If you’re looking for the top 10 night vision monoculars, you’re in luck! We are covering the top night vision monoculars in 4 generations. We don’t really mean in 4 generations of humans, though. Night vision devices have different capabilities, and these capabilities can be categorized by their generation or level of advancement and sophistication.
Before proceeding in the top 10 different generations monocular products, here are the 4 best picks and best-selling night-vision monocular:
|First Choice||Bushnell Night Watch 2x24 mm w/Built in Infrared Monocular||$$$||3.6/5|
|Second Choice||Armasight Sirius GEN 2+ SD MG Multi-Purpose Night Vision Monocular with Manual Gain, Black||$$$||4/5|
|Third Choice||Armasight PVS14 GEN 3 Ghost MG White Phosphor Multi-Purpose Night Vision Monocular with Manual Gain, Black||$$$||3.1/5|
|Fourth Choice||Firefield 5x50 Nightfall 2 Night Vision Monocular||$||4/5|
Generations: What to Look For
So let’s categorize the generations of night vision monoculars so you can pick the right one that fits your needs and budget.
- If you just want something cheap, then this is it. The first generation of night vision devices came out during the 1960s. These were supposed to help US Special Forces fight off the NVA and the VC during the Vietnam War. They didn’t help much though as the technology was too limited.
If you’re going for this, then you will have to live with the various limitations. The range is only 75 yards at the most, and that’s if you’re lucky. The images aren’t very bright, and they have lots of static. You have blooming problems, which are distortions caused by too much light. The outer edges of the field of view (FOV) are distorted.
These aren’t all that versatile, as you usually can’t adapt them to scopes and weapon mounts. You have to use it actively all the time, meaning that the IR light is always on. So you’re very visible to others using night vision too. The battery life is shorter, and so is the life expectancy at just 1,500 hours.
- The 2nd generation is a massive improvement over the 1st In fact, if you can afford this you should pick this. You get a much better value for your money.
With the Gen 2 night vision, the images are cleaner, brighter, and in a much better resolution. You get the full FOV without the distortion on the edges. You have fewer blooming problems. The range goes all the way up to 200 yards, and you can use it passively without the IR illumination. It’s more adaptable and durable. The battery life is longer, it’s more reliable, and the life expectancy is 3 times longer at about 5,000 hours.
- This is the best of the lot, as it’s what the military pros use. If you need night vision for life and death situations, then this is the category from which you need to pick your device.
With a Gen 3 device, the images are extremely bright and clean, and the resolution is better still. You have the best in terms of reliability, durability, low light performance, passive operations, and versatility with other accessories. The range can go to more than 300 yards, and the life expectancy can top 10,000 hours.
- Is there even a Gen 4 yet? According to the US Army, there isn’t. The confusion stems from how the Army introduced the latest night vision innovations and called it the 4th They tested the new technology and found out that the level of the improvement didn’t quite deserve the “Gen 4” label. It was better, but not that much better.
Still, you may find commercial night vision devices touted as Gen 4, but that’s just a marketing ploy. They may mean that it’s among the best of the Gen 3, but that remains to be seen.
How to Choose: Factors to Consider
First you’ll have to pick the generation of night vision devices that best first your needs. You’ll then have to pick the best brand and model. Here are the factors that should help you identify your best option:
- Price. Prices of night vision devices can range from a couple of hundred bucks to more than $5,000. So this is about what you can afford and what you plan to use it for. If you’re just curious about it, then the cheaper devices will do. But for serious emergency work, then you may have to make a serious investment.
- Image clarity. This is the catch-all factor that actually involves several details. These include the resolution, contrast, brightness, and amount of distortion.
What’s important here is that you can actually realize what it is you’re seeing. There’s a big difference between seeing “something” in the dark, and knowing what it is. So if you’re into night hunting, you should be able to tell whether you’re looking at a boar or another hunter. If you’re playing airsoft war games at night, you need night vision that tells you about the terrain and whether a person is a teammate or an opponent.
