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        Double Down on Your Thermals—the Pulsar Trail XP38 Thermal Imaging Riflescope and Helion Monocular Review

        By bmatheus  

        Written by Brian Magee, Sightmark and Pulsar Pro Staff member.

        Most people consider buying a house or vehicle a major purchase. You spend time researching different makes and models that fit your wants and needs, trying things out and talking to others that have made similar purchases. When it comes to hunting gear, what amount of money constitutes a major purchase? Hundreds of dollars? Thousands?

        For me, when the time came to pick the perfect thermal imaging device for hunting hogs at night in Oklahoma, it was a major purchase. Spending thousands of dollars on a piece of hunting equipment is cause for doing a fair bit of research on what to buy. After countless hours reading reviews, talking to other hunters and even getting some hands-on time, I have come up with an incredible one-two punch which I believe is not only safer but has made me much more successful. My system consists of a handheld thermal monocular, the Pulsar Helion XQ50, and a thermal riflescope, the Pulsar Trail XP38. This combination has facilitated the demise of many hogs throughout the state of Oklahoma.

        Soon after my thermal imaging devices arrived, I pulled onto a hunting property in southwest Oklahoma.  I brought everything I needed to mount the scope to the rifle and get it zeroed… well, almost everything! When you are zeroing a thermal scope, it is helpful if you have something, –hot or cold– that produces a heat signature.  After searching the cab of the truck and through a heaping pile of hunting gear, I was able to come up with a lost package of hand warmers. I erected a crude range and within minutes had the scope zeroed. Only the long wait for sunset and quick meet-up with a friend remained—my Pulsar XP38’s maiden voyage was going to be a night hunt.

        The sun finally dropped below the horizon, leaving the landscape veiled in darkness; only faint moonlight remained. I headed out to meet my good friend and fellow firefighter, Chris Walls. The two of us set off for the hunt with only one rifle topped by the Trail XP38 to share between us—we would have to take turns. The Helion makes scanning the large alfalfa fields extremely easy. Like the Trail, the Helion has built-in video. The non-shooter was not only tasked with leading the stalk, but he was also responsible for capturing Helion video footage of the hunt. The Trail would capture thermal footage of the hunt, too, but with a reticle—great POV footage!

        A great deal of our hunting landscape is thick, brushy draws and wide-open winter wheat and alfalfa fields. Significant amounts of time are spent driving ranch roads and looking over these large fields for hogs. The Helion allowed us to quickly scan fields from the truck. We didn’t have to handle the rifles until hogs were located and we were prepared for the stalk. Our rifles stayed safe and secure and we didn’t miss anything hiding in the darkness thanks to the handheld monocular.

        In addition to making it easier and safer while searching from vehicles, a thermal monocular like the Helion is also incredibly beneficial when stand-hunting or on spot-and-stalk pursuits. During a stalk, whether hunting with a friend or on a solo trip, the handheld monocular can also be used to keep the hunter constantly informed about hog location, activity and even posturing—observing body language and movement on the fly can let you know the hogs are skittish and about to leave.

        If you’re hunting with a buddy, the Helion allows one person to keep track of the hogs while the other controls the rifle in a safe position until ready for the shot. Using a thermal monocular like the Helion also affords the opportunity to capture great thermal still photos and video via the onboard video camera. This is a great feature not only for reliving these exciting hunts; the footage can also aid in game recovery should your animal run off the field. Capturing footage makes it easy to go back and reference landmarks that can help in retrieving your animal.

        While stand-hunting, shooters can use a handheld thermal monocular to scan the area around their setup for approaching hogs or predators. The rifle can remain on the tripod or bipod, pointed in a safe direction, until the animal presents a shot. A compact thermal monocular like the Helion or Pulsar’s new Axion can easily be stored in a pocket or shared with your hunting partner to watch everything happen.

        Safety is always a top priority when hunting, especially at night. Using the monocular to scan fields and setups is not only safer, but allows you to be faster and more efficient when covering a great deal of ground with vehicles or ATV’s. Doubling down on thermal technology by using a monocular and riflescope truly makes for a deadly one-two punch!

        Chris was up first as a trigger-man and we located a single boar feeding in a native grass field along the edge of a creek almost immediately. Using the Helion, we easily navigated past numerous large round bales in a steady north wind. After cutting the distance in half, we reached a position that provided an excellent vantage point for me to film with the Helion and for Chris to get a good shot on the unsuspecting boar.  After confirming we were both filming, the 7mm WSM broke the silence and our first hog of the evening was down. The entire hunt was captured from both the perspective of the shooter and the spotter!

