Infrared (IR) Illuminators look a little like flashlights, and they are flashlights, sort of. But your IR Illuminator won’t provide light for changing a tire. These flashlights emit light that is invisible to our eyes.
So, what is the point of an IR Illuminator? You probably already know this, but we use IR Illuminators to emit light for Night Vision technology. A night vision scope can “see” the IR spectrum, which means it can illuminate an area that can be viewed through the Night Vision scope.
This tech is huge for hog hunting and other nighttime applications. The shooter can “see” the hogs without the hogs knowing.
So what is the best IR Illuminator to pair with your newly purchased Night Vision optic? That’s what this post is about. We’ve reviewed the top 6 models for 2021. Make sure to read till the end to find out which Illuminator wins the day.
- Top 6 Best IR Illuminator For The Money Of 2021 Reviews
- Best IR Illuminator Buyers Guide
Top 6 Best IR Illuminator For The Money Of 2021 Reviews
|Shot Timers||Rating||Standout Feature|
Streamlight 88704 Super TAC
|(4.6 / 5)|
150 Lumens, Long range
Evolva Future Technology T20
|(4.9 / 5)|
ATN IR850 Pro Long Range
|(5 / 5)|
Evolva Future Technology T67
|(4.9 / 5)|
50,000hr Lifetime (est)
|(4.7 / 5)|
White, IR, Red and Blue lights
Nitecore Chameleon CI6
|(4.8 / 5)|
1 Streamlight 88704 Super TAC
First up on our review agenda is the Streamlight 88704 Super TAC. This fantastic illuminator allows Night Vision efficiency out to about 250 yards. That’ll make it possible for a nighttime hunter to really reach out and touch a few hogs.
The 7/8” tube can easily be mounted either directly onto a night vision optic, or on a rail with the Streamlight 69100 mounting hardware (sold separately).
This IR Illuminator is shockproof and built to last, with an estimated 20,000 hours lifespan. It’s made from machined aircraft aluminum, with a very attractive anodized finish.
Battery life is more than acceptable on this unit, with more than 3.5 hours of continual use at the 5% setting.
One thing to keep in mind is that at close distances this light is almost too bright. You might get a washout at even 10%. But while that is bad news for up close work, it is really good news for the long ranger in you. It is a spotlight for night vision. Very powerful.
2 Evolva Future Technology T20
Next up is the Evolva Future Technology T20. Evolva makes two of the products in our review lineup. This one is the smaller of the two, with a 38mm lens.
We love what is included with this light. You get a mount, a rechargeable battery and recharger, a pressure switch, and even a wrist strap. This is your one stop shop, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Unlike many models we are reviewing, the T20 has a zoomable lens. That’s nice if you do both up-close work (say, nighttime pest control with an air gun) and long-range work (e.g., hog hunting with a high-powered rifle).
Construction is excellent. It appears to be machined from aircraft aluminum, with a one-inch housing (though the lens and end cap are wider than one inch.
The T20 has three power settings: low, mid and high. It also remembers the last setting before being shut off, and cranks back on in that setting. That’s a nice feature.
While a C123A battery will physically fit into this unit, it won’t adequately power the illuminator, and may damage the unit. A 2600mAh 18650 battery is supplied and required for optimal performance. The included battery has circuitry to protect against overcharge, and to regulate consistent output.
You won’t, of course, see the IR light that is emitted from this with the naked eye. However, there is a slight red glow on the Osram LED. That lets you know the unit is on. That’s helpful to prevent the unit from being accidentally left on, killing the battery.
3 ATN IR850 Pro Long Range
From legendary night vision and smart optic manufacturer ATN, comes the ATN IR850 Pro Long Range. This will work with any night vision optic requiring IR illumination. But ATN designed it, obviously, to be paired with its popular line of night vision scopes (like the X-Sight 4K Pro).
The build of the unit is top rate. Holding it in the hand gives one the impression that this unit can take some abuse and keep kicking. The housing is all aircraft aluminum. And the lens is made of real glass!
This one comes with ATN’s adjustable mount, which is a welcomed feature. The IR850 can be adjusted for both windage and elevation! It works best when mounted very close, so we would suggest avoid mounting it on a bottom hand guard rail.
ATN has made this a package deal, with the mount, battery, charger, etc. The only thing not included is the night vision optic. It would have been nice if they threw that in too.
The IR850 has an adjustable beam. That isn’t quite a zoom, but it does allow for closer and longer range use. The adjustment is a ring on the main housing itself, and easy to adjust.
Like some other units that we are reviewing, the IR850 has three power output modes: low, medium, and high. That’s great because battery life is directly related to output mode. At high power, you will get only 1.6 hours of continuous use. But at low power, expect up to 20 hours!
4 Evolva Future Technology T67
The second entry from Evolva that we are reviewing here is the Evolva Future Technology T67. Like the T20, the T67 is made from aircraft aluminum. It’s 30mm housing means you can use any 30mm ring to mount. Mounts and rings are sold separately.
It boasts a very long range – enabling a night vision-equipped rifle the ability to target hogs and predators at extended distances.
Like some other IR Illuminators, the T67 emits light well outside of our visual range. The only way to tell that it is on with the bare eye, is a slight red glow on the Osram LED.
The T67 has a 67mm aspherical objective with a zoom ring. That means this very bright IR illuminator can be used at both close distances and further out.
