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Top 11 Night Vision and Thermal Optics

  • 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 shooter’s chance of outwitting Charlie and filling that game bag with rabbits. But, NV does not have it all its own way anymore! Thermal technology has catapulted into our sport and really stirred up the mix, with some incredible detection and weapons-based systems.

    We have come a long way from the early ‘after hours’ devices that were heavy, with a short detection range and expensive for what they offered. Now, with traditional intensifier tubes being challenged by new digital technology, there seems to be more and more new and elaborate kit on the market, which has forced the price down to a point where most shooters can buy something of practical use. This applies to Thermal as well as NV.

  • NITE SITE DARK OPS EAGLE

    Nite Site were the first to offer a cost-effective NV system that attached to your day sight and used a TV screen, camera and IR illuminator. Equally good for rats in barns, as it is for foxes at range, they now offer three models under the Dark Ops name, Eagle, Wolf and Viper. There’s an IR projector with the TV screen at the rear, which attaches to the scope’s body tube and sits on top of the scope with a clamp. The camera attaches to the eyepiece and sends the image of what the scope sees (including reticle) to the TV screen, which you view. A separate battery pack provides up to 5 hours use. The Dark Ops Eagle Elite is the high spec unit that gives sharply 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 an SD slot, so you can record images too. There’s also a laser rangefinder attachment that is really good, as judging distance at night is hard and this unit solves that problem. Nite Site’s three versions will suit airgunners, rimfire and centrefire firearms users and their proven technology delivers a good NV sight for the price

    Nite Site: www.nitesite.com

    Price £899

    Laser Rangefinder £225

  • PULSAR ARGUS LRF IS A NIGHT VISION GEN 2+

    PULSAR ARGUS LRF IS A NIGHT VISION GEN 2+

    This weapon-dedicated sight weighs 1.2kg, with dimensions of 322x111x87mm 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 9º. Best of all, is the laser rangefinder, which takes away the uncertainty of the range to your quarry, so that an accurate shot at night is now possible. The Argus is a Russian Gen 2 + tube sight that gives a good degree of 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. For those wanting a one-stop NV dedicated weapon scope from a trusted company, then the new Argus LRF must be it.

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

    Price £2229.95

  • PULSAR PHANTOM

    PULSAR PHANTOM

    This model is the Phantom 4x60MD with dimensions of 320x95x103mm and weighing 1245 grams; so, quite large. There is a magnification of 4x, giving a field of view of 9º and has a detection range of 700 metres all for under £2000. This model is not a conventional tube type sight, available in Russian Gen 2 + intensifier, but with either conventional green or black white phosphor screen. Black and white phosphor option gives a nice, sharp, well-defined image for viewing and I found it easier to differentiate between a rabbit and the mud it was sitting on. You have a fixed 4x magnification, which to me is plenty, but some may want more and so an NV60 1.5x convertor is available as an accessory for £119.95, if you so desire. Conventional elevation and windage adjustment are convenient too. Good value for money and you get Thomas Jacks’ good 3-year guarantee and back up service too.

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

    Price £1729.95

  • PULSAR DIGISIGHT ULTRA N355

    PULSAR DIGISIGHT ULTRA N355

    The Pulsar model Digisight Ultra D355 is your typical night vision digi unit that weighs 800 grams and is compact at 314x67x91mm. You have a magnification of 3.5x with digital zoom of 14x and the objective lens 50mm F1.0 gives a field of view of 8.7m at 100 metres, 6º. There is an IR Illumination of 940nm LED and detection range is 500 metres and from the sensor a resolution of 752 x 582 pixels from the ½ CCD. Images are crisp with the screen resolution of 640x480 AMOLED HD. Power is the long-lasting IPS5 Lithium power pack. Not only do hunters require better resolution but they are also looking for better range detection, coupled to longer battery life and all in all a lighter more compact sight. The image is clear and that gives confidence on small targets at range and its great value for money with great performance.

