Best Thermal Scopes [2021]

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As hunters and shooters alike, it’s important to fire accurate shots toward our targets. In many situations like a pitch-black night or densely foggy morning, this can be impossible. Even with night vision. Now thermal scopes solve a lot of those issues, but they come at a steep price. We’ve looked at five of the best in this article that comes with all the great features. However, for slightly more paired down versions check out our Great Cheap Thermal Scopes article

At these kinds of prices, you should do your research first. If you’re unsure what to get for your weapon, consider this review as your guide. Here are the five best thermal scopes that I’ll talk about in this review.

ARMASIGHT Zeus 336
  • Features a microbolometer core
  • Has 50mm Germanium objectives
  • Offers 3x to 12x optical magnification
  • A bit expensive
  • Battery life only lasts up to 4 hours
$3399 Shop NowClick to read my review
Top Pick
ATN Thor 4
  • Can run up to 16+ hours of battery life
  • Includes a built-in ballistic calculator and rangefinder
  • Has a 1x to 15x magnification range
  • Pricey
  • You need to buy a separate quick detach mount for easier and faster rifle switches
$4799 Shop NowClick to read my review
ATN Thor LT
  • Made from hardened aluminum alloy
  • Includes a 30mm main tube
  • Is tough and resistant against fogginess and total darkness
  • Missing a few useful features like video recording and built-in ballistic calculator
$1399 Shop NowClick to read my review
Pulsar Core RXQ30V
  • Includes an Image Boost Technology for better image quality
  • Recognizes a target even from 980 yards away
  • Has a 1.6x to 6.4x magnification power
  • Lacks video output
  • Battery life only lasts up to 6 hours
$1899 Shop NowClick to read my review
Best Budget Buy
Sector Optics T20
  • Can withstand recoil of more than 50 caliber firearms
  • Consists of anodized aluminum material
  • Includes two pieces of 30mm rings for easy on/off application
  • Lacks video recording and other multimedia features
$980 Shop NowClick to read my review

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Thermal Imaging vs. Night Vision: How Are They Different? 

Often, people confuse thermal scopes and night scopes as the same. This is a common occurrence, especially when both of these help you see your targets in the dark. Despite giving you this important feature, these two scopes operate in different ways. Let’s define the two scopes and what they can contribute to our hunting experiences.

Thermal Scopes

A close-up shot of two chickens using a thermal scope.
A close-up shot of two chickens using a thermal scope.
Image by Donna Sink from Flickr

Thermal scopes don’t need a light source for you to see your target in pitch-black darkness. Instead, you can rely on the heat that these scopes radiate. Thus, you can use these at almost any time of the day, even during daylight hours. Moreover, you can also sight through extreme climate conditions like bushes, dust, fog, and smoke. Also, you can see the temperature information displayed by these scopes. Using a thermogram, a thermal scope’s internal computer processes the said data. Still, thermal scopes have hefty price tags. Most of these scopes in the market cost at the starting price of $1,000 and up.

Night Vision Scopes

A close-up shot of a front yard using a scope with night vision.
A close-up shot of a front yard using a scope with night vision
Image by Bill Corwin from Flickr

How To Make the Best Out of Your Thermal Scope

A close-up shot of an American soldier ready to shoot using his thermal scope.
A close-up shot of an American soldier ready to shoot using his thermal scope.
Image by Maxim Potkin from Unsplash

Apart from radiation, thermal scopes have lots of different features that you can use. But how can you use a scope like this to its fullest potential? The following lists down some tips and tricks on how to keep your thermal scope up and running at the field:

1. Read the manual or guide: Of course, the most important task that you should do when buying a thermal scope is to read its manual or guide. I know reading is boring but still ― this could help ease whatever problems you might have in the long run. Often, the manual contains everything you need to know about your thermal scope. This also includes your scope’s features, manufacturer details, and even steps on how to make it work.

2. Use reactive targets to zero a thermal scope. Thermal scopes depend a lot on heat temperature to detect prey. To improve your shots’ accuracy, use reactive targets to practice your firing skills. Reactive targets also give you immediate feedback, alerting you if you fired precise bullets. With this, you can focus on your target more and dish out more accurate follow-up shots.

3. Mount your thermal scope on a sturdy platform. Place your rifle with your attached thermal scope on solid foundations like tables. This helps you get a steady sight of your targets, allowing you to fire accurate shots. Additionally, you’ll avoid getting your hands fatigued from holding your gun for long periods. Most thermal scopes come with mounts that you could use either in Picatinny or Weaver form. Our Weaver vs. Picatinny article explains all you need to know about these two mounts.

