HUNTING

Best Night Vision Scope for the Money: Here Comes Nightfall

looking through night vision scope at night featured
Shawn Harrison
Written by Shawn Harrison

Finding the best night vision working with an unlimited budget is hard enough, but finding the best night vision scope for the money is virtually impossible, and it’s not for the lack of choice.

Quite the opposite, there are just too many choice on the market, and not everything is as clear cut as you’d wish, right? Too much technical jargon turns away the uninitiated, and too much salesy fluff turns away the more seasoned shooters.

Lucky for you, we decided to save you the trouble and did the legwork for you. After an exhaustive (and at times exhausting) research, we shortlisted seven of what we think are the most promising items available at the moment. So, without further ado, let’s get stuck in!

Product NameTechnologyInfraredPower SupplyPrice
Sightmark Photon XTDigitalBuilt-in, 810nm LED2 AA batteriesCheck price on Amazon
Yukon NVRS TacticalGen 1Built-in, Pulse2 AA batteriesCheck price on Amazon
SolomarkDigitalAdjustable LED, 7 levels4 AA batteriesCheck price on Amazon
Bushnell LYNXGen 1Built-in2 AA batteriesCheck price on Amazon
Armasight VegaGen 1+Built-in, flood lens1 CR-123 Lithium 3V batteryCheck price on Amazon
Yukon NVRS TitaniumGen 1Built-in, Pulse2 AA batteriesCheck price on Amazon
Firefield Nightfall 2Gen 1Built-in, Pulse2 CR-123A batteriesCheck price on Amazon

Things To Consider Before Buying

Obviously, the first thing you’ll want to read, especially if you’re just getting interested in night vision devices, is how to choose the right thing.

For this reason, we made a brief guide, citing a few of the most important specs/features and why they’re important. Of course, if you think you’re covered, feel free to skip this section and go straight to the reviews down below.

Types of Devices

Painting with a broad brush, there are four main types of night vision devices – rifle scopes, monoculars, binoculars and goggles. That said, some scopes can be used as monoculars, but they’re a very underwhelming minority.

Night vision scopes are pretty much the same thing as their regular counterparts, only with some sort of technology that allows them to a) collect ambient light and enhance it to make things seem less dark, or b) work in conjunction with an infrared light to do the same. Needless to say, they’re best used for hunting and surveillance.

pellet gun scope magnification

Monoculars are typically handheld night vision devices that let you use a single eye. This is good, as it allows you to save your natural night vision in the other. They’re the cheaper and lighter counterpart to binoculars, and are great for nighttime observation and surveillance.

Night vision binoculars take the night vision tech and combine it with magnification, enabling you to have true depth perception in the field. They’re best used for tracking and navigation at night, as well as general nocturnal wildlife watching.

Night vision goggles are ideal if you need both your hands free to grasp a weapon or hiking sticks, or perhaps even climb an obstacle, which is what makes them great for spelunking. Chances are they won’t have any magnification and will be the most expensive choice.

looking through night vision goggles.JPG

There are also cameras and eye-glasses, but they’re more of an afterthought than actual consideration. For example, cameras do enable you to make videos and photos, but at expense of being able to watch it in real-time. Conversely, eye-glasses don’t magnify a damn thing, and they’re more useful as aid for cyclists riding at dusk or dawn.

Night Vision Generations

When it comes to choosing your next (or first) night vision device, nothing will have a more significant impact on your budget than choosing the technology behind it. There are four choices – Generation 1, Generation 2, Generation 3 and digital. Let’s get to know each in a bit more detail.

Of the lot, Gen 1 devices are the oldest (hence the name), and come with Cold-War technology. With most of them, you’ll need the light of a full moon or the equivalent to be able to see anything. On the flipside, they’re the cheapest choice, and you can always get an external IR later to boost your night vision.

The second eldest is Gen 2, about a decade younger than Gen 1. Obviously, they require less ambient lighting to be able to function, but on the other hand, they do cost quite a bit more than their older cousins.

Best rifle scope review

Gen 3, however, is the pinnacle of night vision technology (at the moment, at least), having trickled down from the army to civilians sometime in the 1990s. Yes, it’s pricy as all hell, but the image is a whole order of magnitude better than either Gen 1 or Gen 2.

Finally, the digital devices – pricewise, these puppies are close to Gen 1, but with a bit better image. Also, rather than a green-and-black image you get with traditional devices, you get a nice black-and-white image.

These puppies will also often be able to make photos and video, but their battery life is a major downside. With or without an IR light, they can eat through batteries like a hog through a bushel of apples.

