Reviews of the Best Night Vision Rifle Scopes of 2024

Night vision rifle scopes prove to be very useful for multiple groups of people; hunters can attest to the importance of owning this type of scope when hunting animals like hogs and raccoons in the dark. The military relies on this form of optic technology extensively in low light conditions. If you hunt or hold target practices at night, a night vision riflescope is essential for locating your target and optimizing accuracy.

This guide covers everything you need to know to make an informed purchase of a night vision rifle scope. We’ll cover options in various price ranges and with varying technology, as well as go over what the different brands and generations of technology have to offer.

Best Night Vision Rifle Scope for the Money Under $500

Sightmark Wraith HD Digital Riflescope


sightmark wraith hd digital riflescope black isolated on white background

This Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50 is good for an AR-15. It comes at a lower to medium price point as well, so it is affordable. This scope can be used for both day and night modes. It features high definition sensors, high-resolution imaging, and recording capabilities.

It has a 1920 x 1080 HD sensor for full-color clarity while in the daylight. You can then switch the scope to night mode and choose from green, black, and white viewing options. You can use this riflescope with up to ten reticle options, and the night illuminator of the scope can detect up to 200 yards.

You will also find 8x digital zoom and a 2x optical system for up to 16x magnification. With its five weapon profiles, you can save zeroes for different firearms and calibers.

With this purchase, you will receive an IR flashlight, objective lens cover, fixed Picatinny mount, and user manual. The included IR flashlight is a powerful 850 nm and is removable. It grants you up to an additional 200 yards of night detection.

The weaver rail of this night vision scope allows you to purchase and add additional accessories. The micro USB and memory card slots allow for photo and video export and an additional outboard power supply.

The removable eye cup can help stop light dispersion during the night and can be removed easily during the day to allow for easier viewing in better lighting conditions.

Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Riflescope


If you need a night vision scope to hunt vermin at night, this is definitely the pick to consider. It is another affordable night vision rifle scope you can find for under $500. It is great for recreational shooting and comes with more advanced features that allow you to also use it in nighttime shooting scenarios.

It is an easy to use scope. Simply mount, sight, and shoot. If you need advice on the proper mounting of this scope, you should consult with the manufacturer or call 800-444-5994 for more information. It is weaver or Picatinny rail compatible. They are the same .835 dimension. If you instead have a dovetail rail, you will need an adapter rail to convert it from dovetail.

This scope has a range of between 100 and 200 yards in a typical nighttime environment and has a high-resolution, 640×480 display. You can use this scope with rifles up to 30 calibers. The objective lens offers 3x magnification, a focal length of 52mm, and a field of view of 5.6-degrees. The aperture is 40mm, and the focusing distance is 3m to infinity.

You can purchase an optional high power IR illuminator separately if you wish. You can choose between three different reticle types with this night vision rifle scope. Each of these types can then be configured in black or white, allowing you to adjust the type and color based on your current shooting environment.

The scope uses 4 AA or lithium batteries and can run for four hours with IR on high or seven hours with IR on low. The scope is constructed with a thermoplastic material and has a built-in infrared illuminator. Using this scope during the day will not damage it.

Firefield 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope

firefield 3x42 gen 1 night vision riflescope isolated on white background

If you are looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider the Firefield 3×42 Gen 1 night vision scope. It comes in at under $500 and is great for entry-level night vision optics. You can use it for nighttime activities, including hog hunting, coyote hunting, or any other nighttime shooting excursions.

This night vision scope is designed specifically for an AR-15 and other similar and more modern sporting rifles. It is incredibly lightweight, durable, and has an easy to use mounting system. You can quickly and easily swap out your optics for either daytime or nighttime.

The scope also features high-quality, multi-coated glass and a built-in infrared illuminator. It has an illuminated duplex reticle with brightness adjustments.

The titanium body of this night vision scope comes with an IPX4 water-resistant rating, so it is great for all your rugged outdoor adventures. However, keep in mind that its range is only around 75 yards, so you will need to get closer to your targets.

Budget Pick – Under $200

BESTSIGHT Night Vision Scope

bestsight night vision scope isolated on white background

The BESTSIGHT night vision scope is not simply a scope; rather, it is a system that you can use with your rifle scope as a night sighting system. There are separate parts that, when combined, create a complete system you can attach to your scope.

It includes a unit that slips over the viewing end of the scope, a unit attached to the main tube that serves as the illumination system, and a camera style viewing screen, which is what the scope sees through and displays on the primary optical system, or the main scope, with the 5-inch clear display screen.

Even if you find yourself immersed in complete darkness, you can achieve a high-quality visual experience. The best working distance for the infrared illuminator of this model is around 100 yards. Beyond this distance, you will see dots and lines begin to appear on the night mode screen. If you need to achieve greater clarity and see further distances, you want to purchase a higher-power infrared illuminator.

This model does not say anything about generational levels, so we can’t testify to the state of the generated light gathering ability of this particular scope. However, you will find a bargain with this system, and it works great as a recreational sight compared to a professional-grade optical system.

Higher Price Tag Options – Under $1800

ATN Night Spirit-2 Gen 2+ Night Vision Multi-Purpose System

atn night spirit-2 gen 2+ night vision multi purpose system black color

This is another multi-purpose night vision system. The ATN Night Spirit-2 Gen 2+ is also waterproof and has a built-in infrared illuminator to be used while in total darkness. The multi-coated optics and 2nd generation intensifier tube allow for maximum light gathering.

It has a 3x magnification, pro-shield lens coating, and a field of view of 18 degrees. It is easy to use with its single switch knob operation, and it also features automatic brightness control and a bright light cut-off.

This unit is compact, durable, and rugged and can be handheld or head-mounted to allow for hands-free use. It offers high resolution for clear and bright images in low light conditions and total darkness. It has all-glass optics coated to absorb light.

