Selecting the best thermal scope is the most critical step for a new predator hunter. The right choice of thermal scope will yield more sightings, improve marksmanship, and provide value far beyond its cost.
What is the best thermal scope for new predator hunters?
The answer is simple: The ATN Thor 4 1.25-5x, 384×288 Thermal Rifle Scope.
Fair warning, this is not a list of every thermal scope on the market, nor is it a side-by-side comparison of “the top ten” or “best new thermal scopes of 2021.”
Reviews of multiple expensive scopes done by individuals raise a lot of red flags. Did they buy all those scopes and spend a year hunting with them? Or are these reviews nothing more than a bit of googling and a crap ton of copy and paste?
This review is different. It has one purpose; to give you all the facts you need to convince you to purchase the ATN Thor 4 1.5-5 384×288 thermal scope.
Why not just buy the latest thermal scope models?
Hey, do you want to spend a lot of money on a scope just hitting the market? One that hasn’t had the chance to be carried in the field for at least one season by a few thousand hunters? Sure, manufacturers test their products, but nothing in the factory mimics fumbling around in the dark for the power switch after your tripod has collapsed and smacked your rifle on a rock.
Let someone else spend their money and field test those brand-new thermal scope models. Then, after a season or two, you can browse through the negative reviews, check to see how well the manufacturers responded to the complaints, and make your decision.
A review of the best thermal scope, based on experience.
Three reasons why you can trust this review.
- I own three ATN scopes, including the ATN Thor 4 model reviewed here.
- I do not work for them.
- ATN doesn’t pay me a penny. They do not endorse me in any way, and they do not offer me any scopes to borrow or even buy at a reduced cost.
Two important caveats.
There are two things you should know about me, before you trust my opinion.
- I have used better thermal scopes. I do not recommend them because at over $5,000, the cost is unaffordable for someone trying out predator hunting for the first time, and they aren’t likely to have the skill set to match the much longer ranges provided by these luxury scopes.
- Amazon gives me a small commission at no charge to you if you use my link to make your purchase. In my defense, Amazon charged me full price for all my ATN scopes.
I’ve spent a lot of time using my ATN Thor 4, probably more than you ever will. It has never failed to perform.
Frequent, bug-free useage.
I estimate I have turned my ATN Thor 4 on and off over 1,000 times. It has consistently rapidly powered up and provided a perfect image in the reticle within seconds.
Flawless field performance.
I’ve mounted my ATN Thor 4 four different rifles; two AR-15’s, a .223 Savage Trophy XP, and a Ruger American .308. The scope performed well on each of these platforms.
I’ve used my thermal scope during the daytime and at night. The picture quality remained consistent and required no change of focus.
It took a coyote one night when the windchill was -32. But, on the other hand, it’s worked flawlessly at temperatures in the 80’s.
I’ve used the in-scope camera to record every shot taken. Reviewing the videos frame by frame, I’ve never had a miss that wasn’t my fault—a trigger jerk here, a poor position there. The video clearly shows where your crosshairs were when you pulled the trigger.
It’s the best thermal scope, but it isn’t perfect.
I love my ATN Thor 4, but I have to admit there are a three things that bug me about it.
- I’m not too fond of the focus ring adjustment. It’s tough to turn, and I’ve never managed to break it in. Fortunately, once set, it never loosens and loses its focus.
- The rubber covers for the USB charger and microSD ports are sketchy. They are either hard to close or fall out. I have to keep an eye on them all the time.
- The last thing I’ll point out is a bit nit-picky on my part. The ATN Thor 4 comes with some labels on the controls. These paper strips quickly start to fall off the scope. Yeah, you are probably supposed to remove them anyway.
Grading the best thermal scope for new predators hunters.
There are four factors to gauge when selecting a thermal scope for predator hunting; cost, reliability, ease of use, and customer service.
There is a pain point for all new predator hunters looking to upgrade from simple red scanning lights or infrared scopes to thermal optics. That pain point is price.
