Best Thermal Monoculars of 2023

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There are a lot of affordable optics out there, but it takes an investment for a good thermal monocular. With spectacular advances in thermal technology over the last few years, these remarkable devices have become indispensable tools in the outdoors. Along with the capabilities of a standard monocular, thermal monoculars have the ability to detect heat signatures and provide a clear real-time view of the world in complete darkness.

Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast, a hunter tracking elusive game, or a first responder, a thermal monocular can be a game-changer in the field. Below, we researched and reviewed the top options available from optic brands like Pulsar and AGM to help you choose one of the best thermal monoculars to suit your specific needs and preferences.

How We Picked the Best Thermal Monoculars

When you’re investing in a thermal monocular, you need to know what you are getting. There are a wide range of capabilities and price points. Think about your intended use. Whether it’s for hunting, wildlife observation, security, or search and rescue, your requirements may vary, and different models are optimized for different applications. There are several key factors to consider, ensuring you make the right choice for your specific needs:

  • Resolution: Look for a monocular with a higher resolution, as it will provide crisper and more detailed images. A higher resolution is particularly crucial if you plan to identify smaller objects or targets at longer distances.
  • Detection Range: Different thermal monoculars have varying detection ranges. Consider the distance at which you need to detect and identify objects. A longer detection range is essential for hunting, security, or surveillance.
  • Price: Thermal monoculars can vary significantly in price. Set a budget and find a model that meets your needs within that range. Keep in mind that more expensive models often come with more advanced features and better performance.
  • Refresh Rate: The refresh rate, measured in hertz (Hz), determines how smoothly the image is displayed. A higher refresh rate, such as 50 Hz or 60 Hz, is crucial for fast-moving subjects or when panning quickly.

Best Thermal Monoculars: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall: Pulsar Axion XM30F

Best Overall

Specs

  • Resolution: 320×240 pixels
  • Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
  • Detection Range: Up to 1,300 meters
  • Magnification: 3 – 12 (4x zoom)
  • Battery Life: Up to 5 hours

Pros

  • High-resolution thermal imaging with a crystal-clear 320×240 pixel display
  • Built-in rangefinder
  • Quick 50 Hz refresh rate smooth and responsive.
  • Durable construction with IPX7 waterproof rating
  • Built-in photo and video recording capabilities

Cons

  • Premium quality is reflected in its price, making it a higher-end investment compared to entry-level models

The Pulsar Axion XM30F thermal monocular sets a standard in the thermal imaging world, earning its place as our best overall choice. With a high-resolution display at 320×240 pixels, it delivers crystal-clear thermal imagery that’s hard to beat. One of its standout features is the impressive detection range of up to 1,400 yards, which allows you to use it for a wide range of applications. Its versatile 4x zoom magnification option also accommodates various scenarios and target sizes.

This Pulsar thermal monocular doesn’t just offer exceptional image quality; it also comes with a built-in photo and video recording capabilities, allowing you to capture crucial moments and evidence. The Wi-Fi connectivity and smartphone app enhance the overall experience, enabling you to share images and control the monocular remotely.

Along with its powerful capabilities, the Axion XM30F is compact and ergonomically designed, ensuring comfortable handheld use even during extended periods. It’s very durable thanks to its IPX7 rating that makes it both dust- and water-resistant. You can confidently use it in any weather conditions. While this thermal is more expensive than others on our list, it’s a worthwhile investment for those who demand top-tier thermal imaging performance.

Best for Hunting: Burris Thermal Handheld

Best for Hunting

Burris Thermal Handheld Thermal Monocular on gray and white background

Specs

  • Resolution: 206×156 pixels
  • Refresh Rate: 30 Hz
  • Detection Range: Up to 700 yards
  • Magnification: 2x – 8x
  • Battery Life: Up to 5 hours

Pros

  • Excellent detection range of up to 700 yards
  • Versatile magnification options for a range of hunting scenarios
  • Durable and ergonomic design, suitable for extended use in the field
  • Image and video recording capabilities

Cons

  • Slightly lower refresh rate (30 Hz) compared to some premium models

The Burris Thermal Handheld has firmly established itself as a top choice for hunting enthusiasts seeking a reliable thermal monocular. With a resolution of 206×156 pixels, it delivers high-quality thermal imaging, allowing hunters to detect game and track targets with clarity and precision. Its impressive detection range of up to 700 yards ensures you have a clear view even at extended distances.

The device’s versatile 2-8x magnification options make it adaptable to various hunting scenarios, from tracking elusive game to scanning the field. Its durable and ergonomic design is well-suited for extended use in the field, and the built-in photo and video recording capabilities let you capture those memorable hunting moments. Though it offers a slightly lower refresh rate than some premium models, the multiple color palettes and advanced image processing ensure customizable and enhanced viewing.

It’s heavier than some competitors but its compact portable design and high-resolution thermal imaging make up for the weight.

