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Last updated: March 03, 2023
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If you hunt, and you don’t have a good night vision scope, then the fun stops once the sun goes down – and there’s a whole nocturnal world of critters out there, no matter what your location. Night time also offers great concealment and a scope gives a great advantage in the dark – so it seems a shame to be missing out.
This guide is for those of you that want night time hunting without breaking the bank. It’s all about finding the best night vision scope under $1000.
You may want to grab the advantage of shooting after dark by both horns, and you may be looking to hunt nocturnal animals for fun, or even to protect your crops. So, we’re going to try to help you narrow down your search a bit, and we’re also going to take a quick, informative walk through what NV scopes can do – and how they work. We came up with a list of top 5 picks, and the Night Owl Optics NightShot turned out to be the best one.
Extra features: weatherproof, 640 x 480 resolution, 40mm aperture
Mid-range in price but still managing to pack in a lot of features is the Night Owl Optics Nightshot. This unit boasts a great upper range ability and it’ll operate well at distances up unto 200 yards, with either the right levels of ambient light or the assistance of the built-in Infra-Red illuminator. Beware, though, that constant IR illumination will drain your power a lot quicker and that this unit takes four double-A batteries.
There’s a lot to be said for this scope and I personally like the rugged design and how relatively simple it is to learn and operate the controls. You don’t get fancy streaming or video capabilities here but if just going out and shooting at night is what you want to do, you get a great scope for a bit less money – although not the cheapest out there. This scope gives a decent sized aperture of 40mm – and a lot of bang for your buck.
A drawback with this model would be the lack of ability to use an external battery pack, and I think it’s fair to pull it up on that because although it’s getting cheap, it isn’t right down the bottom of the price range yet.
To sum up, the Night Owl effort is a good little scope, and you don’t quite have to break the bank to buy one. You’ll be sacrificing some of the fancier features, but you end up with a scope that’s effective and relatively easy to use.
Extra features: 42mm objective lens, 640×480 resolution, resistant to bright light exposure, weatherproof, shockproof
This is a digital scope and it’s optimized for medium range operation. The manufacturer claims more than a 30% reduction in weight when compared to similar digital scopes and it does look sleek.
A decent sized objective lens – at 42mm – will help pull in a fair amount of ambient light and the unit incorporates good shock proofing too.
Video output is present with this model, for those that want to immortalize kills on film, and there’s also a nice powerful built-in Infra-Red illuminator for when conditions demand.
The range is reported to be very good on this scope, especially with the assistance of the built-in IR illuminator. You also have the option of pushing the distance a bit further by using an additional IR torch – and the range in magnification, alongside excellent clarity certainly doesn’t discourage going a bit farther out with this unit.
A negative with this model is that it’s a bit pricier than the previous scope on this list, and it’s definitely going to come down to asking yourself what features you really need when you weigh these two picks up against each other. There will be some of you out there that absolutely love this scope, though.
It’s certainly a great night vision scope for medium range hunting and if the streaming features don’t float your boat so much, then this is an option worth considering.
Extra features: smart range finder, 1080p HD video and photo recording, recoil activated video, Wi-Fi streaming
This scope is packed with features, and once you take some time to learn how easy it is to operate them all, you’ll have a great experience with it. It’ll really improve the fun you have with your night time hunting.
The ATN X-sight is well named and it incorporates some great ballistics calculation tools to make that target get bigger, while not being so big or bulky that it affects the way you move and shoot.
It’s a scope with some great features for the show-offs, because you can produce HD video with it effortlessly and it’ll take great still photos too, for when you want to capture that dramatic shot. If that’s not enough showing off for you, and you still want more – you can even stream video with this beauty. It’s also compatible with either iOS or Android, so you’re all set.
It has a good range of magnification and you can use this scope in the daytime.
You can use a portable battery pack with this model but beware because there have been some reports of the USB connector port getting a bit sloppy, so I wouldn’t rely on that feature.
This scope also has a built-in Infra-Red light, so it’ll work well a bit further out than some.
All-in-all this is a great scope with a lot of features that make it a great all-rounder and very versatile. You can’t go too far wrong with this unit. It’s a great option.
Extra features: titanium body, 14-degree field of view, 45mm eye relief
This is a scope that’s right down the bottom end of the price range and for what it costs, it really delivers. It’s made from strong and lightweight titanium and when you consider along-side that, the function it performs is complicated – then it’s impossible to pull this scope apart for the money you’re putting out.
It does exactly what it’s supposed to do, albeit with a slightly limited field of view, at mid and long range. This scope needs some fiddling with the mounting mechanism to get it solid on your gun but once you’ve got that set up, you’re in business and clarity is very decent.
One negative – which isn’t too relevant if you’re purely intending to use this scope for what it is marketed for – is that it’s very advisable not to use the Firefield FF 16001 during the day, under any circumstances. You absolutely will damage the internals if you do so. For this sort of cost, you’re probably going to be able to have a day scope anyway, so don’t risk it. This scope really won’t tempt you to use it during the day because it won’t perform well in daylight anyway.
