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Best Target to Sight-In a Thermal Scope 2023: Reviews & Buying Guide

Shopping for a target to sight in a thermal scope? You have come to the right place.

Every shooting enthusiast has a go-to target. If you don’t have one yet, rest assured that it is only a matter of time until you do. The target of a thermal scope reflects the shooter’s personality and interests. 

Regardless of what you prefer using when you are sighting in your optic, one thing all hunters and shooters can agree upon is this: it’s always good to have a target-rich environment at the range. You can do this by packing a variety of targets and setting them up at different distances.

The better you utilize your targets, the better equipped you will be to sight in your thermal scope. The right target will not only help you set up your scope, but it will also make you a better shooter overall. 

Read on ahead to find all the information you need to get the best target for sighting in your thermal scope, meet your optic needs, and achieve your shooting goals.

What's In This Buying Guide

This quick yet comprehensive buying guide shares detailed reviews of the best targets you can use to sight in your thermal scope.

You will then find an exhaustive discussion of the different types and features of targets used for sighting in thermal optics, and the reasons for using one in the first place.

To help you find the right tool for your needs, we close the article by declaring our pick of the best target to sight in a thermal scope.

Best Targets to Sight in a Thermal Scope

  1. 1
    Best Overall: Internal Energy Thermal Targets
  2. 2
    Best Budget Buy: Internal Energy Thermal Zeroing Targets
  3. 3
    Best for Hi-Powered Center Fire: Shoot-N-Glow Portable Sight-In
  4. 4
    Best Passive Target: Cardboard Thermal Zeroing Target
  5. 5
    Best for Beginners: Thermbright Coyote Target
  6. 6
    Best Lightweight Target: ATN Thermal Targets

rifle sight in target
  • Internal Energy Thermal Targets

  • Best Overall

  • Powered

  • Number of Units

  • Material

  • Type
    Zeroing Target

rifle sight in target
  • Internal Energy Thermal Zeroing Targets

  • Best Budget Buy

  • Powered

  • Number of Units

  • Material

  • Type
    Peel and Stick Target

best paper targets
  • Shoot-N-Glow Portable Sight-In

  • Best for Hi-Powered Center Fire

  • Powered

  • Number of Units

  • Material

  • Type
    Reactive Target

best paper targets
  • Cardboard Thermal Zeroing Target

  • Best Passive Target

  • Powered

  • Number of Units

  • Material

  • Type
    Zeroing Target

best rifle targets
  • Thermbright Coyote Target

  • Best for Beginners

  • Powered

  • Number of Units

  • Material

  • Type
    Silhouette Target

best rifle targets
  • ATN Thermal Targets

  • Best Lightweight Target

  • Powered

  • Number of Units

  • Material

  • Type
    Zeroing Target

rifle sighting target

This is the most commonly used thermal sighting-in target of all time. Most shooters have shot at such a layout and are familiar with it.

This familiarity makes it a great option if you have a shotgun you need to dial in at night. And, if you are new to the game, this target is still dynamite.


  • Easy to use.
  • Works for long ranges.
  • It does not need to be tilted towards the sky.
  • It can be combined to create custom shapes.
  • No power or activation is required.


  • The cardboard is not waterproof.

Our Review

Excellent for beginners and professionals alike, the Internal Energy Thermal Targets are a godsend. The manufacturer has new materials with old methods to produce a tight aim point on this zeroing target. 

It is as precise as it gets, yet very affordable and easy to use. A thermal film covers the heat pad for maximum heat retention and stability.

Even though it is made out of cardboard, the target is not flimsy at all. The construction has a sturdy backing to make sure that the target opens up straight and firm and holds its position through the full session. 

Despite this thick backing, the product remains lightweight. You can put as many as you want in your rucksack without worrying about adding too much weight to it.

The sheet also folds up within seconds, so it is very convenient to use, handle, and store. This quick setup makes the product stand out against competitor targets that take forever to arrange.

One pack includes five targets, so you definitely get value for money. One session typically involves the use of one target only. However, you can also get creative and combine multiple targets to come up with a customized shape of your own. 

Like any good shooter would know, it is healthy to diversify the shooting range and create a target-rich environment. This pack lets you do just that.

Issues and Limitations

Even though this target is particularly designed for outdoor use, it is not the right choice for rainy weather.

We wish this otherwise perfect thermal target also came with a water-proof film over the surface, so no form of inclement weather or rain could interrupt a sighting in session with our thermal scopes.

rifle sighting targets

This pack of thermal targets is a total game-changer. Setting the targets up barely takes any time, and using them is as simple as it gets.


  • Easy to set up: just stick or staple.
  • Need no power source.
  • Very lightweight and portable.
  • Visible from medium-long ranges.
  • You can use it to thermalize any non-thermal target.
  • Need not be tilted backward to work.


