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Best Thermal Scope – Buyer’s Guide

Best Thermal ScopeMuch can be said about thermal scopes.

They are great for night hunting and some of them come with some cool features like HD display screens and video recording systems.

Thermal scopes were initially used by the military.

Today, you can own a thermal scope thanks to technological advances that have made developing these scopes less costly.

Although they do make nighttime hunting easy, they are more costly than night vision optics. The reason why you wouldn’t opt night vision optics for thermal scopes is because with the former, you cannot spot animals in absolute darkness.

TOP PICK — Pulsar PL76543
Verdict
The Pulsar Thermion XP50 was our top pick because of its performance and extra cool features. So not all thermal scopes come with an internal video recording system and AMOLED display screen, but the Thermion XP50 does. In addition, it has 13 different reticles from which to choose from and varying color display options. Let’s check out other features.
Pros
100% waterproof
AMOLED display
Video recording system
2.0 base power magnification
Great image quality
Cons
Noticeable tint
Focal tube is hard to turn at the beginning
Short battery life
4.8
TOP PICK
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Thermal scopes enable you to spot animals that are 100+ yards away using a heat detection sensor. And the images are usually so clear that you can identify the species of the animals.

So if you are looking to get a thermal scope, consider your budget, hunting terrain, and purpose of the scope. We have reviewed some of the best thermal scopes out there according to our research team.

And in the revews, we have included the pros and cons of each product. There is also a buyer’s guide to help you make a wise decision when deciding on a thermal scope.

Thermal Scopes Comparison Chart

Model

Pulsar PL76543 Thermion XP50 1.9-15x42

Trijicon IRMK3-35 Mark III 2.5-20x35

ATN TIWSTH384A ThOR HD 384 4.5-18x50

FLIR System TAB173WN9RX0011 Thermosight Pro PTS233 1.5-6x19

Pulsar PL76542 Thermion XP38 1.5-12x32

Photo

Pulsar PL76543 Thermion XP50 1.9-15x42

Trijicon IRMK3-35 Mark III 2.5-20x35

ATN TIWSTH384A ThOR HD 384 4.5-18x50

FLIR System TAB173WN9RX0011 Thermosight Pro PTS233 1.5-6x19

Pulsar PL76542 Thermion XP38 1.5-12x32

Magnification

1.9-15x

2.5-20x

4.5-18x

1.5-6x

1.5-12x

Objective Lens Diameter

42 mm

35 mm

50 mm

19 mm

32 mm

Microbolometer Resolution

640x480 pixels

640x480 pixels

384x288 pixels

320x256 pixels

640x480 pixels

Display

AMOLED 1024X768

Digital OLED Display

Micro HD 1280x960

Quad-VGA (1280 x 960) FLCOS

AMOLED 1024X768

Field of View
12.4°

12°

4.7°-6°

9.5°-12°

16.3°

Eye Relief

50 mm

27  mm

65 mm

45 mm

50 mm

Refresh Rate

60 Hz

30 - 60 Hz

n/a

60 Hz

50 Hz

Operating Temperature

-25 to 50 Celsius

-40 - 55 Celsius

-40 - 55 Celsius

-20 - 50 Celsius

-25 - 50 Celsius

Battery Life

n/a

3.5 - 5 hours

8+ Hours

4 Hours

n/a

Weight

31.7 oz

34.9 oz

29.6 oz

23.04 oz

26.45 oz

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5 Best Thermal Scopes (as of October, 2020):

1. Pulsar PL76543 Thermion XP50 1.9-15×42 Thermal Scope Review

4.8
Check Price

The Pulsar PL76543 Thermion XP50 1.9-15×42 is an easy to use thermal scope with an AMOLED display screen and inbuilt video recording system.

With the inbuilt video recording system, you can record your observations and there is a WIFI feature, so you can live stream to your smartphone. The scope comes with a USB port so you can connect it to your computer and upload your videos.

Pulsar PL76543 Thermion XP50 1.9-15x42

Via: @guncitynz

The AMOLED display screen shows images in high resolution. When you compare the image clarity of the Thermion XP50 with other similar models, the Pulsar went above and beyond to ensure the images are sharp and clear on the screen.

Pulsar PL76543 Thermion XP50 1.9-15x42 Review, Pros and Cons

With this scope, you can identify images clearly even when the weather conditions are not so great. You can pick out small animals that are 200 yards out in humid conditions without a problem.

Even in freezing temperatures, you can still pick out animals that are 200 or more yards away.

The XP50 has a heat detection range of 1800 meters in the dark. And there are color display options which include the standard white hot and black hot colors, which are found in similar scopes.