Dimensions and Weight

Of course, this may seem intuitive, but you’d be surprised how many folks fail to take into account the measurements of their scope. The issue here is not just portability, although it is a major concern, but also storage.

Let’s say you want to pack the rifle without dismounting the scope – suddenly, a compact scope becomes much more desirable, right?

As far as weigh goes, the issue is pretty much self-explanatory – the more weight, the sooner you’ll get tired of lugging it around. Seeing how most of nocturnal activities are tied to being outside (hunting, hiking, surveillance), you can see how this is important.

On a similar note, the heavier the scope, the more difficult it gets to hold and aim the rifle at a hog or coyote at night (especially if you have an already heavy gun, such as some Remington models.

Mount System

This consideration ties in quite nicely into the previous one – dimensions dictate the compatibility, so it’s important to check with the manufacturer directly if their scope fits your mounting system.

NSPU night vision scope

That said, most night vision rifle scopes come with either Weaver or Picattiny rails, although you should keep in mind that Weaver rails will be compatible with Picattiny, though the opposite is not always the case. That covers the scopes, but let’s say you’re after night vision monoculars or binoculars – is there a recommendation to be made?

Well, these devices are typically handheld, so what you’ll want is check what the grips are like, and go for something with a rubberized body. Also, it wouldn’t hurt if the device you’re planning to buy comes with attachments for neck straps (come to think of it, a complimentary neck harness would be nice, as well).

As for the goggles, they’ll typically come with some sort of head-mounting or helmet-mounting system. Ideally, the goggles would have eyepieces for both of your eyes, but if that’s not the case, you should look for something that allows you to choose and switch the eye.

Infrared

With traditional night vision devices, irrespective or the generation, an infrared illuminator is not really necessary, given these devices operate by enhancing the ambient light. Of course, in pitch black conditions, an IR light is invaluable, and most Gen 1s come with one already built-in.

infrared iluminators gun scope

Their digital counterparts, however, are designed to function in conjunction with an IR light, so they’ll invariably come with a built-in illuminator. However, more often than not, said light will be under par and light up to 100 yards, at best (50 to 75 is more realistic).

So, if distance is important to you, you’ll probably need an external light.

Best Products on Today’s Market

We know that reading through all the technical data and fluff the sellers throw around their products can be tiring, so we made a short list of what we think are the best night vision scopes for the money.

Sightmark Photon XT

Sightmark Photon XT

Price: Approximately $500

Weight: 2.3 pounds

Dimensions: 18 x 4 x 4 inches

Specific features: 4.6x magnification, 42m lens, 6 reticle types, enhanced battery life, day and night use, 6 reticle options, built-in IR illuminator, shockproof, waterproof, resistant to bright light, integrated weaver mount, video output

Best use: Coyote hunting, hog hunting

If you’re at least half-serious about nighttime hunting, then you have probably heard about Sightmark. If not, then the Sightmark Photon XT  is the right product to start with.

First thing’s first – seeing as this is a digital scope, you can just as easily use it during the day as you would at night, but it does underperform a bit in daylight. Speaking of performance, the Photon XT 4.6x42S does come with a much better resolution than previous Photon models.

The 4.6x in its name obviously refers to the magnification, which comes in real handy for making out the details on your target. On the flipside, the field of view is a bit narrow, especially at close range (approximately 30 yards).

While we’re still talking optics, the scope comes with six reticle options – two for crossbows, another pair of Duplex reticles you can use for hunting hogs and varmints, respectively, one German-style reticle, as well as a Mill-dot to use for range finding and holdovers.

The full deal includes not only the Photon XT itself, but also a couple of AA batteries to give you a flying start, as well as a carry case, instruction manual (not the best out there, but hey), lens cloth and a video cable to connect it to your TV or PC.

PROS:

  • Great bang for the buck
  • Decent battery life
  • Affordable price tag
  • Integrated Weaver mount (for additional accessories)
  • Built-in IR illuminator

CONS:

  • Some shooters reported the scope doesn’t hold zero
  • The IR light is not the best quality out there

Related: Seeing as the throw-in IR is adequate at best, you might want to invest in something to give you more distance, such as the Evolva Future Technology T20 IR Flashlight. On that note, upgrading the power supply is definitely something you’d want to do right out of the gates, and the Powerex PRO High Capacity Rechargeable AA NiMH Batteries are a nice choice.

