There is something exceptionally raw and daring about the experience of hunting with a crossbow.
The popularity of this activity is gaining momentum around the world as more hunters make use of crossbows while out in the field. Naturally, crossbows don’t come standard with built-in scopes to make targeting prey a bit easier.
There is an array of quality thermal and night vision scopes on the market that are perfect for this type of hunting. We took the time to select our top four picks and compared the pros & cons of each. Read on to find your ideal night vision crossbow scope or thermal scope and learn how you can take your crossbow hunt to the next level.
Night Vision & Thermal Crossbow Scope Buying Guide:
Whether you are looking for a night vision or thermal scope for your cross bow there are several things to keep in mind to help you select the beset one for you. Some of the most important factors are:
- Hunting Distance
- Battery Life
- Night Vision or Thermal
We will cover each of these as well as what crossbow hunting is and why it has grown in popularity.
What Is Crossbow Hunting?
Crossbow hunting is an adaption of the ancient technique of bow and arrow hunting.
Throughout history, bow and arrow style hunting was an effective means of targeting & bringing down prey in the field. Over time, the development of technology allowed for more advancements and the result is the crossbow.
A crossbow is a more automatic version of a bow and arrow. It requires less effort and input by the user in order to set up a kill. Instead of the hunter pulling the bow backward to create traction, the crossbow does so itself and holds the bow in place until released.
Crossbows essentially offer a hands-free method of bow and arrow hunting. The hunter can give his or her full attention to the target in question. It’s effortless to keep the bow cocked.
When ready, the hunter simply needs to squeeze the trigger in order to release the bow. The cross-bow will shoot the bolt at whatever target was aimed at. Night vision crossbow scopes are becoming more and more popular due to the advancements in technology that have brought the prices down.
Crossbow vs Rifle:
The following are the most notable differences between crossbow and rifle hunting:
- Blood: Rifles tend to lead to less blood when penetrating an animal however they cause a lot of trauma. Crossbows cause a lot of blood flow, but the trauma to the animals body is a lot less severe which means less meat will be lost.
- Distance: Naturally, rifles can cover a much longer distance than a crossbow.
- Energy: Crossbows require effort from the user in order to function. Rifles require little to no energy from the user other than the loading of bullets and pulling the trigger.
- Size: Crossbows are bulky devices. They are heavy to carry and come with an array of additional parts you need to carry. Rifles weigh a lot less and take up less space.
- Ammo: Crossbow ammo is reusable to a certain extent. Successful recovery of ammo means it can be reused, however, there are instances where ammo (bolts) can be broken upon contact. Rifle ammo is not reusable.
Budget for your Crossbow Scope:
When selecting your night vision crossbow scope or thermal scope budget is one of the first things you will need to decide on. A night vision crossbow scope is going to be cheaper than a thermal scope with its own pro's and cons.
That being said there are several scopes, both night vision and thermal that can be bought cheaply. Night vision cross bow scopes will still need some light in order to function as they amplify the available light thousands of times to produce the images seen through the scope. Thermal on the other hand detects the temperature differences between objects and uses this information to create the image seen which means they can be used in total darkness. This difference in technology is one reason they are more expensive.
Crossbow Scope Mounting & Rail Types:
When purchasing a night vision crossbow scope or thermal scope it’s important to keep in mind the type of rail you’ll be working with when mounting.
Crossbow rails can alternate depending on brand. Some rails will be fixed to the crossbow and others will be removable.
Adapters can also be purchased in order to make a specific scope connect to a specific rail. When selecting the best thermal or night vision scope for you, familiarize yourself with the type of rail on your crossbow.
Specs to Consider:
There are a few imperative specifications to consider when assessing the features of your thermal or night vision crossbow scope. We have taken a close look at the most important of these.
Crossbow Scope Magnification:
Since crossbows cover a much shorter distance when in the field, the magnification ability of the scope can be a lot less than with a rifle.
It’s typically recommended you use a magnification of three times the usual distance with a cross-bow.
Always consider the weight of a thermal or night vision crossbow scope before purchasing. Since crossbows are already heavy instruments, your scope shouldn’t add much weight to this. A lightweight scope would be best for anyone entering the field with a crossbow.