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

    Price £1249.95

  • YUKON PHOTON RT

    YUKON PHOTON RT

    The Yukon Photon RT is another digital weapon sight that offers great value for money. It weighs 870g and is 421x100x92mm in size and uses 4x AA or rechargeable battery pack giving 3.5 hrs life. You have a lens of 42mm with a magnification of 4.5x and 9x digital zoom and the sensor, which is a CMOS 768x576, offers a detection range 200m and field of view of 4.3º. This mounts like a conventional scope on standard 30mm rings, or you can buy an optional, one piece, Picatinny mount for £66.95, with the actual sight being a great value price of sub-£600. 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 an integral IR illuminator of 850nm 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 past 125 yards. Turn on that IR illuminator and then image instantly improves, with more definition and the range increases too. A digital NV scope that airgun or rimfire shooters should take a serious look at.

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

    Price £589.95

  • AC NIGHT STALKER

    AC NIGHT STALKER

    The AC Guns NightStalker is one of a breed of addon NV kits, using digital technology, and is similar to the Nite Site. It comprises of a TV screen and large IR illuminator that fits to your existing scope all for the price of £250. The screen is 4.3” and power is from a Lithium battery pack and 3.7v battery for IR with a detection range up to 200 yards. It’s suitable for air rifles, or rimfires in both .22 or .17 calibres. The full package includes carry case, charger, battery, IR torch, monitor, clamps, camera unit and all the attachment brackets. This kit is designed for use at a realistic range and offer shooters on a budget a good NV sight that is capable of detection up to a max 200 yards. The IR, 850nm is a nice bit of kit and is doubly useful, as it has a zoom lens feature, so you can spread it wide in barn farmyard areas, or close-quarter woods scenario. Unusual heads up viewing, but a cheap way to get into NV, as it represents good value for money. Detection range is limited but be sensible and that IR really helps. Also, being an add-on, it’s nice to u

    AC Guns, 01424 752261

    Price £250

  • THERMAL

    Rather than using a night vision device to illuminate an object at night by boosting available light or enhanced images using an Infra-red beam, thermal imaging devices allow you to see the heat given off from a warm body or object. This works in day light hours as well as at night, so making it doubly useful as a viewing device. It works so well because a heat source, however small, literally pops out at you on the viewing screen compared to the much colder background fields, trees or farm buildings. It’s the same technology we have all seen on TV with the Police helicopter teams searching for criminals or lost hill walkers, using their body heat to locate them. Hand-held or weapon sights are available.

  • PULSAR HELION XP38

    PULSAR HELION XP38

    This is the next generation thermal observation device available in XQ OR XP variants, where the XQ has 384x288 res sensors and XP the higher 640x480 versions. It has an increased, un-cooled micro-bolometric matrix of 640x480 pixels, with a 17 nanometer pixel size with 50Hx refresh rate for a superbly detailed image. Lenses are interchangeable and have a quickrelease feature to update, although the new, smooth, continuous digital zoom allows differing fields of view to suit your needs. The battery pack is a Li-ion pack that fits in the right-side hand grip. It maximises comfort and significantly increases viewing times. Operation is simple, with three buttons in series, to activate Wi-Fi mode to stream videos to an external source and set calibration modes, detection mode, such as rocks, forest, or Identification so enhanced contrast, low contrast or universal mode. Or, to adjust colour palette as you prefer, you can also set the rangefinder as well as Picture in Picture function that allows you to see a zoomed in image while viewing the original. You have a USB port for dumping pics/videos and the IPX7 rating ensures the Helion is waterproof up to 3ft of water for 30 minutes. Image quality is superb but it’s not cheap!

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

    Price £3329.95

  • PULSAR QUANTUM LITE XQ30W

    PULSAR QUANTUM LITE XQ30W

    This is Pulsar’s entry level thermal and carries on the Quantum hand held device range. Available in 18mm or 23 mm lenses sizes, 23mm on this XQ30W model it delivers very good performance and detection range for a realistic price for those wanting a thermal detection at sensible hunting ranges.

    This Lite version is all you really need and has a reinforced fibreglass body with rubber armoured contours for an IPX4 degree of weather protection. You have a simple control layout with a focus ring behind the 23mm germanium lens that also has an iris rotating cover for protection- clever. There is the frontmounted controller wheel that when pushed operates the brightness, contrast and rangefinder mode; rotating the controller increase or decreases these levels accordingly. A mode button activates the digital zoom and colour palette. Digital zoom is 2x or 4x power and the colour palette has seven colours; white hot, black hot, red monochrome, rainbow, ultramarine, violet or sepia. You also have a choice of three modes, i.e. city, which is enhanced contrast, forest, low contrast and Identification improved details. The calibration button allows manual, semi manual or automatic calibration, to optimise detection as the surroundings change temp. There’s a removable battery pack that holds 4 AA batteries, a Li-ion pack or secure a power pack to the Weaver rail. A superb, well-priced device that brings thermal to the masses at under £1300.*

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

    Price £1299.95

  • PULSAR ACCOLADE XP50

    PULSAR ACCOLADE XP50

    Really compact, light and waterproof design that is very easy to use with clear images and long battery life. Simple controls, on/off , rec, and then two navigate buttons for the central main menu button. Even I can operate it in darkness

    These are Pulsar’s new thermal imaging binoculars that are compact at 164x130x64mm and easy to hold too at 600 grams, so maximising comfort and reducing eye strain. A Lithium ISP5 cell lasts for ages and the Germanium F50 lens on this model with F1.2 aperture for a field of view of 12.4º and magnification range of 2.5 to 20x. This gives a great blend of wide view and magnification range, which is controlled for zoom digitally. 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 is a black and white screen with a black or white hot option too. At the rear, are the twin eyepieces that make a true binocular vision and gives a more relaxed viewing of the target. The range on this XP50 model is very impressive at 1800 metres. This is a well built and high performance thermal device further aiding in game spotting or doubling as a great security device too.

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

    Price £4699.95

  • PULSAR TRAIL XP38

    PULSAR TRAIL XP38

    The Pulsar Trail is a new breed of thermal; as with the Apex, this model is a thermal weapon sight, so you can both detect the target and shoot it in one. The new Trail XP38 offers a superb level of detection and clarity at a price of near £4000. I like the wider angle of the 38mm lens and it has a 640x480pixel resolution with a frame rate of 50Hz so crisp images. 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. 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. Battery life is basically all night, so no need to worry about power. 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 1476 meters! This is a superb thermal weapon sight that offers excellent clarity, definition and long detection range and ability to take an accurate shot too.

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

    Price £3769.95

  • PULSAR CORE FXD 50

    PULSAR CORE FXD 50

    The new Pulsar FXD50 Core is a front-mounted thermal weapons sight that converts a day sight to thermal use for day or night. Priced just shy of £4000, you get a very good device that is excellent for detecting your quarry in the hand with its distinctive green OLED sapphire display. Being front- mounted, there are no parallax issues and the zero stays the same and your day scope’s reticle looks over laid on the image. Sensitivity was good and looked very vivid and gave a good contrast between the reticule and image a superbly detailed view.

    Thomas Jacks; www.thomasjacks.co.uk

    Price £3999.95

Conclusion

There are few suppliers, as can be seen, and it always pays to go with a big company that can supply and repair with links direct to the supplier. Also, as with all technology these days, technology improves at an accelerated rate; so, new versions seem to appear monthly. My best advice, though, is to buy from a well-established and reputable dealer and one that offers a returns, repair and warranty or consider NV specialist such as Scott Country (www. scottcountry.co.uk) who holds a massive stock of equipment. Don’t be seduced by special offers on the internet, you never really know what you are getting.

Comments

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