Tell me if this has happened to you.
You go online and search for a product you’re interested in, only to be so overwhelmed by the number of choices out there that you simply can’t decide which to go with?
Right now you might be asking yourself: Why are so many hog hunters moving to thermal imaging scopes for night hog hunting? What is the advantage of these scopes? Do they really live up to the promise? And why are there so many to choose from?!
We’ve all been there…
But not to worry, here we’ll be answering all these questions and giving you a detailed look at the advantages and any disadvantages these scopes have for hunting the serious piney woods rooter hunters.
Not only that, we’ll be giving you our list of the best thermal scopes for hog hunting first so you can get to taking out those critters in no time.
Best Thermal Rifles Scopes
1. Best Overall – ATN THOR 4 4.5-18x
Coming in as the top scope for hog hunting is the ATN ThOR 4 4.5-18x. This scope edges out its siblings but comes in second because it doesn’t have quite the same number of features as our top pick.
Don’t let this bother you though because this digital scope is still highly ranked and is a routine top pick for nighttime hunters.
You get color choices with this scope, coming in the standard black and three different camo designs. Why does it come in camo if it’ll be used at night?…you might ask.
Well, this digital scope can be used during the day too, so this feature can make you less detectable. That’s handy when you’re hunting critters other than hogs, such as cunning coyotes.
The ThOR 4 has a range of about 1800 yards and a zoom of 4.5-18x, which means this is not a close-up scope but does have the power to reach out to where the hogs are hanging out.
This scope has three display color modes that you can easily switch between while in the field to gain better contrasts on the fly making sure you have superior image quality no matter what background.
- Black Hot – heat sources show up black on a white background.
- Color – heat sources show up in reds and yellows for hot and blues and purple for cold.
- White hot – shows you heat sources as white and the background as black.
This digital scope has recoil-activated recording, so it automatically records your shot while on your hunting rifle, letting you focus on the shot and worry about the video when you get home. It holds a MicroSD card up to 64GB for plenty of recording time and is also WiFi and Bluetooth capable with streaming capabilities, so your buddies can watch the hunt in real-time too.
Speaking of shooting, this digital scope offers one-shot zero when on your hunting rifle, making sighting in all the easier while saving you ammunition and more importantly time and headache.
Take your shot. Look through the scope, and with a few reticle adjustments, you’re on target.
The built-in ballistics calculator lets you dial in your shot with accuracy at a distance, letting you avoid all the mental calculations and doing the hard work for you. ATN also produces a 1,000-yard rangefinder side clamp for those who like really long shots.
You’ll need 30mm high rings to mount this scope, but luckily, ATN offers a quick-release scope mount designed specifically for the ThOR, a feature you’ll appreciate when you need to move the scope from gun to gun.
The high rings are needed to provide clearance for the large front bell. That bell gathers light during the day, extending your hunt time a few minutes longer than a smaller objective lens. A benefit because sometimes, those five minutes at twilight make a difference.
2. Best Cheap Thermal Scope for Hog Hunting – ATN ThOR LT 3-6x
The best inexpensive thermal imaging scope for hog hunting will not break the bank, although it also won’t deliver some of the features of the top models. The ATN ThOR LT 3-6x is an older ATN model that is still in production.
This is a no-frills scope. You get black hot or white hot viewing modes, and honestly, that’s all you need. As a bonus, it also comes with the ATN one-shot zero capability to sight more efficiently and save you bullets for those hogs.
The higher-end models with colors will give you a greater view of the heat signatures spread across the animal. A clear line of sight to the head or chest of the hog is what you want.
The battery has a rated life at full charge of 10 hours, and you can also buy an external battery pack to more than double the hours of use. If you want video recording capabilities, however, this is not the scope for you.
It’s lightweight, at 1.4 pounds. That may sound like a lot, and it is compared to a traditional scope. But remember that thermal has to pack in a lot of electronics and a decent battery to power everything.
The display is not as detailed as higher-end scopes, but it is budget-friendly and gets the job done. And it’s weather resistant too.
Now a word of caution.
With the explosion of popularity of people looking for “budget optics” has come the rise of many sites selling “authentic” products at huge discounts.
DON’T FALL FOR IT, these are cheap Chinese rip offs.
Make sure to use link below to ensure that you’re getting genuine American made products from our certified supplier with a special discount automatically applied for our readers:
3. Best AR15 Scope for AR Hog Hunting – Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF 2-16x
The Pulsar 2-16x Thermion 2 LRF XP50 is the best AR 15 scope for AR hog hunting, and here’s why.
This thermal has high-end imaging sensors and can detect heat signatures out to 2,000 yards in optimal conditions. Although realistically, you can expect distances to be much less than that, with reliable hunting distances under 1,000 yards.
