The Best Thermal Scope in 2023

There is not much that excites hunters more than the thrill of night hunting. There is just something about seeing animals hiding under the cover of darkness that brings out the kid in us. Thermal scopes give you the unique ability to illuminate a hog crossing a wheat field in the middle of the night.

I have guided hog hunts at night for years in Texas. It is one of my most popular hunts. Let’s face it, the hunters buying thermal hunts really didn’t know much about thermal scopes. They were counting on me to have a quality thermal and teach them how to do the rest.

After my hunters shot their first hog on a night hunt, they wanted a thermal scope of their own. Many of them complained that the reviews they found were more like a sales presentation.

This review takes into consideration all types of day and night hunting, budgets, and technology. It also looks at the good and the bad, and I give my opinion on each scope. Following the thermal scope review, there is a buyer’s guide to explain thermal scope technology. After that it’s up to you to decide what is best for your budget.

The 6 Best Thermal Scope Reviews

There is a thermal scope for every hunting situation and for every hunter’s budget. There are also thermal scopes loaded with features and those designed to be simple to use. It is impossible to consider every thermal scope on the market, but I am confident you can count on the thermal scopes in this review to meet your night hunting needs.

1. Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XP50 Pro – Best for the Money

There are a lot of night hunting operations in Texas that run nothing but Pulsar thermal scopes. For them, they simply must have the reliability of a Pulsar. It’s hard to find anything these days that will work every night, every shot, and every time. At just under $6,000, the bells and whistles of the Pulsar Thermion are impressive. However, it’s the reliability that keeps hunters coming back.

Figure 1 Pulsar Thermion 2 Hunter – Source:

What I Like

  • One of the most reliable and bulletproof thermal scopes.
  • The improved battery life is 8 hours.
  • The picture-in-picture feature is great for hunting.
  • The NETD sensor is <25 mK.
  • The Pulsar Thermion 2 is a good choice for high-caliber rifles.

What I Don’t Like

  • I wish the knobs clicked as you turn them; it would make navigating through menus easier.
  • When you activate the laser rangefinder (LRF), it will range where ever it is pointed at the time. It takes a bit to get used to it, you have to remember to keep the rangefinder pointed in the direction of your target when you press to range.

Best Uses

  • Predator and hog hunting at night.
  • Great for hunters that hunt a lot.
  • Recording your hunt.
  • Parents assisting young hunters.

Quick Reference

  • FOV: 65 feet at 100 yards
  • Eye Relief: 50mm
  • Resolution: 640×480 pixels
  • Rangefinder: Yes, built-in.
  • Magnification: 2-16X
  • Color Modes: 8 color pallets and 9 reticle colors.
  • Reticles: 10 reticle shapes.
  • NETD/Thermal Contrast: <25 mK 
  • Battery: Non-removable lithium-ion APS5 battery pack and removable rechargeable lithium APS2 battery pack.
  • Battery Life: 10 Hours
  • Dimensions: 16.93×6.34×3.7 inches (LxWxH)
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Detection Range: 2,000 yards
  • Video Recording: Yes
  • Audio Recording: Yes
  • Video/Photo Format: MPEG-4 and .JPG
  • Stream to Phone: Yes
  • Built-in Memory: 16GB
  • Warranty: 3 Years limited.

Pulsar has its reputation of being a quality optic, but let’s look at how Pulsar backs up their reputation with Thermion 2 LRF XP50 Pro. This is what I consider the best thermal scope for the money.

Recording and Photographing the Hunt

You can easily video and photograph your hunt with the Thermion 2 XP50. The format for video and recording is MP4 and JPEG. You can stream in real-time from the scope to the Pulsar Stream Vision 2 mobile app. You can download it for Android via Google Play and the Apple store for iPhones.

Pulsar seems to be the leader in audio recording. It’s no surprise that the Thermion 2 XP50 also has great audio recording ability. Keep in mind, if you forget that the audio is recording. You may end up with a great audio of you using salty language.

The Pulsar Stream Vision 2 is a powerful app that you should take the time to learn. I find it very user-friendly, but it’s not something to figure out during a hunt. You can stream live from the scope to your phone. An awesome feature if you want to see what a young hunter sees in the scope while you watch from the phone.

You have several other features worth noting on the Stream Vision 2 app. You can scroll through the recordings on your scope and download them or send them to friends. You can update firmware on your scope via the app. You can also store photos and videos in the Stream Vision 2 Cloud, and open them from other phones, laptops, or tablets.

The remote-control feature of the app works well and you can control the video and adjust settings from there. Some find it easier to adjust settings on the app versus the scope. Make sure your phone is fully charged before you go hunting. I do find my iPhone is problematic to use when it’s cold and I have gloves on.

Field of View

The Thermion 2 XP50 has a wide field of view, 65 feet at 100 yards. This is great for hog hunting. After you make that first shot and the hogs scatter, you have a wide field of view to find running hogs for a second shot. The same goes for coyotes. You can follow them coming into your electronic call and pick a shooting lane to shoot.

The picture-in-picture will be your favorite feature. You have this tremendous field of view to watch your target area, but a small box with a reticle that you can zoom in to vitals. You can aim small and watch the field at the same time.

Figure 2 Pulsar Thermion 2 Hog – Source:


You can’t help but notice the Thermion 2 X50 with Laser Rangefinder (LRF). It is permanently mounted on the top and forward end of the scope. Some hunters find it clunky, and others clunky but useful. I am on the fence about it.

It looks like it adds a lot of weight, but in reality, it only adds .3 ounces. You don’t notice the clunky when you’re looking through the scope.

The small screen has your reticle and follows along with the direction of the muzzle. The widescreen has a small red box that, when placed over the target, gives you the distance in the top right of the screen. In a single screen, you have a wide field of view, PIP with reticle, and the distance to the target

The button to activate the rangefinder is on the top rear of the scope. It’s easy to find, but you should practice with it before you go hunting. Like all the button locations, you don’t want to try to find it for the first time with a big hog standing in front of you.

The LRF is rated to 800 yards. I am not sure it’s quite that, but I do know it will range well past your ability to make the target out. You do have to get used to the Pulsar LRF. It will range as soon as you press the button. Make sure you are pointing at what you range before you press the button.

