rifle with thermal scope

Today's hunters and sport shooters have access to better and higher-performance equipment than ever before. From super accurate laser rangefinders to carbon-wrapped barrels, we can now purchase equipment that would have only been available to the military just decades ago. As technology like high-performance optics starts to commingle with today's lightning fast microprocessors, there are also whole new classes of gear that are revolutionizing the consumer marketplace. In this article, we'll go deep on one such technology—the best thermal scopes.

Thermal scopes were once a technology that was reserved strictly for the most elite military snipers. Though heat signatures have been valuable for target acquisition for decades, thermal scopes have been out of reach for the average consumer until the last decade. Today you don't have to be on advanced operations to enjoy the benefits of thermal optics. Hunters and shooters can now get their hands on excellent thermal optics for prices comparable to some premium-grade non-thermal scopes.

With new products and manufacturers hitting the market each year it can be hard to know which are the best thermal scopes for your money and which are cheap knock offs. So we dug deep into some of the best thermal scopes on offer today from the industry's top brands. While you'll almost definitely pay more for a thermal scope than a traditional optic, you may be surprised by how affordable thermal scopes can be.

So if you're ready to tune up a rifle for home defense, predator hunting, and just plain fun on the range, then read on. We'll get you up to speed on everything you need to know about the best thermal scopes available today.

Comparison Table

Product FAQ

1. How Do Thermal Scopes Work?

2. Are Thermal Scopes Legal for Hunters and Sport Shooters?

3. Can You Mount Thermal Scopes on Any Rifle?

4. What Should You Look for in the Best Thermal Scope?

5. Who Should Consider a Thermal Scope?


How We Reviewed

rifle with scope and tripod

Image Source: Unsplash.com

For this review, we considered the best thermal scopes from a range of manufacturers at different price points and quality levels. We broke down the features for each scope and also looked that their prices, availability, warranty, and pros and cons. We also boiled our findings down into one overall pick for the best thermal scope out of the bunch. Though we'd never say this scope is perfect for every hunter, shooter, or serviceman out there, we feel it's a superb combination of price, performance, and overall value.


Overall Price Range

There is a wide range of prices for the best thermal scopes, but they range between around $1,500 and $5,000. Scopes on the lower end of the price spectrum will usually offer lower-quality glass and lower image resolution. High-end thermal rifle scopes offer premium-lenses with high-end coatings and greater image resolution for better down range clarity.


What We Reviewed

  • ATN Thor HD 384 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope
  • Armasight by FLIR Zeus 336 Thermal Rifle Scope
  • Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Therma Scope
  • Pulsar Trail XP Thermal Rifle Scope
  • Armasight by FLIR Zeus 640 Thermal Rifle Scope
  • ATN Thor-HD 640 Thermal Rifle Scope
  • Pulsar Trail XQ Thermal Rifle Scope
  • FLIR R-Series RS32 1.25-5 Rifle Scope
  • Armasight by FLIR Predator 336 Thermal Imaging Scope
  • Flir ThermoSight R-Series RS64 Thermal Night Scope

ATN Thor HD 384 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope

Sale
ATN ThOR-HD 384 1.25-5x, 384x288, 19 mm, Thermal Rifle Scope w/ High...
  • Excellent Image Performance with 384x288 Sensor - it is the ideal night vision scope because it...
  • Ballistic Calculator - the system allows you to calculate the trajectory of your bullet, helping you...
  • Build-in Smart Rangefinder - will make your life easier than ever. Discover how using a rangefinder...

Features

The ATN Thor HD 384 Smart Thermal Riflescope offers an excellent complement of features for the hunters and shooters that need thermal power at a competitive price. This unit features a 384x288 Sensor for powerful resolution and built-in video recording that can be activated through your gun's recoil. With a built-in smart range finder, ballistics calculator and smooth zoom feature the ATN Thor HD 384 could easily sit amongst the best thermal scopes at the lowest price points.

PROS

  • Ballistic calculator
  • Built-in range finder
  • HD video recording
  • Video can be recoil activated

CONS

  • Lower resolution than some comparable scopes

Warranty

ATM covers this scope with a three-year limited warranty.

Armasight by FLIR Zeus 336 Thermal Rifle Scope

Armasight by FLIR Zeus 336 3-12x50mm Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope with...
  • FLIR Thermal Imaging Camera
  • 3-year warranty
  • High Performance Thermal Imaging Camera

Features

The Armasight Zeus 336 3-12x50mm Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope by Flir is a top-end option for demanding shooters or professionals who need exceptional performance. This offers a 3X to 12X optical zoom along with a solid state, uncooled thermal transmission system. Flir is a leader in the thermal imaging space that sensors on the Zeus 336 are powerful enough to obtain your target regardless of obstructions like smoke, snow, dust, and atmospheric particulate. This unit could be the best thermal scope choice for professional operators as it also yields little infrared to be detected by opposing optics.

PROS

  • Excellent 12X magnification
  • Solid state and uncooled technology
  • Releases no detectable infrared
  • Premium-grade Flir thermal detection

CONS

  • Higher price

Warranty

Armasight covers this optic with a three-year limited warranty.

Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Therma Scope

Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Therma Teo IRMS-35 Reap-IR Mini Therma
  • Great for any outdoor enthusiast
  • Made in the USA
  • Very easy to Use

Features

The Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Thermal scope packs industry-leading technology into a footprint that is both durable and lightweight. Though this scope is not much bigger than Trijicon's flagship ACOG optic, it's vastly more powerful. This scope is packed with a thermal sensor digital contrast enhancement and digital focus control features and stadiametric ranging edge detection. With 60Hz of thermal frame rate and programmable reticle settings, you'll quickly dial in views that are accurate and dependable. Trijicon also offers an 8X zoom on the internal display screen.

PROS

  • Professional grade thermal imaging
  • 60Hz frame rate
  • Excellent durability in a compact frame
  • Digital contrast and focus controls

CONS

  • Very expensive

Warranty

Trijicon covers this scope with a limited three-year warranty.

Pulsar Trail XP Thermal Rifle Scope

Pulsar Trail XP50 1.6-12.8x42 Thermal Riflescope
  • 1,970yd detection range with 640x480 resolution, 17UM Pixel pitch core
  • 8x digital zoom- continuous zoom and 2x, 4x, 8x stepped zoom
  • Picture in picture digital zoom

Features

The Pulsar Trail XP Thermal Riflescope is amongst the best thermal scopes for hunters and shooters that need superior down range accuracy. This scope has an impressive 1,970-yard thermal detection range and offers an 8X digital zoom. The zoom on this scope is projected within an internal screen that can be stepped down to 2X and 4X as well. With 640x480 resolution and a 17UM Pixel pitch core, the Trail XP offers excellent clarity. You can also capture the hunt with recoil activated HD video recording on board.

PROS

  • Extra-long detection range
  • 8X digital zoom
  • HD recording features
  • 17UM pixel pitch core

CONS

  • Larger form factor than some competing scopes

Warranty

This unit is backed with the three-year limited warranty.

Armasight by FLIR Zeus 640 Thermal Rifle Scope

Sale
Armasight Zeus 640 2-16x42 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR...
  • FLIR Thermal Imaging Camera
  • 3-year warranty
  • High Performance Thermal Imaging Camera

Features

Like the Zeus 336, Armasight by FLIR Zeus 640 2-16x50mm Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope offers pro-grade versatility at a mid-level price. This scope is loaded with the FLIR Tau 2 Vox microbolometer core and works just as well as a handheld spotting and locating scope as it does on a picatinny rail. The Zeus 600 offers 640 x 512 pixel thermal imaging with 30Hz resolution. Shooters can use the simple user-interface to select between a wide range of color palettes including White Hot, Black Hot, Fusion, Rainbow, Globow, Ironbow 1, Ironbow 2, Sepia, Color 1, Color 2, Ice-Fire, Rain, and OEM Custom.

PROS

  • Premium Flir thermal imaging
  • Handheld or gun mounted
  • Many color palette options
  • 640 X 512 pixel display

CONS

  • Lower magnification power than some competing scopes

Warranty

Armasight covers this scope with a three-year limited warranty.

ATN THOR-HD 640 Thermal Rifle Scope

Sale
ATN ThOR-HD 640 5-50x, 640x480, 100 mm, Thermal Rifle Scope w/ High...
  • Excellent Image Performance with 640x480 Sensor - it is the ideal night vision scope because it...
  • Ballistic Calculator - the system allows you to calculate the trajectory of your bullet, helping you...
  • Build-in Smart Rangefinder - will make your life easier than ever. Discover how using a rangefinder...

Features

The ATN THOR-HD 640 Thermal Rifle Scope offers many of the same high-grade features as the Thor HD 384 but adds improved 640x480 sensor quality. This unit packs an impressive 5X to 50X digital zoom, which put it in the same class as the best thermal scopes on the market. What the Thor 640 shares with the 340 is the powerful ballistic calculator, built-in smart rangefinder, proprietary Smooth Zoom function, and recoil activated high-resolution HD video recording.

PROS

  • Many high-grade features for a mid-tier price
  • 640x480 thermal sensor
  • 5X to 50X digital zoom
  • Smooth Zoom feature

CONS

  • Some shooters may find the user interface cumbersome

Warranty

Like the Thor 360, ATN covers the Thor 640 with a three-year limited warranty against any defects.

Pulsar Trail XQ Thermal Rifle Scope

Pulsar Trail XQ50 2.7-10.8x42 Thermal Riflescope
  • Stream vision app connects scope to Smart device
  • Waterproof (IPX7)
  • UP to 8 hours of Battery life

Features

The Pulsar Trail XQ Thermal scope offers an impressive detection range of nearly 2,000 yards in a housing that is IPX7 waterproof and fog proof. This scope offers a wide range of optimized color pallets and has a 50Hz refresh rate so you'll know you're getting the best image from your optic every time.

Programming this scope is easy with Pulsar's intuitive user interface and you'll never need to worry about weather. Pulsar rates this scope for full functionality from -13° to 122°F. With 8gb of internal memory, you'll have plenty of storage space to record the key moments of any hunt. Playing them back on the built-in 640x480 AMOLED screen with also give a true representation of how it all went down.

PROS

  • Extra long thermal detection range
  • Fully waterproof
  • High-definition AMOLED screen
  • Built-in memory for video recording

CONS

  • High price

Warranty

Pulsar covers this scope with a three-year limited warranty.

FLIR R-Series RS32 1.25-5 Rifle Scope

FLIR Thermosight Pro PTS233 1.5-6x19mm Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope...
  • Featuring a 12 μm Pixel pitch and industry leading on-chip video processing
  • On-board video recording and image capture
  • Multiple color palette

Features

Flir has provided the brains behind other brands' thermal imaging for years so it's not surprising they offered a great product with the FLIR R-Series RS32 1.25-5 Riflescope. This scope offers an impressive 16X digital magnification and a mix of different resolution and lens options. What sets this scope apart from many of its peers is the eye relief. The RS32 offers a healthy 3 inches of eye relief making the scope both look and feel more like a traditional scope. It also comes in at a price point that is more attainable for average consumers.

PROS

  • Extended eye relief
  • Multiple lens options
  • 16X digital magnification
  • Proven Flir quality

CONS

  • Lower thermal detection range than some competing scopes

Warranty

This scope is backed by a three-year limited warranty against any manufacturing defects.

Armasight by FLIR Predator 336 Thermal Imaging Scope

Armasight by FLIR Zeus 336 5-20x75mm Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope with...
  • FLIR Thermal Imaging Camera
  • 3-year warranty
  • High Performance Thermal Imaging Camera

Features

The Armasight by Flir Predator 336 2-8x25mm Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope is another of the best thermal scopes for hunters with a lower budget. This scope incorporates Flir's thermal technology in the form of their Tau 2 17-micron uncooled core. Users can navigate Armasight's simple interface to select several reticle patterns including Dot 4 MOA, Line Dot, Cross-Center Dot, Cross, Crosshair, and No Reticle.

The high-end intern OLED screen allows both target acquisition and video playback with exceptional clarity. Armasight also offers continuing support for this scope whenever there are software and firmware updates.

PROS

  • Lots of power at a low price
  • Flir's Tau 2 17-micron core
  • 2X to 8X digital zoom
  • OLED internal screen

CONS

  • Larger and heavier than some competing thermal scopes

Warranty

This scope is covered with a three-year limited warranty against manufacturing defects.

Flir ThermoSight R-Series RS64 Thermal Night Scope

FLIR ThermoSight Pro PTS 533 4-16x50 Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight...
  • FLIR BOSON CORE SENSOR: Powered by the breakthrough FLIR Boson core, the ThermoSight Pro Series...
  • IMAGE PROCESSING: The FLIR ThermoSight Pro Series has a rugged aluminum alloy that can withstand...
  • VISION: Advanced image processing eliminates the guesswork. Completely digital for better detection,...

Features

The Flir ThermoSight R-Series RS64 2-16X Thermal Night Vision Rifle Scope picks up where the RS32 begins and expands the resolution and screen size. This scope has an impressive 640x480 Vox Display. This scope offers a superb light capturing with an oversized 60mm objective lens. This is comparable to smaller sized spotting scopes and will help achieve crisp and clean images even in the lowest light conditions.

With three distinct reticle options and digitally programmed zero settings, you'll have no trouble getting up and running with this scope right out of the box. Also, Flir set this scope up with a high-grade rechargeable battery offering around four hours of use.

PROS

  • Large 60mm objective lens for optimum light capture
  • 640x480 Vox Display
  • Three reticle settings
  • Four hours of battery life
  • Flir's industry-leading reputation and support

CONS

  • Fewer options compared with comparably priced scopes
  • Lower thermal detection range

Warranty

Like the RS32, Flir backs this scope with a three-year limited warranty.


The Verdict

a man using a rifle with scope

Image Source: Unsplash.com

Every hunter, shooter, soldier, and tactical law enforcement agent will have different needs when it comes to optics. Choosing the best thermal scope for your needs, therefore, is truly a matter of context and preference. If you're a forward operator whose life depends on long-range thermal detection and 50X magnification, then a high-end scope will be worth every penny. 

For casually hog hunters, on the other hand, a smaller internal screen, lower refresh rate, and shorter thermal detection may work out just fine and save a boatload of money. The only way to be positive you've chosen the best thermal scope for your needs to bit the bullet (not literally) and try a few.

With that said, our top pick as the best thermal scope from this group is the ATN THOR-HD 640. This scope offers a huge number of features for a price that is attainable for the average hunter who is willing to save a few pennies. With an impressive 640x480 internal screen and 50X digital zoom, this scope will out-compete most scopes in its price range. It will also have you dialed in on thermal signatures at greater distances than more expensive scopes. Whether you're a professional shooter or a weekend warrior this scope is definitely worth a look.


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