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Night Vision Round-Up Part 3

Night Vision Round-Up Part 3

Many hold that the only proper way to approach hunting with NV is to have a dedicated rifle and sight for the purpose. This approach simultaneously eliminates any issues of compatibility or alignment between day and night optics and opens up a massive array of products.

All the major manufacturers have plenty to offer, so I’ll limit myself here to ten devices I’ve looked at recently: Armasight Drone Pro, ATN X-Sight, Phantom 4x60WP, Digisight LRF N970, Pulsar Apex XD50 and XD75, Optix Identifier, Torrey Pines Logic T12 thermals and Yukon’s Photon digital riflescope.


I’ll start with the only tubed device in my list: the Pulsar Phantom 4x60 MD WP. Like most tubed models, you can choose the type to suit your needs and your pocket. A Gen 2+ tube is adequate for foxing and at £1,649.95 it competes well with digital alternatives. Image quality is good, and noticeably more even and consistent than you get from digital. It also needs less IR, so your detection and identification ranges aren’t tied to the ability of your illuminator!

MD refers to its Mil-Dot reticle. This occupies only the very centre of the image, which makes for an uncluttered sight picture but leaves the reticle rather small and makes it quite hard to see the dots. Adjusting brightness and selecting red or green does help! As for the WP part, this signifies a white phosphor tube. Unlike the green image provided by a standard tube, this shows a black-and-white picture with greater clarity, contrast, and depth of field. A 1.5X lens converter is available to boost the magnification to 6X. This will shift the point-of-impact so leave it on! Unfortunately it does block the on-board IR, so an external illuminator is required.


The Big three here are the Pulsar Digisight, the Armasight Drone Pro and new kid on the block, the ATN X-Sight, but we shouldn’t overlook Yukon’s Photon.

Yukon photon

There are two models, the XT 4.6x42 S and the 6.5x50 S, keenly priced at £399.95 and £419.95, respectively. As the model designations suggest, the primary differences are in the size of the objective lens and the magnification, but the former also offers a choice of six reticle patterns to the latter’s four. In each case, however, the reticle can be displayed in either red, green or white. The 640x480 LCD display is a close match to the 656x492 resolution of the CCD and produces a very workable image that is more than adequate for air rifle and rimfire use. The on-board 3-step 810nm IR does a fair job too, but there’s also a short accessory rail on the R/H side for a separate illuminator.

The beauty of the design is that it effectively puts a digital front-end on a conventional riflescope. This means you get normal eye-relief (60mm), and a main tube that fits normal 30mm rings, but with all the benefits of digital reticles, a one-shot-zero program and a video-out port. The Photon uses AA batteries too. Basically, if you want to try NV on the cheap the Photon is the answer!

Pulsar digisight

At the other end of the scale, the latest digital NV riflescope from Yukon’s sister company Pulsar is the Digisight LRF N970. The first Digisight was introduced in 2009, and the N970 is the 4th generation. Externally –except for the prominent rangefinder module-, it may appear similar to the original 550 model, but inside a lot has changed.

When comparing the new LRF N970 and the outgoing LRF N870 model, the main difference is an expansion in the zoom range from 4.5X-9X to 3.5X-14X, plus the addition of 5 zero settings to each of the 3 programmable weapon profiles that can be stored in its memory. Key features that are retained are the laser rangefinder, 500x582 sensor and 640x480 OLED display, ant-cant indicator, ample eye-relief (67mm), easy manual image adjustment or automatic SumLight adjustment, covert 915nm laser IR, top- and side-mounted accessory rails, a wide choice of reticles in any of 4 colours, one-shot and freeze-frame rapid zeroing programs, a wireless remote with power ON/ OFF, IR and zoom controls, tilt-activated auto-shut-off, a power-saving mode, video-out and external power facilities. Remarkably, the costs the same as its predecessor: £1,499.95.

Armasight drone pro

Armasight majors on optical performance, range and ruggedness. The Drone Pro 10X and 15X models have aerospace aluminium rather than polymer housings and massive objective lenses that give them true 10X and 15X optical magnification. There are no lens extenders or digital extrapolation here, just maximum light grabbing, a high-rate, hyper-sensitive 976x582 CCD, super-fast processing, and big, crisp 800x600 AMOLED displays.