Pulsar Phantom 4×60 MD WPT Night Vision Riflescope

pulsar phantom 4x60 md wpt night vision riflescope isolated on white background

This Generation 3 Pulsar Phantom Night Vision Riflescope is good for medium to long distances while allowing for a clear view of your target in 57-64 Ip per mm resolution. It comes with a 60mm lens and a 1.69 Relative Aperture for more efficiency. It also comes equipped with a powerful IR illuminator to enhance visibility at night. It works well in the darkest shooting environments and still allows for precision placement.

For brightness control, you can use the green on green and red on green feature. It also has a long battery life and low battery indication, so you are never stuck in the dark. It is built from a durable and made to last composite material and aluminum D16. The scope is rainproof and dustproof, with an IPX6 weather rating.

For comfort, it offers 50mm eye relief. It is both reliable and efficient. The internal focusing knob allows for easy operation of this night vision scope. It features a military-style design and can be used virtually everywhere and in all types of environments.

The IR illuminator has a high light gain and allows you to see clearly in critically low light situations. The fast start-up function also allows you to make quick assessments. This scope also comes with a Pulsar Phantom remote control with three buttons: On/Off, IR illuminator, and quick start-up.

The Pulsar Phantom Night Vision scope is on the higher end of the price spectrum, so you will also want to consider this when narrowing down your purchase options as well.

More Information – Top Night Scope Brands

There are many great brands out there that produce quality night vision scopes. Most likely, if you’re reading this article, you’re either a novice, or you’re an expert who is seeking the “best of the best” scope for a bargain price.

Below, we have detailed more information regarding the night vision scopes brands that we outlined at the beginning of the article. This information may help you decide which scope to purchase above, especially since they all come with a variety of enticing features and capabilities.


Armasight is a big name in the thermal imaging and night vision technological field; they’ve designed and invented products like night vision scopes for years. Their main headquarters is located in San Francisco, California, and they offer spectacular quality for a wide range of prices.

You can purchase a high standard night vision scope for $10,000.00 or purchase a scope for as low as $150.00. It merely depends on the features and technology you desire and the amount of money you’re willing to spend.


ATN is another brand that specializes in night vision and thermal imaging scope technology. “ATN” is an acronym for American Technologies Network, and like Armasight, it is also located in San Francisco. This company has been around for over two decades. It takes great pride in having all of its products manufactured in the United States, producing scopes that are expensive and relatively inexpensive. Both ATN and Armasight are used frequently by hunters, law enforcement employees, and the military.


Firefield is a night scope brand established in 2009 and is rapidly building its reputation among the shooter community. Firefield saw the growing need for affordable scopes and thermal imaging products with the decline in the economy; they realized that there was an opportunity to serve people who couldn’t afford over-priced tactical products, so their philosophy is to provide optical equipment for shooters that are of high quality but low price. Never let the newness of a company deter you from giving their quality of products a try!


Emerging in 2007, Sightmark is also a new brand and company increasing in popularity among the shooting community. According to their slogan, Sighmark’s technology equips users with the ability to “make the mark.” With their main headquarters in Mansfield, Texas, the brand and products have found their way into many outdoors retailers such as Academy Sports and Cabela’s, and Gander Mountain. Sightmark offers high-quality riflescopes for affordable prices. It’s no wonder that Sightmark a rapidly growing brand.


Yukon is another great rifle scope company. They’re committed to giving their consumers the latest and greatest in night vision rifle scope technology. Most people that have never shot a rifle in their life have heard of this brand and name, which speaks to the popularity of this brand. It’s a name to consider when shopping for the perfect night vision riflescope for you.

Night Vision Generations

If you’re new to the shooter community and learning about what rifle scope is best to purchase, it is not only important to compile information about all of the best brands to purchase from, but also to know the difference between Generation 1, Generation 2, and Generation 3 scopes. These terminologies are typically shortened to Gen 1, Gen 2, and Gen 3, so keep this in mind as you start searching and shopping for the best scope.

Gen 1

Gen 1 is fairly simplistic and affordable. For most shooters and hunters, it offers everything that you need and then some while also being the most inexpensive of all the generations. Gen 1 was introduced during the early sixties when the Space Age developed new technologies that humanity never thought was possible.

A Gen 1 night vision scope is sufficient for most shooters’ needs; however, since it is the first generation, it has fewer perks and may operate more slowly than the later generations.

Gen 1 scopes typically have the following capabilities and shortcomings:

  • The average useful sight range for Gen 1 is about 75 yards
  • It has a shorter battery lifespan than Gen 2 and Gen 3 scopes
  • Overall life expectancy is 1500 hours of use
  • Due to older technology, the user is generally illuminated, thus making them obvious and visible
  • Lower resolution imagery

Gen 2

Gen 2 is a step up from Gen 1. Although it is more expensive than the Gen 1, it’s still not as expensive as the Gen 3. However, in the form of technological advances, Gen 2 blows Gen 1 scopes out of the water.

Here are some of the details regarding a Gen 2 scope:

  • The average useful sight range is about 200 yards. (That’s 125 more yards than Gen 1’s 75 yards)
  • It has a longer battery life than Gen 1
  • Overall life expectancy is 4500 hours
  • Great resolution for images
  • Doesn’t need the IR illumination

Gen 3

Gen 3 is the big, bad boy when it comes to night vision rifle scopes. It’s so advanced that the United States Military uses the Gen 3 on all of their rifle scopes and other optical equipment. However, keep in mind that most Gen 3 riflescopes are very pricey.

Don’t fret, though; with its advanced technology and accuracy, you will get what you pay for!

