PVS 14 Night Vision vs Thermal - Review and Comparison (2022)

When out hunting, a man must be able to rely on his equipment above all else. Investing in moncoulars or night vision/thermal imaging scopes designed to make the experience of night hunting more efficient can make or break the success of the trip.

The market for these handy devices is an ever expanding one. There’s an endless debate about the notions of night vision versus thermal imaging, with some hunters strongly preferring one to the other.

Advances in this technology has seen the emergence of a newer night vision device known as the PVS 14. The debate as to whether this unit is preferable over conventional thermal imaging is an endless topic of discussion within the field.

We took the time to compare the Armasight PVS-14 night vision monocular to an old time favorite: the FLIR Breach thermal monocular. Read on to see what we found.

What Is PVS 14?

The PVS 14 night vision monocular has seen widespread usage among military forces around the world. It’s currently the primary night optic being used by the US military and special operations units.

It’s known as the most versatile night vision device on the market. This is because it can be used on its own, mounted to a weapon or attached to a camcorder device if need be. These night vision goggles can also be mounted to a helmet for hands free usage. This means the device can be used across a broad array of activities, such as hunting and night photography.

PVS 14 Night Vision vs Thermal - Review and Comparison (1)

A PVS 14 night vision monocular operates on a third generation image intensifier; our particular test unit is Gen 3 Alpha MG. The technology was redesigned to allow the monocular to operate on just a single AA battery. This is a first for this kind of system.

The idea for the PVS 14 was commissioned by the US military in the late 90s. The framework was centered around longevity and durability, hence the single battery operation. The PVS 14 was designed to excel at all of the following tasks:

  • Surveillance
  • Security
  • Navigation
  • Hunting
  • Home Defense
  • Wildlife Management

PVS 14 units are small and lightweight. They’re incredibly easy to take along in the field during hunting. They create little to no resistance when mounted on a rifle or helmet and are ideal for navigating distances of less than 100 yards.

Night Vision vs Thermal:

PVS 14 Night Vision vs Thermal - Review and Comparison (2)

Before going further it’s important to outline the subtle differences between night vision and thermal imaging technology.

Night Vision:

A night vision device is used to amplify or intensify human eyesight under cover of darkness or considerably low light. Today, night vision devices are popular both among military personal as well as hunters. This is thanks to the technology becoming freely available to the public some few years ago.

Back in the day, night vision was solely reserved for use by soldiers in the field. They used these devices to gain the advantage over their opponents. Being able to see the threats coming in the pitch dark gave the upper hand to any combat team.

(Video) Thermal VS Night Vision Comparison

Just like in warfare, night vision scopes have given hunters an advantage when out in the field. They become one’s eyes in the dark, in every sense of the word.

They’re valuable devices for hunters as they don’t give away one’s position in order to acquire visuals. Most other night vision devices require a physical beam of light to be emitted toward the target in order to gain vision.

Night vision technology can be divided into two main types: ‘active’ and ‘passive’ vision systems.


Active night vision can also be known as infrared imaging. Infrared is part of the light spectrum that human beings are unable to see at all. The projection of this kind of light into a space allows the device to detect objects and project the images back to the viewer using image conversion technology.


Passive night vision systems do the opposite. Instead of emitting their own light they make use of the light available in the surroundings. This can be light pollution, moonlight and even starlight. Using these they’re able to detect all the objects in the vicinity upon which the light is reflected.

Passive night vision systems amplify between 20,000 and 50,000 times more than the human eye is able to.

The downside is that night vision, as the name suggests, is reserved solely for night time use. Harsh daylight can damage the intensifier tubes located inside the unit. Night vision is also not recommended for use in smoke or debris filled conditions. There also has to be at least some light to be amplified unlike thermal imaging scopes and monoculars that can function in total darkness.

Thermal Vision:

Thermal devices operate slightly different to night vision ones. While both types of imagery share the sole purpose of producing imagery in low light, the way they go about it is not the same.

Thermal vision operates through the use of a series of sensors and beams in order to pick up the heat patterns of an object or space. The built in technology of the thermal device is then able to convert the identified heat patterns into visual imagery you can use.

Similar to the infrared light, the beams and sensors are undetectable by the human eye. Like night vision, this technology was originally designed by the military and remains relevant today within the law enforcement & fire fighting industries.

The great thing about thermal devices is that they’re not restricted to being used in darkness. This is the biggest difference between night vision and thermal vision. Hunters can use thermal imagery during day light as well. This can be helpful in detecting game that may be using camouflage to blend into the surroundings.

