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Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Weapons Sight

Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Weapons Sight

Back in February, after a long-term test with Pulsar’s Trail thermal weapon sight, I was left gob smacked at its performance. Thermal imagers have transformed the way we look, literally, at the game fields and what lives within them. Some say its cheating, as no living, i.e. warm bodied object, can avoid its penetrating gaze!

Though technology is rising in this field, prices seem to be coming down a little too, so now is a good time to consider a thermal device. In most cases downward, so making it even more viable to spend your hardearned cash on a thermal that now cost the same as a high-end scope.

The Pulsar Trial is a new breed of thermal sight; as with the Apex, this model is a thermal weapon sight, so does double duty as a spotter and a sight. On test, is the new Trail XP38 that offers a superb level of detection and clarity at a price of £3769.95.

Spec check

There are 34 pages of instructions in the manual, so I will only go through the salient points, otherwise it will become a brochure. I like the wider field of view (FOV) given by its 38mm lens compared to the XP50’s 50mm version! But that’s me, as I shoot a lot of woods where a wide FOV is more important than longer range.

Regardless, both have an uncooled detector and 640x480 pixel resolution with a frame rate of 50Hz, so no blurring of the image, good. You have a F38mm F1.2 lens, which gives 1.2x mag, whereas the XP50 gives 1.6x mag. But you do have the option of a continuous digital zoom from 1.2 to 9.6x mag or set digital zoom of 2x, 4x and 8x. There is a good field of view of 28.6m at 100 metres, so you get a good overall picture of what is hot on the land. It’s also quite compact at 11.5x2.8x2.6” and weighs in at 620 grams and once mounted is not too high on the rifle or un-balanced.

Go green

The AMOLED display is 640x480 resolution and has a nice greenish tinge, which really gives good contrast to the image. You have a technical maximum range of a detected 1.7m tall object of 1476m, and a useful 5m minimum close-up distance, so great for rats in barns. Nice, is the black and white-hot options, which give two different colours to switch between to really define the image.

The Li-ion battery has a quoted 8-hour run time, and it does, plus a 5v, USB, external supply can be used also. As with the forward-mounted Pulsar F155 you also have a Wi-fi connection capability to stream footage and an on board 8 gb memory to store video and pictures.

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  • Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Weapons Sight - image {image:count}

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  • Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Weapons Sight - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Weapons Sight - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Weapons Sight - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Weapons Sight - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Weapons Sight - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

  • Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Weapons Sight - image {image:count}

    click on image to enlarge

It’s easy to forget that a thermal needs no light for detection, so is just as good, day or night! The image is dependent on the local temperatures to define a gradient difference between objects. To make it easier, you have three detection modes of City, Forest and Identification, to fine- tune the image. Importantly, you have three calibration settings; Manual, Semi-automatic and automatic, which updates to the current temperatures and adjusts the image accordingly.

Lucky 13

There’s also a choice of 13 differing reticles and illumination, but I stuck to the single dot, as I found this best. You have 10 differing zero ranges for each rifle profile used, so a myriad of differing calibres and distances can be set by using the main menu in menu settings. There is a 3-axis accelerometer, gyroscope and magnetometer that allow a horizontal and tilt correction, as well as a set up for auto shut off when tilted.

Defective pixel repair mode and quick zero and one shot zero functions as well as a stadia range finder function. All these functions are accessed via the four, large, waterproof buttons that lie along the top of the body casing, with the large focus wheel, ON/OFF switch to the right-hand side and USB port to the left.

That’s just the start, as there are many set ups within set ups, as well as contrast, brightness, reticle colour- you name it. It’s all covered in the manual, read it and then read it again; trust me!

In the field

I have used the Trail on everything from rimfires up to 308s and custom calibres. Due to its ease of mounting and dismounting, you can easily swap between rifles, because the internal digital wizardry allows several zero and different gun options that can be saved and accessed when the gun and calibre has changed.

I have to admit, I am a bit of a technophobe when it comes to digital gadgetry, which may sound odd, seeing as I am testing this! But I much prefer dials and buttons to push, than endless, ‘menu-inmenu’ set ups. This is probably my only bug bear with the Trail, as setting up as a rifle sight it needs quite a few attempts to execute and if you have not re-zeroed recently you forget the procedure and must go back to the beginning. It might well be my age, but sometimes I think the manufactures perhaps give too many options!

This aside performance is quite breath taking.

  • Battery life is basically all night, so no need to worry about losing power. In fact, I just leave the Trail on when shooting and in truth have not seen exactly how long it lasts total.
  • Adjust the tensioners on the quick release Weaver-type mounts correctly and return to zero is very good, certainly not enough to miss a rabbit at 50 yards or fox at 150.
  • The AMOLED screen has a greenish hue to it, which is different from the Pulsar Helion hand-held device and to me it looks sharper with more definition, I like!
  • Detection range is impressive, this model states a maximum distance of 1476m. Well, I was picking up thermal signatures out to 1000 yards on walking humans with dogs easily with definition, so a near 1500m range I would say is doable. Deer at 1000 yards and foxes to be honest almost the same 800-900 yards, although at that range it’s only a thermal blob! But after months of use, you get to recognise the outlines of each species better.
  • Actual shooting range is much, much less. Be sensible, use the thermal to locate, verify and then stalk in closer. This model only has a 1.2x mag optical and a digital zoom in increment set to 9.6x. Trouble is, as the digital mag increases, so does the pixel size until at 6- 7x ish mag; unless it’s a large fox at 200 yards that’s about it!
  • The reticle choice is varied but I found most too thick in the stadia, which covered too much of the target, due to the lower mag. I used the single dot, which is remarkably good; just locate, put on the centre mass and shoot.
  • On ‘white hot’, the reticle is black, so shows up but on ‘black hot’ the reticle disappears, but you can change this, but another menu in menu!
  • ‘Black hot’ has a far better definition to the image, i.e. really like a black and white photograph.
  • Start-up is quite speedy and the controls and whole unit are waterproof, I had it in deluges in Scotland looking at stags and it did not falter.
  • Best of all, is the Q/D mount system, as I used the Trail 75% in the hand for observation and detection, so it doubles well as a viewer, as well as a weapon sight.
  • Weather conditions do play an important part to thermal use! Misty mornings are usually all one temperature and so the image is vague and ill-defined. Game can be clearly viewed, but when seen through a set of binoculars then the rabbit, for example, is often obscured by twigs, undetected by the thermal, so take extreme care. Practice to get familiar with the various animals and how they look as a heat signature image, and at all ranges you intend to shoot, so that you do not make a mistake!

Conclusions

Take a deep breath and take the plunge, as £3769.95 is a lot but the performance and time saved walking in the wrong area, safety due to spotting dog walkers and just pure enjoyment of observing game undetected is worth it in my view. I have genuinely been blown away with the XP38 Trail’s performance and it is a game changer in all respects and will provoke comment from traditionalists, I am sure. As a pure tool for viewing, counting, detection, safety and security it’s superb, the fact that you can use it as a weapon sight as well is a bonus!

Contact: Thomas Jacks, 01789 264100 info@thomasjacks.co.uk

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