What is the best thermal scope? The Top 9 Best Thermal Rifle Scopes

Click here for the Best Thermal Scopes available in 2017!

thermal scopeA thermal riflescope has a little extra feature not found in ordinary riflescopes, which is the ability to see in the dark with a passive infrared lighting system. They’re also known as night scopes or night vision scopes exactly because of this ability. At any rate, it’s the intention of this review to take a look at all the commercially available scopes and give a useful comparison of all of them that should help you in your shopping needs.

Hunters and shooters should hopefully be able to make use of this article to compare, contrast, and figure out which are the best thermal scopes for them under any weather conditions and regardless of the targets. Night vision hunting isn’t something you’d only see in James Bond or Sci-Fi movies; the technology has advanced enough to allow everyday consumers the chance to have their own thermal riflescope and whatnot.

Top 8 Best Thermal Scopes Comparison Table

ScopeMagnificationPriceRating
FLIR Systems RS32 1.25-5X Thermal Night Vision Riflescope, Black, 320x240, 19mm 431-0017-02-00

FLIR Systems RS32
1.25-5x19mm$$$$$

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars from over 1 customers.

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FLIR Systems RS64 1.1-9X Thermal Night Vision Riflescope, Black, 640x480, 35mm 431-0007-05-01

FLIR Systems RS64
1.1-9x35mm$$$$$

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Rated 5 out of 5 stars from 2 customers.

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Armasight Zeus-Pro 336 4-16x50 (60 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR Tau 2 - 336x256 (17 micron) 60Hz Core, 50mm Lens

Armasight Zeus-Pro
4-16x50mm$$$$$

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Not rated.

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Pulsar Apex XD38A Thermal Riflescope

Pulsar Apex XD38A
1.5-6x32mm$$$$$

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Not rated.

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Armasight Zeus 160 7-14x75 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR Tau 2 - 160x120 (25 micron) 30Hz Core, 75mm Lens

Armasight Zeus 160
7-14x75mm$$$$$

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Not rated.

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Armasight Zeus 640 3-24x75 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR Tau 2 - 640x512 (17 micron) 30Hz Core, 75mm Lens

Armasight Zeus 640
3-24x75mm$$$$$

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Not rated.

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Armasight Apollo 324 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Clip-on System, FLIR Tau 2 - 324x256 (25 micron) 30Hz Core, 42mm Lens

Armasight Apollo 324
2-324x256mm$$$$$

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Not rated.

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Pulsar Apex XD38A Thermal Riflescope

Pulsar Apex XD38A
3.1x$$$$$

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Not rated.

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The Thermal Riflescopes for Review 

  1. FLIR Systems RS64 1.1-9X Thermal Night Vision Riflescope 640×480: This is an amazing, 1.1x to 9x thermal night vision riflescope product that costs $6,000-$8,000, has a solid mounting system that isn’t sold separately and is included in the model, great night vision optics, and is everything you will hope and more, according to one reviewer.
FLIR Systems RS64 1.1-9X Thermal Night Vision Riflescope, Black, 640x480, 35mm 431-0007-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 stars from 2 customers. Click the image for prices and reviews!

Technology for thermal riflescopes will always improve as time passes by, but right now this is cutting-edge and perfectly serviceable for all your low-light, night-vision hunting requirements just short of getting infrared goggles like you’re part of a SWAT team or the marines. After much research, this is undoubtedly one of the best out there. It’s a big purchase but a worthwhile one when all is said and done. Besides which, there are more expensive options in this very list.

Simply put, this scope is quite dependable in terms of night hunting, especially when it comes to coyotes. This FLIR actually emphasizes its night vision capabilities so that you’re assured of a specialized product of sorts that’s leagues above other thermal scopes. You can spot all the game you want with this product, such that you can see them but they couldn’t see you.

The image offered is a crisp 640×480 (the resolution you’d normally see in computers of yesteryear that’s more than clear enough for hunting purposes on a scope with generous eye relief). This FLIR Systems Thermal Night Vision Riflescope is a definite game changer because as expensive as it is, it’s worth every last penny.

