Advancements in technology have made it possible to include cutting-edge devices in your hunting and shooting arsenal. One such tool that can significantly improve your results is the thermal scope.
The best thermal scopes offer you the flexibility to use them in nearly all light conditions since they use temperatures instead of light. Our best overall pick is the ATN ThOR 4 Thermal Rifle Scope. This model offers impressive thermal performance with many high-tech features at a reasonable price point.
After researching several models, this narrows the choices down to the 10 best thermal scopes to nudge you in the right direction.
- The Top 10 Best Thermal Scopes Compared
- 10 Best Thermal Scopes Reviews in 2021
- 1- ATN ThOR 4 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope – Best Overall
- 2- Pulsar Thermion XP50 – Best for Long Distance
- 3- IR Defense IR Hunter Mark II 640 – Best for Hog Hunting
- 4- Trijicon Teo Snipe-IR – Best Clip-on Thermal Scope
- 5- Armasight Zeus 640 – Best Over $5000
- 6- ATN ThOR-HD 640 – Best Under $5000
- 7- ATN ThOR LT – Best Under $2000
- 8- Pulsar Trail XP38 – Best for Coyote Hunting
- 9- ATN ThOR HD 384 – Best for Deer Hunting
- 10- Trijicon Teo Reap-IR – Best Military Scope
- What is a Thermal Scope?
- How Thermal Imaging Works
- Thermal Scope vs. Night Vision Scope
- How to Choose the Right Thermal Scope (Buying Guide)
- Hunting with Thermal Scope
- Best Thermal Scope Brands
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Top 10 Best Thermal Scopes Compared
|Product||Sensor Resolution / Detection Range||Magnification / Refresh Rate||Best for||More information|
|ATN ThOR 4 4-40x, 640x480, Thermal Rifle Scope...||640 x 480 / 3,300||4x-40x / 60Hz||Best overall||See on Amazon|
|Pulsar Thermion XP50 1.9-15x42 Thermal Riflescope||640 x 480 / 2,000||2x-16x / 50Hz||Best Long Distance Thermal Scope||See on Amazon|
|IR Defense IR Hunter Mark II 640 60hz 35mm Thermal...||640 x 480 / 1,350||1.5x Optical, 8x Digital / 60Hz||Best for Hog Hunting||See on Amazon|
|Trijicon Teo Snipe-IR Thermal CL Teo IRCO-35...||640 x 480 / 1,800||2.5x Optical, 8x Digital / 60Hz||Best Clip-on Thermal Scope||See on Amazon|
|Armasight Zeus 640 2-16x42 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging...||640 x 512||1.5x-1.8x / 30Hz||Best Over $5000||See on Amazon|
|ATN ThOR-HD 640 5-50x, 640x480, 100 mm, Thermal...||640 x 480 / 1,500||5x-50x / 50Hz||Best Under $5000||See on Amazon|
|theOpticGuru Thor LT Thermal Rifle Scope w/10+hrs...||160 x 120 / 475||3x-6x / 60Hz||Best for Under $2000||See on Amazon|
|Pulsar Trail XP50 1.6-12.8x42 Thermal Riflescope||640 x 480 / 1,350||1.2x-9.6x / 50Hz||Best for Coyote Hunting||See on Amazon|
|ATN ThOR-HD 384 1.25-5x, 384x288, 19 mm, Thermal...||384 x 288 / 625||1.25x-5x / 30Hz||Best for Deer Hunting||See on Amazon|
|Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Therma Teo IRMS-35...||640 x 480||2.5x, 8x Digital Zoom / 30Hz/60Hz||Best Military Scope||See on Amazon|
10 Best Thermal Scopes Reviews in 2021
1- ATN ThOR 4 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope – Best Overall
The ThOR 4 wears the look of any traditional riflescope, but when it comes to thermal performance, high-tech features, and smart options, this model is ahead of the pack.
ATN equipped this device with a dual-core processor that minimizes pixelation and improves heat sensitivity. In simple words, this piece of equipment delivers high-resolution images with razor-sharp clarity.
The device can read humidity, angles, and other variables before computing your point of aim using its built-in ballistic calculator.
Besides its video recording capabilities, it also offers Wi-Fi streaming and comes with an app for Android and iOS devices.
Tip:- Check the in-depth comparison between ATN Thor 4 and Thor HD here.
