Best Night Vision AR-15 Scopes - Digital, Thermal & Gen 1 Options (All Budgets)
Last Updated: October 25, 2020
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How much scope do you need to hunt at night?
How much should you spend on a night vision scope?
Are you a police officer, in the army, or hunting hogs?
There's a lot to think about when the sun goes down and you're one of the few people out and about stalking the predatory shadows of the night. And, predator hunting is something an AR can do really well from realistic distances you can achieve after dark.
But, what do you top your AR with? Night vision, thermal, sights, or scopes? The options are many. We've made it easy for you by compiling a few of the best scopes that you should consider buying. If you want to keep a tight grip on your budget before it gets away from you, which can be easily done with night vision demands, take it from us, we have the lineup just for you.
Here's to spending your money the well-informed way!
Top 8 Best Night Vision Scopes for AR-15 in 2020
- Sightmark Photon RT 4.5x42 Scope - Best Overall
- Burris AR-332 Prism Sight
- ATN X-Sight II 5-20 Rifle Scope
- Firefield NVRS 3x42 Night Vision Rifle Scope
- Pulsar Digisight Ultra N455 Scope
- ATN Thor 4 Smart HD - Best Thermal
- AGM Wolverine 4 NL2 - Best Gen 2
- Bering Optics D-760 - Best Gen 3
Our 8 Top Picks for AR-15 Night Vision Scopes
|Sightmark Photon RT 4.5x42||CHECK PRICE|
|Burris AR-332||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN X-Sight II 5-20||CHECK PRICE|
|Firefield NVRS 3x42||CHECK PRICE|
|Pulsar Digisight Ultra N455||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN Thor 4 Smart HD||CHECK PRICE|
|AGM Wolverine 4 NL2||CHECK PRICE|
|Bering Optics D-760||CHECK PRICE|
From shooting hogs, hunting coyotes, and varmints to home/personal defense, security, and duty use, there's a whole lotta reasons why you'd want a night vision (NV) scope on your AR 15 (ArmaLite 15). Because shooting applications and needs will differ from one MSR (Modern Sporting Rifle) owner to the next, the type of scope you'll need will also look different to another person's buy.
First evaluate what it is you need out of your night vision scope. Do you need to identify targets and take long shots at several hundred yard distances? Is close to mid-range distances for predator hunting the likely sport of the night? Are you using it mostly for close-range property surveillance?
The type of quality you'll need from your nighttime scope will also determine your budget. Night vision devices, thermal equipment, and even high-end, lowlight scopes can be very pricey. We've picked our lineup to cater to real life budgets starting on the low end of around $200 where it peaks at $2000.
Obviously, you're going to want to make the most of your buy, especially if it's the first time you're investing in a night vision scope of some sort. Most people don't have the luxury of burning through cash and scopes before they find the perfect one.
To avoid burning a hole in your pocket and ending up with a dud that ends your hunt before you even start, take a cue from our lineup and see what scope can mount your AR-15 setup for a moonlit stalk tonight.
Best Night Vision Scope for AR 15 Reviews
1. Sightmark Photon RT 4.5X42 Scope - Best Overall
- Wi-Fi remote view via Pulsar stream vision
- Built-in video/sound recording
- Built-in invisible 940nm LED IR illuminator
- One-shot zero function
- 2x digital zoom and 6 reticle options with 4 colors
Need a couple hundred yards of visibility for your nighttime hunt? The Photon RT scope is your digital and affordable night vision scope to take down hogs, coyotes, and anything else that legally presents itself. With the right kind of specs, quality, and price tag, this scope made our lineup as an outstanding option that you won't regret buying.
- Digital tech
- Day/night use
- Easy interface
- Multiple accessories included
- Short battery life
The good: The Photon RT scope is as simple as it gets for a digital scope and that's a great thing. It might not have all these fancy digital features that other comparable scopes brag about, but all the quality is where you need it most - clarity at dark, effective distance range out to 150-200 yards, and an easy to use interface that won't interfere with your hunt.