- Simply put, the farther off you can see, the better off you are. However, you may want to find out the “recognition range” (the distance at which you can identify what you’re seeing) rather than the total range.
- Ease of use. This factor considers the size, the weight, and the ergonomics. The problem with high quality images and increased range is that you can end up with an unwieldy device. This may be harder to aim and use.
Here you also need to factor in the adaptability, such as whether you can use it with your rifle scope, a camera, or a helmet.
- Reliability and durability. How long will it last before it becomes unreliable? Here you need to read lots of reviews from customers, so that you get a much better sense of the reliability. The more complaints you read about, the more skeptical you ought to be. The reliable night vision devices, on the other hand, tend to get a high average rating from customers.
To further help you pick the right one, we’ve compiled several terrific choices for each generation. Take a look to see which one best fits your requirements!
While this doesn’t quite qualify as a Gen 2 device, it’s so superior to most Gen 1 competitors that you can classify it as probably Gen 1.5. This can be used for both daytime and nighttime.
This is available in various sizes. You can get the 3X30 (3X magnification and 30mm objective lens), 4.5X40, or 6XC50. These are variable zoom models, and the range can go from 500 feet for the 3X to 1,000 feet for the 6X. The field of view is 30 feet at 100 yards for the 3X, 28 feet for the 4.5X, and 20 feet for the 6X.
The glass is multicoated for optical clarity, while the rugged housing is weather-resistant. On the 4.5X and 6X models, you can do image capture and video recording and save the file onto a micro SD or transmit through the video out cable.
This is also compatible for Picatinny-style rail, so you can mount this on a tripod or certain rifles.
- You can choose the magnification level.
- The housing is quite tough.
- It can be used for tripods.
- The images and videos are in 640X480 resolution, which is quite good for a Gen 1 device.
- While this uses 4 AA batteries, you can power it through the USB port for continuous use.
- You can see well up to 50 meters at night.
- It comes with a vinyl case, but you will have to undo all your lens adjustments to make it fit back in.
Below is a short review video of the mid-ranged price, high-performing quality monocular from Bushnell:
It works best for all skill levels, from beginners, amateurs, experts or professional. The monocular provides a clear and crisp image of the scenery you plan to view at night.
This one is quite affordable, even for a Gen 1 device. But its quality is quite reassuring, and it’s certainly more than a toy. It uses CR123 batteries, which you’ll have to buy yourself.
You may think it’s a toy at first because it’s so compact and light. In fact, Bering boasts that it’s the most compact and lightweight among the Gen 1 night vision monoculars. It’s just 6.1 inches long and it weighs 8.5 ounces.
This is a 2X28 model, so you’re limited to 2X magnification. But the 28mm objective lens and the fully multicoated optics help make sure that you get crisp and clear images. That’s true even in IR mode.
- It’s very portable since it is compact and light. It also comes with a convenient zip pouch so you can easily bring it along.
- This is very useful if you just want to check out whether critters (or criminals) are skulking around your house in the dark. This also helps you see around in camping and hiking trips at night.
- The FOV is quite wide, and you can see what’s going on around you more quickly when it’s dark.
- The battery life is very impressive at 60 hours.
- The images are crisp, whether you use it in daylight or nighttime.
- There’s also a ¼-inch tripod socket built-in.
- It’s still just 2X magnification.
If you’re looking for just a handheld model without tripod mounts, then you can save money and get this one. It’s just 5.6 inches long and not too wide, and it only weighs 1.3 pounds. It also uses your everyday AAA batteries.
What makes this device such a marvel is that you can use it at night without using the IR. It makes use of available light such as moonlight to really give you a bright image even in almost total darkness.
This offers up to 4X magnification, so you can see farther. Yet the field of view remains wide so at night you can see at a much wider angle. The advanced electronics also allow you to use this for up to 72 hours at a time, so you don’t have to eat up your battery power.
- You can get up to 4X magnification.
