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Night Vision for Airguns

Sightmark Photon

 

Night vision scopes are very popular these days, especially with hunters of feral wild pigs. They’re excellent for all sorts of nocturnal vermin, which is what led me to start thinking about getting one. We’ve had rats showing up in our city in the last few months and while I managed to bag a few during the daytime with an air rifle I thought it would be more effective to hunt them at night.

After several weeks of debating the various options with myself (cheap Gen 1 scope, better Gen 1 scope, digital scope, unaffordable thermal scope…) I decided to order a Sightmark Photon 4.6x digital scope from Amazon, as they have far and away the best return and customer service policies. It arrived yesterday and I mounted it on my Benjamin Marauder.

Installation is very easy, as it mounts in standard 30mm rings. Setup is almost as easy, as there are only two controls on the scope. One is a power/illumination button. One press turns it on. Successive presses cycle through various levels of IR illumination, and a long press turns it off. The level off illumination is displayed in the viewfinder, along with battery life. The other control is a combined button and knob that normally controls display brightness. Press and hold, and a menu comes up that allows you to select between reticle shape, color, and position. The position adjustment allows for one-shot zeroing, or close to it. Shoot a group at a target, then move the reticle to point to the group. That’s it.

Last night I took it out after dark to search for the rats that have been showing up in our neighborhood. Like those of many animals, a rat’s eyes reflect light, which makes them very easy to spot, as the IR illuminator turns their eyes into bright white spots- you can see the eyes long before you can pick out a rat’s body hidden by vegetation.

The scope uses two AA batteries to power both scope and illuminator, and the manual says they’re last from 4-6 hours, depending on how much IR illumination you use. I found the lowest setting was more than adequate at garden ranges, but I might add an external illuminator just to stretch battery life.

At $490, it was $190 more than the cheapest Gen 1 sight I looked at, but from what I’ve been able to learn from other reviews, the image is much clearer and wider. Sightmark warranties it for three years, which is better than most electronic devices. So far I’m pretty impressed.