        Our celebration was short lived, as we quickly found ourselves preparing for the next stalk. Just a few hundred feet away was the entrance to a large alfalfa field. After scanning through several deer and rabbits, we located another lone boar in the very back of the field. This would be a much longer stalk, and although the wind was in our favor, the scattered turnips in the field tested our ability to stay upright through the trip hazards. As we closed the distance, we began to note the unbelievable size of this boar.

        We continued to close the distance, stopping to check our position every 15 to 20 steps or so, as the boar slowly fed and moved away from us. We closed to within 100 yards and stopped to set up. The big boar rarely stood still and seemed to take forever to provide a shot opportunity…but eventually he did, and we were ready. Again, the evening calm was disturbed by the Browning 7mm WSM. The boar buckled instantly and fell in the same hoofprints he had just made.

        What an incredible night!  Despite the wind and brutal cold, we managed to christen our new piece of gear on the very first night out. At home, I usually find myself getting things ready for work or preparing for bed when the sun goes down. I may have just become more of a night owl thanks to a little research, preparation, and Pulsar’s thermal imaging optics. I’m a fan.

        About Brian:

        Brian is originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, but has spent most of his life in the Oklahoma City area. He achieved a life-long goal of becoming a firefighter in 2003 and is now a part of the Oklahoma City Fire Department as a Lieutenant. His love for the outdoors, hunting and fishing began at a very young age thanks to a family who shared those interests. He grew up with a fishing pole in hand and began hunting with his dad around the age of 6. At the age of 14, he received his first hunting bow for Christmas and his love for bow-hunting was born. He has been bow-hunting for over 25 years and has had the privilege of harvesting many animals. While he spends most of his time hunting and fishing, reloading ammunition also ranks high on his list of hobbies. He is married to a very understanding wife and enjoys every minute they spend together.

        Getting into the Meat… and Guts of Organ Eating

        By bmatheus  

        Up until the past few centuries, hunters have been making use of their entire kill. Meat, organs and bones; every part of an animal served a purpose for human society for thousands of years. The advent of hunters and butchers alike only keeping the skeletal muscles for meat and discarding the rest of the animal is a relatively new phenomenon. This is especially common among hunters. With deer, even among muscle, certain cuts such as the meat from the shank, flank and neck are often avoided. All in all, this leaves good meat untouched and left to waste.

        Americans are particularly picky when it comes to meat, with most eating but a few of the generic cuts from any animal on a regular basis. Over time, people in the Western world have trended away from consuming “offal” meats; essentially, any part of the animal aside from skeletal muscle. This is largely due to the stigma that organs aren’t safe to eat or doing so is somehow barbaric and disgusting when in reality, people have routinely eaten organs as a nutrient-rich necessity, and even a prized delicacy, throughout human history.

        Unfortunately, many Americans do not have the option to eat highly nutritional organs on a regular basis, if ever. Most farm-raised livestock is fed on grain as opposed to grass, which results in relatively unhealthy animals with lower quality meat and, often, inedible organs. This leaves hunters with the greatest access to fresh, grass-fed animals, which, in America, are often deer. It is the privilege of hunters to make use of the whole deer and take part in the bounty of nutrients and health benefits the practice provides. In essence, hunters have the ability to consume a diet closely resembling early man’s.

        The most commonly consumed parts of any animal are the various muscles supporting the skeleton; however, from a nutritional standpoint, these cuts are the least nutrient-rich. In nature, predators go for the organs of an animal first upon making a kill and leave the musculature for last, since the organs are much denser in nutrients as well as various vitamins and minerals. The liver is the most nutrient-rich part of any animal and contains higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals than any other cut of meat or organ; however, venison heart is also nutrient-rich, is very easy to work with and is regarded as a good starting point when it comes to learning to prepare and cook organs. Sliced thin and cooked at a low temp for a long time, deer heart is said to have a taste and texture similar to cuts reserved for steaks or chops, making it an ideal for people who are new to the practice.

        Nearly all organs of a deer can be used for cooking but require various levels of preparation and care in order to be consumed. Among them, the most commonly eaten organs are the heart, liver, stomach and tongue. While other organs such as the lungs, brain, kidneys and intestines are not as commonly consumed, they are still edible and have plenty of uses for various recipes.

        Additionally, deer blood and marrow are often used in soups, stews and even sausages; however, hunters must bear in mind that organs spoil much more quickly than standard meat and are best if eaten within one or two days of the kill.

        By taking the daring step of using organs in cooking, hunters receive significantly more sustenance from each deer they kill, leave less to waste and truly optimize nutritional benefits.

        Do you save and cook the organs of your harvest? Tell us your favorite recipes in the comment section.