There is also a button on the side of this thermal that allows you to adjust the brightness and contrast of your views.

This thermal has a 42mm objective lens, which gathers enough light to produce high contrast images. The magnification ranges from 2x to 15x. And the 2x base magnification gives you a 65-yard field of view at 1000 yards, which makes this thermal a great scanner.

Pulsar PL76543 Thermion XP50 1.9-15x42

Via: @blackboarrifles

As for the body, the XP50 has a sturdy build that is rugged and 100% waterproof. So you take it out in the rain, and.

Main Features

  • 1,975 yd Detection Range
  • 8x Digital Zoom
  • Zeroing Profiles Management
  • High Definition Image
  • Picture-In-Picture Digital Zoom
  • 13 Variable Electronic Reticles
  • Full-Color HD Amoled Display
  • Instant Start-Up & Color Palettes
  • Video & Still-Photo Recording
  • 16-GB Internal Memory
  • IRIS Technology, Increased Recognition & Detection Software
  • Manual, Automatic & Semi-Automatic Calibration Modes
  • Defective Pixel Repair Feature
  • Stadiametric Rangefinder
  • IPX7 Waterproof Rated
  • Stream Vision App Supported
  • B-Pack Mini Combined Power System
Verdict
Pros
Rugged construction that is 100% waterproof
AMOLED display with high resolution
Video recording system
Stream vision app
42mm objective lens for clear visuals
2.0 base power magnification
Great image quality
13 reticles options
USB port to connect to your computer
Color display options
Cons
Noticeable tint
Focal tube is hard to turn at the beginning
Short battery life
4.8
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2. Trijicon IRMK3-35 Mark III 2.5-20×35 Thermal Scope Review

Trijicon IRMK3-35 Mark III 2.5-20x35

  • ETR Image Enhancement
  • IR Window Lens Protection
  • Edge Detect Tactical Mode
  • Digital OLED Display
  • Enhanced Target Recognition

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Trijicon is an American company that produces high-quality thermal scopes and monoculars. They use military grade parts to make their optics, which is why their optics are expensive, but unmatched in performance.

The Trijicon IR Hunter comes in two versions. The Mark II and the Mark III. The Mark III comes in 2 lens options, the 35mm and the 60mm. The 35mm is designed for short and mid-range shooting, while the 60mm is designed for long distance shooting.

Trijicon IRMK3-35 Mark III 2.5-20x35

Via: @nash.cory

The Trijicon IRMK3-35 Mark III 2.5-20×35 has reticle options, a range finder and a battery extender.

Trijicon IRMK3-35 Mark III 2.5-20x35 Review, Pros and Cons

One of the most notable differences between the Mark II and Mark III, is that the latter has windage and elevation adjustments that turn easily. It also has an adjustable eyepiece to help you focus on an object quickly and with ease.

The image clarity of this thermal scope is outstanding. You can spot animals in utter darkness that are yards away without a problem. And there using the Edge Detection Mode feature, you can reduce the brightness of your views.

Trijicon IRMK3-35 Mark III 2.5-20x35 comes with an OLED display screen

The Mark III comes with an OLED display screen that displays images in high-resolution. Although it does not have a video recording system like most thermal scopes, it has a WIFI feature so you can share your amazing moments with others via the internet.

Trijicon IRMK3-35 Mark III 2.5-20x35 comes with an OLED display screen

This thermal has an aluminium body and a nice black finish. It is sturdy and water resistant and therefore can withstand harsh environments.

Main Features

  • Enhanced Target Recognition (ETR) Image Enhancement
  • Digital Focus Control Seamless Integration
  • IR Window Lens Protection
  • Edge Detect Tactical Mode
  • 8x E-Zoom Digital Zoom
  • Thermal Sensitivity
  • Spectral Response 8 – 12 Microns
  • Digital OLED Display
  • Start-up Time is Approximately 5 Seconds
  • Video Output via Analog RS-170 (with Optional Cable)
  • Full 640×480 Thermal Imager
  • Enhanced Target Recognition
  • MaxPol White Hot/Black Settings
  • Stadiametric Rangefinder
  • Nitrogen filled & Waterproof to 1 meter
  • Can be used as a Handheld Monocular
PROS:
  • Aluminium body for strength and durability
  • Weather proof construction
  • Clear images at night
  • Battery extender
  • Adjustable turrets for sharp focusing
  • Parallax removal option
  • Edge detection mode feature to minimize image brightness
  • 35mm objective lens
  • 5x base magnification
  • Ideal for short and medium range targeting
  • Long battery life

CONS:
  • Eye tearing price tag

3. ATN TIWSTH384A ThOR HD 384 4.5-18×50 Thermal Scope Review

ATN TIWSTH384A ThOR HD 384 4.5-18x50

  • Thermal Sensor 384×288
  • Smooth Zoom
  • 1080p HD Video Recording & Photos
  • RAV & Wi-Fi Streaming
  • Ballistic Calculator
  • Smart Rangefinder

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The ATN TIWSTH384A ThOR HD 384 4.5-18×50 is not a cheap scope. But if you are the type of person who prioritizes quality over price, then you should consider buying this scope because it’s of great quality.

The ThOR 384 thermal scope has a base magnification of 4.5x and you can dial up the magnification up to 18x.  It has multiple reticles that you can choose from and you can change the color of the reticles.

And the color display options include red, blue, yellow, green, black, and white.

ATN TIWSTH384A ThOR HD 384 4.5-18x50

Via: @atncorp

The ThOR has a sensor that detects heat at night. So when night hunting, even when there is no light at all, the sensor picks up heat signatures and you can easily identify an animal from a tree or rock.

It also has an internal video camera and you can record anything you see through the scope. And you can live stream what you are seeing to your smartphone using WIFI.

ATN TIWSTH384A ThOR HD 384 4.5-18x50 Review, Pros and Cons

There is an inbuilt ballistic calculator to help you get accurate shots. And what’s more is that it has a builtin rangefinder that calculates and displays the distance between you and your prey.

ATN TIWSTH384A ThOR HD 384 4.5-18x50

Via: @atncorp

So you can estimate how far or near your target is and using the adjustable eyepiece, you can get a sharper focus on your image.

This scope can be sat on many different rifles and it can calibrate to the specific rifle. And this makes this scope versatile as you can mount it on just about any type of rifle.

There is a USB port in which you can use to connect a battery pack when you need to use the scope for a couple of hours. The battery pack doesn’t come with the scope, so you would need to buy it separately from ATN.

ATN TIWSTH384A ThOR HD 384 4.5-18x50

Via: @wes0990d

Main Features

  • Excellent Image Performance with 384×288 Sensor
  • Smooth Zoom
  • 1080p HD Video Recording & Photos
  • Recoil Activated Video (RAV) & Wi-Fi Streaming
  • Ballistic Calculator
  • Smart Rangefinder
  • Day/Night Mode
  • Profile Manager
  • Microphone
  • MicroSD Card
  • iOS & Android Apps
  • E-Barometer, Gyroscope & E-Compass
  • Weather Resistant
  • Battery Life 8 hours
PROS:
  • Heat sensor for nighttime hunting
  • Ballistic calculator for accurate shooting
  • Integrated rangefinder to help you know how or near you are to your target
  • USB port to connect your battery pack
  • Excellent field of view
  • Video recording system to records your views
  • Live stream option via WIFI
  • Incredible image clarity in absolute darkness

CONS:
  • It is pricey
  • Short battery life

SMART Thermal Rifle Scope ATN ThOR-HD with Camera for Night hunting:

SMART Thermal Rifle Scope ATN ThOR-HD with Camera for Night hunting

4. FLIR System TAB173WN9RX0011 Thermosight Pro PTS233 1.5-6×19 Review

FLIR System TAB173WN9RX0011 Thermosight Pro PTS233 1.5-6x19

  • Exceptional Night Vision
  • FLIR Boson Camera Core
  • High Resolution FLCOS Display
  • Multiple Color Palette
  • Shot Activated Video Recording

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The FLIR System TAB173WN9RX0011 Thermosight Pro PTS233 1.5-6×19 is a budget scope. So if you are looking to get a quality thermal scope with minimal spending, this is it.

So some people assume that a cheap scope may not have much to offer in regards to performance, but that’s not the case. The Flir Thermosight PTS233 is a capable thermal scope that does pretty well in the dark.

FLIR System TAB173WN9RX0011 Thermosight Pro PTS233 1.5-6x19

Via: @goblin_tactical

Now, this thermal scope has a 1.5x to 6x magnification, which makes it ideal for hunting. The 19mm objective lens gives you clear images and there is an enhancement feature that allows you to adjust the brightness, sharpness, and contrast of your images.

There are reticle options including the traditional crosshairs. And there is an option not to use a reticle, which is a bit odd.

FLIR System TAB173WN9RX0011 Thermosight Pro PTS233 1.5-6x19 Review, Pros and Cons

But if you like recording your hunting trips and uploading them on Youtube and prefer the videos not to have a dot or crosshair in them, then the “none” reticle option makes sense.

