Infrared Scope vs Night Vision

Thermal Vs. Night Vision Scope

Do you want to know the difference between an infrared i.e. thermal scope vs. night vision scope so you can make the right choice for your needs? If your answer is yes then you are definitely in the right place as we have put together this guide to help distinguish between the two types of optics that are available.

An Infrared or Thermal Scope

Infrared or Thermal scopes don’t capture images like a camera would; instead they feature sensors that will detect heat. Hence the reason they are referred to as thermal scopes.

These types of devices really just detect radiation which increases with the increase of temperature as well. Very precise thermal imagers can represent an image on a screen based on small differences in the heat.

The device will use different colors to represent different temperatures. Usually, lighter images are seen for hotter objects but newer thermal imagers use up a wide variety of colors.

It is easy to generate an image on a thermal scope when viewing an animal that is easily warmer than the surroundings in which they live.

You won’t be able to see coldblooded animals though for example snakes since they usually adapt their body temperatures to their surroundings. They are good since they detect radiation which means they can provide an image even on the darkest night.

Applications Most Suited to Thermal Imaging


Firefighters can make great use of thermal imagine as it can help them to see beyond debris and smoke. This is great for helping them to find people who have inhaled smoke from a fire and passed out or for small children who may have hidden in closets or cupboards too scared of what to do when a fire has occurred.

A Thermal imager is also great for a firefighter as it can tell them when there is a fierce fire blazing on the other side of a door that may otherwise seem safe.


Thermal imaging is an ideal choice especially for hog hunters. Hogs are very smart and so they don’t go out in the day but instead in the night.

Farmers especially will be interested in staying up at night to catch these hogs as a means of protecting their farms against the pillaging that usually comes from these animals. A thermal imager can help a farmer see past his crops to find the hogs that may be hiding beneath the plants.

Thermal imagers are also favorites when it comes to deer hunting as well. Many of these items are designed specifically for mounting on your rifle and so they are made so they can be lightweight and easy to carry so you can scan your field for hours without getting tired.

Law Enforcement

Thermal imaging is most used by law enforcement and military. This was once the primary use for thermal scopes. They use these units to detect potential threats at night and in low light operations.

Modern thermal image riflescopes can withstand recoil and so there are many soldiers and police offers that only work with thermal scopes as they can easily find one designed specifically for their weapon of choice.

The downside to using thermal imaging for law enforcement and the military is that they will be able to identify a person in front of them but won’t be able to identify if they are friend or enemy. Other Uses for thermal imaging include energy audits, surveillance and deer spotting.

A Night Vision Scope

A night vision scope takes all the available light and intensifies it and many of the newest systems can work in complete darkness.

These systems use infrared which can measure heats difference and create an electronic image what is radiating the heat. The units takes light such as moon light and even star light and magnifies the amount of light packets its receives.

The light strikes onto a plate of photocathode which magnifies and transmits photons through a vacuum where they then strike a plate of micro channel which illuminates a picture in the pattern that the light struck the photocathode.

How night vision scope differs from thermal imaging is that it provides you with an electronic image so you have a clearer view of what you are seeing than that which you see through a thermal imager.

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