Check the price on Amazon

Yukon NVRS Tactical

Yukon Nvrs Tactical

Price: Approximately $600

Weight: 2.1 pounds

Dimensions: 13.8 x 4.7 x 4.6 inches

Specific features: 2.5x magnification, 50mm lens, uses AA batteries, Gen1 intensifier tubes, built-in IR Pulse illuminator, multi-coated optics, 15-degree field of view, ½-degree MOA windage and elevation adjustment, waterproof, shockproof

Best use: Big game hunting

The Yukon Nvrs Tactical  is a great choice for anyone looking to get the most value out of a Gen 1 night vision scope. It’s not a miracle worker, but it does allow some versatility.

What we mean by this is that you can use it in daylight (dawn and dusk) with minimal risk of damaging the intensifier tubes, though you’ll have to make sure the flip-up lens covers are down. And, of course, using the scope in bright light is a big no-no, covers or not.

Another noteworthy feature on the NVRS Tactical is the pulse LED IR illuminator, which is better than a regular IR in that it, for one – saves the battery, and two – goes just a little bit farther.

Now, that isn’t to say the illuminator is far-reaching – at best, you’ll get about 200+ yards of detection distance, but the usable range is about 75 yards (maybe 100, assuming it’s pitch black around you).

As for the purchase, you’ll be getting a plush carrying case to keep it from the elements, plus a remote on/off switch, as well as the already mentioned flip-up lens covers.

PROS:

  • Mounts on anything with Weaver or Picattiny rail
  • Windage and elevation adjust easily
  • Flip-up lens covers allow for daylight use
  • Seeing it’s a Gen 1 scope, the image is great
  • Yukon offers a limited lifetime warranty
  • Value for money

CONS:

  • Left-handed shooters might not like it
  • A bit more magnification wouldn’t kill anyone (no pun intended)

Related: Maintaining your gear properly will ensure that you can use it for years upon years to come. That said, you can see why getting a cleaning tool such as the Leupold Lens Pen is a good idea. Speaking of longevity, you might want to get a pack of batterie, and the Streamlight 85177 CR123A Lithium Batteriesare a popular choice to go with the Yukon NVRS Tactical.

Check the price on Amazon

Solomark Night Vision Monocular

Solomark Night Vision Monocular

Price: Approximately $130

Weight: 0.5 pounds

Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.4 x 4.6 inches

Specific features: lightweight, compact, 3x magnification, multi-coated glass objective, color LCD screen, IR illuminator (7 levels), over 300 feet range, high sensitivity sensor, video and image function

Best use: Surveillance, nightlife watching, spelunking

We’ll break away from night vision scopes and take a look at a nice budget monocular – the Solomark Night Vision Monocular. Granted, it’s not a high end night vision device, but it more than makes up for it with ruggedness and rubberized non-slip body.

Moreover, the optics aren’t half bad, considering the price range. The glass objectives are multi-coated and coupled with an LCD color screen. All you need is a little bit of ambient light (works best with a full moon).

In case you’re someplace pitch-dark (say, a cave or a mine), just switch the IR illuminator and choose one of the seven settings that best suits your surroundings.

The effective range is decent, but one major gripe with the IR is that it’s visible when on – doesn’t matter much when you’re in a cave, but if you’re observing the wildlife, it may spook them away.

On the flipside, you have the option of taking photos and recording videos, as well as porting them to a TV or PC monitor via an AV cable (included). Alternatively, you can save it on a micro SD (1GB included, you get about 10 minutes of video).

PROS:

  • Excellent value package
  • Comes with a 1GB micro SD card
  • Lightweight rubberized body
  • Decent magnification (3x)
  • Zoom control (1x, 1.3x, 1.6x, 2x & 7x)
  • Photo and video output
  • Built-in adjustable IR illuminator (7 settings)
  • 1-year warranty, limited

CONS:

  • Low res cam
  • The IR light is faintly visible from target
  • Requires a lot of batteries (not included)

Related: Keeping your gear clean and in good order is always important, and the Nikon Cleaning Combo Kit looks just the part. On the other hand, if you’d rather upgrade your power supply, the Powerex PRO High Capacity Rechargeable AA NiMH Batteries are a nice choice that comes in either a 4-pack or an 8-pack. Alternatively, you can complement the monocular with the SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSDHC UHS-I Card, seeing as the one coming with the purchase is but a mere 1GB.