The 10-hour battery life is on the low end of the standard, but more than enough to last on most outings hunting porkers.
Now, if you’re wondering why this is the best scope for AR15, that’s because it’s recoil-rated for 9.3×64 and up to .375 H&H Magnum.
Basically if you ever decide to hunt elephants at night in Africa, you’ll be set with this one.
A built-in laser rangefinder reaches out to 875 yards, which is beyond capable for shooting wild hogs with a .223. If you have a larger caliber, you can reach even greater distances.
At 640×480 pixel pitch, it has the best resolution you can currently find for thermal digital scopes, and with a wide zoom range of 2-16x, it’ll work perfectly well for long-range shooting, retaining clear images even with further distances. Lower resolution devices simple do not provide the same quality image at longer distances meaning it’s not going to be clear what you’re shooting at.
This is a second focal plane scope, meaning the reticle stays the same size as you zoom in. A first focal plane enlarges the reticle as you zoom in, so we personally prefer the second plane because it means it won’t hide small details of our target behind the reticle, again, this one is designed for accuracy at long ranges.
With built-in recording ability and WiFi capabilities, it has the extra features you’d want out of a high-end scope like this.
Side Note: You should not need high rings to mount this to an AR platform if you have a low hand guard on the front.
The Thermion 2 has been so popular in fact that that it has been on backorder basically everywhere for months. The rep emailed us to let us know a new shipment came in September 22, 2023. It’s likely they’re be out again within a week or two, so if they’re still in stock we’d suggest getting one now before they’re gone:
4. The “New Kid On The Block” – Burris BTS 35/50
Burris is now in the thermal imaging and scope business, and one of their top models to check out is the BTS 50 3.3-13.2x. Looking at it, you could be excused for thinking it’s a video camera instead of a rifle scope.
It doesn’t record video, which is one reason it slides down the list. Watching the hunt later is something most hunters appreciate.
So if you value this feature on your hunts, you can record videos with an external recorder and a cable. This does mean you have more things to watch before you take the shot – unless you start recording before you line it up.
The battery life is short, but it’s also replaceable. It accepts two CR123As, and Burris cautions users to buy batteries without a protection circuit as they are longer than 68mm, which is the available space in the battery compartment.
Although we recommend the BTS 50, it does come in two models for people with different budgets and needs:
- BTS 35 2.3-9.2x magnification with 35mm objective lens gathers less light during the day because of the smaller bell, the front lens is smaller than its big brother, and the zoom is also a bit less.
- BTS 50 3.3-13.2x magnification with 50mm objective has more light-gathering capabilities than the 35 because of the front bell, meaning more clarity during the day. A longer reach with zoom is handy for people with old eyes.
The BTS 50 has seven different color settings, 10 reticle options, and adjustments to brightness and contrast are available too to gain the best clarity and accuracy for every situation.
This scope also comes with a built-in Picatinny mount, but if you need to get it higher over the barrel, you’ll need to add a pic rail riser.
With a 50-hertz refresh rate, this scope brings the user a clear experience without lag when tracking fast-moving targets.
But that’s not all…
This scope also retains non-uniformity correction (NUC), which is a function that automatically calibrates the device when the scene or environment changes. Simply put, because the camera’s own heat can interfere with the temperature readings, the camera measures the infrared radiation that the scope produces and adjust the image accordingly to improve accuracy.
During this process, the camera shutter inside comes down between the detector and optic and makes a click sound, calibrating the device.
So if you hear a clicking noise and the screen freezes, the scope is doing what it’s designed to do – you’ll get a clearer image after the reset (NUC is common when you’re sweeping an area).
5. Best Thermal Scope for Hog Hunting Add On – Pulsar Krypton FXG50
Add-on thermal optics are even more of a niche market than the scopes. Few companies make a clip-on, but of these, the Pulsar Krypton FXG50 is the best you can get.
With the clamp, it attaches to the front of your regular scope. However, by itself, this is not a scope for hunting hogs.
The top benefit of this is you won’t have to re-zero a scope. You just mount it to your existing setup and you’re ready for night hunting some wild hogs, saving you a ton of time and headache.
It’ll work on any traditional centerfire scope with a 42mm or 50mm objective front lens. Also, it’s recoil rated up to a .375 H&H – you can put it on most any rifle or shotgun in the gun safe.
Because you can take it off, it works as a monocular for tracking a shot animal or a moving target. Look through the viewfinder and find still-warm blood, and, depending on the temperatures, footprints to lead you to your animal.
At 8 hours of battery life, this is the shortest battery of everything listed, but also suitable because it’s not meant for constant use and instead for easy access. However, it will only mount to 42mm or 50mm bells, working on scopes from 1-6x magnification.
