Our Top 5 Night Vision Scopes in 2021:

  1. Pulsar Digisight Ultra LRF 450

Richard Saunders: An Experts View

All of our reviews are based upon Richard Saunders opinions. Richard has been shooting air rifles for nearly forty years. Today he hunts and carries out pest control on more than a thousand acres spread across different locations in the south of England. He is a regular contributor to Airgun Shooter magazine, writing mainly hunting features and product reviews, as well The Airgun Show on YouTube.

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Introduction

Stating anything as ‘the best’ is always subjective and we could have called this the ‘can of worms column’. Opinions are like backsides – everyone has one – and at the end of the day, my opinion is no more important than anyone else’s. However, if you happen to have stumbled across this article because you are looking to invest in a night vision scope you may be a little confused by all the information out there. The best option is to try out every single product for yourself. Best, but often impractical. So we’re back to my opinion. The only thing I can offer is that I am lucky enough to own several NV products and have reviewed many others for various magazines and websites. So whilst I won’t be bestowing any kind of ‘best’ title, here’s a run down of some of the many night vision products I’ve experienced.

Infrared or thermal?

Putting lamps and torches to one side for a minute, night vision (NV) means either an infrared (IR) scope that relies on the use of an infrared torch also known as an illuminator, or a thermal scope which uses a sensor to detect heat and turn it into an image. The obvious difference between the two is cost. Neither are cheap, but generally speaking, thermal technology costs a lot more, especially if you want something usable. Thermal is better than IR for spotting quarry, but when it comes to targeting, my preference is IR. We may well take a look at thermal in a future feature, but for now I’m going to focus on IR.

1. PARD NV007 ASee More

Pard NV007

There are two products offering a choice of 12 mm and 16mm lens. Both cost the same – around £430. The main difference is that the 12 mm model will give you a slightly wider field of view and 1-7x magnification whilst the 16mm model has 4-28x magnification. As a ‘clip-on’ attachment rather than an actual scope, the PARD NV007A attaches to the rear of a regular day scope and sees through it. Not only does this mean you can use your normal scope during the day before swapping to NV when it’s dark, it also means you don’t have to change your zero. The unit itself is tiny, weighing only 250g and measuring 106mm long. Although the eye relief is short at 35 mm, you may find you have to move your scope forward a little. 

Features and functions

The kit comes with a bayonet type fitting which attaches to your scope with a couple of tightening screws and can be left in place even when you’re not using the NV007. There are several alternative attachment systems available on the internet that attach to the scope via a screw on collar. Power comes from a rechargeable 18650 battery. PARD says you can expect seven hours of use, but that’s a little optimistic in my experience so I take a couple of spares with me – just make sure you buy the e-cigarette type that has a flat +ve terminal. Above the battery housing is the infrared illuminator. It may look tiny, but I’ve found it more than adequate for airgun hunting. There are three brightness settings and you can refine the beam by extending the lens. At the rear of the PARD NV007A there’s a rotary collar – use it to focus the crosshair image. Another collar just behind the front lens adjusts the target image focus. Pulling out a rubber tab reveals a port for a mini SD card, and additional ports for a mini USB and other digital devices. The on/off button is at the top behind the IR torch and four other buttons above the ocular lens perform functions including: switching on the night mode and scrolling through IR torch brightness settings; taking still and video; zoom; and accessing the menu where you’ll find a range of settings for screen brightness, date/time language and wifi.

In the field

The PARD NV007A is very easy to use and performs extremely well at ranges far beyond typical air rifle distances. I have a friend who uses a PARD NV007A on his 17HMR and .243 rifles at distances well over 100 metres. That said, I have found the product to be somewhat scope fussy. Due to, I assume, lens arrangements and coatings, it works better on some scopes than others – something that is true of other clip-on IR products as well. Fortunately, it seems that the PARD works better with cheaper scopes rather than more expensive ones, though I’m sure there are exceptions to that generalisation. I use mine mainly on a basic Hawke Vantage and it works just fine.

A word about the red dot laser

There was some debate about whether earlier versions which had a red dot laser function were legal in the UK or not. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that once Sportsman Gun Centre was appointed as PARD’s official UK distributor, the red dot laser function was disabled to remove any confusion.

