Over the years, the AR15 has been the chosen rifle of different users because of its versatility. It is also incredibly one of those rifles that allow the addition of a wide range of accessories. But in order to maximize its effectiveness for a wide range of purposes, one should use the best thermal scope for AR15, which is suitable for the rifle’s recoil and other characteristics.
It is all the more important to use good night vision scopes for AR15 especially among rifle owners that hunt and want to see clearly at dawn or dusk. These scopes will aid any poor vision in the dark.
Thermal scopes are applicable for use even in varying terrains, remote places, and locations where it’s hard to see without a thermal sighting device, which would help detect objects/targets at a certain distance.
In today’s guide, I’ve put up a list of top notch rifle scopes for AR15 that you can refer to in the comparison process. In addition, I’ve prepared a buying guide on what to know when buying a thermal device and other pertinent information that will help you decide later. Let’s begin.
About The AR15
Unlike what many perceive, AR doesn’t mean automatic rifle or assault rifle. The AR15 rifle, which was developed for civilian use in the 1950s, got its name from its manufacturer – ARMALITE.
In 1959, ARMALITE sold its design to COLT, another firearms manufacturer, which was chosen by the US military to manufacture an AR15’s standard issue model – known as the M16 rifle. It was used in the Vietnam War.
However, M-16s were initially jamming due to incompatibility with some ammunition. This was why certain modifications had been made to it.
Later after the war, Colt expanded M16s production to civilians and law enforcement as well. They developed M-16’s semi-automatic version – and this again is named the AR15.
How does it work? It fires one bullet at a time with the squeeze of the trigger and then reloads the chamber automatically with a cartridge, preparing it to fire again. This is how it works being a semi-automatic weapon.
How does thermal scope work?
These thermal rifle scopes can see heat or infrared light, which objects emit, only at varying levels. This heat is invisible to the naked eye. A thermal sighting device works by converting the heat sources/infrared energy into something that can be visible to what the eyes will be able to see on the light spectrum.
The device works with a heat sensor inside it. This is what picks up the heat that is emitted by an object or target before the processing of information of other systems that convert and transmit such information and deliver it to the user’s screen, which can be in black and white or colored.
These thermal devices can see through total darkness, through fog, and light brush. That’s one of the reasons that hunters use them in night hunting.
Summing up, thermal devices can detect temperature through capturing different IR levels. All objects, including trees, plants, and humans emit some IR radiation, and it’s one of the simplest ways of transferring heat.
So it goes like, there will be more radiation that a hotter object will produce than one that is cooler. These thermal imaging units can see that radiation, and then convert it to images that your eyes can see.
What You Need to Know Before Buying a Thermal Scope for AR15
Thermal devices work on different signatures of heat and they don’t require light to work. They don’t need an infrared illuminator, either.
They can see through the darkness and different weather conditions like snow, rain, or fog. In addition, these thermal scopes can see through light brush and have a very broad distance range than a night vision scope. But in more cases, they are more expensive than traditional riflescopes, too.
Size & Weight
Thermal scopes for night vision mode and use tend to be heavier than regular night vision riflescopes. This has to do with the electronics, battery, and other components, including the tube that houses the lens or glass. Some of them may also have thicker lenses that make them heavier.
When choosing a thermal rifle scope, avoid too heavy ones because they can become distractions and lead to fatigue. Heavy rifle scopes might also cause imbalance to your AR15 aside from negatively impacting your speed. That’s why compare size and weight when searching for AR15 thermal riflescopes.
It can be really frustrating to struggle looking for the right button to press in the night vision scope when the target presents itself. This happens with a complicated user interface of some digital thermal vision scopes and NV scopes. A too complex design in the interface might waste your time when adjusting your thermal device to a specific intended setting.
That’s why it pays off to look for a thermal rifle scope with simple and easy to see buttons, which must also be easy to press and adjust. As much as possible, you must look for scopes with a simple and easy to maneuver interface.
Then, there are digital thermal devices that feature Wi Fi connection with a phone. Although it can be handy and innovative, it can drain the battery fast. A processor that is commanded to do a lot of things will also slow it down, while draining the power quickly.
I found some digital thermal night vision scope manufacturers are offering a warranty of up to three years, while there are others up to 10 years warranty. And many do not offer a lifetime warranty because a thermal scope has components that will eventually not work, and this include the internal components.
But as a digital imaging thermal scope is quite expensive, you must choose a scope that has a considerable warranty length to give you the most out of your investment.
