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Best NV & Thermal Devices

Bruce Potts looks at what’s best in night vision and thermal optics that he’s tested

The traditional night vision (NV) scopes have been around since the Second World War and use some form of image intensifying (ii) tube to generate the view. Advancements in quality and ability are noted as generations; Gen 1, Gen 2 etc, with + after it indicate more improvements. More recent and for that matter cheaper are the digital systems, that have a great appeal to those not wanting or prepared to pay the sort of money pure ii kit demands. Horses for courses, indeed!

  • NIGHT VISION (II AND DIGITAL)

  • ATN 4K pro X sight

    The X Sight is ATN`s latest flagship day/night sight. Designed to be used in the day (full colour) and then switched over to the night mode (black & white). Aimed for the gadget-conscious and online or wi-fi streaming fraternity, it still has all the features the hunter needs. It looks like a sleek day scope, minus the turrets. It fits to the rifle with standard 30mm rings and dimensions of 14.9x3x3” and weighs 2.2lbs, so offers no penalties. Due to its digital nature, there’s a huge range of options and set up menus to fine tune it to your shooting style or needs. It uses a 4K M265 3864 X 2218 sensor and ATN Obsidian IV Dual core, combined with a 1280x720 HD display for a 600 lp/mm resolution. The magnification of 5 -20x is very good and going from daytime colour to night-time black & white seemed a bit gimmicky to start with, but it works well. So, the ATN X Sight 4k Pro is the all in one optical system for shooters who just want one sight for all their hunting needs. Other features include Lithium Ion battery offering 18 hours run time, ballistic calculator and stadiametric range finder.

    £795.00

    www.highlandoutdoors.com

  • Laser luchs lamp pro IR

    Laser luchs lamp pro IR

    If you are looking for a quality, clear and far reaching IR illuminator then the Laser Luchs from Germany is the kiddy. Its higher 850nm wavelength is designed for use with Digital Gen 1 and Gen2+ devices but not Gen1. It gives a marked improvement over the standard, on-board IR devices and boosts the useful range and target definition capabilities. Prices may seem a bit high, but the quality of build and longevity warrants this. I like the flexible switch system and variable beam from 3.5 to 15 foot for close or distant work and its single, CR123A battery lasts for ages. The clarity of the beam is very clean and clear, with no vignetting, it’s razor edged and bright and a superb IR illuminator.

    £529.00

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

  • Nite site dark OPS eagle

    Nite site dark OPS eagle

    Nite Site were the first to offer a digital NV system that attaches to your day scope for a cost-effective unit. Equally good for rats in barns, as for foxes at longer distances, their range offers three models; the Dark Ops model name, Eagle, Wolf and Viper. It consists of three components; a combined viewing screen with an IR source at the front, which sits on top of the scope. A small camera plugs into the eyepiece and connects to the screen, to show you the view through the scope, complete with reticle. All this is powered by a battery pack, designed to attach to the butt of your rifle. In use, you pick up the target and reticle in the screen, which is illuminated by the IR source. The site sits high, so you do have to adopt a heads up position, which takes a bit of getting used to. The Dark Ops Eagle Elite is the high spec unit that gives sharp defined images and uses the new 940nm infrared that is invisible to animals. It gives a super clear image and range of 550 yards max. You have a rotating focus wheel, and an SD card slot so that you can record. The Elite package also offers a compact laser range finder (LRF), it’s a blind unit with no view, but you see the red stripe of the beam in the view and get a digital readout on the LRF’s screen. Wolf and Viper are lower powered, shorter range versions for airgun and rimfire use, identical in function; the whole series is well worth a look.

    £1099.00

    www.nitesite.com

  • Pulsar argus LRF gen 2+

    Pulsar argus LRF gen 2+

    Pulsar Argus LRF is a Gen 2+, weapon’s sight that weighs 1.2kg with dimensions of 322x111x87mm and runs on a singleCR123A battery. It has a 60mm objective lens and a detection range of 600m with an integral IR unit with its 4x magnification and field of view 9º. Best of all, is its LRF, which takes the uncertainty out of judging distance at night, meaning accurate shots will be far more effective after dark. The Russian Gen 2 + tube gives a good degree of light sensitivity and clarity and being an analogue design with a digital aiming system you combine excellent light gathering, matched with the flexibility of a digital system to aim and zero, reticle options with a clear sight picture. For those wanting a one stop, NV-dedicated scope from a trusted company, that won’t break the bank, then the new Argus LRF has to be it.

