5 Best Thermal Scopes – 2024

AGM Rattler TS35

Last updated July 6th 2024

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The best thermal scopes have revolutionized the hunting industry, basically allowing hunters to see in seriously adverse weather conditions or total darkness. So they give an advantage that borders on cheating.

And that’s why they’re banned for game hunting in some States and California will throw you in jail forever for hog hunting at night with thermal scopes.

But legal tangents aside, thermal scopes are gaining acceptance and a foothold in the market. Image quality, connectivity and refresh rates are improving while prices are dropping and it might be the time to pull the trigger on the night vision scope of your dreams.

Just to clear up the understandable confusion, thermal scopes detect thermal signatures. So body heat. While a night vision scope amplifies light. Thermal signatures work in pitch blackness, while night vision really only works in low light, not pitch blackness.

Thermal rifle scopes are more expensive, but the technology is pretty advanced military grade stuff.

So what is the best thermal scope on sale in 2024?

Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF QX50 Pro, is this the best thermal scope you can buy?

1. Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF QX50 Pro Thermal Scope

  • Price: $3,332.97
  • Magnification: 3-16x
  • Weight: 34.2oz
  • Size: 16.3″ x 3″ x 3.2″
  • Field of View: 7.5″
  • Battery Life: 10 hours
  • Refresh rate: 50Hz

Overall Winner

Price: 4/5 Magnification: 4/5 Image Quality: 3.5/5 Features: 4/5

Pros

  • Superb image quality
  • 1024/768 AMOLED display
  • Built in range finder and shot assistance

Cons

  • Price

The Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF PRO is a top-of-the-line thermal scope that combines cutting-edge technology with exceptional performance.

Capable of detecting heat signatures up to 2000 yards, it comes with a built in laser rangefinder that is effective up to 874 yards and comes with 3-16X magnification, a 1024×768 AMOLED display and a picture in picture system that shows the environment and the magnified section.

You get built in photo and video recording capabilities that saves to a card and can stream to your phone, and you also get 8 optional color palettes, 10 digital reticle options and 10 hour battery life from the quick change battery.

The rangefinder comes with an inclinometer and ballistic calculator built in. And the 30mm main tube attaches with standard rings, so doesn’t require specialist tools or mounts.

The only downside is the refresh rate on early models was a little pedestrian, but that’s improving and now the 60Hz rate is much better.


ATN Thor 5 XD LRF. If money is no object, this is the best thermal scope on the market.

2. ATN Thor 5 XD LRF

  • Price: $6,095.99
  • Magnification: 2-20x
  • Weight: 32.8oz
  • Size: 13.42″x3″x 2.2″
  • Field of View Angle: 11.8 degrees
  • Battery life: 10 hours
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz

Best of the Best

Price: 2/5 Magnification: 5/5 Image Quality: 5/5 Features: 5/5

Pros

  • Ultimate image quality
  • Full connectivity
  • Built in range finder and shot assistance

Cons

  • Price

If money is no object and you want the best of the best, then the ATN Thor XD LRF is the best thermal scope you can buy.

There are a range of prices and you can get even greater magnification, up to 40x, if you want to spend a little more on your ATN Thor thermal rifle scope.

You can also spend a little less and have the ATN Thor XD model without the laser rangefinder and ballistic calculator that is effective up to 1000 yards, while the scope picks up heat signatures at double that distance and beyond.

But if you want the ultimate in thermal imaging, and you’re a normal hunter and not a sniper shooting 50 BMG or 338 Lapua Magnum, then the ATN Thor x2-20 thermal riflescope will probably do just fine.

Other performance features include recoil activated video recording capablities producing high resolution 60fps video, 90mm eye relief and a custom reticle editor and smart mil dot reticle that adapts to your loads and current magnification.

This ATN Thor thermal riflescope even provides radar to locate other hunters and tagged game to make your hunt safer and even easier.


The Trijicon IR Hunter Type 2. An almost mil spec

3. Trijicon Electro Optics REAP-IR Hunter Type 3 35mm

  • Price: $6,999.99
  • Magnification: 1.75-14x
  • Weight: 29.1oz
  • Size: 9.8″x3″x 3.2″
  • Battery life: 10 hours
  • Refresh rate: 60Hz

Most Rugged and Durable

Price: 2/5 Magnification: 3/5 Image Quality: 3/5 Features: 3/5

Pros

  • Basically indestructible
  • Simple design
  • Reliable as sunrise

Cons

  • Price
  • Image quality isn’t the best.

The Trijicon IR-Hunter 35mm is a rugged and versatile thermal scope designed for the most demanding hunting conditions.

It’s basically the consumer version of the multi reticle thermal scopes used by the American military. So it is much more basic than some of the most advanced thermal imaging scopes on this list, but also it is a battle proven, rugged and durable construction.

Its 640×480 sensor delivers clear images, even at long distances, while its advanced reticle options allow for precise shot placement. But that sensor has been left behind by others on this list. Technology moves fast these days…

You get five reticle choices, an MRAD based reticle, MOA reticle and 3 separate bullet drop off reticles for .223 Remington, 308 Winchester Magnum and 300 Blackout.

1.75x optical magnification combines with 8 times digital magnification to give a solid and reliable, if unspectacular, 14x maximum magnification.

