The best thermal imaging for hunting is a quintessential tool for a night hunter. Whether you are hunting down boars, coyotes, white gazelles, or bears, these units give you an easy time by making camouflaging and concealment almost useless.
As night vision technology keeps getting better, thermal imaging scopes are also becoming more and more affordable to the civilians. Today, it’s easier to get a tool that offers the basic functionalities that a night hunter requires without overstretching your budget.
Today, we’ll review 4 units that we believe to be the best thermal scopes for hunting in 2017. If you don’t know much about thermal imagers, we have a quick-second, easy-to-understand thermal imaging buying guide just below the reviews. That might the best starting point for you.
Best Thermal Imaging for Hunting in 2017
1. Armasight Apollo 640 Thermal Imaging scope (30 Hz)
Based in San Francisco, USA, Armasight Apollo is pretty well known as a reliable brand when it comes to night vision technology. Their Armasight Apollo 640 is among the best thermal imaging scopes for hunting that you could get today. Frankly speaking, this scope isn’t the cheapest on the planet. But it’s a surefire thermal imaging tool if you can save up for it.
Use it both day and night
One thing that most hunters love about the 640 is that you won’t have to switch from your day scope to a thermal scope as it’s the case with other most models. This one mounts in front of your rifle’s daylight optical sight and later serves you as a thermal imaging scope when the sun goes down.
This eliminates the need for re-zeroing. It also offers you consistent eye relief and eliminates the need for re-training. These are some of the features that give you peace of mind when hunting down bears and you are scared to death.
What about Performance?
This is where Apollo 640 Thermal Imaging Scope edges out the competition. This scope turns on in utmost 3 seconds. It has a refresh rate of 30Hz coupled with an output resolution of up to 768×574 pixels. It has 1x magnification power. Luckily, that is compensated by its selectable 1-8x digital zoom.
Made for all weather conditions
What is so good with the Apollo 640 is that it’s entirely waterproof. It’s also filled with nitrogen to prevent internal fogging and electrical failure in extremely low temperatures. On this same note, this thermal scope can operate at anywhere between -58 to +158 °F– which is a really good thing.
Weighing around 1.5 pounds, this scope uses 2 CR123A batteries and can run up to 4 hours with continuous use. Amazingly, there’s also an option to connect an external source of power which is so impressive.
Other irresistible features include:
- Selectable image palette
- 8-level adjustable display
- Digital video recording capability
- Fits on both standard weaver and Picatinny rails with a quick mounting system
2. ATN-ThOR HD 640 Smart Thermal Riflescope
ATN’s night vision technology has been a real hit for the last couple of years. For those who find our first recommendation, Thor HD 640 is almost a whole grand cheaper. Amazingly, nothing much has been scrapped off. It also has a good deal regarding quality and performance. So, what will you like here?
More Power, More Features
What I seriously love about the Thor HD 640 is its powering system. This scope comes with ATN’s 16000mAh battery back that offers you up to 22 good hours of power! Frankly, this is more than you could use in one night. But what’s good is that you can use it to power your other gadgets such as phones and cameras.
Be a sharpshooter!
ATN Thor HD 640 combines 2 critical tools to offer the best thermal imaging scope for hunting; a ballistic calculator and a rangefinder. This means that all the necessary calculations are done automatically for you. This doubles your chances of hitting the target at the first attempt.
How about recording your moments?
This scope allows you to record 640×480 for later playback with your buddies. On the same note, it has Recoil Activated Video (RAV). This one automatically records some moments before and after the shot. As such, no exciting moment will go unrecorded even if you forgot to switch on the recording feature.
It also has a built-in microphone. So you can describe how everything went down. Even better, this scope has an SD card slot- no additional USB cables are required.
- Usable day and night
- iOS and Android Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming
- 5-20x magnification
- Profile manager for various rifles
- Has E-compass
- Smooth zoom
3. FLIR Systems FlirThermosight PTS233 Pro
FlirThermosight PTS233 Pro is our first recommendation for anyone looking for an affordable thermal imaging scope. This is an advanced scope designed for use on an array of hunting and sports weapons.
The PTS233 Pro features a Picatinny/weaver rail with a superb mounting and dismounting system. As such, you can mount it on any of your hunting rifles with no fuss. It has a rugged construction and can work well in most conditions: total darkness, light rain, fog, haze, and through smoke.
