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Continued rapid advances in thermal and night vision sensor technologies have created new opportunities to purchase the most advanced military-spec optics for hunters.
In this guide, we review the best night vision scopes with IR, Gen 2 and Gen 3 technology with an eye on rigs costing less than $4,000.
There are a lot of choices in this price range. Just a few years ago, this was not the case.
If you are interested in purchasing a thermal scope, the first thing you should know is that they can be costly.
Each manufacturer has produced their range of products with varying features, optics, and thermal sensors.
The vast variety can overwhelm any new or inexperienced buyer, especially those who are on a budget. That’s why we closely examined numerous units to pick out the best thermal scopes under $4,000.
Each of these units have their own pros and cons that we have discussed in individual product reviews.
In the end, we have also included a comprehensive buying guide to help you understand what you should look for when shopping for a thermal scope.
Disclaimer: All links below go to Amazon.com
384 x 288p
1x to 5x
Multiple reticle options
2.03 lb Pounds
Best for Entry-Level Users
160 x 120p
3x to 6x
Best Value Thermal Scope
384 x 288p
2x and 4x
Multiple colors and patterns
3-year limited warranty
Best Thermal Scope for the Money
320 x 240p
Up to 2,500 yards
5.5x to 22x
15 reticles in up to 4 colors
3-year limited warranty
Best Thermal Scope for Hunting
384 x 288p
1.25 to 5x
Multiple reticle options
Best Budget Thermal Scope
384 x 288p
2x to 4x
An array of reticle patterns
3-year limited warranty
American Technology Network is a leading manufacturer of night vision and thermal imaging optics.
They are known for their high-performing devices that make use of the latest technologies to provide users with a memorable experience. Their Thor 4 range is no different.
It is their newest 4th generation line of thermal optics that features several different resolutions, making it a perfect first-time purchase for hunting and sporting enthusiasts.
The Thor 4 thermal scope we have included in our list is the ATN Thor 4 384. It lies on the lower end of the price and magnification spectrum. However, we assure you it is one of the best thermal scopes to get.
The best thing about it is the low weight and compact design. Now, most sights look quite bulky and overly large, but the Thor 4’s sleek design looks more like a camera than a scope. The added features of a good digital camera also do not hurt.
It supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity that you can use to stream your live game video with your companions. They can use the ATN Obsidian App to view your stream on mobile devices. At the same time, it will record and save the video to the memory card.
Manufacturers have equipped the unit with a very sensitive thermal sensor one that can pick up heat signatures accurately from long distances and display them in multiple color palettes.
The multiple reticle selection option is also a notable feature. It also excels at shots over different ranges with its 1x to 5x magnification.
In the world of advanced thermal optics, the ATN Thor LT Thermal Rifle Scope came as a budget-friendly model for beginners and entry-level shooters.
However, that does not mean serious tactical shooters and advanced hunters cannot benefit from using it. Check out the detailed review here.
Yes, it lacks some noteworthy advanced features, but the quality and performance sets it in line with some of the best thermal scopes currently available.
It is equipped with a 1280 × 720p HD display and a 160 × 120p thermal sensor. Both of these allow you to focus on the smallest detail with awesome clarity.
It can display image output in two color palettes – standard black hot and white hot. You can select the palette you want it to display the output in.
Additionally, you can select between multiple reticle patterns and choose one that suits your shooting style.
While it is their budget model, we assure you that the thermal imaging system it has is worth spending several thousand dollars on. It features advanced heat detection sensors that allow you to see through fog or even in complete darkness.
It delivers high-level performance at low power consumption. This translates to longer battery life. You can use it continuously for up to 10 hours on a single charge. Use it during the day or night – it will deliver the same results.
As the name suggests, this unit is a lightweight thermal sighting system. This means it puts less stress on the shooter and is easy to work with in general.
The lighter weight does not disturb the balance of the rifle. The compact design makes it versatile enough to use with a crossbow as well.
The TS25-384 model in AGM’s Secutor range is a compact and lightweight unit designed for close-range work.
Although it lacks the bells and whistles of higher-end thermal scopes, it does not need them to attract buyers if truth be told.
With its numerous color palettes, zeroing profiles, and stadia metric rangefinder, it can outperform almost any thermal scope, especially when it is used within its capabilities.
When we say it lacks digital features. We are not talking about the essential ones. Instead, they are extras that most experts consider unnecessary. But when it comes to essential features, this Secutor does not disappoint.
For one, it boasts some features that help you improve the thermal imaging performance – the manual and auto NUC and defective pixel repair. Features like these are invaluable in a thermal device because they allow you to control the image output of the device.
The device is a standalone scope. You may think otherwise because of its size and weight, but let us tell you that you can comfortably use it without the aid of another optic or device.