Here are some details regarding a Gen 3 scope:

  • The average useful sight range is 300 yards. (Sometimes more depending on the model and grade that you have)
  • Offers the best low light performance
  • Imagery technology allows it to work in all light shades and conditions
  • The absolute best resolution for images
  • Has the longest life expectancy with an amazing 10,000 hours and more of operation!

Night Vision Scope FAQ

Still have questions about the best night vision rifle scopes of 2021? Read through our brief FAQ below for the answers to some of the more commonly asked questions.

Can you use a night vision scope during the day?

It really depends on the technology the scope uses. You can use a digital scope during the day, and it will still work great and offer amazing resolution. However, you can’t use a traditional night vision scope during the day because they may become damaged by the sunlight. No matter what, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations regarding your specific night vision scope.

What should I look for when purchasing the best night vision scopes?

First, you need to decide on the kind of technology you want. You can find more traditional night vision scopes that are more affordable but may not do everything you want them to do. Next, consider the magnification. Most night vision scopes have a very moderate level of magnification. Typically, you will find that 3x or 4x magnification is enough.

Do I need anything extra?

If you have a digital scope, then it will likely require an IR booster or light. If the scope doesn’t already come with one, then this will be an additional cost to consider. Some people also like to record what they are seeing through their scope and transmit it through Wi-Fi.

How long does a night scope typically last?

Digital night scopes do not burn out as fast as a traditional scope. As long as you follow through with proper care, they can last a lifetime. A Gen 1 scope can vary depending on its quality but can usually see up to 1000 hours of use. Budget models may only see hundreds of hours.


After reviewing the product options listed, as well as the additional information provided regarding different brands and scope generations, you have found the best night vision scope to suit your needs.

Reviews of the Best Night Vision Goggles for 2024

Night vision goggles are the perfect tool for after dark use because they can be lightweight, versatile, comfortable and hands free all while providing you with the power of improved vision in the dark. This makes them ideal to use in a wide range of low light operations. Your experiences will widen as you take on the low light with the power of a good pair of night vision goggles.

This guide will show you why you should get night vision goggles, what you should look for, and then help you determine the best pair of goggles to suit your needs. Use the table of contents to jump to the section that interests you.

Why Night Vision?

Human eyes are powerful tools. Thousands of years of achievements speak to the power of the human eye as is seen from the many wonders created and achievements made over the generations. From the age of the hunter-gatherer to the modern man the human eye has been a vital part to humanity, but as strong as your eyes are there are certain times where natural eye power is not enough. After nightfall your eyesight drastically diminishes leaving you in the dark. This can be detrimental to your enjoyment if you are wanting to see the less illuminated side of nature. It can also be fatal if you are take a misguided step due to your lack of proper vision.

If you have ever tried to hunt in the dark, hike a trail through the mountains in the evening hours or attempted to capture delicate photographs of nocturnal creatures such as owls, bats or lemurs in their natural dark habitat then you know that the human eye has its limits. It operates at its most effective level when there is ample light present.

That is why it is important to consider adding a pair of night vision goggles to your list of outdoor gear if you plan to engage in any kind of nighttime outdoor activity that requires clear and high definition sight without the sun or other sources of light.


Generations of Goggles

Nigh vision goggles come in three generations, shortened to Gen 1, Gen 2 and Gen 3. Gen 1 goggles are the most affordable, have minimal but quality features and tend to last about 1500 of hard use. Gen 2 costs a little more and has a longer overall life at 5000 hours. Gen 2 usually has a higher resolution image and wider field of view. Gen 3 is very expensive, lasts for about 10,000+ hours and are used by special forces around the world.

You can expect to spend anywhere from $400 all the way up to over $5,000, but there are more than enough options that fall somewhere in the middle of the price range. Educate yourself with what is out there on the night vision goggle market before you make a purchase.

Below you will find the best choices for under $500, under $1000, for the money and the overall best choice for all around functionality. All are either Gen 1 or Gen 2 goggles, but the brands listed do offer Gen 3 units if that is what you are seeking.

You can use the recommended models below as a starting point on your path to obtaining your first pair of night vision goggles. All four are top of the line items that will fill many different roles. They all keep your budget and preferred uses in mind.

Best Night Vision Goggles For Under $500

It can be tricky to find quality night vision googles for under $500. Most will be $1000 and above. However, this pair of night vision goggles, the Sightmark Ghost Hunter 1×24 Night Vision Goggle Binocular Kit, is listed for under $400 (it’s regularly $599). 


Affordability meets versatility in this particular product, as the Ghost Hunter features a range of options for night vision use, as well as simple and comfortable hands-free operation. It includes a built-in IR illuminator for better range in total darkness. It has a smart shut off to automatically power down when the device is exposed to light. Sightmark offers a limited lifetime warranty (plus three year warranty on the dual tube system).

Here are some of the specs:

  • Magnification: 1x
  • Lens Diameter: 24mm
  • Resolution: 36mm
  • Field of View: 30 Degrees
  • Max Viewing Range: 184yds
  • Dimensions: 139mm x 57mm x 74mm
  • Weight: 13.4oz

Click here to see the current price.


Best Night Vision Goggles For Under $1000

If you want to keep your spending under $1000 you will want to check out the Pulsar Edge GS Super 1+ 1×20 Night Vision Gogglewhich is full of solid features while keeping your budget in mind.


The Edge GS features an IR Illuminator with adjustable power and dual tubes for depth perception. The construction is durable and built to allow for use in any weather or harsh conditions. These goggles are made of of quality optics, CF-Super Image Intensifier Tube, and wide-angled five-lens eyepiece which provides lack of distortion and the highest edge-to-edge resolution performance.

