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Are you searching for a great thermal scope?
You might be discovering that they’re beyond expensive which is why I scoured the market for both the best, and most affordable, thermals around.
There are budget thermal scopes like the ATN Thor LT. Then there are the best thermals like the Trijicon IR Hunter MK3 that are beyond the reach of all, save for those with deep pockets. In any case, any thermal is better than no thermal at all and is guaranteed to come with bragging rights.
Since I know not everyone has $10,000 to burn, I have a lineup of the top thermal scopes with various price points to best fit your needs.
Top 9 Best Thermal Scopes in 2021
|OPMOD THOR LT 3-6X||CHECK PRICE|
|Trijicon IR Hunter MK3||CHECK PRICE|
|AGM Secutor TS25 384||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN Thor HD 384 2-8X||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN Thor 4 384 1.25-5X||CHECK PRICE|
|ATN Thor LT 160 3 6x||CHECK PRICE|
|Sig Sauer Echo 3||CHECK PRICE|
|Burris BTC 50||CHECK PRICE|
|Trijicon IR-Patrol IRMO 300K||CHECK PRICE|
You can change the way you hunt and stalk your prey when you have the best thermographic weapon sight on your side.
As sci-fi as thermal imagery scopes may seem, thermography is real technology that allows you to see what's creeping and crawling in the dead of night or in covert stings. Thermal scopes display temperature information, and because thermal imaging night vision products will vary greatly in quality, display resolution is an important factor to consider when buying a thermal scope.
Infrared imagers or thermographic cameras are made to pick up part of the light spectrum in the 700-1000nm region. The best thermal imagers are able to operate in the 8000-15,000nm part of the spectrum. While we see and interpret what is displayed on the scope as color differences, they are actually temperature differences between objects emitting varying levels of radiation. Sounds cool, right?
But, is a thermal weapon sight "too much scope?" How can you use a thermal scope to justify purchasing the expensive tech?
- Day/night hunting and scouting
- Law enforcement/Military use
- Tactical, security, and surveillance
Being able to better spot game, identify predators, get eyes on intruders, and track downed game are just some reasons you may want the best thermal tech. Because it's an active device, you can use thermal at any time during the day or night even when there is visible light.
Let's check out what your best options are if you're serious about being the hunter and not the hunted.
Thermal Rifle Scope Reviews
1. OPMOD Thor LT 3-6X - Best for the Money
The OPMOD thermal scope is Optics Planet’s modification of ATN’s Thor LT 3-6x model. But, what makes it the best for the money? It’s under $1200, has a couple extra features, and it’s fully backed with a limited lifetime warranty.
- 10+ hours
- Custom reticle
- Included FREE QD mount
- Only White Hot/Black Hot color modes
What makes an optic worth the money is largely subjective, but it must be economical, must be comparable to other similar, high-end models, and it must be a high-performance optic. In my opinion, the OPMOD covers it all.
The OPMOD Thor maintains all the favorite features of the ATN Thor but with a couple mods that make it a specialized thermal scope for any type of hunter. The mods may be subtle like the OPMOD logo on the body of the unit, but it also has much more obvious benefits such as an included QD (Quick Detach) mount that you must purchase separately with ATN and a specialized reticle that ATN models don’t have.
What is that “special” reticle? It’s a 68 MOA circle dot reticle that is literally one of the most popular reticles for its fast target acquisition and aiming points. This is a nice addition to have when you have multiple reticles at your disposal, so why not throw in the 68? That is exactly what OP thought, and so they did it.
As an ATN Thor at its core, it has the classic One Shot Zero feature, multiple thermal displays, ultra-low power consumption allowing more than 10 hours of use, and long identification, recognition, and detection ranges. The ATN THOR LT 320 3-6X thermal scope is another one worth taking a look at.
One of its most notable features is its ultra-lightweight and compact frame. If you want to switch things up between weapons where weight would normally restrict you, you can mount the 1.4 lb scope to air rifles and crossbows – be our guest. Just let us know how it goes when you do!
2. Trijicon IR Hunter MK3 Thermal Scope - Best Over $5000
Full-featured and high-quality optics is what Trijicon does, and they nailed it with the IR Hunter MK3. This IRMK3-35 model from the Trijicon Electro Optics Division is one of the best of their line. Brilliant precision, detailed reticles, and digital technology spells out expensive. It's expensive and not for everyone, but the best superior scopes worth their grit rarely are.
