To get the most out of your night vision devices, an IR illuminator is the ideal solution. This accessory will help to brighten an image that would otherwise lack detail and definition during dark shooting exercises.
IR illuminators work through the emission of light in the IR (infrared) spectrum. But how do you define the best IR illuminator?
We are about to help you find out through:
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- An explanation of why you will benefit from having one.
- What features you should take into consideration before purchase.
- Reviewing 6 of the very best IR illuminators that are worthy of consideration.
Why do you need an IR illuminator?
If you already have a night vision device, then a good quality infrared illuminator will improve clarity.
While it may seem strange, the majority of night vision devices actually need some form of light to work effectively.
Granted, this can be minimal light, for example, natural light from the stars or the moon.
You can also apply artificial light such as a flashlight. The problem with this is that you really are giving the game away.
You are compromising your position, revealing any cover used and greatly increasing the chances of alerting prey to your presence!
Another important consideration comes into play when you are in absolute, pitch darkness. In such conditions, the use of your night vision optical device is rendered practically worthless.
Don’t most night vision devices offer IR?
Good question! Yes, they do. Most night vision devices have built-in infrared lights to help overcome poor light conditions. The problem is that they don’t generally offer long-range sighting and the built-in LED is often of low quality.
How to solve the problem?
You can overcome this light issue by using one of the best IR illuminators for night vision. Infrared light is invisible to the human eye but provides excellent visibility for your quality night vision devices.
This is where you benefit from using one of the highest quality IR illuminators available. They provide a far more intense IR light for much clearer night vision images and can also extend your range.
Top 6 Best IR Illuminators Reviews
We will look at some major pre-purchase considerations shortly, but first, let’s review six illuminators that are worthy of mention…
Streamlight 88704 Super TAC IR Long Range Infrared Active Illuminator - Best Handheld IR Illuminator
We start with a real heavy-hitter in terms of range and effectiveness. This best handheld IR illuminator is certainly worthy of attention. And it comes with a high power LED which emits IR Light of 850nm
What does this mean?
850nm (nanometers) is the standard, non-military device wavelength measurement. It means that IR light emitted is just about invisible to the human eye. When looking directly down this beam, the only light you should sense is a faint glow.
Hence the reason this wavelength is very good when used in conjunction with the night vision device of your choice.
The Super Tac is powered using two (included) rechargeable batteries. These are common, lithium CR123A batteries and offer excellent range visibility of up to 346 meters. In terms of the IR illuminator flashlight devices reviewed, this gives the longest range.
Two fully charged batteries also give you a more than reasonable 3.5 hours of continuous runtime. Another plus is the fact that it weighs in at just over 7 ounces (200 grams).
Come rain, come shine…
This illuminator has an IPX7 rating. This means that the unit can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for a maximum of half an hour. So any accidental submersion to this depth/time limit will still see it functioning. More realistically, this waterproof rating means you can use it during wet weather without any concerns.
A final plus is the limited lifetime warranty which means repair, replacement or refund is yours for any defective purchase.
- Long-range capability – up to 346 meters.
- Good battery life – up to 3.5 hours of continuous runtime.
- No beam settings.
- Not shockproof.
Evolva Future Technology T20 IR 38mm Lens Infrared Light Night Vision Flashlight Torch
The T20 flashlight torch is not a regular, white LED flashlight. This is because it utilizes the Osram Oslon infrared black light 850nm LED emitter. This invisible IR light gives over 1 watt of optical power.
Due to the technology employed users will not see any light with their bare eyes. The only thing that is visable is a small, faint red glow. This will be on the LED indicating the unit is ‘on.’ The IR technology used for this illuminator is some of the smallest as well as most advanced currently available. And it gives high efficiency and low thermal resistance.
Focus on in…
The range is around 150 meters with a focused beam. The 38mm aspherical lens has a focus function. This gives the ability to either focus using a tight spotlight format or by giving a flood effect.