Obvious to say, but it is an add-on – meaning, it sticks out and is not as secure to your gun as an actual scope. If you use this, it’s best to attach it when you get to the hunting grounds and remove it when done hunting.
6. The Runner Up – Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50
The Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP5 is the best thermal scope for pig (Sus scrofa domesticus) hunting.
In fact: it’s the top IR optic on the market with 100 yards of MOA (minute of angle) adjustment, typically seen in military and professional applications.
If you want the best digital scope for hog hunts at night, then Pulsar is the company you want for thermal imaging. Their top-of-the-line scope for hog hunting is the Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XP50, a scope that will provide the range and crystal-clear display you’ll need for the hunt.
You get the best image with no fuzz or distortion until you are at the limits of the scope. When you’re trying to pick your target from a group, this matters.
This thermal digital scope delivers the clearest images of all the scopes with a reach of nearly 2,000 yards. The thermal imaging display lets you pick between amber, green, orange, red, white, and yellow screen illumination for the best contrast giving you superior image clarity.
Not only that, but this digital scope also lets you record videos at 1024×768 resolution, a great benefit because while you focus on anchoring that double rack of ribs, your scope will capture crystal-clear images of your hunt, which you can share later at the camp and home. You won’t have to worry about fuzzy recordings during those best moments.
With 100 yards of MOA (minute of angle) adjustments in windage and elevation, you can easily dial in on prey with your favorite hunting rifle by allowing you to make quick adjustments on the fly with the intuitive controls.
The 2-16x variable magnification lets you zoom in on a single rack of ribs or zoom out to scan the sounder and pick which one you really want to take home. Basically anything from 0-2000 yards is in the kill zone.
Also, the two-barrel box on the side is actually a rangefinder, so you can dial right in on a hog and not worry about depth perception to get the range. This combined this with the MOA adjustments to make this thermal deadly accurate, letting you hone is for distance, wind and temperature.
What’s more, the imaging sensor is a NETD 40mK, the best on the market today, the image quality delivering unsurpassed detail. It also expands the identification range, letting you gain a much better idea of what you’re looking at at longer distances.
If you’re after a trophy, you can get a good look at the cutters when you’re in a decent shooting range. If you want meat, then you can see if the hog is a boar or a sow; sows are much better for eating as boars tend to have a strong taste that turns some people away.
This feature-rich scope and the detail it can capture of a hog is why it’s our top pick on the list, perfect for taking down those pork chops.
And the best part?
Our certified supplier is currently running a sale on the Pulsar Trail 2 until midnight October 1, 2023. Make sure you use the link below to ensure you’re getting the lowest price:
7. The One To Avoid: Infiray CML25 Thermal Imaging Clip-On
This is a thermal camera that claims to be a clip-on for a day-use scope. And it could pass off as useable in the field, being budget-friendly too, but this is one we do not recommend. Why? Well:
- The resolution is lousy at 384×288 pixels. That’s essentially first-generation digital camera level.
- It’s a bulky, huge, and (relatively) heavy piece of electronic to stick on the end of your scope, never mind what the company advertises.
- Battery life is terrible. At 1.5 hours of constant use, you’ll need to haul along an external battery pack.
- A 25mm objective lens is rimfire scope size. You need more for a front bell.
- A recoil rating is not listed. Anything much over a .223 and this camera will break.
Lots of companies are getting into thermal optics these days, but not all are trustworthy. Thermal imaging scopes cost, so avoid really cheap ones.
If you see a thermal imaging scope and you aren’t sure about it, look for reviews on the overall company. Scope makers with poor quality regular scopes are certain to turn out poor quality thermal optics.
Important Tip: Avoid any scope that is not weather-resistant.
Why Do You Need a Thermal Scope for Hog Hunting?
Wild hogs are among the smartest critters in the woods. They figure out traps after the first porker is caught and can pattern hunters better than hunters pattern deer.
If you want to put some wild bacon in the freezer, you have to be one step ahead of them. Nighttime hunting with thermal lets you do that.
Thermal imaging devices put the odds in your favor. No matter how smart those pigs are, they have to eat. They have to find food.
But with thermal imaging scopes, you can identify those pork chops long before they know you’re there. (2)
What Are Thermal Scopes?
Simply put, thermal imaging scopes are digital devices that pick up heat sources and convert that into an image for the human eye, their heat signature shining bright in your visual even in environments with no visible light.
Because of this, thermal imaging scopes can see through fog and some brush too. They work on moonless and overcast nights just as well as on a full moon with clear skies.
Not only that, but they also have a much greater range than traditional night vision. However, batteries are required and battery life will vary.
