This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission if you purchase via these links.
What has you out at night? Is it hunting, nocturnal wildlife observation, or surveillance and security?
The reasons to be out and equipped with night vision (NV) gear are plentiful and personal. But, do you know where and how to start looking to buy a night vision monocular?
Are cheap monoculars worth it? What's the difference between a scope and a monocular? Will it matter for your nighttime activity?
We'll divulge everything right here, from the best night vision monoculars money can get you, to what to look for in your next buy!
Our 8 Top Night Vision Monoculars
|Night Owl NOXM502||CHECK PRICE|
|Firefield Nightfall 2 5X50||CHECK PRICE|
|Bushnell Equinox Z2||CHECK PRICE|
|Sightmark Ghost Hunter 2X24||CHECK PRICE|
|PRG Defense MUM-14A NL3 Gen 2+||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN NVM14-3||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN NVM14-4||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN NVM14-WPT||CHECK PRICE|
What is the single most important feature of a monocular, performance and quality aside? It's the size. Monoculars are made to be small, portable, and easy to use. They're lightweight, compact, and yet, they can still be made with the same dependable ruggedness you would expect from binoculars or a rifle scope.
Why choose a monocular over night vision goggles, binoculars, or a night vision rifle scope? The first reason may have more to do with your finances than what you actually want. They're often more affordable versus other optics.
Monoculars can often be mounted to other gear. Because of their compact size and light weight, they're excellent tools for head mounting to a helmet or to a weapon like a hand gun or rifle for law enforcement or hunting purposes.
You can use monoculars as a recreational tool for camping, night hiking, and wildlife observation. You can also purchase professional models that are good enough for search and rescue operations, hunting, law enforcement and tactical needs, and for security and surveillance.
When you're constantly on the move, are observing time-consuming targets, or you need the versatility of a night vision device that's just as functional alone or mounted, a monocular is the way to go. Consider it the Swiss Army knife, the Leatherman, the ultimate multi-purpose tool of night vision equipment.
Because of how costly night vision gear can get, we like to scour the market for economical options that will fit within your budget. Our top choices include the most affordable monoculars for only a couple hundred bucks (if that!) with a few drool-worthy night vision monoculars that will be sure to break the budget.
Best Night Vision Monocular Reviews & Recommendations for 2020
1. Night Owl NOXM50 Night Vision Monocular - Best Value
What's the catch with cheap night vision monoculars? They're often made with plastic materials, fake optics, and are no better than the dollar store kids toy. If you're going to spend a couple hundred bucks on a night vision monocular, you better make it a worthy buy. The 5-power NOXM50 by Night Owl Optics is a worthy investment without breaking a sweat over your budget.
- Gen 1 technology
- 5x power
- 50 mm objective lens
- Long-lasting battery life
- Close focus distance
- Focus issues
Real glass optics are inside the NOXM50 monocular and that will go a long way when darkness comes and you head outside. Being able to transmit light through to the Generation 1 image intensifier tube is everything when you need a pair of cat's eyes at night. That's why a large 50 mm objective lens, 35 lp/mm resolution, and a built-in IR illuminator are necessary features on this affordable monocular.
Even better, the Night Owl Optics 5-power handheld unit feels like a solid product especially if you're accustomed to handling other sport optics. It has a rubberized, soft-touch finish and an impact-resistant molded thermoplastic lens housing to protect it.
Kind of a bummer for the price, you don't get a 3V 123 Lithium battery in the purchase. But, when you buy your own, you'll get anywhere between 45 to 100 hours depending on how heavy-handed you are with using your IR illuminator.
Focus issues are a typical downside with economical monoculars regardless of brand, and it's a common drawback here. Be vendor-specific since warranty information on this product is sparse and conditions are extensive. In other words, the NOXM50 is an excellent buy if you get a fully functional one like the majority of buyers. Just be diligent about making sure it's up to par when you get it.
2. Firefield Nightfall 2 5X50 Night Vision Monocular - Best Budget
If you're going to be out after dark, you may as well make it worth it to have a big and better night vision monoculars on your person. What's the point of having a set of night vision eyes if your monocular is the equivalent to a kids toy? This is where the Firefield Nightfall 2 comes in.
