If you’ve ever looked into purchasing a thermal scope before, you may have noticed that they are very expensive. There’s a reason they cost thousands and thousands of dollars: they’re great for hunting! While having a night vision scope is okay, thermal detection allows you to see through dense fog and even heavy brush. That deer won’t escape you now! However, not everyone is made of money, so we did some scouring to find the best cheap thermal scopes on the market. We’ll tell you which was our favorite at the end.
Surprisingly, there are a few decent options for cheap thermal scopes. Just because we say cheap, don’t think we mean you’ll only be paying a few hundred dollars. A cheap thermal riflescope will still cost you anywhere from $1000 to $3000. Save a couple pay checks, and you’ll be well on your way to some of the best hunting experiences you could ask for.
Materials – This thermal riflescope from ATN is a small and lightweight scope with an ergonomically shaped eye piece. It easily attaches with a quick detach mount, so you can remove it as quickly as you can put it right back on. The Smart features include WiFi, GPS, range finder, shooting solution, as well as iOS and Android apps. The video feature allows you to record your view, and it offers a high resolution 1080p video. This option provides a 1.25x-5x magnification range. There are more models available with higher magnifications, but they will cost you. Another cheap option is the 384 model with a 2x-8x power range. Also included in the Smart features is a ballistic calculator, which will help you find your target trajectory. See in total darkness and even through fog.
Performance – There is certainly a lot to unpack with this cheap thermal scope from ATN. For one, it’s the cheapest one on this review. This is a little surprising, since it comes with the most features and Smart function out of all the scopes we selected. It’s safe to say, then, that you’re sacrificing a little bit on the speed of your picture and thermal detection. With WiFi, GPS, video shooting, and corrective features all running, you’re asking this little guy to do a lot. We suggest only choosing this option if you think you’ll really utilize the recording functions along with your phone or tablet. Otherwise, your money will be better spent on more advanced technology in the other options.
What we say – The ATN Smart Thermal Riflescope is the best cheap option for anyone who loves filming and recording their trips while hunting. If you think you’ll use the features along with your phone, then it’s definitely worth the money.
- Smart features and apps
- Multiple power ranges to choose from
- High resolution video
- All the Smart features will slow down speed of thermal camera
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Materials – The Pulsar Core Thermal Riflescope is mounted on a double attachment single piece construction. Quick detach levers remove the need for screws and tooling. There are no Smart features or video recording capabilities, but this makes the overall construction more lightweight and easy to handle. The 22mm objective lens is entirely waterproof. The entire riflescope is water proof as well. It provides a 1.6x-6.4x magnification range. The view offers a 384X288 resolution and picture in picture zooming features. Also included is a wireless remote control, so you never have to lay your hands on your riflescope. This scope includes batteries, but there is also an option for external power supplies.
Performance – This option from Pulsar focus much more on giving a good picture and reading than any additional features. There is no ability to record or take video, so your focus is entirely on your present moments in hunting. The housing is very durable and protective, so it’s one of the best for using in extreme cold, on extra hot days, or in the rain and fog. Despite it advertising itself as lightweight, it’s actually one of the heavier thermal riflescopes on the market, weighing close to three pounds. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s something to consider since it’s lacking the extra recording technology that the other scopes have. Additionally, the magnification range is really nice for a 22mm lens.
What we say – The cheap thermal scope from Pulsar is the best option for hunters who need a cheap accessory, but they don’t need any fuss from video recording. Your focus is on a high resolution and a fast reading.
- Very durable housing
- Simple design with no extras to fuss with
- External power supply available
- No recording capabilities
Materials – This is one of two options from Armasight included within this review. The Predator is the less expensive choice, but it still comes with many features. Armasight build some of the highest levels of thermal technology into its scopes. There are six onboard digitally controlled reticle patterns to choose from, including 4 MOA Dot, Line Dot, Cross-Center Dot, Cross, Crosshair, and No Reticle. The 25mm lens is sealed to be waterproof, and it has a 2x-8x power zoom. The mounting piece attaches in two places, and it has quick detach levers installed. An ergonomic eye piece offers plenty of eye relief but is also comfortable. Armasight includes a three year warranty on the scope and a ten year warranty on the FLIR detector.
Performance – The coolest thing, by far, from Armasight’s thermal riflescopes is the ability to select from multiple reticles. How often have you passed up on a scope that had everything you wanted, but you didn’t like the reticle? Now, you don’t haven’t to think about that at all. You may even come to find there’s a different style you prefer. A 2-8x magnification range is perfect for hunting, and the picture on this thermal scope is very lovely. With a warranty to boot, there’s hardly anything to complain about with this option. While the eye relief is just fine for most, it does seem to offer the least compared to the other non-Armasight selections. This isn’t a huge problem, since the eye piece is nicely shaped and won’t harm you.
What we say – The Armasight Predator is the best choice for anyone who wants a technologically advanced thermal scope without giving away all their savings. That multiple reticle selection feature is a real crowd pleaser.
- Lightweight construction
- 2x-8x zoom
- Six reticle options
- Little eye relief
Materials – As the second option from Armasight, “Zeus” is more expensive but offers a little bit more than the previous choice. A three year warranty is also included with this option. It features a 50mm viewing lens with a 3x-12x magnification power for truly long range shooting. It attaches to any standard Picatinny or Weaver rail, but it has a single mounting point and a quick detach lever. The 60Hz core offers some of the speediest technology in thermal scoping. Like the first Armasight option, you can select between six digital reticles. The onboard sight shutter corrections are totally silent. There is an output for video with optional video recorder and onboard replay.
Performance – The Armasight Zeus share a lot of similar positive feedback that the Predator does. It’s lightweight, it’s technologically advanced, and it comes with a nice warranty. This one is significantly more expensive than the rest, although it does still qualify as a cheap thermal scope (no, really, many others cost multiple thousands of dollars)! On this option, you’re getting an even wider magnification range, and the 50mm lens is very impressive. You definitely get the clearest picture of them all through this scope. The picture, clarity, and speed of thermal reading will essentially never falter because the scope houses one of the fastest processors on the market. If you can spare the cash, it really may be worth it to you.
What we say – The Zeus is the best cheap thermal scope for anyone who can afford the higher end of “cheap” and is in search of the most advanced piece of equipment they can get their hands on.
- 3x-12x range
- 50mm lens
- 3 year warranty
- Most expensive choice
Our Favorite Cheap Thermal Scope
Our favorite cheap thermal scope was the Armasight Predator 336. Sorry, folks, but the ability to choose between a handful of digital reticles won us over in an instant. Plus, the quality level of technology ensures us that we don’t have to worry about the reticle or picture faltering at any point. Personally, we don’t think having the video recording capabilities is a necessary feature unless you have a specific enthusiasm in that sort of thing. We’re perfectly happy without that option on the Predator. It may not have the highest level of technology available, like its Zeus counterpart, but you’re really getting a great deal for the money. With a warranty included, what do you have to lose?