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        Thermal vs. Digital Night Vision Riflescopes for Hunting

        Thermal vs. Digital Night Vision Riflescopes for Hunting

        For hunters who prefer to hunt at night, the choice between thermal and night vision riflescopes can be a perplexing one. Both technologies offer distinct advantages, tailoring their effectiveness to specific hunting scenarios. Understanding the nuances of each system helps hunters make informed decisions about what kind of riflescope they should use on their nighttime hunting adventures.


        Night Vision: Amplifying Ambient Light

        Night vision devices operate by amplifying the faintest traces of ambient light, rendering objects visible in low-light conditions. This technology proves particularly useful during moonlit nights or in areas with some residual illumination. However, its reliance on ambient light renders it ineffective in complete darkness.

        To overcome this limitation, night vision devices are often paired with infrared (IR) illuminators, which emit invisible light that can be detected by the device, extending its range. However, evidence suggests that certain animals, such as fish and snakes, possess the ability to perceive IR light, potentially alerting them to the hunter's presence. It is also assumed by some that foxes and wolves can pick up infrared light, but this is a matter of conjecture.


        Thermal Imaging: Harnessing Heat Signatures

        Thermal imaging takes a different approach, utilizing infrared radiation emitted by all objects as a form of heat signature. This technology provides superior detection capabilities regardless of ambient light levels, even in complete darkness. Thermal images offer sharper contrast and greater range than night vision, enabling hunters to identify and engage targets with greater precision.

        This technology proves particularly effective in defeating camouflaged targets. While a boar may remain hidden within the darkness beyond the IR range of a night vision device, a thermal camera reveals its heat signature, making it shine like a beacon in the night, especially when it’s viewed through a white hot palette. This advantage becomes even more pronounced with high-sensitivity thermal cameras such as the Thermion 2 LRF XL50, which can detect even the faintest heat signatures at an impressive distance of 2,500 yards.

        The integration of a laser rangefinder into a thermal riflescope provides hunters with crucial range data for accurate shot placement, which is more effective on a thermal device than it is on a night vision riflescope, due to the extended detection ranges of the former. The Thermion 2 LRF XL50's laser rangefinder, for example, boasts an impressive range of 875 yards, significantly exceeding the detection range of most IR illuminators, which tend to fade away past 300 yards.


        The decision between thermal and night vision riflescopes hinges on the specific hunting scenario. For nighttime hunting in low-light conditions, night vision devices offer a cost-effective solution. However, for hunting in complete darkness or where target identification is crucial, thermal imaging reigns supreme.

        When choosing between thermal or night vision riflescopes for hunting, both technologies have their place. Night vision scopes excel in situations where ambient light is available, making them ideal for shorter range identification. However, they can be limited by complete darkness and the potential for some animals to detect IR light.

        On the other hand, thermal imaging riflescopes offer unparalleled versatility and can be used effectively in total darkness, providing extended detection ranges and sharp contrast. Thermal riflescopes with integrated laser rangefinders like the Thermion 2 LRF XL50 further enhance their utility, especially when precise distance measurements are required.

        Ultimately, the choice between thermal and night vision riflescopes depends on your hunting conditions and preferences. If you're seeking a scope that can perform in a wide range of scenarios and deliver exceptional detection capabilities, thermal imaging riflescopes may be the way to go. However, if your hunting primarily takes place in conditions with some ambient light, a night vision scope might be the better choice.

        The Advantages of the Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XL50

        The Advantages of the Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XL50

        A common misconception is that more magnification equals a better shooting experience. However, Pulsar's Thermion 2 LRF XL50's base magnification of 1.75x offers a significant advantage in terms of field of view. A wider field of view is a game-changer, especially when it comes to situational awareness and tracking your target. 

        While skilled hunters will take shots inside 200-300 yards, most responsible hunters will shoot animals if they are comfortable taking the shot, and many feel 100 yards and closer is a safe distance for shooting, especially since this is the range at which most feeder hunting is done at. The Thermion 2 LRF XL50 is perfectly capable for either long or short range shooting, and its base magnification of 1.75x along with its zoom increments of 2/4/8x are sufficient for most hunting situations. 

        Reduced Scope Sway 

        Aside from hunting concerns, shooting with higher magnifications often introduces scope sway. This instability can seriously affect shooting accuracy, especially when stabilizing platforms like tripods are not available. The Thermion 2 LRF XL50's lower base magnification helps mitigate scope sway, resulting in more precise and stable aiming. 

        The Thermion 2 LRF XL50's wide field of view, combined with its picture-in-picture mode helps facilitate accurate shots.


        Enhanced Clarity with a Better Sensor 

        It's important to note that the Thermion XL50 relies on digital zoom rather than traditional magnification. Traditional magnification physically enlarges the image with lenses, while digital zoom enhances the digital image displayed on the riflescope’s screen. When this happens, the image clarity of an optic with a sensor like a 640x480 becomes blocky and pixelated, while on higher resolution sensors like the Thermion 2 LRF XL50, digitally zoomed images remain remarkably clear. 

