The 4 Best Low Light Scopes – Rifle Optic Reviews 2019

best low light scope, best low light rifle scope, best light gathering rifle scope

Photo by Dylan H. / CC BY

Many game animals are nocturnal or semi-nocturnal, and many a successful hunt has taken place in the wee hours of the morning or in dusky twilight at the end of the day. Other times, weather conditions will leave you hunting in darker conditions than you might like, and to that end, you need to make sure you have the right low light scope on your rifle.

Low light scopes are different from most scopes in that they are optimized for maximum light gathering and will almost always have illuminated reticles. They will most commonly feature 40mm or, more likely, larger objective lenses, and perhaps a 30mm scope body instead of the more common one-inch body. Low light scopes are highly specialized creations, but can make a serious difference over a normal scope.

Picking the best low light scope can be hard, but we make it easy! We’ve gathered 4 below and our reviews, we go into detail what you should look for when selecting the right optic for your needs.

Tasco Illuminated Reticle Scope

What’s inexpensive, sold by a well-known optics company, and gives you a perfectly functional low light scope? Well, the Tasco World Class illuminated reticle 3-9 scope comes to mind. With its durable water, fog, and shock proof construction, coated 40mm objective lens, and coated optics, it’s almost the definition of the best low light rifle scope.

Inexpensive scopes like this give many pause, and that is understandable. I wouldn’t put this scope on a big-bore magnum, but for common hunting rifles and casual use (I’m not sure I’d take it to Alaska!), it will be just fine. If you aren’t a hardcore-hunt-all-the time-in-all-conditions sort of person (we’re talking Jeremiah Johnson territory here, okay), you might as well save a few bucks and run with the Tasco.

Tasco 3-9x40E Scope Review

Vortex Strike Eagle

This one is for you guys with AR’s and other modern sporting rifles. A lightweight, compact low light scope can be hard to find, but Vortex has come through with their wonderfully designed Strike Eagle. This modest 1-6 power scope with 24mm objective lens isn’t the most optimal form for low light work, but it represents one of the best compact low light scopes on the market.

With water, fog and shockproof construction, plus an illuminated reticle, you’ll find this scope (see full specs) is as suitable for hunting as it is for self defense or tactical use. Well-built and affordably priced, this is my personal choice for the best low light scope that’s also lightweight.

Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6×24 Illuminated Reticle Scope Review

NightForce NXS

It’s natural we’d put a NightForce scope in an article like this; after all, NightForce all but defines the low light scope market and is a noted industry leader in high powered, high quality, low light optics. This admittedly expensive scope features 5.5-22 power magnification and a huge 56mm objective lens, 30mm tube, and the usual rugged weather and shock-proof construction you’d expect from NightForce.

Everything about this scope (see full specs) is designed to be optimized under low light conditions. The 30mm tube carries more light than a common 1” tube, the giant objective lens allows light to pour into the scope, and the special optical coatings on the lenses help maximize the light transmission. There probably is no better low light scope on the market than beauties like this from NightForce. It’s the best low light scope period.

Nightforce NXS Scope – Full Review

CVLife Illuminated Scope

This charming, albeit slightly clunky-looking scope is an ideal low light scope for those operating on a budget. Built for AR style rifles, this compact, lightweight scope is feature rich with its included laser, red and green illuminated reticle, bullet drop compensator, and quick detachable base. With its 2.5 to 10 power magnification, 40mm objective lens, water, fog and shockproof construction, and rugged aircraft grade aluminum body, this is a low light scope that can run with its more expensive competition.

I’ve long been wary of cheap imported scopes, but there are diamonds in the rough, and I believe this scope is one of them. Not everyone can afford a big-dollar scope, but that does not mean you have to sacrifice the utility and security of a good low light scope. Next time you take your AR or other Picatinny rail equipped carbine out hunting, take a good hard look at this scope.

Finding the Best Low Light Rifle Scope

If you hunt in perfect weather, there is little reason to care about low light scopes, but it is a given that if you want to optimize your hunting or simply keep a scoped long-arm around for tactical, ranch, or self defense purposes, a low light scope is needed. See, the moment you look through a scope, physics starts working against you. Your field of vision shrinks, glass blocks some of the light, and a narrow scope tube reduces the amount of transmitted light making it back to your eye.

Through the use of large objective lenses, large scope tubes, and special optical coatings that increase the light transmitting abilities of glass and cut down on distortion, modern science and manufacturing methods have given us some of the finest optics in history to ever grace a rifle. On top of optics design, illuminated reticles give you a powerful edge when you know what you are shooting at, as you no longer have to struggle with a black reticle against a dark brown or gray target in low light.

When selecting the best low light scope, you have to first decide what you are using it for. Most hunters don’t need more than a 40mm objective lens, but those who can legally hunt at night or hunt in low light and bad weather will want to take a hard look at scopes with much larger objectives. A tactical carbine needs a lightweight and compact scope with an illuminated reticle that may be utterly inappropriate on most hunting rifles. A person who doesn’t go out in harsh conditions can often get by with an entry level optic or can keep one around on rifles that don’t get out much.

High price isn’t always an indicator of the quality of a low light rifle scope. Certainly the more expensive famous brands are going to be a surefire bet, but some of the new imported scopes can fill a role that once were filled by scopes costing 2-3 times as much. Regardless of your final choice, a good low light rifle scope will increase your hunting and tactical options.

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