Because it's a digital scope, you can use it during the day and at night. Sight it in at the range in the light of day and head out to your blind come night. To help you get zeroed in without wasting ammo, the Photon RT scope has a One Shot Zero feature. Add to that 6 reticles in 4 different illumination colors, a Weaver rail on the side to mount additional accessories, and the ability to connect your smartphone to the display and you have a scope rearing to go.
The ugly: it's heavy and a juice sucker. The 30 mm tube scope weighs a pounding 30.7 ounces. Add 4 AA batteries on top of that and you only get about 3.5 hours of juice with use of the 940nm IR that you'll need to get maximum effective range and visibility.
But, if you're sitting patiently versus tracking and stalking and you're loaded with an extra juice supply for the hunt, the Sightmark scope may be for you. Hey, it even comes with an extra battery container just for you! Too convenient, right? For more on this scope, check out our full review here.
2. Burris AR-332 (300217) Prism Sight
- Red-green Ballistic Armalite Rifle reticle
- 10 LED Illumination settings
- Parallax free at 100 yds
Burris nails it with their dedicated AR series of prism sights for closer-quarter engagement. Competitive shooters, law enforcement, and military servicemen will benefit best from the AR-332. Those looking to complete their MSR with a home, personal, and self-defense optic should seriously consider this sight as well.
- Fast-acquisition optic
- Ballistic AR (3X) reticle
- Illuminated reticle
- Apparent canted reticle
The downside isn't what it seems. Yes, the reticle may look canted before correctly mounted to your AR - it's designed to be that way. However, when mounting bolts have been torqued down with 65" pounds, you will see it will align and you'll know your sight has been properly bolted down.
With that out of the way, this AR-332 prism sight 300217 model now has the new Ballistic AR (3X) reticle that is a proven balance between ultra-fast engagement and making long-range shots. It can be center illuminated in red or green and is daylight bright, but it's also highly visible in non-illuminated black. It has a simple hash-marked BDC 6'oclock crosshair with a center dot and center horseshoe to draw the eye to the center for rapid target acquisition in close quarters. The 9 and 3'oclock crosshairs have windage hashmarks.
With 3x magnification and a 32 mm objective lens, you have a 32 ft field of view at 100 yards. With Index-Matched, Hi-Lume glass and coatings, you have the added benefit of low-light advantage without the glare.
It comes with a 3 Picatinny rail mounting points to load up on additional accessories, but the bottom rail can be removed and mounted to an AR carry handle with the extra screw that's included with the scope. You can remove the extra rails and it won't void the warranty. By the way, the warranty is Burris' excellent Forever Warranty that promises to make things easy for you if you ever have a problem.
We're a fan of Burris and with this sight we're sure you will be too!
3. ATN X-Sight II 5-20X Rifle Scope
- Use Day & Night in HD resolution - our HD technology gives you crystal clear vision whenever required
- Zero range: 100 yard. Day & Night Vision in Millions of Colors - best hunting optic that fits the situation at hand.Field of View at 1000 yards- 240 feet
- Ballistic Calculator - shifts Point of Impact on the fly letting you quickly calculate ballistics for any shooter's needs. Easily determine exact ballistics for expert...
Mighty popular, mighty at night - at least that's what the masses say. Anywhere you go, you'll see the ATN X-Sight II night vision scope is a raved about optic, and it's been tried and tested more than most other digital scopes can ever hope to be. We've done a full review on this night vision digital scope, but here's the gist of it to wet your appetite.
- Digital tech
- Day/night use
- Multiple features
- HD optics
- Quality control issues
It's true - digital technology isn't without its flaws. They're battery hogs, can be too complicated to use, and all the electronic features are prone to fail at some point. ATN is not immune to failing components, but there's also a lot of room for user error to occur. Fortunately, there's an abundance of trouble shooting information, videos, and tips to work out any apparent flaws or user mistakes that you can take advantage of if you happen to run into problems.
However, the majority of buyers seem to get on just fine once they figure out how to work the scope. There's a lot going on between having night vision capability, custom ballistic data saved in a profile, and a built-in laser rangefinder that illuminates your point of aim. You'll need to get familiar with button and menu functions if you want to take max advantage of your digital scope.
You also have other features that can help with your nighttime stalk - erm, we mean "observation." You can connect your smartphone via Bluetooth or WiFi, video record in 1080p at 30 fps resolution, and stream everything you saw online.
