Rifle scopes that exploit thermal imaging technology were used initially for combat operations and scouting at night or in low light conditions. Thereafter, thermal scopes found extensive use in myriad of tactical operations as well as for law enforcement, firefighting, long-range hunting and shooting. Best thermal scope takes optimum advantage of a thermal imaging camera that captures images of objects within a specific area at nighttime or in settings without ambient lighting.
Rifles and shooters outfitted with thermal scopes enable the rifleman or Huntsman to focus on the target as the heat sensor cuts through the barriers of haze, smoke, and mist in inclement weather to highlight the surroundings. In case you’re looking for a thermal scope to install on your Remington Sendero SF II Beanfield Sniper or Marlin Timber Classic 336C, make sure it’s lightweight and compact. There are other significant aspects that you should also take into account before you take the final decision, including magnification, reticule, battery, and refresh rate.
- 1 Thermal Scope: How it Works?
- 2 Things to Look for When Choosing the Best Thermal Scope
- 3 Best Thermal Scopes Reviews 2018
- 3.1 1. Pulsar Apex XD50A Thermal Riflescope
- 3.2 Pros
- 3.3 Cons
- 3.4 2. Armasight Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope – FLIR Zeus 336 3-12x50mm
- 3.5 Pros
- 3.6 Cons
- 3.7 3. Pulsar Thermal Riflescope Trail XQ
- 3.8 Pros
- 3.9 Cons
- 3.10 4. FLIR Thermosight Pro Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope – PTS233 1.5-6x19mm
- 3.11 Pros
- 3.12 Cons
- 3.13 5. Pulsar HD19A Quantum Thermal Imaging Scope
- 3.14 Pros
- 3.15 Cons
- 3.16 6. FLIR ThermoSight Thermal Night Vision Rifle Scope (R-Series RS64 2-16X)
- 3.17 Pros
- 3.18 Cons
- 3.19 7. ATN ThOR Smart Thermal Riflescope HD 384
- 3.20 Pros
- 3.21 Cons
- 4 Conclusion
Thermal Scope: How it Works?
You’ll find it easier to pick and choose a best thermal scope for your firearm if you have a fair idea of the thermal imaging mechanism. Thermographic cameras used originally on a mass scale by the US military facilitate clear sighting of objects in partial or complete darkness not visible to the naked eyes. Every inanimate object or living being gives off thermal or infrared radiation that is termed as heat signature.
The thermal scope fitted on the rifle detects and converts this thermal or heat energy into light (energy), thereby underscoring the environment and letting the viewer to clearly see almost everything in the setting. A digital image is formed on the objective lens of the thermographic camera installed in the riflescope once the camera picks up radiation from different objects (in the surroundings) whose temperatures vary from one another. The image incident on the camera lens is basically created by emphasizing the distinct temperature of the target with respect to its surroundings that is normally at variance.
The lens captures the emitted infrared radiation from the focus object and directs the same onto the heat sensors in the setup which generate a thermogram. The entire process of perceiving the thermal radiation to converting the data into a thermogram happens almost instantaneously. So, you’re able to see the image the moment you point the thermal scope in a particular direction.
These thermograms or heat-based images can be further processed or customized by the observer as per his or her convenience. The images enable you to distinguish between objects in the vicinity as well as make out whether your target is lying underneath a bush or camouflaged by adjacent vegetation. The efficiency or effectiveness of a best thermal scope is not influenced by poor weather or light conditions but remains the same in all occasions.
Things to Look for When Choosing the Best Thermal Scope
While you’re in the market for zeroing on a best thermal scope, simply being in the know about the premium brands might not suffice. After all, you’ll need to be aware of what makes the topnotch brands stand out from the ‘run-of-the-mills’. Use the following yardsticks to compare and contrast the superlative brands available in the market:
With a higher resolution rating of the thermal scope, the clearer and crisper will be the image. High-resolution images produced by a quality thermal imaging camera are free of the excessive pixilation that could distort the image, causing you to miss the target. Since thermal imaging focuses more on detection than on emphasizing image details, you’d be better off choosing a product with a high resolution rating so that you clearly spot what you’re targeting.
2. Refresh rate
Refresh rate is a factor that makes a considerable difference to how realistic the captured and displayed images will look like. The refresh rate or the frequency with which a displayed image can be refreshed is calibrated in hertz. Majority of the thermal scopes either have a 30 Hz or 60 Hz rating. If you’ll mostly be hunting from a shifting base, for instance, a safari jeep, then go for a 60Hz scope in order to avoid unwarranted lag or else choose a product with a rating which is slightly over 30Hz.