It is shockproof and water resistance. So this will handle the stoutest rifle recoil and can be used in all weather conditions.
The T67 can be powered by either 2 18650 batteries or 2 26650 batteries. Evolva recommends purchasing high-quality, genuine core batteries.
There are three power modes: high, medium, and low, and the unit remembers the last mode used. Obviously, using the lowest mode will give you the greatest battery efficiency, and the highest mode will give you the least.
The lens housing is a little bulky and this could affect mounting. Using High rings should work fine, though. But it still has a large feel to it, especially the front end.
This is an excellent choice for those on a budget, though, as it offers many features of more expensive lights at a somewhat lower cost. So it is an excellent value.
5 Streamlight 14000 Sidewinder Flashlight
One of the more unique designs we are reviewing is that of the Streamlight 14000 Sidewinder Flashlight. This is not only an IR Illuminator, but also has a 55-lumen white light, and a red and blue LED. The IR Illuminator is also an ½ watt LED.
This can be mounted on your rifle, but not with conventional mounting solutions. It comes with a screw in belt clip, and the same size screw can be used for a proprietary mounting solution. It is shockproof, so once you get it attached to your rifle or optic, you’ll be good to go.
It can also be mounted to a helmet or tactical vest, or to your belt. For up close work that might work better than attaching this to the weapon or optic itself.
This is mil-spec for water resistance (i.e., IPX7 rating, 1 meter for 30 minutes). And impact rated for up to a 3 meter fall. It is built tough, and will stand up to all the abuse you can give it.
The range is very limited in all modes. If you’re using this for indoor tactical applications such as as room clearing, you’ll be fine. But I wouldn’t buy this for hog hunting or any other distance application.
The white, blue and red lights are nice options. So when your night vision runs out of batteries, you can switch this to white light and still be in the game.
The head tilts 185 degrees. That is an excellent feature, considering the mounting limitations, as I mentioned above. It also has an unbreakable, polycarbonate lens. And it is gasket sealed to keep out dust an moisture (as mentioned, it is also water resistant).
It runs on standard CR123A lithium batteries. That means two things. First, it requires less power than many other IR Illuminators. And second, it is less powerful. But CR123A are considerably cheaper than other battery types.
Consider this one carefully. For specific needs, it might be perfect. But for the general nighttime hunter, a flashlight form-factor with a more suitable range might work better.
6 Nitecore Chameleon CI6
Last up is the very versatile Nitecore Chameleon CI6. This isn’t just an IR Illuminator. It is also a 440 lumen white light flashlight. It also has red, green and blue functions.
Like other flashlight-form IR Illuminators, the CI6 can be mounted directly to your optic or rifle. You’ll need to purchase a mounting ring (30mm).
It’s made from aircraft-grade aluminum, and finished with HAII mil-spec hard-anodized finish. It has a high quality feel, and with an impact rating of 1.5 meters, it will take plenty of abuse and keep performing.
This one has the best water resistance rating of all the IR-Illuminators that we tested (IPX-8 or 2 meters for 30 minutes. So it is an all weather light.
On the lowest setting, you should expect to get 400 hours of continuous run time, and less than 3 hrs on the highest.
It’s white light is very bright at 440 lumens. That means you can see your target at up to 200 yards using the highest white-light setting. Using the highest IR will increase that range to 250 yards, making this one of the longest-range units we tested.
The lens is hardened mineral glass. It is scratch and shatter resistant and gasket sealed to protect the LED’s and emitters.
You will need to spend time with this unit to learn the different buttons, modes and options. Use this right out of the box and you are likely to shine your prey and max your night vision optic out. But a little practice and this won’t be an issue.
If you’re looking for a multi-function light, with IR capabilities, the CI6 is your ticket. It doesn’t get any more “multi” than this. We also liked the durability, water resistance and build quality. You can’t go wrong with this light.
Best IR Illuminator Buyers Guide
So which IR Illuminator is right for you? That depends mostly on your preferences. Do you want an IR-only unit, or one with more options and modes such as white, blue or red lights? Do you want a small form-factor or do you like beefy lights that match your beefy night vision scope? Make those preference decisions, and it will narrow down a choice that is right for you.
Best Dedicated IR-Illuminators
For the one-trick pony lover in you, we think the best choices are either of these:
- Streamlight 88704 Super TAC
- ATN IR850 Pro Long Range
Both of these units offer simplicity of use and extreme long range use.
Best Multi-function Options
If you’re in the market for an IR-Illuminator that has other options, we suggest either one of these models:
- Streamlight 14000 Sidewinder Flashlight
- Nitecore Chameleon CI6
Best Small Model
If size is an issue for you, then consider either of these smaller form-factor lights:
- Evolva Future Technology T20
- Nitecore Chameleon CI6
The difference in price between these models is negligible, so you really are left to choose based on features. Use the above categories to narrow down your decision.
So which one did we like the best? It is difficult to beat the combination of features in the Nitecore Chameleon CI6. It will function excellent as an IR Illuminator and also work as a blood trailing light (blue LED), a low-profile tactical light (red LED), a signal light (green LED) or a tactical flashlight with 440 lumens. So this is an excellent all-around option.
All generations of night vision tech requires some light, either low level ambient light for passive illumination or active illumination through an illuminator. Once you have your rifle equipped with the right night vision optic, it’s time to buy and IR Illuminator.
This guide should help shed some light on the buying process.