Gun mart Guide to Nightvision & Lamping
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- Last updated: 31/10/2019
As the nights draw in shooter’s attentions can often ponder the idea of purchasing a new night vision (NV) sight for the rifle or just as an observation tool. The ability to see after dark greatly enhances the shooters chance of outwitting Charlie and filling that game bag with rabbits. But NV does not have it all its own way anymore as Thermal technology as catapulted into our sport and really stirred up the mix with some incredible detection and weapons-based devices. We have come a long way from the early “after hours” devices that were both heavy, detection range was short and were very expensive. Now with traditional intensifier tubes being challenged by new digital technology there seems to be more and more new and more elaborate kit on the market which has forced the price down to a point where most shooters can by a device. This applies to Thermal as well as NV. Here is a selection of some of the best on market today…
Being a digital NV sight you can use the N450 both in daylight and night time without harming it and having a digital “brain” there is a myriad of options open to use. It has a large high-sensitivity HD sensor, 1280 x 720 CMOS sensor coupled to a viewing screen that is frost free AMOLED HD of 1024 x 768 pixels.
It’s a quite nice compact scope and its bodyshell is fully waterproof and mount to the rifle via the universal Weaver system. You also get a powerful 850nm infrared illuminator and it allows detection up to 550-metres with its 4.5-18x magnification zoom facility.
Good features are Picture in Picture viewing where a small additional magnified view of the target is inset into the main view, aiding in aiming. It has a long lasting IPS5 battery pack with live streaming, picture and video capture.
Like all digital systems it allows multiple reticule options, for colour, size, zero in ranges and viewing controls.
This is a Night Vision Gen 2+ weapon dedicated sight that weighs 1.2kg with dimensions of 322 x 111 x 87mm and runs off one CR123A battery. This has a 60mm Lens and a detection range of 600m with the built in IR unit with its 4x magnification and field of view nine degrees, all for £2229.95. Best of all is the laser range finder this takes away the uncertainty of the range to your quarry so an accurate shot at night is now possible.
The Argus is a Russian Gen 2 + tube sight that gives a good degree of light sensitivity and clarity and being an analogue tube design with a digital aiming system you combine the excellent light gathering of the Generation 2+ tube matched with the flexibility of a digital system to aim and zero.
It combines the quality and image quality of a good Gen2+ tube with that of digital set up and reticule options with a very clear sight picture. For those wanting a one stop NV dedicated weapon scope from a trusted company then the new Argus LRF has to be it.
Nite Site are famous for their heads-up TV screen viewing style of NV kit that attaches to your existing day sight and this TV screen, camera and IR illuminator set up thus is a cost-effective unit. You can therefore fit it too an airgun, rimfire or fox rifle so rats in barns or foxes at longer range is no problem really making it versatile. The Nite Site range now has three models under the Dark Ops model name, Eagle, Wolf and Viper.
An infrared beam is sent towards your target which attaches to the scopes tube and sits on top of the scope and at its rear is a TV screen. There is a second module that attaches to the eyepiece of your scope is a camera unit that picks up the image generated by the IR beam and displays it on the TV screen. A separate battery pack lasts up to five hours use.
Its clever in use as your day sight’s reticule is then superimposed onto the quarry as viewed on the TV screen, and you shoot with a heads-up stance.
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 humans and animals for total stealth use. This only illuminates the area you are aiming at and thus gives a super clear image and range of 550-yards max. You have a rotating focus wheel, and a SD slot so you can record images too.
The Eagle model has the laser range finder attachment that is really good as range finding at night is hard and this unit solves that problem. This is direct and horizontal distance so an accurate reading at any angle, very good for barn use.
The Nite Site has a sight for airgunners right up to centrefire users and their proven technology delivers a good NV sight for the price.
ATN produce both night vision and Thermal imaging sights and one of their best is the Pro X Sight NV. It looks like a more conventional day sight and mounts the same which is very handy and is designed to be used as a normal day sight and then switch over to the night mode. This means for night-time shooting the image is in black and white and during the day it turns to colour so one sight for all duties.
It fits to the rifle with standard 30mm rings and dimensions of 14.9 x 3 x 3-inches and weighs 2.2lbs and has no external elevation or windage turrets.
As its digital there is a range of options and set up menu`s to navigate through and set up the X Sight to your style of shooting. It uses a 4K M265 3864 X 2218 sensor and ATN Obsidian IV Dual core combined with a 1280 x 720 HD display for a 600lp/mm resolution. This produces good clear and contrasting images both day and night.