Here are some key specs:

  • Magnification: 1x
  • Objective lens: 20mm
  • Resolution: 42 lines per mm
  • FOV: 36 degrees
  • Exit pupil: 6mm
  • Dimensions: 163mm x 113mm x 60mm
  • Weight: 0.65kg

Click here to shop for the Edge GS

Runner up: Armasight Spark-G Night Vision Goggle (CORE IIT, 60-70 lp/mm)

Armasight Spark-G, our runner up in the under $1000 category

Best Night Vision Goggles For The Money

The most expensive item on the list but one that will grant you the most power for the money is the Nyx7-ID Gen 2+ Night Vision Goggles by Armasight. It runs just under $2k, but is hands down the best pair you will find for a little more money.


The Nyx7-ID weighs in at only 1 pound, making it a super lightweight model. The headset and chinstrap can be adjusted to fit a wide range of head shapes and sizes. This model is great for the serious user of all ages but should not be considered a toy. It is a no-nonsense pair of goggles that is known for being a professional level product.

One special feature that this model includes is a water resistant design. If you ever hunt, fish or explore the outdoors you know that the weather can change in an instant. In those moments this pair of night vision goggles is perfect because you can continue to use it while making your way to safety without fearing that your goggles will be rendered useless and destroyed by the rain. Being water resistant also makes this model ideal for search and rescue situations where you are looking for someone who is lost and the weather has prevented him or her from being found. You can rest with confidence knowing that these goggles will perform when you need to them to no matter the weather.

The built in IR light in the Nyx7-ID helps keep this unit working for many close range situations whether you need to check your GPS device, a map or read a sign in the dark. Depth perception and high definition vision are guaranteed.

Unlike other night vision goggles you can shop from a wide range of accessories. For longer range magnification you have a large option of accessories for 3X, 5X and 8X optional lenses. These are attached with ease and can be stored when they are not in use. The Nyx7-ID is a great modular device because of this. If you enjoy customizing your device this one is perfect.

Armasight has made sure with this model that you will not be left stranded in the dark. The stock battery is a lithium CR123A. You can also use an alkaline AA battery, and changing the battery is easy and can be done on the fly. A power adapter is included for quick and efficient charging so that you can stay on the go.

As a Gen 2+ pair of goggles the Armasight Nyx7-ID has a stronger power than most Gen 1+ goggles and is a great pair if you have the money. For overall money versus functions the Nyx7-ID is the first choice for all of your night vision needs.


Shop now for the Nyx7-ID Gen 2+ Night Vision Goggles.


History and Modern Features

Night vision goggles were developed for military use in the 1940s during World War Two. Soldiers uses them to their advantage and turned the tides of key engagements because of the obvious advantage that the night vision goggles provided them.

Night vision received much wider use in the dense and dangerous jungles of Vietnam as snipers and other special military personnel used them to have an edge against their enemies under the cover of darkness.

Over the years many types of night vision goggles have since spread into the civilian market and carry the same strengths as their military cousins at a fraction of the price. You do not need to be a military or hunting buff to know why these goggles have been loved by many since their inception. Night vision goggles continue to be popular among outdoor enthusiasts, from the casual user to the most dedicated disciple of night activity.

Modern technology has made low light vision devices available for almost any price and for a large range of uses. It is not uncommon to see night vision goggles being used for nighttime photography, hunting, fishing, gaming and personal security. The affordability and reliability of most night vision goggles has given rise to a large following of loyal users who can not imagine life before night vision.

Features to look for on a new pair of night vision goggles should fall in line with your needs. If you are into night photography it might be important for you to have a zoom magnification option and a pair that will not interfere with your camera.

If you are hunting in low light perhaps you will want to consider a pair of goggles that has the option to flip up and down for when you do not need to use them. They should not weigh much because you never know how long you will be sitting waiting for your game to appear.

Battery life is another factor to think about as you will not want to lose sight in the middle of use. If you plan to hike in the dark for long stretches consider units that offer an easy way to exchange or charge batteries.

When you are looking for a new pair of goggles it is important to consider how you plan to use them and weigh that against the options available. Explore the different manufacturers and see what is offered.

There are many companies to choose from. Each one offers something similar but with varying features. Popular brands include, but are not limited to, Armasight, Firefield, ATN, Night Optics and EyeClops. Each of these can be trusted for producing high quality and affordable night vision goggles.


When you are shopping for a new pair of night vision goggles that are hands free and compact you need to consider your needs as well as what is offered in your price range. Features to look for include:

  • lightweight
  • long battery life
  • zoom options
  • available accessories

You might be a hunter who would like to take on beasts that are more prominent during the night, you could be a wildlife photographer who wishes to see those rare animals in their moonlight environment or you could be a neighborhood watchman who wants to ensure maximum safety in his neighborhood. By using night vision goggles in your nighttime activities you are furthering your operating capabilities in low light conditions. This will prove you with even more freedom to do what needs to be done no matter the lighting.

Night vision goggles also make exciting gadgets for your kids, and with affordable options available you can provide them with hours upon hours of fun without the sun. Give your kids supervision and that competitive edge while playing hide-and-seek in the dark with their friends.

Your reasons for needing a pair of night vision goggles may vary but what remains is that you need the best options for what you can afford. Research what is out there and find something that fits into your lifestyle without ruining your budget. You do not have to spend an entire life’s savings in order to own a powerful, reliable and awesome set of night vision headgear.

Technology is at a point in time where a person from any walk of life can own night vision goggles. There are dozens of brands and models that are always pushing the limits of what these goggles can do. Headsets are getting smaller and lighter while magnification is getting smarter and higher powered. Night vision goggles of today are not entirely different from what was used 60 years ago, but there are noticeable improvements on what can be considered a basic utility device.

Whether you are a nighttime hobbyist or a professional hunter you will find plenty of use with the right device, and owning the right pair of goggles will take your adventurous lifestyle to the next level. You will smile when you are seeing the world of the night in new light for the first time. Few have seen what you will see as you step into the dark with the power of light behind you.

