Thermal Scope Brands: Top Manufacturers for Rifle Optics

Cover photo of top thermal scope brands showing various options

Thermal gun scopes are rapidly gaining in popularity, and as such, more brands are popping up and joining the market in a rush.

But telling which ones are reliable can be difficult at best and disastrous at worst if you ever so happen to get it wrong (and end up with a useless purchase…). 

That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the top thermal scope brands to showcase the credible manufacturers out there – sorted by location – so you won’t need to waste time and energy getting a reliable thermal into your hands.

Thermal Scope Brands Made in the USA

A lot of thermal devices state “Made in America” or “Made in the USA.” While true, it also doesn’t tell the whole story. 

“Made in” just means the product is assembled in the United States. Individual parts may come from other countries. In fact, China is a top supplier of many electronics, and Japan is a leading supplier of glass in optical devices.

Flir

flir optic

When it comes to IR, Teledyne FLIR’s thermal optics are a graybeard of the industry. It started in 1978, making thermal optics for use in planes. 

The company, Teledyne Flir, makes its products in the US with parts from around the globe. They now also make a variety of thermal devices but don’t make gun scopes. 

For the hunting crowd, Flir’s top products are its handheld monoculars, with the Scout series being its most popular model. These are handy for tracking game and varmints that run after being shot.

You can opt for the Scout TK Mini short-range model, effective to about 100 yards, or the Scion with an ID range of 1400-meters for a human-sized target and video recording abilities. With it, you can find your target even when it’s a long way off, and watch the video later to analyze and enjoy.

Burris

burris optic

The Burris company was formed in 1971 after Don Burris parted company with Redfield. Today, Burris is a major sporting optics manufacturer. 

It builds high-end scopes from globally sourced parts in Greeley, Colorado, and has factories in the Philippines and China.

Of the products they provide, Burris also makes thermal rifle scopes, monoculars, and clip-ons (a monocular that can attach to a regular scope to turn it into a thermal one).

The Burris BTS 50 and the BTS 35 are two of their top thermal scopes available. The 50 offers more zoom and a manual focus, but otherwise, the two are functionally the same. However, the 35 does also come in a monocular version.

N-Vision

N-vision optic

Compared to some companies, N-Vision Optics (not to be confused with several other n- vision companies and products) is a newcomer. It started in 2003, and they currently assemble its scopes, monoculars, and a set of thermal binoculars from parts sourced worldwide in Needham, Mass.

The company’s 2018 decision to offer a 5-year warranty on thermal optics and a 10-year warranty on night vision devices to US customers was evidently a good one. These warranties are the longest in the industry, and since then, sales have gone up, and more retail outlets are carrying their products.

Note: Their binoculars are not a true set of 2-tube optics. It uses one sensor and gives you a 2-eyed view, which is not unordinary where thermal and night vision optics are concerned. Doubling the sensors and other internals for two optic tubes means a dramatic price increase.

If this brand piques your interest, you can look at N-Vision’s top products, the NOX-35 1-8x35mm and the Halo-LR 3.5×50.

ATN

atn optic

American Technologies Network, Corp. (ATN) has made huge strides since it started in 1985. The first few years of production saw the products plagued with problems (anyone else remember when Remington took over Marlin?). 

The kinks eventually got worked out, and now ATN is a top brand for night hunters. The company says the scopes are made in the US but will not say where their parts are sourced.

ATN also sets itself apart from the standard features available in many other scopes. While not always unique, these are unusual.

One shot zero. You can zero your scope with one shot using the scope’s video recording capabilities. Aim. Shoot. Look at the recorded image in the scope, then adjust the crosshairs until the impact is centered.

Recoil recording. Turn this on, and the scope records your shot when you pull the trigger. It stores 30 seconds of video, updating constantly. The recoil triggers a 30-second recall and records that and a period after the shot so you can enjoy videos of your hunt over and over.

Traditional scope shape. Many thermal scopes look more like video cameras than gun scopes. But ATN’s ThOR and X-Sight series look like regular rifle scopes with a small box in the middle. These are the most popular scopes the company offers, and some start at less than $1,000.

Trijicon

Trijicon optic

As an optics company, Trijicon has been around since 1981. They jumped into the thermal market in 2017 and quickly rose to become a top provider of thermal scopes, making thermal devices for hunting and military use.

The company says its thermal devices “are designed, engineered, machined, and assembled at our facilities in Wixom, Michigan or Auburn, California, and are therefore 100% Made in the USA.”

If you’re looking for hunter-specific scopes, their top products are the Trijicon IR-Hunter Type 2 and the REAP IR Type 3.

Additionally, they offer a battery extender that will let you pack more batteries into your IR Hunter or IR Patrol Series device. (2)

AGM

AGM optic

AGM Global Vision is the newcomer on the block. The veteran-owned company started in 2019 and currently makes its scopes in Springerville, Arizona. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the company dedicated part of its sales to the Ukrainian resistance forces.

AGM only produces traditional night vision and thermal vision devices with accessories to support these products. You can get an adapter to mount some of their thermal monoculars to a gun scope.

The Taipan TM10-256 is a wallet-friendly thermal monocular (not a gun scope). But the company also has the Varmint LRF for the coyote and hog hunting crowd. 

