Are night vision scopes legal?

Night vision optics, a fascinating technology that extends the ability to see in low light conditions or complete darkness, are used extensively in outdoor activities, hunting, and defense scenarios. Despite their practicality, the legality of these devices varies from country to country. In this article, we will explore the legality of night vision scope use in the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and South Africa.

In the U.S., night vision scopes legality is clear: ownership and use require no special license or permit. However, exporting night vision devices without proper authorization constitutes a violation due to potential military applications.

Different states follow individual regulations. For example, California prohibits the use of night vision devices in tandem with firearms. Meanwhile, Texas, Florida, and Georgia permit the use of night vision scopes for hunting invasive species like hogs and coyotes, even at night. In Alaska’s wilderness, the law imposes no restrictions on using night vision scopes.

United States

When it comes to the legality of night vision scopes in the U.S., the picture varies across states. Here’s a detailed look at the rules in six of the most popular states, including California.

yosemite national park


In the state of California, which boasts a diverse range of landscapes and wildlife, the rules surrounding night vision scopes legality are stringent. California law prohibits the use of night vision devices in combination with firearms, reflecting the state’s typically strict stance on firearm regulations. The law aims to prevent unfair hunting practices and protect wildlife by banning the use of equipment that gives hunters an undue advantage.

This prohibition includes scopes that project any form of illumination onto the target or increase the ambient light to enhance visibility. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts must adhere to these rules, ensuring that they engage in fair chase principles and contribute to the preservation of California’s rich wildlife heritage.

Texas city aerial view


Texas law provides more leeway regarding the use of night vision scopes. In this state, hunters can legally use these devices to hunt invasive species like hogs and coyotes, even at night. Texas recognizes the need to control populations of these animals, which can cause significant damage to local ecosystems and property.

florida at night night vision


Similar to Texas, Florida allows the use of night vision scopes for hunting, particularly for controlling populations of invasive species. Hunters can legally use these devices at night, providing a critical tool in managing species that are typically more active during these hours.

new york at night

New York

In New York, the laws surrounding night vision scopes legality are somewhat restrictive.

Authorities prohibit the use of these devices in conjunction with a firearm during nighttime hunting hours. However, they allow their use during daylight hours, which can be beneficial in low visibility conditions.

Chicago Illinois night time


Pennsylvania permits the use of night vision scopes for hunting, but not during regular hunting hours (from dawn to dusk). This law aims to maintain fair chase principles and ensure the safety of all outdoor enthusiasts.

northern lights alaska night vision


In the vast wilderness of Alaska, there are no restrictions on the use of night vision scopes. Given the state’s unique survival and hunting requirements, including long periods of darkness during winter, the use of devices that enhance visibility at night is both legal and practical.

Remember that while this information gives an overview of the rules in these states, it’s essential to check with local and state law enforcement or wildlife agencies for the most up-to-date regulations on night vision scopes legality, as legislation can frequently change.

big ben uk night vision

United Kingdom

In the UK, night vision devices are generally legal to own and use. There are no specific laws that prohibit the purchase, possession, or use of these tools by civilians.

However, like in the U.S., the use of night vision equipment in association with a firearm can potentially cause legal complications and authorities may consider it illegal depending on the circumstances.

Therefore, if you intend to use night vision scopes for hunting, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with local laws and regulations.


In Canada, the use and ownership of night vision scopes are allowed without the need for any special license or permit. However, the Canadian government restricts the exportation of night vision devices, given their potential military applications. Domestic use is typically unrestricted, though it’s always advisable to stay updated with the latest regulations, especially if you intend to use these devices for hunting.


Australia presents a diverse landscape when it comes to the legality of night vision scopes. Generally, ownership is legal, but restrictions may apply to their use for certain activities, such as hunting.

South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland

In New South Wales, hunting using night vision devices encounters no legal barriers. Victoria, on the other hand, permits their use only for hunting certain pests and invasive species, like rabbits and foxes. If you’re in Queensland, you can use night vision devices for hunting on private property, provided you have the owner’s consent.

Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia

Contrastingly, Tasmania tightly regulates the use of night vision scopes for hunting, often necessitating a permit. South Australia also demands a permit for using these devices when hunting at night, particularly for controlling species causing agricultural damage. In Western Australia, while hunting with night vision devices is allowed, their use in some conservation areas encounters restrictions.

Given the potential for change in these laws, and the possibility of local regulations overriding state rules, always verify the current rules in your specific state and area regarding night vision scopes legality before purchasing or using one.

New Zealand

New Zealand permits the use and ownership of night vision scopes. There are no specific laws against their use or possession. These scopes are often used for various activities, including hunting, wildlife observation, and security purposes. The exportation of such devices may be regulated.

South Africa

In South Africa, the use and ownership of night vision scopes are allowed. They are commonly used for wildlife observation, hunting, and security purposes. The South African government may restrict the exportation of these devices due to their potential military use.

In summary, night vision scopes are generally legal to own and use in these English-speaking countries. However, the exact restrictions on their use, especially for hunting, can vary. Furthermore, the exportation of such devices is often strictly regulated due to their potential military applications. Before purchasing or using a night vision scope, it is important to understand the current local laws and regulations


The information provided above is for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Laws and regulations regarding the ownership and use of night vision vary by jurisdiction and may change over time. It is important to consult with a qualified legal professional or relevant authorities in your specific jurisdiction to obtain accurate and up-to-date information regarding the legality and regulations pertaining to night vision. The accuracy and applicability of the information provided cannot be guaranteed, and any reliance on this information is at your own risk.

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