Clunky looking or not, with your head down and eye down range, it is all you ever wanted in an LRF. You should probably get used to the look; this seems to be the design of all things Pulsar moving forward.


There are ten different reticles to choose from in 9 different colors. Everyone has their favorite reticle, and sometimes that can change from species to species. I recommend trying all the reticles in each color to determine what your favorite is.

My favorite is the C50i reticle in the new yellow color. The industry was buzzing about this combination when Pulsar first came out with yellow as an option. I was skeptical, but I have to say the C50i reticle in yellow is now my favorite.


Like many hunters, I move my thermal scope between rifles. I put it on my AR10 for hog hunting and my AR-15 when I am predator hunting. I prefer a quick detach mount for my thermal. If you choose a quality quick detach (QD) mount, you can move your thermal back and forth without needing to zero again.

If you prefer, you can use any set of 30mm rings with Thermion scopes. Depending on your needs, you can hard mount the scope or use a quick detach mount. Rings and mounts do not come with the Thermion 2, so you will need to budget for that.


One of the complaints that I had about the original Pulsar Thermion, was the battery life. You had to do everything you could to manage it, and even then, you had to plan on changing batteries during your hunt.

I guess Pulsar heard the complaints and doubled the battery life in the Thermion 2. There is a non-removable lithium-ion APS5 battery pack and removable rechargeable lithium APS2 battery pack. These batteries are rated for ten hours. Realistically you can expect six hours from the internal battery and another three from the external battery. The combined nine hours are more than enough for an average night’s hunt.

Thermal Contrast

The Thermion 2 X50 LRF has an impressive 640×480 microbolometer resolution, and Pulsar marketing says it can detect a heat signature out to 2,000 yards. What that means is that the scope will detect a human-size target at 2,000 yards with magnification. In the field, you can expect around 1,800 yards of detection. It does not mean you should plan on shooting that far.

The NETD <25mK sensor gives the XP50 superior detection capabilities at long range, it’s also extremely sensitive to small temperature differences. When you combine this with a 50Hz frame rate and Germanium lenses, the result is a picture with pinpoint detail.

The Thermion 2 X50 Pro puts its money where its sensor is. Compared to the XQ50, the XP50 image is crisp and clear during magnification. The higher cost of the XP50 LRF is because it comes with a rangefinder and a superior sensor.


Pulsar warranties the Thermion with a limited three-year warranty against workmanship and defects in materials. The exceptions are:

  • Non-rechargeable batteries.
  • Rechargeable batteries are warranted for one year.
  • The scope was abused, damaged, or modified.

Be sure to keep your proof of purchase/receipts in case you have a warranty claim.

What’s in the Box

Along with the Pulsar Thermion 2 XP50 LRF you get:

  • 2 rechargeable batteries
  • Battery charger
  • USB Cable
  • Case
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Battery Cover
  • Quick start guide


To be honest, I had to look for something negative about this scope. The improved battery life is the biggest improvement for me. The audio recording feature and laser rangefinder are really nice as well. Under the hood is where the Thermion 2 XP50 shines. The thermal sensor gives you great detection, even under tough thermal contrast conditions. It is waterproof and dustproof, so it performs even in conditions I am ready to go home in. For the money, you can’t beat the Pulsar.

2. InfiRay Outdoor BOLT TH50C V2 – Best for Hunting

One of the more frustrating things about night hunting is you cannot shoot as far as you can during the day. Even when you have a run-of-the-mill day scope. The resolution of most thermal scopes at distances over 300 yards is simply not good enough for long shots. The InfiRay Bolt has changed the game when it comes to that.

Figure 3 InfiRay BOLT – Source:

What I Like

  • There are VERY few 640×512 12-micron thermal scopes with a base 3.5x magnification made.
  • The high-resolution picture is outstanding.
  • To get this kind of resolution with a 3.5x base magnification for under $6,000 is unbelievable.
  • A five-year warranty.
  • The Bolt TH50C V2 is a good choice for high-caliber rifles.

What I Don’t Like

  • At just over two pounds, it is a little heavy to carry all night. With a 50mm Germanium lens, you have to expect it to be a little heavy.
  • The 18500 removable battery is not something you can find everywhere.
  • InfiRay Outdoor App lacks features.
  • Slow boot-up time, estimated 10 seconds.

Best Uses

  • Predator and hog hunting at night.
  • Great for hunters that take longer shots.
  • A great choice for first-time night hunters.

Quick Reference

  • FOV: 46 feet at 100 yards.
  • Eye Relief: 50mm
  • Resolution: 640×512
  • Rangefinder: Optional Bluetooth ILR-1200-1
  • Magnification: 3.5-14x
  • Color Modes: 5 and 4 reticle colors
  • Reticles: 7
  • NETD/Thermal Contrast: <25 mK 
  • Battery: Internal Lithium-Ion non-removable battery, optional 18500/18650 removable battery.
  • Battery Life: 10 hours
  • Dimensions: 2.28×2.40×9.85 Inches
  • Weight: 2.1 lbs
  • Detection Range: 2,400 Yards
  • Video Recording: Yes
  • Audio Recording: Yes, via InfiRay Outdoor App on your phone.
  • Video/Photo Format: Analog RS-170/NTSC and JPEG
  • Stream to Phone: Yes, not to internet.
  • Built-in Memory: 32GB
  • Warranty: 5-years

InfiRay has hunters everywhere taking notice of the Bolt TH50C V2. With a base magnification of 3.5x and sporting a 640-resolution picture, hunters clearly identify targets to 400 yards. For just under $6,000, this is what I consider the best thermal scope for hunting.

Recording and Photographing the Hunt

The video output uses an analog RS-170/NTSC format, and the photos are JPEG. The quality of the video and photos is excellent. Often the video is not as sharp or detailed as what you actually see through the scope. The Bolt TH50C V2 produces video that is close to what you actually see in the scope. It’s not exact, but much closer than the Thermion.

The InfiRay Outdoor App has some work to do. You can record and send pictures directly to your phone. It’s simple and easy. It struggles to download to a computer from your phone. You do have controls to brighten your view and other basic features, and you can record audio via the app. ATN and Pulsar are way ahead when it comes to app functionality.

