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The Best Low Light Rifle Scopes in 2020

If you love to hunt then take note that there are several semi-nocturnal and nocturnal game animals. A lot of successful hunting expeditions also take place during the dusky twilight after the day ends or during the wee hours of dawn. There are also instances when you need to hunt in dark conditions due to the weather.

best low light scope

In such a case, using the best low light scope is essential. Low light riflescopes are not the same as other scopes. It is because the low-light varieties are built to maximize the gathering of light while also holding illuminated reticles. It is a highly specialized creation but it can create a huge difference when on a hunt.

If you want to buy a truly reliable low light scope but are confused with your numerous choices then our top 8 reviews might be of great help to you.

Quick Answer: The 8 Best Low Light Rifle Scopes for 2020

  1. Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-12×56 AO Hog Hunter Riflescope
  2. Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6×24 SFP Riflescope
  3. Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle AO Riflescope
  4. Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9x40mm Riflescope
  5. Leupold VX-R 3-9x40mm Riflescope
  6. Burris 3-9x40mm Fullfield II Ballistic Plex Riflescope
  7. BARSKA 3-12×50 IR Huntmaster Pro 30/30 IR Cross Riflescope
  8. Nightforce Optics 5-25×56 ATACR ZeroStop Riflescope

First, let’s take a look at the top-rated low light rifle scopes, then we’ll talk about how to choose the right one for you in our buying guide below.

Best Low Light Rifle Scope Reviews of 2020

#1 Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-12×56 AO Hog Hunter Riflescope

Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-12x56 AO Hog Hunter RiflescopeIf you intend to own the best riflescope for low-light conditions then one of your most dependable choices is the Vortex Optics Crossfire II 3-12×56 AO Hog Hunter. In my opinion, it is a fantastic option if you want a high-quality riflescope for low light situations that you can get under $500.

One thing that caught my interest about this riflescope is that it permits possible users to customize several aspects of it, including the level of magnification and the reticle. You can customize the magnification level from 3x to 12x based on the model you use.

It is a sturdy scope filled with a lot of nice and useful features while boasting of a reasonable price. I am also pleased that it excels when shooting or hunting in environments and situations with the least amount of light. It has an adjustable objective, which promotes proper focus of images while removing parallax.

I like the fully multicoated and anti-reflective lens, too, as it is capable of supplying clear and bright views. Many also consider it as the best light gathering riflescope because of its super-forgiving eyebox and long and generous eye relief. Both these features allow the quick acquisition of the sight picture and target.

I am sure that you will enjoy the easy and quick reticle focusing promised by this Vortex riflescope, which can be attributed to its fast-focus eyepiece.

The only noticeable drawback I discovered in this riflescope is the weight because it seems to be heavier when I compared it with other low light optics and scopes.
Pros
  • Forgiving eyebox and generous eye relief
  • Easy and quick to focus reticle
  • Can remove parallax, thanks to the adjustable objective
  • Equipped with a fully multicoated and anti-reflective lens
  • Excels in various hunting and shooting scenarios, especially those with the least amount of light
Cons
  • Slightly heavy
To conclude, I would say that the Vortex Optics Crossfire II is an incredible multi-purpose low light scope for AR-15 and other rifles and guns because of its fantastic performance in various hunting scenarios and fields.

#2 Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6×24 SFP Riflescope

Vortex Optics Strike Eagle 1-6x24 SFP RiflescopeFinding a high-quality low light scope for the money is also easy with the Strike Eagle 1-6×24 SFP Riflescope from Vortex Optics. I consider it as a solid option for the best low light riflescope because it has rock-solid quality and versatility.

It also has the speed and flexibility required by hunters for tracking and hunting animals both during the day and night. I also discovered that this is one of the most reliable light gathering scopes compatible with the needs and requirements of AR shooters intending to hunt and shoot at an extended range.

I also found out that it is capable of supporting not only short and long-range shots but also technical ones. I fell in love with the top-notch quality of its multicoated lens, which contributes a lot in providing clear images even in situations and environments with minimal lighting.

I am also drawn to the specific level of crosshair used in this riflescope because it helps in range estimation. Combine that with its second focal plane (SFP) reticle and I am sure that wind drift correction and holdover will no longer be a problem.

Even at first glance, one will immediately notice how sturdy its single-piece aluminum construction is. It is even sealed with O-ring to ensure that debris and dust do not penetrate inside. Furthermore, it is waterproof and boasts of its shockproof exteriors.