- The FOV is wide.
- You can see clearly even without IR at night. The images are clear and without distortion.
- The battery life is quite long for a Gen 1 device.
- It comes with a limited lifetime warranty, which is excellent considering the supposed shot lifespan of these basic devices.
- It’s handheld only.
It’s quite intriguing when you find out that the US State Department doesn’t allow the sale of this monocular outside the US. Armasight is a rather famous name in the night vision industry, and some of its devices can cost at least a couple of thousand bucks. So at a couple of hundred dollars, this is quite a bargain.
This may seem like an entry-level Armasight, and in many ways that’s true. But then again it offers many advantages you don’t usually find in other Gen 1 devices. Armasight doesn’t even call this a strictly Gen 1 device. It’s more like a Gen 1+.
This monocular is about 6.3 inches long and it weighs about 0.73 pounds. It offers 5X magnification, though the FOV is still acceptable at 20.8 degrees. It uses a CR-123 Lithium battery which can last up to 58 hours with judicious use.
- It’s very portable.
- It is water and fog resistant, with IP Standard IPX4.
- The 5x magnification can let you see much farther out.
- It has a tripod mount.
- The warranty is only for 2 years.
This is another sub-$200 device, considering that it’s a 5X50 with IR. Lots of former military like this when they’re looking for something cheap, since it’s basically a civilian version of the night vision goggles that soldiers use.
This gives you 5X magnification, and the image clarity is helped along by the huge 50mm objective lens. It’s easy to hold and use in your hand, and it’s compact and lightweight. The rubber armor is also tough, while the design is weather resistant.
This uses 2 AA batteries, and you’ll have to buy these separately. But then when you use it with the IR you can see up to 100 yards out. The image is also very crisp, especially when you dial in the 2 focal lenses properly.
- You can see farther out even in pitch black.
- You can use this very well even without the IR.
- The image is very crisp.
- It’s compact.
- The AA batteries may only last 3 hours or so.
Just for fun, we included a short video of the Firefield Nightfall Monocular below:
The product holds great respect in the optics world and have so many good remarks and recommendations from respected product reviewers and satisfied customers.
This Armasight is a fair example of what we consider the best among Gen 2 devices. In fact, it’s regarded as a Gen 2+ device, which helps explain the rather exorbitant price.
Many features set this monocular apart from the competition. It starts with its versatility. It’s not limited to just handheld use. It can be mounted on your head or on a helmet for emergency response workers. It works for hunters and law enforcement, as it can be mounted on a rifle. Night photographers will like that it can also be mounted in front of a camera or camcorder.
This is 6.2 inches long, and it weighs a pound. It uses a single battery, which can be either a CR123A lithium battery or AA Alkaline. This can last for 60 hours, and it’s nice that it has a low battery indicator.
You can control the gain (brightness) manually, and the design makes it easy for you to do so. This can help you when you have lots of ambient light around at night. It can also automatically cut off in case of bright light.
- It’s adaptable to helmets, weapons, and cameras.
- It comes with bright light cutoff and an automatic shutoff system.
- It’s water resistant.
- The controls are easy to operate.
- That price can be a bit too much.
- If you want magnification (3X, 5X, or 8X), you’ll have to buy the lenses separately.
- The warranty is just for 2 years.
Is this even Gen 2? You may wonder that when you see the low price, but it’s truly Gen 2—some of its features rival or even exceed other Gen 2 devices. This is available as a 2X24, though its bigger brother offers 4X50 capabilities.
With this, the viewing range is about up to 400 feet, with an FOV of 105 feet at 1,000 yards. It’s only 5.9 inches, with a weight of 10.7 ounces.
This comes in a rubber housing, and the design factors in ergonomics. It has a tripod mount built-in and it uses 2 AA batteries.
- It’s very compact and lightweight.
- The housing is tough enough to keep it from breaking down if you drop it.
- The range and field of view is more than enough for practical use.