    £2229.95

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

  • Trident lamp

    Trident lamp

    As its name suggests, the Trident torch combines a two-colour lamp head (red and amber LEDs), and an 850nm IR illuminator for NV. It weighs 480 grams and is 8” long, so is easily attached by a saddle mount or Weaver to your day or night optics. The objective lens of 68mm gives plenty of illumination from the single rechargeable 18650 battery. There’s a dimmer control, really handy for close range or lamp shy foxes and full power for distant vermin. This being complimented by an adjustable beam width. The IR and LEDs (white, red and amber option too) are superbly clear and all you need to lamp or enhance any NV device. Amber is really good for shy foxes too. The kit version offers good value for money and is well built too, as the torch alone with charger is not a lot cheaper.

    Full kit versioN £199.96 Torch with charger £179.95

    Night Master; www.nightmaster.co.uk

  • Pulsar phantom 4X60MD

    Pulsar phantom 4X60MD

    This is your more traditional ii, tube-type NV optic but still excellent. It measures 320x95x103mm and weighs 1245 grams, so is quite large and tall once mounted, but it’s pretty central over most rifles, so balance is good. There is a magnification of 4x, giving a field of view of 9º and has a detection range of 700 metres. The design shows a conventional tube-type build and is available in Russian Gen 2 + intensifier and either conventional green or black white phosphor screen options. I prefer the latter option, as it achieves bright, sharp and well defined images with good viewing abilities. You have a fixed 4x magnification which is plenty, but some may want more and so the NV60 1.5x convertor is available as an accessory, if required. Conventional elevation and windage adjustment just like a day sight makes zeroing really easy, which is also good. Good value for money and you get Thomas Jacks good 3 year guarantee and back up service too.

    NV60 1.5X convertor £119.95

    THomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

  • Yukon photon RT

    Yukon photon RT

    The Yukon Photon RT is another digital weapon sight from Thomas Jacks that weighs 870g and is 421x100x92mm in size and uses 4xAA or rechargeable battery pack giving a 3.5 hour run time. You have a 42mm objective lens, with a magnification of 4.5x and 9x digital zoom, the sensor is a CMOS 768x576 and offers a detection range of 200m and field of view of 4.3º. This mounts like a conventional scope, or you can buy an optional, one-piece mount. Not everyone wants an NV sight that has long range capability and costs the earth, especially if it’s only for rabbits at air rifle or rimfire ranges, which is where this product really scores. It comes with an integral 850nm,IR illuminator and gives a good clear black and white image from the LCD 640x480 screen display. In half moon light, you can shoot rabbits up to 65 yards and detect out to 125. Turn on that IR illuminator and the image instantly improves with more definition and your engagement range will increases too. Good price, that airgun or rimfire shooters can use.

    One piece mount £66.95

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

  • Meopta meonight 1.1 night vision

    Meopta meonight 1.1 night vision

    Meopta, have been making quality optics for many years (since 1933) in Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic). There first Segway into NV is the forward-mounted, MeoNight 1.1. It’s built primarily as a weapon’s sight that doubles as a hand-held, monocular unit. In the former role, this add-on system attaches to the scope’s objective bell via a dedicated clamping system. It’s a well-made unit, which comes with all the accessories, such as a carry bag, IR illuminator rail, hand strap, eyepiece cup, thread protector cap, remote control, a set of various sized adaptor for scope mounting are an optional extra. Being able to shift from hand to rifle sight is a real bonus and will appeal to the nature, security and shooting fraternity alike. It also comes with a ten year warranty. It uses a Gen2+ tube with a Resolution of 55 lines per mm and 1x magnification and focus from 10m to ∞, with a field of view (FOV) of 12º. It is powered by a single 3v CR123 cell that last surprisingly well and weighs 638g and is 207x55x83mm. Image quality, as expected, was superb with high contrast, producing well defined and sharp images, even without an IR illuminator. You pay for what you get.

    Scope clamp £489

    Viking Arms Ltd; www.vikingshoot.com

  • Pard 007

    Pard 007

    The PARD is a digital system that has recently hit the UK, NV scene and offers three models to date. The 007 (shown here) is an add-on type for your day sight, that also doubles as a monocular when dismounted. The other two; 008 and 008LRF (laser rangefinder) are dedicated, but compact weapon sights, again, small enough to be hand-held if required, prices are very keen. All have integral IR illuminators (with three power levels) and the ability to record images and video on a micro SD card. You have full colour 1080P daytime and 1080P NV use. The 800 series come with a cantilever, one-piece, Picatinny mount. It runs on a single 18650 battery and also has a digital zoom function to magnify the image without upping the scopes power, thus allowing more light into the unit. It’s rated up to .308 Win calibre and has a handy standby mode, so the display can be turned off when the PARD is lowered, so that the light generated does not alarm game. The lens is focusable but a day sight with parallax adjustment is recommend for sharp and best image and reticle view. Overall, a very handy and good performing small NV unit. There seems to be no single UK importer, with a number of shops advertising these devices, although there is a European distributor that supplies the market.