However, one improvement that this riflescope can use is on the width of the eyebox because I find it slightly lacking.
Pros
  • Promotes a versatile and speedy performance, allowing users to track animals during daytime and nighttime
  • Ideal for short-range, long-range, and technical shots
  • Offers clear images even in environments with minimal lighting, thanks to its multicoated lens
  • Sturdy single-piece aluminum construction
  • Shockproof and waterproof
Cons
  • Not that wide eyebox
Factoring in its amazing qualities and features, I can safely conclude that this product from Vortex is the best low light hunting scope that you can find. The fully multicoated lens alone is enough to supply a crisp and clear sight picture and deliver the finest low light performance.

#3 Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle AO Riflescope

Bushnell Banner Dusk & Dawn Multi-X Reticle AO RiflescopeIf you are searching for high-quality low light riflescopes that are priced under $200 while delivering performances that are as fantastic as the higher-end and more expensive ones then the Banner Dusk & Dawn 4-12×40 Multi-X Reticle AO Riflescope fits the bill.

One of the numerous things I enjoy in this Bushnell riflescope is its multicoated lens built in such a way that it improves brightness and clarity. With such capability, you get the chance to view an attractively transparent image through the scope’s 40-mm objective lens.

It has a 4-12x magnification, a fantastic range for the majority of hunting applications, making it appropriate for the majority of hunters. I love the versatile build of this high-quality low light riflescope for deer hunting and any other shooting and hunting applications.

It is because such versatility is the reason why I can effortlessly use it to hunt for both short and long distances. Prospective users will also sense the durability of the optic system construction right away. It boasts of a single-piece yet sturdy tube as well as finger-adjustable elevation and windage.

I love the hardwearing shock-resistant Prexterior applied into this riflescope, too. It can handle less comfortable environmental conditions well because of its complete waterproofing and fog-proof structure. You will even enjoy a comfortable and natural view with its generous eye relief.

One drawback of this Bushnell scope, though, is that it is not that easy to make adjustments on the focus designed for distance.
Pros
  • Promotes excellent brightness and clarity, thanks to its multicoated lens
  • Versatile low-light scope, allowing it to withstand all hunting scenarios
  • Complete waterproofing and fog-proofing structure
  • Provides a comfortable and natural view through its generous eye relief
  • Durable and sturdy optic system
Cons
  • Quite tricky to adjust the distance focus
Overall, this low light scope from Bushnell is a fantastic unit capable of satisfying the majority of gun owners through its reliability, valuable features, reasonable price, and incredible performance on various hunting applications.

#4 Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9x40mm Riflescope

Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9x40mm RiflescopeIf you are searching for a riflescope that is appropriate for deer hunting then the Nikon Buckmasters II 3-9x40mm Riflescope will not leave you feeling disappointed. One thing that truly draws me to this riflescope is its low and affordable price tag. Despite being completely affordable, it is still capable of withstanding abuse and heavy uses.

I like how solid and simple this scope is made. It features a BDC reticle, which also has see-through ballistic circles designed to make it perform even better for long-range hunters. It is also made in a manner that it can optimize your use of the reticle as a means of retaining highly accurate shots regardless of the distance for your load and ammunition.

I think that the brand’s unique spot-on ballistic match system plays a crucial role in it. It also allows positive-click adjustments on the reticle, resulting in rapid zeroing in while making it possible to retain your setting despite heavy recoil. The scope takes pride in its sturdy lens and structure.

It has a solid, shockproof, waterproof, and fog-proof built capable of withstanding even extreme weather and elements. Another thing that draws me closer to this low light scope is its effectiveness in maintaining a crystal-clear image each time I use it. This is possible regardless of nature’s elements I expose the lens to.

With this, I find this Nikon riflescope appropriate for rugged terrains. This scope also boasts of its several anti-reflective compound layers found on each glass surface. Such helps in supplying vivid and bright images while optimizing the transmission of light from dusk to dawn.

However, one downside carried of this riflescope is its somewhat limited and short eye relief.
Pros
  • Affordable while still boasting of a long-lasting structure
  • Ideal for long-range hunters and rough terrains
  • Promotes highly accurate shots by letting you optimize your use of the reticle
  • Supplies vivid and bright images through the anti-reflective compounds on each glass surface
  • Quick to zero in with the reticle’s positive-click adjustments
Cons
  • Somewhat limited and short eye relief
Overall, I can see several good reasons why many consider Nikon Buckmaster II as the ultimate scope within its price range – among which are its crystal-clear lens providing unmatched and clear images, quick-focus eyepiece, durable structure, and large exit pupils.