Mounting a lightweight scope to your device will ensure there’s no extra weight affecting your ability to aim and fire the crossbow properly.
Crossbow Scope Shooting Distance:
For use in complete darkness, a shooting distance of about 30 to 50 yards will be enough. This is of course entirely dependent on the ability of your crossbow.
Here are the best thermal and night vision scopes for crossbows you can buy:
ATN X-Sight 4K Pro
Digital Day/Night Vision
Sightmark SM18015 Photon RT
Digital Day/Night Vision
ATN ThOR 4
1. ATN X-Sight 4K Pro
Best Smart Digital Night Vision Scope for Crossbow
This scope by ATN is a great affordable solution to both night and day hunting with a crossbow.
The X-Sight features ultra HD quality viewing as well as a ballistics calculator that ensures you’re on target with every shot.
The battery life on this scope is particularly impressive. Up to 18 hours of continuous use means you won’t be left in the dark at any point of your hunt. Recharging the device is also simple, requiring any standard power outlet to do so.
Perhaps the best thing about the X-Sight is its onboard video recording ability. The scope will live stream everything it's seeing from the reticle of your crossbow. It will simultaneously save the footage to the SD card inside the device.
The most notable features of the X-Sight are the following:
- 3864 x 2218 system resolution
- 5-20x magnification
- Streaming in 4K
The scope comes with a detachable mount which ensures it can connect to any and all hunting devices. It’s also exceptionally lightweight and won't weigh your crossbow down.
2. Sightmark SM18015
Best Cheap Digital Night Vision Scope for Crossbow
We love the simplicity of design in this night vision scope by Sightmark. The black finish will be complimentary against any hunting weapon and won’t give your position away under the cover of darkness.
Like the aforementioned scope, the Sightmark also has video recording abilities. Up to 8GB of footage can be stored on the actual scope. Live streaming to an external device is also available.
The night vision crossbow scope operates on an interchangeable battery pack. The pack can be replaced while out in the field by simply inserting a fresh pack.
The features worth nothing about this scope are as follows:
- Night time detection range of 220 yards
- 640x480 LCD display
- 4.5x zoom
The Sightmark is a performance-driven device in a simple body. It’s an affordable option in night vision technology and would bring ease to any crossbow-based hunt.
3. ATN ThOR 4 384x288
Best Smart Thermal Scope for Crossbow
This is a more high-end unit by a brand you’ve probably come to recognize. The ThOR 4 is the first of the thermal scopes to feature ATN’s next-generation sensors.
The built-in ballistics calculator will deliver a constant flow of information including range, light, temperature, and humidity. It’s designed to help you make the most accurate shot every time, regardless of whether you’re using a crossbow or a rifle.
The scope has full video streaming and recording ability. Like many other ATN devices, the ThOR has an impressive 18-hour life span at full charge.
Some other notable features are:
- 1280x720 HD display
- iOS and Android compatibility
- Variety of thermal hues to choose from
4. FLIR Thermosight Pro PTS233
Best Thermal Scope for Crossbow
Finally, we explore an impressive thermal scope from trusted brand, FLIR.
The Thermosight features the industry-leading 12um pixel pitchthermal detector. This allows it to deliver visual quality that is not often seen in such compact scopes.
We love that the color pallet can be alternated between in order to find the most comfortable hue for the human eye. Each hunter’s preference is different.
The onboard multimedia function allows for either two and a half hours of video footage or 1000 still images. The choice is yours.
The Theromosight is small and compact making it light-weight and won’t alter the stability of your crossbow very much.
Some of our other favorite features are as follows:
- Includes Boson thermal core
- 12 x 9.5 field of view
- 45mm eye relief
Selecting a thermal or night vision scope for your crossbow need not be a time-consuming feat.
By hunting with a crossbow you’re already at the advantage of not needing the most advanced technology to provide visuals over long distances. Distances are shorter, and lower magnification scopes can do the job.
Take your crossbow hunt to the next level and invest in a thermal or night vision scope today!