Figure 4 InfiRay BOLT View – Source:

Field of View

To have a 46-foot horizontal field of view at 100 yards, with the quality of the picture you get from InfiRay, is incredible. The detail that you can see, even with magnification, is great for hunters. Especially coyote and predator hunters, who often take longer shots than hog hunters.

You will notice the screen is rounded on both the left and right sides. The top and bottom are flat. This will take you by surprise the first time you see it. I actually like it; I feel like I have a wider field of view.

The Micro-OLED display with 2560×2560 resolution makes you forget your looking down a tube. It also reduces eye strain when you’re hunting all night long. The incredible detail you get also lets you fine-tune your zero in a way that is not possible with other scopes.


The InfiRay Outdoor BOLT TH50C V2 does not have a built-in laser rangefinder. You can add an InfiRay Tube V2 LRF if you like. You can find them for around $800 if you need to add an LRF to your scope.

They are rated out to 1,000 meters and have multiple scanning modes. The continuous scan provides real-time readings while you’re scanning the field. If you routinely hunt the same fields, you may not need it. Otherwise, most hunters have an LRF of some type when hunting unfamiliar territory.


The Bolt TH50C V2 has seven types of reticles to choose from. Two are dynamic reticles, and five are static. There are four colors to choose from, black, white, red, and green. There is only one profile on the Bolt TH50C V2.


I prefer to have a quick disconnect type mount on my thermal optics. There are many to choose from, but don’t skimp when it comes to a mount. You don’t want to put a $6000 scope on a $25 mount.

It does come with a mount for a Picatinny rail from the factory. Like all factory rings and mounts, they are suspect. Most hunters replace them with a better mount.


The InfiRay Bolt boasts 10 hours of battery life. Under normal conditions, it does that with ease. It has a rechargeable internal lithium-ion battery that is not removable. There is also an additional replaceable 18500 battery to give you extended battery life.

The screen has a charge indicator on the top left for the replaceable battery and on the top right for the non-removable battery. It will switch from a permanent battery to a replaceable one when the charge gets too low. There is also a USB port for an external battery source.

Thermal Contrast

The InfiRay Bolt TH50C V2 has an impressive 640×512 12-micron Micro-II sensor that provides incredible resolution at a base 3x magnification. With that, you should expect a target identification range of at least 400 yards.

The heat detection range is rated at 2,400 yards. With all the ambient and environmental conditions you face in the field, you can expect 1,850 yards. Still an impressive range for any scope.  

The Thermion and ATN can not match the resolution at that magnification. In fact, no thermal scope under $6000 can. This is the main reason I chose InfiRay to be the best thermal scope for hunting.


InfiRay puts their money where their mouth is with a 5-year transferable warranty. This, by far, is the best in the industry. Of course, InfiRay does not warranty abuse, intentional damage, or the usual conditions that occur when you use the scope for an unintended use.

Be sure to keep your proof of purchase/receipts in case you have a warranty claim.

What’s in the Box

Along with the InfiRay Bolt TH50C V2 Thermal Scope, you get:

  • Eyeshade
  • Mounts for Picatinny Rail
  • IPB-3 Portable Bag
  • USB-C Cable
  • Power Adapter
  • Lens Cloth
  • Heated Target for Zeroing


There are a few things I would like to see improved. The app could be improved, and I would like the addition of multiple profiles. I do have to say, if you are hunting coyotes at long range out to 400 yards with a thermal, this is the scope for you. For the price, you can not beat the resolution you have as you zoom out to your target. Even with the 3x base magnification, you have a 46-foot field of view. Definitely the best for hunting.

3. AGM Rattler TS19-256 – The Best Budget Thermal Scope

You will be surprised at the features and performance of a budget friendly thermal. If you think about it, a thermal of this quality just a few years ago would cost three times what you pay today. Let’s look at what makes the AGM the best budget thermal scope.

Figure 5 AGM Rattler Hunter – Source:

Text Box: Optics Planet

What I Like

  • Focusable objective lens
  • It has a small footprint and is lightweight
  • The viewfinder has a large picture.
  • Customer service is friendly AND knowledgeable.
  • Best Thermal Scope under $1000

What I Don’t Like

  • Difficult to navigate menu’s
  • No shortcut to get to picture-in-picture.
  • Magnification is in increments and you have to toggle through all magnifications. For instance: you select 2.5x, 5x, 10x, and 20x. You can not go back to 2.5x from 5x, you have to go on to 10x and 20x.

Best Uses

  • Predator and hog hunting at night.
  • Hunters who shoot out to 200 yards.
  • Hunters who just want a thermal and don’t want to break the bank.

Quick Reference

  • FOV: 78 feet at 100 Yards
  • Eye Relief: 45mm
  • Resolution: 384×288 (Thermal)
  • Rangefinder: Stadiametric Rangefinder
  • Magnification: 2.5-20x
  • Color Modes: 4
  • Reticles: 5 Reticles, 3 colors
  • NETD/Thermal Contrast: <35mK
  • Battery: 2 x CR123
  • Battery Life: 4.5 Hours
  • Dimensions: 7.4 x 2.5 x 3.1 inches
  • Weight: 1.15 Lbs
  • Detection Range: 964 Yards
  • Video Recording: Yes
  • Audio Recording: No
  • Video/Photo Format: Video – MP4/ Photo – JPEG
  • Stream to Phone: Yes
  • Built-in Memory: 16GB
  • Warranty: 3-Years Transferable

The AGM Rattler can be hard to find, and there is a good reason for that. This lightweight thermal delivers quality images, has video capability, and you will have no problem hunting out to 200 yards with it.  You get all that for under $1,000. Let’s take a look at the AGM Rattler.

Recording and Photographing the Hunt

If you have been watching video the of the AGM Rattler and thought it looked grainy, you are right. It’s not perfect, but not terrible, either. The picture you get through the scope is much better than what you see on a recording.

It does take snapshots and will store them locally. You can store photos and videos on the scope or download them to your phone or PC. The AGM Connect app allows you to stream to your phone, makes your phone a remote control, download photos, update firmware, and get tech support.

The app works well, and there are seldom freeze-ups when streaming. I didn’t think I could get these features on a scope I voted the best budget thermal, but the AGM delivers.

Figure 6 AGM Rattler – Source:

Field of View

The AGM Rattler TS19-256 has a wide field of view, 78 feet at 100 yards. With a field of view like that, you can watch a coyote cross the field and pick the spot you want to make the shot. The wide field of view makes follow-up shots easy too.