Pros:

  • Light and compact
  • Good value for money
  • Flexible and easy to use

Cons:

  • Can be scope fussy
  • Battery run time not as good as is claimed
  • No range finding capacity
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2. PARD NV008P and NV008P LRFSee More

There are two versions of the PARD’s dedicated digital day/night scope. The standard NV008P weighs just 435g and costs around £650, whilst the NV008P LRF is a little heavier at 450g thanks to the addition of the Laser Range Finder (LRF) unit and is closer to £900. Both attach via a reach back picatinny mount. Like the clip on NV007A product, there is an in-built infrared (IR) torch which, despite its tiny proportions, has more performance than is needed for airgun hunting use thanks to three brightness levels and an adjustable beam. If you feel you need even more IR power you can attach an auxiliary torch to a short picatinny rail on the side.

Unlike the NV007A, the NV008P models are intended to be used in place of a traditional scope. The day time colour image is very sharp, albeit a compromise compared to glass. The press of a button activates the night mode which, with the IR torch turned on, provides a clear image at airgunning ranges that can be fine-tuned via collars at either end. Magnification is either 6.5x or 12x with nothing in between – again more than adequate for airgun use. Power is provided by a rechargeable 18650 battery and once more, claimed run time of up to eight hours is a little exaggerated so get yourself a spare battery – one with the flat top +ve terminal – as it takes seconds to swap out.

Four buttons on the side control functions including the day/night mode and IR torch, magnification and the menu. A fourth button operates the rangefinder which is a matchbox sized unit on the right of the scope. A press of the button reveals a constant reads out – simply place the number reading on your target. The menu operates an impressive range of features and functions including: a picture-in-picture (PiP) mode; several different reticle and reticle colour options; and settings for brightness, units, language and date/time. The buttons also operate the picture and video function which uses a mini SD card that is fitted into a port that is accessed under a twist-lock cover on the right of the unit. There is also a mini USB port but from what I understand, it is not recommended for battery charging – better to remove the battery and charge it separately. The menu also accesses the zero feature which is a little fiddly, but easy enough once you’ve got the hang of it; simply fire off a group, keep the reticle on your point of aim and then use the buttons to move a second zeroing reticle to where your group hit then save. You may need to repeat the process a couple of times. 

Mounting

It’s worth calling out the fact that mounting the PARD 008P/PARD 008P LRF is a little bit of a faff. The steel rail is excellent but is only available for picatinny rails, so you’d have to buy an adapter to fit it to a rifle with dovetails. In addition, many people find they either run out of vertical adjustment altogether or find that once zeroed the reticle is right at the bottom of the screen. This is easily enough to overcome with the use of some shims – I used tiny squares of coke can – between the mount and the scope.

In the field

Like the rest of the PARD range, the NV008P / NV008P LRF packs a lot of performance into a small, light yet robust and IPX7 waterproof rated body. The buttons are easy to locate and operate. I find the fact that the night mode/IR button is gently lit particularly helpful at night. I’d also recommend spending the extra for the LRF model which is easy and accurate to operate, making hunting at night so much easier. I use my NV008 LRF on a high-powered FAC air rifle to shoot rabbits 60 or 70 metres away.

A word about the red dot laser

There was some debate about whether earlier versions which had a red dot laser function were legal in the UK or not. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that once Sportsman Gun Centre was appointed as PARD’s official UK distributor, the red dot laser function was disabled to remove any confusion.

Pros:

  • Light, compact and easy to use
  • Excellent integrated IR torch
  • Superb range finder

Cons:

  • Battery run time
  • Lack of a dovetail mount
  • May need to shim the mount
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3. ATN X-Sight 4K ProSee More

ATN X Sight 4K

ATN’s X-Sight 4K Pro has been a firm favourite for some time, and comes with 5-20x and 3-14x magnification options, the latter offering a slightly wider field of view. It’a dedicated day and night scope and improvements over the model it replaced mean the daytime colour image is excellent and much less of a compromise compared to glass. At 330mm it’s about the same length as a traditional scope, but tipping the scales at more than a kilo in weight, it’s quite a bit heavier. Although you get a set of picatinny mounts that are designed to hold the provided IR torch as well, the X-Sight 4K Pro can be used with regular 30mm rings.

There are collars to adjust the target image focus at the front and screen picture at the back. In between are a series of buttons and a large knob on the left side to adjust magnification. On the right, under a couple of rubber tabs, is a USB port for charging the scope – it will deliver a genuine 18 hours of use – and a port to accept a mini SD card so you can record video, take photos and perform firmware updates. Pressing the power button gives access to a huge range of options and rather than go through them here I suggest you take a look at our detailed review of the ATN X Sight 4K Pro Day and Night Scope.

