It’s estimated that there are over five million hogs and even more coyotes in the US. If you have any interest in hunting either of these animals, especially at night, you’ll strongly benefit from a thermal scope.
But, if you have a favorite rifle, it can be difficult to just choose one application for it. And why should you if you don’t want to?
Well, that’s why people choose clip-on thermal scopes.
With it, you can quickly and seamlessly switch between your usual day scope’s function and a powerful high-end thermal view. It also gives you the convenient ability to see beyond what is visible to the naked eye in confusing camouflaging terrain and unfavorable conditions.
So, to help you find the best clip-on thermal scope for you, here’s our list of the best available today.
- 7 Best Clip-on Thermal Scopes (And One to Avoid)
- What are Clip-On Scopes?
- Why Use a Thermal Clip On?
- Clip on Thermal vs. Dedicated Thermal Scopes
- Is a Thermal Clip-on Worth It?
- What to Look For in a Clip-on Scope
- Introducing Our Seasoned Team of Hunters and Marksmen
- More On The Best Thermal Scopes
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Our Top Pick: Incendis Clip On 30mm
7 Best Clip-on Thermal Scopes (And One to Avoid)
1. Best Overall Thermal Clip-on Scope: Incendis Clip On 30mm
At a lightweight 14.85 ounces, with an impressive 1024×768 display resolution, and 4x magnification, it’s easy to see why the Incendis is our best overall choice.
It is super lightweight and compact, so it’s been designed to travel. That keeps your rifle or backpack light on those long hikes, saving your energy for when you need it.
It’s also water proof, impact, dust and cold resistant. That means it works for just about every climate so you don’t need various scopes for different seasons or conditions.
The battery can hold a charge too, an average four hours of continuous use without needing to swap out the batteries. That’s top of the line, but if you do run out you can easily swap out the batteries or plug in the USB to run it on external power.
Love that versatility.
Something we really love about this one is its heat display options. You can easily switch between white hot, black hot, green hot, and red accent, so you’ll have the perfect contrast in any environment with this impressive little tool. So when your friends are still straining to identify their target, you’ve already taken the shot.
It doesn’t matter if you’re playing around in your backyard or on a serious nighttime hunt, this clip-on scope from Accufire Technology is up for the task.
Our certified supplier is currently running a sale on the Incendis clip-on until October 2, 2023, so make sure to use the link below to get this all time low price:
If you’re looking for a thermal clip-on to hunt down some crafty pork, Burris’ clip-on does quite a great job at getting it done.
This 35mm thermal scope gives you plenty of control over adjustments and customization for viewing options. Not only does it provide 4x digital zoom to give you a good detection range, but it also offers 4 color palettes for the best contrast in any hunting scenario.
What’s more, you can also control the brightness and contrast of the picture, as well as the reticle type to fit your preferences. And with a refresh rate of 50 hertz (the rate the image refreshes in a second), tracking fast-moving hogs will be a piece of cake while other scopes might fail with lag. Nothing can get past you with this one.
The Burris Clip-On Thermal Scope weighs under two pounds and has an acceptable resolution of 400×300, which offers clear thermal images of your prey for easy detection.
Ultimately, this scope is ideal for spotting hogs in a hurry; camouflage does nothing for them, not even from a distance!
A drawback is the battery, which lasts only three hours, but it utilizes easily replaceable CR123 batteries, so getting them operational again is no sweat. It’s also capable of wifi-to-mobile downloading of videos and images so you can save them for later viewing and show them around.
3. Best Budget Clip-on Thermal Scope: AGM Rattler TC19-256
This compact little thermal scope is nothing to sneeze at. For a more casual user in a relaxed setting, the AGM Rattler TC19-256 with its 25 Hz refresh rate and 256×192 thermal resolution on a 1024×768 OLED display can be an ideal option.
The image quality is great for the price, and it’s waterproof and shockproof, providing some good durability to see through some tough weather and accidents. It also retains an adequate battery life of 4.5 hours at continuous use,
Interestingly enough, it also offers an onboard wifi module for live video streaming. You can take photos and record videos to send right to your phone to keep or stream them to friends so they can experience a hunt in real-time with you.
This scope also offers adjustable color palettes and 8x digital zoom, giving you plenty of range to detect distant targets with ease. So less hiking through fields and forests for you, you can just sit pretty as the scope does the hard work.
4. Best Value For The Money: AGM Global Vision Rattler TC35-384
The AGM Global Vision Rattler TC35-384 sits at the ideal crossroads of having just about everything you need in a thermal scope for a fair price.