        The 1.75x base magnification of the Thermion 2 LRF XL50 is supported by a high-resolution 1024x768 sensor. This combination ensures exceptional image clarity and detail, even at higher magnifications. In contrast, scopes with higher base magnifications but lower resolution sensors may not deliver the same level of image quality. 

        Wider Field of View 

        Base magnification in digital optics is determined by various factors, including lens size and the physical focal length distance between the lens and sensor. The Thermion 2 LRF XL50 prioritizes a wider field of view, which necessitates a lower base magnification.  

        Even at high zoom levels, the large-format sensor allows for a well-balanced FOV / magnification ratio. Opting for higher base magnification would require a larger lens size, leading to a bulkier and less practical scope. 

        The choice of a high-resolution sensor with a longer focal length and larger lens size in the Thermion 2 LRF XL50 results in exceptional image quality that compensates for the lower base magnification. This also allows the scope to have a wider field of view, which is beneficial for most hunting situations while making the scope lighter and more compact, which is important for hunters who are on the move. 

        How to mount your digital optic

        How to mount your digital optic

        In this article, we will discuss the proper method for mounting your digital optic. It's essential to pay close attention to the details to ensure a secure and comfortable setup.

        Currently, many digital scopes designed to be mounted with traditional rings, such as the Pulsar Thermion and the Digex C50, are designed with 30mm tubes.

        One critical aspect to consider is that digital optics typically offer very short eye relief. For example, the Pulsar Thermion 2 XP50 provides 2 inches of eye relief, while a daytime scope like the Latitude 6.25x25-56 offers 4.7 inches. Using conventional scope rings on a rifle, like an AR platform, may prove disadvantageous for some shooters. It can force them to lean in very close to their scopes, potentially leading to scope eye injuries or disrupting their cheek weld.

        The optimal choice for mounting digital scopes is a cantilever mount. Not only is it a single piece of metal, eliminating much of the user error associated with mounting optics using two different scope rings, but it also provides shooters with the flexibility to adjust the mount to their unique eye relief preferences. Users can opt to mount the cantilever's rings angled away from or towards them to achieve the desired eye relief distance, thanks to the cantilever’s particular design.

        To further enhance your shooting experience, consider using an eye cup cover. It helps you attain natural eye relief and prevents light splashback from the digital display, especially when hunting at night.

        Additionally, some cantilever mounts with see-through bases allow users to install small backup iron sights beneath the mount or utilize the empty space under the mount itself as a makeshift rear sight aperture.

        When mounting your optic, start by tightening the bottom screws of your scope rings before securing the upper screws. This allows you hold the scope in place while you’re still able to rotate it for leveling, to ensure the reticle is perfectly aligned. You can also use leveling beads to ensure that your optics are not off-center.

        Once you have verified that your digital optic is level and the eye relief is suitable for your comfort, you are ready to begin shooting. Properly mounting your optic is essential for accuracy and safety, so take your time and ensure everything is in order before hitting the range or heading out into the field.

        Glassing with Thermal Binoculars

        Glassing with Thermal Binoculars

        Hunting is a timeless pursuit that has been refined over generations, and now the primal nature of the sport has melded with modern technology. One of the most critical skills a hunter can possess is the ability to spot prey from a distance, and in this endeavor, glassing skills reign supreme. Whether you're stalking game in the rugged mountains or across expansive plains, using the terrain to your advantage and employing the right equipment can make all the difference in your hunting success.

        Ed Beattie, a seasoned hunter and now the general manager of Cabela's, once emphasized the importance of spending ample time behind your optics. When you're positioned atop a tall hill or mountainside, you have a unique vantage point that allows you to scan the surrounding landscape for signs of your quarry. However, patience is the key to successful spotting, just as it is in hunting overall.

        Terrain Advantage

        Imagine being perched on an elevated spot with an unobstructed view of the terrain below. If you don't spot any animals within the first two or three hours, it's tempting to move on to another location. However, this impatience can be a hunter's downfall. The terrain advantage you have should not be squandered. Instead, take your time and observe diligently.

        A good pair of binoculars with high magnification can extend your visual range far beyond what you could see from a ground blind. These optics provide you with the opportunity to survey the landscape in detail, increasing your chances of spotting elusive prey.

        Glassing from an Elevation

        While glassing from an elevated position offers numerous advantages, it's important to remember that the animals you're hunting are not oblivious to their surroundings. Many prey animals possess highly developed survival instincts. Deer, for instance, are naturally wary creatures, always on the lookout for potential threats.

        To avoid detection, hunters should maintain a low profile and avoid exposing themselves over the top of a ridge, mountain, or hill. This is known as "skylining" and should be avoided at all costs. Military personnel are told to avoid silhouetting themselves against the sky for a similar reason. Just as vigilant enemy snipers watch for silhouettes in combat, wildlife is constantly scanning for unusual shapes on the horizon.

