Night Vision Scope vs Thermal Scope – Which one Is Good for You

Night Vision and Thermal scope

In this topic, I kind of want to throw my two cents into a very common discussion and that is thermal versus night-vision.

Bottom line up front for those of you that don’t feel like watching the whole video thermal is really really good at detection, where night vision is going to do a little bit better at identification when compared to thermal.

A common stigma is that thermal is automatically better because of the higher price tag. It’s really not comparing apples to apples when you say thermal is better than night vision, and I’m going to kind of get into some examples show you some test footage that I acquired of the same animals in the same conditions with these two optics.

These optics are ATN’s latest and greatest on both sides of the coin, so it’s kind of a one-to-one comparison. aAlthough we’re not going to be talking about any other brands since that’s not the sample that I have in this post.

Although they look extremely similar, they’re actually quite different. Thermal optics use radiation to acquire the image.

Obviously animals and living things give off more heat than their ambient surroundings, that’s why it’s an excellent choice for hunting and when scanning a field, it’s a no-brainer. You will see the living things hands down they pop out at you.

Night vision uses ambient lighting to gather an image for the user.

We’re not really going to get into the debate of analog versus digital night vision, this is a digital night vision scope. Therefore this is more often than not going to be paired with an infrared illuminator to greatly extend the range that this can detect targets.

This is far more sensitive to light than any other standard optical rifle scope you may put on your rifle. However this thing really does need the infrared illuminator. Depending on your illuminator is going to kind of dictate the range that you’ll get out of this night vision device. The one that I currently have allows me to see targets easily three to four hundred yards away at night. And in my opinion, three to four hundred yards of range depending on the conditions out that hand is a lot more than what’s needed for nigh ttime, obviously you’d like to be able to detect things super far away and that’s kind of where thermal sights, but as far as actually engaging a target at nigh,t safety kind of comes into play. And this device will definitely do it for you.

However the downfall is you may not know that something’s there even with the infrared illuminator and you can see out to three or four hundred yards away, the images just don’t pop out at you like thermal does and that’s really again the biggest advantage.

We’ve talked about all these advantages of thermal, however there is one distinct disadvantage to thermal and that is being able to identify what you’re aiming at.

There’s so many situations that you may find yourself in with the thermal optic, that you see something as glowing, but you just don’t know what it is and that is especially true at range., you’ll see something’s there, but you’re gonna have to move in closer to the immediate area in order to identify what it is.

Where night vision you’re going to be able to be further away and still be able to identify, that just because the increased resolution that’s retained due to the technology at hand versus thermal, but you’re not going to know that something’s there nearly as easily as you would with thermal. So like I said in the beginning, bottom line up front thermal is definitely your go-to for detection where night vision is going to be much better at identification and it really comes down to you to determine what is more important to you.

In a perfect world, if you can have one of each that’s going to be honestly ideal and I don’t necessarily mean one of each riflescopes you could pair a night vision, monocular or a thermal monocular with a rifle scope of the opposite technology, and I know there are several companies that make products that kind of assist you with that for example ATN since we’re discussing.

ATN does have both thermal and night-vision binoculars which again would be a perfect pair with a rifle scope of the opposite technology to kind of give you the best of both worlds without having to carry around two rifle setups.

Of course if you go hunting with a partner, then you’re set and that’s actually my preferred setup typically. When I go out on a hog hunt, I will have a night-vision scope or a thermal scope and my partner will have the other and we kind of work together to detect things and then identify and make sure it’s safe to shoot out what we’re shooting at.

I really would like to talk about my personal experiences when comparing night vision versus thermal for real-world, real user applications. Night vision is definitely a lot more effected by ambient air conditions than thermal, because it’s actually using a visual spectrum of light more or less any humidity fog smoke dust or dirt blowing around in the air is gonna greatly limit your range. Because you really depend on the infrared illuminator in order to get you that range, that’s gonna illuminate, anything in the air. So humidity and fog all that will kind of reflect some of that light back and it’ll kind of make your optic look a lot more hazy on a clear night. It’s no problem you can see very very far but you are a little bit more susceptible to those weather conditions.

Thermal can see straight through those weather conditions, it’s no issue whatsoever.

In fact first responders are using thermal devices more and more to find people in burning buildings where you really don’t have the visibility to see through smoke thermal can do it for you no problem whatsoever, because it doesn’t care so much about the visible spectrum, it really just cares about the temperature fields across different objects and of course one of the biggest things is the cost.

So, thermal is typically about three times more than your average night-vision device, it can definitely go up a lot more than three times more, it can sometimes be less than three times.

Another advantage that I kind of like when using thermal is that I can pair it with something like a 45 degree red dot, so typically I have a 45 degree red dot on top of my rifle when I go hunting and that’s nice. Because I can actually leave a white light on top of my rifle, I don’t need an infrared illuminator whatsoever, I can just have one simple lighting system, I can have a red dot at 45 degrees and that will help me with close follow-up shots if hogs start running or they start running at me. We’re searching through a thermal object may not be your best bet for close range moving targets. If I wanted to have a 45 degree red dot with my night vision for my hunting and this is just my personal preference, just trying to give you some insight but moving forward, I would have to have a white light on top of this as well as the infrared illuminator. Because it’s really not going to do me very good if I can’t see the target. Because the infrared illuminator is only visible through your night-vision device and you would need the white light in order to see what you’re tracking through that 45 degree red dot. Typically when hogs come running towards you or running faster than you can track them through the night-vision device that’s just my personal preference to have some kind of backup optic like that and it’s just something to consider that when using night-vision. You’re going to have a little bit more that you got to deal with then with thermal.

Summary

Thermal definitely has some major advantages, here’s one more situation that I’d really like to point out and that is me waiting for hogs to come to the theater. You can see clearly in between the trees in the background that there are actually cattle to the left right and through the trees you would never have known. This with night vision due to the limited range thermal really has an extremely long range no matter the conditions.

However, here’s another downside to thermal as you can see. I saw something glowing and on the visual spectrum, it may be immediately obvious that these were in fact skunks. One wouldn’t really expect this as I was waiting for hogs in a high hog activity area and again when looking through the thermal scope, it’s not always immediately obvious what it is, but it is just the name of the game with thermal you see something glowing and you may not be able to tell what it is.

Here’s where that becomes extremely critical through thermal and at far range, this may have been perceived as a hog. When in fact it’s a baby cow and I really was only to identify, this with night vision due to the lighting outside and how far away this was. But thank goodness, I did have night vision on hand, thermal may have put you in a bad situation.

This is based off my personal experiences and I totally acknowledge that everyone’s experiences are definitely gonna vary when using something like night vision or thermal. I highly recommend you to visit Barrettrifles.com for all about rifles and optics incase you need to learn more.