2- Pulsar Thermion XP50 – Best for Long Distance
Shooting enthusiasts looking for the best long-distance thermal rifle scope will find everything they want in the Pulsar Thermion XP50.
The device has a detection range of up to 2,000 yards, making it an excellent choice for taking those long-distance shots. Combine that almost unrivaled range with the brand’s patented Image Boost Technology, and it’s easy to see why this equipment is highly sought-after for crisp images.
It is fitted with a 50Hz refresh rate to provide users with smooth aiming, even at extended ranges. Additionally, the Thermion XP50 can record hours of videos and store thousands of photos.
3- IR Defense IR Hunter Mark II 640 – Best for Hog Hunting
If you’re in the market for the best thermal scope for the money, you might want to take a look at the IR Hunter Mark II 640 from IR Defense.
The model comes with top-of-the-line features, including a combination of digital and optical magnifications and a 640 x 840 resolution, which all make for better clarity.
IR Defense equipped this thermal spotting scope with six intelligent reticle options to give you flexibility when aiming at targets, plus an incredibly fast refresh rate of 60Hz.
On top of all that, you can pick up the tiniest objects out up to 1,350 yards, thanks to the device’s impressive detection range.
4- Trijicon Teo Snipe-IR – Best Clip-on Thermal Scope
Constructed from aircraft-grade aluminum, the Snipe-IR is a lightweight clip-on thermal scope that offers an unparallel capability for your day scope.
The model might appear simple, but it packs a lot of thermal functionality, including a high-quality lens, a high refresh rate of 60Hz, and a 640 x 480 resolution, making it arguably the best clip on thermal scope in the market.
Other features that set the model apart include the thumbstick control that offers better intuitive usability than a button and the no-shot zero function that lets you easily zero your scope.
Trijicon engineered this model to function as a handheld thermal device, and it can also work as a standalone weapon sight, offering users versatility.
5- Armasight Zeus 640 – Best Over $5000
The Armasight Zeus 640 is FLIR’s best selling thermal imaging weapon sight in the Zeus series. You can use this model as a handheld thermal imager, but it is primarily designed as a weapon scope.
This thermal scope is packed with a ton of features to improve your hunting and shooting experience, including several color modes and reticle options. Perhaps its most impressive feature is the sensor with 17 microns for ultra-crisp resolutions.
Like many other models, this one can also record videos and has an onboard replay.
6- ATN ThOR-HD 640 – Best Under $5000
Like the ThOR 4, ATN combines high-quality construction, smart functions, and more-than-average thermal performance into the ThOR-HD 640 thermal rifle scope.
This model is built for high performance in adverse conditions, thanks to features such as the ballistic calculator that helps you improve your shot placement by calculating the trajectory of your shot. Plus, you can zoom in for a clearer view without losing the object in your FOV.
The product shines when it comes to extras, including Wi-Fi streaming to any iOS and Android device and a built-in rangefinder that improves target shooting.
7- ATN ThOR LT – Best Under $2000
If you’re on a budget or you simply don’t want to spend too much money, we recommend the ThOR LT model, a good-quality yet affordable thermal scope.
Although it won’t burn a hole in your wallet, this ATN product is by no means a cheap thermal scope. First, it has the advantage of being incredibly lightweight. This is a huge plus as it allows you to balance your weapon easily and makes it bearable to lug your rifle through difficult terrains.
This is not one of the thermal scopes that will run out of juice right in the middle of the action. It is engineered for ultra-low power consumption that lets the battery last up to 10+ hours.
Of course, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles found in high-end models, but when push comes to shove, the ThOR LT delivers impressive results, even in heavy vegetation or pitch darkness.
8- Pulsar Trail XP38 – Best for Coyote Hunting
The Trail XP38 is part of Pulsar’s riflescope series equipped with a cutting-edge 640 x 480 thermal sensor for high-resolution. It comes with variable magnification that retains high image details even in harsh outdoor conditions.
You can track moving targets with its 50Hz refresh rate, and the picture-in-picture mode improves accuracy when images on the reticle area are magnified.
This model can pick up heat signatures out to 1,350 yards, giving you the advantage of tracking games long before they are even close by.
9- ATN ThOR HD 384 – Best for Deer Hunting
If you want a smart thermal scope that won’t break the bank, the ThOR HD 384 is worth considering. This inexpensive option from ATN features Wi-Fi functionality that lets you stream to Android or iOS devices through an app.
Besides smart functions, this model offers excellent thermal detection capability with a 384 x 288 high-resolution sensor for clear visibility even in total darkness or poor weather.