Because this is a digital scope, it uses ATN's Obsidian Core technology to allow use night or day - it doesn't matter. You don't have to detach your X-Sight II for a daytime scope if you want to do some range work. Come night, you have multiple reticle colors and patterns to choose from to suit your close-range or long-range needs.
But, keep in mind, this is a digital scope and it's heavy. Hopefully your MSR setup isn't too bad on poundage otherwise you might want to start working out - or pull out the bipod.
4. Firefield NVRS 3X42 FF16001 Night Vision Rifle Scope
- High quality image and resolution
- Lightweight and durable titanium body with water resistant IPX4 Rating
- Quick detach weaver mount
- Built-in high powered IR illuminator
- Ergonomic design and quick power-up
A cheap and unassuming night vision scope is highly ranked and respected across the board as a quality optic that's durable and easy to use. Is it accurate? Out to 100 yards it is. That's enough to take down nighttime predators and have some fun howling under the moonlight.
- Quick detach mount
- Long-lasting battery life
- Night vision tech
If you've done any amount of research on night vision gear, you'll know it gets extremely expensive very quickly. Fortunately, Gen 1 tech is becoming more affordable and it's reflected in this Firefield NVRS scope. This is the FF16001 model that has proven itself as a reliable and nifty, little scope for hunters and prowlers out for a night of fun.
With its green display, you have a simple red duplex reticle with incremental brightness adjustment settings. The scope has 30 lp/mm resolution, a built-in IR, and an advertised detection range of 165 yards/150 meters, but most users say it's realistically around 100 yards.
Battery power is only 2 AA batteries that can last up to 50 hours without IR use and 20 hours with IR use. With Weaver mounting rails, you can attach additional accessories like a more powerful IR if your eyes are getting old and tired.
The quick detach weaver mount makes it easy to attach and detach the scope. Replace it with a daytime scope during the day or quickly unmount the NVRS when the weather turns on you. Being only IPX4 rated without any nitrogen purged tube protection, your scope may be prone to fritzing out. Plus, the scope has heft to it, 30.7 ounces of heft. It might help to unmount and stow away when you're calling it a night and have a ways to go before reaching your vehicle or base camp.
All in all, the Firefield isn't a $1000 scope that can be bragged about to that degree, but it's a heck of a buy for dependable quality at a low price.
5. Pulsar Digisight Ultra N455 Scope
It's going to take a while before you see this scope being run around the rumor mill. It's new and expensive for a digital scope. What does it have that other digital scopes don't? Let's get you clued in to why we're giving the Digisight Ultra a run for its money and two thumbs up.
- Digital tech
- 500 yard range
- High magnification
- High-caliber recoil resistance
- HD 1280x720 sensor
The price is on the more expensive end of the scale, but when you consider its overall quality, it's earned its higher price tag. Unlike digital scopes half the price, it has a few more perks that may catch your eye.
It has an HD sensor 1280x720 for high clarity and HD quality imaging. SumLight software enhances the sensor's ability to be more sensitive to low light conditions when the IR is not in use. What you get is extra clarity without compromising image quality. When you do need extra illumination, the N455 comes with a detachable 940 nm (invisible) IR illuminator that has built-in power levels.
The scope is completely waterproof with its IPX7 rating, has a detection range of 500 meters, and has high 4x magnification of 4.5-18x. It's recoil rated up to 12 gauge, .375H&H, 9.3x64, and .300+ caliber cartridges. Digital features include a stadiametric rangefinder, built-in accelerometer, and accurate zoom zeroing. 10 reticles with 6 different colors can be scaled to size regardless of magnification - we recognize this as a FFP (first focal plane) reticle feature that you'd see in high-end traditional scopes.
Don't forget that you also have WiFi connectivity and video recording capabilities because the scope is… digital! This optic may be more scope than you need for your AR 15, but it's a bad boy that you need to mount if you want the best on the best AR. If this scope interests you, you might also want to check out our Pulsar Digex N455 review.
7. ATN Thor 4 Smart HD Review – Best Thermal
- Obsidian IV Dual Core Processor and Gen 4 Thermal Sensor - an ideal combination to satisfy your hunting needs. Choose between black-and-white or bright color palettes in...