  • Only works outdoors and will not show up indoors.

Our Review

These targets come as 4x4-inch squares in a pack of 30. All you need to do is stick them onto an existing surface, more commonly referred to as a target backer.

Putting these targets over any surface will instantly thermalize the surface and turn it into a thermal target. 

If you have an expensive steel target that you want to make the most use of, just take one of these square targets and put it over the steel one. And, there you have yourself a thermal target!

However, we noticed that the reflective quality of the squares is diminished if the backing is peeled off. This is why we suggest leaving the peel-off back on and stapling the target to a target backer instead of sticking it. This will give you optimum clarity and visibility.

What makes these little squares so great is that you can use them at any time of the day in any light conditions. They are also visible over medium-long ranges, like 75-90 yards.

Issues and Limitations

This set of highly effective targets has one critical limitation: they are effective only under the sky. 

If you frequent indoor shooting ranges, or want to be able to sight in your thermal scope in an indoors setting, make sure you have other targets in your rucksack. These squares do not show up at all indoors and can only be used outdoors.

3. Best for Hi-Powered Center Fire: Shoot-N-Glow Portable Sight-In

targets for zeroing rifles

Tired of running down the range to see your impacts every time you shoot? This unique target will glow up wherever you hit it.


  • Quick to set up.
  • Great for high-velocity shots.
  • Effective in any lighting condition.
  • Latest technology.
  • Works over long distances


  • Not suitable for low-velocity scopes.

Our Review

Sight in your thermal scope with this portable thermal target that glows every time you shoot at it. This is only to be used at night, as the glow function cannot show up properly during the day.

Since this exceptionally strong target is designed to withstand high-powered centerfires, it makes an excellent pick for those who own a powerful optic like the Reap IR, Flir, Pulsar, N-Vision, or Trijicon.

The particular variant we have added to our list is a simple rectangle. However, if you are in the mood to experiment with more shapes, the same model is available in different designs like an E-type human target, a hog, and a coyote.

Issues and Limitations

This Shoot-N-Glow thermal target is best used for high-powered fires. If you produce low-velocity shots, are a beginner, or shoot from short ranges, this may not be the right target for you. This is because low-velocity fires can bounce off the target and be a serious safety hazard.

4. Best Passive Target: Cardboard Thermal Zeroing Target

scope zeroing targets

The Law Enforcement Targets' cardboard zeroing target is a great multipurpose sighting target.


  • You can use it with different types of rifles.
  • Suitable for use at both day and night times.
  • Works over a wide range of temperatures.


  • It will not last for too long.

Our Review

This is a well-constructed target that has proven effective for most thermal scopes.

Given that the target has no real definition and is simply a black rectangle, we recommend using it for shorter ranges. The distinct solid image is especially handy at short ranges for scopes with low resolutions. 

If you have a thermal scope with a resolution of 1.5x, you can comfortably use this target at a distance between 75 and 150 yards.

This cardboard thermal target uses cold as a thermal activator. The cold pack is placed behind the target, which makes the target power up.

The best part about this target is that it ensures uninterrupted sessions of sighting and shooting as the cold activator lasts for a long time.

Alternatively, you can also use a hand warmer if you would like to see hot images instead. Some users have even noticed that just the afternoon sun shining over the target is enough to give a distinct hot square.

Issues and Limitations

Since this is a paper product, it is not the most durable choice out there. The target will be serviceable for long enough if you only use it for sighting in a scope. 

However, if you intend on doubling your scope sighting target as a rifle zeroing solution as well, this paper target will survive no more than 2-3 shots. The pack contains 12 targets, though, so one pack will last you for a few sessions at least. 

5. Best for Beginners: Thermbright Coyote Target

scope zeroing targets

A product of the pioneer of the thermal target market, this Coyote Target by Thermbright provides details and clarity like none other.


  • No cables or batteries are required.
  • Can work in sub-zero temperatures.
    You can use it both in the day and at night.
  • Immediately repairable using target patches.


  • Not the best choice for beginners.

Our Review

This target really has the best of all worlds. To start off with, it is unbelievably easy to use. Simply staple or stick the target on a flat surface, and place that surface at a backward incline of ten degrees or more. This means that the target should be tilted away from the shooter.

Designed with feedback from USDA animal control experts, this coyote target has a powerful thermal contrast that immediately kicks into action; forget about waiting for the thermal target to heat up!

It is imperative to remain both ethical and safe while hunting, and this is only possible if your kill is quick and smooth. This is why sighting in your scopes and rifles is of utmost importance. 

Since this target is shaped like a coyote, it is a more realistic target than traditional bullseye or clay targets. You will be looking at an animal while you sight in your scope, which will give you more confidence when you step out for the actual shot.

