Night vision scopes are amazingly useful tools to help you see in dark situations. Whether you’re using one for law enforcement, military, or just varmint hunting, night vision scopes are indispensable on a dark night.

Night Vision scope come in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations. The major similarity among them is that they all use light intensifier tube. The major differences between them are in the technology used within the intensifier tubes the use. So it would be fair to say that the light intensifier tube is the heart and soul of the device.

First Generation Night Vision Scopes

The 1st generation is the most popular choice and that has to with its ability to magnify light several times. This means that you can see well in the dark with the vision scope. Many hunters like the device because it delivers sharp and bright images at an affordable cost. However, it is not as efficient as the newer 2nd and 3rd generation devices which use superior and much more expensive light intensifier methods. While it may not be quite as powerful, at least this will put you on the field and let you see some of what you’re missing.

When you use the 1st generation unit, you may observe slight pitched whine when the scope is on. Secondly, the images may be somewhat more blurry. Moreover, when the device is turned off, it would glow green before it eventually goes off.

You can expect an effective range of about 75 yards with a first generation scope and a 1500 hour useful life.

Second Generation Night Vision Scopes

2nd generation night vision scopes are often the ones used by law enforcement and other professionals. The 2nd generation is more expensive than the 1st. The major difference between the second generation and the first generation is that the second contains an additional micro channel plate. This plate is called the MCP. The MCP is an electron amplifier and it can be found behind the photocathode. When the electrons pass through, the MCP releases thousands of additional electrons. By doing this, it amplifies the visible light output by several times more than what the 1st generation could generate. This means that you can achieve a sharper and brighter image with the 2nd generation device than you can with the first.

You can expect a range of 200 yards, better battery life than Gen1, an improved field of view, less distortion, and a 5000 to 10000 hour useful life from a second generation night scope.

Third Generation Night Vision Scopes

The 3rd Generation differs from the first and the second with its addition of gallium arsenide, making it much more sensitive. One thing that makes a third generation night scope better than the previous two is that it delivers brighter and sharper images. The tube lasts longer than the previous two because it is fitted with AnGE ion barrier film. If you are looking for a device that would offer you the brighter and sharper performance, you will want to consider a Gen 3 scope. Through its superior technology, Gen 3 unlocks an incredible amount of detail that will give you an edge in the dark.

You can expect a range of 300 yards (and beyond), the longest battery life, much clearest images, and a 10000 hour useful life from Gen 3 night vision devices.

WPT (White Phosphor Technology) Night Vision Scopes

WPT renders the image in crisp black and white which significantly improves users’ ability to interpret the image. It improves depth perception and contrast is improved. According to one source, 7 out of 10 users prefer WPT above Gen 1 through Gen3 devices.

Generation 4 Night Vision Scopes

Gen 4 represents a huge advance over previous night vision technologies. The ion barrier has been removed and replaced with new technology that increases light resolution by 3x while doubling photo response. Contrast is improved over previous generations. By far, Gen4 night vision is the superior choice. However, it is beyond the price range of many individuals.


The differences between night generation devices are in the technology used to intensify the light. In my view, the best balance between features and price will be a Gen2 scope since the quality produced by its technology produces images closer to Gen3 than it is to Gen1. WPT and Gen4 are the top-of-the-line without a doubt, but expense will deter most people from owning one. Ultimately, the best way to make a choice between the generations is to consider what you want to do with the scope and how much you are willing to pay.