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Thermal imaging riflescopes are a very useful tool in the hunter’s arsenal and the technology is getting better (and more affordable) all the time.
However, what is the best thermal scope on the market today?
To some extent needs and budget will determine the answer to that. To help you decide we have pulled together 5 top-rated thermal scopes. To see our picks at a glance check out the table below.
For a dedicated buyer’s guide and full reviews of our top 5 choices, keep on reading.
The system is incredibly fast, processing information at over a billion cycles per second. This is the brains running a full suite of sensors, to bring you the image at an impressive 384 x 288 resolution.
The 19mm Objective lens focal length provides clarity over the 1.25-5x zoom capacity.
Other essential features such as the built-in 3D GS7 gyroscope and image stabilizer all help ensure your image is as clear as it needs to be to pull off the essential kill shot.
Smart Range Finder
To increase the chances of a successful hunt even further, ATN’s patent-pending Smart Range Finder really does raise the bar.
The system works after just two clicks and a simple shift of the scope. Once the target is ranged in your reticle the Thor will step in and automatically adjust the point of impact. Your job is to pull the trigger at the right time.
Furthermore, should you need to adjust for other important variables the Thor is able to lend a helping hand there too?
This does a great job of minimizing the need for charts, complex reticles or hunting calculators. In short, the ATN Obsidian Smart Shooting system will process the calculations for you.
Once you have ranged in with the Smart Range Finder and entered the windage readings, the Obsidian Core will have enough information to keep track of everything else.
You can turn through the wind, move to a different incline angle and adjust your distance; all of these changes will be calculated by the scope with the necessary point of impact adjustment taking place.
The resulting accuracy most users find as a result is a borderline exponential. We are not flirting with hyperbole by saying once you’ve experienced the ATN Thor, you will find it hard to go back.
For those that plan to use the scope on more than one rifle, there is a Profile Manager that allows you to save all the ballistic data for every weapon you attach.
Recoil Activated Video (RAV) – Automatically records videos on recoil
E-barometer for instant barometric pressure readings
Bluetooth and Wi-Fi capability for use with both iOS and Android
Built-in GPS with geotagging and elevation capability
Multiple reticle patterns and various color options
Some users have found the sheer amount of technical options to be confusing
The built-in firmware has been prone to bugs on initial release, (a situation ATN has dealt with).
The ATN ThOR HD 384 Smart Thermal Riflescope, really is a formidable piece of kit.
Packed with hitech features alongside superior optics and build quality and you have a thermal scope that should keep all but the most serious hunters, (i.e those in the market for spending multiple thousands of dollars on a scope) happy.
The Pulsar Apex 2-8×42 XD50A makes our top 5 best thermal scope review round up for a number of reasons.
First is the versatility that the scope has. Designed for a wide variety of applications, the PulsarApex can be used for hunting as well as security and surveillance purposes.
Featuring a thermal core resolution of 384×288 the XD50A is capable of capturing infrared energy output and transferring that into the detailed image from up to 1,400 yards away from the target.
To assist with this long-distance functionality further, Pulsar has fitted the scope with a 4 x continuous digital zoom. The extended range of magnification is very impressive with image deterioration kept to an absolute minimum.
The heart of the display system is an ultra-fine LCD with a high 50 Hz frame rate, (if you have read our dedicated buyer’s guide you may remember that we recommend anything over 30 Hz in this department).
The Pulsar Apex XD50A also features a rather clever picture-in-picture digital zoom mode that positions a magnified picture of the reticle’s aiming point at the top of the screen.
This allows for more accurate aiming with the rest of the screen display providing context via the wider field of view.
Depending on how hands-on you wish to be, the XD50A offers 3 main calibration modes: automatic, manual or semi-automatic.
4. FLIR Systems RS64 2-16X Thermal Night Vision Riflescope
The FLIR ThermoSight R-Series is the most premium level thermal scope on our list and it shows.
Not only is the ThermoSight R-Series compact and easy to get to grips with, but it also has the features and high-quality optics we have come to expect from FLIR systems. In fact, it is up there as one of the best thermal scopes for hunting.
This is also the highest resolution scope in our top 5 list. Add the advanced specifications to the fact the R series optimizes images automatically using FLIR’s own image correction technology, you have a system that brings you unparalleled clarity while out on the night hunt.
User-friendly features such as the simple four-button design and menu interface allow you to get the info you need quickly without jeopardizing your trigger action..
The unit also provides a 16 x magnification level. This works in conjunction with a shock reduction system to bring you the clarity you need.
FLIR has fitted the R series with up to six video palettes, including their own exclusive “InstAlert”
The scope is compatible with a 1913 Mil-Standard Picatinny Rail System and runs for up to 4 hours on the internal battery.
