- 1 Warning:
- 2 Night Vision Optics – Why?
- 3 Our Top 4 Picks For The Best Infrared Sights Under 500
- 4 The History Behind Infrared Optics
- 5 Night Vision Optics: A Buyers Guide
- 6 Scope Maintenance
Are you looking for the best night vision scopes under $500 you can buy? We’ve put together an informational guide detailing some of the best budget IR rifle optics you can buy!
Before attempting to purchase an infrared scope for your rifle, you should always check your local laws. Countries like Germany do not permit the civilian use of IR scopes. Despite being one of the first countries to manufacture an infrared scope for a rifle.
Certain states in America have restrictions around the use of IR sights for hunting. Generally these are also the same states that prohibit hunting after dark so it should be fairly easy to infer where you are allowed to take your scope.
Night Vision Optics – Why?
Infrared optics can greatly increase your visibility at night – this is particularly useful if you’re hunting nocturnal prey. They’re also often digital – and in this day and age that means they’re generally going to come packed with a whole host of other features.
Being able to see in the dark is great on it’s own – but you’ll often find that you also have access to live recording features – sometimes they’re even smartphone compatible.
Our Top 4 Picks For The Best Infrared Sights Under 500
Sightmark Wraith HD 4-32×50 Digital Riflescope [Our Top Pick]
The Sightmark Wraith is among the most powerful and popular of all the budget scopes out there.
Right off the bat this scope is incredibly easy to mount. 2 Screws to secure it in place and it isn’t going anywhere, regardless of recoil.
It’s capable of recording high definition video in 1080p, it even takes photos. You can switch between day and night mode with ease to ensure you can adapt relatively quickly to changing light conditions.
Aesthetically it’s pretty solid – the design isn’t awkward or wonky. The scope just looks like it’s there to get the job done and that’s exactly what it does. Not only does it get that job done – it does it well.
It has a digital zoom going up to 8x magnification. This combined with the 4x optical system means you can get up to 32x magnification with ease.
Anything Else I Should Know?
It has a lens size of 50mm which is absolutely ideal for magnification of this scale, especially on a scope with low light vision.
Had previous issues zeroing scopes? You won’t with this one. Fire a grouping as normal, then open up the menu and navigate to “reticle zero”. From there keep the crosshairs on your aiming point and drag the red X to be perfectly in the centre of your grouping. If only it was always this easy.
You can even pick out your own favourite targetting reticle – the scope comes with 10 different custom reticle options and 9 different colors to pick from once you’ve decided on a reticle.
Further expanding on the theme of customizability – the eyecup is removable and night mode can be switched between black and white and the traditional green.
It takes four AA batteries for power, which can give you about four and a half hours of battery life. It also has a micro-USB slot to provide you with an alternative option for power.
This scope is ideal for hunting big and small game.
Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 IR Riflescope
This scope packs a lot of high quality manufacturing into a fairly low price point. With moonlight alone, you should be able to see and shoot anywhere up to 100 yards.
It has a quick detach weaver mounting system, that make it incredibly quick to remove the scope from the rifle. Changing scopes, switching to iron sights or just pulling your rifle apart for maintenance? This is a pretty handy additional feature.
It has an illuminated reticle with brightness adjustment, allowing you to operate in a wider variety of light conditions.
It has a 42mm lens designed to capture as much light as possible, it’s also capable of 3x magnification. The lens is protected by its pop up cover to shield against harsh weather conditions.
The actual IR illumination itself is pretty powerful too, as this scope is intended for medium to longer range targets.
The body is made out of a lightweight titanium, making it incredibly durable. Unsurprisingly it’s also water resistant up to a rating of IPX4.
Not only is this product under $500, it’s under $400. It’s honestly one of the cheaper infrared sights you can expect to find that still has a reasonable level of functionality. The only real downside is the inability to adjust the magnification level of the scope. However, 3x is ideal for medium range hunting.
This is one of the best night vision scopes under $500 you can get.
ATN X-Sight II HD Smart Day/Night Rifle Scope 3-14x
This scope is a little bit higher on the pricing spectrum, but still under $500 dollars.
It sits a bit higher on the spectrum for a reason, too. The ATN X-Sight II is a latency free, HD, digital scope. It can be quickly switched between night mode and day mode to ensure you get the best possible quality of image regardless of the time of day.
It has a built in balistics calculator, simply input environmental data and it’ll help you take the perfect shot. This is also complimented by its built in range finder. Both of these integrated features eliminate the need to carry around bulky equipment
You can even insert an SD card and record footage from your scope. The scope uses RAV (Recoil Activated Video) technology to ensure you capture every moment.
This scope can even be wirelessly operated with a smart phone. You can even access gallery data from your phone.
Make sure you pick the 3-14x variant, as the 5-20x is actually over $600 unless on sale.
Yukon NVMT Laser 3×42 Night Vision Rifle Scope
The YUKON NVMT is a pretty powerful piece of kit. It’s pretty ‘hacky’ but it gets the job done. Effectively Yukon have converted one of their more popular monocular models into a riflescope for low light conditions. Replacing the need for a reticle or red dot with a laser sight.