The device is fitted with a top-notch ARM processor that processes heat signatures at an incredibly fast rate and generate images on the screen. ATN made this model easy to use with its user-friendly interface.
With this heat seeking scope, you can get vital data such as relative humidity, altitude, wind direction, and speed to help make informed decisions when you’re out in the field.
10- Trijicon Teo Reap-IR – Best Military Scope
Our last entry is the Teo Reap-IR mini thermal riflescope from Trijicon. This is a light and compact but powerful device that can significantly improve your aim in any light condition.
Folks who’ve served in the US military will be familiar with this military-grade thermal scope with its cutting-edge 12-micron sensor that delivers high-res images.
It comes with a one-of-a-kind Edge Detect mode that minimizes brightness by outlining targets. This function is particularly useful for eliminating night blindness that can occur in environments with lots of targets.
Trijicon packed this piece of shooting equipment with lots of top-notch features, so you should expect to pay a lot of money for this model. But, it meets high military standards and performs as excellently, too.
What is a Thermal Scope?
In simple terms, a thermal scope or thermal imaging scope is a device that improves sighting. It combines an aiming reticle with a thermographic camera into one compact gadget that mounts on different types of weapons and firearms.
Thermal scopes use thermal imaging technology to work in any light condition, giving the user flexibility in various shooting applications.
How Thermal Imaging Works
Everything emits a degree of heat energy. Typically, humans and animals give off a higher amount of heat than their immediate environment. The thermal imaging technology uses these differences in temperature to create patterns to help you see both in the day and nighttimes using a thermal scope.
Let’s skip the nitty-gritty, high-tech details of how thermal imaging works. The simple and most vital thing to understand is that thermal devices read head signatures of objects and convert that into visible images, regardless of the light conditions.
Thermal Scope vs. Night Vision Scope
It is not uncommon for many people to confuse thermal scopes with night vision scopes. Both technologies can help you see in the dark, but don’t work in the same way.
Thermal scopes are not cheap, at least compared to night vision scopes. For this reason, it is essential to understand the difference between the two and be sure that the former is what you need before investing in one.
A thermal imaging scope detects heat or radiation from an object. Usually, the target’s temperature is higher than its environment, making it easier to perceive.
The device does not require visible light to function optimally since it works by reading or sensing radiations. This makes it easier to see targets, even in complete darkness. Additionally, you can better conceal your position during hunting with a thermal rifle scope, and you’ll be able to pick up smaller targets even in deep fog.
However, besides its higher price range, one other major downside of using thermal sight is a lack of precise details. It takes quite a bit of practice to make out exact details from thermal images.
On the other hand, a night vision scope works using ambient light from the environment, including moonlight and starlight. Many modern options feature an infrared illuminator that improves clarity in pitch-dark conditions.
These devices produce highly detailed images compared to thermal scopes, making shots a tad easier at night, even for beginners.
However, as a general rule, a night vision scope is limited to nighttime shooting and do not have the detection capabilities of a thermal scope optic.
The recommendation is to choose a thermal scope if you want good vision in any light condition or if you intend to use the device both during the day and night. It is also an excellent choice for hunting in areas with heavy impediments such as dense bushes.
But if you want a less expensive optic device specifically for night hunting with detailed images, you might want to opt for a night vision scope.
How to Choose the Right Thermal Scope (Buying Guide)
Buying a thermal scope is beyond choosing the first option that pops up. However, it can be a bit daunting to pick just one out of all the models available, especially with so much sophistication and features to choose from.
For this reason, we have created a buyer’s guide that shows you the important considerations and the essential features to look for when choosing a thermal scope for your specific purpose.
If you’re considering a thermal scope device, one of the topmost considerations is the price range. You need to budget up to at least a few thousand dollars to get a good-quality option. Even a cheap thermal scope is not available under $1,000.
The good thing is that you’ll get your money’s worth, especially if you invest in options with lots of performance features.
Image clarity depends greatly on the resolution of your device. Thermal scopes with low resolutions will produce images that are difficult to make out, regardless of the device’s powerful sensor.
The primary idea behind using a thermal scope attachment is to get detailed images during shooting, even in harsh conditions. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to invest in a model with the highest resolution.
Of course, this should be within your budget, but you do not want to sacrifice image resolution for anything if you really want the best results.