There’s no built-in IR, but an 850 nM long-range X-LR-M illuminator is included, as is a platform-ring riser for the 15X version, whilst an external power-pack can be mounted to the accessory rail on the R/H side. The focusable Illuminator has 4 power levels, an adjustable mount for perfect alignment, and comes complete with a rechargeable battery and charger. Controls are placed on top of the sight, making them equally accessible to right- and left-handers, and there’s also a wireless remote power switch.

For targeting, there are six selectable reticle patterns. These are only available in black or white, but as a bonus the image offers daytime colour as well as monochrome in low light. Reticle adjustment is a generous ±55 MoA / 16.3 MRAD (vertical) and ±30 MoA / 8.9 mils (horizontal) in fine 0.44 MoA / 0.12 MRAD increments.

The 10X measures 260mm x 85mm x76mm and weighs 1.02 kg, whilst the 15X is naturally a bit bigger/heavier at 290mm x 91mm x 107mm and 1.3 kg. Mounting uses a QR lever-locking Picatinny rail that makes it easy to switch between rifles. Further capability is provided by a combined videoout/ power-in socket. Available exclusively from Night Vision Gear UK, the Drone Pro 10X costs £1,699.00 and the 15X £1,899.00.

ATN X-Sight II

Now we come to ATN’s X-Sight. When it was launched, ATN’s CEO told me that their vision was to make the X-Sight the iPhone of riflescopes. I think he meant that it would be so packed with useful features that it would soon become ubiquitous, not that the first couple of generations would be so full of bugs that users would be under no illusions about who was doing the beta testing on their own dime! That said, the price was attractive enough for plenty of people to buy in, and the second generation is considerably better than the first!

The X-Sight II pitches itself as a true day/ night scope with a 1080p HD sensor and display and a powerful Obsidian II microprocessor at its core. The sight comes in two formats: 3-14x50 and 2.5-20x85. In each case the upper end of the magnification range is reached via digital extrapolation – with extended extrapolation to 30X or 25Xand the image can be switched from full colour by day to monochrome in low light, typical of digital NV; plenty of IR illumination is required in this mode. There’s no built-in IR, but a rail on the L/H side lets you mount a separate unit.

Other assets include GPS, an e-compass, a barometer, and a 3D gyroscope. These work with a bracketing rangefinder and a programmable ballistic calculator that can save multiple profiles to the system memory, enabling the X-Sight II to adjust the reticle position automatically to the holdover required for the cartridge, zero distance, range and angle of incline. You can also input wind strength and direction, then let the X-Sight track your orientation and compensate accordingly! Naturally, the X-Sight lets you select form a variety of reticle patterns and colour options too.

The image, complete with audio, can be recorded at 1080p/30fps to the built-in 4 GB memory or to a MicroSD card with up to 64 GB of capacity. Better still, an on-board accelerometer enables a (centrefire) Recoil- Activated Video function that uses continuous buffering to save not only the moment of the shot but also several seconds before it and as much time afterwards as there is room for on the card. If, like me, you end up so focussed on the shot that you routinely forget to push record this is a godsend! Micro USB and HDMI ports and on-board Bluetooth 4.1 and WiFi transceivers also let you connect to a smartphone or tablet for external streaming, recording or playback, or for controlling/updating the software and firmware via ATN’s free app.

Physical dimensions are 294 mm x 79 mm x 87 mm for the 3-14x50 and 289mm x 90mm x 88mm for the 2.5-20x85, with weights of 680g and 1156g, respectively. Eye relief is 65mm, and adjustments are 1/8” in each case.

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The X-sight II is priced at £649.00 for the 3-14x50 and £779 for the 2.5-20x85. It’s a ground-breaking device with a uniquely rich feature set and offered at a very keen price. It’s down to ATN to make sure it really ‘does what it says on the tin’!


Nothing works better for spotting than a thermal monocular, but when you switch from thermal to regular tubed or digital NV you have to re-acquire your quarry in a different kind of image -one in which it doesn’t stand out in absolute white or black contrast to its background. Switch to a thermal riflescope on the other hand, and you can take up precisely where you left off!

The downside with thermal is that the comparative coarseness of both sensors and displays, and the lag caused by relatively-slow refresh rates, can lead to a degree of imprecision in the relationship between the crosshairs, the target and the actual point of impact that makes the effective range of the sight much shorter than its identification or detection range. Higher optical magnification, bigger sensors, smaller pixels and higherresolution displays all make for greater precision and so increase the effective range of a thermal riflescope.