The Flir Thermosight PTS233 has different color palettes which include sepia, arctic, outdoor alert, white hot, black hot, and rainbow.

So you have the option of choosing the color you want and you can switch from one color to another when you need to take a shot or view your target.

Via: @downrangethermal

It has an internal video recording system that allows you to record what you see through the scope.

This is a fixed focus lens scope, so you cannot adjust the lens. That is not necessarily a setback, but if you prefer a thermal scope with an adjustable lens, then this scope is not for you.

The boresight feature on the scope displays the windage and elevation adjustments. And the turrets used for making these adjustments are easy to use and they turn smoothly.

Via: @downrangethermal

The scope runs on batteries and they can last up to 4hours. But in freezing weather, the battery uses more charge, which means it may give you only about one or two hours of use.

Main Features

  • Exceptional Night Vision
  • FLIR Boson Camera Core
  • High Resolution FLCOS Display
  • Shot Activated Video Recording
  • Temperature Imaging Modes: White Hot, Black Hot, Rainbow High Contrast, Ironbow, Sepia, Arctic, Outdoor Alert
  • Reticles: Dot 4 MOA, Line Dot, Cross Center Dot, Cross, Crosshair, and “No Reticle”
  • Reticle Colors: Black, White, Red, and Cyan
  • Digital Compass & Inclinometer
  • Aircraft-Aluminum Alloy Body
  • Internal Storage of up to 2.5 hours of Recording or up to 1,000 Pictures
PROS:
  • Internal video recording system to record your hunting trips
  • Different color display options
  • Different reticle options
  • The picture quality is excellent
  • The button functions are easy to operate
  • Solid build that is shock and water resistant
  • Affordable

CONS:
  • It records video only, but not audio
  • The focus lens is not adjustable so it hard to get a crisp image
  • Small field of view

5. Pulsar PL76542 Thermion XP38 1.5-12×32 Review

Pulsar PL76542 Thermion XP38 1.5-12x32

  • Zeroing Profiles Management
  • 1,475 yd Detection Range
  • High Definition Image
  • Picture-in-Picture
  • Customizable Reticle Options
  • High Resolution Amoled Display

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The Pulsar PL76542 Thermion XP38 1.5-12×32 has a 32mm objective lens. Some hunters may not find the size to be large enough, but this 32mm delivers high-quality images at night.

There are different reticle options to choose from and there are also 8 different color display modes. And you can switch from one color to another depending on whether you are tracking your target or shooting.

Pulsar PL76542 Thermion XP38 1.5-12x32 Review, Pros and Cons

The image clarity this scope delivers is amazing. You can clearly see hogs or deer that are 200 yards away. And what’s great about this thermal, is that you can magnify an object to the highest power and the image clarity remains crisp.

This is something of an issue with some thermal scopes. So it’s great this scope doesn’t have this issue.

Pulsar PL76542 Thermion XP38 1.5-12x32

Via: @brandon.poirot

Pulsar PL76542 Thermion XP38 1.5-12x32

Via: @p.i.g_down

The Thermion XP38 uses a battery and you can get about 6 hours of runtime, but in freezing conditions, you may get less hours. Also, if you are constantly zooming in and out and using other features, then that runtime can also go down.

Main Features

  • 1,475 yd Detection Range
  • 8x Digital Zoom
  • Zeroing Profiles Management
  • High Definition Image
  • Picture-In-Picture Digital Zoom
  • 13 Variable Electronic Reticles
  • High Resolution Amoled Display
  • Instant Start-Up & Color Palettes
  • Video & Still-Photo Recording
  • 16-GB Internal Memory
  • IRIS Technology, Increased Recognition & Detection Software
  • Manual, Automatic & Semi-Automatic Calibration Modes
  • Defective Pixel Repair Feature
  • Stadiametric Rangefinder
  • IPX7 Waterproof Rated
  • Stream Vision App Supported
  • B-Pack Mini Combined Power System
PROS:
  • Heat detection range of upto 1475 yards
  • High-resolution display
  • 13 different reticles
  • Eight different color display options
  • Weather resistance
  • Waterproof and shockproof
  • Long battery life
  • Magnification range of 1.5x to 12x
  • 32mm objective lens
  • Builtin video recording system
  • Live stream Pulsar app for smartphone live streaming

CONS:
  • It is not pocket-friendly

Buyer’s Guide

If you are interested in purchasing a thermal imaging scope, but don’t know how to go about it, here is a small guide to get you started. Key factors to consider when buying a thermal imaging scope.

Resolution

Depending on the manufacturer some scopes have higher resolutions than others.