#5 Leupold VX-R 3-9x40mm Riflescope

Leupold VX-R 3-9x40mm RiflescopeThe Leupold VX-R Riflescope with a 3-9x magnification range and 40-mm objective lens diameter is also an incredible choice for those seriously looking for precision and great-performing riflescopes under $1,000. With its illuminated reticle, I immediately sensed how good it is when used for low-light environments and conditions.

Many even find it as the best low light crossbow scope because of how great its reticle is and how its superiorly bright dot is capable of drawing your eye then centering it on your target. With this, expect it to guarantee a more precise placement of each shot. I am pleased that Leupold used 6061-T6 aircraft-grade aluminum for the scope’s body.

It is because this material contributes a lot in the overall durability of the scope and its ability to deliver a fantastic performance even in those instances wherein there is harsh recoil. The rugged structure and design of this riflescope are also strengthened even further with DiamondCoat layers.

Such layers provide extra protection for the scope’s lenses that also aid in improving light transmission and abrasion resistance. It also comes equipped with an eco-friendly glass lens devoid of lead, which is capable of preventing possible damages common in the regular production of glass.

I am also impressed with the crisp and firm fingertip elevation and windage adjustments that do not cause any sloppy feeling. It also boasts of its extra-smooth power ring and a nice finish using the brand’s sturdy and hard matte black anodizing material.

One problem, though, is that you might need to adjust the reticle too often as light conditions vary, which some users find a bit inconvenient.
Pros
  • Performs well in low-light conditions and situations
  • The rugged structure further strengthened by DiamondCoat layers
  • Better light transmission and abrasion-resistance capability
  • Boasts of an extra-smooth power ring
  • Promotes precise and accurate placement of each shot
Cons
  • Frequent adjustments in the reticle may be necessary depending on the light condition
Based on its valuable features and benefits, this Leupold riflescope is a precision scope that delivers better performance for many applications while having a FireDot feature designed to get rid of the challenges linked to lack of definition and light when locking on to your target.

#6 Burris 3-9x40mm Fullfield II Ballistic Plex Riflescope

Burris 3-9x40mm Fullfield II Ballistic Plex RiflescopeAnother product I intend to suggest using is the Fullfield II Ballistic Plex Riflescope that you can access from the Burris brand. I think that this Burris riflescope is unbeatable if you consider how durable and strong it is. It has a sturdy and well-integrated eyepiece design, which promotes easy and rapid adjustments once used on the hunting field.

Such design also takes pride in its non-slip grip, providing convenience once you start using it. I like the properties used in creating this riflescope that helps improve its ability to withstand fog, water and moisture, and shocks. The single-piece tube also has strong reinforcements, thanks to the quad-seal gas seals added to it.

I am so impressed with the Hi-Lume multicoated lens integrated into this scope, too, as this supports low-light performance while also getting rid of glare. With such features, I think that this Burris riflescope will play a crucial role in boosting your hunting’s success rate.

Another thing that makes me think that this riflescope deserves a spotlight is its high-grade optical glass. It is because this glass is created in a way that it can supply better clarity and brightness while retaining long-lasting strength. I am in love with the overall quality of the scope’s precision-ground lens, too.

I even noticed that its lens is bigger compared to other scopes because it supports better gathering or collection of light.

One issue I discovered in this scope, though, is that the power ring and eyepiece are in just in a single system, making it harder than usual to lock in place and retain focus.
Pros
  • Better clarity and brightness provided by its high-grade optical glass
  • Can gather or collect light more effectively
  • Supports low-light conditions, thanks to its multicoated lens
  • Strongly reinforced single-piece tube
  • Can withstand shock, water/moisture, and fog
Cons
  • More challenging than usual to lock in place and retain focus
With the way it is built, I think the Burris Fullfield II Ballistic Plex 3-9x40mm Riflescope will continue to earn the respect and praises of many not only because of its quality and performance but also because of its accuracy, durability, and ability to work even in conditions with poor and dim lighting.