With up to 500 yards projected laser range, it’s hard to justify splashing out on a more expensive sight when this could get the job done for a fraction of the price.
It has a fairly strong built in infrared illuminator to ensure you have a source of light even in total darkness. The actual light magnification itself is superb though, so the illuminator is just icing on the cake. The power 3×42 monocular can amplify light in the visible spectrum a few thousand times.
It also has tripod compatibility – with two quarter inch tripod sockets built in to the device.
The 42mm lens has anti-reflective coating to reduce glare. The red dot laser we mentioned gets the job done too.
The body of the eyepiece is surrounded by Yukon’s trademarked Compact Rubber Armor.
It even comes with a detachable eye piece and weaver rifle mount.
The History Behind Infrared Optics
Infrared scopes are one of the most useful forms of optics you can have handy. Low light conditions, especially over winter, can make hunting harder than it needs to be. But where did it all begin?
The first ever instance of infrared technology is credited to a Hungarian physicist in 1929. The man, by the name of Kálmán Tihanyi, invented an infrared sensitive camera for Anti-Aircraft defense purposes.
Military NV technology began to take shape near the end of World War 2. Like most technologies from this era, the intensity of the war inspired incredibly quick technological innovation.
The First Ever Infrared Scopes
Approaching the end of the war, between 1944 and 1945, the first ever IR sights were issued. The first infrared scope, nicknamed ‘vampir’, was issued to the wermacht for use on their StG 44 rifles.
Eastern front veterans observed “peculiar, non-shining torches” mounted on “enormous optical sights” in their reports.
All of the major players in the war experimented with technology like this. Over the years, it eventually became accessible to civilians, with each generation of NV technology becoming both more reliable and cheaper than the last.
Nowadays it’s possible to get an infrared sight of outstanding quality for well under $500.
Night Vision Optics: A Buyers Guide
There are a couple of key things you should look out for when you’re shopping around for the best night vision scopes under $500. Price can be a real pain point for most people, making cheaper scopes much more attractive. The problem with this mindset is that you can end up wasting your money entirely. A scope that’s impossible to keep zeroed isn’t going to be of any practical use out in the field.
Consequently it’s better to spend closer to the upper regions of your budget than the lower. But only provided you know for certain the product your purchasing is actually worth its pricing point.
So what are some of the key things to look out for when shopping around for scopes? Let’s explore.
Magnification – Magnification, getting a clearer view over greater distances, is the primary reason for purchasing a scope. With that in mind, it should be fairly obvious that the first thing you should check is the magnification. Scopes can utilise digital magnification, traditional magnification or in many cases, a combination of the two.
Scopes can be set to one level of magnification, or variable. Variable magnifications are expressed by the lowest level of magnification separated by a hyphen with the highest level.
For example, a scope with 3-12x magnification will magnify any image by 3x at its lowest power, and 12x at its highest.
What Other Info Do I Need?
Lens Size – Expressed right after the magnification of a scope is the lens size. 3-12x magnification with a lens size of 45mm would be expressed as 3-12X45.
Above all, these numbers were random. So expect to see much more variation in magnification and lens sizes in the real world.
As a general rule, the larger the lens, the more light can be captured to provide a clearer image.
Genereally speaking, the more magnification a scope has, the more light it needs to capture. Atleast in terms of providing a clearer image, so be wary of high magnification lenses that have small lens sizes.
Materials Used – The materials used are a pretty critical factor in deciding whether to make a purchase or not. There’s a reason you can’t slap an airsoft scope on a real rifle and expect to get any kind of success on the range.
If you have a device that’s built for accuracy, cheap/weak materials that can’t stand up to trauma are useless. Scopes made of poor quality materials will immediately lose accuracy after a couple of shots.
Ease Of Use – How easy is your scope to set up? Check customer reviews to see what the process is. Great quality scopes are effectively plug and play. Ensure they have power, mount them on your rifle and zero them. Unfortunately, zeroing can be a bit of a nightmare with some scopes. As a precaution you should try find out what the process is for your own specific sight.
Scopes, just like any other component in the world of firearms, require a bit of respect. Keeping your scope well maintained will guarantee you better longevity and prevent you from running into any errors preemptively.
It’s very common to see someone completely forget all about taking the time to ensure a scope is properly maintained.
With a poorly maintained scope, the most obvious annoyance you’ll encounter is scratches on the lens. However, this is only really a problem if you ignore the most obvious cause of trauma. Which generally involves dropping the rifle.
If you fail to remove small pieces of dirt from the lens, you can expect it to get heavily scratched. Use a scope friendly cloth, seriously.
You should always use a soft brush to remove dirt first to prevent from wearing away any kind of anti-glare coating on your lens. Consider the Leupold Lens Pen if you’re looking for a portable brush that’s lens friendly.
MagicFibre’s MicroFibre cleaning cloths will likely get the job done too, but we recommend brushing the lens first. There are a variety of other lens friendly soft cloths out there if you want to shop around too – MagicFibre is just the first brand that springs to mind.