        How to Use the Stream Vision™ Ballistic Calculator

        By bmatheus  

        The Ballistic Calculator helps you determine exact ballistics for accurate shooting. Set your parameters for the bullet and cartridge and current weather conditions for a precision shot, even at long distances. The Ballistic Calculator is compatible with any riflescope, including thermal and digital night vision.

        How to use the Ballistic Calculator in the Stream Vision app:

        1. Open the Stream Vision app on your iPhone.
        2. Press icon “Ballistics” to go to the Ballistic Calculator.
        3. Press “Set Calculator” to proceed with Calculator settings.
        4. Enter projectile parameters manually or select from the catalog.
        5. Set parameters like “ballistic coefficient”, “ballistic profile”, “muzzle velocity”, “spin drift”, “twist parameters” and others. Press “Next” to proceed with preset settings.
        6. Type in desired parameters and press “Next.”
        7. Press “Next” to go to “Set Outdoor” option.

        You may skip weather setup and default weather parameters will be taken from the preset table. You may later return and set up Weather Setup if you zero in your riflescope in different weather conditions.

        1. Type in preset name and press “Save.”

        You may edit, rename or delete your presets.

        1. Press “Calculate” to have your parameters calculated.

        Set Parameters as Follows:

        1. “Distance” (distance to object) “Angle” (target elevation), “Wind Speed”, “Wind Direction” (0 – front wind, 90 – right wind, 180 – back wind; 270 – left wind). Tap zeroing values below the reticle to change the unit of measurement (MOA/mil/clicks etc.)
        2. Set the range of distances and units of measurement in this slide.

        Setup of the Ballistic Calculator is now completed and it’s ready for use.

        Pulsar Thermal Accessories

        By bmatheus  

        Imaging Lenses

        The imaging lenses give you the opportunity to quickly change your Helion XP’s magnification and give you a wider field of view.

        These propriety lenses are made of premium, fine-ground polished and coated Germanium glass with a durable glass-filled nylon composite housing. Whether you need a lower magnification or higher, the F28, F38 or F50 imaging lenses for your Helion XP monocular.

        Fits: Helion XP

        Locking QD Mount

        This compact, quick-detach mount will automatically rezero your optic no matter what rifle you switch from. Specifically designed for the AR-15 and other MSRs, the locking QD mount includes three mounting screws and a locking switch. Durable, lightweight aluminum makes this mount barely noticeable at 3.5 ounces, 3.66 inches in length, 1.85 inches wide and only 0.79 inches tall.

        Fits: Trail, Apex, Digisight, Core

        Click here to buy now.

        Tree Mount

        Mount your Pulsar device to virtually any vertical structure including tree trunks, poles or tree stands. Supporting up to 1kg, mount your thermal or digital night vision unit via the adjustable two-inch strap or included wood screws. The Pulsar tree mount is compatible with any unit with a ¼-inch tripod mount. An integrated Weaver rail secures your scope, binoculars or monocular.

        Fits: Any Pulsar unit with a 1/4-inch tripod mount. 

        Click here to buy now.

        Wireless Remote Control

        Access your Helion, Trail, Digisight Ultra and certain Apex models menu and primary functions remotely with the wireless remote control. You can take pictures, perform pixel repair, change reticles and more! It has a very user-friendly interface with easy controls and is water-resistant.

        FIts: Helion, trail, Digisight Ultra and some Apex.

        Click here to buy now.

        Non-Slip Phone Stand

        Keep your phone securely set up horizontal or vertical when using the Stream Vision app in the tree stand, blind or on your car’s dashboard. Made of non-slip material, the non-slip phone stand is designed so you can see exactly what your streaming in real time.

        Click here to buy now.

        TSD1 Torque Screwdriver

        The T-style torque screwdriver prevents overtightening and stripping of mounting screws of your Forward DFA attachment.  This hex key drive is constructed of a heavy-duty plastic handle with sure-grip finger grooves and an aluminum driver shaft.

        Fits: Forward DFA

        Click here to buy now.

        Quantum Neck Strap

        Keep your hands free! The padded and adjustable neck strap attaches to your Quantum/Quantum S and other thermal devices with a 1/4-inch tripod socket. The included threaded screws attach the Quantum securely, even in the roughest of fields.

        Fits: Quantum and devices with a 1/4-inch tripod socket. 

        Click here to buy now.

        C-Clamp Mount

        The C-Clamp mount provides a stable mounting platform for your Pulsar Helion or Digiforce on almost any surface—car window, crossbeams, hand rails, etc. With a pivoting ball head, you can easily adjust the monocular for observing and spotting. Made of durable aluminum and ABS plastic, the C-clamp mount weighs 10.9 ounces and it 9.56 inches long.

        Fits: Helion and Digiforce with 1/4-inch tripod mount.

        Click here to buy now.