You can save money with the 20mm version or spend more and go much bigger with the 60mm objective lens.

While the Mk3 is better, availability is limited. Most retailers still carry the Trijicon IR Hunter Type 2 35mm, which you can find here for less money.


The AGM Rattler TS-35 thermal imaging scope. A low budget thermal scope that offers a form of night vision.

4. AGM Rattler TS35

  • Price: $2,495.00
  • Magnification: 2-16x
  • Objective Lens Diameter: 35mm
  • Weight: 14.56oz
  • Size: 7.37″x2.46″x 2.33″
  • Battery life: 4.5 hours
  • Refresh rate: 50Hz
Best Budget Choice
Price: 5/5 Magnification: 4/5 Image Quality: 2.5/5 Features: 3/5

Pros

  • Bargain price
  • Lightweight
  • Simple tech is good enough

Cons

  • Basic image next to the stars here

The AGM Rattler TS35 is the best budget thermal rifle scope here by some margin and we like to see the price of these advanced rifle scopes coming down.

Here you get a 0.39 inch OLED display, WI-FI data transmission and the ability to hook up an external power supply. So the 4.5 hour battery life isn’t quite the handicap it first seems and the payoff are lightweight thermal rifle scopes that are easier to balance.

This is a compact thermal rifle scope, too, and 2 inches might not sound like a lot. But we all know it is in the right circumstances…

With 348×288 thermal resolution then it will not win any awards for the thermal sensor resolution. And four color digital palettes is a definite step down from the best on the market.

But then the AGM Rattler knows its place in this world. These are cheap thermal imaging scopes, relatively, but they will do thee job for late night hog hunting or picking off coyotes at night.

You also get a quick release mount too, which can go on the rail.


AGM Adder TS50, one of the top thermal rifle scopes on the market.Find out what beats it here.

5. AGM Adder TS50

  • Price: $4,195.00
  • Magnification: 2-32x
  • Weight: 34.2oz
  • Size: 7.37″x2.46″x 2.33″
  • Field of View: 7-8.7 degrees
  • Battery life: 12 hours
  • Refresh rate: 50Hz

These thermal rifle scopes allow you to switch between a 35mm and 50mm objective lens diameter for medium range and long range shooting scenarios.

This thermal rifle scope offers 640×512 thermal sensor resolution and a 1024×768 OLED display. There are more advanced sensors here, but these thermal optics do a good job of showing up heat signatures in darkness, fog or other extreme adverse weather conditions.

Battery power is supplied by two built in 18650 batteries and a separate removable battery. With all of them charged and in place there’s up to 15 hours of continuous use, so these thermal devices should get you through the night.

You get a Shot Activated Recording system and WIFI for streaming and playback.

There is no built in rangefinding device on these thermal scopes, but it can work with an external rangefinder and the two can connect with Bluetooth for seamless operation.

It mounts to a Picatinny rail with standard 30mm scope rings and can detect heat signatures up to 2600m away. So it works well with long range rifles and then you can downgrade it to an AGM Adder TS35 for hitting coyotes and hogs at closer range.


Thermal Scope vs Night Vision Scope

The best thermal scopes and night vision scope are both exceptional tools that work in a slightly different way. A thermal rifle scope uses heat signatures, while a night vision scope amplifies the available light.

Confusingly, night vision doesn’t work in complete darkness or blanket fog, while thermal vision scopes provide a clear view of your target.

Where night vision can excel is image clarity and target identification. Thermal vision scopes are closing that gap with every generation, but night vision, especially at the cheaper end of the spectrum, still has the advantage when it comes to taking the shot.

The human detection range is often double the human identification range and more. They are very different things and it’s important to know exactly what you’re looking at through your thermal imaging riflescopes before you, you know, shoot it.

That’s why plenty of hunters combine the two systems and use either a budget thermal clip-on scope, or a thermal image monocular for searching for the target, before switching to the night vision scope to take the shot.

White Hot vs Black Hot vs Red Hot: Color Modes Explained

These are just a few of the standard color palettes. In white hot, white represents the hottest part of the image. Law enforcement tends to favor black hot, because it gives the clearest and most life like image, while red hot is the classic thermal image that we all know and love.

What is the Best Thermal Imaging Monocular?

A thermal imaging monocular does not attach to the rifle and does not function as a thermal imaging riflescope. It’s simply an add-on, so they do come much cheaper and you don’t have to obsess quite so much over the image quality.

A handheld thermal imaging monocular is basic equipment for law enforcement, search & rescue, border patrol and hunters in the field. Thermal vision goggles, or thermal binoculars, are also popular.

You can also mount more advanced thermal image monocular on your rifle without interfering

You can pick up a decent Thermal Imaging Monocular for $400 and you can easily spend $2000 on a high quality option. Check out more options here:


Author

  • Nick Hall

    Nick is a lifelong gun enthusiast who has a simple mission. He wants to find the best deals for guns online and help you make the best choices with weapons your life may depend on one day.Nick won a minor league shooting competition at the age of 11 and it all went from there. Now he runs one of the biggest firearms websites on the net and his work has featured in Playboy US, Tatler Asia, Forbes and a whole host of national magazines and websites.

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