In light of the rising popularity of coyote hunting, the thought of examining the most essential instrument for the profession again: thermal scopes. While the military, wealthy preppers, and the police are the most common users of thermal scopes, there is a growing movement to legalize their use in predator hunting. Also, thermal scopes simplify the hunt for any evasive quarry, even cunning predators like coyotes.
To assist in making your next coyote hunt a little more convenient, for example, Deer, waterfowl, and bighorn sheep seasons may be over, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit on your behind all winter
In this article, let’s examine the top-tier thermal rifle scopes on the market for dealing with such cunning prey and then discuss how to acquire the best one to meet your needs. Read on to find out more.
- Night Vision vs Thermal Scopes
- Best Thermal Sights for Coyote Hunting – Our Recommendation
- 1. Best Designed – The 35mm Trijicon REAP-IR Thermal Rifle Scope
- 2. The LRF TM35-384 AGM Varmint – Best W/ Rangefinder
- 3. Best Budget Thermal – ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x Thermal Rifle Scope
- 4. The Best for ARs – 3-12X Armasight Contractor 320 Thermal Imaging Sight
- 5. The Best Overall Thermal Scope – 1-10x ATN Thor 4 640
- A Guide to Buying
- Key Takeaway
Night Vision vs Thermal Scopes
Night Vision Scopes
While thermal scopes provide the high resolution, night vision scopes can produce even higher-quality images. They allow you to see in the dark by using the infrared ray or other sources of natural light. Night vision equipment employs the same technology as regular cameras but at a higher magnification.
Night vision sights actively seek out and soak up any observable light, day or night. The images produced by amplifying this light have a distinct green colouration. Night vision equipment is often known as an “image intensifier.” The term “night vision devices” is more accurate and descriptive because it includes image intensifiers as well as thermal imaging or infrared cameras, all of which aid in night vision.
Simply put, a night vision image rifle scope is a scope or sight that operates in the same way as a standard camera but magnifies any available light. Greenish images are enlarged and visible from any background light, including the moon, stars, and far light sources. The military, law enforcement, and hunters use this innovation in the wild to identify wildlife such as deer in the woods at night.
While night vision image scopes are technically advanced, they are really just fancy cameras. The green tint makes it hard for some people to notice details. While they are not as effective as a thermal camera, they are cheaper and can be used in less-than-ideal weather conditions. The biggest drawback is that their efficiency drops as ambient light levels drop.
To achieve a more accurate shooting result, thermal imaging rifle scopes are heat-sensing sensors disguised as cameras. On a technical level, these instruments can detect radiation. Radiation levels rise as temperatures rise. As a result, animals and other moving things can be spotted from great distances, day or night, with the help of thermal scopes. Night-vision scopes can’t detect as much as they can. They improve visibility even in severe weather (except in very cold weather).
Instead of using visible light, FLIR and Fluke cameras use heat to create images. Although light and heat are both components of the electromagnetic spectrum, a camera that can detect visible light won’t be able to identify thermal energy, and the opposite is true. With sufficient accuracy, a thermal imager may identify tiny variations in heat and show them as an image (or thermogram) on a screen. Some of the most advanced equipment in the world is capable of detecting temperature variations as small as 0.01°C. In a black-and-white thermal image, the hotter the object, the lighter the colour, which corresponds to different temperatures.
One thing to remember, though, is that thermal scopes produce black-and-white or shades of numerous hues in their rendering of images, which could be perplexing for shooters and hunters if they encounter other moving objects in the target area. A thermal scope would be good if this is not going to be a problem for you.
Best Thermal Sights for Coyote Hunting – Our Recommendation
1. Best Designed – The 35mm Trijicon REAP-IR Thermal Rifle Scope
The 35mm Trijicon REAP-IR Thermal Rifle Scope is the best option if you have a lot of disposable income, are serious about your shooting, and/or are a fan of the video game Escape from Tarkov.
Even though this scope was developed to be utilized by the military—more particularly, US Special Forces—it is perfectly suitable for sniping coyotes on the grassland or in the backwoods. Not at all; this scope has unlimited capabilities.
When the optic’s four-hour battery life is up, you can easily replace batteries inside the field using the premium compartment, and the USB-C connector allows you to attach an external power pack or recording device.
For further example, a system controller that uses an analog stick will be familiar to anyone who has used a modern single-lens reflex camera or a Playstation, or Xbox controller. All three popular calibers (5.56 NATO, 308 Win, and 300 BLK) are supported by its array of crosshairs, MRAD, and BDC reticles.