    £399.95

  • General starlight Co. inc. PVS-14C

    General starlight Co. inc. PVS-14C

    The PVS-14C is a rugged, waterproof, light weight, rear-mounted unit that weighs 330g and is 10cm long. It can be used hand-held or attached to your rifle/day scope combo to make it NV capable using a suitable day scope adapter (DSA). There are various generations of intensifier tube available, depending on the user’s budget and requirements, they include; Gen2+, Gen3 and Gen3+. The PVS has an integral IR illuminator, which is good for close up work and also indicates to the user when it is on. However, performance can be further improved by running a good quality after-market IR torch, like the Night Master Trident. During testing of theGen2+ version, quarry was identified at distances of up to 400 yards in the correct conditions. There is a focus ring on the objective lens, which can also be adjusted with the PVS fitted to a rifle scope. Image quality is further fine-tuned with adjustment of the magnification setting and parallax on scope. The power comes from a single CR123 or AA battery, which can provide 40+ hours of runtime. It is worth noting that the unit is not auto-gated, so does not automatically turn off when exposed to bright lights. It has a focusing range of 0.25m to ∞ and a field of view of 40º and once attached, it adds approximately 6” to the rear of the scope, so head position and length of pull on the rifle should be taken into consideration. It comes with a seven year warranty.

    £3249.95

    www.nightmaster.co.uk

  • Sightmark wraith 4-32X50

    Sightmark wraith 4-32X50

    The Wraith from Sightmark is a totally new digital day/night riflescope with a 1920x1080HD sensor, full colour imagery in daylight with green hued or clearer black and white NV settings after dark. All offered to the user to choose dependant on the surrounding conditions. It comes with a removable 850nm IR illuminator to improve the image quality and increase the detection range up to 200 yards. It can be mounted onto a Picatinny rail and weighs 1029 grams with an overall length of 250mm. It boasts a magnification range of 4-32x and has a 50mm objective lens which is protected by an elasticated rubber cap. Power comes from 4 x AA batteries, giving a run time of approximately 4 ½ hours, an additional backup battery can be plugged into the right-side USB port for longer sessions.

    There is a dioptre collar to adjust the internal display screen and another behind the objective to focus the image. Controls include four function buttons on top of the eyepiece to access and navigate the tiered electronic menu structure. This includes screen brightness as a sliding scale, followed by nine colours for ten reticle shapes to suit the likely quarry and background. Up to five rifle setups can be stored, with each 'weapon select' choice retaining the zero, chosen reticle and colour. Further menu stages enable video or still capture choice, time date setup, video playback, factory data reset and firmware upgrades. It comes with a three-year warranty.

    £699.99

    www.scottcountry.co.uk

  • THERMALS

    Heat detection, rather than light amplification takes NV, and, for that matter, day use to the next level, as thermal imaging optics offers 24-hour operating parameters, either for observation or hunting. Meaning you can see through light cover as the heat source is not masked by foliage etc. With options on monoculars, binoculars, add-ons and rifle scopes, this is the direction technology is taking us, as this area is constantly evolving.

  • Pulsar accolade XP50 binoculars

    Pulsar accolade XP50 binoculars

    Pulsar’s new thermal imaging binoculars are compact at 164x130x64mm and easy to hold at only 600 grams. A Lithium ISP5 battery last for ages and the Germanium lens, F50 on this model, with F1.2 aperture for an FOV of 12.4º and magnification range of 2.5 to 20x. This gives a great blend of wide view and magnification, which is digitally controlled. The sensor has a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, for a high-quality image and, combined with the AMOLED, frost-free screen you have a superb image. It uses a black & white screen with black or white hot options too. At the rear, are the twin eyepieces that make for true binocular vision, giving a more relaxed viewing of the target. The range on this XP50 model is an impressive 1800m. This is a well built and high performance thermal device for many observational needs and is also available with range finder option.

