One of the most current heated topics (no pun intended) among many night hunters worldwide is optics choice. There are multiple factors to consider in determining the right scope. What type of game you are hunting, where and in what conditions will the scope be used and price range are just a few of the things to consider before determining if you should go night vision or thermal.
Both night vision and thermal assist hunters in detecting, recognizing and identifying targeted animals. But they also both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to understand the differences in the technology before making your decision.
Thermal optics detect radiation or heat. The higher the temperature, the more radiation something gives off. Since thermal detects radiation, it does not require any visible light to provide an image of your target. You are able to make out even small animals in deep cover or concealed by fog which is one great advantage. On the flip side of that though is since you are looking at a thermal image, you will have less detail. This imposes the problem of not always being able to determine what type of animal you are looking at right away, especially from longer distances, therefore also making it more difficult to determine proper shot placement. Thermal scopes also tend to be heavier than night vision scopes and handling your weapon may take some getting used to. When it comes to pricing, thermal is definitely on the higher side since its newer and costlier to manufacture.
Unlike thermal, night vision requires a light source to provide an image. In many cases, the stars and moon will provide enough light to produce an image, but shadows can make it more difficult to see. Modern night vision optics come equipped with an IR Illuminator which can make images a lot clearer and more detailed. The IR Illuminator works like a flash light but is not visible to the naked eye. Night vision images tend to be a lot more detailed and natural than thermal. Night vision is only problematic if the game is camouflaged or standing still. The technology has been around a lot longer as well and is used to being mounted on rifles and is more rugged and more readily absorbs recoil.
Before making up your mind, you should ask yourself these questions: