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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.
The budget is boss, and the boss says to stay under budget.
Can you buy the best cheap night vision for less than $400?
Yes you can.
Here's what you need to know about them and if they’re any good.
Best Cheap Night Vision Scopes
|Henbaker NV Digital Scope||CHECK PRICE|
|Night Owl NightShot 3x||CHECK PRICE|
|Hudakwa NV Digital Monocular||CHECK PRICE|
|Pard NV007||CHECK PRICE|
|Oneleaf.ai Commander NV100||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. Henbaker CY789 NV Digital Scope – Best Overall
The Henbaker NV Digital Scope is a versatile optic as it’s both a rear-mounting clip-on and a self-contained night vision scope. Henbaker is a Chinese company with 12 years of OEM/ODM NV manufacturing experience. It's a viable scope as a high-performing monocular alternative in the budget market.
- Dual Use
- Selectable reticles
- 2x IR illuminators
- Locking magnification
- Battery type
Many buyers will try to mount a handheld monocular to a rifle in order to save money. The Henbaker gives you a better alternative, a dual-use night vision scope. It can be mounted to the eyepiece of a magnified optic or used alone as a riflescope on a rail.
What gives it the ability to serve as a lone wolf are the selectable reticle options. Though you can toggle it off when using it with a day scope, you have access to seven reticle styles and four colors in red, green, black, and white.
Though the Henbaker runs for 4-10 hours, it requires a special 21700 lithium battery that is not exactly cheap. Fortunately, they’re rechargeable. Though ‘recoil-resistant,’ it’s probably best to keep this on nothing more than an AR-15 in .223/5.56 just in case.
Digital magnification has never been touted to be high-performing, but the Henbaker uses a telephoto lens to provide 1-8x zoom. Magnification can be adjusted via a knurled ring. To make it suitable for hunting conditions in the dark, you can lock it to prevent unintentional changes.
Combined with its focusing systems, it actually provides better than expected night vision performance up to 150 yards for varmint and predator hunting. Larger targets can be detected past 400 yards with the built-in IR illuminators of which there are two, separate wavelengths: 850 and 940nm.
For the dual-purpose feature alone, the Henbaker NV is a curious scope that certainly offers maximum advantages at a budget price.
2. Night Owl NightShot 3x – Best Digital
The NightShot 3x is a dedicated night vision riflescope. As such, it has better recoil-resistance than a makeshift monocular set-up, and it doesn’t require special adapters to clip to day scopes. Though pricey as a budget option, it’s a purpose-built riflescope made to be weapon mounted.
- 3x magnification
- NV riflescope
- Great recoil resistance
- Polymer body
- Eye relief
The eye relief on the NightShot is 2.67” which is enough for rimfire and AR-15s in 223 and 5.56. However, the dedicated riflescope can handle heavier recoil from larger calibers, so it’s a shame that the eye relief is so short.
There is another related issue and that is the device turning off with heavy recoil due to battery movement in the compartment. Some buyers have made a ‘fix’ for this by inserting their own DIY buffers to ensure battery connection is secure and eliminates excess movement during recoil. It’s really a small price to pay if you dare mount it to heavier recoil calibers considering its eye relief.
Moving on, the NightShot has 3x magnification, 40mm lens, 5.6° FOV, and focusing from 10ft to infinity. It comes with an IR illuminator and the detection range is between 100-200 yards. It’s a short-range NVD but proves effective especially for its price point. It takes 4x AA (alkaline or rechargeable) batteries to power it for 3 hours (approx.).
It has three reticle options in black or white colors, elevation and windage turrets, and it comes with a mount that’s compatible with both Picatinny and Weaver rails. Though some may complain, the NightShot is void of all digital gadgetry such as video, photos, and Bluetooth or WiFi. It doesn’t need it. It’s a night vision scope that gets you on target while staying on budget – that’s it.
3. Hudakwa NV Digital Monocular – Best Video Rifle Scope
What will make the Hudakwa Digital Monocular a popular, budget option will be the WiFi compatibility at such a low price point. With WiFi, the app allows for user controls and video recording on the device as seen through the monocular. For a budget option, it serves tech-guru shooters well.
- Clip-on monocular
- Digital day/night use
- HD 1.3” display
- IR included
You don’t have to feel guilty to appreciate the connectivity benefits of the Hudakwa scope complete with high-definition recording and the capability of using a 32gb SD card (not included). But at this price point, many don’t care for the feature as long as it helps them get night vision through their rifle scope.
It’s essentially a clip-on monocular that attaches to the eyepiece of a daytime scope. It comes with the adapter needed to connect the two optics. It also comes with the mount needed to secure the included IR illuminator to the top of the monocular. Obviously, it’s quite the bulky setup once it’s all said and done, and adjusting the stock is likely in order.
It has 5x optical magnification and 4x digital zoom. That’s a lot of power that is excellent for handheld monocular use, but it will likely pair better with low power magnified day scopes. The Hudakwa’s night vision detection range is between 300-350 m and the illuminator will extend that range to approximately 400 m.
Expected performance for its price line indicates that it will likely be a short-range NVD with best performance inside 50-200 yards. If you’re specifically looking for WiFi for video streaming, the buck stops here.
4. Pard NV007
The Pard night vision scope is a clip-on. It generally falls under $250, so be specific about where you buy it. There’s a lot of confusion between models, but this is the NV007 – no S or V at the end. It’s one of the cheapest options, so it’s the best pick if your budget is limited.