The magnification of 5 -20x makes it very practical too and dependent on ambient or IR illumination it does not pixelate too much. The ATN X Sight 4k Pro is the all-in-one sighting system for shootings who just one sight for day or night shooting. Other features include Lithium ion battery up to 18 hours integral and Ballistic calculator, linear range finder.
Contact: Highland Outdoors Ltd highlandoutdoors.co.uk
This model is your more traditional, oldschool intensifier tube type night vision device, but still excellent. It is 320 x 95 x 103mm and weighs 1245-grams so 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 nine degrees and has a detection range of 700-metres all for £1849.95. This Pulsar`s Phantom 4x60MD (Mil Dot) is a conventional tube type sight available in Russian Gen 2 + intensifier and either conventional green screen or black white phosphor screen.
I like the Black and white phosphor option that achieves a Bright and sharp well-defined image on the screen for viewing making animals and inanimate objects want more and so a NV60 1.5x convertor is available as an accessory for £119.95, if you so desire. Conventional elevation and windage adjustment just like a day sight make sighting in really easy, which I like.
Good value for money and you get Thomas Jacks’ good three year guarantee and back up service too.
The Yukon Photon RT is another digital weapon sight from Thomas Jacks that weighs 870g and is 421x100x92mm in size and uses 4x AA or rechargeable battery pack giving 3.5hrs life.
You have a lens of 42mm with a magnification of 4.5x and 9x digital zoom and the sensor which is a CMOS 768 x 576 offers a detection range 200m and field of view of 4.3 degrees. This mounts like a conventional scope or you can buy an optional one-piece mount for £66.95 with the actual sight being a great value price of £589.95.
Not everyone wants a night sight that has long range capability and costs the earth especially if it’s only for rabbits at air rifle or rimfire ranges.
The Photon comes with a built in IR illuminator of 850nm illuminator it gives a good clear black and white image from the LCD 640 x 480 screen display.
Half-moon light you can shoot rabbits up to 65-yards and detect pass 125-yards. Turn on that IR illuminator and then image instantly improves with more definition and the range increases too. Good price, that airgun or rimfire shooters can use.
I have used many a Meopta rifle sight and found them excellent value for money and reliable. Today this Czech Republic company has started producing NV kit in the form of the MeoNight sight.
This is a Night Vision (NV) sight that doubles as an observational hand-held unit as well as a rifle sight via a clamping system that fits to the day sights objective lens. Quality made, you can feel that, the MeoNight comes with all the accessories such as bag, IR illuminator rail, hand strap, eyepiece cup, thread protector cap, remote control and optional sized objective lens clamps for differing sized scopes are available.
Retailing for £4449.00 and scope clamp £489.00 it’s a big investment, but it’s a two-inone observational sight and then rifle mounted unit. This is a real bonus and will appeal to the nature, security and shooting fraternity alike. It also comes with a 10-year warranty.
It’s a Gen2+ sight with a Resolution 55 lines/mm and 1x magnification and focus from 10m to infinity with a field of view 12 degrees. It is powered by a single 3v CR123 that last surprisingly well and weighs 638g and is 207 x 55 x 83mm.
Image quality was superb with high-contrast, vivid and sharp images even without an IR illuminator.
Contact: Viking Arms Ltd vikingarms.co.uk
The PARD is a surprisingly good and great value NV device that attaches to your day sight on the eyepiece, 45mm, to covert to night vision. At £399.95 it won`t break the bank and is fast becoming a very popular NV device.
It can be used hand-held also observation and also for clear day time colour images. Its range at night is about 150-yards with its on board IR Illuminator but more with a bigger IR. You also have the ability to record images and video and viewed through the device itself on the micro SD.
You have full colour 1080P daytime use and 1080P night vision use, three power levels to the IR illuminator. A built-in laser is handy for spotting or rough range finding.
You can buy additional scope end mounts to mount to other scopes as the PARD attaches very quickly.
It runs on a single 18650 battery, but spares should be carried if you sue the IR a lot.
You also have a digital zoom function to magnify the image without upping the scopes power thus allowing more light into the unit.
Its rated to .308 Win calibre and has a handy standby mode so the display can be turned off when the PARD is lowered, so the light from the display does not alarm game. The lens is focusable, but a day sigh with parallax adjustment is recommend for sharp image and reticule in unison. Overall a very handy and good performing small NV which we used in Slovakia to observe boar very clearly.
Contact: Opticswarehouse, opticswarehouse.co.uk
Like the ATN X sight which is NV this Mars 4 thermal has basically the same generic bodyshell but with thermal imaging sensors and lens fitted. The Mars 4 Smart HD Thermal imaging sight is now distributed by Highland Outdoors Ltd with the latest versions and all new software updates applied.
It has a 1280 x 720 HD display and impressive 4.5 to 18x power zoom with the usual myriad of options such as reticule choice and colour, quick zero, compass and inclinometer, various heat detection settings and video picture storage to name a few.
Imagery is controlled by the Gen 4 384 x 288, 60Hz Sensor and processed by the ATN Obsidian IV Dual core T module giving a smooth clear image. You can record video or images on the Micro SD card, 4 to 64GB capacity and the battery type/Life is a Lithium ion up to 18 hours integral.
It’s water-resistant only and dimensional is 16 x 3 x 3-inches, weighing 2.2lbs and priced at £3649. It comes with eye shield, charging cables, std rings reach forward rings, scope cover and lens tissue.
Contact: Highland Outdoors Ltd, highlandoutdoors.co.uk
This is both a viewer and a weapon sight that mounts to the front of a conventional day scope. It’s a very handy unit that is dimensionally 180 x 65 x 60mm and weighs only 380-grams.
You attach the Core to the front objective lens via a series of option clamps and spacer rings. Once attached the zero is unaltered on a suitable sturdy scope and it won’t change your shooting position either. The Core just attaches on and off in an instant. It runs on 2x CR123A batteries or a power pack can be purchased separately. Once off just re attach the eye cup piece for use as a held monocular, really handy in use and fast too.
You have a good sharp monochrome AMOLED display that is fed by the 384 x 288 17um thermal sensor so detection range is an amazing 1350-metres with impressive image quality too. There are three operating modes for rocks (enhanced contrast), Forest (low contrast) and identification (improved image of hot objects)
You have a magnification of 3.1 to 6.2x combined with a 9.2-foot horizontal field of view and detection range of 1350m which all very impressive. A highly versatile piece of kit, this one which is fully waterproof, recoil proof to 375 Hand H and ideal for both observation and weapon sighting.
The Seek thermal imagers are all compact handheld devices that give a good resolution picture with plenty of features to make it very useful. Add to this the price range from £239 for plug in devices to an I phone or standalone units starting at £399. That makes the Seek affordable and very appealing to the average sportsperson.
The Seek Reveal Pro is small enough (127 x 60 x 30mm) to fit into any pocket and is really quite a performer. It allows a field of view of 32-degrees at 100m and weighs only 177-grams and has a rechargeable power pack of up to four hours. The sensor resolution is 320 x 240 pixels and still gives a good image, day or night but the slow frame rate of 15Hz means you can`t move it about quickly otherwise the image will slur.
Still a really handy thermal hand-held for the cost conscious and easy to store in the pocket.
This hand-held XM30 brings thermal detection and viewing to the hunter in a smaller and more cost-effective package. They come in three models the Axion Key XM30, XM30 and XM38 models. All have 50-Hertz refresh rates 320 x 240 12um thermal sensors with the entry level Key at £1265.95 and with a smaller view finder, a 960 x 720 LCOS type, whilst the other two XM models have the higher resolution and bigger 1024 x 768 AMOLED screens. All though are very handy sizes that easily fit into a coat pocket.
This XM30 model has a good resolution from the sensor of 320 x 240 with a 50Hz frame rate for non-blurred images. Pixel size is 12um with a magnification of 4.0x and x4 digital zoom. With 30mm objective lens you have a 7.8-degrees field of view at 100m (horizontal) and maximum detection range with a 1.7m high object of 1200m.
A really handy, inexpensive at £1759.95, thermal observation tool with bright, clear Amoled, 102 4x 768 display and resolution.
Sometimes a monocular NV or Thermal can cause eye strain so this new Pulsar Accolade relieves all those problems as it has binocular vision. Its compact at 164 x 130 x 64mm and easy to hold too at only 600-grams
A Lithium ISP5 lasts all night, and a Germanium lens, F50 on this model with F1.2 aperture for a field of view of 12.4-degrees and magnification range of 2.5 to 20x. So, you have view without eye strain with a wide field of view and then zoom in for fine detail at longer ranges.
The sensor has a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels for a highquality image and combined with the AMOLED frost-free screen you now have a highly detailed image. It is a black and white screen with a black or white hot-detection option too. At the rear are the twin eyepieces that give a true binocular vision and a more relaxed viewing of the target.
The range on this model is very impressive at 1800-metres. This is a very well-built and high-performance thermal device further aiding in game spotting or doubling as a great security device also. Also available with Range finder option.
The Helion has gained a good reputation as one of the best hand-held thermal observation devices. It has an increased, un-cooled, micro-bolometric matrix of 640 x 480 pixels with a 17-nanometer pixel size with 50Hx refresh rate for a superbly detailed image. A thermal observation device, available in XQ or XP variants, where the XQ have 384 x 288 res sensors and XP the higher 640x480 sensors.