#7 BARSKA 3-12×50 IR Huntmaster Pro 30/30 IR Cross Riflescope

BARSKA 3-12x50 IR Huntmaster Pro 30/30 IR Cross RiflescopeI also highly suggest the use of the IR Huntmaster Pro 30/30 IR Cross 3-12×50 Riflescope from BARSKA if you are running after a high level of flexibility for the magnification or power range. It delivers an incredible low-light shooting performance with the help of its illuminated reticle, making it one of your top choices in the industry.

It is part of the BARSKA’s Huntmaster Series, which the brand takes pride in because of the many feature-filled items. I think it is a wise choice if you are a serious hunter or shooter who wishes to take hold of a riflescope containing all the vital features without requiring you to spend a lot.

It is appropriate for general-purpose hunting, plinking, and target shooting. I am very pleased of the illuminated 30/30 reticle integrated into the scope as it helps you in adjusting it into various brightness settings to allow pinpoint targeting, especially during those situations with low light.

I am also one hundred percent satisfied with the eye relief of this riflescope as I find it suitable and appropriate for the majority of hunting and shooting conditions. I also love how this BARSKA scope gives users the freedom to make adjustments on both elevation and windage to zero in the scope.

This makes it possible for the bullet to go exactly to where you sight in the crosshair. This scope also has multicoated and high-quality lenses, further improving its light gathering ability, thereby supporting low-light environments. It is also built in a way that it can prevent fog and water from hindering your hunting adventures.

However, take note that it also has flaws – one of the most noticeable ones being its tendency to compromise the quality of an image when setting it at the highest magnification.
Pros
  • Adequate eye relief provided
  • Capable of gathering light more effectively, thanks to its multicoated lens
  • Allows ease of adjustments on elevation and windage
  • Ideal for general-purpose hunting, plinking, and target shooting
  • Prevents fog and water from penetrating inside
Cons
  • The highest magnification setting tends to compromise the quality of an image.
Even with its affordable price tag, this BARSKA riflescope continues to attract the attention of hunters from all around the world and earn their praises because of its nice and advanced techs, fantastic specifications, and sturdy and great glass.

#8 Nightforce Optics 5-25×56 ATACR ZeroStop Riflescope

Nightforce Optics 5-25x56 ATACR ZeroStop RiflescopeMy last low light scope recommendation is the Nightforce Optics ATACR ZeroStop 5-25×56 Riflescope, which I find truly amazing because of the many nice and useful features it possesses. I am impressed with its tube constructed out of multi-piece aircraft-grade aluminum material.

What is even better about the tube’s wall is that it is twice to thrice as thick as the average scope offered by competitors. The tube is also around 34 mm in diameter, which makes it more durable than those that are only around 30 mm. I am glad that this riflescope also provides additional adjustment range useful for windage and elevation.

I am also happy to say that O-rings completely seal the areas surrounding the scope’s lenses. It also has O-rings in the metal locks and bonding agents, promoting a tighter seal that further enhances the riflescope’s durability. It also has a nice hard-anodized matte black finish for its exteriors.

Another thing that makes this riflescope impressive is that it makes use of off-white color for its markings, ensuring that they are easy to read, clear, and sharp. I am fully satisfied with the lens used in this scope, too, as it is completely multicoated, allowing it to transmit light rapidly and prevent fogging.

Furthermore, this riflescope takes pride in its ocular eyepiece, which also has a fine-focus design capable of promoting a more precise adjustment level.

However, I am not that happy with its price because I find it extremely expensive.
Pros
  • Made of sturdy multi-piece aircraft-grade aluminum
  • Durable and thick tube, making it last longer than expected
  • Assures users of ease of adjustment on windage and elevation
  • Provides a durable and tight seal, thanks to the O-rings surrounding the scope
  • Easy to read, clear, and sharp markings
Cons
  • Expensive
However, the expensive price tag of this NightForce riflescope should not dissuade you from buying it because all the positive rewards and benefits you can get from it make it worth paying for.

Buying Guide

What is a Low Light Scope?

best light gathering rifle scope

Most game animals are nocturnal. This is the reason why most hunting trips also usually happen in the early dawn hours or darkness of the early twilight. These are times when there is not much usable light. You will only be relying on the light of the moon or the stars.

These are the kinds of conditions where a good low light scope can help. A low light scope is one that makes the most out of all the available light in the environment. These scopes are different from night-vision scopes as these do not have phosphor screens or heat sensors that allow them to see in the dark.

They just make the most use of whatever amount of light is available. A low light scope has components that are a little different from a regular one. These components maximize the use of any available light. You can find these scopes perfect for rifles used mainly for hunting during the early dawn or late afternoon.

