Before selecting a night vision monocular, you must understand the different generations of night vision technology. In this detailed buyers’ guide, we will identify the best night vision monoculars for hunters and tactical gear fans.
Seeing in the Night is something that man has contemplated since time began. New technology brings to the most modest budget the ability to see in the dark. Few people realize that night vision was actively used during World War II by both the Allied forces and the Axis forces. Night vision is not new, but it has improved significantly.
What is a Night Vision Monocular?
Night vision monoculars are light amplifiers. In simple terms, the night vision monocular gathers what light is available and turns those photons into electrons. Electrons are easy to amplify.
The amplified electrons go to a phosphor screen, much like old-style television screens. The amplified number of electrons creates a much brighter image than seen with the naked eye.
Today’s night vision monoculars are identified by the technology used to intensify the image. These identifiers mark the advancements in night vision technology that have occurred in the industry. Before selecting a night vision monocular, you must understand the different generations of night vision technology.
Gen 1-night vision technology is the first generation of night vision technology to become available to the general public. This new technology significantly improved the images delivered to the user and came in a much smaller and more efficient package.
Gen 2-night vision technology was born in the 1960s and showed a significant improvement in the quality of the image produced at the viewing end of the equipment. Developments in microelectronics made the equipment much smaller and capable of being mounted on headgear and weapons.
In the 1970s, the night vision industry began using a new type of phototube that significantly increased the light gathering ability of the equipment. There were some problems with the technology, but advances in engineering have eliminated most of those.
Digital Night Vision
Probably the least well known to consumers is the digital night vision technology recently introduced. Based on the same technology that operates your digital camera, these devices are often less expensive and more reliable than the other kinds of night vision monocular.
Unlike all the other night vision monocular technologies, thermal imaging devices do not depend on amplifying reflected ambient light. Thermal imaging detects infrared radiation and translates that information onto an electronic display as colors based on the range of temperatures detected.
Unfortunately, the cost of this technology keeps these devices out of the price range of most consumers.
Our Top Picks
- 1 Cost of Night Vision Monocular
- 2 1.Bestguarder 6x50mm HD – Best Night Vision Monocular for the Money
- 3 2. Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Day/Night – Best Night Vision Monocular for Hunting
- 4 3. BARSKA NVX100 – Best Night Infrared Vision Monocular
- 5 4. Bushnell Equinox Z2 – Best High Power Night Vision Monocular High Power
- 6 5. Sightmark Night – Best Night Vision Monocular with a head mount
- 7 6.Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope – Best Rifle Mount Night Vision Monocular
- 8 7. ATN Night Spirit-2 Gen 2+ –Best Gen 2 Night Vision Monocular
- 9 8. N-Vision Optics GT-14 – Best Gen 3 Night Vision Monocular
- 10 #9. FLIR Scout TK Handheld Thermal Imager – Best Thermal Imaging Monocular
- 11 10. N-Vision PVS-14 – Best Military Grade Night Vision Monocular
- 12 Monocular vs. Binoculars
Cost of Night Vision Monocular
The cost of night vision monocular depends on the level of technology, the quality of the manufacturing, and the features that you may want with your device.
If you are content with a Gen 1 device, the cost is relatively low. At the other end of the spectrum are the thermal imaging devices with onboard computers to aid in adjusting and reading the images.
We have selected what we consider the best night vision monocular in each category based on their features, reviews, and comments from users. Finding the right combination of performance, features, and cost can be a challenge. Here is our list of night vision monocular.
1.Bestguarder 6x50mm HD – Best Night Vision Monocular for the Money
Getting the most for your money is always a great goal. We looked at all the options and the Bestguarder 6×50 HD Digital Night Vision Monocular is, by far, the pick as our Best for the Money.
At this price point, you won’t find another night vision monocular that packs as many features into a single package.
The Bestguarder 6×50 HD Digital Night Vision Monocular is a great choice no matter what your intentions in using a night vision monocular.
The Bestguarder 6×50 is feature-rich and provides the reliability and functionality of digital technology.
- 5 MEG CMOS sensor for high-performance night vision response
- Up to 1150 feet of viewing distance
- Fully adjustable with 1 to 5x zoom
- Power input for using an external battery pack
- PX 4 Water-resistant housing
- Clear, sharp images
- Will take photos and videos as well
- Rugged and fits in hand well
- Uses lots of batteries
- No autofocus feature
- The hand strap keeps the control buttons out of reach
2. Night Owl iGEN 20/20 Day/Night – Best Night Vision Monocular for Hunting
Hunting at night demands some different features in a night vision monocular. Portability, lightweight, ease of use, and excellent infrared technology are a few of the items that we knew hunters would want in a night vision monocular.
