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Mar 25, 2024 | 04:16 pm 1627 0

Understanding Base Magnification in Thermal Scopes: A Comprehensive Guide for Night Hunters

Understanding Base Magnification in Thermal Scopes: A Comprehensive Guide for Night Hunters

Night hunting is an addicting hobby that is becoming more popular across the United States. Hunters pursue animals like coyotes and hogs under the darkness of night. These animals are typically more active after sunset, making them ideal targets for night hunts. However,  there is the obvious challenge of hunting at night, poor visibility can make it difficult to spot and accurately identify wildlife.

This is where thermal scopes become a game-changer for night hunters. Unlike regular scopes or night vision gear, thermal optics can detect heat. Every living creature emits heat to some degree, and these scopes can collect those heat waves and translate them into visible images. This technology allows hunters to see animals clearly in pitch-black conditions, dense brush, or even in foggy or rainy weather, where normal scopes might not work.

Moreover, modern thermal scopes have added features such as adjustable magnification, digital zoom, and even video recording capabilities. These features further enhance the hunting experience, offering versatility and effectiveness that traditional scopes can't match in a night hunting application.

Now that we understand the critical role thermal scopes play in the realm of night hunting, we’re going to take a deeper look into one key feature that significantly impacts its effectiveness: base magnification

This aspect of thermal scopes dictates how large the target appears in the viewer and is a pivotal factor in choosing the right scope for your hunting needs. In the following sections, we'll explore what base magnification really means, how it influences your hunting experience, and how to choose the best base magnification for specific hunting scenarios, such as coyote and hog hunting.


Definition and Basic Concept of Base Magnification

Base magnification in thermal scopes is a term that refers to the scope's ability to enlarge the image of a target as seen through the lens. Essentially, it's how much bigger the scope makes something look compared to seeing it with your own eyes. For example, at the same distance; a scope with a 2x base magnification will make an animal appear twice as large as it would to the naked eye.

In the image below you can see a comparison of one image with a 35mm lens with a 2x base mag next to a thermal scope with a 60mm lens with a 3x base magnification. Both images were taken 50 yards away. Notice the difference in image detail and field of view.

This magnification is inherent to the scope's design and is determined by the combination of the scope's lenses and its internal electronics. Unlike digital zoom, which can be adjusted to zoom in further on an image, base magnification is fixed. It sets the starting point for any additional zooming capabilities the scope might have.

Importance of the Base Magnification in Your Thermal Scope, Handheld, or Clip-on

In night hunting, base magnification is crucial for several reasons:

  • Target Identification: Higher magnification can help in more clearly identifying distant targets. This is particularly important in night hunting, where distinguishing between different animals or ensuring the target is in a safe and legal area to shoot can be challenging.


  • Field of View: Base magnification affects the field of view - the area visible through the scope at any one time. Lower magnification typically offers a wider field of view, allowing hunters to scan a larger area and spot moving targets more easily. On the other hand, higher magnification narrows this field, focusing more on detail but less on the surrounding area.


  • Image Quality: In thermal imaging, Zooming in after your starting base magnification is known as your Digital Zoom.

As magnification increases, the clarity of the image can decrease. This is due to the spreading of the thermal sensor's pixels over a larger area. Therefore, finding the right balance between magnification and image clarity is key.

  • PIP Feature: Most AGM Thermal Scopes have what is known as PIP Mode (Picture in Picture Mode). This is a very popular enhancement in thermal technology allowing you to stay at your base magnification while having a small section of your screen show a zoomed-in picture making it so you can be much more precise while still having a wider field of view. An example of this is shown below.
    With AGM Optics, PIP Mode can be toggled on and off by long pressing the digital zoom button.
    (Example of using PIP)


  • Practicality and Price: For night hunters, who might be scanning for targets for extended periods, a scope’s magnification must also consider practical aspects like weight, size, and ease of use. High magnification scopes can be larger and heavier, potentially impacting the hunter's mobility and comfort. Optics with a larger lens size are also usually a higher price point than optics with a smaller lens size.

These next sections will explore the best way to select the best base magnification for different hunting scenarios, ensuring you have the right tool for your specific needs.


Which lens size should I choose for my thermal scope?

Base Magnification and Field of View

The relationship between base magnification and field of view (FOV) is one of the most crucial aspects to understand in thermal imaging and night-hunting optics. Here's how they are interconnected:

  • Inverse Relationship: Base magnification and field of view have an inverse relationship. As the base magnification increases, the field of view decreases. This means that when you zoom in more (higher magnification), you see a smaller area through your scope. Conversely, a lower magnification provides a broader view of the surroundings.

Hunting Applications

For hunters, this information is vital. A wide field of view is beneficial for scanning large areas and tracking moving targets, while higher magnification is better for identifying and shooting at distant targets. Choosing the right balance based on your hunting needs is going to be one of the most important things. 

(Hunting Lifestyle photo, or maybe a through-device photo of a single coyote at a distance next to a through-device photo of a group of hogs in the trees.)

Lens Size and Its Impact

The size of the lens in a thermal scope also plays a significant role in determining both the base magnification and the field of view:

  • Focal Length: The size of the lens, often referred to in terms of its focal length, directly affects the magnification. A longer focal length (larger lens) typically results in higher base magnification, allowing for a more detailed view of distant objects.
  • Field of View Correlation: Larger lenses (with longer focal lengths) not only provide greater magnification but also typically reduce the field of view. This is because they 'zoom in' more on a target, narrowing the range of vision. Conversely, smaller lenses offer a wider field of view but with less magnification.
  • Picking a Lense Size: All AGM Thermal Scopes, Handhelds, and Thermal Scopes will have the Lense Size in the name of the product. For example: The Rattler TS35-384 - The “TS” stands for Thermal Scope, the “35” indicates that it has a 35mm lens, and the ”384” indicates the resolution.


Considerations for Hunters

Hunters must consider the terrain and typical engagement distances when choosing lens size. For instance, a smaller lens with a wider field of view might be more advantageous in dense forests or for close-range hunting. 

In open terrains for long-range targeting, a larger lens with higher magnification might be preferable.

Ultimately it comes down to the specific things you need for your own setup and terrain. We’ve got an awesome network of authorized AGM thermal dealers across the world. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a dealer in your area to get some hands-on experience with the different available models so you can pick out the best option!


In this guide, we’ve explored the vital role of base magnification in thermal scopes for night hunting. We've seen how it influences field of view, image clarity, and overall hunting success. Key takeaways include:


  • Choosing the Right Magnification: It is crucial to select the appropriate base magnification for your hunting scenario, whether for coyotes, hogs, both, or whatever else you’re hunting.
  • Balancing Field of View: Understand the inverse relationship between magnification and field of view to make informed decisions in the field.
  • Utilizing Advanced Features: Leverage digital zoom to enhance your targeting capabilities, but use them wisely to maintain image quality.

We encourage you to apply this knowledge to enhance your night-hunting experiences. Remember, the right thermal scope with the ideal base magnification and quality can really make a HUGE difference.

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