Although they are generally more expensive than night vision, an increasing number of hog hunters are swearing by them. That’s because thermal imaging technology has almost none of the drawbacks of traditional night vision devices. (1)
Things to Consider When Buying the Optics for Hog Hunting
When you shop for optical devices, you have a lot to consider. Here are some questions and factors to help you out:
- Will the scope for hog hunting work on the gun you want to hunt with?
- What gun are you putting it on? (The bigger your gun, the more recoil it delivers, so you need something that will handle that)
- How much does it weigh? (Weight matters when you spend hours stalking hogs and then having to hold the gun to shoot. If you have a packed 30-round mag in the gun, a heavy scope is going to be a problem)
The cost has to be a factor in a thermal rifle scope. With the most expensive thermal imaging scopes costing several times as much as a good hog rifle, you have to weigh the expense against how much hunting you will actually do with the scope.
Thermal scopes cost a fair bit and are a significant investment, which is why you’ll need to evaluate your scope requirements carefully before deciding because quality, battery life, extra features, and more will drive up the price.
Higher resolution matters most as the hog gets farther away. At distances under 100 yards, which is about the effective range of subsonic suppressed ammo, the resolution is not a critical matter.
Resolution does matter when you are in heavy brush. While thin bushes will not affect the sight picture much, leaves and twigs can deflect a bullet.
The refresh rate is how fast the screen can cycle, and the higher the rate, the better. Refresh matters because the screen can freeze as you pan from side to side, so if you’re tracking tomorrow night’s tenderloin running across a field, you need a high refresh rate.
The digital scope has to keep up with your swing to let you stay on target and take the shot. Low refresh rates mean the image you see in the scope is delayed and not what is actually happening. In simple words, you’ll miss the shot because the reticle is not on target.
Getting zoomed in matters more when your eyes get old. When using thermal imaging, zoom only matters when you need to reach out to some distance.
Additionally, getting precise placement with the reticle matters. If you hunt subsonics and suppressed, magnification is not an issue because your shots should be under 100 yards. You can enlarge an image either with true zoom or digital magnification.
More on Thermal Scopes For Predator Hunting
This article is only just touching the surface on all the great thermal scopes out there. If you’re looking for more “general” recommendations for thermal scopes not necessary designed for hog hunting, make sure to take a look at our article on the top infrared scopes for predator hunting.
What Is Hog Hunting?
For those of you new to the sport, take a look at our article on: what is hog hunting? We cover the basics and is the perfect place to get you started.
Is thermal or night vision better for hog hunting?
Thermal, hands down, is better for hog hunting. You can see through fog, rain, and light brush and observe much greater distances. Also, with thermal, you won’t need an IR attachment to provide light. Many thermal imaging scopes also work during the day. If needed, you can also use the heat signature to locate downed animals.
What is the best thermal scope for hog hunting?
The short answer: the best thermal scope for hog hunting is whatever gets the job done for you. While our list contains our top choices, these are also general use scopes. If you are hunting with a crossbow, you need one that will handle the forward and backward recoil on some crossbows. If you hunt with a big caliber, it has to stand up to that punch.Thermal imaging devices rely on electronics and they can break much quicker than a traditional scope. So, recoil-resistant construction is a must.
Is it legal to hunt hogs with a thermal scope?
It is legal to hunt hogs with a thermal scope in most places in the US (except CA), but it also depends on where exactly you’re hunting. For instance, Georgia puts very few limits on hunting wild hogs on private land. You can use full-auto, suppressed with thermal devices at night, and there are no bag limits. Hunting in wildlife management areas may be different. Texas allows thermals. If you are not sure, call the wildlife department where you plan to hunt to be sure.
What is the best scope magnification for hog hunting?
Realistically, the best scope magnification for hog hunting is 8x scope, as that’s plenty for most hunters. Going into the higher magnification range means you are hunting over huge, open fields where shots beyond 200 yards are common.
Can Thermal Scope See Through Smoke?
Short answer yes, thermal scopes can see through smoke.
What Is a Thermal Scope
Put simply, an optical device that picks up heat radiation. See our full article on what is a thermal scope for a much more detailed explication.
Our Top Pick- ATN THOR 4 4.5-18x
- Daniel Terrill, “The Basics of Thermal Scopes”, Retrieved from: https://www.opticsplanet.com/howto/how-to-how-to-buy-a-thermal-scope.html
- “Everything You Need To Know About Hog Hunting,” retrieved from: https://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/generation-wild/2008/06/hog-hunting-101/
Jeramy Smith is a writer, avid hunter, outdoor enthusiast, and firearms enthusiast. He grew up in both Virginia Beach, Virginia, and rural Michigan. He has soaked up as much information as possible about everything firearms related. He currently builds firearms and spends his days at the range and writing. He currently lives in rural central Michigan with his wife, 2 daughters, and 2 stepchildren.
📧 Reach me via email at: Jeramy@barrettrifles.com