The picture-in-picture works well once you get it turned on. You have to go to the full menu to toggle to the picture-in-picture mode. After that, it does work well. It’s really nice to watch such a wide field of view and still have the smaller picture zoomed to your target, especially when you have 20 hogs in the field.

There are four color palettes black hot, white hot, red hot, and fusion. I prefer the white hot. It doesn’t wash out when hunting early in the evening when the trees and brush are still warm enough to detect.


AGM says the Rattler has a Stadiametric Rangefinder. It’s not much to write home about. For the budget minded hunter, it’s not a big deal. Not having a rangefinder for a scope that you will use to only 200 yards is fine for most hunters.


The AGM Rattler TS19-256 has five reticles and three reticle colors. The reticles are numbered one through five. Available reticle colors are black, white, red, and green. You will need to try different combinations in the field to see what you prefer.

The AGM Rattler does not have multiple profiles with ballistics, zero settings, and a way to name the profile. You can work around that with a reticle hack. Each reticle on the AGM Rattler has to be individually zeroed.

You have two options, zero each time you move the scope or zero each reticle for different guns. If you zero each reticle for a different gun, you will need to record your reticle number with the corresponding gun. For instance: Reticle 1 = .308 Remington.

It’s also a good idea to record the X and Y coordinates. The X coordinate is the left/right coordinate. For instance: X = 10. The Y coordinate is the up/down coordinate. For instance: Y = 23. In this case, the zero for this reticle is X=1 and Y=23. If your scope ever loses its data, you can simply navigate to the reticles and enter your coordinates, and you are back to zero.

Note: There is documentation that says the X and Y coordinates are 1” at 100 yards. I found them to be a quarter inch per “click”.


This is usually the part in the review where I advise readers to scrap the crappy mount that came with the scope and go buy themselves a quality mount. When you think about the investment you have in your thermal, it only makes sense.

Not so with AGM. AGM uses quick detach mounts from American Defense Manufacturing. They are quality mounts that you usually have to buy separately. It’s unbelievable to think you can have a thermal scope for this price and not have to buy an aftermarket mount.


The AGM Rattler burns through the CR123A batteries. You will want to be familiar with the standby mode. It will save your battery life. The good thing is these batteries are easy to find and easy to change.

The Rattler does support an external battery, and hunters who want to stay out all night should consider it. The external battery is connected via USB, and it’s worth the investment. Without the external battery, you can expect 3.5 to 4 hours of battery life.

Note: CR123A batteries are not the best in cold weather. Try putting hand warmers over the battery compartment. It sounds crazy, but it works for me.

Thermal Contrast

The AGM Rattler TS19-256 has a 256×192 thermal resolution and a 12-micrometer high-sensitivity thermal detector. It wasn’t that long ago that a core like that was only available in high-end thermal scopes.

The heat detection range is rated at 964 yards. For hunting purposes, plan on 150 to 200 yards for target identification and clarity enough to make an ethical shot. Of course, seasoned thermal hunters know animal characteristics enough to look through a thermal and tell a dog from a coyote, but even they will not often take shots past 200 yards with the Rattler.

With this resolution and a 2.5x base magnification, targets past 200-250 yards get grainy. You may be able to identify it as a potential target, but it is tough to find a spot on the animal to shoot.


AGM provides a 3-year transferable warranty against defects or issues associated with intended normal use. Like others, it does not cover modifications, abuse, and neglect. Be sure to keep your proof of purchase/receipts in case you have a warranty claim.

What’s in the Box

When you buy the AGM Rattler TS19-256 thermal scope, besides the scope, you get the following:

  • Mount
  • USB Cable
  • Lens Tissue
  • User Manual
  • Carrying Bag
  • CR123 Batteries


You can not buy this scope and expect to get the same performance as your buddy’s $6,000 thermal. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you do get for under $1,000 with the AGM Rattler. With that in mind, I have to say this is a great budget thermal scope. It is great for the hunter who wants to hunt a few hogs, a farmer or rancher who wants to keep it in his truck for hogs or predators, and those who don’t want to break the bank on a thermal.

4. Burris BTC50 1x50mm – The Best Clip-On Thermal Scope

The Burris BTC50 is a good all-around clip-on. It’s a clip-on that is easy on and easy off. It’s simple to use and makes a good handheld thermal device. Let’s look further at what makes the Burris BTC50 the best budget thermal.

Figure 7 Burris BTC50 Clip-on Hunter – Source:

What I Like

  • Small and lightweight.
  • It’s easy to remove and replace.
  • Works well as a handheld.

What I Don’t Like

  • Scope adapters don’t come with the unit and are in short supply.
  • Customer support is not the best.
  • QD mount is okay, but you will want a better one if you remove it a lot.

Best Uses

  • Predator and hog hunting at night.
  • Hunters who want to convert their scope to thermal.
  • Hunters who want a dual-purpose thermal clip-on/handheld.

Quick Reference

  • Eye Relief: 10mm
  • Resolution: 400×300
  • Rangefinder: Stadiametric Rangefinder
  • Magnification: 1x
  • Color Modes: 4
  • Reticles: N/A
  • NETD/Thermal Contrast: <50mK
  • Battery: 2-CR123/ICR 16340
  • Battery Life: 3 hours
  • Dimensions: 7×2.3×2.4 inches
  • Weight: 15.8 Ounces
  • Detection Range: 750 Yards
  • Video Recording: Yes
  • Audio Recording: No
  • Video/Photo Format: No
  • Stream to Phone: No
  • Built-in Memory: No
  • Warranty: 3-Years Transferable

When deciding on a clip-on for this review, I searched for a high-quality clip-on that is simple to use. One that does not have endless menus to navigate or multiple profiles to edit every time I change ammo. I found that in the Burris BTC50 for just under $5,000. It Let’s look at what makes the BTC50 the best thermal clip-on.

Thermal Features

The BTC has a 50Hz refresh rate with 400×300 thermal resolution and a 17-micron sensor. The thermal detection range is out to 750 yards and the thermal ID will vary depending on the scope in front of the BTC. When you combine that with the 50mm objective lens, your thermal has a lot of information to process.