Today, the ATN Thor 4 1.25-5x 384×288 costs just under $2,000. However, Amazon often has a special payment option, five equal monthly payments and 0% interest, that can take some of the sting out of the price. You can also purchase affordable accident protection from them for periods ranging from 2 to 3 years.
If you are still wincing over the price tag, I can give you one last reason to buy the ATN Thor 4 from Amazon. Amazon’s return policy. Simply put, you have 30 days to return it, even if used. That’s plenty of time to consider the cost, try it out, and still get your money back.
What’s the best thermal scope for new predator hunters worth?
If you want to know the actual value of the ATN Thor 4, you have to look beyond the sticker price. Instead, ask yourself, “How much is my free time worth?”
Tempted to scroll right passed this section, aren’t you? I beg you not to, but instead grant me a little leeway and two minutes of you time.
For our example, let’s say you price a free hour of your time at $25.
For your night hunting, you research and narrow down your choices to either the ATN X-Sight 4K Pro with the ATN IR850 light or the ATN Thor 4. If you choose the ATN Thor, you will spend about $1,200 more.
Using these figures, we can say the ATN Thor 4 will pay for itself if we can save 48 hours of your time during the length of its three-year warranty. We will also assume you will hunt ten nights each season.
The three ways the ATN Thor 4 pays for itself over time.
Reduced scanning time and increased target detection.
How long would it take you to scan a brushy field 150 yards deep, measuring 500 yards wide with the 3×14 ATN X-Sight 4K Pro? Remember, to detect a target, you must either spot the IR light-reflecting or catch the animal out in the open.
The answer is the entire length of your stand. First, even at the minimum scope magnification of 3, your searching through a straw. Second, you can never be sure you have comleelty observed the entire field or didnt just miss seeing the animal. Third, the image you observe undr IR light isn’t the best. You end up spending time staring at vegetaion you momentarily mistke for your target.
With the ATN Thor4, it takes less than a minute to scan a field that size and be 100% certain it is empty or locked onto a fox or coyote.
I’m convinced the ATN Thor 4 can save the average predator hunter 2 hours per night or double the number of stands they hunt.
We are saving $50 per night, providing $500 in value per season.
Saving by eliminating wasted stands.
How many times have you left a stand moments before a nearby predator finally reached your caller’s former location?
The ATN Thor 4 can detect a thermal signature as much as 750 yards away; it can recognize that target as an animal at ranges up to 335 yards. And, the ATN Thor 4 can identify that predator like a fox or coyote at nearly 205 yards. No IR scope can even begin to compare with these stats.
With the ATN Thor 4, you will be able to spot these slow movers and late arrivers. Giving you a chance to continue working that caller and get a shot in.
I think it’s fair to say there is at least $25 in value-added to each night of hunting or $250 per season.
For a deeper explaination of detection, recognition, and detection check this article out.
Saving by reducing weather cancellations.
With the ATN Thor 4, those showers of rain, patches of fog, and unforecasted flurries will no longer end your stand, let alone your entire evening.
The ATN Thor 4 can see through the light rain, fog, and snow that shuts down every other scope. Hey, if the weather isn’t bad enough to send you home, why should your scope?
With an IR Scope, your done for the night or have to wait until the weather passes. Let’s assume you encounter such conditions twice per season, and the ATN Thor 4 saves the day.
That’s another $50 in value per season.
Is the best thermal scope really worth $800 per season?
Isn’t your free time worth more than $25 an hour? Will you be selling the pelts and therefore benfit from greater hunting success? Will you participating in a local hunting contest? Are you hunting predators actiuvely preying on livestock?
For me, an hour of free time is worth at least $100. It’s less than what I have to pay a pro to repair anything that I could fix myself if I had the time.
The old saying is, “Your mileage may vary,” and so may your estimates. But at the end of the three years ATN warranty, you’ll have paid less to purchase their Thor 4 than their ATN X-Sight 4K Pro. Believe me.
And, we never even considered the value of increased hunting success.
The unbelievable reliability of the best thermal scope.