It has multiple reticle options for better aiming points, supports both optical and digital zoom, and a simple zeroing process for five different profiles with five zeros for each.
AGM is known for producing some of the best mounts in the world. They are designed to be robust and can fit well in both Picatinny and Weaver rails.
Their Secutor TS25-384 comes with a dual-lever mount that features a quick-release design. It holds the scope securely to the rail and also allows for quick installation and removal.
The Pulsar Thermion Thermal Riflescope XM50 is a modern sight with great features. It is their newest version with many innovative upgrades.
Although it may appear like any ordinary scope, its exquisite design and advanced features will surely make your hunting or sporting experience worthwhile. It delivers high-quality performance, no matter the time of the day.
It features instant start-up, manual focus lens, variable digital zoom, and customizable reticle options for improved performance.
It is constructed with lightweight aluminum-magnesium alloy, which makes it quite sturdy yet extremely light.
It also features a rough design with a 30mm main tube. You can easily mount it on your rifle with standard 30 mm rings. The sight is further finished with a techno polymer coating to make it rust-proof.
The scope boasts one of the highest magnification ranges. You can zoom the lens between various ranges from 5.5x to 22x. And don’t worry about the image quality because it improves focus with a 4x digital zooming range.
Its field of vision is also wide enough to provide a wide range of views of your surroundings. The eye relief also rests at 50mm, making it extremely comfortable and safe for you to use.
It uses an uncooled Silicon Microbolometer as a sensor with a thermal resolution of 320×240 pixels. The result is extremely clear and detailed images that are high in quality.
It displays the results on the HD AMOLED color display with a high resolution of 1024×768. This way, you can clearly view your target, even in the darkest conditions. The 50 Hz refresh rate also means that you will get precise and accurate information.
The ATN ThOR-HD is an entire range of thermal sights with four different versions. Here we are discussing the most easily accessible version, the ATN ThOR-HD 384.
It is the perfect all-day shooting sight with the ability to detect your target even when it is pitch dark.
The best feature is its Smart Shooting Solution that takes the guesswork out of the picture by doing all the calculations and guesswork itself. With the press of a button, you can range your target in no time.
It features a 384 x 288 thermal sensor with a 19mm lens. This means that it is highly suitable for close-range shooting. It produces sharp and clear images within this range. Go beyond and the image quality will be compromised.
However, that does not mean that the scope is lacking in any way. It has a 625-meter detection range that means you can easily detect human-sized objects from far away.
Along with a long detection range, there are also many helpful features that make this device a solid contender for your choice.
These include the ballistic calculator – a built-in computer that carefully measures all factors and devices a bullet trajectory for an accurate shot every single time.
There is also a rangefinder that makes it easy to detect how far a target is. Both these features are extremely useful as they take all the guesswork out of the picture and ensure top performance every time.
If you want to specialise in taking good shots, you need a device specifically designed for this purpose.
One such device is the Pulsar Core RXQ30V Thermal Rifle Scope. It is a sleek thermal scope that attaches to rifles and pistols to help users take accurate and precise shots at their target.
It features a ton of innovative specifications that make it suitable for high-range targets. Yet it comes at quite an affordable price which makes it a worthy mention on our list.
Pulsar has boosted this unit with absolute resolution. This means it delivers the best images of the target regardless of the distance and conditions while shooting.
The 384 × 288p resolution is also noteworthy for a scope at this price point because it allows shooters to accurately sight the target with its high-quality imaging.
Its lens is also designed to deliver a wide field of view, allowing you to cover more area. This makes it easier for shooters to keep their target within sight.
Its high magnification power is also worth appreciating because it can easily zoom in on the target while maintaining its picture quality.
We also noticed that its battery life is not very long, but manufacturers have remedied that with external power support. You can use an external battery pack or a USB or DS power source to operate it for a longer period of time.
Thermal scopes are something you should not buy instinctively. There are actually tons of models available in the market, each designed for specific applications.
For example, thermal scopes for competitive sports are great at capturing the target in motion. While for hunting purposes, there are thermal scopes that provide hunters with an edge.
So, it’s important you do your research before heading out because the conflicting opinions and information are quite overwhelming and are too much to process.
That’s why we have compiled a comprehensive buying guide to help you pick up a good thermal scope under $4000. Have a look:
A thermal scope is a hefty investment, so you really can’t throw your money without proper research. When you take the time out to look up some reliable brands, the following names will certainly pop up:
ATN is a top name when it comes to thermal scopes. It has been around for a while and has managed to make its mark in the highly competitive market.
ATN Thermal scopes are advanced pieces of equipment that are useful for competitive and hunting applications.
FLIR is undoubtedly a leader in designing and developing thermal equipment. Its product line-up also includes some quality night vision equipment.