    £4699.95

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

  • Axion key XM30

    Axion key XM30

    The Axion comes in three models; Key XM30, XM30 and XM38. All have 50 hertz refresh rates and 320x240 12um thermal sensors. The Key, entry level model is well priced and has a smaller view finder, a 960x720 LCOS type whilst the other two XM models have the higher resolution and bigger 1024x768 AMOLED screens, although are very handy sizes that easily fit into a coat pocket. It offers a very good specification of resolution pixels 320x240 with a 50Hz frame rate for nonblurred images. Pixel size is 12um with a magnification of 4.0x and x4 digital zoom. With a 30mm objective lens, you have a 7.8º FOV at 100m (horizontal) and maximum detection range with a 1.7m high object of 1200m. A really handy and inexpensive thermal observation tool with bright clear Amoled, 1024x768 display and resolution.

    £1265.95

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

  • Pulsar helion XP38

    Pulsar helion XP38

    The Helion has an increased, un-cooled, micro-bolometric matrix of 640x480 pixels with a 17 nanometre pixel size with 50Hx refresh rate for a superbly detailed image. It is available in XQ or XP variants, where the XQ have 384x288 res sensors and XP the higher 640x480 sensors. Operation is simple with three buttons in series, to activate Wi-Fi mode, set calibration and detection modes such as rocks, forest or Identification, so enhanced/low contrast or universal mode. You can adjust the colour palette as you prefer and set the rangefinder, as well as a picture in picture (PIP) function that allows you to see a zoomed in image, superimposed in the main view as seen through the eyepiece. There’s a USB port for dumping pics/videos and the IPX7 rating ensures that the Helion is waterproof and submersible in 3ft of water for 30 minutes. Image quality is superb.

    £3329.95

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

  • Pulsar trail XP50LRF

    Pulsar trail XP50LRF

    The new Trail LRF weapon sight in either XP38 or XP50 incorporates an external LRF and weighs only 0.71 kg and measures 285x102x76mm. It has a slightly reduced FOV than the XP38, but both have an uncooled detector with a 640x480 pixel resolution with a frame rate of 50Hz, so no blurred images when you move the sight. This menu-led sight offers a huge array of digital options for reticle type, detection displays, sighting in zero ranges, the list goes on. You have a F50mm F1.2 lens, which gives an optical 1.6x mag, but you have a continuous digital zoom from 1.6 to 12.6x mag or a stepped option of 2x, 4x and 8x increments. Plus, there’s the PIP facility too. The AMOLED display is 640x480 resolution and has a yellowish/green tinge and is ultra-sharp in reality and gives vivid and highly contrasting images. You have a maximum range for deer-sized targets of 1800m, dependent on weather conditions and close up focus of 5m, which is great for rats and other small quarry! The LRF is brilliant and worth the money as it accurately ranges to 1000m (+/- 1m). The Li-ion IP5 battery offers an 8 hour run time. It’s hard to see how Pulsar can improve on the quality of the image

    £4879.95

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

  • DD optics nact falke VOX-FX

    DD optics nact falke VOX-FX

    The Vox-FX weighs only 304g weight and measures 60x60x160mm. It was good in -5º freezing temperatures and even almost horizontal rain, so no need to worry about adverse weather conditions with this monocular. Set up overlooking a grass field that extended to 600 yards and then the hillside beyond, showed it to be really clear, although the screen is quite small. However, its 720x540 pixels gives a well-defined image, the practical range limit is 650m, which is probably good for most hunting needs. The focus knob is a bit awkward, but overall handy to use, with only the buttons and functions needed. A bit slow to start up but the actual image and detection range was impressive with its 1.4 optical, 2x digital magnification. Power’s from an integral Li-on battery, charged by USB cable.

    £1700

    Ruag AMmotec UK Ltd; www.ruag.co.uk

  • Thermion XM50 and XP38

    Thermion XM50 and XP38

    The new Thermion range have taken thermal imaging to another level. It looks like a regular day scope, with recognisable turrets, objective, eye piece focusing and 30mm body tube. Turrets, in fact are for USB port charging and second battery insertion. To the left side is the main menu button and adjustment or navigation ring, as this is menu-lead, like all these new NV devices. The XP50 has a resolution of 320x240 pixels, with a frame rate 50Hz and pixel size of 12um, which means a native 5.5x magnification and smooth and sharp, well defined images from the 50mm lens and displayed on the 1024x768 pixel Amoled screen. Digital zoom to 22x mag is surprisingly good, with a detection range of a massive 2300m! Click values are 7mm @ 100m. It weighs 0.9 kg and measures 402x78x65mm. I used the XP38 as a direct comparison to my Trail XP38. I love the ease of mounting, focusing controls and easier zero in procedure. The XP38 has a larger 640x480 HD sensor of 17um So, the images are superb, but the magnification starts at 1.5x – 12x. These Thermions are a game changer and getter.

    XP38 £4139.95, XP50 £3479.95

    Thomas jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

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