Pulsar apex XD50 and XD75

Pulsar’s Apex series of riflescopes all feature the same 384x288, 25μm, 50Hz core and 640x480 OLED display, have the same controls, and employ a version of the software that is familiar from the firm’s Quantum monoculars and Digisight riflescopes. There’s also a choice of 10 reticle patterns and colours (black/white), an easy-zeroing facility, storable zero setting for 3 weapons, 3 different calibration and operation modes, quick-adjustable brightness, contrast and polarity (white-hot/black-hot), a scrollable 2X digital zoom, a picture-in-picture (PiP) mode that combines wide-angle and zoomed images, a wireless remote control (ON/OFF, Calibration, Zoom/PiP), a dead-pixel repair function, combined video-out/power-in sockets, 67mm of eye-relief, and an accessory rail for mounting a recorder or external power-pack on the L/H side of the sight.

Dimensions are 343mm x 80mm x 75mm for the XD50 and 381mm x 80mm x 75mm for the XD75, and they weigh 700g and 770g respectively. Base magnification for the XD50 is 2X, giving it a CDR of 1,250m. The XD75, meanwhile, offers 3X magnification, extending its detection range to 1,600m for the XD75.
More importantly, however, each unit of windage and elevation adjustment on the Apex XD50 equals a 30mm shift at 100m, as compared to 20mm for the XD75. These numbers may seem small, but that is 50% more magnification and clicks that are 33% finer, and together they make a big difference to the precision of each sight, giving the larger model at least double and arguably triple the effective range of the smaller one. It seems likely that we’ll soon see an uprated XQ version with a 17μm core which will make the 75 even better and bring the 50 into centrefire territory.

Optix indentifier snapshot 60

Optix’s Identifier Snapshot 60 (IS60) model has a lot to offer. Designed from the start to do double duty as a hand-held spotter, a pair of high-quality QD lever-locking Picatinny rail clamps makes it possible to mount/dismount it in moments without loss of zero, and if you shoot a Blaser R93/R8 there’s even a dedicated saddle mount. A hand strap is supplied that makes it easy to hold. The housing is magnesium alloy rather than polymer, and the unit has 65mm of eye-relief to make it viable to use with harder-recoiling cartridges. Like the Apex range, it is rated to withstand recoil up to .50 BMG levels. As its designation indicates, the IS60 has a 60mm objective lens, whose 3X optical magnification is supplemented by a two-step digital zoom for a maximum 12X magnification. The lens is protected by a tough scratch-resistant coating and controlled by a wide and tactile focussing ring. The 348 x 288 pixel, 25μm core is the same size as the Apex’s but refreshes at a slower 30Hz. Optix claim a detection range of 1,100m and a recognition range of 370m.

It measures 76mm x 88mm x 188mm and weighs 1,140g without batteries. It has an on-board memory card that can store up to 200 thermal images, plus a video-out port and a tripod socket. Batteries are held in a tray that slots into the base of the scope. Flush-fitting trays are available that hold 4 x CR123A or 2 x 18650 cells, and there’s also an extended tray that holds 4 x 18650s, for a maximum run time of around 14 hours. Also helping to extend run time is a power-off function that activates automatically when the sight has more than 45o of cant and 60o of pitch.

A grippy focussing ring at the rear brings the display into sharp focus, where an easily-mastered user interface, plus three rubberised buttons on the top of the unit, let you adjust brightness, select automatic (NUC) or manual calibration, switch polarity (black-hot/white-hot), select from 5 different reticle patterns, and choose whether you want these to show white or black, or –very usefully- to contrast automatically with the image behind them. This last feature is particularly useful where the reticle has a fine central dot because it lets you centre it on the target with a very high degree of precision, an attribute that helps offset the sight’s somewhat coarse 2.8 cm @ 100 m “click” value. Also useful – especially in view of the QD-type mount- is the ability to store 5 different ballistic profiles, each with 5 distance settings.

In 2015, Optix introduced a laserrangefinding module for the IS60. This is also available as a factory-upgrade for existing units, measures 78mm x 60mm x 67mm, adds 207g, and has a quoted range of 600m, accurate to +/- 1m.