The zoom setting has a direct bearing on the resolution. Optical zoom feature allows the user to magnify a target without upsetting the resolution quality while digital zoom uses software to do the same thing. Opt for the thermal scope equipped with both digital and optical zooms that comes in perfectly handy for finding the sweet spot between magnification and image quality.
When you put your eye on the scope eyepiece, it is the reticule that helps you to accurately focus on your intended target. The reticule is a network of extremely sharp lines which aid you to pinpoint on a game. Reticules come in a range of varieties. Nevertheless, if you’re going to use the scope chiefly for hunting, then choose one with a ‘fine crosshair’ or ‘duplex crosshair’ eyepiece.
5. Monochrome or color?
Talking about the hues of thermal images, these are generally grayscale i.e. objects and/or surroundings are visible in contrasts of black, white, and depth or extent of grayness, depending upon the temperature. Animals normally appear as white patches as they tend to be hotter compared to their surroundings represented by black spaces and the degree of grayness is indicative of the contrast between whiteness and blackness. Monochromatic scopes are good enough when it comes to precisely identifying your targets and also cost much less than the colored options.
6. Lens material
The camera lens of standard riflescopes are normally made of glass which being an insulator does not allow infrared radiation to pass through and hence is not ideal for thermal imaging. Germanium, a shiny grey semimetal, is indispensably used for making the thermal scopes’ lens compatible to passage of infrared light rays without sacrificing transparency.
The most popular brands of the thermal scopes are expensive-a first-rate product could make you lighter by $1,500-$8,000. Even the standard versions do not come cheap. The costlier the model, the more versatile features it is likely to have. Hence, make sure that you determine beforehand the maximum you can afford to spend but also ascertain that you do not end up buying a best thermal scope that fails to deliver.
Best Thermal Scopes Reviews 2018
If you’re looking for a premium quality thermal scope that displays lifelike and realistic images, then the Pulsar Apex XD50A Thermal Riflescope is your best bet. The Apex XD50A boasts of a (thermal core) resolution of 384 x 288 coupled with a 1.9x magnification and 50Hz refresh rate that makes the scope ideal for perfectly capturing ‘white hot’ and ‘black hot’ images located 1,400 yards away. Long-range viewing is a breeze, thanks to the steady digital zoom that facilitates extended magnification range.
You can also make the most of PIP (picture-in-picture) electronic zoom feature which shows an enlarged image of the targeting point of the reticule atop the screen. The magnified reticular image helps in aiming for a targeted shot. On the other hand, the edges or borderline of the illustrations hold up the base magnification, promoting a broad range of vision for rapid and uninterrupted series of shots.
Also, use the single-shot zeroing in and freeze capability for capturing a shot of the target to quickly focus the reticule on the firearm barrel’s endpoint, to the best of your advantage. At the same time, you’ve the leeway of choosing from 3 distinct operating and 3 calibration modes. ‘Rocks’, ‘forest’, and ‘identification’ operation modes improve black and white contrasts, thereby enabling you to see your targets more clearly. The calibration modes aid in adjusting the lens almost instantaneously.
- 50Hz refresh rate
- 384 x 288 display resolution
- LCD display
- PIP feature
- Digital zoom 4x
- One-shot zooming in
- Freeze capability
- 3 distinct operating modes
- 3 separate calibration options
- You’ll need to buy a separate battery pack and external power cables for extending the equipment’s battery life
- Even after calibrating manually, auto calibration gets activated
There are a plenty of good reasons why the FLIR Zeus 336 3-12 x 50mm from Armasight is one of the best thermal scopes you can invest in. For a start, you can get a 3-year warranty on the model, no questions asked. Though the thermal scope has been basically designed for combat situations, it serves perfectly well when used for law enforcement, firefighting and hunting expeditions.
The scope is a long-wave infrared weapon scope that can be used to the hilt for both day and nighttime operations without ever having to detach it from the firearm. The superior thermal imaging technology comes in handy for identifying targets in snow, haze, fog, smoke, and other environmental impediments. The FLIR Zeus’s stealth functionality means that the scope cannot be detected using RF energy.
