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Best Thermal Reflex Sights: Reviews & Guide

Looking for the best thermal reflex sight to provide a crystal-clear view of your target?

best crossbow scope for night hunting

Whether shooting at long distances or close quarters, some shooting situations require quick target acquisition and rapid sight positioning. In such cases, thermal reflex sights come in handy. 

Thermal reflex sights can really help boost your accuracy and precision, especially when you have to quickly engage multiple targets at once. They enable you to simply point and shoot without having to align front and rear sights. 


What’s In This Guide?

This buying guide recommends, compares, and reviews what we believe are the best thermal reflex sights sold today.

NOTE: if you have a limited budget, check out our more affordable thermal scope picks.

Best Thermal Reflex Sights

  1. 1
    Best for Hog Hunting: SIG Sauer Echo 3
  2. 2
    Best for Rapid target acquisition – Vortex Optics Venom Red Dot Sight
  3. 3
    Best for Hunting in Rain and Fog – Sig Sauer OPMOD Reflex Sight 
  4. 4
    Best for Day and Night Hunting - Sig Sauer ECHO1 Thermal Reflex Sight
  5. 5
    Best for Military Use - Trijicon RMR Red Dot Sight

Sig Sauer ECHO3 1-6x
  • Sig Sauer Echo 3

  • Best for Hog Hunting
  • Magnification:
    1 – 6x

  • Battery Life:
    6 hours

  • Weight:
    14.3 oz

  • Resolution:
    320 x 240

thermal reflex sight
  • Vortex Optics Venom Red Dot Sight

  • Best for Rapid target acquisition
  • Magnification:
    1x

  • Battery Life:
    150 hours to 30,000 hours

  • Weight:
    1.05 ounce

  • Resolution:
    Not Specified

thermal reflex sight
  • Sig Sauer OPMOD Reflex Sight

  • Best for Hunting in Rain and Fog
  • Magnification:
    1x

  • Battery Life:
    Up to 50,000 hours

  • Weight:
    5.6 ounces

  • Resolution:
    Not Specified

reflex sight for shotgun
  • Sig Sauer ECHO1 Thermal Reflex Sight

  • Best for Day and Night Hunting
  • Magnification:
    1x to 2x

  • Battery Life:
    8-hour minimum

  • Weight:
    0.5 pound

  • Resolution:
    206×156

best reflex scope
  • Trijicon RMR Red Dot Sight

  • Best for Military Use
  • Magnification:
    -

  • Battery Life:
    -

  • Weight:
    1.17 ounces

  • Resolution:
    Not Specified


1. Best for Hog Hunting: Sig Sauer Echo 3

best thermal scope

Sig Sauer’s latest design, the Echo 3 Thermal boasts advanced BDX technology, helping you shoot your target precisely and accurately.

Its compact and innovative design helps you to sit comfortably and view your surroundings with a thermal camera until you find your target.

If you’re looking for the best product for hog hunting, the Sig Sauer Echo 3 thermal reflex sight is the ideal choice.

Pros

  • Video recorder allows hunters to capture their hunting experience in video and image format
  • KILO BDX Rangefinder shows the exact size and height of long-distance targets·         
  • 11 color palettes ensure you find your target in every type of weather·         
  • High-quality, 23mm objective lens gives a clear and crisp view of the target

Cons

  • Pricier than other models

Our Review

Although the Echo 3 is technically not a conventional “scope,” it’s still a high-performing optic you can attach to your AR when you go hog hunting.

If you’re hunting in daylight and don’t need the sight, you can use its quick-disconnect mount to simply remove it, but who wouldn’t love a bit of thermal advantage during the day as well?

The unit boasts a large 10-degree FOV and a 6x magnification. It features the trade-marked LevelPlex Anti-Cant System along with a 0.5-degree scope cant sensitivity, so it can easily withstand heavy use and heavy loads.

If you’re a Sig fan, you might already own Sig Sauer BDX compatible optics, and thankfully, the manufacturers were smart enough to incorporate Bluetooth/Wi-Fi technology into this unit.

It further comes with a ton of windage and elevation adjustment travel, minute 0.5 MOA adjustment increments, and numerous reticles to choose from.

Since the Echo 3 is designed for predator and hog hunters, it comes with a motion-activated display feature that powers on when it detects motion. Whether it’s snorts snorting, hoofs hoofing, or ears fluffing against brushes, you’ll be able to see it all with the Echo 3 thermal optic.