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  1. FLIR ThermoSight RS32 1.25-5x Thermal Rifle Scope – 431-0007-02-00: It costs about $4,000, give or take a dollar. This one is way cheaper than the other FLIR Systems offering for one obvious reason—its magnification range is limited at 1.25x to 5x as opposed to FLIR Systems RS64 that has a 1.1x to 9x range.
FLIR Systems RS32 1.25-5X Thermal Night Vision Riflescope, Black, 320x240, 19mm 431-0017-02-00
Rated 5 out of 5 stars from over 1 customers. Click the image for prices and reviews!

What this means is that the FLIR ThermoSight RS32 is more of the night vision version of a scouting rifle where you shoot game (or enemies if you’re part of the military) 300 meters and below. This scope is perfect for bush-hiding varmints and game within the woods, to be exact, plus this time around you have thermal imagery to further your cause. That there is a double whammy of benefits.

The FLIR ThermoSight RS32 1.25-5x Thermal Rifle Scope is also filled with various good specs like three reticle settings with a dependable and repeatable zero, simple 4-button operation, shock reduction system, and advanced image correction. It also has a three-inch eye relief and multiple lens and resolution options.

The night vision scope has a 60 HZ frame rate and a 640 x 480 resolution. Meanwhile, the lens focal length is 19 millimeter and comes in different colors (red, iron, sepia, white, and black). Furthermore, it has the dimensions of 8 inch by 3.3 inch by 2.9 inch as well as a high-tech InstAlert Display Active Matrix LCD Display.

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  1. Armasight Zeus 160 7-14×75 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR Tau 2 – 160×120 (25 micron) 30Hz Core, 75mm LensThe $4,400 Armasight Zeus 160 7-14×75 is a highly recommended night vision scope and sight for any reasons, chief among them its optional external power supply, video recorder, multiple hunting scenarios function (something that’s unique to the Zeus line), three-year warranty and 10-year warranty on the FLIR detector, and (of course) high-performance thermal imaging camera that makes it a must-buy every time.
Armasight Zeus 160 7-14x75 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR Tau 2 - 160x120 (25 micron) 30Hz Core, 75mm Lens
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Whether you’re trying to detect intruders at night or hunting at the cover of darkness, the Armasight Zeus 160 7-14×75 is a must-have scope. It in particular features 7x to 14x magnification.

This is amazing since you get to do medium-range scout shooting with your rifle at that range. It’s one of the most highest performing imaging camera scopes you can get your hands on because it has a real-time display, can be manually adjusted when it comes to its objective lens and adjustable eyepiece, and it’s easy to operate with its robust, compact, and lightweight design.

You aren’t only able to see in the dark with this thermal scope, you can also digitally control it like you would a camera, such as its ability to adjust its brightness or change its reticle (you can even shoot without one). The color of the reticle can be switched out as well, and there’s even a temperature measurement included. This scope has it all.

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  1. Armasight Zeus-Pro 336 4-16×50 (60 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR Tau 2 – 336×256 (17 micron) 60Hz Core, 50mm Lens: This $5,600 Zeus Scope is the iteration of the scope that has 336 x 256 resolution, a 75mm lens, 60 Hz core, and 4x magnification. Actually, its range goes from 4x to 16x.
Armasight Zeus-Pro 336 4-16x50 (60 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR Tau 2 - 336x256 (17 micron) 60Hz Core, 50mm Lens
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The differences are that it has a higher resolution, same lens size, and way better magnification. The night vision capabilities of the two units are virtually similar, such that from it you can enjoy windage or elevation boresighting, digital zoom, field environment corrections, hunting scenarios function, temperature measurement, selectable image palette, switchable reticle color, six different reticles, and brightness adjustment. Fair warning, digital zoom is different from optical lens zoom.

As anyone with a camera has ever figured out, digital zoom only zooms in on the digital image captured by your lens, which makes for a pixilated mess of an image that looks like a low-resolution picture off the web.

If you want better resolution and clarity when you zoom into an image, don’t use the digital zoom and instead use the 4x to 16x lens magnification.

