In the past, owning a night vision scope was close to impossible for civilians. Today however, things are so much different when it comes to getting your hands on a telescopic sight that has night vision tech. Night vision scopes have undergone a major improvement in technology and seen a significant drop in prices. Both of these factors have made them accessible to literally anyone. As a result, these night vision devices have become favorite gear for dedicated hunters out there.
While anyone can own one, buying the best night vision scope is not as easy as it sounds. There is a lot of technical jargon that one has to understand in order to make the best purchase. The most important of these technical aspects is scope generation, which is discussed below in greater detail. After that, we will lay out simple features that you should look for when deciding what is the best night vision scope.
Knowing the different generations of night vision is the first step towards understanding the technical aspects of night vision scopes. Night vision is divided into 4 generations each providing a different level of clarity, performance, and light amplification. These generations include:
First generation night vision scopes rely on available light (e.g. moon or starlight) to work. These scopes amplify available light several thousand times over, allowing users to see in the dark. The image produced is usually bright and sharp. Consequently, Gen 1 scopes are fit for low-risk use such as observing wildlife, providing security, or varmint and predator hunting.
More expensive than 1st generation scopes, gen 2 units also use available light to function. They feature a Micro-Chanel Plate (MCP) in their design, which consists of millions of short parallel glass tubes. These tubes work by multiplying the amount of light that passes through them. As a result, Gen 2 scopes are capable of amplifying light many more times than gen 1 devices and therefore, they deliver a brighter and sharper image.
Mostly issued to combat armed troops, gen 3 scope technology further refines that of gen 2 scopes. Generation 3 scopes use a sensitive chemical known as gallium arsenide to improve resolution and clarity. This results in images that are even brighter and sharper than those of Gen 2 scopes.
Generation 4 scopes feature the latest in night vision technology, which involves removal of the ion barrier film that coats the MCP and Gating (preventing light reflection from whiting out the scope) of the system. This technology has been shown to improve performance and clarity of scope by up to 20%. As a result, Gen 4 scopes are the best in terms of performance and, rightly so, the most expensive ones.
What to Look for in a Night Vision Scope
The generation of night vision technology in use usually gives you an idea of what to expect from a scope. Generally, the higher the generation, the better the clarity, performance, and light amplification power of a night vision scope. However, a scope can perform differently than another one within its generation. This is because there are several other factors that come into play to determine the quality of a scope. For this reason, you should pay close attention to the individual features of a scope before making a purchase. In a nutshell, the most important qualities to look for include:
When it comes to buying a night vision scope, image quality is one of the most important factors to consider. After all, without clear imaging, you will not be able to see your target let alone make a good shot.
The clarity of a night vision scope is given in resolution, which is measured by lines per millimeter (LP/MM). Basically, the higher the resolution of a scope, the greater the clarity will be. For example, a resolution of 64-72 lp/mm delivers outstanding clarity.
Since most shots are made from a distance with the target unaware of your presence, you will want a scope with a good range. In the case of night vision scopes, range is given in two measurements; magnification range (given as 1x, 2x, and so on) and recognition range (measured in yards).
The best night vision scopes usually feature low magnification and high recognition range. Low magnification allows for the capture or more light, which in turn leads to better view of far off targets.
#3: Infrared Illuminators (IRI)
“Night vision scopes have undergone
a major improvement in technology
and seen a significant drop in prices.”
Infrared illuminators are highly useful to have in a night vision scope, especially if you will be hunting in very low light conditions (i.e. early morning, cloudy, moonless, or starless nights). IRIs throw out a beam of infrared light that is near invisible to the naked eye. This light allows users to see in poor lighting conditions even when hunting grounds are engulfed in total darkness.
When it comes to IRIs, it is advisable to go for scopes that come with an infrared night vision scope attachment instead of the units that feature built-in infrared illuminators. An IRI attachment is more practical because you can use it when necessary and fall back on natural night light when it’s available.
If you will be hunting from a designated area without moving, a heavy scope will do the job. However, if you will be moving a lot, engaging in brush hunting, or want to make off-hand shots, you may want a lighter optic. A scope with lightweight design will be easier to carry, transport, and aim.
Night vision scopes cost anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars. The last thing you want is to spend that much money only to end up with a low quality scope. So, make sure to check on the durability of a scope. Manufacturers tend to describe scope materials with terms such as shockproof, water resistant, scratch resistant or fog/dust-proof. Such specifications can give you an idea of the scope’s durability.
Our Pick for Best Night Vision Scope
Whether you will be hunting in open fields, dense forests, bright nights, or in near total darkness conditions, you will want a good quality night vision scope as your hunting companion. The best night vision scope is one that offers the above-mentioned qualities. An example of such a scope is the digital Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42S Riflescope. It offers those qualities plus so much more. Read on to find out about the good and bad aspects of this scope.
Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42S Riflescope Review
Designed for precision hunting at medium range, this Sightmark Photon riflescope is extremely versatile. It has everything you would want in a night vision scope. The scope combines a recognition range of 120 yards, 4.6x magnification, and an amazing resolution of 640 x 480, to give you the best in image quality as far as clarity is concerned.
To ensure stress-free hunting, this riflescope offers a digitized target turret system, an infrared illuminator that can be turned on & off at will, 33% longer battery life, and 30% lighter weight than other scopes. What’s more, with this scope you also get:
- 6 digital reticle options in white, green and red, which allow for a wide range of uses including night and day hunting
- 2 duplex reticles that allow for both hog and varmint hunting
- 2 crossbow reticles designed for 400, 370, 350, and 320 fps (feet per second)
This combination of features has seen the Sightmark Photon XT become an instant favorite among users most of whom swear that the scope will surpass anyone’s expectations. The pros and cons of the riflescope as listed by users include:
- Works in both day and night settings
- The unit powers up in seconds
- It has great recoil
- Lightweight design allows for easy portability
- Scope allows attachment of addition accessories
- You can hunt unnoticed with this night vision scope
- The scope’s settings are a little tricky to master
- It is also a little pricey – however, it is not the most expensive scope
Conclusion About the Photon
As you can see, the Sightmark Photon riflescope has all the qualities of a great night vision scope. It allows you to hunt from a distance, has an infrared illuminator that is quite useful during those dark nights, and best of all it delivers crisp and detailed views despite having a high magnification.
So, if you are currently in the market for a night vision scope, the Sightmark Photon XT 4.6x42S offers a good feature set that is worth considering or using as your base for comparisons with other options.