How to Choose a Night Vision Rifle Scope

night vision rifle scope

Looking for a night vision rifle scope, but don’t know how to choose the best one? night vision rifle scope

We hear you.

You have dozens of choices in the market today, all with a bunch of special features you’ve probably never heard of:

What’s a night vision generation?

What’s IR illumination?

What’s signal to noise ratio?

If this is you, you’ve come to the right place.

Today, we’re going in-depth in all you need to know before buying a night vision rifle scope. You’ll go from clueless to expert (somewhat) by the time this article is finished.

And if you still don’t know what to buy, we’re also throwing in our top 4 night vision rifle scopes.

So… ready to get started?

Let’s go! night vision rifle scope

Night Vision Rifle Scopes – What to Look For

When searching for a night vision rifle scope, you’ll come across these key terms:


Generation zero, generation one, generation two, generation three…

What do these all mean?

Generation refers to the IIT (Image Intensifier Tube) found inside the night vision scope. It’s the IIT that allows you to see in the dark through night vision.

Generation zero is the oldest type of IIT. It was invented before World War 2 – and was highly useful during the fighting.

That’s followed by generation one, then generation two… all the way up to generation four.

It goes without saying that the newer generations are “better”. They are brighter and have more features than the older ones.

That said, generation one night vision rifle scopes are still being produced. Hobbyists looking for affordable scopes love these. They’re not only cheaper, but they’re not bad at all either.

Generation two is a big jump in quality and features from generation one. They’re much brighter, clearer, and overall a lot better. In fact, the high-end generation twos are used for some military operations. night vision rifle scope

They are, of course, more expensive. But for the serious hunter, these will give you a much better performance.

Then there’s generation three. For hobbyists, this night vision level is overkill.

These night vision scopes are military-grade. They’re crazy expensive, but also the best of the best around.

Generation four is an odd one. It was supposed to be the next step up, but the military chose to stay with generation three. That’s why generation four scopes are hard to find.

night vision rifle scope


Now that you know the generations, let’s get into the measurements.

It’s not hard to guess what gain means.

Gain is the measurement of how much your night vision rifle scope will amplify the light around you. night vision rifle scope

The higher the gain, the brighter your surroundings are through your scope.


Want clear images in the dark?

You need a high resolution.

Resolution refers to the quality of the images you see through your scope. With low resolution, you’ll see blurry images that you can’t make out.

The higher the resolution, the more crisp your vision will be. However, the higher your vision, the more expensive the scope will be as well.

Signal to Noise

Signal to noise is quite tricky to understand. It is different from both resolution and gain.

Resolution refers to the overall quality of your scope’s vision.

Signal to noise, on the other hand, refers to how well your scope can see in low-light.

The less ambient light there is, the blurrier your image will become.

But with high signal to noise, you can see clearly even when it is almost completely pitch-black.

How is it different from gain?

Gain refers to how much brighter it can make your surroundings. However, if you push the gain up without a good signal to noise, you will get incredibly noisy pictures.

Noisy means full of grains. It will be very difficult to see anything when there is a lot of grain on your image.

IR Illumination

One feature that’s great to have is IR illumination.

With it, you can get an extra kick of “light” from your night vision scope.

If there isn’t enough ambient light for your scope to pick up, you can turn on the IR illumination. What this does is it flashes infrared light – which is not visible to our eyes.

With infrared flashing, it’ll be as if you had a bright flashlight on when you look through your scope.

This is a tremendous help when there isn’t enough light around for your scope to pick up.


A scope wouldn’t be a scope without any magnification.

When it comes to night vision rifle scopes, these can’t magnify quite as well as daylight scopes.

The reason for this is that night vision can only see so far. If you magnify your image 20x, there’s no way most night vision scopes will pick up any light.

For clear images, you can go up to 3x magnified.

Sure, high-end nigh vision rifle scopes can go farther. But you’ll also have to spend a lot on them.


IIT generations aren’t the only ways to see in the dark. Some night vision rifle scopes use digital technology instead.

These work the same way digital cameras do. Only this time, they brighten up your shot a lot.

Digital scopes do have some advantages.

For one, you don’t have to worry about bright lights damaging your scope. IIT generations are sensitive tubes. If too much light gets in them, they can get destroyed.

With a digital scope, you don’t have to worry about this.

Digital scopes also allow you to easily take pictures and videos. Since they’re essentially cameras, you can do this with a click of a button. No need to place a separate camera on the eye-piece of your scope anymore.

Finally, digital scopes are more affordable.

No, they can’t perform better than a generation 2. But for most people, this will give them all they need to see in the dark.

The Best 4 Night Vision Rifle Scopes

Looking for the best night vision rifle scope? Here are some of the top ones in the market:

ATN X-Sight

  • HD 4k resolution sensor for extra-clear images
  • Ballistic calculator for 100% shot accuracy
  • Digital scope allows you to take pictures and videos
  • Low power profile for long battery life
  • Automatic video recorder whenever you take a shot

Sightmark Wraith

night vision rifle scope

  • Perfect for day and night viewing
  • Choose between black & white or green night vision
  • 1080p HD resolution
  • 4x optical zoom and 8x digital zoom for a total of 32x magnification
  • Digital scope lets you take pictures and videos
  • Comes with IR flashlight

ATN X-Sight II

  • Day and night viewing comes in millions of color options
  • Ballistic calculator for 100% shot accuracy
  • Smart range finder identifies distance to target
  • 5x-20x magnification
  • 1080p HD resolution
  • Digital scope lets you take pictures and videos

Firefield NVRS

  • Built-in IR illuminator
  • Water-resistant
  • Lightweight
  • High-quality resolution
  • 3x magnification

Tac X Tactical
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