The ATN Thor 4 has several qualities that make it stand out over most of its competitors.
If you hunt predators in the cold, you know a dead battery is the most common equipment failure, and it guarantees your evening hunt is over. Unfortunately, thermal scopes requiring replacement lithium batteries have unpredictable battery lives, can lead you to suffer a shut-off mid-shot and are a hassle to replace in the field.
ATN has mastered the rechargeable battery. The ATN Thor 4 lasts for 18 hours. 18 hours! Plus, you can’t lose it, it has an accurate power meter, and it is suitably powered to keep every feature of the scope running without any issues.
Comes on, stays on.
Once you have turned on the ATN Thor 4, it stays on. The power switch is located atop the scope and forward of all the other controls. As a result, it is virtually impossible to accidentally shut off your scope through mishandling while changing shooting position, adjusting the zoom, or using any of the recording, range finding, or other features.
After using ATN’s One Shot Zero feature to sight in your rifle, added the caliber, weight, initial velocity, and ballistic coefficient of the round you used, there’s little for you as the shooter to factor in a while aiming.
For instance, got your weapon cocked at an angle and pointed down a steep hill? ATN’s 3D Gyroscope makes all the necessary calculations for you. Wind, humidity, or temperature a concern; it’s all being fed by Bluetooth into your scope and accounted for before you shoot.
What about that coyote that wants to sit and yap at you, but you can’t even estimate the range? ATN’s Smart Rangefinder lets you pinpoint its exact distance and automatically adjusts your point of impact for you.
Ease of use.
Just about any thermal scope is more straightforward to use in the field than any other nighttime predator hunting method:
- There’s no need to use another hand to run a scanning light.
- There’s no need for external light to provide batteries for, keep in proper alignment, or fumble during critical moments.
- Your target sticks out in your scope like a flare arcing across a starless jet-black sky.
ATN’s Thor 4 makes things even easier for new predator hunters with the addition of some of it’s standard features.
Recoil activated video.
Many of the competition’s similar priced models do not even include the ability to record your hunts. Still, the ATN Thor 4 can be set up to record every shot when you pull the trigger automatically. In addition, recoil-activated video means you won’t forget, in the adrenaline-filled moment of taking your shot, to press an additional button—though you can.
The ATN Thor 4 recoil activated video system allows you to set your scope to capture a preselected period before, during, and after the shot. It’s this period after your shot that is most useful for determining which direction your target moved in if wounded.
ATN Thor 4‘s WiFi system allows you to simply connect to your tablet or smartphone to view your photos or videos and download them to other devices.
Thermal scopes are complicated electronic devices. This complexity can lead to two types of problems, user errors, and product defects. In an age when many large corporations have eliminated human technical support, ATN has earned a reputation for hiring knowledgeable, friendly experts to personally address your issues and concerns.
1. User errors.
The ATN Thor 4 can be charged, sited in, and used to hunt on the first night you own it. However, so many of us do that ATN’s customer service folks get many calls asking questions that are already answered in the user’s manual.
Some of the more common user errors include:
- Accidentally entering the wrong range.
- Failure to routinely update the firmware.
- Forgetting to activate the recoil-activated video.
- Shutting off the automatic NUC (as your environment changes the scope will need to compensate for these changes to provide the clearest picture).
- Finding yourself unable to zero the scope (zeroing a thermal rifle can be a nightmare, but ATN’s One Shot Zero works if you follow the instructions.)
Frustrated owners who call ATN’s customer service with their user errors quickly get the help they need. Indeed, many of us get to know certain ATN employees on a first-name basis.
2. Product defects.
Nothing can be more agonizing than waiting two days for a magic scope and dreaming of that first night’s hunt than opening a box and finding the scope damaged. I’ve bought three ATN scopes; one came damaged. Amazon shipped the replacement the next day while I was taping the return shipping label to the old one.
But what if you buy directly from ATN? Or, what if you have a problem that requires ATN’s customer support?