Aside from that you get all the perks that was also offered from the Armasight Zeus-Pro 336 4-16×50 (60 Hz)Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, which includes the Multiple Hunting Scenarios Function, High Performance Thermal Imaging Camera, Optional External Power Supply and Video Recorder, and 3-year warranty and 10-year warranty on FLIR detector.

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  1. Armasight Zeus 640 3-24×75 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR Tau 2 – 640×512 (17 micron) 30Hz Core, 75mm Lens: This $5,000 scope is yet another Zeus night vision scope model but this time it has 640 x 480 resolution, a 75 millimeter lens, and 3x to 24x magnification.
Armasight Zeus 640 3-24x75 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, FLIR Tau 2 - 640x512 (17 micron) 30Hz Core, 75mm Lens
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Compared to the Armasight Zeus 640 3-24×75 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, it’s virtually a clone save for the better resolution and a lower hertz rate. With the Armasight Zeus 160 7-14×75 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, it’s also virtually a clone save for the better magnification rate and resolution. It also comes complete with waterproofing, a limited two-year warranty, and an optional digital video recorder.

The Armasight Zeus 640 3-24×75 is also fogproof due to sealed-in dry nitrogen, has serviceability under severe conditions, and possesses power input capability while being powered by two standard CR123A batteries.

It also comes with a wireless remote control for easy control of the video and digital functions of the scope and an adjustable quick-release mount and can fit any Picatinny MIL STD 1913 and Weaver rail.

What that means is that you can practically just slap on the night vision scope at will as long as your rifle has that rail included. When it comes to viewing any night vision video you’re recorded through your gun scope, you can transfer it through NTSC/PAL analog video input and output cables.

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  1. Armasight Apollo 324 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Clip-on System, FLIR Tau 2 – 324×256 (25 micron) 30Hz Core, 42mm Lens – TAT253CN4APOL01: Armasight has done it again with its extensive line of Greek-God-themed night vision scopes by making the$4,500 Apollo scope.
Armasight Apollo 324 (30 Hz) Thermal Imaging Clip-on System, FLIR Tau 2 - 324x256 (25 micron) 30Hz Core, 42mm Lens
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The The Apollo 640 resolution 42mm lens 1x magnification (clip on) has a lot to bring to the table. Although it’s a clip on scope rather than a scope you can put into rails found in many a rifle, it still provides quite a lot, like a 3-year and 10-year warranty on the FLIR detector, optional external power supply, high performance thermal imaging camera, multiple hunting scenarios function, and a video recorder all in one device.

That’s the thing with many thermal imaging or night vision scopes. The recorder is usually included for good measure because infrared capabilities are something digital you’d usually see in a camera, so if you’re going to put digital circuitry in your scope lens you might as well have recording features thrown in for good measure.

It’s easy to convert from daytime to nighttime view with the Apollo. Furthermore, there are thermal imaging mounts that require no zeroing in. It’s also a compact scope with high resolution imaging (at 324 x 256 and 25 micron), and the housing is quite durable to boot.

If that’s not enough, the OLED display is in and of itself high end. In short, it’s a good separate type of Armasight scope outside of the Zeus line.

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  1. Pulsar Apex XD38A Thermal Riflescope: It doesn’t outdo the 60 Hz refresh rate of the Armasight Zeus-Pro Thermal Imaging Weapon Sight, but the $3,300 Pulsar Apex XD38A Thermal Riflescope has plenty of hertz to spare with its 50 Hz refresh rate on a 384 x 228 resolution scope.
Pulsar Apex XD38A Thermal Riflescope
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Its LCD display is also quite easy on the eyes due to its high resolution. It has a 950 meter detection range and one-shot zeroing action with a freeze function that’s absent in many of the scopes that have been reviewed so far. You can zoom in by optical lens or do an extra 4x digital zoom (with a picture-in-picture feature). On the plus side, using the magnification and digital zoom hand-in-hand makes for an extra bit of range and firing precision.