What Makes a Great Low Light Scope?

best low light scope under $300

The most important part of a low light scope is the illuminated reticle. It does not matter if you have a somewhat clear image of your target. If it is too dark outside, you will not be able to see your reticle, causing you to be unable to make a good shot.

Another important component of a low light scope is a larger objective lens. The objective lens is responsible for allowing light to get inside the scope. The more light gets into the scope, the clearer the image you get at the focal lens. The lens coating also plays a huge part in a low-light scope’s light transmission capabilities.

Low light scopes also do not need much in terms of magnification. It is best to get a scope with a 9x to 12x maximum magnification. Unless you are a trained sniper, you might not be able to make full use of a scope with a high magnification power in the dark of night.

What Magnification Do You Need?

best low light hunting scope

As mentioned earlier, a low light scope does not need to have a high magnification power. The reason being is that you will not get nearly enough light to see farther than 50 yards or so.

When you are out hunting game animals, you will either be going out in the wild during the early dawn hours, around 3 AM to 4 AM or so, before the dawn sun breaks through the horizon or during the hours just before nighttime completely falls, around 4 PM t0 7 PM.

A low light scope can only get so much light during these dark hours that you can only see up to 50 yards or so. If you are lucky and the conditions are on your side, you can maybe see up to 75 meters. This means that you do not need that much magnification at all.

If you do use a high-powered scope, you will not be able to see any detail at all, just the outline of your target. For a low light scope, you only need a short to medium range scope. This means you only need around 9x to 12x maximum magnification. This will be more than enough to see your targets even in the dark.

Factors to Consider when Buying a Low Light Rifle Scope

best low light rifle scope for deer hunting

Many scopes claim to have low-light capabilities but not all of them have the same kind of performance. They do not even work that well in the dark. For you to find the right low light scopes, those that you can take on your dawn or dusk time hunting trips, you need to take a couple of important things into consideration.

Objective lens

The objective lens is one of the most important parts in a low light scope. It is mainly because this part is the one that gathers light from the environment and transmits it into the scope. A low light scope will need a large objective lens so that it can collect as much of the available light as possible.

This will allow it to get a clear image from the focal lens. Objective lens size of at least 40mm in diameter is preferred. You can go bigger if you want. Just keep in mind that a larger lens will make the scope a lot heavier than before.

Illuminated reticle

When you are out hunting in low-light conditions, you will barely make out the outline of your target, so aiming at it using a regular non-illuminated reticle will be more than challenging. Choose a scope with an illuminated reticle so you can easily center your crosshairs at your target.

Reticle design

Aside from having an illuminated reticle, an effective low light scope should have a simple reticle design. It is unlikely that you will be taking long-range shots that go beyond 100 yards when you are out hunting in the dark woods so there is no need to go for a BDC reticle.

When it comes to mil-dot reticles, it might be too dark to see the center dots of the reticle. If you are a beginner, it is best to use a simple Duplex-type reticle because the solid lines easily contrast against a dark background.

Lens coating

The anti-reflection film applied to the objective lens prevents light from reflecting outward. This means that your target prey will not be alerted to your location. However, that is not its only use. The anti-reflection film also aids the objective lens to gather available light, thereby increasing its efficiency to more than 90%.

Magnification

You do not need too much magnification in a low light scope. Too much magnification power can make shots even more difficult as you will lose more detail the more you zoom in to your target. The ideal magnification ranges for a low light scope are 3-9x or 4-12x zoom.

Weatherproofing

Whenever you are going on an early morning or early evening hunt, the chances of you encountering drastic changes in the weather are large. It might suddenly rain, or a thick fog might roll in from the mountains.

You can never tell what will happen, so you need to have a scope that is ready for anything. Get a scope with a tube that is at least nitrogen-purged and sealed with O-rings at both ends so it will be completely waterproof and fog-proof.

(Source: [1], [2])

Conclusion

When shopping for a low light scope that you can depend on, never confuse it with a night-vision scope. The latter is high-tech, military-grade equipment. It is also often expensive. True low light scopes do not have nearly as many bells and whistles as night-vision scopes.

They are just like regular scopes but with a few specialized parts that allow them to use all available light to assist your aim. Many scopes out there claim to be well-suited for low-light conditions, but come out lacking when put to the test. With this guide, you will learn not only how to spot the best low light scope options but also their true capabilities and limitations.

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