Heading out the door to hunt down coyotes tonight? I hope you’re prepared with the right gear to catch those elusive and sprightly creatures. One sure-fire way to get it done – thermal imaging. The Thor 4 Smart HD 640 is thermal scope designed to provide maximum sight, convenience, and accuracy.
- 4th Gen - New Version
- Long detection ranges
- HD Display
- Smart digital features
This is the newest version of the Thor thermal riflescopes, and this model has 640x480 resolution and a 60 Hz refresh rate – top of the class. It offers 1.5-15x magnification, 90 mm of eye relief, and a 1280x720 HD display. It has multiple thermal palettes, reticle patterns and colors, and of course, it records video and audio. Its detection range is over 1000 yards, recognition range over 500 yards, and identification range is over 300 yards – impressive!
This is one very smart device with its Bluetooth/Wi-Fi compatible feature that can connect to iOS and Android systems. It has ATN’s One Shot Zero, Ballistic Calculator program, Smart Rangefinder, Smart Mil Dot Reticle, and so much more.
But, what are the specific upgrades? It has the Gen 4 Next Gen sensor core, upgraded tactile controls, and it’s supposed to be easier to mount than ever with its standard 30 mm rings.
The Thor 4 is weather-resistant, can operate 16+ hours, weighs 2 lbs, is 13.5 x 3 x 3” in size, and it comes with a 3-year warranty. It’s a very impressive thermal unit that may be too fancy for your AR-15, but it might be everything your AR needs, plus some!
8. AGM Wolverine 4 NL2 Review – Best Gen 2
- Shock protected, all-glass IR transmission multicoated optics; Made from aircraft aluminum alloy
AGM is a very new optics manufacturer compared to the night vision brand staples, ATN and Armasight, we’ve become familiar with over the decades. Earning a spot in this lineup for quality without compromise is the Wolverine 4 night vision weapons sight.
- Gen 2 “Level 2”
- Double-level quick-release mount
- 4x magnification
- Illuminated reticle
- Long battery life
All Generation 2 optics and higher will always cost an arm and a leg, and this scope is right within budget. The Wolverine 4 has 4x magnification, a huge 108 mm aperture, a very nice 9-degree field of view, and excellent 51-64 lp/mm resolution.
The scope itself is 2.6 lbs and is 12.1 x 3.7 x 3.8” in size – so, it’s has some decent heft and length to it which is right around the standard for scopes of this nature. To boot, it has an adjustable, illuminated, mil-dot center-cross encompassed by a non-illuminated duplex style reticle.
The Wolverine also has an integrated rail to allow attachment of the included AGM Sioux 850 Long Range IR illuminator. One CR123A battery will power you up for up to 50 hours at standard temperature (20°C/68°F). It has 45 mm of eye relief, ¼ MOA adjustments, and a diopter adjustment.
This is about as good as Gen 2 gets without seeing a significant price jump. It’s extremely clean and sharp to look through, and it detect targets at long range distances. Hunters and law enforcement will appreciate the expert and quality materials available at a reasonable price. With a 3-year warranty, this brand is worth a chance.
9. Bering Optics D-760 Review – Best Gen 3
- ITAR PRODUCT! By adding to cart, I confirm that I am U.S. Person, I agree that I do not intend to export this product, and I understand this product is regulated by the...
The pickings get slim when the price goes up. But, if you’re willing to put down over $4000 on a night vision scope, you must demand the best. This is where the Bering Optics Gen 3 D-760 scope enters the picture.
- Max resolution
- Long battery life
If you’re spending this much on a night vision scope, you’re likely some sort of professional that demands high quality for dependable sight in the harshest conditions. The D-760 scope may be what you need to get results. It has a Generation 3 green phosphor image intensifier tube that is filmless and has 64-72 lp/mm resolution and manual gain – best of the best.
It has a decent FOV of 6-degrees, good eye relief of 50 mm, and long-ranging 6x magnification. Its detection range of a human-sized target extends out to 740 yards with a quarter moon and 550 yards with cloud coverage. Recognition range extends out to 550 yards with a quarter moon and 410 yards with cloud coverage. With ideal, cloudless conditions, you can expect long-ranging sight at incredible distances – more than enough coverage for your AR.