It has a 50 Hz refresh rate with a 17μm detector type, making it easy for you to catch any motion that’s happening.
With this waterproof and shockproof scope, you have the power to record and upload videos of your thrilling hunt and still images with a built-in EMMC (16 GB) and WiFi data transmission.
When it comes to imaging, it has a lot to offer. This scope has 384×288 thermal resolution with a high sensitivity detector that is shown on a 748×561 resolution and a .39 OLED display.
You also have adjustable color palettes, an 8x zoom (digital), and 4.5 hours of continuous use battery life. So you can spend plenty of time outdoors without fatiguing your eyes or compromising your hunt.
It works in temperatures ranging from -4F to 131F (or -20C to 55C). No matter if you’re in the desert or high up in the mountains, your equipment will stay as tough as you.
5. Best Long Range Clip-On: EOTECH ClipIR-LR
This excellent scope is simply a state-of-the-art, work-of-art tool that is designed for the most serious users.
Clip it onto a medium-range day scope (2-4x digital zoom plus whatever your scope has) for quick and easy use on those long-range shots. You can check on opposite hills or mountains without any image quality compromise.
It runs off of 4 AA batteries (lithium, ion, or rechargeable) and will operate for more than ten hours per battery charge. Now that is long battery life! If you enjoy multi-day (or multi-week!) expeditions, it will only take a few batteries to see you and your thermal scope through.
At 2.2 pounds, it is the heaviest scope on our list, but it is absolutely loaded with brilliant features to compensate for that.
With a wide 40-degree field of view, you won’t have to worry much about losing sight of other prey in your surroundings.
It also contains excellent digital features such as a sensor pitch of 17μm, a 640×480 px sensor size, local contrast enhancement, 4x digital zoom, and black-hot and white-hot visibilities. The picture quality is incredibly good; it easily has the best picture quality of any other product on our list.
This one gets the job done with flair and will create the highest possible quality hunting videos for all your buddies to admire and envy.
It picks up even the faintest heat signatures and temperature differences, and it even offers target identification. Predators immediately become prey.
It can operate at 60Hz for the smoothest display, but also allows for 30Hz in power-saving mode.
What’s more, it comes with an impressive 10-year warranty from EOTech. So no matter where your next thrilling adventure calls, your equipment is protected.
Impressively enough, it is rated for a 50 cal recoil, so no matter what rifle you’re using, the EOTech ClipIR-LR is up for the challenge.
6. Most Versatile Thermal Clip-on Scope: ATN TICO 336×256 Thermal Imager Clip-On
The ATN TICO is probably the most perfect beginner to intermediate thermal imaging clip on scope available on the market. It clips onto your daytime scope remarkably easily; there’s no need to rezero, adjust, or make a change of eye relief.
The sensor is 336×256, the frame rate is 60 Hz, and the spectral response is 7-14 μm, meaning that you will immediately notice changes in your line of sight, easily, and be able to tell what you’re looking at without second-guessing yourself.
It is waterproof, and drop resistant, so no matter if you have a bumpy truck ride to your destination, or a rocky hike that could result in your or your rifle falling a few times, this scope will stay ready and unfazed, ready for what lies ahead. And with a generous three year warranty, you can feel extra secure in your investment.
The battery life lasts four continuous hours, and weighs a measly 1.45 pounds. The long battery life and low weight make this the ideal thermal scope for those long backcountry hunts that require caping and extensive hiking.
7. Our Least Favorite Thermal Clip-on Scope: Nighthunter C35 Clip On 35mm Thermal Scope
The Nighthunter is actually a pretty fantastic clip-on scope with a wide array of display options, a high-quality sensor, a fast refresh rate, decent battery life (2.5 hours) and a decent weight (two pounds).
The reason we don’t recommend it as highly is because of its budget range. There are other scopes on the market with slightly better features and at a more affordable rate.
Still, it does have quite a few favorable traits, like the 800×600 display resolution and 640×480 sensor resolution, plus the following reticle colors to switch between: white hot, black hot, iron red, fire, adjustable red hot, and amber.
But for the price, we suggest one of the other scopes on the list.
What are Clip-On Scopes?
Clip-on scopes are meant to sit in front of your regular day scope, which is easy to attach to rifles via the weapon’s rail. Some clip directly onto your preexisting scope and don’t utilize the weapon’s rail.
The benefit of the clip-on scope is that it’s easy and seamless to switch from daytime to nighttime use, without the need for complicated tools or special knowledge.