Well, here’s where you have to find the worst reported customer experiences you can find and study what happened. The result? The angriest customers note they returned the equipment and their money was refunded. Since there’s no way of sorting out accurate reports from those with buyer’s remorse and poor reading comprehension skills, a refunded unhappy customer is a good thing. If you get your money back, then you have nothing to worry about.
Do new predator hunters need the best thermal scope?
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should get an ATN Thor 4 1.25-5x 384×288.
- Are you able to hit a predator 135 yards away in daylight?
Whoa! That was specific, eh? I hunt Eastern coyotes, and through the entry-level ATN Thor 4, they get blurry at ranges greater than 135 yards. The thermal sensor on this model is 384×288. That’s perfect for anything under 100 yards, but clarity starts to fade rapidly at much further.
Yes, it’s a clear picture and probably perfect for you. Nonetheless, it’s not a $5,000 scope, and it has it’s limits. As does my MasterCard.
2. Do you have trouble finding downed animals? Do you find it difficult to locate predators with red lights or IR scopes?
Did ya watch that video above? Yeah, that doesn’t happen with thermal.
3. Do you want to use the same scope during the day or night, and all year long?
Thermal scopes like the ATN Thor 4 provide the same image quality and are helpful at any hour, at any temperature, and during any season. Add their lightweight compared to other scopes requiring additional lights, and they are the perfect scope for predator hunting anywhere at any time.
4. Do you hunt public land and wonder if other hunters are also out there?
With thermal, no amount of camouflage can conceal them from you. A quick scan will let you know if you are alone or if someone else is a few hundred yards away and maybe staring at you through an infrared scope.
5. Did you wound the animal that ran off?
EVen the lower end of thermal sensors can detect a temperature difference of .01 degrees. Coyotes, foxes and bobcats are mammals, and as such, have internal temperatures of about 98.6 degrees. If you’re hunting in the winter or fall, even the tiniest speck of blood will stand out like lava on the ground. Even in the spring and summer, it’s safe to leave the blood light at home if you are using a thermal device.
6. Do you hunt places with thick brush or are heavily treed?
Thermal scopes make it easy to spot, track, and target predators in heavily wooded or brushy areas. If there is a drawback, it’s whether or not the bullet’s path will be affected by the cover.
7. Have you spent time finding the perfect hunting location and want to ensure your success? https://thepredatorhunter.com/how-to-find-guaranteed-killer-hunting-stands/
The best thermal scope makes predator hunting more exciting.
No matter how many times you peer through a thermal scope, your heart races. It’s like having a superpower. The most perfectly camouflaged rabbit, snugly tucked into a clump of weeds, blazes like a neon sign in a desert. Deer, unseen by IR scopes as they carefully trace their way through the darkened woods, stand out like hunters wearing blaze orange at a wedding. Those invisible coyotes staring hungrily into a field from a distant treeline now burn brighter than cruise ships on your horizon.
The entire world is exposed to you, and yet you remain invisible to it. Thermal scopes emit no light. There is nothing for a predator to see; you are a hole in the dark.
Final thoughts and some warnings.
There are better thermal scopes on the market. Your budget, current entry-level, and interest in predator hunting led to my recommending the ATN Thor 4 384×288. If you become a devoted fan and your marksmanship warrants, you can upgrade later.
However, I cannot link to more expensive thermal scopes because I don’t own one. I can’t honestly recommend something I haven’t used extensively.
Do not buy thermal viewers and attempt to use them as rifle scopes. It won’t work, and you will waste your money.
Do spend the time and effort needed to zero your thermal scope. Please use a target specifically for thermal scope zeroing. It will significantly ease a complicated process.
Yes, they are expensive targets! But you will save ammo and have an accurate scope if you buy a target made for thermal scopes. On the other hand, if you jury rig something, you will waste a ton of ammo and have to settle for less than perfect. In the field, less than perfect is a miss at 100 yards.
Ready to buy the best thermal scope for new predator hunters?
You can purchase the ATN Thor 4 388×288 1.5x-5 here: