If you’re looking for a list of the 5 best night vision scopes for AR 15, then you’ve come to the right place. There are thousands of different options on the market, and I’ve taken the liberty of narrowing down the list to quality optics for each price range. In this article we’ll review both thermal and more traditional image intensification tube options. We’ll also discuss the pro’s and con’s of using both. Let’s get to the article.
Night vision optics are one of the most confusing topics for many shooting enthusiasts, and professional shooters as well. There are two primary types of night vision devices. The first is a traditional image intensification tube, and the other is a thermal optic.
Image intensifier tubes take the available ambient light and amplify it to levels that are visible to your eye. This means there must be some low level of available light to see. If there isn’t, you need to use an infrared light to illuminate your target.
Thermal optics do not need any ambient light, as they read minute differences in heat that all objects radiate. It’s then converted into an image by the optic. This has the added benefit of allowing you to see through brush, dust, and other obscurants.
Each of these optics has their uses. We’ll discuss some of those a little further on. Before we get there, here is a quick list of the 5 best night vision scopes for AR 15.
The 5 Best Night Vision Scopes for AR 15
These optics fall within the entry level and upper mid range for night vision scopes. At a minimum, you’ll be spending around $700 for the cheapest option, and around $4500 for the most expensive optic on the list.
Night vision is expensive. You have to spend a lot of coin to get the best performance. However, I’ve tried to select the best value for each type of optic. In some cases you’ll be spending half of what a similarly priced optic from another manufacturer might cost.
Before we get to the full list, let’s review some practical considerations so you don’t end up wasting thousands of dollars on optics you won’t really benefit from. Don’t forget to join the EMAIL list below.
The 5 Best Night Vision Scopes for AR 15: Practical Considerations
The most important factor you need to consider is your intended use for these night vision optics. If you’re a hunter or casual user, you don’t need to drop thousands of dollars to hunt at night. The lowest priced optic on this list will still provide a ton of value.
The second most important factor to consider is if you want to use thermal scopes or traditional image intensification technology (IIT) in your optics. If you plan on using the optic for searching in a wooded environment, then thermal is your best bet. It can still be hard to identify people and other objects under normal night vision.
Lastly, you need to consider the battery life and overall durability of the device. Some optics have relatively short battery lives, which wouldn’t work well if you’re hunting all day. Generally you’ll find that IIT optics have a much longer battery life.
I will highlight some key features for each of the night vision rifle scopes. I recommend following the link for the full list of features. As you’ll see, some of these scopes have a lot of different options.
ATN X-Sight 4K Pro Edition 5-20x70mm Smart HD
The ATN X-Sight 4k Pro 5-20 is a feature packed entry level night vision scope. This scope is a great option for hunters, as it includes features like video recording, slow motion, and one shot zeroing. This is one of two digital night vision scopes on this list. This means that it features a sensor that has great low light performance. Check out the video below.
The optic weighs 2.2 pounds, and is water resistant. Most importantly is has an 18 hour battery life. You can actually purchase a variant of this optic with a built in range finder. This version will auto correct the reticle for whichever distance you range for your target. This is a good feature. Figuring distance at night can be a pain.
You can see from the video that you will need to use the included infrared illuminator to see in complete darkness, or very dark environments. As of this writing you can pick up the X-sight for a little over $716. I think this would work very well for most first time night shooters. If you’re looking for a comparable thermal optic, check out the next section.
ATN OPMOD Exclusive ThOR LT 4-8x50mm
The ATN OPMOD ThOR LT is a great entry level thermal night vision scope with 4-8 x magnification. This thermal has some great features that make it a cut above other entry level thermal optics. When you’re talking about thermal scopes you really need to consider two factors, sensor resolution, and refresh rate.
The digital scope sensor resolution governs how detailed the image is. The ATN ThOR LT gathers at 160×120, which is ok resolution. More importantly, it has a 60 hertz refresh rate. This means that the video image won’t lag, or look like it’s stuttering when you track moving objects, as you need to do during night hunting. Check the video out for more detail.
It weighs 1.4 pounds, and has a battery life of 10 hours. This optic has a lot of good reviews. The few problems that pop up are normally resolved by ATN’s excellent customer service. Given its specs, this scope has an effective range out to several hundred yards.