There is a Hot Track feature on the BTC. It basically puts a reticle on the screen that chases the hottest heat signature detected. I could see this useful for hog hunting situations, but I am not a fan. This is the only time you will see a reticle on the BTC, The BTC’s primary use is a clip-on, so you don’t need a reticle.

Figure 8 Burris BTC50 Clip-on – Source:

There are four color palettes to choose from: Green Hot, Red Hot, White Hot, and Black Hot. With a quick press of the mode button, you can change scene settings. The available scene options are Snow, Default, Desert, City, and Forest. The contrast and brightness settings are preset for each scene.


The Burris BTC has a Stadiametric Rangefinder. I am really not a fan of these and I prefer a laser rangefinder. My hope is Burris adds an LRF to their clip-on line.


You can purchase the Burris BTC single lever quick detach mount. It does not come standard. It is a better mount than what comes with other clip-ons. I found it rattles some when not on the rifle, but it’s not a deal breaker.

Check your clearance if you use your rifle in a tripod. The sidewalls of the clamp can interfere with the QD latch. It’s not a big deal unless you’re scanning with your BTC and need to quickly mount it on the rifle. Test all this out before you go hunting.

With that said, I do suggest you look into an aftermarket quick detach mount. The Burris mount is okay and will work for most, but I am a stickler for noise discipline.

Being a clip-on, many prefer to forego the rail mount and just clip it on the scope via an adapter. The adapter screws onto the BTC and has a quick detach adapter that mounts to your scope. It’s actually a nice design.

The issue with the BTC50 adapters is they appear in a lot of documentation to be included in the BTC50 package. They are not, and even more frustrating is the fact they seem to always be out of stock. Plan to use the rail and keep track of your adapter order.


The Burris BTC50 will quickly drain your CR123 batteries. You will want to be familiar with the standby mode It will save your battery life. The Burris website will tell you the BTC50 has 3 hours of battery life. I have found it to be just over 2 hours.

There is a battery cable included to add an external battery source if you so decide. I would highly recommend an external battery since the hunting usually gets good about the time the batteries drain.


Burris provides a 3-year limited warranty. Burris warrants that its Thermal Optics are free of defects in workmanship and materials for a period of 3 years from the date of purchase. Burris will repair or replace, at its option, any Burris Thermal Optic providing their factory examination reveals a defect exists and does not disclose evidence of abuse or damage caused by improper handling or installation, improper maintenance, or that unauthorized repair has been attempted. You will need to register your scope and keep your proof of purchase.

What’s in the Box

When you buy the Burris BTC50 thermal clip-on, beside the scope you get the following:

  • USB Power Cable
  • Blinder
  • User Manual
  • Carrying Bag
  • Battery Charger (no batteries)

Note: If you read the fine print, you will notice that scope adapters are not included.


The out-of-stock adapter issue is annoying, but I wanted simple and simple I got. The BTC50 goes on easy and comes off easy. It doubles as a hand-held thermal device for scanning and scope after you find a target. I also like the idea of having a thermal in deer camp, especially during the archery season. When gun season rolls around, I clip it on my rifle, and I am good to go. No need to re-zero my rifle or change anything in the scope.

5. Sightmark Wraith Mini 2-16×35 Thermal – Best for AR-15

The Sightmark Wraith Night Vision scope is an extremely popular night vision scope for coyote hunters using an AR-15. It only makes sense for Sightmark to jump into thermal scopes using the Wraith design. Hunters now have a hard decision, which Wraith do you put on your AR-15?

Figure 9 Sightmark Wraith Thermal – Source:

Text Box: Optics Planet

What I Like

  • Even with a large number of features, it is very easy to navigate.
  • I like the green hot color palette; I know this seems trivial but you will be surprised how long you can use it without eye fatigue.
  • Video is recorded to an SD card; this makes it simple to transfer to a PC.  

What I Don’t Like

  • The mount it comes with is a basic mount, you are going to want a quick detach mount.
  • The video is okay, but the video output is not as sharp as what actual through the scope.
  • It does not have Wi-Fi, so it cannot stream video.
  • An SD Card is required for video, if you don’t have an SD card in the scope and press record, there is no alert. It just doesn’t record video.
  • It does not have picture and picture.

Best Uses

  • Predator and hog hunting at night out to 100 yards.
  • Great for AR-15 hunters.
  • Recording your hunt.

Quick Reference

  • FOV: 68 Feet at 100 Yards
  • Eye Relief: 2.4 Inches
  • Resolution: 384×288 Sensor and 1024×768 Display
  • Rangefinder: No
  • Magnification: 2-16x
  • Color Modes: 5
  • Reticles: 10 Reticle Types and 9 Color Choices
  • NETD/Thermal Contrast: <40mK
  • Battery: 2-CR123A
  • Battery Life: 3.5 Hours Video Mode/4.4 Preview Mode
  • Dimensions: 6.6 x 3.03 x 2.9 inches
  • Weight: 19.3 Ounces
  • Detection Range: 1,400 Yards
  • Video Recording: Yes
  • Audio Recording: Yes
  • Video/Photo Format:
  • Stream to Phone: No
  • Built-in Memory: No – up to 256 GB SD card.
  • Warranty: 3 Years limited.

Sightmark has kept the introduction of their thermal Wraith top secret for some time now. What they have introduced is a thermal scope that seems especially built for AR-15. Let’s look further at the new Sightmark Wraith Min Thermal.

Recording and Photographing the Hunt

Sightmark took the simple approach to record video or photographing your hunt. There is no internal memory for video or photos. It is all done on a mini-SD card. This makes transferring video to your PC simple and straightforward.

There are a couple of things to consider here and I guess simplicity has its trade-offs. There is no Wi-Fi, so there is no streaming video to an app. For some, that’s a win, but others will prefer it.

Like many thermal scopes that record video, the video quality is never as good as what you see through the scope with your naked eye. This is especially true with the Wraith Thermal. It’s not that the quality is so poor you can’t watch the video, but you will notice it is grainy.

Note: The SD card has to be inserted in the Wraith thermal, or it will not record. There is no alert of any kind to let you know you are not recording. You only know when you try to remove the mini-SD card.

Figure 10 Sightmark Wraith Thermal – Source:

Field of View

The field of view of the Wraith Min Thermal is 68 feet at 100 yards. That is exceptional, and hog hunters will love it. The 1024×768 OLED display provides a clear, precise image.