- It comes with a case and a lanyard.
- It’s very useful if you’re using this for around the house in pitch black—and you think someone’s inside!
- It must be admitted, in some ways it’s also a Gen 1 device.
If you didn’t bat an eye at the price tag of the first Armasight we listed here for Gen 2 devices, you may be ready for this Nyx-14. This time, you add another thousand bucks to the price of that first Armasight.
It has all the features of the Sirius SD MG that made that model an attractive option. So what’s added here that’s worth a thousand dollars more? First of all, the optics are better than military-issue night vision. The housing surpasses even military specs (MIL-SPEC-810), so you’ll have no problems with extreme temperatures, high humidity, rain, and salt water.
This is also even more compact at just 5.5 inches long. With its weight of 0.88 pounds, it’s much easier to carry.
- This is absolutely durable and tough.
- It’s adaptable to helmets, weapons, and cameras.
- It comes with bright light cutoff and an automatic shutoff system.
- The controls are easy to operate.
- It sure it expensive.
- You’ll need to get the magnification lens as an extra purchase.
- The warranty is for just 2 years.
This one has features (and a price) that’s very similar to the Armasight Sirius GEN 2+ SD MG. It doesn’t have magnification lenses, as those are extra. You can mount it on a helmet or your head, your rifle, or your camera, but you’ll need to buy the adaptors yourself.
Yet given those limitations, the performance you get here is outstanding. The detection range is 500 feet, and the recognition range is 400 feet. This uses a single 3v CR123 battery which can last for 40 hours. It’s only 5.5 inches long and it weighs about a pound.
This can be used without the IR, and you can see very well under a night sky. In pitch black, the IR can then be used for close range work. This has indicators that tell you when the IR is on and when the battery is low.
The housing is very durable and weather resistant too. If you’re going for airsoft night games, then this is a good choice to make.
- The image is very clear, and recognition can be achieved at a distance.
- It’s easy to use.
- This can be used when it’s lightly raining.
- It’s also very compact.
- With the mounts, it’s very adaptable.
- Magnification lenses are extra.
- It only has a 2 year warranty.
For a Gen 2+ device, this is actually comparatively inexpensive. After all, you’re still in the 3-digit price range. This uses a Gen 2 image intensifier tube that’s rated for 5,000 hours of operation. It can be powered by either a 1.5-volt AA or a 3-volt CR123A type battery. With the IR continuously on, the battery can last for 15 hours. Without the IR, you can count on 30 hours of use on just that one battery.
Unlike the other expensive monoculars, this comes with 3X magnification already built in. The optics are all glass with a special coating to absorb light. So you can use this at night without the IR, and then if you’re in total darkness the IR can help you move around.
It has automatic brightness control and bright light cutoff. You also have indicators for low battery and IR activation.
This is very rugged, and it’s waterproof too. This can be mounted on your head directly or on a helmet, though you need to buy the appropriate mounting gear separately. You can also adapt this to a camera or camcorder.
- Quite a few law enforcement types use this very model.
- It’s easily mounted on your head, helmet, or camera.
- It only uses a single battery that can last 15 hours with IR.
- It’s tough and weather-resistant.
- It’s a bit unwieldy though. It’s 8.2 inches long and it weighs about 1.4 pounds.
Armasight NYX-14 GEN 3+ Ghost MG White Phosphor Multi-Purpose Night Vision Monocular with Manual Gain, Black
Do you remember earlier in this article how the NYX-14 Gen 2 was much more expensive than the other Armasight Gen 2 device? The same is true here—this comes with a hefty $4,500 price tag! You better be rich, or use this for life and death situations.
Again, you get the NYX premium-quality features that make this the state-of the art standard in its class. You can buy magnification lenses from 3X to 8X. You can also buy various mounts that let you use this on your head, with a helmet, on a weapon, or with cameras.
The toughness of the NYX-14 is also legendary. It’s designed to surpass military specs, so nothing can harm this unit in the field. It’s waterproof, dustproof, and it can survive bumps and drops.