As of this writing you can purchase the ThOR LT for around $1040. This price point makes it one of the best value thermals on the list. It’s no wonder it’s a popular choice for night hunting. Next we’ll move on to a very high resolution IIT clip on.
Armasight CO-LR Bravo Gen 3 IIT Clip-On Night Vision Scope
The Armasight CO-LR Bravo Gen 3 Clip on scope is a great value clip on optic. Clip on optics are an awesome choice for rifles that you don’t always use at night. The previous two scopes are best used on a dedicated rifle, unless you want to spend a lot of time swapping optics.
This clip on optic mounts in front of your day time optic and coverts it for night use. It works on regular magnified scopes, and red dot sights, provided they have night settings. It features a white phosphor tube, that’s rated at 1400+ figure of merit or FOM.
FOM is a technical way of listing an image intensifier tubes resolution. State of the art optics are 2300+ FOM. As you’ll see in the video, you get a great image with this optic. Note that this is a green tube variant, not the white phosphor tube.
To be perfectly honest I don’t know why Optics Planet is selling this particular variant at this price. The other options have competitive prices around $4300. This clip on is currently on sale for $1900, which is a screaming deal.
If you need something that will allow you to shoot out to 600 yards or so, then this is a great option. Next we’ll talk about a great thermal device for serious users.
AGM Global Vision Rattler TC50-640 Clip On
The AGM Global Vision Rattler TC50 is a great value for hunters or mil / law enforcement tactical users who need a high resolution thermal clip on. If you recall the ThOR LT had a sensor rating for 160×120. This clip on has a sensor resolution of 640×512.
This is a huge improvement in detail, and will allow you to engage targets at 800 yards or more. This is a significant advantage in image quality, and you could easily use this on something other than an AR15, like a bolt gun.
This optic is listed as waterproof, and it weighs a little over a pound. This would make it a great option for those that have to carry it around all day. I can tell you from experience that nothing sucks more than lugging around ton’s of “light weight” gear.
The only real draw back is that it features a 4.5 hour battery life. That sounds short, but you’ll probably find that you would only turn this on for relatively short periods of time. It’s not something that you would be doing surveillance with, unless you hooked it to an external power source, which you can.
As of this writing it goes for $3700, which is very good value for a rugged thermal clip on. If you look around Optics planet, you’ll see that many similar optics go for $12,000 or more. Next we’ll review the highest resolution IIT option on the list.
ATN PS28-3WHPT 1x68mm Clip-on Night Vision
The ATN PS28 is a great value option for an extremely high resolution night vision clip on. This white phosphor tube night vision scope competes with the super high end optics like the PVS 27 or PVS 30 in terms of low light performance.
Traditionally, most users are familiar with the green phosphor image of night vision. In recent years the industry has moved away from green to white phosphor tubes. These are higher resolution, and can display more detail. The video below compares similar tubes to the PS28 in green and white. The optics in the video are not the actually images for the ATN PS 28.
If you recall, the other IIT clip on was around 1400 FOM. This clip on is roughly 2000 FOM, or right under the highest quality optics that are issued to units like Navy SEALs DEVGRU, or Delta. It has a super impressive 50 hour battery life, and weighs 1.85 pounds. It’s listed as water resistant and has a whopping 68 mm lens to collect light.
As you might expect, this optic isn’t cheap, but it’s probably the best value optic you could purchase, with this level of resolution. As of this writing you can pick it up for $4500. The PS 28 would be the best choice for someone who expects to shoot at night frequently. Now let’s finish this article up.
My best advice is to be honest about how often you will be shooting at night. If you’re an avid hunter or tactical user that will use these optics often, then you should go with the more expensive options on the list. You also need to be honest about how much rail space you have on your AR-15 rifles. Each night scope on this list takes up a fair bit of room on your upper picatinny rail.
Moreover, if you need to see through brush, fog, or dust, then a thermal optic is your best choice. Otherwise, I would recommend a decent quality white phosphor tube. As always, the best equipment in the world won’t help unless you learn to use it. Now get out there and get training!
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