Reviews of the Best Night Vision Binoculars of 2021

Night vision binoculars are becoming increasingly popular for hunting. They’ve been around for several years as the military has relied on them for one mission after another. With hunting, it gives the hunter a real advantage with allowing them to see their target through the blackened forest. Sometimes, the moonlight just isn’t enough to supply the hunter with needed light. Since many hog and varmint hunts are performed at night, the technology of night vision binoculars is a helpful accessory.  Continue Reading

Reviews of the Best Night Vision Monoculars

Good night vision is something that we humans lack. As such, we must supplement our lack of night vision with tools. This technology may seem to be only of use to those in certain professions such as law enforcement or the military. However, there are many other situations in which night vision can be helpful.

When camping out in the woods, night time movement is sometimes required. While flashlights can be used, they only serve to illuminate the path in front of you. Having night vision would make it easier to identify what’s around you and where you can safely walk. The same is true for those who like to spend time looking at nocturnal animals.

Those who like to hunt or fish at night will appreciate the advantages of having night vision when trying to spot the prey and when trying to navigate in the dark. Search and rescue teams working hard to find someone in the dark will find it much easier to navigate both by foot and by boat. Finally, those involved in security details (both professional and community) will find night vision the perfect accessory to enable them to clearly see potential dangers.


Although there are many tools available that offer night vision, this document will focus specifically on the use of night vision monoculars. To define a night vision monocular we can clearly say that it is a tool that offers a single eye piece and a single objective. That description may be confusing so just think of cutting a pair of binoculars in half and you’ll get the idea.

That said, do not be confused. Binoculars serve to magnify the image we see. Night vision monoculars do not magnify the image. Instead, their goal is to provide an image of area and its objects at night. Most monoculars are lightweight and small. The most basic models are held in the hand, but the more advanced models can be mounted on a variety of objects. A definite advantage to using night vision monoculars as opposed to goggles is that one eye will always be adjusted to the regular lighting conditions found in the area. Another advantage is that the exposed eye maintains its peripheral vision. The downside of a monocular device is that is does not provide any depth perception.


When creating an image of an object at night, we humans rely on two main methods. These methods are thermal imaging and light amplification (I² technology). Each method functions in a different way and creates a different end result.

We’ll start by looking at thermal imaging. Devices that use thermal imaging are basically seeing and measuring the amount of heat that is emitted by people, animals or objects in a given area. These devices are not optical (i.e. no eye piece), but instead use a sensor called a microbalometer to read the difference in heat between an object and its environment. This data is then displayed on a screen in an image called a thermogram for the user to see. No light is required. This technology is sometimes referred to as FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared).

Light amplification (I² technology) is different. It does not see or read heat. Instead, it takes the amount of light available and amplifies it. By enhancing the amount of light, this device can provide a clearer image of objects at night. Simply put, this device takes the existing amount of light and magnifies it. This is done via an image intensifier tube. In the most basic models, light packets (photons) are captured on a photocathode plate, magnified and then sent down a tube to create the final image. In more advanced models, the light packets are enhanced even further by the use of a second plate called the microchannel plate.

No matter which model you choose, all light-amplification devices need light to function. This light can be already existing in the environment and simply manipulated by the device or an additional infrared light source can be added to assist the device. Most of the time, the image created will feature the colors of green and black. These colors were chosen because they give the highest amount of detail. However, some devices will offer black and white images. Although these images do not have as much detail, they are definitely not as bright and therefore a bit easier on the eye to use.

One other factor that affects I² technology is something called blooming. This term refers to the whiteout or temporary blindness that can occur when a bright light enters the field of vision. New technology known as Auto-Gating can reduce blooming and its disruption of vision. This technology was originally only found on the most advanced models, but can now be found on some of the mid-level devices as well.


When it comes to a thermal imaging device, consumers should consider one main factor. That factor is resolution. Basic devices will provide a decent image with only 240 x 180 pixels per square inch. Mid-level devices offer a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels. For hand-held devices, look for a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. Note that when you increase the number of pixels, the price will also increase. Other high-quality features to look for include the ability to capture both still and video images.

Determining the quality of an I² technology device is not quite as cut and dry. First, one must consider the different generations of this product. Each generation (1 – 3) offers different technology and quality. That said, most of the time, the quality of an I² product is determined by its image intensifier tube. The resolution of an I² device is measured in lines per millimeter (lp / lpm). Most feel that 45 lpm will suffice for average situations. However, many people prefer a resolution between 64 to 72 lpm. One word of caution applies here. Don’t think that you can purchase a device with a cheap eyepiece and objective and just add a high-quality image intensifier tube to get a great product at a cheap price. To get the best quality, you will need to have high-quality parts in the entire device.


If you have a thermal system, the only rule is to not drop it. With an I² technology, the same advice applies. However, there are additional actions that should be taken to preserve the life of the device. Use a protective case when the device is not in use and be sure to remove the batteries before storing it. Lens covers should be kept in place until you are ready to use the device. Consider adding a protective layer to your optical pieces. A glass filter will help to protect the actual lens from damage and dirt.


You can purchase a device that combines both thermal imaging and I² technology. However, these devices are very expensive and quite often highly sought after by the military. Thus finding one will be challenging at best. A new night vision technology is developing. This uses digital technology to provide an image. Functioning much like a digital camera, this device uses CCD chips and CMOS chips to gather light to create an image. In contrast to a standard I² technology device, these digital versions are cheaper and more compatible with cameras. They are also not damaged when exposed to bright light. That said, their level of performance is really on par with a basic I² model, but it is improving quickly.


FLIR (Forward Looking Infrared) devices, otherwise known as thermal imaging, are sometimes referred to as having generations. However, those terms are often used only in a military setting or in relation to the products produced by a company that uses the name FLIR. As such, there is no specific set of standards that determines the generations of actual FLIR technology for civilian use.