One of the greatest thermal sensors on the market and the best I’ve tested for cutting through smoke and fog, the sensor’s resolution of 640 by 480 pixels makes it a standout among its peers. The scope is significantly smaller and lighter than others of its kind since the sensor unit is less bulky.
Finally, the entire system is built to last, and Trijicon is the authority on how much abuse a combat optic can withstand.
2. The LRF TM35-384 AGM Varmint – Best W/ Rangefinder
If you do a lot of hunting in places you’ve never been before, you may lack a reliable means to gauge ranges, particularly at night. There is a 38,428-core sensor in the AGM Varmint LRF, and it refreshes at 50 Hz. A 1024 x 768 OLED screen is included.
With a magnification range of 3–24x, it is a useful tool for shooting at greater distances. If you find yourself in Kansas or anywhere surrounded by broad plains, this AGM Varmint is the riflescope to have. This sight is the best when it comes to long-range shooting in wide-open spaces.
Picture-in-picture, scene, color, and reticle selections are all identical to the aforementioned riflescope. In many respects, it’s analogous to the rat’s more powerful and far-reaching relative. It can withstand being dropped from a height of 5 feet and is waterproof.
Additionally, to its maximum range of 655 yards, the laser rangefinder is precise to within +/-2 yards, which is more than precise enough for any sort of serious target shooting.
Like many AGM devices, it supports recording and video streaming; however, with the provided battery, it seems to have a battery life of roughly 4 hours. The widely used 18650 battery is used in it, so your ordinary flashlight (or vape batteries) will function.
When planning a longer hunting session, you should take a backup or two that are charged with you into the field.
3. Best Budget Thermal – ATN Thor LT 160 3-6x Thermal Rifle Scope
The 160 3-6x ATN Thor LT is part of the company’s cost-effective range, and it deserves special recognition for introducing high-quality, field-usable thermals at a price that is only around one-third that of most other brands.
It employs a little screen and has no extra capabilities that many of us might not have utilized anyway, despite having a sensor resolution of only 160 by 120. There is no WiFi, Bluetooth, video, or other such feature. The closest thing you can get to a normal rifle scope is this; it is a scope, plain and simple.
Even the mounting system for your weapon, which uses fairly common 30mm ring mounts, will be known to practically any hunter.
However, the disadvantages of this AaTN Thor LT 160 basic thermal optic are that you won’t get some of the scene configurations and other electronic characteristics, but you do get a battery life of more than 10 hours, a rechargeable internal battery, and straightforward white and black hot palettes that everyone who has played Call of Duty will be familiar with.
Finally, even though the recognition range is only about 200 yards and the detection range is only about 450 yards in a low-moisture environment, this is still a very useful scope for coyote hunting, especially if you’re calling coyotes to you, as most hunters do.
4. The Best for ARs – 3-12X Armasight Contractor 320 Thermal Imaging Sight
This time it’s the Armasight Contractor, a one-of-a-kind optic designed specifically for the military. This scope features some of the greatest image processing of any optic on this list, and it’s developed for use in tough or even hostile settings by one of the most respected names in thermal optics.
It complies with MIL-STD standards, making it a good choice for people who plan to spend a long time on the range and who don’t want even a drizzle to spoil their evening. Additionally, the Armasight Contractor model is water-resistant.
Another innovation in this series comes in the form of a turret-based adjustment system for setting windage and distance, which will be similar to anyone who has used a target-style rifle scope.
Overall, this is a sturdy system that will survive everything barring the Trijicon model up there, and it does it in a remarkably light body that weighs no more than a standard rifle scope.
5. The Best Overall Thermal Scope – 1-10x ATN Thor 4 640
With cutting-edge optical technology, the ATN Thor 4 640 1-10x ranks among the most dynamic and advanced optics available. You could say this sight is smarter than me. There are so many integrated features that it would be impossible to list them all in one article.
It all begins with ATN’s superior 640×480 60hz thermal sensor, which is of the fourth generation. Amazingly crisp imagery is captured by this HD sensor and upscaled to a 1280×720 display by the internal computer.
Tracking motion in real-time is a breeze thanks to the silky-smooth 60 Hz refresh rate. It has a 16-hour battery life, a reticle that looks like a long-range FFP reticle, and so many sensors that you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a science fiction film.
It has a recoil-activated feature that records video to an SSD card whenever the trigger is pulled, and the resolution (1280×960) makes it an excellent choice for analyzing and sharing film from your hunt.
