Scopes

Best Thermal Scope For Shooters & Hunters | FAQs & Buying Guide

When it comes to shooting or hunting at night, no ordinary scope will cut it. Apart from seeing the invisible with heat signatures and optical clarity, you need a reliable thermal imaging scope. One that won’t let you down when aiming at that coyote or hog. Therefore, we went out and tested various thermal scopes to find the best thermal imaging scopes for you, the hunter and night shooter. After testing them all I determined that the Pulsar Thermion was the best option. Enjoy the article!


List Of The Best Thermal Scopes

After performing our extensive hands-on reviews, here is our list of the best thermal scopes.

  1. Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF PRO – Best Overall Thermal Scope
  2. Zeiss DTI 3/35 – Best Premium Scope
  3. Trijicon IR-Hunter 35mm – Most Durable
  4. Burris BTS50 Thermal Riflescope – Most Budget Friendly
  5. Sightmark Wraith 4k Mini – Beginner Friendly
HunterHalt: #1 Pick
 
 
Primary Rating:
5.0
Primary Rating:
4.5
Primary Rating:
4.5
Pros:
  • Premium Build Quality
  • Multiple Reticle Options
  • Great Scope Durability
Pros:
  • Built To Last
  • Great For Scoping Targets
  • Pairs Perfect With Daytime Scope
Pros:
  • Rugged Design That Works In All Conditions
  • Great Image Quality
  • Convenient Top-loading Battery Compartment
HunterHalt: #1 Pick
Primary Rating:
5.0
Pros:
  • Premium Build Quality
  • Multiple Reticle Options
  • Great Scope Durability
Primary Rating:
4.5
Pros:
  • Built To Last
  • Great For Scoping Targets
  • Pairs Perfect With Daytime Scope
Primary Rating:
4.5
Pros:
  • Rugged Design That Works In All Conditions
  • Great Image Quality
  • Convenient Top-loading Battery Compartment
Lasso Brag

1) Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF PRO

HunterHalt: #1 Pick
Pulsar 2-16x Thermion 2 LRF XP50 Pro Thermal Imaging
5.0
Pros:
  • Premium Build Quality
  • Multiple Reticle Options
  • Great Scope Durability
Cons:
  • Lower Battery Life
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Pulsar is widely known in the advanced imaging scope sector – they make quality scopes that won’t break the bank. The Thermion is no different. This thermal scope incorporates some of the latest thermal imaging technology, allowing you to perform optimally at night.

With its 3 – 12x magnification range, 382×288 pixel sensor resolution, and 1024×768 pixel display, you can easily spot targets up to 2,000 yards. In my experience, this is one of the Best AR-15 Night Vision scope on the market!

The Thermion uses a lithium-ion battery and you can expect a battery life of 10 hours – just enough to survive the night. If your battery dies, then no worries – simply recharge it using a USB-C cable.

What I really like about the Thermion 2 is its convenience. It has multiple reticle options and weapon profiles, meaning it can be used on multiple weapons without needing to re-zero your scope.

We all know how expensive ammo is. Luckily, the Thermion 2 has a Freeze Zeroing function – allowing you to adjust without holding the rifle at the initial aimpoint. Did I mention this thermal rifle scope has video recording and streaming capabilities?

The scope’s durability is really in the average range – nothing special about it.

My Experience With Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF PRO

I’ve tested a lot of thermal optics – some bring the night to life, whilst others I wouldn’t even think to classify as a thermal optic. But, the Thermion’s crisp view, immaculate range, plus its ease of operation make it the best thermal scope I have tested.

I love using the Thermion on my .223 Remington for hog hunting. I even think my kill rate is the highest using this thermal weapon sight.

 


2) Zeiss DTI 3/35

Zeiss DTI 3/35 Thermal Imaging
4.5
Pros:
  • Built To Last
  • Great For Scoping Targets
  • Pairs Perfect With Daytime Scope
Cons:
  • Premium Pricing
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Besides microscopes and exceptional binoculars, Zeiss also makes some pretty good thermal cameras. Note that this is not a thermal imaging rifle scope but a camera you use to scope targets. The DTI has a 1280×960 pixel resolution and a detection range of up to 1,350 yards, thanks to its 2.5x magnification.

The DTI is also incredibly durable, thanks to Zeiss’s hydrophobic coatings. The battery life is rated to last up to 7 hours, but I usually get around 5 hours out of my Zeiss. The Zeiss also allows you to stream via Bluetooth, which is quite a nice feature if you want some help locating game or varmint. Many hunters like myself use it for deer hunting with a thermal scope!

One thing I appreciate about the Zeiss is its lightweight design – it weighs 20 ounces less than the Pulsar, making it ideal as a carry-on thermal imaging spotting scope.

My Experience With Zeiss DTI 3/35

I regularly use my Zeiss in conjunction with my daytime scope for spotting hogs in heavily brushed areas like grain fields. You know how camouflaged hogs can be; well, the Zeiss eliminates that barrier.

So, if you are considering buying a camera instead of rifle-mounted thermal scopes, go for the Zeiss.

 


3) Trijicon IR-Hunter 35mm

Trijicon IR-HUNTER Type 2 1.75-14x35mm Thermal Rifle Scope
4.5
Pros:
  • Rugged Design That Works In All Conditions
  • Great Image Quality
  • Convenient Top-loading Battery Compartment
Cons:
  • There Are Cheaper Options
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Trijicon is one of my favorite companies for red dot sights – I love their RMR. But I was surprised to hear that they also make some pretty robust and powerful thermal scopes. The IR-Hunter uses a 640×480 pixel sensor resolution and a 1.75x magnification to help you detect heat signatures at significant distances.

The IR-Hunter weighs 29 ounces, making it ideal for those concerned about the scope’s weight compromising the maneuverability of the rifle.

Image of a Trijicon Thermal Scope on AR-15

The feature I want to highlight is the reticle options. The IR-Hunter comes pre-loaded with the classic crosshair, 300 BLK BDC, MRAD, MOA, .223 REM, and .308 Win. This allows you to toggle between the reticle options to find the one that best suits you, or to match your ballistics, depending on the caliber you are using. I also found it to be one of the Best Coyote Hunting Night Vision Scopes that I’ve used.

My Experience With Trijicon IR-Hunter 35mm

I haven’t used the Hunter much, but the times I did use it were for hog hunting. The IR-Hunter provided me with a crisp viewing experience. I was especially impressed by the fast target acquisition rate I could achieve with it. Overall, a great and highly versatile thermal scope.

If you are not concerned about a budget, then the IR-Hunter is definitely one thermal scope to consider!

 


4) Burris BTS50 Thermal Riflescope

Burris BTS 35 2.3 - 9.2x35mm Thermal Rifle Scope
4.0
Pros:
  • Most Budget Friendly Option
  • Multiple Color Pallets and Reticle Options
  • Built In Range Finder
Cons:
  • Smaller Objective Lens
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The Burris BTS50 is our most affordable thermal scope on this list. In fact, I found it to be the Best Budget Night Vision Scopes that I’ve ever tested. This doesn’t mean that its performance is lacking. The BTS50 is packed with features. Some worth mentioning include 7 color palettes and 10 reticle options – allowing you to experiment to see what combination works best in your environment and situation.

The BTS50 also has a built-in stadiametric rangefinder to help you gauge distances and ensure accurate shot placement. It also has a resolution of 400×300 pixels.

You can use the Burris for 3-5 hours before the battery dies. Mine lasts about 3.5 hours on average. The scope comes with a 2.3 – 9.2x magnification range, and you have an additional zoom range of 2x-4x.

My Experience With Burris BTS50 Thermal Riflescope

The Burris is one of the first thermal scopes I used because it is a relatively cheap thermal scope. I love the number of options you get regarding color x reticle combinations. But I had difficulty scoping out targets because of the smaller objective lens (35 mm) and low resolution.

Nonetheless, I would recommend this scope as an introductory thermal scope. It’s affordable and has some amazing features to help make your job as the shooter easier.

 


5) Sightmark Wraith 4k Mini

SightMark Wraith 4K 1x Monocular
3.5
Pros:
  • Great Value For Your Money
  • Solid Performance In Low Ambient Light Conditions
  • Video Recording Capabilities
Cons:
  • Very Short Battery Life
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Although the Wraith is a night vision scope, it can still help you make ethical kills at low ambient light conditions. Plus, it costs a fraction of what the thermal scopes do.

The Wraith comes with a 4K CMOS sensor – allowing you to spot targets up to 300 yards away at night. You can also record your footage on an SD card.

The Wraith boasts a 8x digital zoom with two color palettes (green and black & white). This night vision scope also has a daytime color mode – making it a highly versatile scope. It also has an incredible 14 reticle options with 9 colors and 5 weapon profile saves.

It’s incredibly lightweight (21 ounces) and highly durable, making it ideal for people who tend to push their scopes to the extreme – like me!

One thing I don’t like about the Wraith is its short battery life – it only lasts 2 hours before you need to replace it.

My Experience With Sightmark Wraith 4k Mini

I have enjoyed many nighttime hunting expeditions using my Wraith 4K. The Wraith is actually one of the first scopes I used for hunting at night. If you want to start shooting at night and want something much cheaper than a thermal scope, then the Wraith might be for you!

 


Buyers Guide

How We Rate Thermal Scopes

As with all the scopes we test, we rate thermal scopes based on value, functionality, reliability, and practicality. We compiled a list of guidelines we follow to construct a final rating. You should also know the difference between thermal vs infrared scopes! These guidelines include:

  • Features – What features does the thermal scope have to increase its functionality and value? We like to see things like multiple reticle and color palette options, enhanced zooming, beefed-up durability, streaming and recording features, and weapon profile saves.
  • Price – Is the scope priced competitively with the rest of the market? What features does the scope have to justify its price? Does the scope at least have a warranty?
  • Battery Life – We want a thermal scope to last at least 5 hours. Anything less than that we see as impractical. We also want the thermal scope to have a side or top-loading battery compartment – to boost functionality and user-friendliness.
  • Durability – The thermal scope should have a high level of durability and be built with quality. If you are going to pay a few thousand dollars for a scope, you want it to at least feel durable and of high quality.

Pros & Cons Of Using A Thermal Scope

 

PROS

  • Detection and use in low or no-light conditions – A thermal scope uses heat radiation to detect targets. Therefore, it can be used in scenarios with no light.
  • It can also be used in thick brush and can see through smoke and fog.
  • Unlike normal rifle scopes or even night vision scopes, it doesn’t need an external light to function.
  • Remain undetected – you can use a thermal scope without being detected or disturbing the animal’s natural behaviors.

Cons

  • Expensive – Thermal scopes are the most expensive class of scopes you get. You can consider getting a thermal monocular for hunting if you want a cheaper option.
  • Resolution – Thermal scopes don’t have a high-quality resolution
  • Weight – Thermal scopes are quite heavy.
  • Dependence on temperature – If your target and its surroundings’ heat signature are similar, it can be difficult to differentiate between them.

Use Cases For Thermal Scopes

Here are some of the most popular use cases for thermal scopes!

  • Hunting and varminting
  • Observation of animals
  • Conservation of animals and wildlife management
  • Search and rescue
  • Firefighting and detecting hotspots
  • Border patrol and security
  • Law and Military applications

Frequently Asked Questions

What thermal scopes do Navy Seals use?

Navy Seals use FLIR, Trijicon and L3Harris as their go-to thermal scopes.

Which thermal scope has the best image quality?

Based on testing, we concluded that the Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF has the best image quality.

Which is better thermal or night vision?

Night vision scopes are the best for use in situations where heat signatures are difficult to detect, such as rain. However, when it comes to detection, thermal scopes are the best.

Do snakes show up on thermal?

Even though snakes are cold-blooded, they do show up on thermal scopes because they emit heat in the form of infrared radiation.

Which Thermal Brand Is Best?

Although each thermal brand will be best for different individuals, we found that Pulsar, Trijicon, Zeiss, and Burris are the best thermal brands.

The Bottom Line

There are many thermal scopes on the market. Each has its own unique features, advantages, and disadvantages. Buying one of these scopes is incredibly expensive. Therefore, the one you are buying must match your use case and applications. We concluded that the Thermion is the best thermal rifle scope and the Zeiss the best thermal camera – both of which won’t break the bank. If you want to learn more about the differences between a thermal and night vision scope, you can do so here.

HunterHalt: #1 Pick
Pulsar 2-16x Thermion 2 LRF XP50 Pro Thermal Imaging
5.0
Pros:
  • Premium Build Quality
  • Multiple Reticle Options
  • Great Scope Durability
Cons:
  • Lower Battery Life
Shop on OpticsPlanet Shop on Amazon
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting us - we really appreciate it!

About the author

Charles Neser

I'm a life long hunter & gun lover. Currently pursuing my Master's Degree (M.Sc.) in Animal Nutrition at University of the Free State.

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