Why Use a Thermal Clip On?
Thermal clip-on scopes make it simple to see and hunt at night. They detect heat signatures and differences in temperature using infrared light.
Infrared light, or infrared radiation, is invisible to the naked eye but not to thermal scopes.
These night vision scopes observe and target long-wave infrared. Since the scopes use infrared lighting to observe, total darkness and adverse weather don’t affect their functionality. (1)
Thermal imaging technology doesn’t require ambient lighting or ideal weather to work effectively. It works well even in light to moderate rain and snow, smoke, some fog, during the day, and even in complete darkness. (2)
If you don’t want to dedicate a rifle for thermal-only use, a clip-on quick-release mount scope is a great way to have the best of both worlds (daytime and nighttime).
Clip on Thermal vs. Dedicated Thermal Scopes
The beauty of a thermal clip on vs scope is the convenience and added tactical benefits.
Most notably, the clip-on thermal scope attaches directly to the gun where it can be of the most service to the user. It moves with your rifle and ensures that your eyes, sights, and barrel are pointing in exactly the same direction.
Having a clip-on thermal scope also adds the extra benefit of not having to lug (and keep track of) yet another piece of equipment with you into the woods, mountains, or fields.
Normal thermal scopes need you to either pick them up and hold them separately from your rifle, attach them to the rifle and dedicate it for thermal use on that hunt, or require you to carry and then set up a tripod for its use.
Below is an example of a “normal” thermal scope. This one is a Trijicon IR Thermal Imaging monocular.
Normal thermal scopes can only be used as permanent gun accessories, or separately from the rifle in your hand, or on a tripod (or bipod).
On the other hand, clip-on thermal scopes can be used on a rifle, as a handheld monocular, or even on a tripod. Versatile and handy, indeed.
Is a Thermal Clip-on Worth It?
In short, yes, thermal cllip-ons are worth it. They have numerous advantages that many outdoorsmen find useful.
If you want the ability to see beyond what is visible to the naked eye in adverse conditions while easily switching between your day scope and a thermal view on the fly, then a clip-on is absolutely worth it for you.
However, if you never intend on thermal shooting or hunting in darkness or during unpleasant weather, or prefer the static nature of a traditional thermal scope, then a thermal clip-on scope probably isn’t worth it for you.
What to Look For in a Clip-on Scope
A quality night vision scope is usually two to four thousand dollars, though some night vision devices will fall above and below this range.
When considering the best thermal scopes for yourself, keep your intended use and budget in mind. Casual users may lean toward the more affordable end, while dedicated enthusiasts in more challenging environments would opt for higher quality and a costlier thermal optic.
You don’t want to be stranded without a working scope, especially if you’re surrounded by irritable or scared coyotes or hogs.
For the more casual user, a shorter battery lifespan is more acceptable. But for those who will be away from readily available electricity or backup batteries for a while, or will be in rougher situations, longer-lasting battery life is critical.
If you’ll be in a brutally cold climate, you’ll likely need a longer battery life because cold weather zaps battery life quickly.
Pay attention to the type of batteries necessary for the scope too. Some batteries are removable, some are nonremovable, some are specific to the manufacturer, and others can accept general batteries (like AA, for example).
Most rifle scope devices offer two to ten hours of battery life per charge (or per battery change).
Thermal scopes come in a vast variety of image styles and qualities.
Above all else, you need clarity. Dark fog, glare, and haziness are common issues with cheaper scopes.
Part of these issues can be attributed to a cheaply made objective lens. However, most of the image quality issues come from low-resolution displays.
Higher-quality scopes produce clearer, clean, and crisp imaging that is bright and high in resolution. The higher end offers 640×480 pixels; average scopes tend to be about 320×384 pixels.
As far as displays go, LED is considered obsolete; liquid crystals on silicon (LCOS) or ferroelectric liquid crystal on silicon (FLCOS) produce much greater images.
For those wanting picture-perfect images, go with organic light-emitting diode (OLED) or active-matrix organic light-emitting diode displays (AMOLED). These displays give you richer, more vibrant colors, slower battery reduction, and a brighter screen.
While we all have the best intentions for our equipment, accidents can still happen. Should you ever drop, bump, or scratch your scope, you want it to hold up well and carry on with no fuss.
A higher-quality thermal scope will take minor accidents in stride, and if you’ll be using it in rough terrain and weather, scopes from big brands and/or with a higher price most often come with higher durability too.
