Pulsar Trail LRF XP50
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- Last updated: 20/03/2019
The Trail Thermal weapon sight, introduced back in 2017, really took the shooting world by storm. Pulsar, as with their observational thermal devices, had upped the game and produced the first ‘affordable’ thermal sight available to shooters in the country. The flagship of the Pulsar range is the Trail, with the Helion being its equivalent in the observation-only option. As such, the Trail resembles a really compact, light and highly sensitive unit that can be used both for observation and then weapon-mounted to take the shot.
Thermals, unlike Night Vison, detect heat and as such, if an object radiates any at all and that includes brick walls, stems of vegetation, buildings and of course game, then the Trail will translate that heat source and give you an incredibly detailed image of what lies before you. This new model addresses the issue of judging range at night that many a night vison sights suffer from. I still can get the distance wrong, as at night, a heat source behind a hedge, or through bare limbed trees, is very difficult to judge the distance accurately, especially when the ground is not that familiar to you and even if it is! This is one of the aspects of any night shooting that has been the bane of many hunters.
The new Trail LRF weapon sight, in either XP38 or XP50 guise, uses an external laser range finder (LRF) to instantly determine range. Like all Pulsar sights, they are imported by Thomas Jacks Ltd. the official importer and as such are fully guaranteed and this model costs £4879.95.
In use, it proved to be a very compact and lightweight design that can be carried in the pocket or when mounted on the rifle is no bulkier than a conventional scope. This XP50 LRF weighs only 0.71 kg and is 285x102x76mm (11.2x4x3”) in size. Mounting to a rifle is easy and achieved by the supplied Weaver-type mounting bracket and is one piece, but you need to attach it yourself.
The XP50 Trail has a slightly less wide field of view than the XP38, but both have an un-cooled detector with a 640x480 pixel resolution with a frame rate of 50Hz, so no blurred images when you move the sight on and off target. All the functions are accessed via the four large waterproof buttons that lie along the top of the Trail’s body, along with the large focus wheel in front. There is also a good ON/OFF switch to the right-hand side of the body that switches the Trail on in seven seconds and on the left side is the Micro-USB port.
This is a menu-led design, the button marked M when held down accesses the menu and you navigate through this with the arrowed buttons. The rear-most is the record control for video or to take a still image. The front-most, on its own, is the laser range finder control and also selects a colour pallet for display. These buttons all work on a short press for first option and a longer hold to access the second.
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. This is achieved by pushing the down button and, when held, it accesses the Picture in Picture (PIP) function. This is a small image inset above the reticle and is magnified. It is actually very handy to see a closer image off what you are aiming at but does get pixelated at higher magnification. There is a good field of view of 12.4 – 21.8 metres at 100m, dependent on magnification settings, which still gives very good viewing of the surrounding area.
The AMOLED display is 640x480 resolution and has a distinct yellowish/green tinge to it! It’s ultra-sharp in reality and gives a vivid and highly contrasting image, which can be changed for brightness and contrast via the menu settings. You have a maximum range of a deer sized target of 1800 metres dependent on weather conditions obviously and close-up focus range of 5 metres, great for rats. Reticle adjustment is 34mm per click at 100m, but a maximum 6800mm range adjustment at 100m that should get you on target; if not, use a 10 or 20 MOA rail.
Pressing the menu button down allows access to all manner of options. There are three detection modes: city, forest and identification to fine tune the image. Three calibration settings: manual, semi-automatic or automatic, which updates the Trail to the current temps and adjusts the image accordingly. It is best to close the hinged lens cap whilst performing this operation.
You also have a choice of differing reticle types and illumination, but I stuck to the single dot, as I found it best. You have 10 differing zero ranges for each rifle profile used, so differing calibres and ranges can be set by using the main menu in menu settings. Also, a one shot zero mode that moves the reticle to the bullet hole.
Not forgetting the LRF, system, which is brilliant in my view and worth the money, as it accurately ranges out to 1000 metres with +/- accuracy of 1 metre. Simply press the front button once and a small black box appears in the centre of the image, a second press and the range is displayed in metres (yards access menu to change). If you tilt the rifle, i.e. off the horizontal axis, either side of the reticle arrows come up to show how much you are canting your shooting position, so you can correct it. Keeping the button depressed puts the laser into scan mode, so the range reading changes as the black ranging box in view moves over the terrain.
The Li-ion IP5 battery lasts up to 8 hours and spare or bigger capacity cells are available, but that’s up to you and a 5v USB external supply can be used too. A Wi-fi connection capability to stream footage and an on board 8 Gb memory to store video and pictures is also included.
I mounted this Trail LRF on a 22 rimfire for rabbits at night where ranging accurately, as with the looping trajectory of the air rifles, is really helpful. On a Remington SPS .204 Ruger sighted at 100 yards with 32-grain V-MAX reloads, I was confident of hitting the steel fox silhouette out to 200 yards, probably more.
The nights are cold now and getting below freezing, which helps with the thermal image, but fog or mist can hamper detection. Performance and image quality was superb, as that yellow/greenish tinge to the screen defines images better in my view. It is amazing how a white hot or black image shows so much quality, with the former mode being good for initial detection, as it shines like a torch in the screen if something is hot, whilst the latter has more definition.
Detection range out to 1800 metres, or one mile, is accurate in my view, as I was on the hill top looking across the Downs and you could still make out horses over a mile away shining brightly. At closer ranges, with the leaves off the trees, you could see foxes and deer and even rabbits moving. Also, you can see heat radiating from bushes where foxes and deer have bedded down, and heat coming up out of rabbit holes and in-between the straw bales in the barn where the rats are all huddled up.
The LRF was not only accurate but fast at determining range, with the scan mode handy when a rabbit smelt me and ran off and then stopped to look back. The magnification is actually good but does pixelate the image at about 8x mag, but that’s fine, detect and then move in closer down wind and quietly will do it.
Stop whimpering about the price and sell all that extra kit you have and just buy one it will be the best piece of equipment you own. It’s hard to see how Pulsar can improve on the quality of the image but the LRF system is a real benefit and worth having; bugger, I am going to have to trade up now, who’s moaning now!