How to Choose a Night Vision Scope That Will Let You Own the Night
If you enjoy hunting you will agree that it becomes a lot harder to spot your target as soon as the sun disappears in the horizon. Well, that is because our eyes are designed to operate efficiently when there is light rather than darkness.
We are humans, not cats after all.
Unfortunately, most animals move freely either late in the evening when the sun goes down, or early morning before it rises. Those two periods present a cool condition that ensures they don’t run the risk of dehydration, and they know that the darkness gives them additional cover from potential predators.
For you, it is a perfect window to identify and bring down your prey.
- The bad news is that, as humans, our vision is quite poor at these times.
- The good news is that you can get a little help seeing by using a night vision scope.
This handy gadget will put you in the same vision level as your prey. Of course, you being human means you are smarter. That, together with your heightened vision, should give you an upper hand in the jungle, woods, mountains, or just about anywhere.
Not Just For Hunting
In addition to hunting, you can use your night vision scope for several other functions. For one, it is a handy tool for protecting your property at night. If you are in private security, you will also find it very beneficial in your line of work.
Even more great news is that you don’t need to break the bank to get one of these. Their increasing popularity among civilians has made them very affordable. You can get your hands on a unit that costs as little as 50 bucks. But remember, quality comes at a price. So while there are cheap options out there, they might not be up to the task.
Also, remember to confirm whether it is legal to use night vision scopes in your area.
How Night Vision Works
Let’s not get into technical details and jargons, but here’s a simple explanation of how night vision scopes (and pretty much all other night vision equipment) work.
- They are fitted with a specially designed tube called an image intensifier.
- In darkness, this tube converts the little light (photons) that is available into electrons.
- The electrons are then transferred to yet another part known as the microchannel plate.
- The plate contains tons of microchannels through which the electrons pass.
- As they do so, they are multiplied exponentially, creating thousands of new electrons.
- The beam of electrons then hits a phosphorus-coated screen to create photons again.
- This time, they recreate an exact replica image of whatever object you are viewing.
Don’t worry if this isn’t clear, you don’t need to know how it works, just that it works.
One thing you will notice is that the images you will see are somewhat greenish. That is because the scope amplifies the little light it takes in so many times, it can distort the color.
The clarity of what you see will depend on how much light is available to start with. If there is absolutely no light, a night vision scope might not be too much help. But in the outdoors, there’s always some light, regardless of where you are or what time it is.
Understanding the Different Generations of Night Vision Scopes
Since their inception, night vision scopes have undergone changes to suit modern-day needs. Whatever you will get in the market today is not the same as what a Vietnam War soldier used in combat.
Generally, the evolution has led to classification of scopes into four categories (also known as generations). The higher the generation, the more superior the scope is. Keep in mind that quality comes at a price, so a later generation is bound to be more expensive than former ones.
This is the oldest generation of night vision scopes. It uses analog technology. As you might expect, that brings quality issues to the resulting image. While you will still be able to see images, they will be unclear.
Another problem is that you won’t be able to stare at the image for long without straining your vision. Generally, Gen 1 scopes are poor performers and are not meant for any serious or high-risk application.
These scopes are the favorites among many night walkers. Compared to Gen 1, they come in smaller sizes and offer great vision without hurting your eyes. Gen 2 scopes are very affordable despite their great performance.
Gen 2 scopes redefined night-based optics, but Gen 3 took the concept to a whole new level. They work well with extremely little light and use pinnacle tubes to ensure that the images you get are as clear as they can possibly be.
You can also use this during the day so you won’t have to pack two scopes for your hunting trips.
You won’t find Gen 4 scopes easily in the market because they are mostly used by the military. In fact, most night vision scope reviews will only go up to Gen 3 because Gen 4 is still a work in progress.
These scopes do not have a protective coating on their microchannel plates. While that increases image clarity and quality significantly, it also lowers the scope’s useful life considerably.
What Makes A Great Night Vision Scope?
Now you know the difference between different generation night scopes, but there is still more to consider. Knowing the generation gives you a good idea what you should expect in terms of image clarity, but you need to know more. Unlike other night vision gadgets, like binocular and monocular devices, scopes are meant to help you hit the target.
Here is a list of the things to consider:
The very first thing you need to look at is whether the scope you are settling for can work with your rifle. Most scopes are compatible with a variety of rifles, but it wouldn’t hurt to confirm.
The last thing you want is to invest in a night vision scope and in the end find that it doesn’t work with your gun. In most cases, the manufacturer will give you any compatibility information upon request, or through their website. You can also check user reviews for the same information.