It utilizes a 3-mode system: Low, Mid, High and comes with a memory function in that it remembers the last setting used. Therefore, when turned off and then back on again, it will operate at the last setting.
The power of this illuminator differs from the rest…
The T20 uses only one 18650 rechargeable Lithium-ion battery. When fully charged, it offers up to a huge 12 hours of semi-use. To achieve these long usage periods, it is vital that you use a good quality brand of battery. By doing so, you will achieve a total lifespan of up to 50,000 hours of use per battery.
Made from Aircraft standard aluminum alloy, it is solidly built. You also get a 1-inch housing diameter that will fit any ring and mount of the same size.
- Modern IR technology used.
- A quality battery allows long-term use.
- Limited range compared to other illuminators.
ATN IR850 Pro Long Range 850 mW Infrared Illuminator for Hunting - Best IR illuminator for ATN Night Vision Devices
ATN are very highly rated in the world of optic production. And their IR850 Pro model must be classed as the best IR illuminator for ATN night vision devices. Those with such devices will find this illuminator has been made to match. Having said that, it will certainly not disappoint anyone using quality made night vision devices from other manufacturers.
This extremely well-designed illuminator was specially designed as the perfect accompaniment to ATN’s Night Vision range. And it can be attached to either an ATN Smart Scope or a standard weaver rail.
The company’s impressive knowledge of night vision optics has been vital in the production of this IR illuminator. The effective range is 300 meters, and the adjustable beam allows for three brightness levels. These cross general and tactical modes allow the LED to adjust to current conditions.
Powered by 1 x rechargeable 18650R Lithium-ion rechargeable battery, the LED outputs affect battery life as follows:
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- Low: Takes 5% of power output – Gives 20 hours of battery life.
- Medium: Takes 30% of power output – Gives 8 hours of battery life.
- High: Takes 100% of power output – Gives 1.6 hours of battery life.
It is also possible to purchase a 20,000 mAh battery that boosts usage times considerably.
Made from high-grade aluminum, this illuminator is waterproof (to standard IPX8) but is not shockproof.
If you are one of the many already using an ATN scope, then one thing is for sure. The IR850 is probably the best IR illuminator for night vision that you could choose.
- Perfect fit for those with ATN scopes.
- Effective long-range, adjustable beam.
- Not shockproof.
- Taking the optional battery adds to the cost.
A8S Beam Adjustable 850nm Infrared IR Flashlight Light (It is not a Regular Light,Must Used with Night Vision Devices)
As the title states, this best adjustable IR illuminator is a flashlight that must be used with night vision devices.
Made by LUMENSHOOTER this hunting light also utilizes the Osram Oslon IR black LED emitter. It offers standard 850nm at a 5-watt output.
Its long-range illumination capabilities allow a focused beam range of around 180 yards. The convex glass lens is adjustable from spot beam to wide focus, although it only has one setting.
The single battery used is again a 18650 lithium-ion rechargeable and this along with a charger are included. You will also receive a universal scope mount for weapon attachment and small carry case for ease of transportation.
Made from aviation-grade aluminum, it is anodized to protect against wear and tear. Waterproofing is up to standard IPX6 meaning you can use during rainy night shooting sessions.
- Lower price bracket.
- Only one brightness setting.
A8Plus Long Range Cree Green Red White Infrared 850nm IR Hunting Kit
Our second offering from LUMENSHOOTER and the A8Plus model certainly gives added features.
While the Osram IR LED light source is the same (850nm), you have a choice of four different color beams: Red, Green, White, and Infrared. The illuminator also includes a universal scope mount and remote switch.
Up to an impressive 450 yards…
The mode you choose will dictate the illumination distance. This is between 250 and an impressive 450 yards. This illuminator also has a powerful Cree XPE2 LED with an adjustable beam from spot to wide flood.
Solid construction of aviation-grade aluminum is once again yours. Another plus, although only one 2600mAh rechargeable 18650 battery is required, you do get two with your purchase. There are also two battery chargers included, one for home use, and one for your vehicle.
- Choice of four color beams.
