We made a review of the top 10 high end low light hunting rifle scopes. By the term low light hunting, we mean the time in the day where the sun is whether going up or down and there is not much light available. Wild game like red deer, wild boar, and some others start to be active at dusk, so for this kind of hunting it is crucial to have quality optics with some specifications that enable a good crispy picture and enough light transmission so we can determine on what we are shooting to prevent mistakes that could occur with other no good low light rifle scopes.
Low light hunting is especially popular in Europe and Scandinavia, so therefore our top 10 rifle scopes for low light hunting are being produced in European countries, by brands which know how to make a rifle scope as best as possible for hunting in low light.
In this kind of hunting, there are several criteria, that must be taken into consideration when we are talking about a low light hunting rifle scope. The first thing we must bring up is the lens diameter. The minimal diameter suitable in this category is in our opinion 54mm, which provides enough light transmission, so we can successfully hunt during the dusk/night hours. There is one simple rule how to get better light transmission, that is, simply get a bigger lens diameter. So why don’t we get ourselfs the biggest lens diameter there is? For one it is slightly bigger and maybe a bit clumsier, but when we are hunting in low light, we are usually stationary in the hunting stand so we don`t move so it doesn’t matter a lot. The maximum lens diameter we can get is the 60 mm. The second thing is the illumination, which is a must. There are different kind of switches, settings for the brightnesses, and other features which we took into consideration. One important thing there is when hunting in low light is also the crosshair. It can be different, from one optics producer to another.
The rifle scopes don’t have all the same tube diameters, some 34mm and, some 30mm, but it is important to mention this has absolutely no effect on the light transmission.
In our review, we also included a rifle scope with a fixed magnification, which is not so common in modern low light rifle scopes. It has his advantages and disadvantages. As the main advantage it is the light transmission, which is in this case very good, because of the low number of optical lenses in the actual rifle scope and so less light losses. The second one to mention is, that when you decide to aim at a certain target you just look through and you don’t have to adjust the magnification. The main disadvantage that is, if the game comes very close, the target is hard to find and is very big.
The development of optical lenses has been through the year remarkable, as the lens quality and the coatings were better and better. In the year 2012 there has been a major breakthrough in the development of the low light rifle scopes because the manufacturers SCHOTT and HOYA developed the HT – high transmission optical lenses which have many advantages in comparison to older optical lenses, like better light transmission, over 90%. And because the human eye can detect all changes in the light transmission, this is great for the low light conditions.
Because the wild game is starting to become more and more nocturnal, low light rifle scopes are currently on the peak of their development. The companies are competing, who will make a better, ergonomically rifle scope for this kind of hunting and some, we think succeeded.
Here under is the list of the top 10 we think are the best low light rifle scopes, from 1 being the best, all the way to 10.
1. Zeiss Victory V8 4.8-35×60
2. Schmidt & Bender 4-16×56 Polar T96
3. Zeiss Victory HT 3-12×56
4. Schmidt & Bender 3-12×54 Polar T96
5. Schmidt & Bender 8×56 illuminated
6. Zeiss Victory V8 2.8-20×56 T*
7. Swarovski Z8i 2.3-18×56
8. Leica Magnus 2.4-16x56i
9. Swarovski Z6i 2.5-15×56
10. Kahles Helia 2.4-12×56
|Field of view
[min/max on 100 m]
|Zeiss Victory V8 4.8-35x60
|1.2 m/8.6 m
|Schmidt & Bender 4-16x56 Polar T96
|2.3 m/9,4 m
|Zeiss Victory HT 3-12x56
|3.5 m/12.5 m
|Schmidt & Bender 3-12x54 Polar T96
|3.1 m/12.5 m
|Schmidt & Bender 8x56 T*
|Zeiss Victory V8 2.8-20x56 T*
|2.1 m/15.5 m
|Swarovski Z8i 2.3-18x56
|2.3 m/18.6 m
|Leica Magnus 2.4-16x56i
|2.6 m/16.0 m
|Swarovski Z6i 2.5-15x56
|2.7 m/16.5 m
|Kahles Helia 2.4-12x56
|3.3 m/16.5 m
On the first place of our review, we put the Zeiss Victory V8 4.8-35×60.This is a rifle scope from the Victory V8 series. It features a 60 mm lens, which is especially great for the low light conditions. It has a field of view with the minimum magnification of 8.6m and with the maximum 1.2m on a 100m. The lenses are made of HT – high transmission glass.