- Variable magnification/zoom
- Germanium lens
- Digital control
- Advanced features
- Made in the USA
- Reversed elevation/windage turrets
Mounting this serious scope will add just over 2 lbs of weight to your weapons system but no surprise there - thermals aren't lightweight optics. What it also isn't is cheap. There's very little chance you're taking home the IR Hunter unless you're prepared to spend a significant amount of cash.
For those of you who are, it has a 35 mm Germanium objective lens with a replaceable, highly-transmissive IR window to protect it. The thermal scope's optical magnification is 2.5x, and you also have 8x E-Zoom to get a closer look. It's also important to note that the 8 reticles available in the system are high-precision reticles that scale in size as you change magnification. Yes - it's equal to a FFP (first focal plane) reticle seen in high-end rifle scopes.
But, unlike traditional rifle scopes with the elevation turret on top and windage turret on the right side, the IR Hunter reverses the location of the two turrets. It might take some getting used to, but I thought you should know.
White-Hot and Black-Hot imaging, 640x480 sensor and display resolution, and multiple advanced features to achieve target recognition, focus, and contrast, you can bet these stats set the standard for the best thermal imaging you can have on a scope.
The IR Hunter is a battery hog. You'll run out of battery life around 3.5-6 hours in, but at least it can conveniently be taken off for uploading data and battery replacement since it comes with a dual lever LaRue tactical quick detach weapon mount.
Edge Detect, Enhanced Target Recognition (ETR), Digital Contrast Enhancement (DCE), and a Stadiametric rangefinder are features that will forever change the way you see a hunt, whether it's for hogs or fugitives.
3. AGM Secutor TS25-384 - Best Thermal Scope Under $5000
This Secutor scope is made for shooters who demand a compact device with professional-grade quality. Not only does it fulfill these needs, it also comes within budget.
- Mount included
- Limited digital features
The Secutor TS25-384 thermal scope comes with everything you need to get shooting right away. Many scopes don’t even come with a mount in the box, so the Secutor already has value in the buy.
I really like the mount which is a quick release model with dual-lever clamps for confident security and dismounting convenience. The scope itself allows for five profiles with five zeros each. Along with having 11 color palettes and 5 reticle patterns with 4 reticle colors, you also have a PIP mode in 2x digital zoom.
When pixels become an issue, as is the case with thermal scopes, you have the ability to auto correct NUC or do it yourself manually. You can also repair defective pixels within the screen.
The Secutor with its 25mm aperture, 384x288 resolution, 17-micron sensor, and 50Hz refresh rate is best suited to close-range shooting and detection. While it can reach out to 500 yards, its recognition range is 250 yards, and is likely for best employment under 200 yards.
The thermal scope is a short-range champ with good thermal imaging to resolve excellent details needed in the field. While it doesn’t have video recording, streaming, and all that extra stuff, you can attach it as an external capability if you want it.
The AGM Secutor TS25 has fundamental features with the best quality you can find in such a compact scope. Real performance and real quality equals real and professional-grade results.
4. ATN Thor HD 384 2-8X - Best Thermal Scope Under $2000
If you're out to hunt down hogs and coyotes at night, you'll need the strength of a mighty Thor at your side - not the superhero, but the ATN Thor thermal imaging scope. It's a nighttime prowler that has smart technology, ballistic data, and long-ranging detection capabilities that will make your best hunts more productive. If you mostly chasing coyotes you should read our post on our 5 favorite thermal scopes for hunting coyotes.
- Smart technology
- Multiple digital features
- Long range detection
- Quality control issues
For a hunting scope, it's lightweight for a thermal optic weighing in at 1.55 lbs. It's going to add some weight to your rifle, but fortunately, it comes with an interchangeable Quick Release mount if you decide to pack up the scope and shed some weight. However, as a techy gadget, the mini Thor doesn't like to get wet. It's only water resistant, so you don't want to be caught out in a pour-down with the rain-shy thermal scope.
You can get some extra detection distances with the 2-8x magnification range. Since magnification is digital, it can get grainy at the higher end, but it'll still give you that reach you need. Thanks to ATN, they give some specific numbers you can expect to use when out and about. Detection range for this scope is 800 m, at 400 m you will recognize your target, and at 250 m you can identify it.
As a true, digital scope, it can connect to both WiFi and Bluetooth. It provides a plethora of digital features that includes a Ballistic Calculator, Smart Rangefinder, GPS, and more. As is expected, there are multiple reticle patterns and colors available to take advantage of.
My recommendation is to make sure you're packing an extra set of AA batteries, four to be exact. You'll get about 8 hours of straight-up use out of it before you'll need to give it fresh juice.