Its compact design further allows you to comfortably mount it on rifles of all sizes. It’s also built with IPX-6 rated materials, making the unit waterproof.

The Echo 3 uses the VOx LWIR Core as its thermal sensor, which is an uncooled type thermal sensor that will identify the heat signatures in your surroundings.

This sensor has a high resolution of 320x240, so you’ll always get a clear and crisp view of your target. It also has a pixel pitch of 12µm, so you’ll be able to get a close and detailed view of medium-ranged targets.

The sensor also has a refreshing rate of 30 Hz, which means that it will refresh the sight picture after every 30 seconds, so you can view your target in real-time and shoot it easily, even if it’s on the run.

Limitations

The Sig Sauer Echo 3 is not exactly cheap for such a small and tiny sight.

It also lags behind newer-generation thermal sights in terms of resolution, but you probably won't notice much of a difference when using this sight. It’s also only suitable for shorter distances, such as for entry-level hog hunts with a .223 platform.

Bottom line 

The Sig Sauer Echo 3 boasts a durable and sturdy construction, so you can use it in all kinds of weather.

Its advanced technology and innovative features help get a clear and crisp image of any short-range target like a hog, making the sight perfect for outdoor use.

Even better, the Sig Sauer helps you shoot accurately in both night and day time.


2. Best for Rapid target acquisition – Vortex Optics Venom Red Dot Sight

best reflex sight

The Vortex Optics Venom Red Dot Sight is a compact, lightweight, and feature-rich thermal reflex sight. It boasts a long battery life that lasts for about 30,000 hours. And it comes with a Picatinny mount that allows you to easily mount it on firearms like rifles or shotguns.

The Venom has a large viewing window with a multi-coated lens for improved light transmission. Combined with the 3 MOA Dot Reticle, the Venom Red Dot Sight is great for rapid target acquisition. 

Plus, it comes with 10 brightness levels, so you can adjust it according to your needs. 

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight 
  • Long battery life 
  • Multi-coated lens for sharper image 
  • Adjustable brightness levels
  • Unlimited eye relief 

Cons

  • Buttons are hard to press
  • Battery cover is difficult to install 

Our Review

We really like the Venom Red Dot Sight for its lightweight construction (1.05 ounces) and powerful performance. 

It comes with a wide viewing window equipped with multi-coated glass that improves performance by reducing glare, increasing light transmission, and providing a sharper image. You can also adjust its brightness between 10 intensity levels. 

This Vortex sight boasts sturdy aluminum construction. The single-piece chassis is both water- and shock-proof, so it can easily handle rough shooting conditions. The lenses are also treated with a hard-anodized finish and an ArmorTek scratch-resistant coating for added durability. 

The Venom Red Dot Sight has a long battery life of about 150 hours on maximum brightness and 30,000 hours on minimum intensity. A 14-hour automatic shut down feature also helps save on the battery life. 

You can also use the auto-brightness mode that uses an ambient light sensor to control dot intensity. 

Limitations

While Vortex Optics Venom Red Dot is a popular choice among shooting enthusiasts, it has some issues like a misaligned battery cover. Many buyers complain they had a hard time getting the screw and the cover threads aligned to secure the cover. 

In addition, the buttons for power and intensity adjustment, which are conveniently located on the left side of the device, are a bit hard to press. This, of course, is more common in newly purchased units and the buttons break in after regular usage.  

Bottom Line 

Vortex Optics Venom Red Dot Sight is a compact yet extremely durable thermal reflex sight. It provides unlimited eye relief with a wide viewing window for improved projection and target acquisition. 

Plus, the various intensity, windage, and elevation settings allow you to adjust it according to the conditions. 


3. Best for Hunting in Rain and Fog - Sig Sauer OPMOD Reflex Sight

reflex sight

The OPMOD from Sig Sauer is yet another compact and lightweight optical sight with tons of features. It features an innovative rotary dial that allows you to adjust the reticle. You can choose to use it in either red or green. 

This sight is completely sealed against weather elements like rain and fog, thanks to the IPX-67 waterproof rating. Plus, the lenses are treated with high-performance coatings that deliver exceptional performance, parallax-free viewing, and unlimited eye relief. 