Operation is simple, with three buttons in series to activate Wi-Fi mode, to stream videos to an external screen, set calibration modes, detection mode such as rocks, forest or Identification, so enhanced contrast, low contrast or universal mode. You can adjust the colour palette as you prefer, and you can also set the rangefinder as well as use the Picture in Picture function that allows you to see a zoomed-in image with that of the original view ing.
You have a USB port for dumping pics/videos, and the IPX7 rating ensures the Helion is waterproof in intense rain, snow and submersion in 3ft of water for 30 minutes.
I have used this device to spot foxes, deer and dog walkers at some astonishing ranges, in day and night, and the image quality is excellent and means nothing can hide from you, maximising your viewing or shooting efforts all.
The flagship of the Pulsar range is the Trail, which is the thermal weapon sight equivalent of the Helion. The new Trail LRF weapon sight in either XP38 or XP50 guise uses an external Laser range finder (LRF) to instantly determine range. Very handy at night when range finding can be very tricky.
This XP50 LRF weighs only 0.71kg and is 285 x 102 x 76mm (11.2 x 4 x 3-inches) in size and although the XP50 Trail has a slightly less wider field of view than the XP38, both have an uncooled detector with a 640 x 480 pixel resolution with a frame rate of 50Hz, so crisp images even when you move the sight. Menu-operated, so loads of digital options for reticule type, different detection heats display, 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 stepped digital zoom of 2x, 4x and 8x increments. The Picture in Picture option projects a small image above the reticule and is magnified.
The AMOLED display is 640 x 480 resolution and has a distinct yellowish/green tinge to it and is ultra-sharp in reality and gives a vivid and highly contrasting image.
You have a maximum range of a deer sized target of 1800-metres dependent on weather conditions, obviously, and close up focus range of five-metres, great for rats.
The Laser range finder is brilliant, in my view, and worth the money as it accurately ranges out to 1000-metres with +/- accuracy of one-metre. The Li-ion IP5 battery lasts up to eight hours, and I will attest to that in fact.
Brand new thermal weapons sights that are hard to beat. The Thermion looks just like a regular day scope with elevation turrets, normal objective, eyepiece focusing and body tube for mounting. It only weighs 0.9kg and is 402 x 78 x 65mm dimensionally.
Turrets 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 XM50 has a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels with a frame rate 50Hz and pixel size of 12um which means a native 5.5x magnification and very smooth, sharp, well-defined images on from the 50mm lens and displayed on the 1024 x 768 pixel AMOLED screen. Digital zoom to 22x mag is surprisingly good and detection range is 2300-metres! And adjusts for zero are a sensible 7mm at 100m per clicks.
The more expensive model, the XP38, is easy to use, and has a larger 640 x 480 HD sensor of 17um. So, the images are superb, but the magnification only starts at 1.5x – 12x. It’s more expensive at £4139.95. Both are THE thermal weapon sights to beat.
Prices: £3479.95 and £4139.95, respectively
This is a hand-held thermal observation device that is very compact and light weight and fits easily into a jacket pocket, at only 304g weight and 60 x 60 x 160mm.
The Vox-FX is very handy to use and weather -proof for viewing in all conditions as well as day or night.
You have a 384 x 288 pixel detector giving a good degree of clarity, and the small display of 720 x 540 pixel and 17um pitch is actually clear to use. The objective lens is also small at 18mm, but its detection range of 650-metres is impressive and the 50Hz frame rate ensures sharp none blurry images when you move.
Magnification of 1.4 optical and 2x digital gives a good field of view for observation and the Li-on battery integrated recharged by USB cable.
Overall performance is good, although the focus knob is awkward and its size makes it an obtrusive companion.
If you have ever tried to zero in a thermal weapon sight you will know that it is pretty difficult to get a hot or cold enough area on a target board to get a good aiming point.
Well no more, BushWear sell the new Therma Bright Passive Thermal targets. These are sourced form MOD suppliers and until now have not been available to the public.
The technology is still a guarded secret, but it is passive i.e. uses no power supply to give off a thermal signature easily recognised by any thermal sight.
Available as a Bullseye Rangers Target (circular target) that is 475 x 475mm and cost £29.99 with 20mm Passive thermal patches at £3.99 for a pack of 34. Alternatively, you can buy a pest controller special in the form of a Coyote Passive target that resemble a life fox and the target is 1050 x 475mm and cost £54.99.
Yes, they are expensive, but the target material is very strong and can be left out and will last months of weather and rough use.