- Impressive maximum illumination distance.
- May need to look for a better scope clamp/mount.
Odepro KL52Plus Zoomable Hunting Flashlight
The Odepro KL52Plus is up there with the best quality IR illuminators. It also comes in a gift box packaging. Ideal for those who are looking for birthday or Christmas present ideas!
Its capabilities can certainly improve existing night vision devices. This is because it features innovative focus and zoom mechanisms and comes with four LED modules. These can quickly and easily be interchanged and come in Green, Red, White and the IR850nm IR light.
How far? Wow!
When used as a spotlight in high mode, the beam can reach a very impressive 1,350 foot. For zooming in as a floodlight, you get wide, clear views to help identify targets.
There is a ‘Smart Remote Switch.’ This is a silent ‘intelligent’ pressure switch that will leave your hands free to concentrate on weapon use. Simply press and hold this button to switch the light on. Release the button to switch off.
Made from premium grade III military T6-aluminum the illuminator also has a hard-anodized finish. It is weather and shock resistance and waterproof up to IP68 standard. Meaning it can withstand water submergence of up to 1.5 meters for a maximum of half an hour.
In terms of mounting it has a K185 aluminum mount made for Picatinny rails. There is also a POM flashlight for a scope.
What’s in the box?
Included in the gift pack are two 3000mAh rechargeable 18650 batteries and charger which all come packed in a durable toolbox. Making this undoubtedly a top-quality IR illuminator.
- Very impressive 1,350-foot beam.
- Four LED modules – Green, Red, White and the IR850nm IR light.
- Smart Remote Switch.
- The beam appears a little more square than a perfect round circle, but that really isn’t much of a problem.
Best IR Illuminator Buyer’s Guide
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Pairing any of these IR illuminators with your night vision device makes very good sense.
But which is best for you?
This obviously depends on a number of factors specific to your use. These include such things as:
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- The amount of night shooting activities you participate in.
- What quality of night scope you have. The higher quality of night scope, the higher category of IR illuminators you will want to consider.
- Whether you feel the need for scope mounting to be a must.
Taking just these three factors into account. Here are considerations that will help you make your decision in choosing the best IR illuminator for night vision use.
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We will start with one of the most important considerations. The range these illuminators extend to describes the maximum distances you can expect to reach with your night vision device.
In many cases, the further, the better, but anything that can give you a couple of hundred meters should suffice.
- Battery life
Another very important consideration. You do not want to get caught out with a dead battery. Look at the ‘usage times’ quoted and where possible, always have a fully-charged spare with you. As you will note from our reviews of the best IR illuminators, some come delivered with a spare battery.
In addition to this, some models also take a battery pack that will seriously extend usage. Extended use can be an obvious benefit, but do bear in mind that these packs need to be purchased separately.
Figure out if your night sorties are regular and extended. If so, they are a worthwhile consideration.
Consider whether a standard IR LED will meet your needs. In many cases, it will, but some shooters will benefit from having interchangeable LED’s. These certainly give more flexibility in the choice of viewing ‘colors’ but in general, will also cost more.
We all know (or those who don’t will soon find out!) that night hunting presents hidden hazards. It is easy to snag or bump your rifle and equipment during night forays. This means you should be looking for an IR illuminator offering durability.
Your illuminator should feature resilient material. A good example here is aircraft-grade aluminum, as used in the consruction of the illuminators in this review. You should also consider how shockproof as well as waterproof the illuminator is.
So what’s the Best IR Illuminator?
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From our 6 best IR illuminators we have to say that the…
…is a super, solid, reliable choice. ATN has an established name in the optic world, and this illuminator shows exactly why. With 300 meters of effective range in complete darkness, your chances of target acquisition are certainly enhanced.
It also offers flexible fitting options in terms of an adjustable mount and is designed to fit any standard weaver rail.
Indeed, for those who already own an ATN smart scope, this illuminator is a made-to-measure accompaniment and should be seen as a slam dunk choice — highly recommended!