It is very comfortable to look through, because of the well designed eye box, which enables you to move the head from the optimal position and not lose the picture.
A great feature is also the whole illumination system. The illumination system is turned on with a click of the button on the top of the whole system, which is comfortable and quiet to use. The brightness of the red dot can be configured with turning the ergonomic round button to the desired level. Zeiss use for their red dot an optical fiber, so the red dot is crisp and sharp and not too bright in the darkness and is 3 mm big on 100 m. It has a built in motion sensor which turns off, when not active and so saves the battery energy.
It can be ordered with the Zeiss ZM / VM rail or without it, how anyone wants.
A great feature of the V8 is also the ballistic turret which automatically locks itself after being released. It is easy to be used because you have to simply just turn it into the desired position. It has a single turn turret, which means it can be turned only by 100 clicks, that is 0,5 m on 100 m, which can be maybe too little for long range shooting.
On the other side, it is a little bit heavy and bulky with the tube diameter of 36 mm and the weight of 970 g. The reticle can be 43 or 60, which means the first one is more for tactical shooting and the other for hunting purposes.
The price starts just under 3000€ but we think it is worth the money and recommend it to anyone.
In the second place, we put the Schmidt & Bender 4-16×56 Polar T96. As the name itself says it is a very bright rifle scope, because it has a 96% light transmission, so it is very appropriate for low light hunting.
It is precisely made because every single one is measured before leaving the factory, so they test is so the customer gets what they promise. If someone wants the reticle in the first focal plane it is no problem for this rifle scope, because it is one of not many to have this option.
The design of this rifle scope is truly magnificent because it is made all of metal and robust. It won the”red dot” award for the design.
The illumination has 11 levels of brightness but is used older illumination technology, with the big disadvantage the illumination button produces loud “clicks” when turned, which can affect in some hunting situations.
It features the Posicon ballistic turrets, which is great for someone who doesn’t like the classic turrets because here they are hidden.
The BDC ballistic turrets are the easiest way to dial a number of clicks for compensating the shooting on longer distances.
The magnification reaches from 4-16x which gives you the field of view from 9.3-2.3m on 100m
For the mounting, there are available S&B convex rail and the Zeiss ZM / VM rail, or the option with no rail with the 34 mm tube diameter.
The price is around 2100 €.
In the third place, we have the Zeiss Victory HT 3-12×56. Like the Victory V8, this one has also high transmission lenses, which gives you more than 95 % light transmission, so it is great for low light hunting.
The magnification ranges from 3-12x, which gives you the field of view from 13.3 m to 2.2 m on 100 m. It is smaller and slicker with the 30 mm tube diameter and weighs only 598 g.
The illumination is built differently as the Victory V8, but also with the optical fiber for the best possible red dot. On the side, it has a switch, which when turned increases illumination so that you set yourself the level you want. It is equipped with the motion sensor, so it switches off automatically when not used.
The crosshair is like on the V8 in the second focal plane and great for low light hunting because of its thickness.
It features a multi-turn turret, which is capped and protected from the elements.
In fourth place we put the Schmidt & Bender 3-12×54 Polar T96. It is a smaller brother of the Schmidt & Bender 4-16×56 Polar T96, the only difference is the magnification, which is 3-12x
and the lens diameter is 2mm smaller. So you get a field of view of 12.5 m and 3.1 m.
The light transmission is the same and the ballistic turret is the same.
Compared to the Schmidt & Bender 4-16×56 Polar T96 it is around 200€ cheaper.
On fifth place we have the Schmidt & Bender 8×56 illuminated. This one has a fixed magnification of 8x, which gives us the field of view of 5m on 100 m. The fixed magnification provides us great light transmission, but on the other hand this means we can’t choose different magnifications in case the wild game approaches closer. It is a point aim and shoot rifle scope, so you don’t miss out on an animal with making the magnification fit.
We can choose from multiple crosshairs in this model, also with a built-in illumination like on the other rifle scopes from this company.
On our sixth place, we have the Zeiss Victory V8 2.8-20×56 T*. This one is like the one on our first place again from the series Victory V8, but the main difference is the magnification which is in a different range, so the field of view is a little bit different, it is 15.5 m on the minimum magnification and 2.1 m on the maximum magnification on 100 m.