A good thermal night sight has a long life battery, which can last up to eight hours after a full charge. Meanwhile, those military-grade scopes that should run all night must have a really long lasting battery, which can be at least 10 hours. The last thing we want is a scope that runs out of power when we need it the most. There are some units that come with an external power bank or battery pack, too.
The most innovative digital thermal sighting devices have a good heat tracking range, helping shooters and hunters improve their shooting precision. A high-end and advanced digital thermal sighting device can positively identify targets far out to 4,000 yards, but only 1,000 yards for beginner thermal scopes. As a tip, I suggest going for thermal imaging units that have a large sized lens and a good angle of view (AOV).
The basic principle here is “the greater will be the operational detection range with a larger lens diameter and the smaller angle.” But then, remember that the features of the digital night vision thermal device aren’t the only factor that affects its range detection capabilities, but also the size of the object and contrast.
In-depth reviews: 6 Best thermal ranges for AR 15
1. ATN ThOR-HD 384 2-8x Thermal Night Vision Scopes
ThOR HD 384 2-8X sighting device is one of the best thermal scopes for AR15 for many, including the law enforcement, military, and hunters alike and for reasons. It’s packed with massive features that make them reliable for different applications, like surveillance, patrolling, hunting, and tactical operations.
This digital night vision scope is unique and a standout among the competition. I noticed its Smart HD Optics technology, making it not just a thermal scope. The unit is equipped with a thermal sensor 384×288 that is not comparable to other thermal imaging units. I found out that it works by capturing heat energy coming from different objects, including a prey, easily. That’s why it’s suitable for hunting even in complete darkness because it can still deliver a clear view of the subject, which increases my chances for a hit.
More so, the night time thermal scope features a recoil activated video recording, working automatically to record the videos once recoil is detected. This allows hunters to record their wins and losses at the same time. Now, nothing will be missed, while allowing them to improve their techniques. The videos show them exactly what they need to practice more on, especially among beginners. These recordings are also shareable to anyone.
This ATN night vision thermal scope also comes with a long battery life. I am quite impressed with the 22 hours of power that the 20000mAh Battery Pack can provide, allowing me to use the sighting device for hours out there in the woods without worrying about changing batteries. This battery pack is also easy to recharge.
This best night vision scope is also designed with a rangefinder to make one’s life easier and their hunting pursuit more worthwhile. Such a tool is very useful because I don’t need to carry with me additional devices that will help me in viewing my target. This smart component helps automatically calculate the distance from the scope to the target, increasing my chances for a perfect shot all the time.
The ThOR HD 384 2-8X night vision scope also gives me ultra clear, high-definition videos, not just about any video. I love the vivid, rich colors in the video and the pictures render very clearly. And if you’re like me who likes to also store the videos for your hunting expeditions, you can use an SD card in this device.
This night vision sight is also with the ATN Ballistic Calculator, which makes all the calculations, including on weather data and other factors to affect a shot, increasing our chances of hitting the target through calculating the data automatically.
Angle of view and smooth zooming features allow me to magnify the target without losing the field of view, too.
Overall, the top performance of this ATN night vision rifle scope is one of the best among thermal imaging scopes. You might want to check out this thermal scope for AR15 for better results in your hunting pursuits.
- Thermal sensor 384×288
- ATN Ballistic Calculator
- Integrated rangefinder
- 20000mAh Battery Pack
- Ultra clear, high-definition videos
- Not cheap
2. Sightmark Photon RT 6-12×50 Digital Night Vision Riflescope
Nighttime hunting could be more worthwhile with the use of this Sightmark Photon RT night vision thermal scope device that detects heat effectively, making it super useful hunting at night when the conditions may be unforgiving because of the dark environment.
This thermal device for a night vision sight is also suitable for a wide range of applications, such as military, airsoft, tactical, and hunting. It’s worth every penny spent because it is highly-dependable, regardless of the use.
The Sightmark Photon RT Digital Night Vision Riflescope is equipped with the improved 768×576 CMOS sensor, which is a breath of fresh air as it’s better than other scopes in the Photon XT series. I also loved that it comes with a clear and crisp 640×480 LCD display to deliver an even better picture even in low lighting conditions.
There are also twice digital zooming capability and an integrated 850nm LED IR light. The variable magnification is also easy to set. I just have to rotate the control to switch between the 2X zoom and optical magnification. This works perfectly for targeting prey 280 yards away at night.
I found out that the unit also comes with six different reticle options along with four colors, allowing me to select the setting that suits my needs.