If you need more scope and more recoil resistance, look at the Rattler series. And keeping the snake theme, AGM also produced the Adder series, which is a thermal scope that looks like a traditional rifle scope.

Sig Sauer

Sig Sauer optic

Most known for making some of the best handguns in production today, Sig Sauer entered the optics market well after getting established as a gunsmith. 

Sig started making guns in 1864. In 2015, it began producing optics, with production locations in China, the Philippines, and Wilsonville, Oregon.

Additionally, Sig produces thermal red dot scopes, the Echo3 1 and the Echo3 2, retaining the shape and approximate size of a traditional red dot scope. 

Designed and built in the US, the Echo3 is best suited for varmint hunters using handguns, carbines, or shotguns. (1)

X-Vision

X-Vision optic

X-Vision is the optics department within the parent company Red Wing Gear, based in Red Wing, Minnesota. X-Vision produces more night vision than thermal devices. However, the company has not stated where its products are made.

X-Vision makes a red dot scope that promises to pick up heat sources at 1,000 yards and ID at 500 yards on human or deer-sized targets. It does have up to 4x digital magnification but getting a decent bead on a target at 500 yards with this one is hard.

IRayUSA

Iray optic

Founded in 2020 in Texas, iRayUSA does not say where its products are made. No doubt, some parts are sourced from foreign vendors no matter where the products are assembled. This company is focused on thermal vision and accessories for these devices.

As the company is new, its top products remain to be seen. For hunters, the top options right now are the Rico Bravo and the Bolt 384.

Armasight

Armasight was bought by Flir, and the division was closed in 2019. But Ecentria bought the name and other associated business items and reopened in 2020.

Now, Armasight does produce night vision and thermal devices and accessories, but most of its business is generated in night vision. Its two thermal scopes available are the Contract 320 in 3×12 magnification and 6×24 magnification.

European Makers

Some of the world’s top gun scopes actually come out of Europe. These makers are known for their precision work and stand out through their quality and service provided.

Steiner

This German company traces its roots to the economic collapse of Germany after WWII. Their founder, Karl Steiner, started as a one-person operation, and the company has since grown to be a global leader in optics. In 2005, Steiner bought Sensor Technology Systems and started work on the line that became its thermal products.

If you want to look into Steiner’s thermal products, the Night Hunter series is great and offers hunters a choice between gun scopes and a monocular.

Red Dot

steiner red dot thermal optic

Steiner is also one of the even fewer thermal optics companies that makes a thermal red dot scope. 

This one is a close-quarters scope that has no magnification, with the 2.5 MOA dot being a broad 2.5 inches across at 100 yards. The large size of this thermal means it is best suited for handguns with long barrels, carbines, or shotguns.

Pulsar

pulsar optic

Pulsar is owned by Yukon Advanced Optics Worldwide and started making traditional optics in 1991, with its manufacturing facilities situated in Lithuania. 

It launched the thermal division in 2012, and its first thermal gun scope came out two years later. Pulsar’s primary business is thermal optics and accessories, but they also produce a few handheld lights.

The Thermion series is very popular because of its unique similarity in appearance to traditional scopes. The tube style means it mounts to traditional scope rings. Additionally, their Trail series offers more options for the shooter but weighs more and looks like a video camera.

A Word of Warning

China-based websites often promise name-brand products, but they are cheap imitations. If you buy a branded thermal scope from a Chinese website, you’ll be buying a fake.

Chinese companies may list a scope as night vision thermal IR or some similar combination of the words. The scope may or may not be a thermal device. More likely it is just a night vision.

Here’s a helpful video from Optics Planet on how to choose a thermal imager if you’re a tad overwhelmed by all the options available from these brands.

More on Infrared Thermal Sights for Rifles

If you’re looking for specific recommendations for top infrared sights for rifles, make sure to check out our full article on the topic where we give the top models from each of the brands mentioned here.

Frequently Asked Questions

What thermal scopes are made in the USA?

Thermal scopes that are made in the USA include: Flir, Burris, ATN, N-Vision, Trijicon, and AGM. Trijicon comes closest to being fully made in the US.

Made in the USA does not mean individual components are made in the US. It likely means the parts are shipped from other countries and assembled here. 

Who makes the best thermal scope?

In order, the brands that make the best thermal scopes are Steiner, Pulsar, Trijicon, Sig Sauer, Burris, ATN, AGM, Armasight, X-Vision, N-Vision, and iRayUSA.

What brand thermal scope does the military use?

The military uses brands Flir and Leonardo DRS, according to a contract awarded in May 2022. The contract is for devices that attach to scopes, not thermal scopes themselves.

What makes a good thermal scope?

A good thermal scope has these major features:

  1. A high refresh rate. Refresh means how fast the screen cycles. Slow refresh means it freezes. The current industry standard is 60 Hertz.
  2. Long battery life. You need plenty of power to hunt for long periods.
  3. Identification range. The ID range is around half the distance for the scope’s ability to sense a heat source. Longer ID ranges mean you can see incoming targets better.

Can You Make Your Own Thermal Scope?

Actually yes, you can make your own thermal scope. If you’re interested check out our article on how to make a thermal scope.

References

  1. Sig Sauer History, Retrieved from: https://www.sigsauer.com/history
  2. Trijicon History, Retrieved from: https://www.trijicon.com/our-story/trijicon-history

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