Whether you’re a hunter, target shooter, or recreational user, a night vision scope (NVG) is essential to identifying targets in low light settings. Scopes are incredibly complex and can vary in quality depending on the manufacturer.
If you are new to night vision scopes, deciding which one to buy can be overwhelming. They can be expensive, and there are a lot of features to consider.
Luckily, we’ve put together the top best 5 night vision scopes under $500 to make it easier to choose. These scopes combine quality, performance, user experience, and a reasonable budget to become the best.
Please note, before you purchase a night vision scope, check your local laws. Some countries and areas of the United States (California) do not allow NVGs to be mounted on rifles.
Why should I buy a night vision scope?
Maintain Your Position
The only alternative way to see in the dark other than with a NVG is with a bright light.
This will immediately give away your position to others, animal or human. With a night vision scope, you can remain hidden.
Higher Quality Picture
If you buy a night vision scope with high resolution, you will see better quality images so you can recognize what you’re looking at immediately. Many thermal imaging cameras have poor resolution, making it difficult to see the scene accurately.
Because night vision scopes are largely used by the military, many are designed to withstand extreme environments. This includes cold, heat, and impact from rifle recoil.
Read the reviews on each scope before you purchase, so you can be sure which product is best for you.
Top 5 Night Vision Scopes Under $500
|Armasight Orion 5X Gen 1+ Night Vision Rifle Scope|
|Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3x 42mm Gen 1|
|Night Owl Optics NightShot Digital Night Vision Riflescope with IR illuminator|
|Bestguarder 6x50mm HD Digital Night Vision Monocular|
|Bushnell 4.5X40 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision W/Mount|
Night Vision Scopes VS. Thermal Scopes
1. Armasight Orion 5X Gen 1+ Night Vision Rifle Scope – Best Overall
A rubberized aluminum body, shock-protected optics, and water-resistant design make it extremely durable.
The Armasight’s 5x magnification and 30 – 40 LP/MM is great for a Generation 1 scope. This scope has an illuminated red cross reticle with variable brightness, so you can adjust depending on your need. There is also a detachable long-range infrared illuminator for additional light.
The Armasight runs on (1) CR123 battery and has a battery life of 40 hours. There is a low battery life indicator, so you get a heads up.
At 3.7 lbs, this scope may take some getting used to on a rifle, but it will greatly enhance your night vision capabilities in the process. It can mount to almost any weaver-style rail. Plus, there is a limited two-year warranty if needed.
2. Firefield FF16001 NVRS 3x 42mm Gen 1 – Most Compact
This scope has a 42 mm lens for better light gathering and is good up to 75 – 100 yards. The optics are multi-coated and protected by a flip cover to guard against the elements.
The red duplex reticle has various brightness adjustments. The built-in IR illuminator enhances images to make them as clear as possible when shooting at night. This feature is best used in open field areas.
The Firefield has a quick detach weaver mount, so you can attach and detach from a weapon quickly without missing a beat. The field of view is 42 feet at 100 yards, which is great for hunters and security personnel. This is a solid choice for anyone looking for a compact, ergnomic scope that is easy to carry and durable.
It is made of thermoplastic, so it’s not as durable as some of its titanium or aluminum competitors, but it is weatherproof to protect from the elements.
This product has 3x magnification and a 5.6 degree field of view. This scope has a range of 100 – 200 yards and a very high resolution of 640 x 480 to make for crystal clear images.
The most unique feature of this scope is the reticle. There are three reticle types to choose from, each can be viewed in color or black and white. This allows the shooter to choose the best option depending on preference and environment.
At only 1.3 lbs, the NightShot is lightweight enough to be carried or mounted without causing much of a disturbance. It is a quality Generation 1 choice for any shooter looking for maximum reticle adjustment and focus.
4. Bestguarder 6x50mm HD Digital Night Vision Monocular – Best Optics
It is not weapon mountable, so it’s best for hunters or recreational users. It is also great for both day and night use.
This night vision scope has 6x magnification with a 50mm lens, very high quality for this price point.
The Bestguarder has a range of over 300 yards and a field of view of 20.5 feet at 100 yards. The built-in IR illuminator assists in completely dark environments to extend the range.
This scope is powered by 4 (AA) batteries and has a battery life of up to 4 hours. It is water-resistant, tripod mountable, and comes with a portable strap.