Issues and Limitations

This is a green-colored target. A limitation this coloring poses is that you can only use green repair patches to fix it. If different colors or regular target pasters are used, it might adversely impact the clarity and visibility of the target.

6. Best Lightweight Target: ATN Thermal Targets

rifle zero target

Made out of cardboard, these ATN Thermal Targets are extremely lightweight and portable.


  • Convenient to carry.
  • Easy to set up.
  • Good value for money.
  • High accuracy.


  • Prone to bending and tearing.

Our Review

This zeroing-in target by ATN Corps is one of the most popular targets used for sighting in thermal scope optics. The target uses a special technology that packs a heat source into the material. This produces a thermal signal that is easily picked up by thermal sights.

This type of target with a bullseye in the middle surrounded by a grid is specifically designed for zeroing in a rifle or sighting in a scope. This is why these are the best choice for a beginner or someone looking to improve their skills.

Since the package is extremely lightweight, it will be no hassle carrying these targets to the range. You may not even notice you are carrying anything! ATN zeroing thermal targets come in a pack of 3.

Issues and Limitations

Like any other target made out of cardboard, these can also survive two to three shots at most. However, since sighting in targets like this one are barely shot at, this should not be too big of a problem.

Buying Guide

target sighting

If you are planning to use your thermal scope and prepare for some trigger time, product reviews alone are not enough.

You will need to know targets inside out to make sure you land the best deal for your specific needs and wants. To help you figure out what you will pitch rounds towards, here is everything you need to know about targets to sight in thermal scopes.

Different Types of Targets to Sight in a Thermal Scope

Are you new to sighting in a thermal scope? Have you been asking around for tips?

If yes, you have probably heard everything from using hot nails to hand warmers to sight in your thermal optic. While we have nothing against these off-the-wall methods, they are unfortunately not the most efficient of targets. 

Once you have given a shot to specially-designed targets for sighting in a thermal scope, you will never go back to hot bullet casings. Just go over the different types of targets available, pick yours, mount it, and shoot.

Targets to sight in a thermal scope can be broadly categorized into two main types, depending on whether the target is powered or non-powered. We refer to these categories as powered targets and passive targets. 

Apart from power, targets can also be classified based on the differences in their shapes and the materials they are manufactured from.

Read about the different types of targets to sight in a thermal scope and see which one makes the ideal fit for you!

Powered Targets

Powered targets for thermal scopes run on batteries, i.e., they use electricity to generate heat.

The main benefit of using powered targets is their ability to stay observable by thermal sights for extended periods of time. The average powered target uses a 12V or 24V battery and can survive around 500 sessions of shooting.

Powered thermal targets have been extensively used by the military for ages. Alongside thermal targets that used electricity, training with advanced weapon sights often also involved the use of other kinds of active targets: targets using fire or chemicals to generate heat.

However, the reason for the popularity of powered and active targets was not their efficacy. 

In fact, users were getting increasingly apprehensive of them because these thermal targets would often go up in flames. The situation got critical when a technician tending to a powered thermal target got electrocuted, which led to manufacturers brainstorming safer alternatives.

This brings us to the next category of heated thermal targets.

Passive Targets

zeroing targets

Passive thermal targets require no energy source. Instead, they work by reflecting the temperature of their surroundings. If you look at such a target using your thermal scope, the target will appear black or white depending on the contrast settings on your optic.

Today, law enforcement, military personnel, and recreational gun enthusiasts use passive targets to sight in their thermal scopes. The most significant importance of these targets is the safety they promise - no more targets going up in smoke!

However, safety is not the only advantage passive targets offer. 

They are also extremely easy to use, especially when compared to powered targets that need to either be set ablaze or connected to a power source. With passive targets, all you need to do is hook up, peel and stick, or staple the target to a target backer of your choice.

Another key feature of passive targets is customizability. Since they are often made out of cardboard or peel-off die cuts, you can easily personalize them into different shapes.

From human silhouettes, coyotes and hogs, and trucks and tanks to letter cutouts designed to spell different words, you can find a passive thermal target in any shape imaginable.

Since passive targets are the choice of targets for hobbyists and professional thermal scope users alike, we have dedicated a separate section to them. Read ahead to find out more about the different types of passive targets available, and see which one meets your needs the best.

Types of Passive Targets:

Passive thermal targets come in three main types.

1. Zeroing Targets

These are the most commonly used type of sighting in targets. They are accurate, consistent, and extremely easy to use. The accuracy and repeatability are because of the use of a No-Power film coupled with MRE heaters; together, the two materials offer a great zeroing solution.