- 5x magnification
- 50 mm objective lenses
- 1-yard close focus range
- Gen 1 technology
- Rubber armored/water-resistant
- Quality control issues
Gen 1 technology has come up leaps and bounds over the decades, and what used to be advanced tech is now standard issue for civilian night vision gear. The Nightfall 2 has Gen 1 technology that may be simple in the scope of things, but it's always going to be better than no night vision at all, even with its bottom-rung 36 lp/mm resolution.
Firefield claims up to 200 yards of detection range with its built-in 805 nm IR illuminator. Why couldn't you see this far out when you have 5x magnification and a whopping 50 mm objective lens diameter to transmit as much ambient light as possible?
It's easy to wield and hold steady since it's a little bigger than most compact monoculars weighing in at 1 pound and being 8" x 3.7" x 2.4" in size. But, when you have a 1/4" hole for mounting to a tripod, you can easily take the stress off your arms and perch up like a night owl.
Since it's a night vision monocular on the cheaper end, there are numerous reports about focusing issues. Make sure you examine yours out of the box and take advantage of the 1-year warranty if you must.
For general nighttime observation and close-range hunting, you'll be golden with the Nightfall 2 in your pack.
3. Bushnell Equinox Z2 Night Vision Monocular - Best Digital
It's one the of latest night vision offerings from the well-known optics brand, Bushnell. This Equinox Z2 is the 6x50 model that does everything big and in style - that is, digital style. This monocular is a digital night vision unit that will be your undercover pal day or night.
- Digital technology
- 6x magnification
- 50 mm objective lens
For a digital optic, the Equinox Z might be light on features compared to other digital night vision gear that seem to be equipped with every app and type of meter available. But, this night vision optic still comes in as an affordable product even though it's in the pricier section for monoculars.
The Bushnell monocular is the largest model in its series. This fact is obvious with its high magnification range of 6x that works directly with the huge 50 mm objective lens size to allow as much ambient light in as possible for nighttime work. But, as a digital monocular, the Equinox Z also doubles as a daytime device for those who want dual purpose benefits from their compact optic.
Speaking of compactness, it's surprisingly smaller than we anticipated coming in at 7.5" x 3.9" x 2.5" in size. With high power and a big aperture, we'd thought it would be a whopper, but its weight certainly proves this point weighing in at over 1.5 pounds.
Capture all the proof you need with the 1080p quality video day or night for over 300 yards of clarity when your natural vision would normally fail you.
Buy from a brand you trust. Buy from a brand that knows optics. Buy from a brand that stands behind their products with an Ironclad Warranty!
4. Sightmark Ghost Hunter 2X24 Night Vision Monocular - Best GEN 1
With a name like Ghost Hunter, how can you deny yourself the privilege of owning one? This Gen 1 monocular is well-known and affordable. Who knew that you could own legit night vision generation technology for under 200 bucks? We did, and now you do too.
- Gen 1 technology
- Automatic excessive brightness shut-off
- Long battery life
- 3-year tube warranty
- Not mountable to headgear or weapons
The Ghost Hunter offers 2x magnification with a 24 mm objective lens diameter. The 2x magnification is fixed, so you can't zoom or minimize it. You may have to look at other Ghost Hunter models if you want less or more power.
In natural, ambient light conditions, the Ghost Hunter claims it can get you detection ranges to 130 yards. Without IR power, your 2AA batteries will last approximately 72 hours. Whip your artificial light source and you still have long lasting battery life of 20 hours.
Extend your useable night vision range with the 805 nm IR illuminator. When conditions change or you've accidently slipped the cap off before dark while it's on, the Ghost Hunter will automatically shut itself off to protect the tube.
Even though Gen 1 equipment is highly sought after and popular for their low prices, it doesn't come without some quality control issues. Know what to expect when you buy, have the right expectations for Gen 1 gear, and you'll be pleased with your monocular.
For under a couple hundred bucks, there's not much room to complain about for legitimate Generation 1 night vision.
5. PRG Defense MUM-14A NL3 Gen 2+ - Best GEN 2
- Compact and rugged design, Hands-free operation
PRG Defense has a very expansive inventory, and their most affordable night vision monocular is this Gen 2+ Level 3 unit built for professionals.
- Gen 2+
- Head/weapon mountable
- Long battery life
Let’s face it. Two grand is still two grand – a heck of a lot of money but considering its genuine upper Gen 2+ Level 3 quality, it’s a great buy. PRG Defense doesn’t even bother dabbling with Gen 1 monoculars as they put their efforts into the high-tech stuff that makes a huge difference in the field.