It’s also worth mentioning here that the Firefield comes with a good enough Infra-Red illuminator – which works well with its long-range capabilities.
In short, you really can’t go too far wrong with this scope if you’re on a limited budget and you just want it to do what it’s supposed to do. Nothing fancy, but a good functional and robust scope – it’s ideal for hunting and the rough and tumble of the field.
Extra features: adjustable IR brightness, 40 mm objective lens
What you get here is a purely functional addition to a scope. This isn’t a stand-alone night vision scope and it’s designed to be used with a scope to give night vision capability.
Basically, the Bushnell Equinox Z unit is designed to attach to your existing scope and it’s not a rifle scope itself. It is however, a very low-cost option if you don’t want to spend lots of dollars and you can handle the extra complexities of adding it to your daytime set-up.
The unit can be purchased either with a mount, or without. If you intend to use it on your rifle with a scope, then be sure to purchase the mount too. It can be used handheld without the mount.
Apart from enabling night vision, it has an in-built IR illuminator and you also get video and picture capture with this little digital unit.
The weight is quite heavy for what’s essentially a small piece of kit so be aware that this device absolutely will add some significant weight to your existing set-up.
Again, this is a great little thing for not a bank-breaking cost but be aware that it’s not a stand-alone night vision scope. A lot of shooters are going to prefer spending another few dollars for a complete NV Scope. The choice on that is yours.
Why are we impressed?
Won’t break the bank
Video and picture capture
What negatives must you be aware of?
Not a stand-alone scope
Things to Consider
In this buying guide, we’ll walk you through the key features you need to consider when choosing the best night vision scope for your needs.
Reasons to get a top-quality night vision scope under $1000
When it comes to investing in a night vision scope, your reasons are usually, as a hunter going to involve shooting after dark. That’s a given, right? Well, so it goes that when you’re choosing, apart from the usual concerns you’re going to be applying with regard to your budget, you also need to figure out what sort of shooting you’re going to need it to be able to assist you with. And it’s also very relevant to figure out at what sort of range and in which conditions you’re going to need it to perform.
If you do take the time to figure out all these things before you start looking, then you’re going to avoid paying for features that you don’t need, and you can narrow down your search based on what you want the scope to do for you.
Features to consider when choosing a night vision scope
The following points are designed to help you make decisions on how you intend to use your new scope, based on what strengths you need in it, and which weaknesses may be irrelevant to your particular brand of hunting and prey. If you’re mainly doing closer range hunting, for instance, then why pay more dollars for a scope that’s great at 120 yards? When looking for the best night vision rifle scope under $1000, it’s a fact of life that you should prioritize the stuff you need.
Night vision is generally going to not give you the same benefits in magnification as a day scope. This is basically because there’s a trade-off here going on between gain and making things bigger.
Gain is how well the scope uses ambient light in the dark. And the levels of this you’ll get from a scope are going to be inversely proportional to the amount of magnification that the scope is capable of.
Yes, more magnification is great – but image quality will generally deteriorate too when you magnify more – as will your field of vision at range.
Don’t pay heaps for massive amounts of magnification if the range you’re going to be shooting at is relatively short. One of the biggest needs for magnification with good clarity when hunting at night is obviously going to be safety. So, sure, if you’re going to be shooting at long range, you may need to put a lot of weight on magnification so as to be able to identify a target accurately at that range before you shoot it.
Let’s not forget that if a scope boasts a detection range of 150 yards, that’s just giving you the ability to detect movement at that range. If the optics aren’t up to scratch, it doesn’t mean you’ll be able to tell a hog from a human – so safety, range and magnification are all very important factors if you’re not just taking part in organized competitions on a shooting range, where safety procedures will ensure that you’re not going to accidentally shoot something you didn’t want to shoot.
Night & day modes
Again, this is your call. Day scopes aren’t as costly as night vision scopes, so do you really want to be paying a lot more for a NV scope to work in the daytime? On optical scopes, day time performance is extremely limited at best, and many of them just can’t be used during the day without damaging them significantly. Many people would argue that it is best to have a scope for daytime, and one for the night.
An exception to this rule is digital night vision scopes. Digital scopes can generally be used in both conditions. If costs and budgets limit you to one scope for both day and night time shooting, then maybe you could limit your search to digital scopes to solve that problem. This is one of the reasons we included a digital scope in this list – so take note if you’re that hunter.
This is another important factor to be aware of when choosing to part with dollars for a scope, for a few different reasons. Firstly, don’t go buying a scope that gives excellent magnification and clarity at 200 yards if you only ever shoot close range at night. The cost will be a lot higher, but the second factor to consider is that the features needed in a scope for that range will make it inferior at gain than a scope designed for shorter ranges. This either means it won’t perform as well in terms of how it’s using ambient light – or that you’ll need to use any in-built Infra-Red features more often, and that’ll significantly affect how long your batteries last.