The lens diameter is also smaller, but yet still big enough to transmit light through the rifle scope to secure a safe shot at low light. It has over 92% light transmission, which is pretty decent for a 56 mm lens diameter scope.
Again what is great on this rifle scope is the illumination. In our opinion the most comfortable one to use for low light hunting, with the automatic turn on/off function to save the battery life.
Remarkable is also the eyebox, like on the bigger version, it allows you to move your head in the perfect position quite a bit.
The ballistic turret looks the same as on the bigger version except this one has a 1cm/100m adjustment on a click instead of 5mm, so this one is appropriate to an approximately 1km shooting.
The seventh place belongs to the Swarovski Z8i 2.3-18×56. It has a 2.3-18x magnification, which is quite a big range and gives us the field of view with the minimal magnification 18,6 m and maximum magnification 2.3 m on 100 m.
The 56 mm lens diameter gives us plenty of light transmission, that is 93%, so it performs great in low light hunting.
The illumination system is when seeing through crisp and sharp, with many levels of brightness to choose from, but the button to turn it on is a little bit clumsy and made from plastic, so therefore it gives you a feeling it is not so well made than others. Many times the low light hunting is performed during the cold nights, so handling with gloves could be a little tougher that on the other rifle scopes above. Swarovski has integrated the technology SwaroLight, which is very neat because it automatically turns the illumination off when the scope is tilted.
We can choose from different crosshairs, but all of them are a little bit slim for the low light hunting.
The ballistic turret is finely adjustable because one turn gives you 7 MRAD. It is equipped also with a side parallax adjustment for maybe shooting at longer distances.
It can be mounted with a Swarovski SR rail or without on the 30 mm tube diameter.
On the eight place, we put the Leica Magnus 2.4-16x56i. It is a 2.4-16x magnification rifle scope, which gives us the field of view of 17 m on the minimum magnification and 2.6 m on the maximum on 100 m.
It has a 56 mm lens diameter, which gives us the light transmission of 91%. It is a little bit lower, but gives enough light transmission, so we can hunt in low light.
The illumination is one of the strong features on this rifle scope. It is equipped with a round button, which is being turned on whether clockwise or counterclockwise, regarding if we want it to be on the night/day mode. The red dot level can be also adjusted, so it fits the users eye sensitivity.
The rifle scope can be ordered with multiple crosshairs (L-4A,L-Ballistic,L-Plex), so it can satisfy the users wishes. But on the other side, we can not get a bigger thicker crosshair, which would make low light hunting a little bit easier.
It is a Z6i series rifle scope from Swarovski featuring a 2.5-15x magnification range, which gives us the field of view at the minimum magnification 16.5m and on the maximum magnification 2.7 m at 100 m.
It also has a 56 mm lens diameter, which gives us the light transmission of 90%. That is 3% less than the Z8i.
The illumination system is similar to the Z8i, but the buttons for setting the brightness are on the side and not on top. They are a little bit small, so handling with gloves could be a problem, but if you set it once it stays like that, so it is not needed to set it every time. It features also a motion sensor so it turns off when tilted and so saving the battery energy.
The ballistic turret is again well made and very precise. It can be locked with turning the bottom ring.
Again the crosshairs are a little bit thin for hunting in low light.
It can also be mounted with a Swarovski SR rail or without on the 30 mm tube diameter.
In the last place, we put the Kahles Helia 2.4-12×56. It features a magnification from 2.4-12x, which provides us the field of view at minimum magnification of 16.5 m and maximum magnification of 3.3 m at a 100 m.
At dusk, it is still bright despite we put it in the last place of our list, so it can compete with the best easily.
The illumination system is also good, providing us a crisp and sharp red dot. The button to turn the illumination on is on the side of the scope, so it is comfortable to use.
On the plus side there is also the price which is around 1700€, which is for a scope with this quality not too high.
The list we made consist of very good premium rifle scopes for low light hunting. It is constructed on the objective opinion and tested on the field. The differences from one rifle scope to another are small and can be barely noticed. Buying any of these rifle scopes will give you the perfect match for hunting in low light conditions.
We want to thank the Optics-Trade online shop for providing and enabling us to test these 10 great rifle scopes. Whatsoever, this review is not sponsored and it’s completely unbiased. This comparison was made simply because of our own interest in the optics and provides an objective opinion of tested rifle scopes.