It weighs 1.5 pounds, but since it’s a handheld scope and not mounted to a weapon, it just depends on how much you want to carry.
5. Bushnell 4.5X40 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision W/Mount – Most Affordable
It has both image and video capture and tripod mounting capabilities, making it a good choice for hunters and adventurers.
The scope allows up to a 32GB micro-SD card to store high resolution 640 x 480 footage. The screen displays color during the day and black and white at nighttime for ease of visibility.
This scope has 4.5x magnification with a 40mm objective lens. It has a range of up to 750 feet, which is shorter than some of the others in this guide, but such a long range might not be necessary for everyone.
The Bushnell has a built-in IR illuminator. It also has multi-coated lenses and a water resistance rating of IPX4. There is also an accessory rail to attach additional IR illuminators or lasers if need be.
This scope runs on 4 (AA) batteries and weighs just under 1.4 lbs. It is the most affordable option on this list and is a great way to become familiar with night vision scopes if you are new to them.
Things You Should Know Before Buying A Night Vision Scope
There are three generations of night vision scopes that increase in quality and price. Generation 1 is the most simple and affordable.
It’s perfect for the average shooter and hunter. These scopes have a range of about 75 yards, a shorter battery life, life expectancy of about 1,500 hours, and the resolution is lower.
Generation 2 is the next step up. These scopes are more expensive than Generation 1 and are meant for more advanced shooters.
Generation 2 scopes have a range of about 200 yards, a life expectancy of about 4,500 hours, great resolution, and no IR illumination.
Generation 3 scopes are so advanced that the U.S. military uses them on their rifles. They can be very expensive but come with the features to back it up. These scopes have a range of 300+ yards, the best low-light performance, the best resolution, and a life expectancy of over 10,000 hours.
It sounds obvious, but you need to see what you’re looking at clearly in order to take the shot. Night vision scope resolution is measured in lines per millimeter or LP/MM. The clarity increases as LP/MM increases. A high-end scope will have a resolution of 60 to 70 LP/MM.
Just like regular scopes, night vision scopes get heavier with more features and magnification added. Keep this in mind before buying. A heavy scope can throw off the weight and aim of your rifle, making it more difficult to shoot. It can also just be annoying to carry all day.
Infrared Illuminators or IR
Some scopes have an infrared illuminator to give you brighter night vision in extremely dark conditions. This can extremely helpful, but may give away your position in a hunting scenario, so choose wisely.
Night vision scopes can go up to a magnification of 10x. This can be expensive and cause the scope to be heavy. Magnification levels of 3x to 5x are usually adequate for the average shooter and won’t impact the weight significantly.
Field of View
Field of view is how wide you can see at a set distance. It’s an important factor to consider for all shooters, but especially hunters and tactical shooters as you want to be able to see as wide as possible to identify targets.
Optics can usually see for a distance of 100 yards. A field of view of 30 feet means that you can see 30 feet wide at 100 yards. As you increase the magnification, the field of view will decrease.
Night Vision Scope FAQ
How do I pick the right scope?
Choosing the right night vision scope is all about its purpose. Hunting, tactical, and recreational shooters may all want something different.
Choosing the right generation of scope will dramatically change the cost and features available as well.
If you are a beginner or are on a tight budget, Generation 1 scopes will be great for you. If you are shooter longer distances or are looking for higher quality, Generations 2 or 3 will be the best choice.
How does night vision work?
Night vision scopes take whatever ambient light is available in through the lens and converts it into electricity. That electricity is amplified and converted back into light that the user sees through the scope.
How far can night vision scopes see?
This all depends on the quality of the scope and the environment. Generation 1 scopes are not going to see as far as Generations 2 or 3. Additionally, if there is more ambient light available, your scope will see farther than when it is completely dark.
What is an IR Illuminator?
As you read above, many Generation 1 scopes have built-in IR illuminators. They can also be attached or held separately. An IR illuminator emits IR light when there is little to no ambient light for the scope to organically amplify.
Other NVG users and some animals may be able to detect the use of IR illuminators, so be cautious when using one.
Get Ready to Use A Quality Night Vision Scope
There are a variety of night vision scopes to choose from. Depending on your skill level, purpose, and budget, you can easily narrow down your choices.
Whether you are hunting, shooting targets, or bird watching, we hope this guide was helpful in providing some new information about night vision scopes and leading you in the right direction for your purchase.