Most rifle users have at least compensated by getting a scope that supports dim light for those dusk and dawn hours; some choose to just shoot during broad daylight and yet others find alternative sources to illuminate their shooting range. What about folk who prefer to do their shooting in the dead of night?
For these adventurous folk there’s a market for what was every kid’s dream at one point – night vision rifle scopes. These are an intricate and intriguing technology and a lot of makers simply don’t know what they’re doing – while others also make other high-end rifle scopes. It’s a tough choice, so we’ve put together this buying guide and a list of the best air rifle scopes to help you see in the dark.
Why on Earth would I need night vision?
To see in the dark, of course.
It’s not quite obvious to some why you’d want to be out shooting in the dark. Maybe you need to see deer quietly grazing while they’re thinking that nobody’s watching them. Maybe your favorite game is nocturnal. Maybe you didn’t intend to be shooting in the dark in the first place and you just got lost. The point is, there are many advantages to having a night vision rifle scope. Plus, it’s a blast.
How does Digital Night Vision Rifle Scope work?
Night Vision’s a pretty new-fangled technology that works by collecting light particles, known as photons, and condensing them into an image intensifier. This thing turns the photons into electrons, which are then amplified and projected towards something like a green screen (the thing they use in movies to film CG.)
When these electrons hit the green screen, they’re illuminated at a wavelength that’s visible to humans. Basically. There’s more to it than that, but the scope basically takes imperceptible stimuli and amplifies them to a point that we can see them.
Are there different kinds of night vision scopes?
The technology itself has been around for quite some time, though it’s only fairly recently that manufacturers have been able to reliably produce night vision at a rate that the general public can afford it. That said, there are still vast differences in the price range and quality of different night vision scopes.
First generation night vision optics were first developed in the sixties. Surprisingly these are still used all over the world today, for one main reason – their price. They work, but they’re not perfect, but they’re still leagues better than trying to see by yourself in the dark.
First gen optics require at least some visible light to work, which is fine for most of us because we won’t be shooting in subterranean caves. The starlight and moonlight is enough for most first gen optics to work.
Second generation night vision optics offer the ability to work in complete dark, as well as providing a bit of a better picture and being able to last a lot longer before burning out.
Third generation night vision optics are pretty intense pieces of technology, and the price reflects that. However they’re extremely adept at creating images out of complete darkness at an impressive resolution and great range.
There is technically a fourth generation of night vision optics but you likely won’t have access to this as a civilian because the fourth gen takes off one of the protective coatings on the screen. This limits the lifespan of the scope to the point that it can’t reach the 10,000 hour minimum required by federal standards.
Choosing a night vision scope
So, what do you need your night vision for? Most casual shooters will be fine with a first generation optic. They suffice for everyday(night?) hunting and they’re not going to put as much of a dent in your wallet as a second or third generation. They’re also a lot smaller and easier to pack around.
Military or law enforcement will probably want to consider second or third generation optics because the unpredictability of the situations they might find themselves in could lend them to better use. Consider the following, though;
Clarity is obviously very important when hunting and first-gen scopes aren’t known for having the best resolution. Some first gen scopes have higher resolutions than others; second and third gen scopes generally all have much better resolution than first gen.
Range is a crucial factor as well. Long distance shooters will be sad to find that standard night vision optics aren’t great for seeing thousands of feet. When looking at your scopes it’s important that you look at the recognition range instead of the total range because this number is a lot more important in regards to what you’ll actually be able to see. Companies also typically define ranges for different levels of moon or starlight.
Durability is critical too. These things aren’t cheap and there’s no point in buying a scope that’s not waterproof if you live in an area where it often rains. Check the recoil standards too, since you’re dealing with a scope that has wee little electrical components that are a heck of a lot more sensitive than the ones you might be used to.
Infrared or not? Infrared light can be incredibly useful in both long range situations and the pitch dark. Infrared scopes send out a small line of light that’s enough for the sensors in the scope to pick up, allowing you to perceive images in an area that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to see anything.
The use of night vision on rifle scopes is one of the most exciting and intriguing uses for the technology. It’s important to remember that many areas have different legislation for hunting at night and in some places it’s outright illegal. Make sure you check your local laws before spending money on a night vision scope!
So what are the best night vision scopes?
If you think you’re prepared to go do some nighttime hunting (and you live in judiciary where it’s legal…) and you know what you’re looking for, then it’s time to go get yourself a scope. Like we said, there are a ton of options out there – we’ve narrowed the choices down for you and have provided you with the five best night vision scopes you’ll find today.