The magnification feature enlarges the image size several times when you zoom in on your target. While some thermal scopes offer up to 16 times magnification or even more, other models do not have this functionality. They simply provide a fixed magnification.
If you prefer a model with varied magnification, your options include digital and optical magnification. The former uses software to zoom images and is generally not very clear at the highest enlargement.
Models with optical magnifications use lens adjustments to zoom in on images and are usually clearer, even at maximum magnification level.
The refresh rate refers to the number of times images change per second. This is crucial in ensuring accurate aiming, especially with a moving target.
Refresh rates are measured in hertz (Hz), with 30Hz, 50Hz, and 60Hz being the common measurement in most models.
Models with higher refresh rates offer seamless image transition and less blurriness.
Detection range refers to the extent to which the scope can effectively sense heat signatures from your target.
Each thermal scope attachment model comes with a different detection range, with most standard options offering short detection ranges. For this reason, it is crucial to ensure that your riffle’s effective range significantly surpasses the range of whichever scope you choose to buy.
However, with the improvement in technology, you can find models with very long ranges.
Aiming your target can be more accurate with a reticle – the network of fine lines, crosshairs, dots, or other patterns inside a scope.
Thermal scope attachments come with a variety of reticle options, from sophisticated MIL-Dot configurations to simple crosshairs. The option you pick depends on your shooting pursuits, such as whether you mainly use crossbows, hunt mostly at night, or you prefer tactical shooting.
It is best to choose a reticle option that suits your shooting needs. You can even choose a model without a reticle option, especially if you have excellent aiming. But if you are unsure or you want to have multiple options without buying more than one thermal spotting scope, you can opt for a model that offers several pre-programmed reticles.
However, keep in mind that some models with multiple reticle options are high-end devices and might be more expensive.
Size and Weight
You need to give some thoughts on how you intend to use your device. Do you usually hike several miles lugging your rifle through difficult terrains? Do you have a small firearm or heavy weapon?
The size and weight of a thermal scope can make or mar the entire shooting experience. Consider a lightweight and compact model if you already have a heavy weapon. This will lessen the burden of carrying your rifle over long distances through the wilderness or dense woods. It will also save you the stress of trying to steady your weapon during tricky shots.
Color options vary between models, with some having monochromatic or grayscale in addition to a few color options and others having up to nine color variations.
While images in colors are usually preferable, it is crucial to remember that under certain conditions, these might not be as easy on the eyes as grayscale images, especially when viewing through your scope in complete darkness with lots of moving targets.
Depending on your preferences, you may want to choose a model that offers multiple color options, including monochromatic options, because this gives you the flexibility to switch between color modes as needed.
There are only a few things worse than your battery juice running out in the middle of shooting in a remote area. While bringing additional batteries is a good practice, it is usually better to buy a model that doesn’t require a change of batteries frequently.
A cheap thermal scope might save you a few hundred dollars up front, but the cost of replacing battering over the long run might make cheap options worth it.
It is best to choose a thermal scope with the best battery performance to avoid the frustrations of changing batteries at the most ill-opportune moments and the hassles of finding replacements too frequently.
It makes sense that if you are paying up to a thousand dollars or more for a heat sensor scope, it should have a few extra features that improve its performance.
Consider choosing models that offer additional performance and convenience features such as GPS location, Wi-Fi connectivity for streaming purposes, and digital compasses.
Some models are also fitted with options for recoil activated video recording, ballistic calculators, and laser rangefinders.
The bottom line is to choose a model with excellent resolution, magnification options, and impressive extra features.
Hunting with Thermal Scope
If it is your first time buying a thermal scope, it is crucial to know the ins and outs of the device before hitting the field.
First things first, make sure you learn the regulations guiding the use of these devices and hunting in general. The best way to do that is to check your local laws. We recommend doing this even before buying this piece of expensive equipment. You definitely don’t want to purchase something that you can’t use in your state.
With that out of the way, you should familiarize yourself using these tips.
· Learn to identify the object you see through your device. This is important because thermal signatures viewed through scopes are very different from objects in real life. Take some time to study and get used to the thermal images of your target. Do not take any shots until you are very sure of what you are shooting.
· Even the best thermal scopes do not shot immediately you turn them on. Depending on your model, it can take anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes to warm up and calibrate. Bottom line; give your device some time to get ready for use.
· Remember to always check your zero before you head out to the woods. Although good quality thermal imaging scopes shouldn’t present too many problems, it is possible for your zero to be off in some cases.