4. Shoot three rounds when sighting your scope. When sighting your scope, it’s ideal that you shoot three rounds at your dummy target. Doing this lets you see if your shots are close to one another. That way, you can gauge your shooting accuracy. When zeroing your thermal scope, I also recommend using dummy rounds to avoid wasting ammunition.

5. Zero your scope to at least 100 yards. For short to mid-range shooting, 100 yards is the best distance range to zero your scope. This helps you home in your shots to your target. Furthermore, you won’t startle or alert your game with your presence, making it easier for you to take it down in actual hunts.

Other Thermal Scope Accessories

Having a thermal scope increases your chances of securing game kills. But how about getting extra useful add-ons? If you’re curious, here’s a few to make your hunting experience more enjoyable and more efficient:

  • Mount: If you want your scope to stay zeroed for long periods, a mount is useful for this purpose. Mounts help you prevent getting hand fatigue from holding your gun for a few minutes. Most thermal scopes today have a mount included in their kits. Despite this, there’s still some scopes that lack mounts as their inclusions. Whether it’s a Weaver or Picatinny rail, choose which mount to get based on your hunting needs and wants.
  • Battery: Since you’re out in the wilderness for hours, stocking up on extra batteries is a necessity. Batteries are handy so that you may resume hunting without worrying how long your scope can last. For instance, most of today’s thermal scopes last within 4 to 8 hours of continuous use. With this, you can risk getting away from your tent overnight or go out for hours to hunt games.
  • Rangefinder: To detect sneaky targets, consider buying yourself a rangefinder. This add-on lets you determine an object’s distance, especially when operated with a gun or camera. Despite its cool features, many rangefinders in the market can cost you thousands of dollars. Thus, check your budget first before getting this accessory to pair with a thermal scope. But if you want to get one, you can check out more options on our best rangefinder article.
  • Shooting chronographs: Shooting chronographs help you check the inaccuracy of your shots. In general, you use these devices to compute your bullets’ load data. Plus, this also assists you in picking the right rounds to paralyze or kill games. Despite costing below $1,000, getting one is a worthwhile investment.

5 Best Thermal Scopes in 2021

Picking a thermal scope isn’t a trouble-free task. We’ve chosen this year’s five best thermal scopes for your firearm. However, before we go on further, let’s take a look at each of our pick’s specs:

NameMagnificationBattery Duration
ARMASIGHT Zeus 336 Scope1x, 2x, and 4x4 hours
ATN Thor 4 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope4 to 40x16+ hours
ATN Thor LT Scope4 to 8x10+ hours
Pulsar Core RXQ30V1.6 to 6.4x6+ hours
Sector Optics T20 3-5.5x Thermal Imaging Scope3 to 5.5x8 hours

ARMASIGHT Zeus 336 Scope

Best Thermal Scopes ARMASIGHT Zeus 336 Scope
Image from Gritr Sports

For decades, ARMASIGHT has manufactured a ton of high-quality thermal scopes for hunting. This includes its Zeus 336 scope. One of this scope’s best features is its microbolometer core. With the uncooled, long-wave infrared mechanics, you can see a clear shot of your prey even up to 1,500 yards away. For instance, you can identify humans and deer from a 1,000-yard distance. As such, you can use this scope for long-range hunting and shooting.

This scope consists of 50mm Germanium objectives, making it sturdy and durable. Not to mention, its AMOLED SVGA display includes a pixel array format of 336×256. When paired with its high 60Hz refresh rate, tracking fast-moving targets becomes easier. Additionally, it has a 3x to 12x optical magnification, letting you sight a target from far distances. Even with dense fog, haze, dust, and smoke, the Zeus 336 still captures your prey’s clear photos. YouTuber Ultimate Night Vision demonstrates using this scope for hogs and coyote hunting:

Since it doesn’t release visible light, you can use this scope to remain hidden while marking a target. Also, the Zeus 336’s digital zoom comes with eight color modes from which to choose. Some of the color options include white hot, black hot, and rainbow. Moreover, this scope includes an external battery supply, which allows you to use it for a few more hours. On its battery life duration, the Zeus 336 can last up to 4 hours of continuous use.

The Zeus 336 based its mounting operation on the MIL-STD-1913 (Picatinny rail). With its quick-releasing lock system, this scope fits well with rifles of AR-15 style. Also, a wireless remote control lets you adjust its video features to find and shoot your targets.