To remind you, a digital zoom only zooms in on the pixilated digital picture. If you want high resolution magnification, stick with lens magnification rather than digital magnification. The thermal technology being used on this model is also a unique propriety one—a cutting-edge “black hot” and “white hot” tech that clearly shows in an unambiguous fashion what you’re looking at even in the cover of the night.

Furthermore, the Pulsar Apex 1.5-6×32 XD38A Thermal Riflescope isn’t just about the war of the specs like it is with the Zeus line; it’s more about giving you precision placement and shooting capabilities within 1,000 yards. If you’re a long-range marksman who wants to shoot in the dark, then this scope’s for you.

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  1. Raytheon W1000-9 Thermal Imaging Scope: The W1000-9 320 resolution 100mm lens 3.1x magnification allows you “x-ray vision” in the darkness for every and any tactical situation.
Pulsar Apex XD38A Thermal Riflescope
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Of course, the $8,000 Raytheon W1000-9 offers pretty much the same night vision offerings that other thermal scopes in this list does, but it does come with several differences. The extra expensiveness of the W1000-9 roots from its 100 millimeter objective lens (unusually large for a close-range scope) and its 3.1x scout-tier rifle magnification.

This is for night hunts and after dark operations, essentially. It’s like in the film Predator, where your scope is able to use infrared heat signatures to reveal the location of humans and other animals in the dark.

The Raytheon W1000-9 Uncooled Thermal Weapon Sight doesn’t only have infrared to allow you to see in teal vision like what you’d get from certain TV shows shot at night (like Survivor or Cops). It also allows you to tell whether you’re looking at breathing, living creatures or dense foliage and a cluttered background.

This is why it costs as much as the FLIR Systems RS64 1.1-9X Thermal Night Vision Riflescope. It detects heat instead of light so it won’t shut down or “bloom” when direct light is hit on it. This passive scope requires no IR emitters or illuminators, which makes it absolutely undetectable. Finally, the W1000-9 is built to US military standards and green fusion filter.

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  1. L3 LWTS Military Thermal Rifle Scope AN/PAS-13g(v)1: The LWTS 640 resolution 1x magnification (clip on) is the most expensive scope in this list, costing $12,700 on sale. Expensiveness isn’t the only thing it has going for it, though.

This military-grade night vision scope is that expensive because this latest thermal scope by L3 Warrior Systems or Insight Technology is one of the highest resolution, precision sighting devices around for handheld and rifle use.

The L3 LWTS Military Thermal Rifle Scope is based on the US Military issue tactical AN/PAS-13G(v)1 L3-LWTS, from the United States Army TWS Program. What that means for hunters availing of this is combat-grade quality.

It’s kind of excessive but exactly the kind of scope you’d expect out of such a hefty price tag. Small to big game prey are no match against a scope made to deal with military operations and enemies that also have hardware like this and can fire back at you.

It’s also versatile in the sense that you can use it as a clip-on thermal scope or as a standalone scope that you won’t have to attach to your rifle (in case you want to do something other than finding targets to shoot because you would rather go hunting or conducting some espionage-type operations).

The LWTS PAS-13G is worth every last penny of that $12,700 price tag, but you might not really need military-grade hardware unless you are part of the army, navy, air force, or marines. 

The Verdict 

The entire night vision or thermal scope list was dominated by Armasight’s Zeus model scopes the same way Nikon scopes would usually dominate a list for low-cost but high quality riflescopes. The Apollo is a good budget version of the Zeus line, but the LWTS Military Thermal Riflescope, the Raytheon W1000-9, and the FLIR Systems RS64 1.1-9Xthermo-scopes outdo everything in terms of cost and perhaps high-end quality if you check out the specs.

However, like Nikon, Armasight has a tendency to make a great case for itself due to its combination of relatively low prices coupled with high-end specs that you’d usually see in a FLIR-tier night vision scope that’s way more expensive. If you want to watch your budget, go Armasight Zeus or Apollo. If money is no object, go big with the high-end scopes. All the rest of the scopes in this list are somewhere in the middle between the two extremes.

Click here for the Best Thermal Scopes available in 2017!

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