Secondly, look at the scope’s range – the distance of vision that it provides. A higher generation scope will offer you a bigger range compared to a lower generation one.
Generally, with a Gen 3 scope you will get a range of up to 300 yards. The first two generations will offer a lower range than that, with Gen 1 offering the least (around 75 yards). But that is not to say you should ignore Gen 1 completely.
If you are anticipating only hunting close targets, or if you have a strictly limited budget, you can still work with a Gen 1 scope. Otherwise, a Gen 2 or 3 scope are better options to consider.
The quality and resolution of your scope will determine how well you can see your targets. Simply put, if your scope is not clear you won’t see your target. If you can’t see your target you have no business shooting at it.
So how do you know which scope will offer the best clarity? That’s actually simple. Just start by looking at its resolution. Scope resolution is measured by the number of lines per millimeter (i.e. LP/MM).
The higher the LP/MM value, the clearer the image.
You know that you will have to mount your scope on your weapon, and the aggregate weight will determine how efficiently you can handle the combo.
A heavy scope might limit your ability to do off-hand shooting or brush hunting. But if you plan to mount your gun on a stand or the ground, then a heavier scope might be a better option.
Typically, a heavy scope comes with big lenses and tubes which offer better optics.
Nowadays, scopes are very affordable. Even with a $100-budget you can get your hands on a very good night vision scope. The best idea is to decide how much you’re willing to spend before you start shopping, and the go for a scope that suits your preferences in that price range.
Do keep in mind though, that just like any other gadget, quality comes at a price. You get what you pay for, but you don’t have to go broke in the name of trying to up your hunting game.
Generally, you can get a great scope for $200 to $300. If cost is not a concern, you can go for a high-end model. Some of them cost as much as $1000, but the specs they bring on the table are incomparable.
Infrared illuminator (IL)
Speaking of specs, one feature that you might want to look into is IL.
High-end night vision scopes have built-in IL for brightening the vision even further. Remember that if there is total darkness (i.e. no photons for your scope to work with) it will not recreate images completely.
However, if you have IL you will be able to see your target. That makes IL a handy addition, though an expensive one. So expect to cough a little more if you want a scope that comes with IL. Alternatively, you can buy the IL separately and attach it to your night vision scope. That should work just fine, as long as you ensure that the two are compatible.
The Top 4 Night Vision Scopes in the Market Today
If you are totally new to night vision scopes you might still feel a bit confused as to which device suits you best. Even with the guidelines above, narrowing down your selection to one or two products could still be an uphill climb.
Just in case you aren’t sure, or want a little more information and recommendations, we’ve decided to make the selection process even simpler for you. Feel free to confidently pick one of the four devices below and know what you are set to roam the night.
We have selected four of the best night visions scopes currently available in the current market. Go ahead and read one to see which one suits you best.
CVLIFE Optics Hunting Rifle Scope 6-24×50 AOE
This night vision scope excels in performance. Its 50 mm objective diameter combines superbly with the 1/8 click value to offer a huge 28-foot field of view from 100 yards. Contrary to most other scopes that have solely has a green display, this CVLIFE Optics Hunting Rifle Scope has both green and red displays. This is a big relief to your eyes. It means you won’t have to strain your vision as much while looking through the score, a big plus for your eye health.
This scope offers magnification of 6-24x, which produces very clear images. You can control magnification using an easy-to-use knob that is well positioned at the top of the device. Too add on extra perks, you should be happy to hear that this scope will actually still function even when the batteries are completely dead. You won’t get full functionality, so this isn’t ideal for high risk situations, but you will be able to use its basic functions. If you can, it’s best to keep your scope powered at all times.
The full package includes the scope itself, 2 mounts that are compatible with a 20mm weaver dovetail rail, a lens cover, and a battery. The totally weight is only 22 ounces. That shouldn’t add any significant weight to your gun.
If you are looking for a night vision scope that balances performance, ergonomics, and price perfectly, don’t look any further. You’ve found it with the CVLIFE Optics Hunting Rifle Scope 6-24×50 AOE.
CVLife Optics Hunting Rifle Scope 2.5-10x40e
This is another awesome night vision scope that offers a 32.5-foot field of view over a 100-yard range. With its 2.5-10x magnification, you can adjust the clarity of images until you get whatever works best for you. Quickly process images without straining your eyes using both the red and green illuminations for a better vision.