Pros

  • Simple to install and use 
  • Lets you choose between red and green dot 
  • User-facing rotary dial makes operation easier 
  • Powerful battery delivers up to 50,000 hours of runtime 
  • Durable half-inch hex mount

Cons

  • Dials can be a bit difficult to turn
  • A little overhang from the optic base to the mount bracket

Our Review

The Sig Sauer OPMOD Reflex Sight is a durable and reliable reflex sight that you can rely on in any weather condition. It features weather-sealed housing with IPX-7 waterproofing and fog resistance. So, you can use it in foggy or rainy conditions. 

Plus, it boasts a sturdy aircraft-grade aluminum housing and mount that can withstand hardships without denting or breaking. 

We also like the OPMOD for its excellent performance. It features two high-quality lenses treated with high-performance lens coatings that ensure appropriate light transmission and excellent dot contrast regardless of the conditions. 

You can also choose between a red or green dot. Its adjustment is also quite easy, thanks to the user-facing rotary dial. 

The OPMOD is compact, lightweight, and easy to install on different weapons. It promises precise target acquisition and accurate shots thanks to its parallax-free functionality. Plus, the long-lasting battery provides you with up to 50,000 hours of continuous usage. 

Limitations 

One problem with the Sig Sauer OPMOD Reflex Sight is that even though the adjustment dial is user-facing, it can be a bit difficult to turn for some users. 

Users also report issues with its mounting system. Although the mount in the OPMOD has a micro footprint, there is a slight overhang from the optic base to the mount bracket that can hinder the mounting process on some firearms. 

Bottom Line

The Sig Sauer OPMOD is a reliable, durable, and high-performance reflex sight. It boasts excellent weather, water, and dust sealing that allows you to use it in the rain and fog. 

Plus, the aircraft-grade aluminum housing ensures your optic stays safe and damage-free even during rough usage. The coated lenses deliver sharp and accurate images with unlimited eye relief. 


4. Best for Day and Night Hunting – Sig Sauer ECHO1 Thermal Reflex Sight

best reflex sight

ECHO1 is a game-changing firearm optic from Sig Sauer. It features an innovative direct view thermal sight that is suitable for various uses: military, law enforcement, hunters, or competitive shooters. 

You can choose between 5 different ballistic reticles. Plus, the anti-reflective coatings and custom-calibrated adjustment turret systems make it extremely user-friendly. 

The ECHO1 boasts a long thermal detection range of 1,000 yards with a targeting range of 300+ yards. This reflex sight provides clear target imagery, regardless of the light conditions, so you can easily use it during the day or night. 

It can also take pictures in individual and burst modes for downloading.

Pros

  • Fast and intuitive target acquisition
  • LCD display for day/night direct view targeting
  • Electronic zoom from 1x to 2x
  • Can take pictures in both individual and burst mode
  • Ability to design and upload new reticles

Cons

  • Battery life is not good
  • Crosshair is difficult to detect 

Our Review

The Sig Sauer Echo1 Thermal Reflex Sight lives up to the manufacturer’s name with its durable construction and high-quality performance. 

This compact and lightweight device incorporates 12 Micron Pixel Size instead of the standard 17 Micron Size, giving it an upper hand in detection and target acquisition. 

It features an LCD display with different viewing modes. You can use the separate day and night modes according to the time of the day and choose from black-hot, white-hot, or multiple temperature settings. 

The reticle is customizable as well. You can choose from the default reticles or even design and save your own. 

ECHO1 is made entirely of steel which adds to its durability and strength. Plus, dual supercapacitors ensure continuous operation even during heavy recoil. 

And the lenses are treated with an abrasion-resistant coat while the housing is IPX6-rated. 

Limitations

Even though the Echo 1 features electronic zoom, the quality of the magnified image is not great. The resolution and frame rate are towards the lower side at 206 × 156 and 30 Hz. So, the ECHO1 works well for big games but not for fast runners like rabbits and coyotes. 

The battery life is also an issue. The device can run continuously for up to eight hours on a full charge, which is lower than what similar optical sights offer. 

Bottom Line 

Despite some limitations to its operation, like low battery life and fine crosshair, the ECHO1 is a good option for day and night hunting. It is affordable, rugged, and compact. Plus, you get many customization features that allow you to use the sight according to your preferences. 

We also recommend checking our Sig Sauer Echo 3 review if Echo 1 doesn’t exactly fit the bill. 