It has a diverse portfolio of both technologies. This is why its products are highly sought-after by the government, commercial, and industrial sectors.
Pulsar gained immense popularity for its Night Optic and Electro-Optic devices that are widely used for hunting and animal research applications.
Its thermal imaging products are also top of the line. The thermal scopes it manufactures are specifically directed for both civilian and military markets.
Trijicon is the producer of high-end thermal scopes. This brand is well-known for its premium thermal and regular riflescopes. All its products are very durable, high quality, and long-lasting.
AGM is another notable brand that specializes in state-of-the-art night vision and thermal imaging systems. Law enforcement agencies and hunting and wildlife enthusiasts are both drawn towards its superior products.
The brand’s product line-up includes some of the best clip-on thermal scopes. So, if you want a quality product with reliable performance, go for AGM thermal scopes.
Thermal scopes are undoubtedly more expensive than digital night vision scopes. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a quality product for less than a few grand. And the more features you want, the higher the price will go.
Some manufacturers have down-priced their thermal scopes so you can find a good product at an affordable price. If you want a premium feature-rich unit, know that it will set you back a significant amount.
You can also choose to rent one. Check out our guide about renting or owning thermal imaging devices here.
The weight of a thermal scope is also an important consideration when buying a unit for yourself. A heavier thermal scope is not only difficult to carry, but it is also likely to reduce the balance and accuracy of your rifle. So be sure to weigh your chosen product before you finalize your purchase.
As with any accessory you purchase for your firearm, thermal scopes also require plenty of research before you can decide on a certain unit.
Trust us, if you set out without acquiring some prior knowledge, it will be the most stressful purchase you have ever made.
To help you out, we have compiled a list of features that you should look at when buying a thermal scope. Knowing these will help you make a better choice for the thermal scope you will pair with your rifle.
The first feature you need to look out for is the resolution. First, you should understand that the resolution of the scope and sensor are two different things.
The resolution of the scope should always be higher than the resolution of the sensor. The more the difference, the precise the image you will get. A thermal sight with the same sensor and scope resolution will not produce a clear image.
The second most important feature to look at when buying a thermal scope is its detection range. This refers to the minimum distance at which you can obtain a clear image of your target.
Some models can produce clear images for distances as long as 4000 yards. But these high-end models carry a hefty price tag.
You can also find some cheaper variations with a detection range of around 1000 yards. It is a great idea to start with a shorter-range scope before moving on to longer-range units. That’s what most professional hunters recommend.
Magnification is the thermal scope’s ability to zoom in on your target. Each thermal scope available on the market comes with details and specifications that will tell you about its magnification capabilities.
One thing you should keep in mind is that the scope’s ability to magnify the image directly affects its resolution. The more you zoom in; the clarity of the image might drop.
The amount of time a thermal scope takes to refresh its image is called its refresh rate. Since they generate a digitally produced image, there is a slight delay in refreshing the information input they receive into the image you are seeing.
As a general rule of thumb, the higher the refresh rate, the clearer and more accurate image a thermal scope will produce.
Look for a model with a 30 to 60 Hz refresh rate. Remember, the refresh rate tends to drain the battery fast, but you get an accurate and clear image as a result.
In thermal scopes, you get to choose between different reticle patterns. The most preferred types are either a four-line crosshair pattern or a single dot reticle pattern.
While both of these have their merits for the user, you should choose one according to your personal preference.
We believe that crosshair reticles are better for hunting at night, while single dot reticles are great for accuracy and precision.
The lenses used in constructing a thermal scope play a significant role in what it displays. If you want a wide field of vision, go for a scope with a larger lens diameter.
The wider the diameter of the lens, the more area it will capture. So if you want to cover a larger area, go for a thermal scope with a larger diameter.
Perhaps the most basic consideration in any thermal scope is its battery life. An ideal unit should last about eight hours of runtime on a single full charge.
Anything less than that is unacceptable because even a short hunting trip takes about this much time to be successful.
Look for a device with long battery runtime, and take care not to overcharge it as it can greatly reduce its life.
There is no doubt that a thermal scope is a hefty investment. Surely, you won’t want to spend such a significant amount without any form of reassurance. Since you will take it with you in challenging circumstances, it has to be sturdy and reliable.
The chances of it getting damaged are huge, so you have to make sure it comes with comprehensive warranty coverage. This is in case your thermal scope malfunctions or fails to deliver what was promised.
After carefully testing and inspecting each unit, we declare ATN Thor 4 Thermal Rifle Scope as our top pick for its reliable performance and long battery life.
Pulsar Thermion Thermal Riflescope XM50 closely follows it with its long detection range and high magnification.
Lastly, Pulsar Core RXQ30V Thermal Rifle Scope is our budget pick for its quality performance and affordable price.