Most night vision scopes nowadays cost an arm (and sometimes even a leg) and completely ignore the fact that there are people out there that want to enjoy some night hunting on a budget. What Night Owl Optics is showing here is that a decent night vision scope can cost as little as a regular day time optic. That, of course, if you are willing to deal with some of the sacrifices that the company has made to bring the price down. In this Night Owl Optics NightShot Scope review, I am going to show you where it shines the most and where the budget element is felt the most.
Featuring a 3x magnification and a built-in IR illuminator, the “NightShot” manages to give you a good night vision picture for shots of up to 75 yards in pitch black conditions. You can expect it to go further than 150 yards if the conditions are ideal. To further improve your image quality, there is a myriad of adjustability options including the windage, elevation, and focus. The scope has 6 reticle options and a lot of IR and brightness settings. It is super lightweight thanks to its thermoplastic body that can also withstand rain and dust. For a price that low, there really aren’t any competitors to it and considering the features you are getting, I’d say it truly is a great budget night vision scope.
If you are looking for a premium night vision scope that has all the bells and whistles of the industry, I suggest checking out my full Buyer’s Guide by clicking here.
The first thing I am going to talk about is the budget factor, as it is the biggest point of interest in this scope. Most hunters are often trying to find the best price-to-value product out there. But what if I tell you that there is a very cheap model that is just good enough to do the job? The NightShot is exactly that. It does what it is supposed to do, nothing more and nothing less.
It is fairly durable, has enough magnification for an accurate 100-yard shot, and can mount on most modern rifles. If we put hunting aside for a moment, this scope is a great choice for other activities such as night-time paintball, airsoft battles, or even crossbow archery.
If you want to record your activities, you will have to look elsewhere because this particular model doesn’t come with streaming or recording capabilities. One model that does an exceedingly well job at that is the ATN Thor HD 384 Smart Thermal Rifle Scope.
Let’s continue with the magnification and how good this scope is to aim with.
Magnification Properties & Aiming
There is a fixed magnification in place here and it can only zoom in 3 times normal vision. The objective has a 40mm diameter and the resolution of the display through which you will be viewing your target is 640×480. For a small display, this is a very respectable resolution. In fact, some scopes with triple the price tag have similar resolutions, let that sink in.
Your field of view is 5.6 degrees which aren’t amazing but it isn’t bad either, considering that you won’t be firing at more than 100-200 yards with this thing attached to your rifle. With the magnification, you are getting it is safe to say that this is a close-range scope and shots above 150 yards will require a lot of eye squinting.
The eye relief is a little more than 2.5 inches and there is a long eyeshade that covers that distance between your eye and the eyepiece. That rubbery eyeshade is actually a nice addition that allows you to lay your head against the optic and be at the exact eye relief distance. Furthermore, it prevents potential scope bite.
Adjustability isn’t bad at all here. You get a focusing distance from 10 ft to infinity. You will be getting three knobs. Each of them is for:
- Windage adjustment
- Elevation adjustment
- The focus of the objective lens
The windage and elevation knobs can change these settings at a rate of 1/4″ per click when aiming at 50 yards.
Furthermore, you get 3 buttons which are the on/off button, the brightness regulation button, and the IR activation button.
In terms of aiming and shooting, the most important thing is to mention that this scope is listed by Night Owl Optics to be good for rifles up to 30 caliber. Anything more than that will just be too inaccurate and that is a major downside for people with 308 rifles, for instance.
There are three reticle types on this scope. Each of the three options has two modes – with either white or black background. That is done to better suit the background of your picture.
Now, I know that there are scopes with 7 or 8 or even more types of reticles embedded into them but at this price any type of adjustability is surprising, not to mention having 6 individual modes for just the reticle. Even better, the scope options here work perfectly for hunting coyotes and other animals at night.
There is an IR illuminator upfront of this scope, unlike other models that rely on a camera sensor to pick up good night images. The IR “blaster” is right above the lens and gives enough illumination for the scope to be able to pick up a good image at roughly 75-100 yards in pitch black conditions. On a full moon night, you will be able to have a good picture at about 150 yards.
Right next to the infrared assembly, there is a mounting point for an accessory IR illuminator if you want to get a better picture at a further distance.
If you are trying to figure out the different night vision generations, head over to my detailed article on the topic where I discuss each of them in great detail!
Construction & Durability
What many would consider a downside would be the materials from which this scope has been built. Instead of using aluminum, the engineers from Night Owl Optics have decided to go with thermoplastics. It has its ups and downs, but the most important advantage is that the total weight of this scope has been brought down to 20.8 oz.
The eyeshade is made out of rubber and the built-in lens cap at the other end is plastic as well. All this creates a very lightweight structure that won’t be felt on top of your rifle at all.
The scope itself is sealed making it waterproof and dustproof so you can safely take it out on a day that doesn’t have ideal weather conditions.
It works with weaver and Picatinny rails. The NightShot is best optimized for guns that have a 2-2.5 inch distance between the scope’s centerline and the centerline of the barrel. If you have a rail that is higher than that, you will need to get a Picatinny riser (20MOA one, for example) that will lower the impact point down.
Weaver rails usually don’t require an adapter.
The battery assembly is right beneath the scope and there is a secure latch that opens it up. Inside, you will find 4 AA/lithium batteries that will be enough to power your scope for 2 hours at High IR settings and 4-6 hours on Low IR.
Turning the IR off will get you around 12 hours of operational time with good-quality alkaline batteries and more than 17 hours with Lithium ones. The same goes for every other mode. Lithium batteries will get a few more hours of work out of the scope.
In terms of additional features, this scope falls behind its competition, no matter the price point. It only comes with a cloth to clean your lenses and an instructional guide. Granted, it has the eyeshade and lens cap built into the scope, as other brands give them additionally, but still, a soft or hard case would’ve been an amazing addition!
Advantages & Disadvantages
- Very cheap
- Good for up to 150 yards
- 6 reticle modes
- Good adjustability
- Great image resolution
- Good eye relief & scope clarity
- Has an accessory IR illuminator mount
- Only good for close-range shots
- Not ideal for rifles above 30 caliber
- Can only work at around 75 yards at pitch black conditions
Frequently Asked Questions
Are NightOwl scopes made in China?
While there are some conflicting sources on the topic, most of NightOwl’s scopes are indeed made in China with the designing and engineering part happening here in the US.
Why are NightOwl Optics scopes frequently used?
The main reason behind the fame of the brand is due to the insane affordability of their products. If you’re looking for a budget night vision scope with a decent range, there simply is no competition to the NightShot.
Conclusion & Rating
The Night Owl Optics NightShot Night Vision Scope is among the best budget models you can get right now. I’ve included it so far in my top 6 list because it packs a lot of adjustability options combined with a simple design that is great for beginners or hunters that don’t want to spend a small fortune to get a good night-time scope. If you are willing to overlook some handicaps like the low magnification and plastic body, you are definitely going to get your hands on a small gem that will take your hunting in the dark experiences to the next level.