If you have any quality issues upon box opening, be assured the Thor HD 384 smart thermal scope comes with a 3-year warranty to protect your investment.
5. ATN Thor 4 384 1.25-5X - Best Budget Thermal Scope
The Thor 4 rifle scope series came about as a fulfillment to demands made by hunters and shooters alike. Day or nighttime shooting, it doesn't matter. If you need the kind of detection that keeps you at a distance while you can watch and stalk your unwitting prey, the Thor 4 was made to provide it. Here's what you get when you combine smart tech and next generation quality together.
- Smart technology
- 60Hz rate
- Multiple digital features
- Gen 4 Sensor
- Quality control issues
This Thor 4 384 1.25-5x is at the lower end of the price and magnification range for the Thor 4 series. With low power, detection range is a max of 750 m with an identification range of 205 m.
The thing is, quality control issues seem to be related to firmware glitches and actually being able to use the thermal scope without it powering off. However, this isn't an issue that ATN experiences alone. Many of the best digital scopes, regardless of brand, often have electronic issues. The Thor 4 scope has a 3-year warranty, and you'll want to be vendor-specific when you're ready to buy.
If you're ready to pull the trigger on a cheap thermal scope, you'll appreciate the surprisingly, high-quality thermal imaging. It has the dual core 4th gen sensor with a 60Hz refresh rate. That 60Hz will come in handy when you've got moving targets in field of view.
It has many digital features that you may have heard of: Ballistic Calculator, Smart Rangefinder, One Shot Zero, and Video Recording and Dual Streaming. Of course, there's probably more features than you'll ever use equipped on the Thor 4, but it's your prerogative to have them.
You won't have to worry about these endless features eating up battery life since the scope has an ultra-low power consumption rate. You'll get 18 hours of practical use before needing to recharge your Thor.
It's designed to be a high-performing and smart optic, but it's still at the entry-level end for a digital scope. If you’ve got a strict budget to stick to, the Thor 4 may be your only option.
6. ATN Thor LT 160 3-6X - Best for Hunting
Are you a varmint hunter that wants to take down coyotes up to about 200 yards? Do you want to spend less than $2000 for a thermal hunting scope? The Thor LT 160 may be the answer to your thermal needs.
- Standalone scope
- 60Hz refresh rate
- One Shot Zero
- Limited range
The Thor LT 160 may be low in resolution, but it has specs that work well for its intended use. What is it good for? Close-range work, eliminating varmints and predators at 150 yards (approx.), and providing legit thermal technology for buyers on a budget.
With those needs in mind, it doesn’t come with the perks and benefits of the Thor 4 scopes. The LT version is about as basic as it can get for thermal, but in my opinion it’s worth every penny since thermal just doesn’t get as cheap as this.
The Thor LT does have the best of what it does provide. With 60Hz, it can keep up with squealing hogs on the run, and you can save ammo and get sighted-in fast with ATN’s One Shot Zero.
With the lack of extra features, you actually save on weight and power. With the new thermal core and sensor, you have a battery that lasts 10+ hours and a 30mm tube body that weighs only 1.4 lbs. It’s tough too, and it handles recoil just like its higher-end cousins.
If you’re hunting this season and need a thermal at the lowest price possible, the Thor LT 160 is your best bet.
7. Sig Sauer Echo 3 - Best Hog Hunting Thermal Scope
The Echo 3 is a thermal reflex sight. Yes, I know exactly what you’re thinking. Mount to AR. Wait for cover of darkness. Hog hunting on! We must be on the same wavelength.
- 1-6x power/10-degree FOV
- LevelPlex Anti-Cant System
- Motion-activated display
- Quick disconnect mount
For something so small and tiny, it sure has a heck of a price tag especially since it’s not even a
rifle scope.” While it’s technically not a traditional “scope,” it sure is a high-performing thermal device that you can mount to your AR for hog hunting! With its quick disconnect mount, you can simply remove it if you don’t need it for daylight shooting, but who doesn’t like a little thermal during the day too?
It has a 6x magnification and a nice, large 10-degree FOV for a sight. Yes, it’ll hold up to heavy loads and heavy use as it has the trade-marked LevelPlex Anti-Cant System with scope cant sensitivity down to 0.5-degrees.
If you’re already a Sig fan, you may already have Sig Sauer BDX compatible optics, and fortunately, they’re smart enough to add this WiFi/Bluetooth technology to the Echo 3. It also has multiple reticles to choose between, a heck of a load of elevation and windage adjustment travel, and minute 0.5 MOA adjustment increments.