I have come to love thermal scopes with a picture-in-picture feature. The Wraith thermal is not there yet, and does not currently support picture-in-picture.

There are five color modes:

  • White Hot
  • Black Hot
  • Green Hot
  • Rainbow
  • Magenta

I have come to like the green hot color scheme. It does not give me eye fatigue like others, and it is something different.  


Everyone has their favorite reticle, and sometimes that can change from species to species or environment to environment. I recommend trying all the reticles in each color to determine what your favorite is.

The reticles are all customizable depending on your needs. There are ten different reticles to choose from in 9 different colors:

  1. Black
  2. White
  3. Red
  4. Blue
  5. Green
  6. Cyan
  7. Yellow
  8. Magenta


The stock mount is a thumb screw type mount for a Picatinny rail. This is fine if the scope is mounted on only one rifle. Otherwise, invest in a quality aftermarket quick detach mount. You can then move from gun to gun with ease, and there is no need to zero again.

There are five different firearm profiles available for the Wraith Mini Thermal. If you have the QD mount, you can move the scope from rifle to rifle with ease. Select the profile for the rifle the scope is on, and you are good to go.

The Wraith Mini Thermal is the best thermal for AR-15, but you may want to put it on a bolt action rifle. If you plan to use this on a bolt action rifle, the scope will not fit correctly unless you use a Sightmark Wraith Mini Long Mount, which retails for around $60.


The CR123A batteries are easy to change, and you will need to change them a lot. The battery life is rated at 3.5 hours with video. You’re not going to get that. CR123A batteries can be unpredictable. You may get close to that one time, and a new set of batteries may give you 2.5 hours.

Sightmark makes a quick detach external battery pack. You will want to invest in one and save your CR123A money for ammo. The USB-type connector is magnetic, and you can get a battery pack that also has a magnetic USB connector. I have not had issues, but I do worry about a what-a-minute vine pulling it off.

Thermal Contrast

The Sightmark Wraith Mini Thermal has a 384×288 sensor resolution. The NETD of <40mK is kind of middle of the road when it comes to thermal sensitivity, but the scope’s thermal detection ability is more than enough for most hunters.

When you combine the sensor resolution and thermal sensitivity abilities of the Wraith Thermal with a native 2x magnification and 1-8x zoom, you have a combination that provides great mid-range hunting.

Hunters wanting great thermal sight pictures out to 100 to 150 yards, then this is the scope for you. I prefer to hunt hogs with this scope on a .300 Blackout. You have a good field of view for when the scatter and a detailed picture for shots under 100 yards. Great for the .300 BO, since I don’t often take shots past 100 yards with it.


Sightmark warranties the Wraith Mini Thermal with a three-year limited warranty. The warranty is against workmanship and defects in materials. The exceptions are:

  • Non-rechargeable batteries.
  • The scope was abused, damaged, or modified.

Be sure to keep your proof of purchase/receipts in case you have a warranty claim.

What’s in the Box

Along with the Sightmark Wraith Mini Thermal Scope, you get:

  • Flip-Up Covers for Front and Back
  • Removable Throw Lever (To adjust focus)
  • Rubber Eyecup
  • 2 – CR123A Batteries
  • USB Cable


I like Sightmark as a company and think they have a winner with the Wraith Thermal. It is a quality thermal for under $3,000 that is great for mid-range hunting. For the price, it’s the best thermal for AR-15 you can find. There are a few things it is lacking, but if you add all that to a scope like this, you will pay thousands more. Personally, I like a scope that’s easy to use and puts hogs on the ground all night long.

6. ATN ThOR 5 XD 3-30x – Best for New Hunters

It’s hard for new hunters to decide on a thermal scope these days. Do you go with an entry-level thermal scope, or do you go with something cutting-edge? On the one hand, you’re playing it safe, and on the other you risk being on the bleeding edge. The ATN ThOR 5 XD is easy to use, and the technology is solid, making it the best thermal scope for new hunters.

Figure 11 ATN ThOR 5 XD – Source:

What I Like

  • The recoil activated video will prevent excited hunters from forgetting to start recording.
  • The improved battery life is 10 hours.
  • The reticle editor lets me make a reticle for my hunting needs.
  • The 1280×1024 thermal sensor provides detail much like night vision.
  • There is 90mm of eye relief.

What I Don’t Like

  • It is user-friendly, but there are a lot of things to configure.
  • No picture-in-picture
  • The Rheostat zoom is now a button.

Best Uses

  • Predator and hog hunting at night.
  • Great for entry level night hunters who want all the latest technology.
  • Recording and streaming your hunt.
  • Parents assisting young hunters.

Quick Reference

  • FOV: 11.8°x8.8°
  • Eye Relief: 90mm
  • Resolution: 1280×1024 Sensor/1024×768 Display
  • Rangefinder: No (Optional)
  • Magnification: 3x30x
  • Color Modes: 3
  • Reticles: Multiple and multiple colors/customizable
  • Sensor: 1280×1024, 60 Hz 12-micron, HD thermal sensor
  • Battery: 4 AA Lithium-Ion Rechargeable
  • Battery Life: 10 Hours
  • Dimensions: 12.4×2.2×2.1 Inches
  • Weight: 1.93 Pounds
  • Detection Range: 3,500 Yards
  • Video Recording: Yes
  • Audio Recording: Yes
  • Video/Photo Format: MPEG-4 and .JPG
  • Stream to Phone: yes
  • Built-in Memory: 4Gb plus SD Card (up to 64 Gb)
  • Warranty: 3 Years Limited

ATN has led the pack when it comes to innovation for some years now. The ATN ThOR 5 XD is just the latest example of cutting-edge technology. ATN balances state-of-the-art features and “huntability” with this scope nicely. Let’s look at what makes this the best thermal scope for new hunters.

Recording and Photographing the Hunt

The ATN ThOR 5 XD has Recoil Activated Video (RAV). With RAV turned on, your video starts with the recoil of the shot. The ThOR 5 XD is actually storing the video in cache, and what is recording is video from ten seconds before the shot and five seconds after the shot. You can customize these settings.