The Night Owl iGen 20/20 Day/Night Vision Monocular offers just those features and makes the top of our list for the Best Night Vision Monocular for Hunting.
If you intend to use your night vision monocular for hunting at night, give the Night Owl iGEN 20/20 mononuclear a look.
The Night Owl a unique design that is both stylish and ergonomic. The design puts the monocular controls within easy reach, eliminating movements to reset or adjust the monocular.
- Programmable on/off timer
- 12-degree view angle
- 2.6x magnification
- Infrared illumination up to 300 feet
- Digital Night Vision Technology allows for four-color displays
- Automatic IR intensity
- Variable frame rate
- Excellent infrared sensitivity
- Adjusting the image contrast can be tedious
- Battery life is short
- On the pricey side
3. BARSKA NVX100 – Best Night Infrared Vision Monocular
The darker the night, the more you appreciate the infrared capabilities of your night vision monocular. The Barska NVX100 Night Vision Monocular brings an outstanding and unparalleled infrared capability to the user.
The distance it can see is the capstone on this feature-rich piece of equipment puts the Barska NVX100 on top of our choices as the Best Infrared Night Vision Monocular.
Barska is well known for its products among outdoorsmen and law enforcement. The Barska NVX100 Night Vision Monocular is no exception.
Barska designed the NVX100 as a tactical night vision monocular for use in surveillance and other nighttime observations.
However, the price and features have made it a favorite with civilian users, especially its excellent infrared characteristics.
- Infrared capable out to 328 feet
- Digital Night Vision Technology
- Day/Night capable
- 2x digital zoom
- 320 x 240 view screen
- Excellent price for the features
- High-quality infrared illuminator
- Uses AA batteries
- Short battery life
- The screen can be very bright
4. Bushnell Equinox Z2 – Best High Power Night Vision Monocular High Power
If your target is out of range of your night vision monocular, you might as well be blind. The Bushnell Equinox Z2 allows you to reach out almost twice as far as other night vision monoculars.
With 6x magnification, the Bushnell is easily our choice as the Best High Power Night Vision Monocular. Bushnell delivers again in the optics market with the Equinox Z2 night vision monocular.
Backed by the Bushnell reputation for quality, this digital night vision monocular delivers all the features plus magnification that outdistances most of the competition.
If you need to see at a distance at Night, the Bushnell Equinox Z2 is a contender.
- 6x magnification
- 50mm objective lens
- Live streaming and control with your mobile device
- Onboard video recording capability
- Viewable distance out to 750 feet
- Digital Technology
- Wi-Fi Enabled
- Daytime and nighttime use
- A little large for smaller hands
5. Sightmark Night – Best Night Vision Monocular with a head mount
Keeping your hands free and unencumbered can be a significant problem using a night vision monocular. Being able to see while operating a vehicle, equipment, or a firearm while maintaining your ability to see at night is a huge concern for some users.
The SIghtmark Night Vision Monocular, with its ability to be headset or helmet-mounted, is our choice for the Best Night Vision Monocular with a Head Mount.
If you need to keep your hands free yet can look out into the Night, the Sightmark Night Vision Monocular may be a good bet.
The Sightmark monocular is both weapon and head mount capable. A full range of features makes this night vision monocular a good buy even without the mounting options.
- Up to 72 hours of battery life
- 2x magnification
- Digital Night Vision Technology
- Head or weapon mountable
- Good depth perception
- Focus can be tedious to adjust
- Quality issues are known
6.Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope – Best Rifle Mount Night Vision Monocular
if a head or helmet mount is not your choice for a hands-free night vision monocular use, mounting a night vision scope might be the solution. Our selection as the Best Rifle Mount Night Vision Monocular is the Firefield NVRA 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope.
The Firefield brings the best of both worlds with its quick detach rifle mounts giving you the advantage of both handheld and mounted night vision.
Technically speaking, a rifle scope is a monocular. Most of the monocular on our list are not suited for mounting to a rifle, particularly a large caliber rifle. Most monoculars won’t stand up to the pounding they will get from the recoil of a rifle.
The Firefield NVRS 3×42 Gen 1 Night Vision Riflescope can meet the challenge of use as a riflescope yet, when mounted with a quick detach mount, can be quickly converted to use as a monocular.
- Built-in IR illuminator
- Weaver mounts included
- Titanium scope body
- Lens covers included
- 3×42 power
- Dual-use as a rifle scope or a monocular
- Quick detach mounts included with the scope
- Great value
- Quick-release mounts may not work on some rifles
- Large and a bit cumbersome
7. ATN Night Spirit-2 Gen 2+ –Best Gen 2 Night Vision Monocular
ATN sets the pace for night vision equipment. The fully-featured night vision monocular ranks as our Best Gen 2 Night Vision Monocular based on its price and features. Typically, Gen 2 devices incur a hefty price increase over Gen 1 equipment. Not so the ATN Night Spirit-2 Gen 2+ Night Vision Multi-Purpose System.