Application and Benefits
From tactical shooting to hunting at nights and everything between, thermal scopes are suitable for these purposes.
Although all of the devices in this guide are great choices, certain models yield better results for some applications. For example, you might want to consider the Pulsar Thermion XP50 if you mostly plan on taking long shots. If hog hunting is your thing, then we recommend the IR Hunter Mark II.
The good thing about these hunting and shooting devices is that they can mount on just about any gun that can accommodate a scope. But beyond shotguns, handguns, and rifles, they fit nicely on crossbows, too.
In a nutshell, you will find ample use for a thermal imaging scope whether you are hunting coyotes, deer, hog, or any predator. But if what holds your interest is shooting competition or tactical shooting, thermals scopes are equally up to the task.
If you are still on the fence about investing in a thermal scope, perhaps the following benefits will help you decide whether the device is what you need to up your shooting or hunting pursuits.
See Through Impediments
Thermal scopes make hiding very difficult because they can pick up the slightest change in temperature, see through fogs, smokes, camouflage, and brush. Highly sensitive units can even see through light covers, making evasion tactics almost useless.
Residual Heat Detection
Apart from detecting the exact location of a target, these devices can also sense residual heat. That’s because a thermal hunting scope can pick up traces of heat signatures, even shortly after the object has left the spot.
This is particularly useful for tracing blood from a recently shot animal or in determining if a track is still fresh.
Daytime and Nighttime Flexibility
While night vision scopes are great devices, they have a huge limitation, which is the obvious inability to operate in daylight or in bright light. That drawback does not apply to thermal scopes since they use temperature instead of ambient light.
There is no need to go through the hassles of swapping optics and possibly lose your zero in the process. You can aim and take your shot no matter the time of day.
Best Thermal Scope Brands
Here are some of the top players in the thermal scope industry. These brands have long established themselves as trusted names and are constantly working to improve their products with the latest technology.
Forward-Looking Infrared (FLIR)
FLIR is one of the pioneers in the industry, arriving on the scene way back in 1978. The brand represents high quality when it comes to thermal scopes. Little wonder its product abound in several law enforcement applications, including the military.
One of the reasons this brand stands tall among others is because at the core of every thermal scope on the market is FLIR’s technology. Of course, each manufacturer tweaks and adds a few other gadgets, but this brand’s signature detector is included in all the designs.
Apart from thermal scopes, FLIR manufactures top-of-the-line night vision scopes, riflescopes, video analytics, diagnostic tools, and other thermal imaging applications.
American Technologies Network (ATN)
Established in 1995, ATN has since established itself as one of the best brands as far as smart optics goes. Its devices come as the most advanced options, with lots of unique extra performance features. This explains why its products are some of the most highly-sought-after models in the market.
ATN optics are engineered to pair with the brand’s other technology for the best long-range shooting. The manufacture also runs a full line of other products for the military, hunter, and outdoorsman, including rangefinders, night vision optics, and more.
Pulsar came into existence in 1991 when a handful of daring engineers decided to venture into wooden spotting scopes. Fast forward a few years later, and the brand is now a leading name and one of the favorites for hunters and outdoorsmen.
If hunting coyotes, hogs, and deer is your thing, you’ll find dependable optics from Pulsar. The brand might not be famous in the military circle, but it has a reputation for producing excellent and affordable thermal scopes for hunting.
Trijicon is another popular brand among the shooting and hunting coming known for manufacturing highly durable thermal optics.
Although it currently boasts of only four thermal scope models, you will not likely see a cheap product from this brand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use thermal scopes in daylight?
Can I mount a thermal scope on any gun?
How effective are thermal scopes for long-range shooting?
Can thermal scopes see through walls?
These devices can see through thick smoke, fog, snow, and several other harsh weather and environmental conditions. They can even see through curtains or other thin barriers as longs as they can detect the heat signatures behind those barriers. But they cannot see through thick walls.
How much does a thermal scope cost?
What’s the best thermal scope?
While different thermal scopes will meet the needs of different people, we recommend the ATN ThOR 4 Thermal Rifle Scope for its impressive thermal performance and excellent smart features.
It is one of the models that meet nearly all the buying considerations listed in this guide, and it comes at a reasonable price. Hunting or shooting at any time of the day is likely to produce more accurate results with this device.
But if you prefer something on the higher end of the price spectrum, you might want to consider Trijicon’s Snipe-IR, which is one of the most expensive models on the market.