In summary though, there is a selection of reticle colours and styles and you can save multiple calibre, rifle and pellet set ups under different profiles, making it quick and easy to swap the X-Sight 4K Pro to other rifles. The menu also contains a rangefinder function. However, it’s fiddly to use and uses an algorithm based on an assumption of different prey sizes. A better option, although it’s an additional expense, is to invest in ATN’s Auxiliary Ballistic Laser (ABL) range finder which attaches to a sunshade type attachment screwed onto the front of the scope. Paired through the scope’s Bluetooth function, the ABL must also be zeroed to ensure the laser flash is in sync with the scope – a process that takes a few seconds. In addition to providing you with an accurate distance reading, the ABL will allow you to use the ballistic calculator function on the X-Sight 4K Pro. By entering some basic information, such as the weight and coefficient of pellets you plan on using (Ballistic Coefficients is a great resource for this), zero distance, feet per second and height between the middle of the scope and middle of the barrel, the scope will automatically adjust your point of aim according to the distance reading from the ABL – no more hold over to worry about.

In the field

There’s no denying that the X-Sight 4K Pro is a hefty addition to any rifle, especially if you use the ABL as well. But if you plan on shooting prone or any other stable rested position that no longer becomes a factor. The image is clear in both day and night. I’ve found the provided IR scope to be a little delicate and went through two or three before deciding to cut my losses and buy a third party torch. I may have been unlucky (and clumsy) as I know several shooters who use the standard torch without issue. The firmware update process can be a bit of a faff the first few times and ATN provides an excellent video tutorial to help. I have experienced a couple of screen freezes as well which require a hard re-boot (achieved by holding the power button down for 30 seconds) to resolve. The ABL / ballistic calculator function is excellent; I’ve used it to shoot rabbits at 70 metres with an FAC rifle, and rats at close quarters with a 12 ft. lbs. rifle.

Pros:

  • Long battery life
  • Exceptionally clear image in daylight and at night
  • Smooth magnification dial
  • ABL rangefinder/ballistic calculator function

Cons:

  • Weight, especially with ABL added
  • Occasional screen lock ups
  • Need to update firmware

 

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4. Pulsar Digisight Ultra LRF 450

best night vision scopes

At well over a kilo, it’s a substantial piece of kit until you consider that includes the mounts, an integrated IR illuminator and range finder. Although the daytime image is black and white, it is extremely clear. The 4-16x magnification range is ample for airgunning use and only begins to pixelate at the upper end, and you can tweak the target focus via a large knob as well as the screen focus via a dioptre adjustment. A picture-in-picture mode helps place shots with even more precision. The laser range finder operates at the press of one of the four chunky buttons and provides either a constant read out when scanning or the distance to a specific target. The integrated IR illuminator has three levels of brightness and attaches to the scope’s IPS5 battery which provides up to six hours of run time.

The Digisight Ultra LRF 450 comes with a good quality mount designed for picatinny rails, so as with the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro, you’d need to buy an adapter if fitting to a rifle with dovetails grooves. In addition to 10 different reticle designs in a range of colours, as well as the ability to adjust the image for contrast and brightness, there is an inbuilt HD picture and video camera as well as a side incline indicator to help you avoid cant. Finally, the ability to save up to five different zero profiles means you can swap the scope to other rifles or shoot different ammunition.

5. Sightmark Wraith 4-32x50See More

Sightmark Wraith

At around £600, the Sightmark Wraith represents great value for money for a dedicated day/night digital NV scope. At 270mm long including the rubber eye cup, it is relatively compact. The 4×32 magnification range sounds impressive and is a combination of optical and digital zoom. However, I found there to be quite a bit of pixelation at the upper end. That said, for airgun use, there’s plenty of usable magnification. Once again, the Wraith only comes with a picatinny mount, but it is an excellent one. It is only 90mm long though and to achieve proper eye relief on some rifles you may need to buy the extended mount available for £57.99. The provided IR illuminator is mounted either side to a moulded picatinny rail on top of the main body and takes two CR123 batteries. The beam is adjustable and has a claimed range of 200 yards which will suit airgunners. The scope itself takes four AA batteries which Sightmark says will last 4.5 hours, so take plenty of spares. The buttons are quite small but the menu is easy to navigate and scrolls through plenty of features, including the ability to take photos and video once you insert an mini-SD card and save up to five different profiles. There are 10 different reticle styles, each in nine colours. Collars at the front and back bring the image and screen into sharp relief, and thanks to a 1920×1080 resolution camera, the image, which is colour in daylight, is nice and sharp even if the field of view is less than that of the other products on test. At night you can choose either a monochrome or green image.

Pros:

  • Value for money
  • Compact
  • Full of features

Cons:

  • Field of view narrower than many other products
  • Buttons are small
  • Lack of rechargeable battery
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