Pros
  • Features a microbolometer core
  • Has 50mm Germanium objectives
  • Offers 3x to 12x optical magnification
  • Is durable and resistant to scratches
  • Includes a fast refresh rate
  • Comes with eight different color modes
  • Mount is Picatinny rail style
  • Compatible with AR 15-style rifles
  • Perfect for long-range shooting
Cons
  • A bit expensive
  • Battery life only lasts up to only 4 hours

ATN ThOR 4 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope

Best Thermal Scopes ATN ThOR 4 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope
Image from Gritr Sports

One of today’s most popular scopes, the ThOR 4 offers many great attributes for a fun shooting experience. For instance, its 16-plus hour battery lifespan lets you use this scope for overnight hunts. This is because of its lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, letting the scope run for long periods. This makes the ThOR 4 one of today’s popular scopes, rated with positive reviews by many shooters.

Apart from its battery duration, this scope also provides a built-in ballistic calculator. This feature grants you the ability to compute your load data within a few seconds. Thus, this saves you a lot of time and money trying to invest in a separate ballistic chronograph to do the math for you. Moreover, its built-in rangefinder lets you determine your target’s distance faster. This also prevents you from buying a separate rangefinder to pair with this scope. To see how it does in the field, the video below shows you footage of using this scope during night hunts.

Next, let’s discuss this scope’s thermal imaging and optics capabilities. First, the ThOR 4 has a magnification power of 1.25x to 5x. This versatile magnification range lets you sight a prey 300 yards from you. To add, you can use a zooming wheel instead of a zoom button to adjust your magnification. Second, this scope offers a 750-yard detection range when trying to find a target. Due to this, you can determine and identify your prey’s identity even from 700 yards away. Third, its 384×288 thermal sensor allows you to take bright and sharp pictures of your target. You can even capture live footage of your hunts with this scope’s video recording features! Thanks to its Wi-Fi capabilities, you can also post your videos online like on YouTube. 

Even though it lacks a quick detach option, ATN makes up for this by including 30mm rings inside the scope kit. Hence, these rings let you mount this scope on your rifle with little to no issues. Despite its cool features, keep in mind that this scope is our review’s most expensive option. For the price of $4,799, you’ll have yourself a powerful, durable, and flexible thermal scope for your gun.

Pros
  • Can run up to 16+ hours of battery life
  • Includes a built-in ballistic calculator and rangefinder
  • Has a 1x to 15x magnification range
  • Can detect targets up to 750 yards away
  • Provides video recording and Wi-Fi features
  • Its 30mm rings allow for easy mounting on your firearm
Cons
  • Pricey
  • You need to buy a separate quick detach mount for easier and faster rifle switches

ATN ThOR LT Scope

Best Thermal Scopes ATN ThOR LT Scope

Another ATN product on this list, the ThOR LT is a cheaper but durable alternative to the ThOR 4. Its trademark feature is its advanced heat detection sensors. Even in total darkness or thick fog, expect this scope to not lose sight on your target. Plus, it has a 4x to 8x magnification range. Like the Zeus 336, this scope will come in handy when you’re shooting from afar.

This scope has a traditional structure. It uses hardened aluminum alloy as its main construction material. Also, its 30mm main tube consists of this material, making it tough and resistant to recoil. Since it also weighs 1.4 pounds, it’s easy to carry this scope around. You can attach this scope onto heavy-duty caliber firearms like the AR-15 and Ruger Mimi. Here’s a quick overview of the ThOR LT’s functions and inclusions:

Like the ThOR 4, the ThOR LT also has long battery life. Again, keep in mind that the former can last longer for overnight shooting compared to the latter. This is because the ThOR LT could run up to 10 or more hours without stopping. Depending on your scope settings, the power duration can change ― sometimes it lasts up to 8 hours, at other times 7.5 hours. This is the second cheapest option included in this review, costing only around $1,399. In brief, this thermal scope is ideal to operate for both veteran and newbie hunters alike.

Pros
  • Made from hardened aluminum alloy
  • Includes a 30mm main tube
  • Is tough and resistant against fogginess and total darkness
  • Has a magnification range of 4x to 8x
  • Lightweight and easy to carry
  • Is suitable to mount on heavy-duty guns like the Ruger Mimi
  • Battery life lasts up to 10+ hours
  • Comes at a decent price
Cons
  • Missing a few useful features like video recording and built-in ballistic calculator

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Pulsar RXQ30V

Best Thermal Scopes Pulsar RXQ30V
Image from Gritr Sports

Besides ATN, Pulsar also crafts top-notch thermal scopes in the market today. Its RXQ30V is one example. This scope boasts itself of its Image Boost Technology feature. This increases a picture’s clarity for a more precise field of view. Thus, you can identify your prey much easier even at long distances like 980 yards. Not to mention, you can even count a deer’s hair from far away using it. Like most of our picks, the RXQ30V is ideal for long-range hunting and shooting purposes.

Also, let’s look at this thermal scope’s magnification power. From 1.6x up to 6.4x, you can sight targets without alerting them of your presence and appearance at all. Plus, this scope also uses green-sapphire and white-hot viewing modes to help you find your prey better. All these are possible thanks to its digital zoom settings. You can choose among -2x, 3x, and 4x based on your shooting comfort. Furthermore, you can use this scope for tracking fast-moving animals like coyotes. With its 50Hz refresh rate, you can keep track of your target despite it moving at fast speeds. The video below shows you a quick demo of how the RXQ30V detects and sights wild hogs during a hunting trip:

For its whole framework, the RXQ30V consists of a light and tough metal housing. Since it weighs 15.9 ounces, you can attach it without feeling an added weight on your weapon. Not to mention, its IPX7 rating makes it a waterproof thermal scope. Even when you submerge it in water or get it soaked by the rain, this scope still runs well. Also, you can attach and detach this scope on your gun thanks to its quick mount mechanism. Have I mentioned that this scope’s display is resistant to frost? You can even choose from 13 electronic reticles and three types of calibration options. To conclude, the RXQ30V can hold up well in rough hunting environments and wet climates.

Pros
  • Includes an Image Boost Technology for better image quality
  • Recognizes a target even from 980 yards away
  • Has a 1.6x to 6.4x magnification power
  • Comes with a 50Hz refresh rate
  • Made of high-quality metal housing
  • Is waterproof, fogproof, and frostproof
  • Consists of various electronic reticles and calibration options
  • Lightweight
  • Ideal for long-range shooting
Cons
  • Lacks video output
  • Battery life only lasts up to 6 hours

Sector Optics T20 3-5.5x Thermal Imaging Scope

Best Thermal Scopes Sector Optics T20 3-5.5x Thermal Imaging Scope

The Sector Optics T20 is a cheap yet reliable thermal scope for hunting and shooting. Two of its best attributes are its affordable price and flexible mounting system. For only the cost of $980, you can enjoy all the functions that this scope can offer. Not to mention, this scope is compatible with more than 50 different caliber weapons like the AR-15. Besides that, it can also withstand heavy gun recoil. All this is possible thanks to its anodized aluminum material construction.

To attach this scope on your firearm, you can use the two-piece 30mm rifle scope ring included in its kit. Moreover, these rings can fit both Picatinny and Weaver bases. With this, you can mount it on various guns without much difficulty. For better and easier target acquisition, the rings position the scope to at least 1.06 inches from the base. Then, you can mount the T20 thermal scope on top of your rifle. Rugged in appearance, you can buy this scope in its standard all-black color scheme. For reference, the image below shows you what this scope’s side and back profile look like:

Best Thermal Scopes Sector Optics T20 3-5.5x Thermal Imaging Scope


Also, let’s talk about the T20’s display features. For instance, this scope has a 3x to 5.5x magnification range. This makes it suitable to use for mid-to long-range hunting distances, within 600 yards at most. To add, its several color display views grant you the ability to aim at your targets in poorly lit areas. White-hot, black hot, NV green ― you can use either of them based on your shooting preferences. As such, you can enjoy all these perks for long periods using its auto-shutdown motion sensor. After 10 minutes of inactivity, this scope shuts itself down to preserve battery life. With this, you can enjoy hunting overnight for up to 8 hours at max.

Pros
  • Can withstand recoil of more than 50 caliber firearms
  • Consists of anodized aluminum material
  • Includes two pieces of 30mm rings for easy on/off application
  • Can fit both Picatinny and Weaver bases
  • Has a 3x to 5.5x magnification range
  • Provides three color display options
  • Has a built-in auto shutdown motion sensor
  • Can run up to 8 hours
Cons
  • Lacks video recording and other multimedia features

Conclusion

For the best budget option, I’d say the Sector Optics T20 is your best match. For only $980, you can have yourself an inexpensive yet powerful thermal scope for your gun. But for my ultimate pick, I recommend the ATN ThOR 4 for its versatile magnification power. What thermal scopes do you want to see next? We’d love to hear your thoughts through our comments section below.

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