It is a good idea to calibrate your gun with the RAV functionality of the scope. Not everyone uses their ThOR 5 XD on a deer rifle, so you need to tune the scope to your gun. The video resolution is 1280×960 at 60 frames per second. You are actually recording in HD.

The recording is captured by a micro-SD card and can simultaneously stream to a device. You can download videos and photos from the micro-SD card or your home Wi-Fi. It supports both iPhone and Android.

Note: You must have the micro-SD card in the scope before you can record video.


There are six reticles and multiple colors to choose from. ATN also has a customizable Reticle Editor. There you can customize your own reticle shape, color, thickness (MOA), and Opacity. You also have access to reticles that others have made public.

ATN also lets you customize a Mil-Dot Reticle with the Smart Mil-Dot Reticle feature. Basically, you are programming the variance between hash marks in Mils. The hash marks are dynamic to the zoom, they will spread as you zoom in, and more appear as you zoom out.

There is also a ballistics calculator that takes into account humidity, wind speed, wind direction, temperature, barometric pressure, and altitude to properly adjust your point of aim. With the ballistics calculator in Auto Syn, you will see a teal reticle dot with a flashing halo beside your sight picture/reticle. This is the corrected reticle according to the ballistics for that day.


The ATN ThOR 5 XD comes with a quick detach mount. You can move your thermal back and forth without needing to zero again.

They are above-average quality when compared to the Sightmark Wraith, but there are aftermarket QD Mounts out there. The ThOR XD comes with standard 30mm rings from the factory.


The ATN ThOR 5 XD is rated at ten hours of battery life. One note, when you get this unit new, it will take almost eight hours to charge completely. There are four AA internal Lithium-Ion batteries. The USB charging cord is supplied, but you will need to provide the wall charger.

The battery life is close to ten hours in the field. You can expect less when you stream/record for long hunts in cold weather.

Figure 12 ATN ThOR XD – Source:

Thermal Contrast

The ATN’s Gen 5 Thermal Scope is the first to market with a 1280×1024, 60 Hz 12-micron, ultrasensitive HD thermal sensor. A Quad Core processor with enhanced sensors gives ThOR 5 stunning image quality both night and day.

With a 3x base magnification and 1280×1024 12-micron resolution, and an HD sensor, your picture is very detailed out to 600 yards. It is rare to find a thermal scope with the type of resolution that you can aim small and miss small at 500 yards.

ATN says its HD sensor can detect thermal images out to 3,500 yards with a target identification range of 667 yards. As we all know, these ranges are subject to terrain and environmental variances. If you plan on using the ThOR 5 for coyote hunting, you should have more than enough scope for shots out to 500 yards, if not more.


You can find warranty information on the back of the ATN ThOR 5 XD manual. The ThOR 5 XD comes with a limited three-year warranty against workmanship and defects in materials. The exceptions are:

  • Non-rechargeable batteries.
  • The scope was abused, damaged, or modified.

Be sure to keep your proof of purchase/receipts in case you have a warranty claim.

What’s in the Box

Along with the ATN ThOR 5 XD scope, you get:

  • Optic Cover
  • Sun Shade
  • Rubber Eye Piece
  • Rings
  • Charging Cable
  • QD Mount
  • Owner’s Manual


The more I use this scope, the more I like it. Of all the thermal scopes in the review, the ATN ThOR 5 XD is the most feature-rich. If you are a new hunter, you should know you don’t have to use all the features it has to offer. I bring them online as I get more comfortable with the basic features. There will be some features you never use and some that you always use.

Figure 13 Pulsar Thermion 2 – Source: Pulsar

What is a Thermal Scope?

Hunters mainly use thermal scopes because they can see their target day or night. Early models of thermal scopes looked more like a camcorder mounted on your rifle. Technology has advanced so that today’s thermal scopes look much like a traditional day scope.

From a technology standpoint, a thermal scope creates images using infrared light. The thermal sensor detects sources of heat down range. It recognizes the varying degrees of heat and projects them digitally. The more sensitive the thermal sensor is, the more detail you see through your scope. The result is cold things are dark, but hot things are bright.

Hunters mainly use thermal scopes because they can hunt day or night. The second reason is to take advantage of new features. Modern thermal scopes can come with a digital compass, laser range finders, different profiles, video recording, a digital camera, customizable reticles, and color schemes. There are many more features than that, but you get the idea.

Thermal Scope Buyers Guide

If you are buying your first thermal scope, then you are probably confused by all the acronyms used to describe them. It’s even harder to determine if the technology behind the acronym is marketing jargon or something important to consider. This buyer’s guide explains the terminology and technology behind it, so you can make an informed decision. It is a great resource for beginners and seasoned hunters alike.

Figure 14 Davis Outdoor Adventures – Hoangle Thermal


Magnification is one of the primary reasons you buy any scope. It is easy to get confused about it. Basically, a 3x scope will magnify an object three times. For instance, a hog 300 yards away will appear to be 100 yards away in the scope. Not only does magnification decrease the perception of distance, but it also makes the target seem three times bigger.

With a thermal scope, you are looking at a digital image of the target and surrounding areas. When you digitally zoom, you are stretching the pixels to gain magnification. The higher the resolution of the scope, the less distortion you get when you zoom.

A thermal scope also has a fixed base magnification, or some call it an optical magnification. You have probably read that one thermal may have a 2x base magnification, and a more expensive model has a 3x base magnification. Base magnification means that by looking through the scope without adjusting the zoom, objects appear two or three times closer and bigger.


You may have read about the thermal core. It is the most important part of any thermal camera. Right now, the best thermal scopes provide a 640×480 resolution. Less expensive models will have a 320×240 resolution. The higher the resolution, the clearer the image will be.

Resolution and base magnification must be considered when buying a thermal scope. The reason is every time you zoom, you cut your resolution in half. Let’s use a 2x base magnification scope with 640×480 resolution as an example. If you zoom in from 2x to 4x, your magnification doubles. Unfortunately, your 640 resolution went to 320. You will notice the further you zoom, the less resolution you have and the grainier the image gets.

To sum all this up, you want to buy a thermal scope with the highest base magnification and highest resolution you can afford. A 2x or 3x base magnification with a 640×480 resolution is a great scope.

Scope Detection and Target Identification

Thermal scope detection refers to the furthest distance that the thermal sensor can detect heat. In most cases, that means you see a blob moving around at the end of the field. You don’t know what it is, but the scope has detected something.