The Echo is designed with hog and predator hunters in mind, so a convenient feature you’ll appreciate is the motion-activated display that powers up when it “sees” motion. Ears fluffing against the brush, snorts snorting, and hoofs hoofing – you’ll see it all through the 1-6x Echo 3 thermal reflex sight.
8. Burris BTC 50 - Best Clip On Thermal Scope
New and hot to market is the BTC 50 from Burris. It’s a thermal. It’s a clip-on. It’s a winner in my eyes!
- 50mm objective lens
- Digital zoom
- Great thermal specs
- Adapters sold separately
When you’re buying a clip-on, you either need a mount for aligning it with the optical axis of the daytime scope or the correctly sized adapter ring to attach to the objective bell of the daytime scope. Unfortunately, the BTC comes with neither. You’ll need to purchase these separately, and Burris will have their own line of mounting options for their clip-ons as an optional purchase.
The scope is a 400x300 resolution, 17-micron, and 50Hz thermal clip-on. It’s perfectly suitable for coyote hunting with thermal, varmint hunting, and of course, blood tracking or shooting at night.
It’s pretty lightweight at just under a pound, and it’s completely waterproof. It features a 4-button interface, manual focus ring, and as expected, it can be used as a handheld monocular.
Although it is recoil limited, as are all thermal scopes, it is rated beyond .308 Win and 6.5 Creedmoor. Whatever you’re hunting with, the BTC is likely to handle whatever you dish out.
For a clip-on that can hold its own past a .308, provide repeatability for long-range shots, and allow the user to make various scene, color, and display adjustments, we’d say it’s a winning clip-on for any shooter looking for thermal.
9. Trijicon IR-Patrol IRMO 300 Rifle Kit - Best for Surveillance
The IR-Patrol fulfills the demand for duty men, SHTF preppers, and for those in the security and surveillance profession. As a thermal that can be mounted in multiple ways, it’s one of the most versatile and practical solutions that a shooter and surveiller needs.
- Multiple mounting
- Great thermal specs
- Video recording
- Battery life
This IR-Patrol M300K is the rifle kit package. It comes with the Wilcox Flip Mount Base that allows side flipping for those moments when you don’t need the thermal. There is no need to remove and switch up optics as the Wilcox mount makes things convenient and simple.
The IR-Patrol is a close-range thermal weapon sight as it provides detection ranges up to 600 yards. It’s extremely crisp, clear, and well-detailed with its 60Hz, 12-micron, and 640x480 resolution core.
To make things easy to navigate, the unit does away with buttons and incorporates a thumbstick control system – easy to find/use, waterproof, and rugged. It’s recoil rated for calibers up to .308, is shockproof, and it also has a built-in video recorder.
You may want to carry spare batteries with you, especially if you’re recording for legal purposes, as the battery life is a measly two hours. Luckily, you only need one battery, and you also have alternative power sources compatible for use too.
When you’re buying Trijicon, you know you’re getting the best, and you must have the best when it’s for surveillance and duty use. Backed by a lifetime warranty, the IR-Patrol is worth it.
What to Look for in a Good Day/Night Thermal Scope
Thermal scopes are not cheap or affordable optics. Their technology is still new compared to night vision (NV), and it explains why it's still so expensive, even next to night vision devices.
But, thermal imaging allows for an extensive detection range of targets since it's picking up temperature/heat signatures. Although thermals can be used in both day and night conditions, they're even more effective at night when temperature differences between objects and surroundings are vastly different.
The best thermal rifle scopes can pick up minute temperature differences, and its ability to do so will depend on the thermal detector/sensor sensitivity. You'll also need to consider how display resolution will affect image quality, and even though high-power scopes can extend your range, pixel quality can become poor with an increase in power.
There's a lot to consider, so let's break it down for you.
The best thermals are going to be over $5000. While these are often the best-of-the-best scopes you can buy, you'll get practical use from options in the $2000-$5000 range. If you're looking for a cheap thermal scope under $1000, you won't find one. There will be some thermal units under $2000 but be brand-specific to get good warranty and money-back guarantee coverage since quality control issues should be expected in this price range.
Night Vision VS Thermal Imaging
They're not the same thing. Night vision relies on any ambient light being available. It enhances this visible light to essentially provide "night vision" capability. Thermal imaging doesn't provide the kind of detail night vision scopes do. Instead, it reads temperature signatures in part of the lightwave spectrum that cannot be seen by the human eye. For more on the differences between the two technologies, check out our comparison article.
Thermal imaging scopes have been heavy and big. Average weight for a standard thermal rifle scope is around 2 pounds. Lightweight thermals weigh in around 1-1.5 pounds which is comparable to regular daytime rifle scopes. While thermals may be around the same length of traditional rifle scopes, and even shorter, the internal components needed to provide thermal imaging makes them wider. Their overall size and weight will influence your hunting or tactical weapon and sight system.
A lightweight and compact option may be to consider a clip-on system. Not only does it shed size and weight, they're designed to be used in front of your daytime scope and should be easily removable and attachable.
Thermals can provide over 1000+ yards of detection range on targets regardless of day or night conditions. However, the distance at which you can recognize and identify what your target is will be significantly shorter.
These ranges will vary between manufacturers, models, and quality. The thermal detector sensitivity will be the prime factor you will want to research. Increasing magnification can help to quickly recognize and identify a faraway target, but it can also cause poor pixelage resulting in a grainy picture. Display resolution will also determine the quality of the sight picture.
30Hz VS 60Hz
This is the refresh frame rate that keeps your sight picture updated and looking as natural as possible. They say that the human eye finds it difficult to notice the difference between 30Hz and 60Hz quality. However, if you're going to be on a moving platform or continuously watching/hunting moving targets, you'll want the 60Hz upgrade to have the fastest, more natural-looking sight picture for your application.
With everything a thermal imaging scope has to provide, you can bet they're essentially fragile optics. While they've been shock and recoil-tested to be used on weapons, they're still not optics you want to leave exposed to prolonged weather as most scopes will be water-resistant only. Consider build quality to ensure it lasts, and a good repair/replace warranty from a reputable brand is paramount.
Many scopes, especially the lower-end ones will have many added features. It can include rangefinders, various video recording capabilities, and everything from accelerometers to WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. While these features are sometimes helpful, be sure to research if they're built into the scope or if they're only available via connection to a smartphone/app. These details may influence your decision.
However, regardless of added, digital features, you always want to be guaranteed high quality at its core. Foundational features such as core technology, resolution, build, battery life and overall quality should always top in as the priority over the tempting add-ons.
Best for the Money: OPMOD Thor LT 3-6x
Best Over $5000: Trijicon IR Hunter MK3
Best Thermal Scope Under $5000: AGM Secutor TS25-384
Best Thermal Scope Under $2000: ATN Thor HD 384 2-8x
Best Budget Thermal Scope: ATN Thor 4 384 1.25-5x
Best for Hunting: ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x
Best Hog Hunting Thermal Scope: Sig Sauer Echo 3
Best Clip On Thermal Scope: Burris BTC 50
Best for Surveillance: Trijicon IR-Patrol IRMO 300 Rifle Kit
On average, thermal scopes last almost eight hours on a single charge. Various models will vary between 2-10 hours. More recently, ATN has managed to manufacture ultra-low consumption thermal scopes that provide 10+ hours of continuous use.
In general, thermal scopes are expensive due to advanced technological components. There are also cost differences with various features such as wireless connectivity, palette mods, ballistic applications, and more. Be that as it may, thermals start at a reasonable price point of $1000.
How far thermal rifle scopes can see depends on factors such as display resolution and magnification settings. Generally, even entry-level thermals can detect heat signatures at 1,000+ yards. High-end thermals can detect past 4,000 yards, but target identification is another matter.
Can You Hunt with a Thermal Scope During the Day?
In contrast to night vision scopes, you can use a thermal scope during the day without damaging components. Instead of amplifying light, thermal scopes read heat signatures. The dual-use functionality is a major benefit of choosing thermal over night vision and making the most of your purchase.
Thermal Rifle Scopes: Ultimate Detective & Hunting Tools
Thermal imaging can provide clues that not even night vision scopes can compete with. You can see visible suspects and game at far-off distances, and for the intelligence-gathering agent, you may be able to see vehicles that were just used. The hunter may even be able to follow the blood trail of recently downed game.
Whatever your application, thermal has changed the way a shooter or observer hunts and gathers intelligence. Remain covert. Have the strategic advantage. See details no one else can see. Get the best. Get thermal!
- Burris BTC 50 Thermal Scope Review (Clip On)
- ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x Thermal Scope Review
- AGM Secutor TS25-384 Thermal Scope Review
- AGM Python TS50 640 Thermal Scope Review
- ATN TICO LT 320 35mm Thermal Scope Review (Clip On)
Simon is an avid outdoor enthusiast and the owner of Target Tamers. He is passionate about bringing you the most up to date, accurate & understandable information on sports optics of all kinds and for all applications. When not glassing the local wildlife, you can find him in the garden with his German Shepherd.