Picking the Best Night Vision Scope for Your Purpose | Great Days Outdoors

Picking the Best Night Vision Scope for Your Purpose

Night hunting for hogs and predators is a fun and effective activity and part of the process involves picking the best night vision scope for your purpose. Hunters and gun enthusiasts alike commonly search for the best night vision scopes on the market. While there are numerous options available, there are pros and cons with selecting a monocular night vision system that attaches to a scope versus a dedicated night vision rifle scope. Follow along as we analyze the various uses of the former and the limitations of each option.

“Knowing if it’s the right product for you, and whatever your purpose is, is the key factor,” said Photonis Defense hunting and night vision expert, Sean Kirk. “You want to use the right tool for the right job. You want a system that sees in the dark. That’s an oversimplification, but that’s ultimately what you’re trying to do — turn night into day.”





Night Vision Explained

The modern night vision technology is miles ahead of where it once was. Today’s night vision equipment is very advanced and extremely effective. “An image intensifier is a vacuum tube that is designed to take low levels of light and amplify it,” Kirk said. “That’s essentially what it does. It takes photons and turns them into electrons. It then scatters those electrons onto a green or white phosphorous screen. Everybody has seen the white or green phosphor when they’re looking through night vision in the movies. That’s exactly that. It gives you amplified light so you can see in very dark situations.”

Complete darkness won’t work, though. You need some light. 

“It must have a photon to amplify,” Kirk said. “You couldn’t use it in a cave, for example. But under starlight, moonlight, city glow lighting up the sky, or any available light, it should give enough light to see around you.”

For those who are leaning toward thermal optics instead, consider the pros and cons of each avenue. While thermal optics might even seem more appealing, in many ways, it’s inferior to night vision. Most people who are experienced in both tend to choose night vision over thermal.



“The difference between night vision and thermal is, when using the night vision system, you’re seeing the actual scene with high definition and a lot of resolution,” Kirk said. “With thermal, you’re only getting a heat signature. The downside to thermal is you can’t ever be behind a cool surface. If there is foliage between you and the target, [the sight picture] can be impeded. That’s why I like night vision. I like to see the actual scene.”

Of course, for those who’ve opted to go with night vision, there are additional things to consider, including the following.


Night Vision For Hunters: Three Options

The first option is a dedicated night vision hunting scope system. It works well and is rock-solid, but it’s the least versatile of all market options. “A weapons sight is a weapons sight — It’s staying on the gun,” Kirk said. “If you need to look through it, you must lift the gun to your shoulder. Also, these tend to have a lot of amplification, so you aren’t getting a wide field of view. When looking through a monocular, you’re getting a 40 degrees field of view no matter what.

While this does include everything you need for night vision, it comes with additional downsides.

“You must switch between day and night systems,” Kirk said. “So, you’d have to remove a daytime scope to put on a dedicated night vision sight, and vice versa.”

Another option is famous for its acronym. 


best night vision scope hog hunting

A quality night vision scope is necessary for hunting hogs at night.


“From there, you could buy what we call a COWS, which is a clip-on weapons sight,” Kirk said. “This is an inline optic. You’re taking your day sight, and you have an in-line optic that has a night vision intensifier in it, and you’re using it to then be able to adjust your azimuth, elevation, and zero through your day sight.

The third option is an excellent route (for most). It is a monocular night vision attachment system.

“If you need a budget-friendly scope, the easiest thing to do is take a small monocular, like our Vyper 14 and mount it to a rail — either in front of or behind — depending on how you want to use it,” Kirk said. “Pair it with a day scope you are comfortable using. That’s the most budget-friendly way to do it.”

According to Kirk, if you have a monocular, and you want to use your existing day sight, you can simply take it off the rail and use it as a handheld or head-mounted device. Because of this, you have some flexibility in using it for different situations in the field.


Getting Started

Those who plan to purchase night vision should already have or purchase a weapon for it. The preferred platform is an AR, with higher-quality bolt-action rifles being used occasionally. That said, use whatever you know best. Then, regardless of the chosen weapon, practice with it repeatedly. Become completely familiar with the system.

If legal where you hunt, night vision offers numerous advantages that boost the odds of success. Using it appropriately helps you see the target before it sees you. You might bag one or two hogs during the daytime but using night vision after dark increases opportunities for taking even more hogs during the hunt.

“The most common use is for hunting,” Kirk said. “Where legal, night vision scopes are excellent for effectively hunting coyotes, hogs, and pests that might be living on your hunting land. Obviously, it needs to be a [legal] nocturnal animal.”

Overall, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Night vision isn’t for everyone. But it is ideal for a lot of people. 

“You want to do a lot of research,” Kirk said. “Talk to trusted people. There are lesser performing systems out there. But the simple rule is, if something seems too good to be true in terms of performance and price, it usually is.”


Photonis Defense PD-Pro-16M Monocular NVG

An excellent monocular system to consider is the Photonis Defense PD-Pro-16M Monocular NVG. This high-performance night vision system is 58% smaller and 35% lighter form factor when compared to the average 18mm monocular system that’s currently on the market. It features a Photonis 4G 16mm image intensifier tube, as well as UltraLight, HyperSense, SpecOptics, and 4G technologies.


night vision monocular

A good monocular is the way to go.


It also has a horizontal FOV of 41 degrees and vertical FOV of 40 degrees, focus range of 9.8 inches to infinity, and spectral sensitivity of below 400nm to above 1,000nm. It even sports an auto-gated Photonis 4G 16mm tube type, battery life of 25 hours at 72 degrees (F) with lithium battery, and an operating temperature range of -60 degrees (F) to 131 degrees (F). It weighs 9 ounces and is submersible up to 66 feet. Comes in white or green phosphor. Only available in the US.


Photonis Defense Vyper Monocular System

Another great night vision optic option is the Photonis Vyper Monocular System. It is a rugged option that works very well for hunters. According to Photonis, the Vyper monocular system achieves MILSPEC performance when paired with the Photonis Defense 4G image tube. Furthermore, when the Vyper is integrated with the Photonis Defense ECHO image tube, the system can even provide near MILSPEC performance at a commercial price point. The Vyper Monocular is also crafted with high-strength resin. It offers superior impact resistance. Its custom sleeve protects the image intensifier tube. It’s even tested for shock, submersion, drop, and vibration.


best night vision scope

Take your night hunts to a new level with the proper night vision optic setup.


“There’s the standard Viper,” Kirk said. “And if you’re running a D ring, on the front lens, I’d recommend the titanium ORC. That’s a titanium ring that replaces a typical ring that’s made of polymer, which isn’t as sturdy. That will give you a hardened place to mount a ring-type mount that wraps around the device.”

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