Night vision for under $500 is a rare find largely because night vision is costly technology.
Regardless, there are Gen 1 night vision scopes available in this price range.
Vector Optics manufactures Gen 1 weapon sights in various magnification and aperture combos.
The model up for review is the large 4X power 60 mm lens Gen 1 night vision scope.
Does cheap night vision really work?
Let’s find out if Vector Optics gets it right or if it’s better to go digital for the money.
What We Like: Price
What We Don’t Like: Heavy
Best Uses: Night Shooting, Tactical Use, Hunting, Scouting, Varmint Control, Close-Range Detection
- IIT: Gen 1
- Magnification: 4x
- FOV: 50 ft/100 yds
- Resolution: 36-40 lp/mm
- Eye Relief: 13 mm
- Color Modes: Green Phosphor
- Battery: 1x CR123 Li-ion
- Dimensions: 11”/3.1 lbs
Our Verdict: While Gen 1 scopes are generally scoffed at by optics snobs, they have a valuable place in the market. Plus, Gen 1 is getting better and better as night vision tech improves and becomes more affordable. The Vector Optics 4x60 is such a scope that has better-than-average Gen 1 performance that must be a serious consideration if you’re looking for cheap night vision.
Who is the Vector Optics 4X60 Gen 1 Best Suited to?
Close-range shooting. Scopes of this caliber are designed for short-range detection. They perform excellently from 25-80 yards, but with the right IR and factory-set parallax for 100 m, it will provide accurate performance at 100 yards.
Because this is not a digital scope, it can only perform at night. It comes without a QD mount, so you will need to keep the weapon strictly for night use and/or go through the tedious process of dismounting the Picatinny mount and remounting your day optic.
Shooters looking for a dedicated night scope on a budget have found it with this Gen 1 4x60, and others who want day use from the same will need to look elsewhere. The Sightmark Wraith HD is a good alternative for the price.
How Does the Vector Optics 4X60 Gen 1 Perform?
The 4x60 Gen 1 scope manufactured by Vector Optics is what you would call budget night vision. However, the type of Gen 1 quality available to the commercial market these days is so much better than what was considered the standard a mere decade ago.
The Gen 1 scope has high resolution for its IIT, and its imaging quality is more than sufficient for close-range hunting up to about 100 yards. It’s really a superb option for cost-conscious buyers to experience real night vision over digital models.
It’s extremely easy to use with its one-button operation and rotary-like dial for brightness. You do have the typical green phosphor display, buts its 4x magnification, large 60 mm lens, and high resolution means a lot of light and clarity to spot your target in the dark.
The scope is heavy, especially so for today’s standards, and it’s undoubtedly a compromise for the low price. Overall, the Gen 1 Vector Optics scope performs better than expected.
Features & Benefits
The primary advantage of buying a Gen 1 rifle scope is cost. They’re cheap, affordable, and they provide reasonable night vision for close range shooting from about 50-100 yards (approx.).
Each Gen 1 IIT is made differently, so they’re not all equal. With as cheap as Gen 2 is getting, it’s worth it in performance and imaging quality to jump up to the next budget range. However, when you don’t have the ability to stretch the budget, Gen 1 can still get you there but not without limitations.
For the price, some night vision is better than nothing. For close-range shooting, reasonable visibility, and a real IIT in the hand, Gen 1 will suffice.
As expected for the low price, you’re not getting a decked-out night vision system with recording and all the usual extras you would have with night vision.
The Vector Optics Gen 1 scope is very simple indeed. It does nothing except for what it was built to do – provide visibility for nighttime hunting and shooting.
It has simple operation with an on/off button, 9 brightness settings via a dial, ¼ MOA adjustments, and an adjustable diopter. Parallax has been factory-set for 100 meters, it has an illuminated reticle, and it comes with a detachable 850 nm IR illuminator to achieve improved clarity and detection range.
Gen 1 Imaging Quality
Because Gen 1 tubes lack a micro channel plate, imaging quality will not be comparable to Gen 2 IITs – it’s just the way it is. However, because Vector Optics is transparent about the scope’s resolution, it’s a great indicator to product quality and brand transparency.
The 4x60 model features great 36-40 lp/mm resolution. While this is still on the low-end for night vision, it’s actually much better than the generation 1 tubes of earlier days. This will provide better than average performance with half-moon light, and excellent performance with an IR for ranges up to 80-100 yards.
There is some edge softening, very little but noticeable fish-bowl effect, and you will need an IR to acquire sharp clarity and some good distance. Fortunately, it provides better than expected performance for Gen 1 with its 4x power out to said detection ranges.
Good Build Quality
The night vision scope is made with the same quality 6061 T6 aluminum material that high-end scopes are made with. It’s lightweight, robust, and rugged. The build quality is there and is designed to hold up for continued use night after night for up to around 1000 hours over its lifetime.
The Gen 1 scope is completely waterproof and nitrogen-purged to be fogproof. This is great weatherproofing quality for not only night vision but as a sports optic at this price point.
As far as recoil-resistance, Vector only states that it’s “designed for real fire caliber.” We assume that it is not rated for calibers above that of a .308. It’s likely on par with other scopes in its under $500 price range that are good for light-recoil calibers like that of AR-15 setups, .22 calibers, etc.
The 4X60 Gen 1 scope is a beast. It weighs 3 lbs and is significantly heavier than many other scopes in the market. Fatigue sets in faster especially if you’re on the move and if you already have a heavy weapon system.
The only real justification for the weight is the low price you’re paying for the scope and if you hold value in a Gen 1 IIT versus a digital model.
Digital models tend to be lighter in weight and cheaper than IIT tubes, so it may be worth considering the 1.6 lb ATN X-Sight LTV 3-9x that is not unreasonably higher in cost than the 4x60 Gen 1 scope.
User preference will rule here and will determine if the weight is worth it.
The Gen 1 4X60 night vision scope comes with 810 nm IR laser, 850 nm IR illuminator, lens cap, eyepiece cap, lens cloth, and Picatinny rail with hex key.
No. The Vector Gen 1 scope has a top-loading battery compartment. Remove the turret cap and change out the CR123 battery for a fresh battery supply. This is a convenient design versus older bottom-loading battery compartment designs.
The Vector Optics Gen 1 night vision scope does not have any digital or recording features. It’s a completely analog system and relies on ambient light or use of an IR illuminator or flashlight to provide visibility.
There is no stated recoil resistance provided by the manufacturer. However, with only 13-16 mm eye relief, this is a very short eye relief scope. It sits further rearward and obviously must be used with rimfire rifles or weapon systems with essentially zero recoil.
Vector Optics has unlimited and 5-year warranties on their products. Unfortunately, only a 2-year warranty is applied to the Gen 1 4x60 scope. Assuming that it has the same limitations as the 5-year warranty, it is not transferable and requires proof of purchase for repairs or replacement.
The retailer through which you purchase may provide an inexpensive protection plan for additional coverage protection.
Acquiring night vision at such price points always carries some risk and compromise. With the Vector Gen 1 4X60 scope, you’re limited in what you can mount it to and how far you can see in the dark.
If you want beyond 150-yard performance, you may as well spend over triple the price for Gen 2 IITs like the AGM Wolverine-4 NL3. If you want to shoot high recoil rifles, you should opt for a recoil-proof night vision scope like the Pulsar Digisight Ultra N455.
But this scope doesn’t cost as much as they do, and it lacks a lot of extra features for good reasons. This is a starter, entry-level introduction to night vision at an extremely low price – nothing more, nothing less.
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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.