If you are ready to move up in the night vision world from digital and Gen 1 technologies, the ATN Night Spirit-2 Gen 2+ Night Vision Multi-Purpose System is an excellent option to make that transition.
The ATN system offers you the advantages of having a handheld monocular or a headgear mounted or helmet mounted optic.
ATN is known as one of the leading designers and manufacturers of night vision equipment in the US.
- Multi-purpose system
- Gen 2 technology
- Built-in infrared illuminator
- Simple and easy to use controls
- Quick and easy to focus
- Locking IR knob
- 3x magnification
- The edges of the image may be a bit distorted
- Highly sensitive to light and can be ruined if the unit is turned on in daylight
- Customer service can be an issue
8. N-Vision Optics GT-14 – Best Gen 3 Night Vision Monocular
Moving up one generation in night vision technology, Gen 3 offers superior light intensification and a host of other image qualities. The sticker shock for most people on Gen 3 night vision equipment is overwhelming.
However, the NpVision Optics GT-14 softens that financial blow a bit by offering so many features and an included head mount kit. That puts it on top of our Best Gen 3 Night Vision Monocular list.
The N-Vision Optics GT-14 night vision monocular is a great way to get into the Gen 3 night vision technology without fracturing your budget. The N-Vision Optics Gt-14 offers all the features you could ask for plus comes with a head mount assembly, an accessory that is usually an add-on option that costs extra.
- Gen 3 technologies
- Automatic brightness control
- Submersible and shockproof
- Built-in IR illuminator
- Weighs only 11 ounces
- Cheaper than a lot of Gen 3 devices
- Can be weapon mounted
- Wide field of view
- Accessories can be hard to find
#9. FLIR Scout TK Handheld Thermal Imager – Best Thermal Imaging Monocular
Historically, thermal imaging technology has been out of the financial range of almost every civilian user. In addition, the thermal imaging equipment was often heavy and required larger than normal batteries.
The FLIR Scout TK Handheld Thermal Imager changed the game. Small, lightweight, and well within the budget of almost anyone, this thermal imaging device ranks at the top of our Best Thermal Imagining Monocular.
FLIR is undeniably the leader in thermal imaging technology. From military to civilian grade equipment, FLIR is without equal in product quality and technology.
The FLIR Scout TK Handheld Thermal Imager is a relatively inexpensive piece of thermal imaging technology that brings infrared signature imaging to almost any budget.
- Works up to 100 yards
- Easy simple controls
- Make pictures and videos
- Small size and lightweight
- Four-button controls are easy to manipulate
- Excellent Price
- Works well with eyeglasses
- Quick startup
- USB port cover doesn’t seal well which could compromise the system
- Cannot see through glass.
- Keeping the battery charged can be an issue.
10. N-Vision PVS-14 – Best Military Grade Night Vision Monocular
The current military issue night vision monocular is the N-Vision PVS-14 Night Vision Monocular. If you are looking for military-grade equipment, you are on the mark with the N-Vision PVC-14.
Fully equipped Gen-3 technology, multi-mount options, and the durability for combat operations make this night vision monocular the choice of the US military.One of the only military-grade night vision devices on the market, The N-Vision PVS-14 Night Vision monocular is an easy pick as the Best Military Grade Night Vision Monocular.
Others may claim to be military-grade but fall far short of the quality of construction and the features of the N-Vision PVS-14 night vision monocular.
- Gen 3 technology
- Variable gain control
- Bright light auto shut off
- Multi-Mount options
- 10-year warranty
- White phosphorus image intensifier
- Built-in infrared illuminator
- Compact and lightweight
Monocular vs. Binoculars
Each style of night vision device has a niche. Each is designed to perform a set of jobs and that influences the features and options. While they are similar in function, each style has its own limitations and exceptional qualities.
Monoculars are portable and quick to use. They can be handy when you need to keep one eye unfettered for aiming a weapon or performing other close-in work. What they don’t offer is stereo vision. You tend to lose depth perception using only one eyepiece.
Binoculars are great when you need a wider field of view and increased depth perception. If you intend to operate a vehicle of any sort while wearing night vision equipment, you should opt for binoculars with a good head or helmet mount.
Binocular night vision requires two intensifier tubes to operate. Two tubes double the weight of the binocular over the monocular, which can be a disadvantage.
Owning the Night
The ability to see at night is an advantage that can give you an edge, whether you are a hunter, a professional law enforcement officer, or just a homeowner concerned with keeping yourself and your family safe.
Whatever your needs or intentions, I hope that this information and our picks for the best night vision monocular helps you make the decision that lets you own the night.