Thermal scopes and monoculars are also great for hunting in conditions of intense smoke, fog or debris. They’re ideal for detection over more than 100 yards.

There’s wide spread agreement among hunters that thermal scopes are great for detection purposes but not for recognition. Conversely, night vision is said to be incredibly useful for animal recognition but less effective for detection of range.

(Video) Thermal Imaging vs Night Vision

Armasight PVS 14

This is a great PVS-14 night vision monocular by the trusted brand Armasight. Armasight’s brand loyalty increased significantly as they’re now officially owned by industry leader FLIR.

The night vision monocular features 1x optical magnification. It can be easily mounted to any conventional hunting weapon using rails and adapters. There is also an option to add a magnifier lens on to the night vision monocular if need be.

The most notable features of the Armasight PVS-14 night vision monocular are the following:

  • Recoil Rating: up to 5.56 caliber
  • 50 hours battery life
  • Infrared Illuminator
  • Gen 3 Alpha MG technology
  • FOV 40°
  • Head mount or handheld
  • Soft carrying case
  • Weight: 0.77 lbs

The device is durable and fully waterproof. Armasight provides a two year warranty on your purchase.

The Armasight PVS 14 night vision monocular is designed for shorter range detection and identification. For longer range in both of these areas you can look into the Pulsar Helion XP 38/50 as it offers similar functions with optical magnification.


  • Lightweight and compact
  • Impressive battery life
  • Well priced
  • Wide choice of head mount options
(Video) Thermal vs Night vision (3rd gen PVS-14, HALO LR, and MH 25)


  • Can’t be used in daylight

FLIR Breach Thermal Monocular

Ranging from the same brand as the afore mentioned night vision scope, the FLIR Breach Monocular is a thermal imaging device that’s also feature packed.

Like the Armasight PVS-14, this scope by FLIR also features 1x optical magnification. Unlike the Armasight however, the FLIR doesn’t have the option to add an additional magnifier lens.

This thermal monocular is a handheld device and can’t be mounted onto a weapon. It can be mounted to helmets with ease should the need arise.

It has a lifespan of about 90 minutes at full charge. Batteries can be changed while out in the field without much hassle. This device would be most ideal in detecting targets more than 100 yards away.

Some notable specs for the FLIR Breach are:

(Video) Night vision and thermal comparison, PVS14, COTI, thermal imager, retreat security, PAS 29
  • Boson Core Technology
  • 320 x 256 VOx Microbolometer
  • 16mm eye relief
  • FOV 25°
  • Color pallet: white, black, rainbow, iron, sepia, arctic, outdoor

We love that this thermal scope by FLIR has on-board image and video recording ability. Up to 2.5 hours of video or 1000 photographic images can be captured on the unit at any time. Remove the SD card to make use of the footage at a later stage.


  • Extremely portable
  • Can be used day and night
  • Video capability
  • Seven detection palettes


  • Can’t be mounted to a rifle

Final Thoughts:

As you can see there is much to be gained from both the experience of night vision assistance and thermal imaging devices. Each have their benefits and distinguishable differences. It really all comes down to the nature of the hunting you intend to do.

For the night hunter, it really doesn’t get better than PSV 14 technology. From performance to features theisnight vision monocular becomes the perfect tool once the sun goes down.

Whatever the need, consider investing in this technology today. It will transform your hunting forever.

(Video) COTI or Breach? Which one should you choose?


Which is better night vision or thermal imaging? ›

While thermal is better for detection, it is definitely pricier than night vision. Thermal imaging is newer and more costly technology to manufacture. Night vision has been around since WWII and is much more available and affordable.

Whats better IR or night vision? ›

Infrared goggles can be used with even in total darkness. The biggest advantage between the usual night vision and infrared goggles is that the latter is much better at spotting at objects that are partially or totally hidden.

What's the difference between night vision and thermal? ›

Night vision works by amplifying nearby visible light. Thermal imaging works by using infrared sensors to detect differences in temperatures of objects in its line of sight. Night vision takes a scene and magnifies the light, then translates it into green-tinted images.

Is a PVS-14 worth it? ›

The PVS-14 is effective and proven, but pricey. Great option to start with Night Vision, if you have the budget.

What is cheaper night vision or thermal? ›

The Differences: Night Vision vs Thermal

On paper, night vision beats thermal in most ways. They're cheaper, lighter, more durable, offer greater depth, and have much longer battery life.