5. Best for Military Use – Trijicon RMR Type 2 Red Dot Sight

reflex red dot sight

The Trijicon RMR Type 2 Red Dot Sight is an updated model of the Trijicon’s famous RMR sight. It is tougher and packed with more features and options. It features a LED-powered red dot and has a battery life of up to 4 years of continuous usage.

The aluminum body is sturdy yet extremely lightweight. There are adjusters for elevation, windage, brightness levels, and magnification, making the RMR suitable for various applications, including military usage, target shooting, and hunting. 

Pros

  • Eight brightness levels 
  • Long battery life 
  • LED-generated red dot 
  • Works with any firearm 
  • Patented housing shape 

Cons

  • Battery cannot be changed while mounted 
  • Slightly tinted glass 

Our Review

This Trijicon RMR is a standard 6.5 MOA adjustable red dot. The dot is LCD-generated, so it is very sharp and easy to spot. You can adjust its brightness between the 8 intensity settings. Plus, there are adjusters for windage and elevation. 

There is also an auto-adjust mode, in which the RMR detects ambient light and gives you a red dot best suited to your environment. When you turn this mode on, it locks out adjustment buttons, which helps conserve the battery. 

RMR has a sturdy and lightweight aluminum housing. Plus, the variety of mounts makes it suitable for any firearm. It boasts great tactility, so you can easily reload the weapon with one hand. Plus, the waterproof housing means you can easily use it in various conditions. 

Limitations 

While this Trijicon model is certainly one of the best red dot sights, there are a couple of shortcomings. 

For instance, it’s impossible to replace the battery without dismounting the scope off the weapon. Although it does have an extremely long battery life, you do have to change it once it discharges. 

Plus, the glass on this reflex sight has a slight bluish tint. So the image you obtain is slightly tinted, which might make it a bit difficult for some users. 

Bottom Line 

The Trijicon RMR does not need repair or replacement for a long time. It is rugged and durable and ensures precise target acquisition and accurate shots. The amazing battery life, multiple intensity settings, and customization options make it great for military use. 


Thermal Reflex Sight Buying Guide

What are Reflex Sights and How Do They Work?

Thermal reflex sights are a type of red dot sights. Unlike traditional optics, these don’t consist of two lenses connected by a tube. Instead, they only have one piece of optical glass in the sight plane. 

They work by projecting an aiming point forward into a reflective piece of glass that bounces the projection back, giving you an accurate sight picture. Since there are no planes of focus, their single, parallax-free virtual projection is always in focus. 

When you look through this partially reflecting glass, you can spot an illuminated aiming point projected over it. 

Whether this aiming point is encircled by a ring or projected by an LED, it is almost always red, allowing you to easily spot it and take an accurate shot.

How to Select the Right Thermal Reflex Sight

thermal reflex sight

Thermal reflex sights are not affordable or cheap optics.

They often boast a technology that’s newer than night vision, which explains why they’re higher-priced. 

The best thermal reflex sights can detect very slight temperature differences, and their ability to do so primarily depends on the thermal sensor/detector sensitivity.

It’s also important to note how display resolution affects image quality and how the pixel quality becomes poorer as the power increases.

Some important features to keep in mind are:

Budget/Price

The best thermal reflex sights cost over $5,000.

These units are often the best that money can buy, but you’ll also get practical use from models that are in the $2,000 to $5,000 range.

If you want a thermal sight that costs less than $1000, you won’t find one. There are some units available under $2,000, but make sure you’re brand-conscious when shopping because you want a money-back guarantee and good warranty coverage because quality control issues are common in this class of thermal scopes.

Weight/Size

Thermal imaging sights are often big and heavy. The average weight for a traditional thermal sight is approximately 2 pounds.

Lightweight units weigh around 1-1.5 pounds, which is similar to standard daytime rifle scopes.

Although thermal units have the same length as traditional rifle scopes, their internal components make them much wider. Their weight and size will affect your entire sight system and tactical or hunting weapon.

If you want a compact and lightweight option, opt for a clip-on system. Along with shedding weight and size, these models are also easily attachable to and removable from a daytime scope.

Recognition/Detection Ranges

Thermal optics usually offer more than 1,000 yards of detection range, whether it’s day or night.  This is plenty for almost any situation.

However, the range at which hunters can identify and recognize the target is significantly shorter.  This is where thermal reflex scopes differ the most.  Detection range differs between models, quality, and manufacturers. 

Make sure you research the thermal detector sensitivity before you make your purchase.