Color Pallets: Black/White/Sepia/Iron/Red/InstAlert
Eye Relief: 3″
Reticles: Duplex, Fine Duplex, German
Reticle Colors: White, Black, Red, Green
Diopter Adjustment: +/-6
Operating Temperature: -4° to 122° F
Storage Temperature: -40° to 140° F
Ingress Protection: IPX7, Submersible 1m for 30 minutes
Weapon Interface: MIL-STD-1913 Picatinny Rails such as the Remington 700,ie, etc.
Battery Life: >4 hours of use
Battery Type: Internal Li-ion
Battery Charging: Standard USB interface with included wall charger
External Battery: Pack Compatible, not included
Display: Active Matrix LCD
Display Resolution: 640×480
User Interface: Simple four button interface
On Screen Symbology: Battery charge, ezoom state
Weapon Compatibility: MSR semi-automatic up to .308 Cal.
Video Out: Yes
Dimensions: 8″ x 3.3″ x 2.9″
Weight: < 1.8 lb
Pros of the FLIR Systems RS64 2-16X Thermal Night Vision Riflescope
Up to 16× magnification with advanced Image Correction
Built in shock reduction system
Extremely user friendly with simple, 4-button operation
Three reticle settings
Up to six video palettes, (FLIR also provide an exclusive “InstAlert”)
Sturdy yet lightweight design
The 4 hr internal battery charge life is a little lacklustre
Currently the highest priced thermal scope in our top 5 review round up
Another reliable thermal scope from FLIR. Fans of the brand will not be disappointed with this R series offering. Very well designed, with top level optics and image processing, this one is very difficult to beat. The price may put off some buyers however.
5. Inteliscope APPLE iPHONE Rifle Mount + Seek Thermal Imaging IR Rifle Scope Bundle
For our final pick in this thermal scope review round up we have selected a bit of a curve ball; it’s a system that turns your phone into a thermal image tool.
The Inteliscope Thermal Scope Bundle is a budget answer to thermal image scope technology. The system actually uses your iPhone as the main display for the thermal sensor.
What does this mean for overall performance quality however?
Well it is certainly better than you might expect.
The Inteliscope PRO+ thermal systems utilize a SEEK CompactXR thermal camera. This is plugged into your iPhone with the downloaded Inteliscope application.
The app then processes the incoming image as well as provide important environmental data and record and playback features.
The Inteliscope App also allows you to switch from day to thermal-night image capture with a simple touch of a button.
Mounting the unit a phone to your rifle is easily done. The lightweight aluminum rig is durable with a rubberized tactile finish.
Heavy-duty mounting thumbscrews are used, in a design that is completely compatible with any Picatinny rail.
The phone mount can also hold your iPhone, (even when enclosed in protective cases).
The whole system is built to handle extensive firearm use in varying conditions.
Pros of the Inteliscope Thermal Scope Bundle
An affordable solution that works with the iPhone
Day and thermal-night scope
Inteliscope’s app included
Record video from the firearm POV and aim around corners without head exposure
Stay on the trigger at the same time as being able to access data/info from the app
Strong aluminum construction with a protective rubberized tactile finish
Clearly the quality of the optics and on-board technical features do not match the other scopes in our list. However, this thermal hunting solution comes at a fraction of the cost.
While the Inteliscope Thermal Scope Bundle clearly does not have the optic capability or the options of the stand-alone thermal scopes reviewed here, it does represent excellent value for money for those that need a thermal scope but don’t necessarily have a high budget.
Thermal imaging enables the user to see objects in darkness via the heat that it emits.
We’ve all seen modern military based movies, (or even classic sci-fi such as The Predator), to know what this means in relation to a rifle scope.
The target shows up within the viewfinder due to its body temperature being hotter than its cold, dark surroundings.
In short, it makes night hunting much more productive. Should your prey be out there, you will be able to see it.
How does thermal image technology work?
Thermal imagery technology (like a lot of tech used in the world today) began through military funding and research. The benefits of a thermal rifle scope for the armed forces do not need an explanation.
FLIR is the system that the majority of infrared rifle scopes use.
The lens in the scope directs the incoming infrared light which is then scanned by an infrared detector.
A thermogram is created in what appears to the user to be real-time, (the lag is undetectable to the human eye) and is projected into the viewfinder display of the scope.
The real benefit of the technology is that the user is able to determine the position of the target in relation to its surroundings. Adverse weather conditions to not impact the performance of the scope either.
What to look for when buying a thermal rifle scope
While most scopes come in 30 or 60 hertz, the lower end scopes will make the image seem jittery as you hone in on your target.
For that reason, we recommend that you opt for a refresh rate of over 30 hertz if you can.
Color or Monochrome
Both color and monochrome thermal scopes work well; this one generally comes down to personal preference as well as budget, (color scopes are often more expensive to buy).
Whereas the color option will display object heat variations through color, black and white displays will simply represent these differences via monochromatic graduation. In other words, warm objects will simply be brighter on the grayscale when using a monochrome thermal rifle scope.
Both systems enable the user to differentiate the target from the background. Which you go for really is entirely up to you.