It has all the usual features like bright light cut-off and manual gain control for various ambient light conditions. It uses a single battery (AA or CR123A lithium) which can last for 60 hours. It has a built-in Infrared illuminator and flood lens. It only measures 5.5 inches and the weight is 0.88 pounds.
- The crispness of the image is amazing. It’s even in black and white and not in green.
- It’s easy to handle and use.
- You can mount it to anything.
- It’s extremely rugged.
- The warranty is only for 2 years. Sure, this may seem like a standard warranty length but at this price point it’s hard not to yearn for a longer (or even a limited lifetime) warranty.
ATN rivals Armasight night vision devices in quality, though the prices are fortunately a lot lower. It’s not that ATN copies Armasight design. In fact, they can provide innovations that you hardly find elsewhere.
At first glance at the features, you see the usual specs. The images are crispy and in high resolution. There are auto-brightness controls and bright source shutoff. You can buy option magnification lenses, though this can go up to 10X. It’s compact and lightweight. It only uses a single 3V lithium battery, which included. The optics are all multicoated.
So what’s different? This comes with the comfy flip-up headgear that lets you use this hands-free. When you use it, you use 2 eyes—it comes with a binocular design to see through the monocular.
- It’s very easy to use hands-free.
- The images are crisp.
- It’s water and fog resistant.
- It comes in a rugged metal case.
- The binocular design may impede your peripheral vision.
Again this is another excellent Gen 3 choice, as it has all the hallmarks that are featured in the others on this list. However, this one boasts of a more attractive warranty period. The tube warranty is for 3 years and not 2, while the housing warranty is for a lifetime!
- This is extremely durable, lightweight, and waterproof.
- It only needs a single AA battery.
- It shuts off automatically when exposed to bright light.
- It has a built in IR.
- It can be used on a helmet, weapon, or camera.
- There seems to be no provision for magnification, even with separate purchases of lenses.
Armasight PVS14 GEN 3 Ghost MG White Phosphor Multi-Purpose Night Vision Monocular with Manual Gain, Black
This works if you’re looking for something familiar after your stint in the military. It’s also for those who want to imagine going in the field in current military gear. You’ll find more of this unit than any other night vision device currently used in NATO armies. It’s tried and tested, and it just works.
- You get crisp natural black and white displays.
- The design is very tough and weatherproof.
- This can be used for your helmet (or head), your weapon, or a camera.
- It uses a single AA battery that lasts for 50 hours.
- It’s compact at 4.5 inches long, and lightweight at 12 ounces.
- There’s the price, again.
- There’s the 2-year warranty, again.
Specs-wise, this is technically a Gen 3 device. But in terms of sheer quality, of both the image and the durability, this is heads and shoulders above the rest. If you want to get the absolute best without any regard for the price, this is it.
- The images are unbelievably crisp and in high resolution.
- It’s so tough it’s designed for the most demanding conditions.
- It’s waterproof. You can submerge this down to a depth of a meter under water and it’ll last 30 minutes.
- It uses 2 AA batteries that can last 20 to 50 hours, depending on how you use the IR.
- This can be used for your helmet, weapon, or camera.
- It’s just 4.5 inches long.
- The price tag comes at $5,500. That’s like a Gen 5 price tag!
There are many ways for people to use night vision monoculars. These can help if you’re into nighttime wildlife photography or hunting. It can assist greatly with law enforcement, self-defense, and surveillance. Many airsoft fans can also use these things with their night time games. Or you can just buy one and enjoy the sights of the city at night! For tourists, it offers a different perspective from daytime strolls.
We hope you like this list of 16 night vision monoculars. It’s a bit different than our usual posts, which would be something like “top 10 night vision monoculars”. But then again, night vision monoculars aren’t the usual consumer items, right? With our buyer’s guide and product reviews hopefully you can find the best night vision monocular that fits both your needs and your budget.