Increasing magnification power can help you quickly identify and determine a faraway target, but it can also decrease pixels, resulting in a low-quality and grainy picture.

Make sure you also check the display resolution, because it will impact the quality and clarity of image you use.

Durability

Although thermal reflex sights offer a lot of functions, they’re fragile.

While all models are recoil- and shock-tested for weapon use, they’re still not units that you should expose to natural elements for a long time as most models are only water-resistant.

 Make sure you consider build quality and reliability, and a good replace/repair warranty from an established brand is essential.

60Hz vs. 30Hz

The refresh frame rate updates your sight picture and makes it look as natural as possible. Most people say that the naked eye cannot tell the difference between 60Hz and 30Hz quality.

However, if you’re planning on continuously hunting/tracking fast moving targets or from a moving platform, it’s better to choose a sight with the 60Hz refresh frame rate for the fastest and most natural-looking sight picture.

Length

Rifles such as the AR-10 and AR-15 have long scope rails, and most scope manufacturers make units that easily fit this length.

Thus, the length won’t be a problem if you own an AR, but we cannot say the same thing for other weapons, like traditional bolt action rifles. Such rifles usually feature short scope mounts, which means that it will be difficult to attach longer optics to them.

So, make sure you consider the mounting surface length before you finalize your purchase.

Reticle

A good thermal reflex sight always has a reticle. Whether it is a single dot reticle or a more traditional crosshair reticle, having a reticle on your reflex sight provides you with a good point of aim. 

When looking at different models, check their reticle to make sure it works for you. Finding one with various brightness levels is a huge plus because it enables you to shoot in various environments accurately.

Mounting

The mounting compatibility of your sight with your firearm is also important. Weaver and Picatinny rail systems are the most popular, so it’s quite easy to find a sight that fits your firearm. 

But while there are reflex sights with universal mounts, there are also models that only mount on a certain type of weapon. 

So, you should carefully study the mounting system of your firearm and choose a thermal reflex optic that works best for it. 

Battery Life

The battery life of your reflex sight is also important to consider, whether you plan on using it for military purposes or for hunting trips. Trust us; you don’t want to find yourself in a tight spot with the lights on your sight gone out. 

Some thermal reflex sights also have a power button to conserve the battery. Others use ambient light to create the optical projection. 

Top reflex sights can offer you a battery life of 5,000 and 15,000 hours. But your goal should be to find a model with the longest battery life that falls within your budget. 


Thermal Reflex Sights: Frequently Asked Questions

Are Reflex Sights and Red Dots Sight the Same?

No, reflex sights and red dot sights are not the same. Reflex sights are actually a type of red dot sight. 

Red dot sights are a broad category of firearm optics that includes all sights that utilize a red dot as the aiming reticle. Reflex sights, holographic sights, and prism sights are all different types of red dot sights. 

What is a thermal reflex sight?

A thermal reflex sight falls into the category of infrared imaging technologies. It features thermographic cameras that utilize infrared technology to identify sources of radiation produced by heat-producing sources.

Thermal optics use infrared radiation to create an enhanced contrast sight picture, enabling hunters to detect and track targets in poor visibility. Most units combine an aiming reticle with a small thermographic camera, allowing hunters to quickly identify things that give off a heat signature.

How do thermal sights and night vision differ?

Night vision goggles or NVGs basically detect low levels of light and amplify it. Manufacturers use the clear green color on purpose because human eyes are very sensitive to green.

The goggles need at least some type of light to produce a picture and cannot use energy that’s in heat form. This creates a significant problem if you want to use night vision on incredibly dark nights or in buildings where all the lights are off.

best reflex sight for the money

On the other hand, thermal sights provide a completely different experience and better visual capability in complete darkness, even if there’s no available light.    

What are common applications of thermal sights?

The most common application of thermal sights is hunting, particularly coyote and hog hunting. Law enforcement, military units, and search and rescue teams also commonly use these units.


Final Verdict: What is the Best Thermal Reflex Sight?

The best thermal reflex sight for you depends on what you plan to use it for. If you’re willing to spend some money, then you can opt for the Trijicon IR Hunter Mk 3.

If you’re planning on hog hunting or chasing short-range game, then the SIG Sauer Echo 3 is perfect for you.

If you are on a budget, then the ATN Thor 4  is our favorite thermal reflex sight for hunters.

About the Author Rob Carson

I work in commercial construction, in Dallas, TX.

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