Selecting the Best Thermal Scope for the Money
Thermal scopes prices are on the rise, but it’s certainly possible to select the best thermal scope for the money. At the end of the day, hunters want options when it comes to the construction, quality, and price of their gear. While desires and needs may differ, all hunters are looking for the best bang for their buck.
Of course, the construction changes as the cost of thermal hunting scopes increases. These pieces of gear are complex and packed with technologies, and incredible advancements have been made in recent years. Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand what you have vs. what you want or need in a thermal scope.
When picking through different offerings, it’s important to realize that reputation and warranty are indicators of quality. American Technologies Network (ATN) understands that and provides a variety of options for the budget hunters have in mind.
Relying on a Good Thermal Scope
Those who spend much time with thermal scopes know the difference between the goods and the garbage. It’s cliché, but you get what you pay for. It’s important to understand this and know just what you’re hoping to accomplish with a good thermal scope.
While night vision relies on existing light (albeit minimal), thermal imagery needs no light to see. It focuses on heat signatures. Heat that radiates from objects — such as wild game — creates the picture you see while using the thermal scope.
Quality scopes do this well, while lesser ones do not. These also perform better at longer distances and ranges.
Furthermore, superior thermal scopes can provide clearer pictures at longer distances than those with inferior glass and sensors. That can make a significant difference for long-range shooters.
Price Point Considerations
According to Steve Lemenov, director of marketing for ATN, with each increase in price point, the major change is the level of sensor you’re getting. The glass material is made from germanium, which is rare.
“A thermal sensor needs that type of lens to pick up the target,” Lemenov said. “The higher the resolution sensor, and bigger the germanium lens, the farther you’ll be able to see the target. You can see it with lower-level scopes, but to identify it, you need a larger lens.”
Aside from the sensor and glass, other major differences also include the additional auxiliary features. One such example is wifi capabilities. This is a rare feature many thermal rifle scopes don’t have.
Another is battery life. What good is a scope that only lasts a couple hours? That doesn’t even get you through one hunt, let alone last for multiple trips. You need a scope that goes the distance.
Other features are nearly as important, but might be more or less so depending on the person. While one person might want one thing, another might not need that feature. Your goals, expectations, and even skill level will impact selection. Here is the entire lineup of scopes and models that are best for various budgets.
Level One: Thor LT 160
MSRP: $999 and up
“We just reduced pricing on our scopes,” Lemenov said. “The most budget-minded is $999 which is unheard of in the industry. It’s an easy-to-use thermal scope with an effective range of about 150 yards. You can pick it up and figure it out in a few minutes.
The battery life is 10 hours. Customers like that because they don’t have to change batteries as often. They can spend more time hunting in the field.”
At the base level, the Thor LT 160 has 475-yard detection, 240-yard recognition, and 160-yard identification range. It’s easy to mount and use, is very lightweight, weather resistant, recoil resistant, and more.
Level Two: Thor LT 320
MSRP: $1,499 and up
The Thor LT 320 comes with a 320 x 240 sensor with a 12-micron sensor. According to Lemenov, it has great 10-hour battery life, and sports one-shot zero capabilities. It certainly has a very intuitive user interface, and even has brightness and contrast control.
It comes with aluminum housing construction, not plastic. It has 30 mm rings and looks more like a traditional scope. At the base level, it has 715-yard detection, 305-yard recognition, and 200-yard identification ranges. Its magnification ranges from 2-4 X to 5-10X and field of view ranges from 8.8X6.6 to 11.6X8.7.
It even boasts comfortable eye relief and classic ergonomics. This scope is lightweight, well built, weather resistant, and recoil resistant.
Level Three: Thor 4 384
MSRP: $1,999 and up
The Thor 4 384 is another excellent option, and Lemenov says there are four models in this version. “It’s the flagship model with a full suite of features,” he says. “It has a video recording capability with sounds. It has wifi, which means you can immediately stream from a scope to a smart phone or tablet.”
It also offers a variety of sensors and lenses. At the base level it has 750-yard detection, 335-yard recognition, and 205-yard identification ranges. Battery life can last up to 16 hours, perhaps longer.
This model also has comfortable eye relief, a great HD display, Bluetooth and wifi capabilities, and easy-to-use controls. It even has a ballistic calculator, smart mil dot reticle, and more.
Level Four Thor 4 640
MSRP: $3,499 and up
While the other three options are certainly good, the Thor 4 640 is even better. “We do have a more sensitive sensor in this model,” Lemenov said. “It picks up heat signatures better than our other models.”
At the base level, it has 830-yard detection, 350-yard recognition, and 225-yard identification ranges. Enjoy a ballistic calculator and smart mil dot reticle with this model as well.
It comes Bluetooth and wifi capable, has a very detailed HD display, offers 16-plus hour battery life, video recording capabilities, one shot zero technology, and more. Get each of the above models in camo, too, if that’s your thing.
Thermal vs. Night Vision
For those who are still on the fence on choosing between thermal and night vision, first read up on your state and local laws. Purchase and use whatever complies with regulations. That said, there are pros and cons to both sides.
For example, with night vision, it’s oftentimes more affordable, oftentimes easier to sight in, shows terrain better, and is generally more available. On the flip side, thermal is arguably better for showing live targets, increases overall range, and can be used in daylight (or low light). Both technologies have their place and can do the job well depending on the task at hand.