I² technology, on the other hand, has a very clear set of standards to delineate its different generations. The first generation, known as Gen 1, is the simplest type of night vision available. It offers technology from the 1960s and as such is the least costly option. Being Gen 1 means that the device only has a photocathode plate and a basic image intensifier tube.


Gen 1 devices need ambient lighting as least as strong as a full moon to function or they must be equipped with an IR illuminator to provide the necessary light. While adding this infrared light can increase the ability of a Gen 1 device to see in darker areas, it also means that the user is now visible to other night vision device users. Furthermore, these add-on IR illuminators are often quite limited in their power. Due to this, images are often not as bright and have a lower resolution.

Users can detect a human-size object located approximately 75 to 100 yards away using a Gen 1 device. Being able to clearly recognize what that object is requires a closer distance of 50 to 75 yards. Obviously, objects smaller than a human will require even closer distances in both the detection and recognition ranges.

Furthermore, Gen 1 devices are very susceptible to blooming. This image distortion caused by bright lights can make it impossible to see at times. The field of view on a Gen 1 device is also distorted with somewhat of a fish-eye feel on the outer third of the lens.

The device will provide about 1500 hours of use before any parts need to be replaced and Gen 1 devices are usually not mountable on any external device such as a hat or weapon. In addition, Gen 1 devices have a shorter battery life and require a few seconds to turn on and off. Nevertheless, they are often perfect for those who are considered hobbyists.

When purchasing a Gen 1 device, consumers should know that the following factors can affect performance: intensifier tube, size of objective, magnification level and the use of an IR illuminator. Consumers may see the term Gen 1+ as being of higher quality. However, that term simply denotes that the device is made using a currently produced intensifier tube, not necessarily a higher-quality one.


Second generation night vision devices (known as Gen 2) definitely cost more money than the Gen 1 options. However, for that money, you also get a better product. First, Gen 2 devices are much smaller than Gen 1 devices. That is due to an improvement in the plate technology. Second, Gen 2 devices have a second plate, called a microchannel plate, that further amplifies the movement of the light packets. With the addition of this second plate, the images from a Gen 2 device have better resolution and therefore are much cleaner and brighter.

The technology is still a bit old as it is from the 1970s, however Gen 2 devices require less ambient light and do not need the addition of an IR illuminator. The improved technology means that users can detection a human-size object from about 200 yards away and recognize that object from just about 100 yards away.

Other improvements include no fish-eye distortion and less blooming (distortion due to bright lights). Furthermore, a Gen 2 device has a longer battery life and can be mounted on a variety of objects. A Gen 2 image intensifier tube will usually provide about 5000 hours of use before needing to be replaced. Some sites will refer to a Gen 2+ device. Such devices were created when the Russians took our Gen 2 technology, copied it and then improved it.

As with the Gen 1 devices, the most important factor is still the type and grade of image intensifier tube that is used. Nevertheless, good quality lens are also a must for reliable performance. Some Gen 2 devices have also been improved with the addition of the Auto-Gating technology to virtually eliminate blooming.


In keeping with the old saying “You get what you pay for.”, purchasing a Gen 3 device will cost you money. However, you will also receive quite a bit of quality and technology for the cost. Using technology developed in the 1990s, these devices offer more than 10,000 hours of night vision before needing to be replaced. They use gallium arsenide in their image intensifier tubes. This product is expensive, but it also provides the highest degrees of brightness and accuracy in night vision images.

It functions very well in areas of low-light and does not need an additional IR illuminator. In fact, it operates well in all light conditions. Because of this, it is almost impossible to be detected by another night vision device user. With Auto-Gating technology included, a Gen 3 device has almost zero blooming and no image distortion.

It offers both detection and recognition ranges of approximately 300 yards depending on the model chosen and the conditions in which it is used. Gen 3 devices are extremely versatile and can be mounted on almost any product. In addition, there are plenty of accessories to add to the device to improve its function or compatibility even further. For all of these reasons, Gen 3 devices are preferred and used by the military. In fact, they are so good that they are not allowed to be exported outside the United States.

Sometime the rating of Gen 3+ is used. This is the very highest quality of Gen 3 available. Some people would like to call it Gen 4, but that category has not yet been given permission to officially exist. Trying to define a Gen 3+ is a bit difficult. In the past, it meant that the device had Auto-Gating. However, now most Gen 3 devices and some Gen 2 devices have that technology. One thing that still sets Gen 3+ devices apart from other Gen 3 devices is the lack of (or a greatly reduced) ion barrier. Ion barriers prevent the movement of electrons. Gen 3+ devices can operate with a much higher sensitivity to light compared to Gen 3 devices.

In Gen 3, as with the other generations, the type and grade of image intensifier tube used has the greatest impact. Those tubes that meet military standards are often referred to as “Mil-spec.” Some tubes fail to meet “Mil-spec” and as such are categorized as “Commercial.” In the “Commercial” grade, there are two divisions. Grade A means that the device has missed achieving “Mil-spec” in one standard. Grade B devices have missed meeting “Mil-spec” in several standards. No matter which type you choose, remember that the resolution offered is still the best predictor of image quality.


There are many companies that product night vision monoculars. Here is a list of some of the top manufacturers.

  • ATN
  • Armasight
  • Bering Optics
  • Bushnell
  • Firefield
  • Luna Optics
  • Night Optics
  • Night Owl Optics
  • Pulsar
  • SightMark
  • US Night Vision


Bushnell Equinox Z DigitalDigital Gen 1 products are becoming popular because they provide the quality of a Gen 2 device at the cost of a Gen 1 product. For this reason, our top pick is the Bushnell Equinox Z Digital. This product offers a 1-3x magnification and a 50 mm lens. Its viewing range is just about 984 feet and it comes with a infrared illuminator. It also comes with additional features such as image capture, video recording, daytime color and the ability to be mounted on a tripod. It features glass objectives, an adjustable IR brightness control and comes with a carrying case.


For the cost, the Bushnell Night Watch with Built in Infrared Monocular is a great option. This Gen 1 device has a scope that offers 2x magnification. It also comes with a rubber-armored grip and a built-in tripod mount. These last two features are somewhat unusual for a Gen 1 product. Rather than having to add an IR illuminator, this device comes with one already built-in. Its has a viewing range of 5-400 and is compact enough to slip into your bag. It comes with its own case and a lanyard for easy carrying.


Armasight Avenger Gen 2+ QSGetting a Gen 3 device for under $1,000 is almost unheard of. For that reason, we’ve chosen to recommend a Gen 2+ device instead. The Armasight Avenger Gen 2+ QS Quick Silver White Phosphor Night Vision Monocular provides advanced technology at a reasonably affordable price point. What makes this product a Gen 2+ is the ability to add high-performance Image Intensifier Tubes (IITs) using either Green Phosphor or Quick Silver. In addition to being able to enhance the product, this device can also be mounted on an object or carried as a hand-held device.As a standard Gen 2, it offers the resolution of 45 – 51 lpm and gives a magnification of 3x. Its lens is a wide 5 mm and it comes with automatic brightness control, automatic shut-off and a bright light cut-off system. It is water and fog resistant and can be adapted for use with cameras.


Finding a Gen 2 under $500 is difficult, too. That’s why we’ve recommend a Gen 1+ instead. The Pulsar Challenger GS Super 1+ 3.5 x 50 offers lots of features that users will find helpful. First, it has a clear image that is free from any distortion across the entire field of view. Its Image Intensifier Tube is a CF-Super type that works with high-quality lens to accomplish this. It also has built-in magnification of 3.5x. The body of this device is completely sealed so that it can operate in virtually any weather condition. Like our previous pick, this device also has a built-in IR illuminator. However, it also offers a second mounting point to attach additional IR illuminators as needed. This Gen 2 device provides users with a few different compatibility options for use with helmets and googles. It comes with a power switch to prevent accidental powering. This device has a detection range of up to 750 feet and a lens of 50 mm. It comes with a carrying case and a built-in tripod socket for mounting.


Firefield FF24063 Night Vision MonocularThe Firefield FF24063 4 x 50 mm Night Vision Monocular is definitely only a Gen 1 product. That said, for its price, it offers ample features. First, its lens is a full 50 mm and it offers a magnification of 4x. Its detection range is just under 360 feet and it has an integrated IR illuminator. Despite being just a Gen 1 device, this product comes with a tripod mount at its base. The Firefield 4 x 50 mm is also quite durable and can withstand a wide range of temperatures. Its images are clear thanks to its high resolution and it comes with a carrying case and a lens cloth.


Rather than select only one product for each generation, we have decided to show you a few of the options available. This will allow you to get a feel for what’s out there as well as see the differences and similarities in the various products.


#1 Sightmark 4×50 Gen 1 Eclipse Night Vision

The Sightmark Eclipse also uses digital technology. However it still manages to provide quite a bit of night vision. It has the benefit of delivering current black and white images rather than the old standard of green and black images. Its objective is 5 mm and it offers a magnification of 4x. It comes with its own carrying case and a lens cover.

#2 Night Owl Xgen 2.1x Digital Night Vision

The Night Owl Xgen also uses digital technology to increase the power of this Gen 1 device. Its magnification is 2x and the IR illuminator helps to provide clear images. This device features 5 different settings that are controlled via a single button making it very easy to use in the field. Nevertheless, it does not offer all of the features found in our #1 product.


#1 Night Optics D-300 Generation 2+ Standard Night Vision

This Night Optics product provides a slew of features. It has a multi-stage IR illuminator that is high power, low battery and infrared indicators, and optics that meet Mil spec standards. Its body is very durable and can withstand any type of weather. Its mounts allow users to attach it to anything from weapons to headgear and it comes with a hard carrying case.

#2 Armasight Avenger Gen 2+ ID Improved Definition

The Armasight Avenger gives users a magnification of 3x and has a resolution of 45 – 51 lpm. It offers automatic brightness controls and an automatic shut-off system. Its infrared illuminator is built-in and comes with a flood lens. The lens itself is 50 mm and provides a clear range of focus. This device is also water and fog resistant so that it can be used in a variety of weather scenarios. The Armasight Avenger can be used as a hand-held device or mounted on another object as needed. It is also compatible for use with a camera or video recorder. To make it a Gen 2+ product, it can be fitted with Gen 2+ image intensifier tubes using either Green Phosphor or Quick Silver.

#3 ATN Night Spirit-2 Gen 2+ Night Vision

The ATN Night Spirit is a strong Gen 2 product that has a magnification of 3x and a 50 mm lens that has been coated with Proshield for protection. Its field of view is 18 degrees and it comes with the extra features of automatic brightness control and bright light shut off. Its IR illuminator and battery both come with indicators for ease in use. This device is both camera and video recorder adaptable and can be operated via a single switch knob. It offers weather resistant construction and can operate from -40 to + 50 degrees Celsius. Its resolution is between 40 and 45 lpm providing clear images. Mounting options allow this product to be attached to head gear or a helmet.


Armasight NYX-14 Alpha MGBy the time you get into the Gen 3 products, the price tag has soared through the roof. Be prepared to spend more than one thousand dollars to own a Gen 3 device. As stated, Gen 3 devices tend to be used mostly by law enforcement and the military. Nevertheless, they are available for civilian use in some cases. Consumers should note that some Gen 3 products come with restrictions in purchase.