Its IR illuminator is made with a focus beam adjustment and can be aligned in order to center the focus of the beam to the FOV of the device.
I also liked that the RT thermal imaging device is compatible to work with many 30mm rings on the market. This unit also comes with accessories, such as a user manual, battery container pouch, and spare battery container.
The Sightmark thermal optic device also has with innovative digital features, like the one-shot zero. This makes the scope easier and faster to zero in even for beginners.
In addition, the scope is weather-resistant rated at IP5, making it waterproof to a certain degree and fog proof to work on any weather conditions, like snow and rain.
The best thermal scope is also compatible with the Stream Vision app, which is easily downloadable in android and IOS devices. This app allows me to wirelessly stream my video footage on my phone or even on YouTube immediately and transfer my files wirelessly.
Overall, the Sightmark Photon RT night vision scope delivers an impressive performance for day or night use. It is a high quality device that is exactly what every hunter or tactical worker needs to perform his job excellently. However, it can be a bit bulky when compared to other scopes on the market.
- Compatible with Stream Vision app
- Built in infrared illuminator
- One-shot zero improves shooting precision
- Suitable for airsoft, tactical, hunting, and military
- Six reticles and four color options
- A bit bulky
3. Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50 Digital Day/Night Scope
This is a reliable night sight for day or night use. The full color viewing of the digital scope is suitable for day viewing.
The images in this thermal device are clear and crisp and I could have a better picture each time, while the black and white or green is suitable for night viewing or hunting. The options I get from this day/night vision scope are impressive that I can get the best value for my money.
The Wraith digital scopes also feature 10 different reticle options along with 9 different colors, allowing me to aim faster and easier because I can easily switch up the settings based on what the situation is calling for.
In addition to all the features of this amazing thermal sighting device is its ability to store up to five different rifle profiles, allowing me to keep the zeros for up to five calibers and firearms. This is time-saving and really innovative.
In addition, the digital scope for AR15 is equipped with an HD sensor for super clear and crisp images and videos in 1080p HD. I also liked that this is equipped with 8X digital zooming capabilities, along with a 4X optical system for up to 32X magnification.
When it comes to power expansion, this model is equipped with 4.5 hours of battery life with four AA batteries along with an external Micro USB port that can expand it. More so, the Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50 Digital Riflescope is applicable for different situations, such as coyote hunting, predator hunting, deer hunting, and hog hunting.
The scope for day or night time is one of the best night vision scopes around for its ease of use and reliability. It supports every hunter who wants to use an effective night vision mode, offering clear picture even in extreme darkness.
I also liked that this model is with an IR flashlight that extends its range of detection with an additional 200 yards at nighttime. When it comes to adding accessories, it is also quite easy with the Wraith scope that is designed with a Weaver rail.
This unit also comes with memory card slots that allow the users to record photos and videos of their hunting expedition as well as update the firmware quickly.
The thermal optics also have a cool design. I liked how its menu button is strategically positioned in the device for easy control unlike with a traditional scope, which can be hard to manipulate. This feature also allows for easy dialing in.
It also has a removable eyecup that can stop the dispersion of light at night as well as allows its removal during daytime viewing.
Overall, the Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50 Digital Day/Night Scope is a rugged and highly dependable scope to have in every hunter’s arsenal. One complaint I have is that it doesn’t include a memory card.
- Advanced 1920×1080 HD sensor for full clarity
- Different viewing options
- 850 nm removable IR flashlight
- Easy menu operation
- Weaver rail for added versatility
- Memory card not included
4. AGM Wolverine-4 NL2 Night Vision Rifle Scope 4X
AGM Global Vision is a reliable brand for thermal optics used in applications like hunting, patrolling, and tactical works. One of their offerings on the market is this AGM Wolverine-4 tactical style scope with an excellent zoom range, making it an ideal scope for ar15.
It is a tough night vision thermal device that is designed with the Gen2 plus high performance tube that adds to its ruggedness and durability, no matter what you throw at it. As users are out in remote places, in the woods, and other places with tough conditions, having a rugged scope to deal with what it could encounter is a great choice.
The advanced night vision riflescope also has a competitive pricing for those with a limited budget range.
Even so, it is a quality device that is easy to use for its simple controls, adding to user ease and convenience in controlling it. Speaking of ease of use, this one is equipped with a quick to adjust windage and elevation to improve shooting precision.
The Wolverine 4 is also lightweight, making it ideal for carrying around even for hours and not making the rifle imbalanced. This is useful, and something that users should be looking for when shopping around among most night vision scopes.