The MUM-14A monocular is a 1x unit that makes it suitable for head mounting. It has a wide 40-degree field of view, 27 mm aperture, and a focus range of 0.25 m to infinity. It also has another mini rail so that it can be mounted to weapons for sight use, and of course, it has a high light cut-off for optical protection.
Powering the unit is an included CR123A battery, but you can also opt for AA batteries if you prefer. You’ll get approximately 40 hours out of a single battery when it’s about 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). While it can operate at temperatures as low as -35 degrees Fahrenheit max, you’ll eat up more juice.
It’s extremely compact and lightweight at 0.6 lbs in weight and 4.5 x 1.9 x 3.1” in size. It comes with a head and weapon mounts, carry case, lens tissue, manual, battery, and 2-year limited warranty. For professionals, this monocular is worth the buy.
6. ATN NVM14-3 Night Vision Monocular - Best GEN 3
Who do you turn to when you want the best from only the best? ATN is your brand when you're serious about spending serious cash. The NVM14-3 is no mediocre or digital monocular. It's a legit Generation 3 device that's probably going to be the best night vision gear you will ever own - unless you have some serious cash to burn for fun.
- Gen 3
- 64 lp/mm resolution
- 40° field of view
- Long lasting battery
- Extremely close focus range
When you're spending this much, you're obligated to demand the best. The NVM14-3 has A-class resolution of 64 lp/mm on a Gen 3 IIT. A wide field of view of 40° with 1x magnification is all it will take to spot any critter trying to pull the wool over your eyes with the cover of darkness.
Battery life is ridiculous with only one 3V (CR123A) battery that should stay juiced enough for 60 hours. It's compact at 4.7" x 1.9" x 2.7" in size, and you know it's made with quality materials and components when it weighs 1.5 pounds.
Other than its technical specs, it has ATN's Automatic Protective System and their Automatic Brightness Adjustment System. Sounds fancy? It is. It delivers excessive illumination protection by automatically shutting down when things get to bright for longer than 10 seconds. You can also depend on maintaining a constant brightness level even when conditions unexpectedly and inconsistently change.
Its range of applications are numerous since you can use it as a handheld or mount it to head gear, helmets, or weapons. The choice is yours, and it's also clear: it's ATN all the way.
7. ATN NVM14-4 Night Vision Monocular - Best GEN 4
Gen 4 tech. Is it a real thing or a misnomer? It can get confusing trying to work your way around the marketing terms, but we can say Gen 4 is distinctive in its own right, so it's a real thing. Not sure what we mean by that? Our explanation will get you caught up. As for right now, the NVM14-4 Gen 4 monocular is the crème de la crème of them all.
- Gen 4 technology
- Total Darkness Technology
- Auto Brightness Adjustment System
- Auto Protective System
- Headgear and weapon mountable
So, what exactly makes this monocular a Gen 4 device? The NVM14-4 monocular is an autogated unit with a filmless photocathode. The filmless technology is what makes this a high-end optic. On top of this, it also has a very high 25-30 signal-to-noise ratio that is the best of what you can get.
This model has everything the NVM line of monoculars offer. Total Darkness Technology lets you see when conditions prevent light amplification. Don't underestimate when you might need this feature. 64-72 lp/mm industry-leading resolution is expected with such a high caliber optic.
When you need to adjust your brightness levels, let the NVM 14 do it for you. With the Automatic Brightness Adjustment System, the monocular will regulate light transmission and at the same time will not let it exceed excessive levels that will damage the system.
It's a complete mountable monocular that can be used in professional scenarios when you need hands-free operation. Headgear, helmets, and weapons are all options to mount your ATN monocular to. What can't ATN do? Apparently, they do it all.
This monocular ain't for amateurs. Hardcore night vision users, law enforcement, and even some hunters will justify putting the cash aside for this optic. What about you?
8. ATN NVM14-WPT - Best White Phosphor Night Vision Monocular
Not a huge fan of the iconic green sight picture that's typical of night vision? Did you know you can have different? WPT (White Phosphor Technology) is night vision in black and white that's more natural to the eyes. Expect better detail, contrast, and depth perception with the NVM14-WPT from ATN.
- WPT tech
- Excellent resolution
For a monocular, it's on the expensive end of the price spectrum, but it's definitely considered affordable when you're looking at night vision equipment in general. The NVM14-WPT is mountable to head gear, helmets, and weapons. But, of course you can use it in its natural form as a discreet handheld unit.