It’s a little on the bigger side for scopes weighing in at 43 oz and is 12.2 x 3.9 x 3.5” in size. However, the weight may be worth it when you hear that this thing can provide up to 120 hours of use off 2x AA batteries.
Adjustments are in ¼ MOA and a yellow reticle gets you lined up. The optics are multi-coated with a high-grade formula, the chamber is nitrogen purged, and the body is dust, shock, and waterproof. It comes with a carry case, rail mount system, front lens cover cap, photo adapter, battery, and 2-year limited warranty.
Not only is this generation 3 tech, it’s long-ranging night vision tech at its finest.
What to Look for in an AR-15 Night Vision Scope
There are the obvious features you'll need to consider such as glass and coating quality, objective lens size, and overall durability. These features are especially important on night vision and traditional rifle scopes. But, thermal and digital scopes have other features you'll need to consider before you buy.
Let's skip over the obvious traits of what to look for in a scope and go straight to the less obvious but very important aspects that can affect your experience. If someone is going to return their scope or doesn't like it for whatever reason, it's likely related to one of the factors listed below. Know what you want and what's important to you before you buy!
The price range for a night vision scope to mount to your MSR is as variable as uppers, lowers, barrels, and stocks. You can land a medicore sight for a few, measly bucks or you can spend close to $10,000 on the latest night vision tech - probably more scope than you'd need for your AR. Because we're trying to keep realistic budgets in mind with realistic shooting applications done by the majority of shooters, we've kept in the budget range of $200-2000.
Night vision and thermal scopes are heavy compared to their daytime counterparts. Make sure you take overall size and weight into consideration with your type of night time hunting and shooting. Weight won't matter so much if you're sitting prone and set up with sticks or a bipod patiently waiting to take your shot. However, if you're going to spend a good amount of time tracking and stalking, a lightweight option will best suit your needs.
Digital scopes are all the rage these days thanks to the lower prices and digital features. If you're willing to spend the time to get to know the interface beforehand, you'll be set up for a productive shoot and hunt. If you're forced to click through multiple menus, screens, and functions in the split seconds you need to aim and shoot, you could lose your shot. Make sure you know the interface or it's easy to use in the dark. Don't fiddle fart your way through the night without even getting to take a shot.
Digital scopes will eat battery life at the speed of a Popsicle melting on hot concrete - fast. The extra features are nice, but they can be draining. If you're planning on only being out for a few hours, you're set. Night vision scopes are expensive but the battery life lasts a lot longer than digital, often lasting over 20 hours. Traditional scopes will be the best conservers of battery life as they only power the illuminated reticle, and that's if your scope has an illuminated reticle. If you're out at low light and after, it really should have this feature.
The best night vision and thermal tech is going to cost a fortune - thousands of dollars, and that's the kind of money it will take to get usable data for several hundred yards in the dark. Realistically, very few people have the budget to spend in those price ranges and that inherently affects how effective you can see and shoot in the dark.
You might be able to see 800 yards out, but being able to recognize and identify the target, what it is, what gender, and what it's doing is a different story. Most night vision scopes will allow you to see between 50-250 yards. Beyond that, be prepared to spend more, invest in a quality IR illuminator, or learn tricks of the trade in how to flash blind predators and make for a successful nighttime hunt.
It's irrelevant if you're spending a couple hundred bucks or a fortune, everyone deserves a quality warranty to protect their product. Warranty coverage on electronic parts may not be covered under certain warranties, and yet that's often the type of coverage you need on a night vision, digital, or thermal scope. Be sure to look over what's covered and what you'll end up having to fork out for. A customer service track record given by the masses may be important to consider. Stay brand-specific or stick with manufacturers you've had positive experiences with even if it might cost you a little more.
Be the Hunter Not the Hunted!
You'd think nighttime hunting and stalking would be easy since you have the cover of darkness to aid in being stealthy. However, predators have heightened senses when the moon comes out and taking on the role of being the hunter means having the right gear and being able to see your target.
If you don't have the right scope on your rig, you can be sure you'll soon be the hunted. If you can't see, what's the point of being out after dark?