        The Merger LRF XP50

        The downside of daytime binoculars is their inadequacy in low light environments. However, with thermal binoculars like the Merger LRF XP50, you have the power of long range detection in both daylight or nighttime. With a detection range of 1,968 yards and a high-definition 640x480 <25mK NETD thermal sensor, the Merger surpasses daytime binoculars in both daytime and nighttime observation. Its impressive 10-hour battery life ensures extended periods of use, perfect for those who require prolonged surveillance in the field.

        What sets thermal binoculars like the Merger apart is their ability to detect heat signatures, making it possible to spot animals regardless of camouflage or time of day. This technology is particularly useful for hunters who want to track game during low-light conditions.

        The Merger LRF XP50's 2.5x – 20x variable magnification makes it a versatile tool for long-range observation. However, to maximize the quality of your observations, it's advisable to use a stable mount or tripod. This steadiness reduces image shake, ensuring that you capture higher-quality images.

        Grid-Based Observation

        When using thermal binoculars for observation, it's essential to have a systematic method. Consider the approach taken by the famous archaeologist Howard Carter when he discovered Tutankhamun's tomb. Carter divided the desert into grids and methodically searched each one until he found the tomb.

        You can apply a similar approach to hunting by mentally dividing the landscape into grids and moving your binoculars slowly from left to right and up and down. This methodical approach ensures that you cover the entire area and increases your chances of spotting wildlife giving off infrared heat in the distance.

        In conclusion, hunting and observing the terrain with thermal binoculars is a skill that combines patience, precision, and the right equipment. Leveraging your terrain advantage, employing high-quality optics like the Merger LRF XP50, and using systematic grid-based observation techniques can significantly enhance your hunting success. Remember that while technology can provide an advantage, it's your knowledge, skill, and respect for the natural world that make you a successful and ethical hunter.

        How to read Pulsar Product Names

        How to read Pulsar Product Names

        The nomenclature of Pulsar products may be slightly confusing for newcomers to the brand. Every Pulsar product has letters and numbers appended to it which indicate the product’s sensor size, objective lens, and thermal resolution.

        The numbers on a unit refer to the size of its objective lens and determine its focal length. For example, an XG35 has a 35mm objective lens, while an XP50 has a 50mm lens and so on. The “Pro” tag indicates extra thermal sensitivity, capable of finding minute details in heat signatures. The Thermion 2 LRF XG50 has a NETD of <40mK while the Thermion 2 XQ35, even though its objective lens is smaller, has a more sensitive <25mK thermal sensor.

        The letter conventions are tied to specific sensor resolutions, while the numbers stand for the size of a unit’s objective lens.

        A quick reference chart follows:

        Why is the size of a thermal sensor important?

        The size of a thermal sensor affects the level of detail in the image it produces. Just like a high-resolution monitor, a larger sensor with more pixels will give you a clearer and more detailed picture.

        Pixel pitch is another determinant factor of a product’s quality. Defined as the distance between two pixels, pixel pitch is measured in microns (µm). The smaller the unit, the closer the pixels are packed, and thus the better the image quality will be.

        Why does the size of the objective lens matter in a thermal scope?

        The size of the objective lens determines the magnification you can achieve and affects unit’s focal length and display resolution. The focal length of an optical system is a measure of how strongly the system converges or diverges light. An optic with low focal length will display very wide images, while an optic with a high focal length will display single objects in greater detail.

         A larger objective lens and display size also result in higher magnification. Additionally, a larger sensor size and a smaller objective lens focal length provide a wider field of view.

        The detection range of a thermal scope also depends on the focal length of the objective lens. A longer focal length allows for a greater detection range, assuming the thermal sensor remains the same. However, high focal lengths lead to higher magnification and a decrease in the field of view.

        The resolution of a thermal scope is influenced by the resolution of both the objective lens and the eyepiece. If the objective lens is small, it limits the potential improvement in resolution and image quality of the unit.

        Thermal Resolution

        Measured in millikelvin (mK), thermal resolution measures the ability of a device to detect even the smallest temperature differences. The smaller the number, the more sensitive the device will be. More sensitive devices result in clearer images.

        Thermal resolution compares the signal from the object you're trying to see to the background signal and takes into account any noise from the thermal sensor. A thermal imager with good resolution can clearly show an object that has a temperature very similar to the background, like a pig covered in cool mud against cool, dry earth. The higher the thermal resolution, the smaller the temperature difference between the object and background that can be displayed.

        Understanding the importance of certain factors in thermal imaging technology can greatly enhance the hunting experience. The size of the thermal sensor affects the level of detail in the image, with larger sensors producing clearer and more detailed pictures. Similarly, the size of the objective lens plays a role in magnification, field of view, and detection range. A larger objective lens can provide higher magnification and a wider field of view, but it may limit the detection range. The resolution of the thermal scope depends on the resolution of the objective lens and eyepiece, with larger lenses contributing to improved image quality. By considering these factors, hunters can make informed decisions when selecting thermal imaging equipment to optimize their hunting performance.



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