The scope is not only lightweight and compact but is also easy to operate owing to its simple functions, features, and interactive controls. The features are tiered between and amongst digital menu selections and combo button functions. The layering feature furnishes the user with a customizable framework that he can exploit as per his preferences and requirements.
You also make the most of the wireless remote for switching on the scope when it is in a standby position. Installing the scope is not an issue at all as it uses a clip-on MIL-STD-1913/Weaver/PICATINNY rail, quick-release locking mechanism.
- Exploits FLIR thermal imaging technology
- Compatible with both weaver and Picatinny MIL STD 1913 Rail
- Options for linking to external power supply as well as video recorder
- Extremely lightweight and compacted
- AMOLED SVGA display
- Intuitive user interface
- Refresh rate: 60Hz
- Optical and digital zoom features
- Multiple digital monitored reticule patterns
- 5 image filtering algorithms
- Wireless remote control
- Fog and water resistant
- Made from aircraft aluminum alloy
- You’ll need to buy a separate battery pack and external power cables for extending the equipment’s battery life
- Even after calibrating manually, auto calibration gets activated
The Trail XQ is another quality offering from Pulsar (apart from the Apex XD 50A reviewed above) that effortlessly qualifies for the ‘best thermal scope’ tag. With a base magnification ranging from 2.7-10.8x that is higher than any other riflescope in its category, the Trail XQ’s thermal imaging functionality can detect targets that are 1970 yards away. 13 digital reticule options coupled with ‘white hot’ and ‘black hot’ modes and a 50Hz refresh rate all work together to offer you a wide viewing range that is perfectly contrasted.
The performance of Apex XD 50A does not flag even in extremely inclement weather conditions. The riflescope works smoothly in temperatures ranging from -13˚ to 122˚F and is thoroughly resistant to fogs as well as waterproof and dustproof. A user-friendly interface together with ergonomic button positioning makes using the product supremely easy.
8GB internal memory, inbuilt video recording capability, 384 x 288px resolution, Wi-Fi compatibility, and a frost resistant AMOLED display all sync to enable you to capture crystal clear images. Also, a host of add-ons including wireless remote, handy carry case, rechargeable battery pack, stadiametric range finding, and an accelerometer let you use the scope to the best of your advantage.
- High resolution
- Picture-in-picture mode
- Excellent image frequency
- Wide variable magnification range
- Long-range detection (up to 1800m)
- Smartphone friendly (Wi-Fi companionability with Stream Vision software)
- Fog and frost-resistant
- Integrated HD video recorder
- Extended battery life
- With a refresh rate of 50Hz, this scope is more suitable for using from shifting platforms like moving pickup vans or jeeps
- Very expensive
The FLIR Thermosight Riflescope is packed to the hit with a host of resourceful features that facilitates a personalized viewing experience. Sophisticated and superior image processing means the images captured are lucid with a rich contrast. ThermoSight Pro is ideal for focusing on dimly lit environments and even in pitch darkness.
The patented FLIR Boson technology enables the riflescope to make the most of thermal imaging. Ultra bright HD Quad VGA (1280 x 960) FLCOS display ensures immaculate image clarity and its ergonomic design makes the product compact implying that it does not weigh down the firearm. Pro PTS233’s robust construction offers thorough protection to the internal hardware, thus enabling the scope to operate smoothly in all weather conditions.
The built-in video recorder can be used at a stretch for 2 hours archiving over 1,000 images. You get to view in images in a wide range of natural colors. An inclinometer or digital compass comes in handy for accurate ranging and target pinpointing. The High Visibility Reticule or Crosshair is ideal for fine-tuning a shooting point on the target. The entire scope sits firmly on a clip-on, quick-release Picatinny rail that can be easily installed on your shooter or rifle.
- Onboard video recording
- Quad-VGA HD FLCOS display
- Wide color spectrum
- Inclinometer and compass for precise target location
- FLIR Boson Core boosts up thermal imaging
- 19mm lens
- Pixel pitch of 12 microns
- 12˚ x 9.5˚ range of vision
- 30Hz refresh rate
- The manufacturer has not clearly mentioned the refresh rate (the product title says 60Hz while the description says 30Hz)
Despite is compact size, the Pulsar HD19A packs in quite a punch-it boasts of a high quality resolution, 1 x magnification, and a 30Hz refresh rate. The HD19A is effective in receiving maximal thermal energy, thanks to its core thermal resolution of 384 x 288. The ‘black hot’ and ‘white hot’ heat signature helps in delivering crystal clear images making the scope indispensable for police officers, search and rescue teams, and hunters.