2. Die Cut Targets: 

These allow you to turn any surface of your choice into a target. Die cuts are extremely affordable, portable, and convenient. They have peel-and-stick backs and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

All you need to do is peel the backing and stick the thermal die-cut onto an existing target backer. The die-cut will thermalize the target and prepare it for use.

3. Printed Targets: 

These are the latest updates in the world of thermal targets. 

Printed targets have high-resolution images with intricate detailing printed on an additional layer atop the actual target base. This not only makes the target more durable but also improves flexibility. 

Since they are printed images, they are an excellent choice for creating complex shooting environments using Shoot and No-Shoot imagery.

Why Should You Buy A Target to Sight in A Thermal Scope?

You can own the best thermal scope there is, but nothing will let you meet the rifle’s full mechanical potential unless you train consistently. Not even the best thermal scope will help you if you don’t use it properly.

The one thing that helps the most with any rifle, especially night-vision devices like thermal scopes, is the use of targets. 

The best targets are those that help you sight in your thermal scope and also help with target practice. The valuable investment will not only calibrate your thermal scope but also train you to zero in on a target for hunting and recreational shooting.

Sighting-In is Important

scope sighting target

A thermal scope works using infrared rays. Unlike a regular scope, all thermal scopes are digital. They capture an image and display it on the screen – much like a camera, except a thermal scope cannot record images or videos. 

Since these optics are used to spot targets during nighttime hunting or shooting expeditions, the thermal scopes must produce the clearest possible image of the target. This is where a sighting-in target enters the picture. 

Sighting-in is essentially calibrating the direction of your thermal scope using the barrel of your weapon but without shooting

The calibration will help the focusing lens capture a sharp image of targets at a distance. The detector will then convert into an observable image and display it on the screen at the eyepiece.

It is important to sight in your thermal scope every time you head out for a trip. This is because the reticle of the optic may not always line up with the barrel of the rifle due to corrosion, a mechanical error, or any other reason. This misalignment can seriously impact your hunting trip. 

Imagine being atop a snowy hill on a dark, foggy night and pulling up your thermal scope to look in the distance - only for it to not work. Not a happy picture, is it?

A Thermal Scope  Needs Thermal Targets

Now that we have established how important it is to sight in a thermal scope, let’s talk about what you can use for the job.

Like all other thermal optics, a thermal scope can only work with thermal rays. Visible light rays are essentially invisible to a thermal scope. This makes sighting it slightly more challenging than a regular scope and necessitates the use of thermal targets while sighting. 

Thermal scopes observe heat differences between objects, so you will need to invest in particular kinds of targets – also known as thermal targets - to sight them. This is why any hunting or shooting enthusiast must buy targets to sight in their thermal scope.

What to Look for When Buying the Best Target to Sight in a Thermal Scope

Targets play a critical role when it comes to sighting in a thermal scope, so make sure to buy the most suitable ones. Here are the key aspects you need to consider before you make your purchase:


Targets are made from a range of different materials. However, the most commonly used ones are cardboard, clay, polymer, and steel. Each material has its own pros and cons, but as long as your choice of material fulfills your needs from your target, you will be good to go.

Cardboard or paper targets are the most popular of all. Cardboard is an excellent material for tracking shot groups and an even better choice for sighting a scope. These targets are versatile and unbeatably affordable.

Another market leader when it comes to targets for sighting in a thermal scope is steel targets. These are the most durable and are gaining popularity every passing day. 

Given adequate care, steel targets will last you a lifetime. The only drawback to them is their weight; they can be heavy and difficult to transport.

Polymer targets are designed to minimize the damage as a bullet passes through. They last longer than cardboard targets, but not as long as steel ones. 

The key feature of polymer targets is that they are 3D targets placed on the ground with some support. When shot, they jerk upwards. This is why they are most popular with recreational shooters as they make the sport more fun.

The oldest type of sighting in targets, clay targets are another hot favorite. They are mostly used for fun, thanks to the immediate feedback they offer by breaking up into a cloud of dust the moment they are shot. However, this also points to their key drawback: clay targets are only good for one-time use.

Value for Money

In every purchase you make, it is important to set out a budget for yourself and then stick to it. Since thermal targets are a product you will frequently be using as a shooting enthusiast, it is important to look for cost-effective solutions.

This is why we recommend using passive targets more often than powered targets. Managing batteries or running electrical wires as is required for powered targets can be extremely costly over time. 

On the other hand, passive targets are cheaper and also more durable. You can use one target for hundreds of rounds; simply use a target paster to repair any holes, and you are good to go.

Final Verdict

The best target to sight in a thermal scope is the Internal Energy Thermal Target because it is highly accurate, affordable, and portable. Completely unpowered, it only needs a clear view of the sky to work and leaves nothing more to be desired.

About the Author Rob Carson

I work in commercial construction, in Dallas, TX.

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