Can you see a snake with a thermal scope? ›

Modern thermal imaging cameras for hunting allow you to detect a thermal target in all light conditions. Grass and bushes are not significant obstacles. However, a thermal imaging camera will not be enough for snake detection.

Can you see deer antlers with thermal imaging? ›

Typically, deer have antlers so the thermal should be able to definitively tell you that none of your deer have horns. With a thermal, you can see the antlers when they are growing in and there is blood running in them. When they stop growing and harden you most likely can't see them, especially at any distance.

What's better for coyote hunting thermal or night vision? ›

Thermal gives you much better detection, while night vision gives you much better identification. Several people, including myself, choose to run an ATN OTS Thermal monocular for detection and an ATN X-Sight 4K for ID and shooting purposes.

Can you use thermal in daylight? ›

Thermal imaging detects minute differences in heat when detecting game. Thermal scopes detect radiation and do not require any visible light to produce an image. Thermal imaging devices can be used equally well day and night.

What are the pros and cons of thermal imaging? ›

Pros and Cons of Thermal vs. Night Vision
Thermal ImagesNight Vision
See in any lighting conditions - Day and NightImage requires some training to interpretMore natural image
See through smoke/fog/dust/sandMore expensiveTougher, more reliable
See through leaves and thin materialsLarger/HeavierMore affordable
3 more rows

Can you use thermal during the day? ›

Whether you are hunting during the day or night, thermal will help. During the day, you will have improved visibility through brush and camouflage, be able to follow a blood trail, and have improved target identification, especially of smaller animals and varmint.

How far can you see with a PVS-14? ›

The AN/PVS-14 Monocular Night Vision Device (MNVD) is in widespread use by the United States Armed Forces as well as NATO allies around the world.
Tube form factor18mm
Field of vision (°)40°
Range of detection350 m (Starlight)
Range of recognition300 m (Starlight)
23 more rows

Who makes the best PVS-14? ›

Best PVS-14s units to buy
  • TRYBE Optics PVS-14.
  • ATN PVS-14.
Aug 30, 2021

Who uses the PVS-14? ›

The PVS-14 Alpha is currently the primary night vision optic used by the U.S. military and Special Operations units. Powered by an Autogated Gen 3 image intensifier, the system has recently been redesigned to operate on a single "AA" battery.

How long do thermal optics last? ›

A good quality thermal scope may offer power for nearly 8 hours after a single charge. Pay attention to which batteries the device comes with.

How far can you shoot with a thermal scope? ›

A thermal scope can detect heat signatures from 1000 yards away. Beyond this distance, most thermal scopes' effectiveness in detecting heat tends to fade.

Can coyotes see infrared light? ›

While the only creatures that have been definitively proven to see infrared light are cold-blooded, there are some exciting signs that suggest that foxes — and perhaps other nocturnal mammals like coyotes as well — can read light that appears on the infrared spectrum.

What is the highest resolution thermal scope? ›

The 4 Best Thermal Scope

Trijicon Teo Reap-IR Mini Therma: Best for Hog Hunting. Pulsar Trail XP38 1.2-9.6×32: Best Thermal Scope for the Money. Pulsar Digisight Ultra: Best Budget Thermal Scope. ATN ThOR 4 1.25-5x: Best For Coyote Hunting.

Does thermal imaging work on cold-blooded animals? ›

Here, the warmer human hand stands out against the cooler background and the snake. This image also shows why thermal imaging is ineffective on cold-blooded animals, like this snake, since their body temperatures change to the temperature of their environment.

Do reptiles show up on thermal vision? ›

Call it a sixth sense, or evolution's gift to these cold-blooded reptiles: some snakes have infrared vision. Also called “heat vision,” the infrared rays, which have longer wavelengths than those of visible light, signify the presence of warm-blooded prey in 3 dimensions, which helps snakes aim their attacks.

What night vision do Navy Seals use? ›

"The four-eyed night vision goggles are used by various military forces including US Navy seals. These help commandos to identify the target very easily even in dark.

What brand of night vision does the military use? ›

The PVS-14 Night Vision Monocular is the current military issue night vision goggle for the US armed forces.

What is the highest generation night vision? ›

Generation 3 is currently the best night vision on the market. Gen 3 devices have the best resolution, cleanest and brightest images, best low-light performance, and best reliability/durability.

Can thermal scope see through walls? ›

No, thermal cameras cannot see through walls, at least not like in the movies. Walls are generally thick enough—and insulated enough—to block any infrared radiation from the other side. If you point a thermal camera at a wall, it will detect heat from the wall , not what's behind it.