Check the price on Amazon

Bushnell LYNX

Bushnell LYNX Gen 1 

Price: Approximately $320

Weight: 1.1 pounds

Dimensions: 6.5 x 6.3 x 3 inches

Specific features: 2.5x magnification, 40mm AR-coated lenses (glass), built-in infrared illuminator, battery-powered (2 AAA batteries), weather-resistant, durable, lightweight

Best use: Surveillance, wildlife watching, hiking

If you’re in the market for a night vision binocular with a nice price-to-quality ratio, then the Bushnell LYNX might just be the thing for you. As the name might suggest, this is a Gen 1 device, so using it in daylight is a good idea only if you want to burn out the intensifier tubes.

Speaking of optics, you do get a decent 2.5x magnification (though it could stand having some more, seeing it’s a binocular), and the 40mm lenses do come with an anti-reflective coating.

That said, the performance is a bit underwhelming when you’re using it without the built-in IR light, but with the moon full, you can get about 150 yards of usable range and 200+ detection. As for the IR, it casts the light at about 90 yards.

The body is rather well-made, and feels like it’s able to withstand some punishment. This comes in handy if you’re going through the woods, down a cave, or pretty much any other environment where you’re likely to get it snagged or bumped.

It’s also important to note that these are powered by a couple of AAA batteries rather than the typical AA or CR ones. This gives you anywhere between 5 and 7 hours of playtime, depending on how you use it, and they’re not included in the purchase.

PROS:

  • Performs great in pitch black
  • Decent range on the IR illuminator (90 yards)
  • Objective lenses and eyepiece can be fine tuned
  • Sturdy and surprisingly lightweight
  • Good bang for the buck

CONS:

  • Can’t be used in daytime
  • Performance without IR is adequate, at best

Related: In case you haven’t got a cleaning kit lying around, you might want to check out the Carson Stuff-It Microfiber Lens Cloth Cleaner– it’s dirt cheap and washes easily (just don’t use any fabric softeners or dryer sheets). As for juice, seeing this puppy doesn’t come with its own AAA batteries, you might want to invest in a pack of the EBL Rechargeable 1100mAh Ni-MH AAA Batteries.

Check the price on Amazon

Armasight Vega Night Vision Goggle

Armasight Vega

Price: Approximately $300

Weight: 0.5 pounds

Dimensions: 5.8 x 3.2 x 1.8 inches

Specific features: Gen 1+ intensifier tubes, 20.6mm lens, 40-degree field of view, built-in IR illuminator with flood lens, digital controls, low-battery indicator, hands-free operation, water resistant, compact, lightweight, limited 2-year warranty

Best use: Spelunking, nighttime hiking, wildlife observation

Armasight is pretty much a household name when it comes to night vision devices, and their Armasight Vega Night Vision Goggle does its share to justify the reputation. The Vega is a nice way to go low cost without sacrificing much quality (though some tradeoff is to be expected).

The goggles are primarily a headmount, and you they come with all the gear you need in this regard. On that note, you could conceivably mount it on a rifle, but you’d need a custom modification, so it’s better to go for a different unit entirely if that’s what you’re looking for.

The usable range without the built-in IR illuminator varies depending on the ambient lighting, but the best results are with the moon full (about 50+ yards). The entire thing was built with short range in mind, as there’s no magnification.

As for the built-in IR light, it’s also short range (30ish yards), so if you want more, you might need some additional gear, such as a long-range IR light. Don’t worry, the mounting hardware is designed with additional gear in mind.

PROS:

  • Decent entry-level night vision goggles
  • Handsfree operation
  • Can use it with either your left or right eye
  • Digital controls
  • Fairly wide field of view (40 degrees)
  • Built-in flood lens IR illuminator
  • Has a low battery indicator
  • Great customer service

CONS:

  • A bit underwhelming performance without the IR light
  • Has a somewhat of a fish eye lens effect

Related: Seeing as the Vega doesn’t come with batteries, you’ll need some from the get-go. We recommend either the Panasonic CR123A Lithium 3V Photo Lithium Batteriesor the Streamlight 85177 CR123A Lithium Batteries – both work well with the goggles. As for the potential long-range IR illumination, the Evolva Future Technology T20 IR 38mm Infrared Light seems to be a popular choice.

Check the price on Amazon

Yukon NVRS Titanium

Yukon NVRS Titanium

Price: Approximately $400

Weight: 1.87 pounds

Dimensions: 3.1 x 3.3 x 8.6 inches

Specific features: 1.5x magnification, 42mm lens, 20-degree field of view, adjustable brightness reticle, ½ MOA windage and elevation adjustment, built-in pulse IR illuminator, requires AA batteries, titanium body, limited lifetime warranty

Best use: Nighttime hunting, wildlife observation

The Yukon NVRS Titanium  comes, as the name would suggest, with barely any magnification (1.5x). On the flipside, the large 42mm lens provides higher res than you might be used to in a Gen 1 device.

