scope setup. It’s a multi-part camera system hooked up to your day scope. You have an IR light that mounts close to the objective bell. A display/mini monitor as small as 2” and as large as 5” that mounts to the tube body close to the eyepiece. A camera is attached to the eyebell and replaces your eye as you view everything through the display.
Unfortunately, budget night vision scopes are not known for their ability to handle recoil. Sometimes the included mounting hardware is made of plastic and is too flimsy, or the IIT and lenses cannot handle the shock.
To acquire more recoil resistance for loads stronger than .308 WIN, you’ll need to spend more. Even some of the best clip-on night vision scopes cannot handle more recoil than this. Most of the best digital scopes will max out with recoil from a .308.
The truth of it is, cheap scopes will only be suitable for airsoft, pellet, paintball, and rimfire rifles. Because the AR-15 223 has limited recoil, most of the options in this price range could be paired well with it.
Whether it’s a digital scope or a Gen 1 image intensifier tube, you will be limited to 100-150 yards at best.
Most budget night vision scopes will only be effective for as far as the IR illuminator is effective.
You may be able to acquire around 25-50 yards visibility with ambient light, and use of an IR illuminator can extend range to maybe an extra 30-50 yards. Most of the IR illuminators included with night vision scopes are of mediocre quality. It may be the first accessory you upgrade.
While there will be claims of 200-300 yard detection, it should be remembered that if it really can perform that far, it’s for recognition and not identification. You will see figures and movement, be able to tell the difference between a human and an animal, but you will not be able to identify if it’s the neighbor’s dog or a coyote, a female human from a male, etc.
100-yard performance is the expectation here regardless of long-distance claims. Any further detection distance is a bonus and speaks to the quality of materials. The cheaper the scope is, the closer the effective identification range is.
The scopes in this price range are simply not for professional use. They’re not the best option for stealth and they don’t provide long-distance visibility. Due to limited recoil-resistance and little to no eye relief, they should be paired with low caliber recoil weapons.
Varmint hunting is a viable activity with a low-cal weapon for pest control, such as rabbits, rats, possums, squirrels, prairie dogs, and other small game. Of course, these scopes can be used for paintball, target practice, and limited observation and surveillance.
Because it can be. Image intensifier tubes are expensive to manufacture, there are political and governmental agendas in play, night vision research and technology is still an expensive and advancing technology, and the market has higher sales with military contracts, law enforcement agencies, and individuals with deeper than deep pockets.
All this and more encourages extravagant prices for night vision that the average civilian cannot afford, therefore the demand seems to be nonexistent. The truth of it is, the average civilian is demanding affordable night vision, and due to legalities, it can only be used in limited applications which further hurts the economic scale for affordable night vision.
Digital sensors and image intensifier tubes are divergent night vision technologies. They’re often compared, but they offer a different set of advantages and drawbacks.
Digital night vision scopes are cheaper than traditional night vision. They can be used during the day, have multiple reticle patterns and digital features, and allow for easy One-Shot Zero programming.
However, digital night vision is not made equal. It may be best to stay brand-specific with optoelectronic manufacturers that specialize in night vision products. Quality digital NV scopes perform and are a good buy if its features meet your needs.
There are many manufacturers that offer cheap night vision rifle scopes, and many will be brands that you may have never heard of before. The most well-known brands to provide quality but low-cost NVDs are Sightmark, Yukon, Night Owl, and Bering Optics.
Other up-and-coming brands that may be worthy of consideration for cheap night vision include Bestguarder, Vector Optics, Pard, and SiOnyx.
Yes and no. Night vision optics, both digital and IIT, are passive and require ambient light to work effectively in the dark. This can be light from the moon, stars, streetlights, etc.
In total darkness, passive optics cannot provide any amount of visibility. Therefore, many NVDs will come with a built-in or external IR illuminator. NVDs can see infrared light. While you will be visible to other NVD users, you’ll have the benefit of seeing in total darkness. Thermal imaging may be an alternative if you’re consistently surveilling in total dark conditions.
Need Night Vision Right Now?
Cheap night vision is what it is – cheap. But does it work?
It can – if you buy well-informed.
The consensus is budget night vision can be a good deal if you’re not demanding heavy and serious work from it. It’s only intended to provide you with the basics to see in the dark, even if it is with limited range.
For the price, you can acquire night vision right now. In the meantime, your search for quality night vision scopes doesn’t end once you acquire a budget unit. At some point, an upgrade is in your future whether it be out of necessity or desire.
Are you ready to spend more? Night vision scopes under $500 can offer the type of improvement and compromise that fits your needs and the bill.