Can a thermal scope see through fog? ›

Although thermal imaging cameras can see in total darkness, through light fog, light rain, and snow, the distance they can see is affected by these atmospheric conditions.

Is thermal imaging good for hunting? ›

While hunters are starting to use thermal imaging to detect game, the use of night vision is still much more common.
Thermal vision technology a major benefit to the hunting market.
Thermal imagingNight vision
Long detection rangeRealistic image with good resolution
Effective in wooded areasSee details on animals
8 more rows

What is the best thermal scope for coyote hunting? ›

The best thermal sight for coyote hunting reviews: Shooting in the dark
  • ATN ThOR 4 4.5-18x50mm Thermal Smart HD Rifle Scope. ...
  • Armasight Contractor 320 6-24x Thermal Weapon Sight. ...
  • ATN ThOR LT 4-8x50mm Thermal Rifle Scope. ...
  • AGM Global Vision Rattler TS35-384 2.14x35mm Compact Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope.
Aug 3, 2022

How do you call coyotes with a thermal? ›

How to Setup for Predators at Night Using Thermal - YouTube

Can you hunt with a thermal scope? ›

California law says that it is illegal to possess any device or similar, such as night vision or thermal imaging devices intended for use with or adapted for use with a firearm, allowing the owner to visually determine the presence of objects at night.

Can thermal scopes see through brush? ›

See Through Brush

Because it's reading temperature differences, thermal imagers can “see through” certain impediments that would otherwise screen your vision.

Are thermal scopes worth the money? ›

Thermal scopes can easily detect animals or moving objects from a long distance whether it is day or night. Their detection is better than night vision scopes. Even in the roughest weather, they can help you see (except in extreme cold).

What are the disadvantages of thermal imaging cameras? ›

Drawbacks or disadvantages of Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging products require high initial investment cost. ➨Images are difficult to interpret in specific objects having erratic temperatures. ➨Accurate temperature measurements are hindered by differing emissivities and reflections from surfaces.

What are the disadvantages of thermography? ›

The disadvantages, according to NASA, are the difficulty to obtain accurate data from models that have less thermophysical and radiometric properties. Retrieving accurate data can require infrared-transmitting optics that are not always available. Cameras are not suited for very low temperatures below -50 degrees C.

Can thermal and night vision combine? ›

There is actually something called thermal fusion. It merges both thermal detection with image intensification of night vision so you see both at the same time.

What thermal scopes does the military use? ›

The AN/PAS-13 Thermal Weapon Sight (TWS) provides Soldiers with individual and crew served weapons the capability to see deep into the battlefield, increase surveillance and target acquisition range, and penetrate obscurants, day or night.

What is the best day night rifle scope? ›

So whether you're on a budget or need the best ar 15 night vision, you'll find it here.
  • ATN ThOR HD 384: Best Overall. ...
  • Sightmark Wraith: Best Night Vision Scope Under $500. ...
  • Firefield NVRS 3×42: Best for Coyote Hunting.
Sep 5, 2021

Can a thermal scope see through glass? ›

Can thermal imaging see through glass? Thermal imagers cannot pick up visible light. Therefore, Glass is not seen as transparent when viewed through a thermal imaging camera.

What's better for coyote hunting thermal or night vision? ›

Thermal gives you much better detection, while night vision gives you much better identification. Several people, including myself, choose to run an ATN OTS Thermal monocular for detection and an ATN X-Sight 4K for ID and shooting purposes.

Can you see deer antlers with thermal imaging? ›

Typically, deer have antlers so the thermal should be able to definitively tell you that none of your deer have horns. With a thermal, you can see the antlers when they are growing in and there is blood running in them. When they stop growing and harden you most likely can't see them, especially at any distance.

What are the pros and cons of thermal imaging? ›

Pros and Cons of Thermal vs. Night Vision
Thermal ImagesNight Vision
See in any lighting conditions - Day and NightImage requires some training to interpretMore natural image
See through smoke/fog/dust/sandMore expensiveTougher, more reliable
See through leaves and thin materialsLarger/HeavierMore affordable
3 more rows

What is the difference between thermal imaging and infrared? ›

An IR thermometer, also known as a spot pyrometer or a temp gun, gives you a single number—the temperature measurement of a single spot on your target. A thermal imaging camera gives you temperature readings for each pixel of the entire thermal image, and allows you to visualize an entire scene in thermal.


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3. PVS-14: Top Shelf Night Vision!
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5. Night Vision Helmet Setup | PVS 14 & iRay MH25
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