The effective range is fairly decent, up to 100 yards, depending on the ambient light and whether or not you have the infrared on.

The built-in IR is surprisingly good, but there’s room to upgrade to an external light (keep in mind it might wash out objects closer to you, which is problematic if you’re in the deep woods).

Controls are big and you can find them in the dark easily enough. Coupled with the rather compact design and light weight, this makes the scope great for physically exacting activities (hiking, hunting, whatever else have you).

One minor gripe is that the battery compartment is recessed and it takes a bit of force to open and close it, making replacing the batteries a bit irksome (especially if you’re out in the field or the boonies, and the weather’s chilly).

PROS:

  • Fairly lightweight
  • Mounts on anything with a Weaver or Picattiny rail
  • Great performance under 100 yards
  • Impressive detection range (200ish yards)
  • Built-in Pulse IR light
  • Multi-coated optics
  • Illuminated reticle (red on green)
  • Limited lifetime warranty

CONS:

  • The battery cover is difficult to get on and off
  • The purchase doesn’t include batteries

Related: If you haven’t got any common AA batteries lying around, you might want to check out the Streamlight 85177 CR123A Lithium Batteries. Alternatively, you might need something like the Leupold Lens Pen 48807 to keep your scope in good order (works well on anything with delicate optics, such as scopes, binoculars, monoculars, you know the drill).

Check the price on Amazon

Firefield Nightfall 2

Firefield Nightfall 2

Price: Approximately $170

Weight: 1.41 pounds

Dimensions: 3.31 x 4.41 x 7.72 inches

Specific features: 12x magnification, 50mm lens, non-slip grip, durable housing, tripod-mounted, waterproof, fog-proof, lightweight

Best use: Observing wildlife, bird-watching, stargazing, hunting

If you’re just getting interested in night vision devices, then the Firefield Nightfall 2  might just be the right thing to start you off on the right foot. Its compact design and ergonomic grip make it easy even on the butterfingers.

Another nice feature is the powerful 5x magnification which lets you make out details for a probable personal ID up to 100 yards. With the 50mm lens, this puppy really lives up to the name Nightfall, as it requires only a faint light source to help you see.

Add 50 yards to that and you get the detection range, though the field of view is a bit underwhelming, but that’s to be expected from a monocular.

On a similar note, the IR range is not that impressive, only about 75ish yards, up to 100, depending on the ambient light and the terrain. Be careful, as moonlight or car light can blind you momentarily if your IR is on.

PROS:

  • Fairly crispy image
  • Comfortable, ergonomically-driven design
  • Impressive magnification (5x)
  • Large lens (50mm) picks up a lot of light
  • Surprisingly good built-in IR light
  • Low power consumption
  • 3-year warranty on mechanical parts

CONS:

  • Not meant to be used in daylight
  • Batteries don’t come with the purchase

Related: If you’d like to use a more powerful IR light to complement your Firefield Nightfield, check out the Evolva Future Technology Infrared Light. In case you’re looking for a deal in the way of power supply, here are a couple of popular choices: Streamlight 85177 CR123A Lithium Batteries(12-pack) and DL123A Duracell Ultra Lithium CR123A Batteries (8-pack). Take a pick.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap Up

All in all, finding the best night vision device for the money pretty much depends on what you need. If it’s wildlife watching or “wildlife” watching (hey, we’re not judging) – monoculars and binoculars are nice choices.

night vision binoculars

On a more serious note, though, if you need to do some night-time pest control, scopes are the obvious choice, but you might also want to consider a monocular to complement it. This also applies if you’re on a security detail or keeping your own property safe.

Goggles are probably the most versatile of the lot, as they leave your hands free to do whatever it is you need doing – grasping a weapon, a tool, climbing, or finding your way around a zipper.

So, do you find our little guide helpful at all? Is there anything you’d like to add to our list? If so, please, feel free to leave a comment and share the article to spark a debate. Happy shopping!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shawn Harrison
Shawn Harrison

Shawn Harrison is our expert in hunting. He was born in Alaska, so hunting was his hobby since high school. Later, Shawn took a Hunter Training at Alaska Department of Fish and Game to structure his knowledge and now he is open to share his knowledge with our readers. Shawn is taking ‘Safety First’ approach on all of his trips, especially is some people are going hunting for the first time.

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