You can see where I’m going with this. It’s all a trade-off, and even more with a night vision scope than other things – especially when working to a budget, because that’s what we’re going to have to do when trying to identify the best night vision scope under $1000 – these things aren’t cheap, because they have to be able to do more stuff than a daytime scope. Which affects size, weight, battery life, etc. As I’ve said, you need to know exactly what you need and choose based on that. This will see you weighing up the features you need – against the features that don’t matter to you.
The aperture size helps greatly in determining how well the scope will gather and use ambient light. The size of the lens improves how much light is ‘recycled’ by the scope, and it can be very useful to have a bigger aperture in lower light conditions, especially when hunting prey that’s active at dusk. You’ll need less or no IR. But even in starlight, the aperture size will help – a lot. This is a very relevant factor for battery life.
This is most relevant usually to the type of scope you choose – with regard to magnification and the figures for field of view. You’ll need to consider what position your rifle places your eye at, and make sure that the scope is going to be at the right distance range from your eye so that you don’t end up losing the advantage of a bigger field of view, as can happen if you’re not able to comfortably place your eye within the right range from the end of the scope. This can be hard to work out without physically having a scope and your gun at hand – so I’d advise asking the manufacturer if the specs of the scope suit your rifle.
Wi-Fi connectivity, streaming and recording
This is going to be an important consideration if you like showing off your shooting successes to your friends and family. Just remember that you’ll pay for these features. If just hitting targets more often and in more conditions and terrains is what you want to do, then you’re better off going for quality in the features that will enable you to do that. And I say that mainly because we’re looking for the best night vision scope under $1000 here. Most hunters can manage without Wi-Fi connectivity – but they’ll need the scope to be able to do the job it was designed for in the dark.
Durable construction and build
This is another factor that will matter to varying degrees to different people. Are you going to be largely static when you use the scope, or are you going to be running around the woods a lot? It’s true that durability and a hardy build are great to have but weigh it up as per how you hunt.
An exception on this point is when it comes to rail mounts. If your scope has a built-in rail mount, make sure it’s adjustable and gives the tightest possible fit to your gun. Once you’ve set the scope up, the last thing you want it to do is move, in relation to your weapon. Once again, if you don’t need an indestructible scope, don’t look for one and just concentrate on the rail mount being great when you’re looking on a budget.
Batteries and battery lifespan
This is obviously a big factor and it partly goes back to how much IR you need to use in the conditions and at the range you’re shooting at. The more you use IR and can’t rely on the gain to pick up ambient light, the more quickly you’ll drain power. And in turn the more often you’ll have to pay attention to batteries.
A point to briefly mention here is that if you do opt for a scope that relies on normal batteries, in order to spend bucks on other features – pay really close attention to where the battery compartment is, how easy it is to access and quietly change out batteries when you’re in the thick of the hunt.
And make sure that if you’re likely to have to change batteries every couple of hours, you can do so without having to remove the unit from your rifle. You do not want a situation where you bought a scope that needs frequent battery changes, and you have to re-sight that scope every time it happens. That just cuts down on the fun.
Options wise, you’re looking at a few. First, and probably cheapest is using standard batteries and changing them a bit. This will cost over time but get you a cheaper scope, or a scope with better features. Secondly, you can get the same scope and invest in a couple of packs of rechargeable batteries. That’s a good middle option. Or thirdly, some scopes come with the ability to plug in an external battery pack. Use what you do, your budget and any weight concerns to decide.
An IR illuminator is only required in Total Darkness, and sometimes when you’re operating right at the larger end of the scope’s distance range. If you have a short -range scope and it’s got good gain, then you won’t need it.
At a longer range, IR can help the scope to perform better, for sure.
No, it’s not. Something that can take a light rain shower can’t necessarily be submerged in water or have buckets thrown at it. Ask the manufacturer about the rating for their particular scope, and what it means in everyday use to be absolutely sure.
So, that’s about that when it comes to buying the best night vision scope under $1000. We’ve looked at a nice range of scopes, all for different budgets and with different levels of performance and features. There’s something for everyone on the list of our top five.
The stand-out winner here was the Night Owl Optics NightShot, which combines mid-range pricing with good features, and it won’t let you down in the field.
In at second place on our list was the Sightmark SM18008 Photon XT, which is another great scope – all be it for slightly more money than the number one scope. You will really like the sleek shape and it’s a lightweight digital option.
In third place was the ATN X-Sight II HD, which is an awesome scope with some amazing features. You will really like the ergonomics of this scope and its controls, and it is packed with high-performance attributes.
Whichever scope you go for here, for whatever reasons, none of our five picks will disappoint. They’re all good at what they do, for what they cost.
So, why are you still here anyway? It’ll be dark soon…