In addition, the night vision riflescope is strategically designed with a double-lever and quick-release mounting system, adding to user comfort while allowing for a more accurate positioning of the rail.
I also noticed that the scope with high quality glass is weather-resistant to deal with the varying weather conditions out there. It also features a manual top wheel focus that provides ergonomics and accuracy.
Overall, the night vision thermal optics is highly reliable for most weather and lighting conditions. Its excellent detection ability for detecting signatures of heat, quick adjustments, and quality multi coated optics are only some of the features to look forward to.
- All high quality glass multi coated optics
- Clear sight picture and image quality even in low light
- Gen 2 plus image intensifier tube
- User comfort for its double-lever quick-release mounts
- Quick windage and elevation adjustments
- A bit bulky
5. NightStar 2x50mm Gen-1 Tactical Night Vision Riflescope
The night vision rifle scope can be your option for close-range detection that many beginners will be comfortable with for short-range shooting. The system is quite user-friendly because of its simple interface. It also has this IR illuminator that is on a green night vision display, integrated side rail, built in infrared illuminator, and good objective lens cap.
It’s within one’s budget especially among new hunters who have just started out with the activity. Now, I want to talk more about its features.
Let’s start with the imaging quality. The image quality is fine as it possesses 35 lp/mm of a resolution that’s becoming a standard for many manufacturers no matter the low price points you can find on the market.
Again, the quality of the picture is okay because it can maintain the resolution power, and that’s thanks to the fixed magnification. But again, it’s a starter scope that can be suitable for ranges between 25 and 100 yards.
Night vision devices should have an easy to understand interface. This Night Star 2x50mm Gen-1 Tactical scope for hog hunting has a user-friendly interface and straightforward design. It’s not a digital night vision scope, eliminating any need to mess with the buttons and menus that you can encounter in complicatedly designed thermal systems.
This model is one of the best night vision scopes that have a good design without any extras that would otherwise make you struggle to look for what you need when a target presents itself. It is made of a rugged tube, which can deal with the varying conditions in the wild.
In addition, I’ve noticed that this unit has a four-button operation that allows users to adjust its settings conveniently and quickly.
I also liked that it has dual focus control. This feature lets me make adjustments, whether fine or coarse, in order to produce an image of the target that is clear and crisp. More so, this night vision scope comes with a built-in rail that allows me to use an additional accessory with it or attach an external infrared illuminator.
How about the price of the thermal rifle scope? This product is in the affordable budget range. It is for the hunter who has just started or with a limited fund. It’s a good entry level scope for people who are still getting used to close-range coyote or varmint hunting or recreational use.
The night vision thermal device has a better-than-average construction quality. It is rugged and tough to handle the extreme outdoor conditions.
Overall, I recommend this thermal scope for those still starting out with a hunting activity. It is suitable for close range varmint hunting and people who have a limited budget in buying their first thermal scope for AR15 or rim fire rifles. I just wish that the manufacturer could improve the product’s information where customers could refer to when considering buying it.
- User-friendly and simple design
- Good for newbie hunters and users
- Clear and crisp images for better sight picture
- Easy to control menu
- Tough and rugged for different outdoor conditions
- Lacking information
6. ATN Thor LT Thermal Rifle Scope
When searching for the best thermal scope for AR15, you might want to consider this ATN Thor LT thermal device. It is packed with all the features that users would desire to have in their night vision scope, including low power consumption and long battery life. I can use it continuously for at least 10 hours and that’s heaven sent when it comes to nighttime hunting.
There is nothing worse than running out of power when you’re in the middle of forest hunting predators or about to take a shot. Certainly, having a long battery life is one of the things that I appreciate from this thermal riflescope.
Moreover, this night vision thermal imaging unit has different capabilities that hunters and military people alike will find useful.
For one, it’s lightweight at 1.4 lbs, weight lighter than traditional scopes. In this case, hunters won’t have to feel the burden of carrying a very heavy rifle with a rifle scope on. Being lightweight also keeps a rifle balanced. While this might seem insignificant, it is actually important when you’re staying in the woods all night waiting for your target.
I also noticed that the night vision optics has this excellent one shot zero function that saves a lot of time and ammunition. The only thing I need to do is to move the zero reticle towards the first impact point, and nothing more. This adds to the convenience of use of the scope that especially newbie hunters will greatly appreciate.
What about the heat detection of these thermal scopes? This ATN scope does its job ideally by detecting the body heat or heat signatures even through a foggy condition unlike a traditional scope.