You may also connect it to your mobile device, tablet, or computer through WiFi to see the footage on a larger screen. It has Bluetooth connectivity so that iOS and Android gadgets may be used to control the footage, modify configurations, and make other administrative changes.
Finally, it incorporates a GPS receiver, a magnetometer, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a ballistic calculator, and even a magnetometer for precise location marking and elevation monitoring. Despite its extensive features, setting up shop takes no more than twenty minutes with the accompanying software.
This scope has been designed with meticulous attention to detail, is of exceptional quality, and has many useful extras. It’s so well suited to coyote hunting that the magnification limit is ideal.
A Guide to Buying
1. Clip-On Vs Standalone Thermal Scopes
In the first place, you need to figure out if you want a dedicated scope or a clip-on scope that can be used in conjunction with a regular optic. Each has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. A clip-on thermal modification is more versatile than a permanently mounted one, but it also adds weight and cost to your rifle. When not in use, the clip-on can be stored out of the way of your scope.
If your standard sight is compatible with your thermal scope, this is an excellent option if you don’t have a specific rifle for using your thermal scope.
Clip-on scopes, on the other hand, lack the standalone scopes’ resolution, accuracy, and additional electronic functions. The limited real estate and the requirement that the clip-image files be compatible with the standard scope are major contributors.
Most clip-on are made to be used with LPVOs and other lenses at roughly 6x magnification, so you won’t achieve the full magnification that you would with a standalone scope.
2. Refresh Rate
The rate at which your screen is refreshed is expressed in hertz (Hz). Because of the high frequency of updates, the image on a 60 Hz screen and the sensor is extremely smooth, making tracking a snap.
You don’t need the extra functionality that certain sensors and screens provide. On the other hand, some rifle scopes only record at 45 or even 30 Hz, which is acceptable for most things except for fast-paced shooting like coyote, in which case we recommend a higher clock frequency if at all possible within the budget.
When everything else fails, check the framework of the scope. Included in this are factors like battery life, resilience to the elements, and the possibility of surviving a drop or other shock.
When hunting with a rifle, you’re likely to damage the weapon a bit. You’ll snag it as it passes through your hunting blind’s entryway or as it brushes up against a limb. Get a scope that can withstand being dropped, preferably one with a verified drop test rating.
A scope with an IPX rating of water resistance can provide you with peace of mind in the event of a sudden rainfall or a splash in a pond or stream.
Beyond that, consider the actual nature of your hunts and the quantity of power (battery life) you’ll require. With a battery life of more than 12 hours, several of these scopes may be used for the entirety of a day or nighttime hunt.
4. Magnification and Resolution
You should then consider the magnification and clarity of your prospective scope. The resolution is measured in pixels, just like on a computer or television screen.
Resolutions that are higher (such as 1280×960) will display finer details than those that are lower (such as 640×480). Having a higher resolution and hence more detail is certainly ideal, but a higher-resolution image also requires a higher-quality sensor and display, both of which will cost more.
The ability to zoom in and see fine details depends on the resolution as well. Luckily, you usually won’t need much more than 6–9x magnification for successful coyote hunting.
5. Detection or Target Range
If you plan on firing at long distances during the night, detection range will be crucial. This will depend on the performance of the scope’s thermal sensor, which can vary greatly between models and price points.
To successfully hunt a coyote at night, you must either remain stationary and call the animals to you or lure them in with bait. Consequently, a detection range of several thousand yards is not strictly required.
Also, just because the shooter can spot an object at four thousand yards with a thermal scope doesn’t mean you can accurately identify it or shoot it conveniently.
With the use of a thermal scope, even hunting for elusive animals like coyotes may be a lot more successful. All of the sights on this list have been tried and true in the field, and they all perform well even in total darkness.
In this article, the ATN ThOR 1-10x Thermal Smart HD rifle scope remains our top pick, so if you’re having trouble making a decision, go with that one.
You will be well prepared for your next hunt and have the upper hand over your four-legged target no matter which option you choose.
I have been an avid outdoorsman all my life. I have hunted and fished most of the Eastern United States for over three decades. During my tenure as a hunter, I have taken most every North American game animal with either a rifle or bow.
Smaller game animals I have taken too many to count. I hunt duck, rabbit, dove, and squirrel every season and take a number of coyote each year which are open season in my area. I greatly miss the quail seasons of my youth but they have all but disappeared across the regions that I commonly hunt.