Target Identification or thermal identification is the furthest distance that you can identify the target. Other factors go into this, namely experience. An experienced hunter will know by the movement and characteristics of the target that it is a coyote and not a dog. At that same distance, a rookie may not be able to tell the difference.

Of course, the longer the thermal scope detection and target identification capabilities, the more expensive the scope. Take into consideration your hunting environment before you shell out cash for this. If you generally hunt the woods, this may not be as important to you. If you hunt the prairies, it is really important.


The lower the micron number, the smaller and more efficient the thermal sensor is. Manufacturers want a sensor that is small and efficient because they can use a smaller lens. A Germanium lens is the most expensive part of the scope, so a small micron sensor lets manufacturers use a smaller Germanium lens.

Hunters want a 12-micron sensor over a 17-micron sensor because the scope can be smaller, lighter, and less expensive. Many 12-micron thermal scopes look more like a traditional scope, because the lens can be smaller.

Refresh Rate

You can have all the resolution and magnification you want, but you need to combine that with the highest refresh rate available. Otherwise, you may make a really good shot on a target that is now 10 feet to the left.

For instance, a hog can run up to speeds of 10 yards per second. That means it can move up to a half-yard in the time it takes a frame to refresh.

Most thermal scopes today will have a 30Hz-60Hz refresh rate. A 60Hz scope produces 60 frames per second on its display. With a 60 Hz refresh rate, images will be less blurry and more accurate to where the target actually is. 

Occasionally, the thermal heat produced from the thermal scope can interfere with the thermal sensor. The image you see seems to freeze. The scope detects this and takes steps to correct this. The scope will conduct what we call a Non-Conformity Correction (NUC). It only takes a moment, and you are back up and running.

Display Types

You will notice most thermal scopes today have either an organic light-emitting diode (OLED) or an Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode (AMOLED) display. They both are really good displays, with the edge going to AMOLED. The AMOLED performs better in temperature ranges from -13 to 122 degrees.

NETD/Thermal Contrast

Noise Equivalent Temperature Difference (NETD) is also known as thermal contrast, thermal sensitivity, and temperature resolution. It is basically a way to measure the ability a scope has to distinguish between objects downrange that are close in temperature.

If you think about it, a thermal scope is a digital camera that illuminates the object with the warmest temperature and displays it in picture form for you to view. If the scope can’t distinguish between objects with similar temperatures, you just see a big blob.

The measurement of NETD or thermal contrast is made in milli-Kelvin (mK). The lower the number, the more sensitive the scope is to NETD. A <35Mk NETD is not as good as <25mK.

Night Vision vs. Thermal Scopes: Which One Do I Get?

You probably have a thermal scope picked out by now. Still, you wonder if you should go with a night vision or thermal scope? If you asked me that question back in the day, I would answer both!

Hunting hogs at night in Texas back then was a blast. However, night vision and thermal technology were such that you could see a hog in the brush with your thermal, but the detail a night vision scope provided was needed to make an ethical shot. You could get by with one or the other, but having both was the best.

Even today, I prefer both on a hunt because a thermal scope is great for finding hogs in the thick brush but often does not provide enough detail to see where to shoot it. The night vision scope is not great at detecting a hog but is great at finding a spot to shoot it. Technology is blurring those lines, especially in the thermal scope world.

              Figure 17 Pulsar Night Vision – Source Pulsar                                  Figure 18 Pulsar Thermal: Source ATN

Night Vision 101

When I was in the Army, we had what was back then, state-of-the-art night vision scopes. The military called them starlight scopes. They were huge but worked great. They captured whatever light they could to provide you with a clear sight picture of what was downrange. Technology has greatly improved since then, but the idea is the same.

Night vision scopes need a least some light to let you see what is down range. A thermal scope has no problem working in total darkness. You can use an infrared illuminator (IR illuminator) with a night vision scope to provide enough down-range light to provide a sight picture.

Think of an IR illuminator as a scope or gun-mounted flashlight that projects an invisible light down range so that you can see through your night vision scope. No matter how dark it is outside, your night vision scope can see down-range with an IR illuminator.

Day or Night Operation

It’s crazy to think, but a night vision scope will not work if there is not enough light, and it will not work if there is too much light. Back in the day, if an analog night vision scope was exposed to bright sunlight, it would damage the Image Intensifier Tube (IIT).

Today, some digital night vision scopes can be used day or night. There are some specifics to that, but most manufacturers are making it easy to switch from day to night. Make sure you do your homework on that. For some models, it is a little clunky to do. A thermal scope has no limitations and can be used day or night.

Environmental Considerations

The thermal sensor detects the heat from objects down range. A thermal scope can see a bobcat hiding in the grass, a coyote in the trees, or a hog in a big wheat field. A thermal scope or infrared scope is not affected by things like smoke, fog, or brush.

A night vision scope does not do well in smoke, fog, or thick brush. As a general rule, if you can’t see it with a flashlight, you can’t see it with a night vision scope. When you can see your target, it is a very crisp and detailed sight picture. Night vision struggles with objects in thick brush.


In the past, the cost was often the main reason hunters decided on a night vision scope. Thermal scopes were thousands of dollars more. With all things considered, it was hard to justify the cost of even a bottom-of-the-line thermal.

Today things are much different. You can get a good thermal scope for under a thousand dollars. You can also get a good night vision scope for half that. Even today, if you want an above-average thermal, you will pay a lot more for that than a really good night vision scope.

Other Factors

These are the major differences between a night vision scope and a thermal scope. There are many other minor differences we will not cover. Differences like weight, battery life, and durability are legit items to consider, but I think you have enough information to make an informed choice.


The thermal scopes I reviewed are all quality thermal scopes that are a blast to take hunting day and night. There is a scope on this list for beginners and veteran hunters alike. You can use them for a variety of guns, game, and types of hunting. After reviewing their strengths and weaknesses, I chose a “Best for” category for each thermal scope. I think you will be pleased with how each thermal performs in the category I selected.

The explanations in the buyer’s guide will clear up any questions you have about the technology behind thermal scopes. Understanding what is important to the way you hunt and what is not will help you select the best thermal scope for your type of hunting. It will also help you save some money. You can take the money you save and buy more ammo for your next thermal hunt!

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