Your sight picture will be well above what's considered standard since it has resolution of 51-64 lp/mm. With 1x magnification, 27 mm objective lens, and a built-in IR illuminator with a flood lens, you'll be spotting targets and prey that will be unaware of your stealthy observance.
To make sure you always have the brightest sight picture, even with minimal stars and moonlight, the NVM is equipped with ATN's Automatic Brightness Adjustment System. What is it? It ensures the IIT (image intensifier tube) is constantly stimulated with as much light as possible.
But, don't worry about going overboard. It's also been outfitted with an Automatic Protective System that will shut the monocular down if illumination levels are above 100-300 lx for more than 10 seconds. Now that's a sure-fire way to protect your investment when conditions unexpectedly change or for those accidental fail moments you might incur on your night vision monoculars.
This gadget is a must-have if you want to do any type of serious night work. ATN - it's not a brand for amateurs!
What to Look for in a Night Vision Monocular
Don't feel overwhelmed if you feel like the ins and outs of night vision gear is beyond you. We will keep it simple with a list of the most important features to be aware of.
You don't have to get stuck in the huff and puff of inflamed night vison lingo. Here's what you need to know and how to go about understanding it!
Set one. The price range for monoculars with night vision couldn't be more extreme. You can find one for less than $100 and then easily spend $5000 on one. Set a budget, stick with it, and shop your options within it.
Monoculars are still optics whether or not they're equipped with night vision capability. You still want real glass and lenses with quality coatings to enhance light transmission through the optical system. Always avoid plastic optics - it's a kid's toy.
Detection range is always going to be further than identification ranges. 100 yards is easily achievable by higher end optics. Under 100 yards is typical for low-cost monoculars. Consistent ranges will also vary depending on available moonlight, IR use, and technical specs such as magnification, etc.
Adding an artificial light source will significantly improve your detection range. However, there are some downsides that include display effects like washing out the picture and being detected by other night vision monoculars users. Many monoculars will come with built-in IR illuminators while some higher-end ones will allow intensity control and even on/off switches.
Gen 1 is the cheapest type of night vision monoculars available. Generation 3 and 4 are the highest. As you move up in generation class, there will be a significant price jump that also correlates with quality. For a complete explanation on night vision generations, see our guide on it here.
Digital Night Vision:
They're flooding the night vision market because of their low cost, day and night usage, and digital features. Most monoculars under $500 is more than likely going to be a digital unit. While it's not an authentic night vision optic, they have their benefits.
As mentioned, 64-72 lp/mm is the best resolution a night vision optic can have. Cheaper monoculars will have 30 lp/mm or around about. This is often an indicator that will determine cost and quality.
Signal to Noise Ratio:
This value is very important since it indicates how sensitive a photocathode is. The best monoculars have a 25-30 SNR value, while any quality night vision optic will have a value of 21 or over.
You'll want to pay attention to what batteries your monocular will require. Having tob purchase multiple batteries can get expensive, especially if the battery life span is only a few hours. However, the 40+ hours of battery life is usually a quality feature that is seen on higher end monoculars.
Monoculars are meant to be compact and lightweight. When mounted to a helmet or weapon, they should be light enough to comfortably wield and small enough to not inhibit safe and correct use of other gear. Most night vision monoculars are in and around 1 pound in weight, and are an average of 6" x 3" x 3".
Stick with a brand you know and trust. If you're new to optics, look for a brand that has a proven track record. Great customer service, product warranties, and name recognition among the masses are key features to look for.
Get one. Make sure your night vision monoculars come with a warranty. They're either too expensive not to have one to protect your investment, or they're so affordable, you run the risk of unfortunately getting a defective model. Either way, a warranty and return policy guarantee is the way to shop wisely.
The Monocular: King of Versatility
The night vision monocular reigns over all other night vision devices in the market. They are the most versatile optic to get you seeing at night in an endless range of applications.
Camping, hiking, hunting, observation, scouting, search and rescue, security, survival/prepper tool, surveillance - you name it, the monocular will light up your world.
Don't twist an ankle while leaving your tent to take a break. Nock your bow to eradicate the nocturnal pest problem on the ranch. Up your game for a midnight session of paintball. You get the point.
Do you know what's happening after lights out? It's about time you find out!