My Journey from Night Vision to Thermal.
Working on The Night Vision Show has put me in a really privileged position where I have the opportunity to try some of the world’s finest pieces of night vision and thermal imaging equipment. Combine this with the fact that shooting is by far my favourite pastime, and it all adds up to a pretty sweet deal. The biggest advantage is having the ability to try equipment that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford as good quality night vision doesn’t always come cheap.
With that in mind, I want to chart my journey through night vision for you and to write about some of the highlights in terms of equipment I’ve tried.
My first time with Night Vision
I began rifle shooting with my workhorse CZ .22lr. I still have this rifle and it has never let me down. Many a rabbit fell to it combined with a Tracer lamp. However, once night vision caught my interest, I wanted to move on and up my after-dark capability.
I ventured into the world of digital nightvision, using predominantly a Pulsar Digisight, which soon was a permanent fixture on my .17hmr. However, having dipped my toe into the dark waters of night vision, I was hooked, and like any addiction, I wanted more!
Around that time, I started working on the Night Vision Show and our generous sponsors, Scott Country International were sending down products for review, which did nothing to help stem the desire to purchase a top end bit of kit.
My first foray into the world of Thermal Imaging riflescopes.
After a visit to the Scott Country International offices, I came away with a demo Pulsar Apex XD75 thermal riflescope. Paul Stewart, Sales Director at SCI knew exactly what he was doing when he gave me that box. He knew I’d give into the overwhelming ‘need’ for a thermal scope, and he wasn’t wrong. After filming an episode for the show with the Apex, I just had to have one.
Like many, I’d seen a fair few youtube videos of the Apex in action, starting with the XD50 and the videos didn’t look that impressive. I soon learnt that this was all because of the compression caused by the video recording from the scope to the external recorder.
The view through an Apex is something you just have to see for yourself. It is simply amazing. Nothing can hide from its gaze and if there is anything living out in front of you, you cannot fail to find it.
Over the years I used an Apex XD75, I saw deer, boar, horses, cows, dogs, and even mice in the fields that I shoot in. The clarity of the Apex allowed me to identify them all properly without the need for artificial light, meaning that I could just watch these creatures go about their routine without them knowing I was there.
The quality of the image of the Apex, also meant that I could clearly identify what the animal was, so ensure that I only shot what was meant to be shot.
That Apex of mine accounted for hundreds of rabbits and foxes, and never let me down.
My next thermal purchase was a Pulsar Quantum XD50S. Having been using the Apex for a while, I knew the natural progression was to purchase a thermal spotter. I am not a fan of using the riflescope as a spotter for obvious reasons, so a handheld spotter became perhaps the most useful piece of equipment I own.
Whats new from Pulsar in 2017
In the early part of 2017, Pulsar will be releasing a whole new range of thermal spotters and riflescopes, called Helion and Trail respectively. They will also be upgrading the Apex riflescopes to include laser rangefinders and up the image quality by improving the sensor too.
The Trail and Helion are being released with top end 640 sensors now, which although will cost more, will be some of the finest commercial thermal imaging out there.
Additionally, Pulsar are looking to release more economical handheld spotters, which although won’t hold the detection range of the higher end devices, will be more than adequate for the average shooter.
Knowing the new range was on the horizon, I parted ways with my Apex, and am awaiting the next thermal to land on the doormat in a cardboard box with the familiar Scott Country International packing tape around it.
However, I won’t be going for a dedicated riflescope this time;
Introducing the Pulsar Core FXQ50 Thermal Add On
The one thing I missed when using the Apex was the ability to look through glass rather than at a screen, and now Pulsar are releasing the answer too that with their brand new range of Core FXQ front thermal attachments.
The Pulsar Core attaches to any day scope using their proprietary day scope adaptor and cater for a wide range of objective lens sizes.
The Core simply secures onto the day scope adaptor and allows the shooter to use their normal dayscope but with full thermal capability. What’s more, when you’re not shooting, the Core can be used as a handheld spotter too.
Whether you want a dedicated thermal scope, spotter or all-in-one device, Pulsar has you covered this year with their fantastic range of new devices. I was lucky enough to see them in Las Vegas at the 2017 Shot Show and again at IWA and they are going to blow you away when you try them.
There are a lot of varying opinions about thermal imaging when it comes to shooting. Some say its not sporting, others say its too expensive, but let me tell you. When it comes to night vision, you get what you pay for, and if using the thermal is unsporting, I would refer you to the farmers who’s lambs and chickens don’t get killed, or the gamekeeper who has all their birds intact at the start of the season. I use my thermals for pest control, which I don’t regard as a sport, but rather a job that needs to be done.
There is a huge range of thermal devices available on the market these days, with lower end offerings from Seek, giving shooters the ability to find shot game easily, to Torrey Pines thermal scopes which are great on air rifles and rimfires, right up to the top end kit from Pulsar. If you’re thinking about getting into thermal imaging, whether its for shooting, wildlife spotting or for commercial purposes, give the guys at Scott Country a call, they will look after you, I guarantee it!
The one thing that is certainly true about thermal imaging equipment for shooting, is that once you’ve had one, you’ll never, and I mean never, go back to using normal night vision or a lamp again.
The word ‘game-changer’ gets thrown around easily these days, but thermal imaging is exactly that, and with the advent of the new range from Pulsar, its only going to get better.