Performance-wise, the PTS233 Pro turns on in utmost 1.5 seconds. It features a high-resolution FLCOS display, 30Hz refresh rate, and 1.5x optical magnification power. In addition, this thermal imager has 4 reticle colors to play around with: red, cyan, white, and black. These are some of the standout features that render excellent thermal detection for superb image clarity.
The PTS233 uses 2 lithium batteries and offers up to 4 hours of operations. It also gives you an option to power it from an external power source via its USB-C port.
Does this unit record?
Sure! This imager has enough internal memory to record up to 2.5 hours worth of video or 1000 photos. On this note, it offers several image palette control options: Black Hot, white-hot, ironbow, outdoor alert, rainbow high contrast, and sepia.
4. EOTech X320XP Thermal Imager- cheap thermal imaging scope
Are you looking for a budget thermal imaging scope? EOTech X320XP might be the thing for you. Sure, we don’t expect this one to perform equally to ATN-Thor 640 and Armasight Apollo 640 above.
This thermal imager is designed for handheld operations. Measuring around 5.2 by 4.5 by 2 inches and weighing 13oz only, you’ll find it so easy to walk with this unit in your pockets. In fact, if you need something that you can keep watch of your property with at night, consider EOTech X320XP.
It has a rugged design, and it’s so easy to use. It also has good ergonomics and can be used even with your gloves on.
This scope boasts 30Hz refresh rate and 320×240 resolution. That said, it offers clear and sharp images. It can detect human activity and creeping animals at a distance of up to 800 yards away and has 3 interchangeable color modes.
What won’t you like about this scope? First, its menu buttons are a somehow hard to maneuver due to their placement on this scope’s body. Again, it uses AA batteries which it eats so fast.
However, if you want an affordable and pocketable scope with brilliant images, good controls, and good performance in different environmental conditions- dust, smoke, and fog- this one fits the bill.
Things to consider when choosing Thermal Imaging for Hunting
Let’s start here; What is thermal imaging?
Simply put, thermal imaging is a technology that uses infrared radiation to form a visible shape of a target in darkness. Animals and human beings emit heat. What these scopes do is that they detect the heat released in relation to the surrounding environment.
After detecting an object that has high heat radiation in comparison to others, they create a shape that you see via the display. Thermal optics technology has been used massively by the military and firefighters in the past.
How do you choose the best thermal scope for hunting?
In my opinion, this is the first feature worth checking out when purchasing a thermal rifle scope. These units rely on refresh rates to create an image when tracking or panning any moving object. Most thermal scopes today have refresh rates ranging from 9Hz to 50Hz.
Usually, the higher the number of refreshes, the smoother the images will be. As a rule of thumb, consider units that offer at least 30Hz of refresh rate.
As it’s the case with cameras and TVs, riflescopes with high-resolution capabilities offer a crisp and clear definition of your targets. A unit with lower resolution makes images look distorted and blurrier.
A rifle scope with 206 by 156 resolution rates has good image detailing at about 100 yards. However, units with 320 x 240 resolution rates are more recommendable. If you want the best reliability, though, pull the trigger and go for the best thermal imaging scopes with 1024 by 768 resolutions. They never disappoint.
Focus of Objective Lens
This is another vital feature worth checking out when buying the best thermal imaging for hunting. Usually, the name of the scope will be followed by a number such as 50mm, 38mm, or 19mm. A scope with a bigger objective lens has a big field of view. It also has sufficient magnification.
Magnification power- does it matter?
Magnification power is quite subjective. If you’ll be shooting at targets several hundred yards away, you’ll have to go for a scope with high magnification power. The major drawbacks with gadgets with high magnification power are that they tend to be large, pricey, and heavy. Their weight makes it hard to use your rifle unsupported.
Most hunters agree that rifle scopes with a magnification power of 10x or lower suffice in most shooting applications. However, consider going higher if you’ll be shooting at up to 1000 yards away.
Other features that you should never ignore;
- Battery life
- Ease of use
Thermal imagers are interesting devices. They make it hard for any of your targets to go unnoticed whether they are hiding in the bushes or in total darkness. This not only allows you to leverage your hunting skills but also makes your life a lot easier and safer when you are alone in the wilderness.
We’d love to hear your thought about our list of the best thermal imaging for hunting. So drop your thoughts, comments, and questions on the comments section below.