This best night vision scope works perfectly and doesn’t need any ambient light or visible light in producing a clear and sharp image. It is helpful when you’re out there and need to have a clear sight of the target even in a low lighting condition.
This night vision riflescope is unbelievably easy to mount as well, so it is quite straightforward to swap the scopes between any rifle using 30mm rings. And not to forget, the thermal scope remains zero even when transferring from one rifle to another.
This night hunting scope with an excellent detection range is also affordable, and that’s thanks to this brand that introduces affordable monocular devices on the market.
I also liked that it’s made of a durable 30mm tube, which is of hardened aluminum alloy for resisting recoil and maintaining its integrity. The hardened aluminum alloy of the thermal monocular can deal with the varying outdoor conditions.
This weather resistant night vision scope is also equipped with the innovative Obsidian Core, which is behind the Smart Optics of ATN Corp. scopes. This technology is based on the most advanced digital image processing architecture, intuitive user interface, range of environmental sensors, and a wide range of image sensors. Obsidian core allows this scope to work perfectly even in low light environments.
- Super low power consumption
- Rugged to deal with harsh conditions
- Weather resistant
- Good range detection for shooting accuracy
- ATN Obsidian Core for clearer images
- Might not give that much visibility at longer distances
What thermal scope does the US military use?
The US military uses the AN/PAS-13B based on my research. It is developed by Raytheon for the US military. The thermal weapon sight is designed and manufactured for the military’s inventory of small arms.
However, it can also be used as a sighting unit in itself, which helps soldiers see in the dark especially when on the battlefield. The TWS can also increase their efficiency in operations because it can help in improving target precision.
How to Mount Your Thermal Scope to Your AR-15?
Prepare the AR15 before mounting a scope into it. Check that your rifle isn’t loaded. Remove its magazine. Put your rifle in the gun vice or a shooting rest to secure it.
Clean the components and remove excess oil from them using a cleaning patch with alcohol. Before you start, use a bubble level to ensure your rifle is positioned properly at the right level.
Start to tighten the scope mount using your hand to make it stable. Do not do it too tightly. Tighten your mount using a torque wrench. Read the instructions provided in the scope mount.
Add your thermal rifle scope, and then secure it. Fix it on the rifle. Put your optic onto the mount and see to it that the ring is sitting on the scope’s flat surface. Get the ring’s top portion and put it over the optic in order to secure it. The ring will go through an X pattern when you tighten it.
However, don’t tighten them fully. Check that every side of the scope ring has a similar gap level when tightening it. Look for an ideal position for you by checking the eye relief of the scope.
Next, level everything. Put the bubble level on the rifle tube’s flat portion. Make sure that the rifle is level. It will be easier to check if it’s in the shooting rest.
Start aligning the reticle horizontally and vertically before leveling the scope. Look at the doorframe or target vertically to verify your level. When you’re done aligning the crosshair, put the bubble level on the optic’s top to check that the scopes are aligned, too.
When done with the above steps, tighten the rings and use an X pattern in order to tighten your screws on both sides evenly. That’s it! Your thermal device for AR15 should be ready to use and secure.
What is the best thermal scope for hunting?
A good thermal scope for AR15 and hunting is one that has excellent range detection, innovative technology to detect heat signatures, long battery life, made of rugged material to withstand recoil and varying conditions.
It can also deliver an optimal picture at dusk or dawn and one that has quality components to last long and perform its best no matter the condition it encounters outside.
How far out do thermal scopes work?
There is no definite answer to this because thermal scopes for AR15 have specific features and qualities, including its detection range. For example, entry-level scopes can have its limits up to 1,000 yards or less. Meanwhile, high-end ones can identify a target easily and quickly by up to 4,000 yards.
So if you have the budget to spare and you don’t mind spending extra, you can find more expensive thermal scopes for AR15 with a long detection range.
Using just about any rifle scope for the AR15 might not be effective in bringing out its best performance. That’s why any AR15 rifle owner seeks to choose the right thermal sight for it.
This guide should be able to help you pick one of the thermal night vision rifle scopes that has all the features, including excellent range detection, good battery life, ballistic calculator, IR illuminator, solid and durable tube, quality multi or fully coated lenses, and good magnification capability.
Choosing the right digital scopes for your AR15, you’ll get the most pleasant experience in your pursuits, like hunting, patrolling, or surveillance, among other applications. Begin the process of comparing your choices using this buying guide and thermal scope reviews today!