What you need to know is that a thermal scope with a 320 resolution, for example, doesn’t have a sharp or clear picture as that of a thermal scope that has a 640 resolution. And with the 640 you also get a larger field of view.

Resolution for the best thermal scopes

Via: @predator_hunter_outfitters

So when you are considering the scope’s resolution, think about the clarity of the pictures and the field of view.

The other other kind of resolution that is also important to consider is that of the thermal sensor.

It is important to note that the resolution of a thermal sensor is not the same as that of the scope’s. That of scope is usually higher than the thermal sensor resolution.

The resolution of the thermal sensor is represented in microns. And usually, when you get a thermal scope, it may indicate that it’s a 12 micron or 35 micron scope. So the larger the micron number, the less efficient the scope.

Thermal Detection Range

You can get a quality entry-level thermal scope that has a thermal detection range of 1000 yards. And you can get some expensive ones that have a detection range of up 3000 yards.

So when it comes to thermal detection range, it’s really up to you what you want. Many expert hunters go for scopes that can give them a detection range of 1000 yards.

Thermal Detection Range for thermal scopes

Via: @zack_keathley

But you can choose to go with one that can give you longer range although it might not be necessary because you are more than likely going to take shots at 200 or 300 yards.

Magnification

If you want a thermal scope that is designed for long distance shooting, you need one that has high magnification. And such thermal scopes are expensive.

But although high magnification is great at bringing objects that are at great distances closer, it narrows the field of view. And when this happens, it can be hard to track a moving target.

Most thermal scopes come with multiple magnification options. And you can adjust the magnification to get a clear view of your target, while maintaining a good field of view.

Objective Lens Size

The size of the objective lens does matter in regards to the field of view. A large objective lens offers a larger field of view and clearer images because it gathers more light.

So not only does it give you shapers images, you are also able to see the whole image through the scope.

And that’s not all, with a large field of view, you are able to track a deer or coyote that’s running. This is something that is hard to do if the field of view is small.

Via: @lescobarz

Reticle Patterns

Most thermal scopes come with different reticle options to choose from. And some typical ones are the crosshair and single dot reticles. So you can choose what reticle you want depending on what it is you want to do.

Most thermal scopes come with different reticle options to choose from

Some thermal scopes give you the option of not using the reticle if you don’t want to and it’s not all cases you need one. But for night hunting, you definitely need a reticle.

Refresh Rate

When we talk about refresh rate of a scope, we are talking about how frequently a scope refreshes an image. A scope that constantly refreshes images, makes it easy to notice any movements the image makes.

Hertz is the unit that is used to measure refresh rate. And if the refresh rate is 60 hertz or higher, it’s easy to hit a fast moving hog or deer. But if you are simply watching animals that are not moving at all, then a scope with a refresh rate of 30 hertz is more than ideal.

Battery Life

Most thermal scopes have an integrated battery, but usually this battery doesn’t last long. So we recommend that you get a rechargeable battery, if your scope has a USB port you can connect it to. Rechargeable batteries last a lot longer.

Durability

Most thermal scopes are not cheap and if you choose to get an expensive one, make sure that it can withstand the test of time. Also to check see what material its made from because that determines its strength and durability.

Best Thermal Scope for hunting

Via: @lescobarz

When you are out in the field in freezing temperatures, some thermal scopes can withstand these conditions and others cannot. But having said, whether your scope is cheap or expensive, taking good care of it can extend its life and give you years of use.

Budget

Some thermal scopes are ridiculously expensive. You can get one that is going for thousands of dollars. And this doesn’t necessarily mean that it offers better quality images than one that cost a few hundred bucks.

There are some super expensive thermal scopes that are absolutely useless in the field. And there are some cheap scopes that do a good job.  It all really depends on  how much you are willing to spend on a thermal scope.

Extra Features

Thermal scopes that come with extra features like GPS, rangefinders, video recording systems, wifi for live streaming, and display screens are great. But they are also costly.

You don’t need a thermal scopes that comes with all the bells and whistles. If you just want to hunt and nothing else, a thermal scope with standard features is all you need.

But if you are a Youtuber and you want to share your hunting trips with others, then you need a thermal scope with video recording capabilities and other specialized features.

Conclusion

A good thermal scope is one that has great features and delivers high-level performance at a cost that you can afford without straining yourself. You may choose one that has extra special features other than the standard features, but also be ready to spend more.

The bottom line is before you buy a thermal scope, consider the features mentioned in this guide. Also, read user reviews and check out video reviews of different thermal scopes to help you make a more informed decision.

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