- Video recording
- 200-m range
- One adapter in box
The Pard requires an adapter ring to mount the monocular to the ocular bell to convert your hunting scope into a night vision setup. The only downside is it comes with a one-size adapter either in 42mm, 45mm, or 48mm. You don’t get all 3 to see which will work, so knowing the size of the ocular bell of your hunting scope is must-have information before you buy. Otherwise, the default adapter is the 45mm one.
As a monocular that can be used as a handheld or as a clip-on scope, it has 4-14x magnification, a 16mm lens, 1024x768 optical resolution, and a focusing range from 3cm to infinity. I’d still suggest pairing the Pard with a scope that has an adjustable objective or side focus to get the best resolution and sharpness when using the NV monocular.
I’m not aware that it comes with an included SD card or 18650 batteries, so that must be considered when you buy. I really like that it has WiFi. You’ll need to download the app, and you can save images and videos as seen through the device.
Expect use the built-in 5W 850nm IR illuminator to acquire 200 m detection (max) at night. It will have color mode during the day, but at night the display is monochrome (black/white).
For the money, it’s right in line with similar alternatives. I like that it’s a clip-on of sorts and is relatively easy to mount and detach with ease. You don’t have multiple components like a display, cables, separate illuminator, and sleeve to set up or take down – just the ring adapter and the Pard.
5. Oneleaf.ai Commander NV100 – Best Clip-On
The Oneleaf.ai Commander NV100 is a digital clip-on night vision scope. It has the necessary features to convert your day scope into a night vision one. Though still within the budget price line, it’s more expensive than alternatives but offers decent performance for the money.
- Sony CMOS sensor
- Large display
- Adjustable features
- Weather-resistant housing
The Commander looks big but it’s not any larger than generational clip-on night vision scopes. It’s 5.13 x 2.04 x 3.73” in size and weighs 12 oz. With eye relief of up to 2.75”, it’s best for use on an AR-15 as it mounts to the eyepiece of a daytime scope. The scope adapter sleeve and rubber eyecup for the clip-on are included in the box.
It has a Sony Starvis CMOS sensor that is used for Sony cameras with 1920x1080 sensor resolution. It provides color in day mode with black/white imaging in night mode with 4103 PPI (1280x960) resolution on a 0.4” display.
With a built-in 850nm IR illuminator, you can adjust the beam intensity by six levels and reach a maximum of 328 yards in detection. Since it’s digital, you can video record and save to the included SD card. It’s all powered by a Samsung 18650 battery that is also included and provides a runtime of up to six hours.
To boost its legitimacy as an NVD suitable for hunting, it’s made with aluminum ABS+PC plastic and Oneleaf states that it’s waterproof. Like all digital scopes, you can fiddle with zoom magnification, brightness, contrast, etc., and it does have essential optical features such as diopter adjustment, focusing, and a 37° FOV.
All in all, it offers a lot for a budget clip-on NVD. It could be the best of the cheap market that gets you out hunting while having saved a lot of money.
6. Best Sight - Best NV 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.
|Henbaker NV Scope||Under $300|
|Night Owl NightShot||Under $400|
|Hudakwa NV Monocular||Under $250|
|Pard NV007||Under $250|
|Oneleaf.ai Commander||Under $350|
|Best Sight NV Scope||Under $150|
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.
|Product||Night Vision Type|
|Henbaker NV Scope||Digital riflescope & clip-on|
|Night Owl NightShot||Digital riflescope|
|Hudakwa NV Monocular||Digital clip-on & monocular|
|Pard NV007||Digital clip-on & monocular|
|Oneleaf.ai Commander||Digital clip-on & monocular|
|Best Sight NV Scope||Digital camera system|
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 in .223/5.56 mm has limited recoil, most of the options in this price range could be paired well with it.
|Henbaker NV Scope||.223/5.56 mm*|
|Night Owl NightShot||.50 cal & 12 gauge|
|Hudakwa NV Monocular||.223/5.56 mm*|
|Pard NV007||.308 cal|
|Oneleaf.ai Commander||.223/5.56 mm*|
|Best Sight NV Scope||.22 LR|
*Not disclosed: recoil-resistance estimate
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.
|Product||Detection Ranges (Approx.)|
|Henbaker NV Scope||400 yards|
|Night Owl NightShot||200 yards|
|Hudakwa NV Monocular||400 meters|
|Pard NV007||200 meters|
|Oneleaf.ai Commander||300 yards|
|Best Sight NV Scope||200 meters|
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.
|Henbaker NV Scope||Selectable reticles, recoil-resistant, 2x IR illuminators, locking magnification|
|Night Owl NightShot||Digital NV riflescope, Mounts to pic rails, AA batteries, Selectable reticles, Recoil-resistant to 30 calibers|
|Hudakwa NV Monocular||Clip-on monocular, WiFi, Detachable IR illuminator, Possible NV range to 350-400 m|
|Pard NV007||Clip-on monocular, WiFi, Built-in IR illuminator, Video recording, Image capture|
|Oneleaf.ai Commander||Clip-on monocular, Sony CMOS sensor, Built-in IR illuminator, 6-hour runtime, 300-m range|
|Best Sight NV Scope||Camera system, 5” display, 3-button interface, Display adjustments|
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.