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Night Vision vs. Thermal Scopes for Hunting & Tactical

Night Vision vs. Thermal Scopes for Hunting & Tactical

What is your preferred device when it comes to hunting? While we all need a good rifle, great focusing on the target is required for accurate shots. Remember with hunting, all that is needed is a single clean shot. You miss, and the game is gone. That means more hours waiting to get a clear target on your way. This is why scopes are a must-have device for every hunting adventure. However, which is a better option between night vision and thermal scopes?

Both night vision and thermal scopes enable us to see things that our naked ours cannot see when the sun goes down. Night vision devices have been on the market for long and probably what you know well. However, thermal scopes have become a recent competitor and becoming popular among hunters. Let’s compare each of these devices and see what works best.

Night vision devices and thermal scopes meaning

Night vision devices

Night vision devices work by gathering light as we commonly say. However, NV devices don’t just gather light as we know it but make use of available light. These devices amplify any visible light in the dark and any light from your scope, allowing you to see in the dark. The light is transmitted and focused on the target to make you see clearly. NV devices come with an image intensifier tube. It is this tube that collects available light converting it to light energy and photons.

When using night vision, you see your target as a green image. There are a microchannel plate and screen coated with phosphors that lead to image creation. The microchannel plate enhances the electrons passing through the tube. When these electrons hit the screen, photons are released, creating an image where the light was focused.

Night vision devices did not just come to the market yesterday. They have been in use since World War II. You can imagine they were used since the 1940s.  Of course, you’re not going to use the same NV device used in World War II. There have been several technological advancements in the devices. Nowadays, NV devices can be differentiated by advancement in technology. This is what we call NV Generations, and they include:

  • Generation 1
  • Generation 2
  • Generation 3
  • White Phosphor Technology, WPT
  • CORE Ceramic Technology

As you can see, there have been several advancements in the development of night vision. There are several variations from the first generation the glass used, microchannel plate and additional ion coatings.  The manufacturing process of NV is quite complex with hundreds of steps before you get the final scope in your hands.

Thermal vision scopes

Thermal vision scopes, on the other hand, detect thermal infrared light. This is light radiated by objects and on our case the game. Objects with more temperature emit more IR radiations. The images you will see on the screen are due to temperature variations. Some of the advanced thermal scopes detect objects ranging from -20 degrees C to 2, 000 degrees C.

In a layman’s language, you’re able to detect an animal in a thick bush due to temperature variation. Unlike NV devices, you will see the animal image but temperature variation of the animal and the surroundings. These devices feature a thermal sensor which plays a crucial role in the clarity of the image.  You get clear thermal images when the resolution is high. When buying a thermal scope, make sure you choose one with a higher resolution. However, such devices will cost you more.

Thermal scopes are relatively new but fast becoming popular among hunters. There is little advancement in these scopes with only two types available on the market. These are the uncooled thermal imaging and cryogenically cooled thermal imaging.

Uncooled thermal imaging is the most common and features components that operate in room temperature. The scope does not require any extra equipment to cool the components. In addition, it features a built-in power source making it the best hunting scope.

Cryogenically cooled thermal imaging, on the other hand, is extremely expensive and requires keeping components cooled.  You need to seal some of the internal components in a special container that maintains the temperatures below 32 degrees F. This extra cooling gives you high resolutions and high sensitivities. You can easily detect temperature differences of 0.2 degrees F.

 

What is best for hunting?

To answer this question, let’s have a look at each under different situations.

  1. The hunting environment

Depending on where you will be hunting, a night vision scope or thermal scope makes sense. Thermal imaging scopes will not work properly when hunting in rainy or extreme coldness. You also cannot use thermal imaging via a glass window when taking a shelter. You have to be outside, which is also not possible because of the rain. In such environments, a night vision scope makes sense.

A night vision scope is our winner when hunting on extreme coldness or on rainy conditions. It is worth noting that thermal is not inhibited by fog or camo but only extreme cold.

  1. Day or night hunting

While you can hunt without these devices during the day, night vision devices are specifically designed for night use. The best thing about thermal scopes is that you can use them during the day or night. Unlike NV devices, they don’t require any light to work.

Very few and advanced NV devices can work during the day. However, most are easily damaged by the bright light of the day. When you need positive identification of your target despite daylight clarity, a thermal scope is recommended.

So, for those that hunt during the day and night, a thermal scope is our winner since you can use it during the day and night.

  1. Game identification

Are hunting in animals like deer that have strict parameters? Clear identification of the game before taking any shot is highly recommended. While a thermal scope can easily detect a live animal, it cannot identify the specific animal in question. Thermal images are usually displayed in black, white, or various other shades depending on the temperature. In such situations, a night vision is the preferred scope to use.  Thermal scopes are good at detecting game but poor at identifying it. You need a night vision scope of Gen 2 or more to identify the game clearly.

The only situation when it is difficult to identify a game by night vision is when it is camouflaged and not moving. As a general rule, night vision is considered the best at detecting and recognizing game but only under ideal conditions. These are conditions that support easy NV device use like enough lighting, ideal distance, and a clear path without bushes.

  1. Durability

Both scopes are considered durable, although thermal tends to be more durable. However, both scopes can easily withstand 30-caliber recoil.

  1. Budget and Pricing

Lastly, when considering your budget and pricing, NV tends to be the winner since it affordable. Thermal scopes are newer in the market and still quite pricey.

 

Final Verdict

Well, there is no obvious winner as you can see. Each of these scopes plays a vital role in different situations. You need to understand your hunting environment, time of hunting, game to hunt, and budget before deciding on the best scope for your needs.

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