Best Budget: AGM Asp-Micro TM160

Best Budget

AGM Global Vision Asp-Micro TM160 Short Range Thermal Imaging Monocular on gray and white background

Specs

  • Resolution: 160×120 pixels
  • Refresh Rate: 25 Hz
  • Detection Range: Up to 400 meters
  • Magnification 0.5x – 2x
  • Battery Life: Up to 10 hours

Pros

  • More affordable
  • Compact and lightweight—ideal for handheld use without causing arm fatigue
  • Decent detection range of up to 400 meters
  • Multiple magnification options

Cons

  • Limited resolution compared to higher-end models

The AGM Asp-Micro TM160 is a solid budget-friendly option in the world of thermal optics. While it may not boast the high-end specifications of its pricier counterparts, it offers impressive thermal imaging capabilities at a more budget-friendly price point. With a resolution of 160×120 pixels, it provides clear thermal imagery for various outdoor activities, including hunting and wildlife observation. The choice of magnification levels allows you to adapt to different scenarios and target sizes.

AGM Asp-Micro Thermal Monocular sitting on rock
This AGM monocular is proof you don’t have to spend a ton for a good thermal. AGM

The compact and lightweight design makes it easy to pack in your bag without adding much weight, while its IP67 rating ensures it can withstand the elements, protecting against dust and other debris. The AGM thermal monocular may have some limitations—like shorter battery life and less advanced features—but if you’re seeking an entry-level thermal optic that doesn’t break the bank, we highly recommend it.

Best Handheld: Flir Scout TK

Best Handheld

FLIR Scout TK Thermal Monocular on gray and white background

Specs

  • Resolution: 160×120 pixels
  • Refresh Rate: 9 Hz
  • Detection Range: Up to 100 yards
  • Field of View: 20 degrees

Pros

  • Compact and lightweight
  • More budget-friendly price point
  • Rechargeable battery with a reasonable 5-hour runtime
  • Easy to hold and use

Cons

  • Limited detection range of up to 100 yards

The Flir Scout TK Handheld Thermal Monocular is a compact and affordable entry-level device that offers an accessible introduction to thermal imaging. Weighing only 6 ounces, its lightweight and portable build makes it an excellent choice for on-the-go users, whether hiking, camping, or exploring the great outdoors. It’s incredibly user-friendly, with a simple and intuitive operation perfect for individuals new to thermal imaging technology.

Along with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that provides up to 5 hours of continuous use, the Scout TK maintains a rugged and durable construction, with an IP67 rating for water resistance. You can use it rain or shine without worrying about damage or obstructed vision.

Because of the lower price, this thermal monocular comes with some limitations, including a lower resolution and limited detection range. However, overall, it’s a cost-effective and easy-to-use option that would work for most outdoor enthusiasts.

What to Consider When Choosing a Thermal Monocular

Resolution

Thermal monoculars come in various resolutions, typically measured in pixels. Higher resolution provides sharper and more detailed images. Consider your intended use, as higher resolutions are also essential for long-range observation and precision applications.

Battery Life and Durability

Check the monocular’s battery life, especially if you plan to use it for extended periods. Some models offer interchangeable batteries for convenience. Additionally, assess the monocular’s build quality and durability. It should be able to withstand various weather conditions, including rain and extreme temperatures if you plan to use it in harsh environments.

Recording and Connectivity

If you want to record thermal footage or stream it to a display or mobile device, make sure the monocular offers these features. Some models even have built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities.

FAQs

Q: What is a thermal monocular?

A thermal monocular is a handheld, portable device equipped with thermal imaging technology that allows you to detect and visualize heat or infrared radiation. Unlike traditional night vision devices that rely on ambient light or image intensification, thermal monoculars can create images in complete darkness or through obstacles such as smoke, fog, or foliage. These devices work by detecting variations in temperature and displaying them as high-contrast images, with warmer objects appearing brighter and cooler objects darker.

Q: Can you use a thermal monocular with a scope?

Yes, thermal monoculars can often be used in conjunction with rifle scopes for enhanced targeting and observation capabilities. This combination is commonly referred to as a “clip-on thermal scope” or “thermal clip-on.”

Q: Can a thermal monocular be used in daylight?

Yes, you can use a thermal monocular in daylight. Unlike night vision devices, which rely on ambient light, thermal monoculars create images based on heat signatures. They detect temperature differences, making them effective in a wide range of lighting conditions, including broad daylight.

Best Thermal Monoculars: Final Thoughts

When selecting the best thermal monocular for your specific requirements, it’s essential to consider factors such as resolution, detection range, magnification, battery life, durability, and user-friendliness. Brands like Pulsar, AGM, and Burris offer a range of models, each with unique strengths tailored to various applications. Remember to strike a balance between your budget and the features you need. With the right thermal monocular in hand, you’ll unlock a new dimension of vision and gain the upper hand in activities as you explore the world—and the wilderness—through the lens of thermal imaging.

Why Trust Us

For more than 125 years, Field & Stream has been providing readers with honest and authentic coverage of outdoor gear. Our writers and editors eat, sleep, and breathe the outdoors, and that passion comes through in our product reviews. You can count on F&S to keep you up to date on the best new gear. And when we write about a product—whether it’s a bass lure or a backpack—we cover the good and the bad, so you know exactly what to expect before you decide to make a purchase.



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