Speaking of vision, you will find the top and side knobs handy for adjusting your view and image quality. Compared to the others options on this list, this scope excels in aiming accuracy. This is because it includes a laser which you can redirect easily using a screw that is located at the top.
This night vision scope is ready to use straight from delivery. The full package includes the scope itself, 2 mounts, a battery, lens cover, and an Allen key and cleaning cloth. It is one of the shortest models in the market, but that doesn’t mean it is a poor performer. Actually, its light weight (580 grams/20ounces) and 5 illumination levels make it a great companion for anyone seeking to do some off-hand shooting. You can practically run with it.
Barska 1-4×28 IR Riflescope
This masterpiece of a scope comes complete and includes the scope, caps, mount, and battery. You can start using it as soon as it is delivered, but that’s not what makes it a masterpiece.
For starters, the manufacturer put in a lot of thought into the design and construction, for ultimate ease and quality. This scope is entirely water and fog proof, so you can use it in wet conditions or damp environments. The sun shade attached at the top makes it perfect for sunny weather as well because it protects the lens from direct sunlight. This reduces sun glare and gives you’re a better site.
With this scope, you get red, black and green colors when viewing images. That combination should make your hunting target perfectly clear without putting unnecessary strain on your eyes. It has a 1-4x magnification capability just in case you need to adjust image clarity and quality.
One stand out feature, which most other scopes do not have, is the ability to lock external target turrets. This means that your scope will be firmly held in position, do you don’t have to constantly adjust and realign it. It won’t move unless you adjust it yourself.
Another really attractive feature is the scope’s light weight. At only 16 ounces, it is among the lightest on the market. You should have no problems carrying your gun even when the scope is mounted. Saving the best news for last, to ensure that you get the best value for your money, the manufacturer offers a lifetime warranty for this scope. It’s hard to pass on that big of an incentive.
4. Barska 1×30 IR M-16 Electro Sight Riflescope
You will pay slightly more for this scope compared to the rest on this list, but it is totally worth every penny. First of all, it has a parallax-free, multi-coated lens that will offer you extremely clear images. That, together with the handy elevation adjustments, should make your sighting easy and fun.
Although you only get a 1x magnification, the scope provides a wide field of view of 54 feet. Even with this view, aiming should not be hard, thanks to the 7-position, red-illuminated cross reticle. Additionally, you will appreciate the unlimited eye relief that protects your eyes from straining when you are using the scope.
Compared to the rest, this scope is a bit wider but very short. The small size is the reason why it weighs just a mere 12.8 ounces, so carrying your weapon should throw off your calibrations when the scope is mounted.
As a matter of fact, it is one of the easiest models on the market to mount and use. If you are new to scopes, this is a perfect place to start. The fact that you will get a one year warranty is an extra bonus and a mark of quality, backed by the manufacturer.
Alternatives to Night Vision Scopes
Night vision scopes are definitely a great addition to your hunting or survival kit. However, they might not be the best options for every situation.
For instance, one of the biggest weaknesses of night vision scopes is their reflective quality. They reflect a lot of light, making it harder to see objects that are a bit far away. That is especially noticeable if there is rain or dew in the air.
Rather than risking getting stuck in the jungle with an inefficient night vision scope, you can pack an alternative night vision gadget as a backup.
Take a look at some additional options:
Night vision monoculars are the closest relatives to night vision scopes. Just like scopes, they feature a single eyepiece so you can observe your target. The only difference is that they are not designed to help with aiming.
Different models of monoculars offer different capabilities in terms of range, clarity, magnification, and durability, among other features.
If you can’t get a night vision scope, then you might need to settle for a pair of binoculars. Most people prefer them over monoculars because they offer a wider field of view and are more comfortable to the eyes. Of course, that is partly because you get to use both eyes when observing your target.
Just like other night vision products, there are a variety of binoculars, each with its own set of specifications and price tag. Set your budget and use it to try your best to get the right balance between price and quality.
Just like binoculars, goggles will allow you to see using both of your eyes. That makes them, and the image they bring back to you, very reliable.
Their main advantage over other night vision products is the fact that you can wear goggles and still keep both of your hands free for other uses (like handling your weapon). They are not the most comfortable night vision aids but they will definitely allow you to multitask and survey your environment thoroughly for any signs of prey.
In summary, if you feel like a night vision scope need a little help in some situations, feel free to grab one of the three night vision gadgets above. Otherwise, if you just follow this guideline, you should have no problem choosing the best night vision scope for your needs. Your next nighttime outing will be full of fun and games, thanks to these wonderfully efficient portable gadgets.