The IS60 is now also available in an uprated version with a 640 x 480, 17μm, 50Hz core. This boosts the detection/ identification ranges to 1630m/540m, reduces the click value to 20mm @ 100m, and adds a reticle that remains in scale when the digital zoom is activated (i.e. it works like a first-focal-plane reticle), enabling the stadia on the reticle to be used at higher magnifications.

The Identifier Snapshot 60 costs £5,880 in standalone format and £6,900 in the rangefinding version, whilst the highresolution equivalents cost £8,040 and £ 8,760, respectively. It is available exclusively from Rovicom in the UK.

Torrey pines logic T-12

ATN and Armasight also have thermal riflescopes on the way, and yet to be tested. But I want to end with something very different: the weaponised equivalent of the scaled-down thermal devices we’ve already seen from Seek and FLIR.

The prime example here is Torrey Pines Logic’s T12 series of micro weapon sights. Four models are available, designated M, N, V and W. All have rugged alloy housings and use a FLIR 80x60, 17μm Lepton core and a 1” colour 80×60 LED display, but the T12-N and T12-V run at 9Hz, whilst the T12-M and T12-W run at a much smoother 30Hz.

FoV varies significantly from model to model (N: 25o; V: 8.33o; M: 50o; W: 12.5o) as does the CDR (N: 60m; V: 150m; M: 30m; W: 100m), and due to a longer 2X lens the T12-V and T12-W tip the scales at 64g, whilst the wide-angle T12-N and T12-M weigh just 50g. External dimensions for all four models are 50mm x 45mm x 39mm, and all are powered by a transverse-mounted CR132 lithium battery with an 8-hour run-time.

Two rubberised buttons on the R/H side of the housing let you quickly calibrate the device, select one of 4 colour modes (black-hot / white-hot / full-colour / NVgreen), and toggle the reticle (ON/OFF), as well as providing access to the configuration menu which includes controls for brightness, reticle selection, zeroing, power-saving, language and yds/m. The display can also be configured to show the battery level and the target temperature.

You can fit any of the sights to a tripod using the socket underneath, or mount them to the vertical grip or wrist-strap supplied for hand-held use. For weapon mounting, meanwhile, the T12-N and T12-V come with a simple Picatinny rail clamp, whilst the T12-M and T12-W have a more sophisticated QD lever-locking version. At the time of writing, only the 9Hz T12-V and 30Hz T12-W are available in the UK, priced at £675 and £759 respectively.

Limitations on identification range and precision –the reticle adjustments are a full pixel on the display!- mean that at present the T12s are best suited to airsoft skirmishing, or perhaps to going after bunnies with a suppressed .410, but that doesn’t stop them feeling like an exciting taste of things to come!

That ends this NV round-up. Hopefully, it has given you a snapshot of what’s on offer, and will help you choose the approach and system that best fits your needs and your budget. It’ll be obvious too that the NV scene is one of constant innovation and development, so there’s a constant temptation to wait just a little longer to see what’s coming round the corner! Don’t! Get stuck in, and get shooting!


Armasight: www.armasight.com (UK: Night Vision Gear UK)
ATN Corp: www.atncorp.com (UK: ATN EU)
ATN EU: 0203 7446303; www.atneu.com
Cobra Optics (Thomas Jacks Ltd.)
Nightmaster: 01535 611688; www.nightmaster.co.uk
Night Vision Gear UK: 02830 263235; www.nightvisiongear.co.uk
Optix Co.: www.optixco.com (UK: Rovicom)
Rovicom Ltd: 01253 206221 www.optixnightvision.co.uk
Scott Country Ltd: 0556 503587; www.scottcountry.co.uk
Thomas Jacks Ltd: 01789 264100; www.thomasjacks.co.uk
Torrey Pines Logic: http://tplogic.com (UK: Scott Country Ltd.)
Yukon Optics: yukonopticsglobal.com (UK: Thomas Jacks Ltd.)
Pulsar: www.pulsar-nv.com (UK: Thomas Jacks Ltd.)
Wuhan Guide Infrared Co., Ltd.: http://guideinfrared.com (UK: Thomas Jacks Ltd.)
Starlight NV: www.starlightnv.co.uk; 01942884378
Nite Site: www.nitesite.com 01759 377235

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