The higher the refresh rate, the better, because the more often the scope refreshes the scene, the easier it will be for you to detect movements downrange.
The standard frame ranges from 7 to 65 hertz.
For those who will be in a more relaxed environment, a low refresh rate is fine. But for those who will be actively and dynamically hunting, a higher Hz should be sought after.
Clip-on scopes can be mounted onto the daytime scope on your rifle or on the weapon’s rail of the rifle.
Many clip-on scopes can also be used on a tripod or bipod (not attached to your gun), but all of them can operate as a handheld monocular too.
When choosing your scope, pay attention to whether it needs another scope to be mounted. If you don’t have a “normal” scope, you’ll need to get a thermal scope that attaches to the rail or purchase a day scope so it can be properly mounted.
You will likely need to change your thermal display based on your changing environments.
At the bare minimum, you should seek out a scope that allows you to flip between high-resolution black-hot and white-hot displays.
Higher-end scopes will even give you the option to choose between different color schemes, which gives you the power to choose what suits you best. The different high-resolution color modes can reduce eye fatigue, improve accuracy, improve detection, or enhance how far away you can see.
Reticle patterns and size are underrated aspects of your thermal riflescope to consider.
You should look for a reticle pattern that is well placed, easily visible (quick to spot), but not too large and overbearing that it inhibits your ability to clearly see what is within your sights.
Reticle patterns vary based on intended use too.
Specific patterns have been designed for:
- Hog hunting
- Bullet drop compensation (long-distance shooting)
- Low light / ambient light shooting
- Night hunting
- Illuminated reticles
- General hunting
- Varmint hunting
When it comes to thermal imaging capability, you need to know the resolution display of the scope AND the thermal sensor resolution.
Your thermal imaging is only as strong as your thermal sensor’s resolution. It doesn’t matter if you have a top-of-the-line display; if you have a low thermal sensor, the display will also be disappointing.
A higher-quality thermal imaging core is more sensitive and will provide more information.
The sensitivity is measured in exceptionally small temperature units that are called millikelvins. Most have a thermal sensitivity of 50 millikelvins, the best ones are closer to 35 millikelvins.
Weight & Size
The ideal thermal clip-on scope is small, lightweight, and yet high-quality and durable.
Usually, weight and size are the tradeoffs that many outdoorsmen choose to make, just because the sacrifice is relatively small. Still, low weight and small size are the most ideal, so keep that in mind during your search.
Heavy rifles can be cumbersome to carry and set up, especially if you aren’t resting them on a bench or bipod.
Scope Detection Range
Scope detection range determines how far away you can accurately see (and shoot) confidently. Entry-level scopes will have a range of about a thousand yards or less, while a more professional scope will allow you an impressive range of up to 4,000 yards.
The bigger your magnification and smaller your angle of view, the more distance you’ll be able to see clearly.
Your thermal imager is also affected by the size and contrast of the object or animal. For example, if the animal is against a contrasting background, it’ll be more visible within the scope.
Versatility can refer to how many types of rifles the optical device can be attached to (like a single shot .22, an AR-10, or a Barrett .50 cal) or its applications (coyote hunting, long-range shooting, or general hunting).
You have to choose a scope that is recoil-resistant for at least the size of your rifle caliber, if not greater.
Versatility does not always equate to high quality. Some high-quality scopes are intended to be versatile, while others are created to be specifically used for one application or a single weapon type.
The best thermal scopes provide a high-quality, long-lasting, fully comprehensive warranty.
If the manufacturer is willing to stand behind their product, odds are the scope is well-built and intended to last. This proves a company’s trustworthiness, high-quality craftsmanship, and overall durability.
And should any issues arise, the warranty will have you covered.
Most thermal scopes are a significant investment, so it’s wise to protect your purchase with a good quality warranty.
Similarly, you should pay attention to customer service values and responsiveness. Listening to friends, fellow riflemen (in person and online), and verified reviews is a great starting point, especially when you’re first starting out and unsure who to trust.
Introducing Our Seasoned Team of Hunters and Marksmen
As a distinguished group of experienced hunters and sharpshooters, our team has invested significant time and effort into rigorously scrutinizing and appraising an extensive assortment of clip-on thermal scopes. Our goal is to present you with the most dependable and credible recommendations. With decades of collective expertise in hunting, tactical training, and firearms instruction, our experts possess the unique qualifications required to evaluate and endorse the top products for your specific needs.