The 640 x 480 LCD display together with the 30Hz refresh rate helps in clicking pictures of swiftly moving subjects located over 500 yards away. 2x digital zoom facilitates distant viewing as the feature boosts up magnification two times. Identification, forest, and city modes-advanced operational modes-enable clear visualization of ‘white hot’ objects.
The HD19A weighs less than 1 pound and is safety cocooned inside a hardy casing made of nylon and glass making the thermal scope incredibly compact and lightweight. Standard tripod and weaver rail mounts that aid in installing the product as well as makes for connecting external power cords are included in the package.
- Standardized weaver rail mount for attachment with rifle
- Tripod mount for connecting multiple external power cords
- 640 x 480 LCD display resolution
- 30Hz refresh rate for capturing lucid images of rapidly shifting objects
- 384 x 288 core resolution promotes infrared/thermal imaging
- Semi-automatic, manual, and automatic lens calibration modes
- Forest, city, and identification functional options offer leeway in capturing images with high contrast
- The vehicle cord could have been a little longer; its shortness means you could struggle while aiming from your position in the vehicle
- A feature that red marks hot objects would be very welcome
If you wish to get the best results out of your hunting or safari expeditions undertaken in low light or pitch dark settings, the ThermoSight R-Series RS64 is your best bet. The RS64 this thermo scope definitely is the best riflescope when it comes to non-game hunting like shooting wild boars and coyotes. It’s very user-friendly not only because it is compact and weighs less than 2. 4 lbs but compatibility with MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny Rail rendering it companionable for mounting on a wide range of firearms.
A 30Hz refresh rate, 3 reticule options, 8x electronic zoom, multiple color palette, 640×480 display resolution, and active matrix LCD display all work in harmony to deliver crisp, clear and lifelike images. A simple four-button arrangement and user-friendly interface makes one-click zooming breeze. Customizing other settings is also not an issue.
- 640×480 VOx display resolution for clear visibility at night
- Customizable display
- 3 reticule settings
- 30Hz refresh rates
- 60mm focal length of lens: lucid images of different targets 335 yards away
- Battery runtime of over 4 hours
- Multiple video palettes
- Clip on mounting system
- Compact and lightweight
- Remarkably expensive
- Not ideal for using when shooting or hunting from moving platforms
The ThOR-HD 384 from ATN exploits the infrared camera’s thermal sensor with a resolution of 384 x 288 for accurately detecting the unique heat signature irradiated by objects in surroundings or environments at nighttime or during low light. The thermal scope features the ATN Ballistic Calculator that makes working out the arc of the bullet a breeze and also frees you from the hassle of using complicated crosshairs. You simply need to key in the environmental data and the ATN calculator will perform the calculations for recommending you a shot that will be on target 9 out of 10 times.
You can hone your shooting and hunting skills, courtesy the inbuilt Range Finder. This functionality will work out the exact distance between you and the target each time you take aim to fire at the latter. You’d surely want to record your hunting expeditions and archive the footages so that you reminisce about them when you hang up your hunting boots.
SD card compatibility spares you from the need to use USB cables that could become tangled. The ATN ThOR 20000mAh battery lets you use the scope for 22 hours at a stretch. The X-Trac smart remote control offers you complete control over all the product features wirelessly.
- 384 x 288 thermal sensor: accurate detection of white hot and black hot objects
- Magnification range/level: 1.25-5x
- Ballistic Calculator helps fine-tune shot placement
- Built-in Rangefinder helps sharpen shooting skills
- Smooth Zoom for zeroing in on target without affecting visibility in FOV
- Video recording HD with Wi-Fi streaming
- Upgradable firmware
- Mounting the Picatinny rail on some firearm models could be an issue; the Picatinny rail slot is somewhat thin
- The thermal images start to blur out beyond 100 yards
So, there you have it- 7 of the best thermal scopes you can install on your rifle. Three are Pulsar models three FLIR riflescopes, and one ATN model. Almost all the models are equipped with the rudimentary features that a best thermal scope should have including but not limited to high resolution, effective refresh rate, multiple reticule patterns, and digital and optical magnification options. However, if you’ve to choose the best out of the best, go for the FLIR Zeus 336 3-12 x 50mm thermal imaging scope owing to its resourcefulness which makes it compatible for using in almost every hunting occasion and with a wide range of firearms.