Even though some people consider thermal scopes to be tools that are only suitable for a small subset of people such as law enforcement or military personnel, the truth of the matter is that just about anyone can benefit from using a thermal scope. Thermal scopes are not just suitable for night use, but they can be used in a variety of different lighting conditions. Because they use temperature for sighting, they can be used to see through brush and can be used both night and day. These scopes are an invaluable tool for anyone who owns a firearm, and it’s for this reason that we decided to check out some of the best thermal scopes available.
Quick Summary of the Best Thermal Scope
- Editor’s Choice: The Optic Guru Thor LT Thermal Scope (Amazon) – Jump to Review
- Also Recommended: ATN Thor 4 Thermal Scope With Full HD-Video Recording (Amazon) – Jump to Review
- Also Consider: ATN Thor LT Thermal Rifle Scope (Amazon) – Jump to Review
Editor’s Choice: The Optic Guru Thor LT Thermal Scope
Anyone searching for the best thermal scope doesn’t have to look any further than The Optic Guru Thor LT. This thermal scope has many of the features that people look for in one of these scopes including 30mm standard rings and 3-inch eye relief. It’s also a lightweight scope that weighs approximately 650 grams, or about 1.4 pounds, and is made of high-quality aluminum. Of course, how it’s made is not as important as how it performs, and it is its performance that really sets this scope apart from other ones we’ve reviewed.
Thanks to its advanced heat detection sensors, this scope is not only capable of seeing in complete darkness but is also capable of seeing through heavy vegetation, smoke, and even fog. It also has two color modes that make sighting a lot easier. It has a white-hot mode for night use and a black-hot mode for day use. And with a one-shot zero, this scope is easy to get calibrated and ready for the big shot.
Speaking of big shots, another feature that we liked about this scope was that it could be placed on high-caliber weapons without its optics becoming misaligned. In our opinion, the fact that many lesser-quality scopes can be used on higher-caliber weapons is a major defect of these lesser scopes. Fortunately, that’s not a problem with this one.
The last thing that we’d like to speak about this thermal scope is its long battery life. This scope is equipped with an internal Li-Ion battery that allows it to be used for approximately 10 hours, and in some circumstances even longer. Although this scope does cost a little more than other thermal scopes we’ve reviewed, we feel that its bevy of features more than offsets its price point. Overall, we think this is a good lightweight scope that many people will find quite useful on their hunts.What we liked about it
- Has a 10+ hour battery.
- Made of hardened aluminum.
- Is lightweight.
- Has two color modes.
Also Recommended: ATN Thor 4 Thermal Scope With Full HD-Video Recording
One of the high-end models that we ended up liking was the ATN Thor 4 Thermal Scope. This is a model that appeared to have everything but the kitchen sink installed in it, so we were very eager to see what features it actually had and what it could do in the field. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed in the product, although we do have to say that its price might be prohibitive to some people.
This scope is powered by an Obsidian IV Dual-Core that provides improved contrasts, higher thermal sensitivity, and better resolution. It also features a near-silent shutter and is very easy to learn how to use. We did notice that it was a bit on the heavy side, but that’s not surprising considering that it has many features packed into it.
This model comes with a long eye-relief and standard mounting rings. It also comes with an ATN quick detach mount that allows it to be moved from platform to platform without the user losing their zero setting. It also comes with an ABL laser-range finder and an X-Trac Remote that provides the user with access to various features such as the Rangefinder and Ballistic Calculator.
If it seems like we’re breezing through this review, it’s because we are. We kind of have to because there are so many features packed into it. So, we’ll run down some of the basics really quickly. It has a Gen 4 Sensor that has a resolution of 384×288 @ 60 Hz and 640×480 @60 Hz. It also has various magnification levels that include 384 up to 28x, and 640 up to 10x. It also features a 1280×720 HD display, 90mm eye-relief, and can record video at 1280×960 @ 60 fps. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this model. It has a lot of other features that include Wi-Fi streaming, Bluetooth, a Smart Range Finder, Recoil Activated Video (RAV), Smooth Zoom, and a lot, lot more.What we liked about it
- Has a Smart Range Finder, Ballistic Calculator, and RAV.
- Has a nice range.
- Easy to set up and use.
Also Consider: ATN Thor LT Thermal Rifle Scope
The ATN Thor LT is a thermal scope that doesn’t have all of the features that many of the high-end scopes have, but that might be a benefit to those people who are looking for a functional scope but don’t need all of the gizmos. This scope is capable of producing a resolution of 320×240 pixels and has a thermal sensor of 60 Hz. This allows the scope to pick up the heat signatures of animals through foliage, snow, and fog. And it doesn’t require any light at all to do so.
This model is also equipped with 30mm rings and has a fitting that allows the scope to be moved between different platforms without losing its zero. And speaking of zero, it needs to be mentioned that this scope has a one-shot zero that only requires the shooter to move their reticle to their first point of impact. That makes sighting with this thermal scope extremely easy to do.
It also needs to be mentioned that because this scope isn’t equipped with all of the bells and whistles that higher-end models have, it doesn’t weigh as much as those other models. This scope only weighs about 650 grams or about 1.4 pounds. Anyone who has had to hold a position for a long time knows the difference that a low-weight scope can have on the shooter’s performance.
Another thing that we liked about this scope is that it doesn’t consume a lot of power. That allows the batteries to last at least 10 hours if not longer. And that’s with continuous use. That too can make a difference when a person is in the field for long periods of time.
Now, let’s take a look at this model’s specs. It has a magnification of up to 10x and it has a micro-display of 1280×720. This scope is equipped with an ATN Obsidian Core LT. Other features found on this model include a 90mm eye relief, a 3dDAccelerometer, white-hot and black-hot color modes, multiple reticle patterns, and a 30mm standard ring mount. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks to this model is that the standard rings have to be purchased separately. What we liked about it
- This model has a one-shot zero.
- This model is extremely lightweight.
- This model has a battery that lasts 10+ hours.
How To Choose The Best Thermal Rifle Scope
Technology is one of the things that differentiates human beings from animals, so it’s only natural that we would use technology to give ourselves an edge while hunting. And thermal scopes allow us to do just that. These scopes take away animals’ ability to hide at night or behind covers such as vegetation, smoke, or fog. That gives the hunter the advantage they need to take the shot and bag the game. Of course, before the thermal scope can be used, the hunter first has to secure the best one available.
Finding the best thermal scope isn’t as easy as it should be, however. There are a number of things that a person has to consider to make sure that they’re getting a tool that will not only get the job done but is also easy to mount and easy to use. That’s why we’ve decided to write a short guide on the subject of buying a thermal rifle scope that we hope will help people purchase the best thermal rifle scope that they can buy.
How Does A Thermal Scope Work?
Before we can discuss what to look for in a thermal scope, we first have to learn a little bit more about how these scopes work and the best way to do that is to talk about them in comparison to night vision systems. Night vision systems work by taking all available light, no matter how faint, and concentrating it so that the user can see better. Thermal scopes work by picking up the heat signature of the target, and this allows them to work in a variety of different conditions. That makes thermal scopes more effective, especially when using them during snowfall, in fog, or through the brush.
What To Look For In A Thermal Scope
Okay, now that we understand the difference between a night vision scope and a thermal scope, it’s time to turn our attention to some of the features that we should be looking for when searching for a new thermal scope. We think the following points are the basic features that the consumer should consider when looking for a thermal scope.
Magnification is one of those features that a person really needs to consider when looking at new thermal scopes. Most models have a 5x magnification level, but some boost that capability up to 8x magnification thanks to digital processing. Using current technology, that is probably the maximum the user can expect from a thermal scope. Consumers should be wary of scopes that boast a 15x to 20x magnification level because those levels are usually delivered by significantly lowering the quality of the final image.
Scope Detection Range
Another thing that a person needs to consider is the scope’s detection range. High-quality models usually have a range of up to 4,000 yards, but this kind of range comes at a higher cost. Entry-level scopes, on the other hand, usually limit detection range to about 1,000 yards or less. This means that the consumer is going to have to balance cost with the scope’s detection range.
Battery-Life is also extremely important. After all, a thermal scope isn’t going to do a person much good if their battery runs down before they have a chance to use it. That’s why people should look for a thermal scope that has at least an 8-hour charge, although a 10+-hour charge is even better.
Scope & Sensor Resolution
One of the most important things to consider when purchasing a thermal scope is the scope’s sensor resolution. Although thermal resolutions will never be as good as other scopes, the consumer should still choose one with the best resolution that they can afford.
The Scope’s Warranty
It’s also important for consumers to think about the warranty that comes with the scope. High-quality scopes will come with at least 2-year warranties, and some come with 5-year or longer warranties. Of course, the consumer might have to shop around to find one with a good warranty.
Number Of Color Modes
It’s also important for consumers to think about the number of color modes that the thermal scope contains. A scope with white-black and black-white color modes allows the consumer to use the thermal scope not only in total-darkness conditions but also in daylight conditions as well.
The reticle pattern is also an important consideration. Some thermal scopes use a four-line reticle, while others feature only a single dot. Single-dot reticles allow for pinpoint accuracy but a four-line reticle is more useful for hunting. Of course, whether a person prefers one over the other is a matter of personal taste, so the consumer should choose the one that suits them the best.
We think the above points are all of the ones that people need to consider when choosing a thermal scope. If a person considers these points and does their due diligence, then they should have no problem finding the best thermal scope for their needs.