Best thermal monocular

Gear

If you intend to attach your thermal monocular to a rifle, make sure to double-check if it can attach natively; if not, you’ll need to purchase a special mount to attach to your rifle first that the monocular can then be attached to.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

Which thermal monocular is best?

Thermal monoculars detect the electromagnetic radiation, or infrared, emitted by warm objects. Unlike night vision, they can be used in both zero light and bright daylight with no change in their efficiency.

The best thermal monocular is the FLIR Scout TK Handheld Thermal Imaging Monocular. This is one of the most durable and lightweight thermal monoculars you can buy at the affordable price range it is available at.

What to know before you buy a thermal monocular

Thermal monoculars are incredibly precise and highly intricate devices with different parts and functions.

Magnification

Magnification essentially means zoom in this case. Magnification varies based on the thermal monocular, which typically is somewhere between 1.5x and 50x. What’s more important is whether the magnification is smooth or stepped: A smooth magnification goes from 1 to 2 via every magnification in between, while stepped magnification will jump directly from 1 to 2. Thus, smooth magnification is superior but also costs a great deal more.

Range

While it is easy to get caught up in the fact that most thermal monoculars will have ranges exceeding 1,000 yards, most people will want to ensure that they can clearly see a heat-emitting object within 100 yards instead of a blob of heat at 1,000 yards. Therefore, double-check your prospective monocular for these ranges before buying.

Black and white vs. color

Thermal monoculars do not display an image in full color, as they aren’t built for that. Instead, you usually have the option of viewing in black and white for plenty of detail or certain color options, which provide different benefits, depending on your current surroundings and light levels. Most thermal monoculars have a button to cycle between these options.

What to look for in a quality thermal monocular

Batteries

Thermal monoculars run on batteries, whether they are a rechargeable lithium-ion unit built into the device or replaceable AA batteries. Make sure you have the power or the spare batteries to juice up your monocular on the go.

Bonus capabilities

Some of the higher-end thermal monoculars have built-in technologies, like video recording onto SD cards or apps that can be used to operate your monocular remotely. Some even have Wi-Fi connectivity to share the videos they take with any phone, tablet or computer.

How much you can expect to spend on a thermal monocular

Thermal monoculars are incredibly expensive. Even the cheapest options that are still worth the money are around $500, and they typically lack some features to get them to such a low price. The best options that still omit some features and quality run $1,500-$3,500, while the top-tier options can reach costs of an incredible $15,000.

Thermal monocular FAQ

Why do thermal monoculars cost so much more than their night-vision counterparts?

A. It all comes down to the different processes used to produce their specific types of vision. With night vision, you are taking low light levels and greatly amplifying them until you can see clearly. This means you can’t use it in bright or zero-light situations, unlike thermal/infrared, which detects radiant heat whether there is zero, some or heavy lighting. They also tend to have a much greater range of efficacy.

Can you really identify a target that’s 1,000 yards away, in the dark, with a thermal monocular?

A. Yes and no, depending on how you want to define a target. Even an average thermal monocular can indeed detect the heat being given off by an object at 1,000 yards or even vastly farther away. However, that detection is far more than likely just going to look like a little dot or blob of heat instead of giving a clear picture of what’s giving off the heat.

Can you see through walls with a thermal monocular?

A. No, you can’t. That’s creative liberty taken by movies. In fact, a thermal monocular can be thwarted by as little as some thick smoke. Essentially, a thermal monocular will only be effective if you have a clear and unobstructed line of sight.

What’s the best thermal monocular to buy?

Top thermal monocular

FLIR Scout TK Handheld Thermal Imaging Monocular 

FLIR Scout TK Handheld Thermal Imaging Monocular 

What you need to know: A durable and lightweight thermal monocular, it’s very affordable for what it offers.

What you’ll love: This thermal monocular can record both video and still images and detect things from farther than 100 yards away.

What you should consider: The resolution of this thermal monocular is only 160 by 120.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top thermal monocular for the money

AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro TM160

AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro TM160

What you need to know: This is the best thermal monocular for the associated price.

What you’ll love: It features seven hours of battery life, including Wi-Fi connectivity and 8 GB worth of onboard memory storage.

What you should consider: Another low resolution (160 by 120) monocular that isn’t suited to precision visual tasks.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

ATN Thermal Rifle Scope

ATN Thermal Rifle Scope

What you need to know: While the product is very expensive, the features are excellent, and the quality of this thermal monocular is incredibly high.

What you’ll love: Up to and exceeding 10 hours of battery life plus standard 30-millimeter rings make it incredibly easy to mount to a rifle.

What you should consider: Images can be a little unclear on occasion, and customer support is lacking.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Jordan Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.