To uphold the highest standards of trust and dependability, we’ve carried out independent verification of each thermal scope’s performance through a series of comprehensive field tests in diverse environments and conditions. We’ve also sought counsel from prominent experts in thermal imaging and optics to further corroborate our findings and ensure our suggestions align with the most recent research and technological breakthroughs.
Our team is an assembly of certified firearms instructors, law enforcement officers, and military veterans with firsthand experience using thermal imaging devices in various hunting and tactical situations. This practical knowledge and prowess allow us to furnish detailed, pragmatic insights into each product’s performance, user-friendliness, and overall value. Moreover, we frequently engage with other respected professionals within the hunting and shooting sports community, ensuring we remain up-to-date with industry trends and best practices.
To preserve our autonomy and avert potential conflicts of interest, we refrain from accepting financial incentives from manufacturers, and our team members are barred from affiliating with the companies whose products we review. Our foremost objective is to supply you with impartial, precise, and trustworthy information to assist you in making the most informed decisions when selecting a clip-on thermal scope tailored to your requirements.
By relying on the proficiency and real-world experience of our team, you can rest assured that the recommendations featured in our guide stem from a thorough and impartial analysis of each product’s performance, durability, and overall worth. As esteemed members of the hunting and shooting sports community, we take pride in our unwavering commitment to delivering the most accurate, candid, and reliable information at your disposal.
More On The Best Thermal Scopes
This article just covers clip-on scopes, but if you’re looking for more on the top infrared optics on the market, make sure to check out our full article.
We go over the top “non” clip-on thermal optics out there.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Clip-on thermal scopes any good?
Clip-on thermal scopes are very good and are a fantastic way for outdoor lovers to seamlessly switch from a traditional scope to a thermal vision scope with just one rifle.
If you have a favorite rifle that you love using for every application, a clip-on thermal scope is a perfect way to extend and improve its usability in an enjoyable and easy way.
What’s the best-rated thermal clip-on scope to buy?
The best rated thermal clip-on scope to buy is by far the AGM Global Vision Rattler TC35-384.
Most reviews mention durability, being a great value for the money, a significant detection range, and exceptionally clear imaging.
Can I use a thermal clip-on during day time?
Yes, you can use a thermal clip-on during the daytime. Many people gravitate to thermal clip-ons instead of night vision technology because it can be used anytime, day or night.
Use during the day doesn’t damage the scope, and it is just as effective, no matter if you are day or night hunting.
How do clip-on thermal scopes work?
Clip-on thermal scopes work by focused light being scanned by the scope’s infrared-detector elements.
These elements make a pattern called a thermogram. This thermogram translates what it sees into electrical impulses. Then, those impulses are sent to the sight’s circuit board on a signal processing unit. This unit translates all of this data into data for the scope’s display.
After that, the information is sent to the display, where it creates images for us to see using colors and various intensities of those colors.
What thermal clip-on scope brand is the best?
EOTech is the best clip-on scope brand on the market. Their EoTech ClipIR is unbeatable in almost every way. This is reflected in the price, but the scope will surely serve you well and for a lifetime with ease.
Of course, just because a scope is the best of the best does not make it the perfect match for everyone. For a more casual user, this scope could easily be overkill. It’s important to carefully weigh your desired applications, uses, and budget when considering purchasing a thermal scope.
Why are clip-on thermal scopes expensive?
Clip-on thermal scopes are expensive because the advanced technology needed to create and operate thermal scopes is very complex, which makes these thermal devices some of the more expensive accessories available for your rifle.
Not only is the technology to create the scope expensive, but so are the materials needed as well. LED screens are considered outdated and obsolete. Now, modern thermal scopes use LCOS, FLCOS, OLED, or AMOLED for the screens.
- Fluke, How infrared cameras work, retrieved from https://www.fluke.com/en-us/learn/blog/thermal-imaging/how-infrared-cameras-work
- Teledyne FLIR, What’s The Difference between Thermal Imaging and Night Vision?, retrieved from https://www.flir.com/discover/ots/thermal-vs-night-vision/
Our Top Pick: Incendis Clip On 30mm
I have been writing firearms and outdoor material for over 50 years to date. I have hunted across the world, including Russia, and a great deal of time professional hunting in Australia. I currently live in the American West and hunt all across the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Big Horn Mountains. I have specialized much of my work as a load developer in shotguns and rifles. I have run a small company that builds suppressor barrels of my design and load tests for writing purposes and consulting. My commercial names include Ballistics Research & Development / Metro Gun Systems TM.
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