All you have to do is to tilt the targets
backwards at least 10-degree angle and the targets literally glow in the thermal view finder with hot and cold areas so you can easily zero your rifle.
Complementing the Thermal targets are some new life-sized colour print targets of life size foxes. These are an A1 poster size at 594 x 941mm size and priced at only £9.99 per pack of five targets. They have a fox staring at you and comes with stickers that are fixed on the eyes.
That is because they are light-reactive. When you shine a lamp or IR illuminator they will reflect and show up in the sight just like a real-life fox’s eyes would reflect.
It is a good way of training and testing your night-time abilities with your rifle and lamp/NV kit at differing ranges to make you a better and safer shot.
Contact: BushWear, bushwear.co.uk
As its name suggest this is lamp combines a visible illumination lamp of two colours as well as an IR illuminator for NV kit. The LED illuminator offers red and amber LED and IR 850nm illumination at the turn of a topmounted swivel system, so you always have the option of normal lamp use or a stealthy IR beam. It weighs 480-grams and is eight inches in length, so is easily mounted 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.
You also have a dimmer switch control which is really handy for close range or lamp shy foxes and full power for distant vermin. This being complimented by an adjustable beam width.
The red and amber LEDs as well as an IR 850nm illuminator or (white, red and amber option too) are superbly clear and all you will need to lamp or enhance an NV device for night shooting. Amber light is really good for shy foxes. Priced at £199.96 for the kit version, it offers good value for money and is well-built too. The Torch alone with charger is £179.95.
Price: from £199.96
Contact: Night Master nightmaster.co.uk
A headlamp is a necessity for getting to and from a shooting area safely and for reloading in the field. The Princeton Tec Byte has been upgraded to give a full 100L of light and like a few other models has a Mossy Oak Bottomlands camo headband.
It features a strong IPX4 water-resistant toughened ABS lamp head casing which uses an asymmetrical single arm bracket enabling the head to be angled down through 90-degrees.
It weighs a mere 64g including batteries and gives 100 lumens on full power with a burn time of 58hrs and is equipped with a digital battery lockout. It features 1x Maxbright White LED and 1x Ultrabright Red LED which are accessed by a three-mode rubberised pressure switch positioned top centre of the lamp. Press once for the red LED (useful for loading magazines preserving night vision), again and the white LED comes on low beam, again accesses full power and one more touch turns it off. Burn times and ranges for the white light are 3hr 48m, 58hr 24m and red 63hrs. It’s dual-fuel capability allows it to run off the 2 AAA alkaline batteries (supplied) or lithium.
If you are looking for an excellent clear and far reaching IR illuminator, then the Laser Luchs from Germany is the lamp. Its higher 850nm wavelength is designed for use with Digital and Gen 1 and Gen2+ devices, but not Gen1. It gives a very marked improvement over the standard IR on board devices and boost the useful range and as well as increase target definition.
Priced at £529 it may seem a bit high but the quality of build and longevity warrant this. I like the flexible switch system and variable beam from 3.5- to 15-foot for close or distant work and uses a single CR123A battery that lasts for ages.
The clarity of the beam is very clean and clear, i.e. no vignetting, gauze-like filter, its razor-edged, bright and a superb IR illuminator.
FAs well as a headlight it’s also handy to carry a compact and more powerful handheld torch for various night-time tasks. The Fenix PD35 V2.0 Digital Camouflage Edition measures 138mm x 23mm and weighs 88-grams excluding battery. It’s manufactured from durable aircraft-grade aluminium treated to a Premium Type III hard anodised anti-abrasive finish, plus has a IPX68 water-proofing rating. The Cree XP-L HI V3 LED is capable of sending a tight 1000 lumen beam out to 250m on full power aided by its smooth aluminium reflector and toughened ultra-clear glass lens plus anti-reflective coating.
Power can be taken from either 2 x CR123 or a single 16850 battery. If required it can also be run on 2x 16340 (LiFePO4) 3.2v batteries.
It offers five brightness levels plus quick access SOS emergency strobe all accessed by the metal side-button.
Outputs and runtimes being: Turbo 1000 lumens, (2hrs 50min), High 350 lumens, (5hrs 10min), Med 150Lumens, (12hrs 25min), Low 50Lumens, (29hrs 30min), ECO 3 lumens, (430hrs) and Strobe 1000 lumens.
There’s a low voltage warning function built into the side button mode switch, it’s digitally regulated, and intelligent circuitry remembers the previously used brightness level. The rubberised tactical tail cap switch allows for momentary and constant-on switching functions.
Comes supplied with a removable pocket/belt clip, hand lanyard and Nylon carry pouch.
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