#1 Armasight OPMOD PVS-14 Gen 3 Alpha Night Vision

The Armasight OPMOD offers an image intensifier tube with high performance manual gain. Its resolution is 64 -72 lpm and its lens provides a full 40 degrees of field of view. Its magnification is only 1x, but with such a powerful device more magnification is not really needed. This Gen 3 product comes with all of the automatic controls and indicators available as well as a built-in IR illuminator. It can operate in extreme temperatures from -51 to +49 Celsius. It is waterproof and meets the Mil Spec standard 810. Mounting options include helmet, head, weapons, tripod, camera and video recorder. It can also function as a hand-held device when needed.

#2 Armasight Nyx14-3-Alpha MG Gen 3 Multi-Purpose Night Vision

For those that wish for a Gen 3 with more magnification options, the Armasight Nyx14-3-Alpha MG offers a good product. It provides just as high a resolution (64-72 lpm) as our other recommended Gen 3 product, but it comes with the option to add 3x, 5x, and 8x magnification. Its lens is only 27 mm, but it offers a full 40 degrees in the field of view. Both the built-in IR illuminator and the battery come with indicators that show in the field of view. This product also has desired automatic features such brightness control, bright light and shut-off. It is waterproof and surpasses Mil Spec 810. This means that this product can be used in virtually any weather condition. Accessories provide options for mounting on various devices.

How Does Night Vision Work? The Technology Explained.

When people hear about night vision, modern image enhancement technology is what the majority of them think about. Image enhancement systems are actually commonly referred to as NVDs or night vision devices. These night vision devices rely heavily on a specialized image intensifier tube that collects both infrared and visible light before proceeding to amplify them. This is basically how it works, but it is a very brief description that does not go into the actual details of the process. The complete explanation is actually quite a bit more complicated.

Steps in the Night Vision Process

Although the introduction’s method of explaining night vision technology is technically correct, it is a very intricate process that requires a more detailed explanation. There are multiple steps in the process of creating an effective image enhancement system. This section will go over each of these steps separately with great attention to detail.

  1. For the first step in the night vision process, an objective lens is used for the capturing of ambient light and small amounts of near-infrared light.
  2. The light that has been gathered through the objective lens is transferred to the image intensifier tube. In the majority of night vision devices, the image intensifier tube usually has either two N-Cell or AA batteries. These act as power supplies for the tube to draw energy from for operation. The image intensifier tube outputs a relatively high voltage of somewhere around five thousand volts to the tube components.
  3. The image intensifier tube holds a photocathode for the purpose of converting the incoming photons into electrons.
  4. As the newly converted electrons are passing through the image intensifier tube, fairly similar electrons become released from atoms that exist in the tube. Through the use of a specialized microchannel plate that is located within the tube, this effectively multiplies the number of electrons by a factor of well over two thousand. This microchannel plate, or MCP, is a miniature disc built entirely out of glass. It has multiple millions of microscopic holes in it, which are also known as microchannels. These microchannels are constructed using an innovative fiber-optic technology. The plate is contained within a vacuum with small metal electrodes that reside on both sides of the disc. The microchannels in the plate are near forty-five times longer than they are wide, and they function by multiplying electrons.
  5. When the electrons coming out through the photocathode make contact with the first electrode of the microchannel plate, they are sped up into the microchannels. This is done by the five thousand volt pulses that are being sent between the two electrodes. Then the electrons begin passing through the microchannels in the plate. This causes the release of multiple thousands of separate electrons in either channel through a process that is called cascaded secondary emission. Basically, that is where the original electrons begin to collide with the channel’s side, exciting the atoms and causing more electrons to be released. The new electrons also begin to collide with other atoms, which creates a chain reaction. This results in thousands of the electrons exiting the channel where only a small amount had entered. When the microchannels in the plate are created, they are done so with a slight angle with about a five to eight-degree bias. This promotes electron collisions and reduces both the direct light and ion feedback from all of the phosphors located on the output side.
  6. For the next step, the electrons collide with a screen located at the end of the image intensifier tube. The screen is fully coated with phosphors, and the electrons lie still, maintaining their position in relation to the microchannel that they had passed through previously. This provides an almost perfect image due to the electrons maintaining the position of the original photons. The energy that the electrons contain causes the phosphors at the end of the tube to become excited and release a multitude of photons. These phosphors are what create the green coloring that currently characterizes night vision.
  7. The now green phosphor image can be viewed through a separate lens that is called the ocular lens. This other lens allows for the magnification and focusing of the image. The night vision device can now be connected to a monitor or other electronic display, or you can just look directly into the ocular lens.

That is basically how night vision goggles and scopes are capable of drawing in small amounts of light, and transforming and multiplying them until eventually using them to display a lighter, green image.

Various Applications

Night vision devices are truly innovative inventions, capable of letting the average person see many times better in the dark. They are widely used for various purposes, from sensitive military operations to late-night wildlife observation. Five common applications for night vision technology include:

  • Military operations
    Goggles, scopes, cameras, and other devices that utilize night vision technology are commonly employed for use in a variety of military operations.
  • Law enforcement
    Certain law enforcement agencies use a number of night vision devices to increase efficiency in many different circumstances.
  • Observation of wildlife
    Night vision goggles and cameras are ideal for observing local wildlife and their behaviors after the sun sets.
  • Advanced security
    Different types of night vision cameras are commonly used for the security of properties.
  • Surveillance
    Goggles with night vision capability can be used to perform surveillance or search and rescue operations in the dead of night.


Night vision is an innovative technology that is capable of being utilized in numerous situations. A complicated process allows for small amounts of light to be converted into full-scale images that increase the user’s visibility in dark environments. Employing night vision technology can potentially enhance efficiency during the night in various ways, allowing the user to examine their nearby surroundings with significantly improved vision and awareness.

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