        IR Flashlights

        All IR flashlights fit devices with a Weaver mounting system and increase your viewing distance at night.

        805 IR Flashlight

        The 805 infrared LED flashlight has a variable beam from narrow to flood and fits all Pulsar devices with a Weaver mounting system. It features an adjustable IR spot position, adjustable collimation and low battery indicator. Included is a carrying case, output video cable, hand strap, car adapter, extra battery container and cleaning cloth.

        Click here to buy now.

        X850 IR Flashlight

        Increase your brightness and viewing distance with the high-powered X850 IR LED flashlight with 350mW. Compatible with all night vision devices, it has a variable spot to flood beam and adjustable IR spot positioning. Included are a carrying case, adapter and cleaning cloth. The X850 is compatible with any Pulsar unit with a Weaver or Picatinny mount.

        Click here to buy now.

        940 IR Flashlight

        Compatible with all Pulsar night vision, this high-powered IR flashlight extends your viewing distance in the dark. The variable beam control smoothly transitions from spot to flood. It will mount to any Pulsar unit with a Weaver or Picatinny rail. Included are a carrying case, adapter and cleaning cloth.

        Click here to buy now.

        For battery compatibility, click here. 

        How to Fix a Defective Pixel

        By bmatheus  

        This article was originally published on Pro Staff member Clint Patterson’s website and WeHuntSC.com.

        Have you ever seen a small pixel in your Pulsar thermal optic’s screen that you wish wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb? If you fire your gun a lot, these pixels that need repair occasionally occur, but fear not, Pulsar has anticipated this and provided a way to resolve it. I had one on my screen for a few months before I investigated and found that it’s simple to correct!

        What is a “Defective Pixel?”

        A “defective pixel” is a pixel within your viewfinder or screen that is “degraded,” sticks out and won’t go away even after your scope calibrates. I’ve owned a Pulsar Trail XP-50 for over 2 years and in this time, I’ve only had 2 defective pixels. Though, when it does happen, over time it will bother you enough to want to know how to fix it.

         

        In this screenshot, the defective pixel may not seem like a big deal, but when you’re hunting and looking through the viewfinder it can become distracting over time, especially if it’s near the crosshairs. While hunting with the defective pixel shown in the screenshot above, there were several times I panned the horizon and mistook the small white dot for being an animal that was a great distance out.

        How to Repair Defective Pixels

        The first thing to do if you notice a defective pixel or something that doesn’t look correct in your viewfinder is to calibrate the optic. If you haven’t changed any settings on your scope then your Pulsar thermal optic will automatically calibrate every so often to ensure what you’re seeing is accurate, clear and crisp. Calibrating the optic makes the clicking sound that you may have grown accustomed to hearing by now if you own a thermal optic.

        These calibrations can be forced by pressing the power button in the Trail models. If my screen ever gets hazy or I notice something not sharp in the viewfinder, I simply calibrate the scope. With all that said, the first thing to do if you notice a defective pixel is to force a calibration because generally, that will fix it.

        If calibrating the optic doesn’t resolve the issue, then repair the defective pixel by going to one of the last menu options in the menu system, the Defective Pixel Repair option.

        Once you choose this option it’s simple. The system presents you with a pixel selector and provides you with the ability to move the X and Y coordinates. This task feels very similar to sighting in the scope.

        Just move the X and Y coordinates until you are right on top of the defective pixel. As you update the values for the X and Y coordinates, the pixel selector will move across the screen as shown below. The pixel selector surrounded by the box is like the Picture-In-Picture feature and is a magnified (zoomed in) version of the pixel selector.

        The goal is to move the defective pixel selector on top of (or as close as possible to being on top of) the defective pixel.

        And that’s all there is to it! Note that depending on your unique situation, it may take repairing multiple pixels to get the screen back to the desired state. In one of the previous defective pixel scenarios, I had to repair two pixels before it was back clear, and the pixel was no longer bothering me.

        I also made a quick video walking through this process. You can see the video below:

        About Clint

        Clint Patterson is an outdoor enthusiast and technologist in the Charlotte, NC area. Primarily hunting in the Carolinas, Clint grew up hunting deer and turkeys in the sandhills of South Carolina. A few years ago, a rise in coyotes and hogs occurred in his region and he took up night hunting with a few of his friends. Clint loves this new type of night-hunting via thermal technologies and enjoys helping landowners and farmers.

        Clint works with a small group to run WeHuntSC.com, an online hub that promotes ethical hunting and information sharing, while helping connect and support hunters in South Carolina and beyond.

        Clint has an undergraduate degree in Information Systems, a master’s degree in Organizational Communications, is a published author and blogger, has built an electronic turkey decoy, still holds passing records in Europe from his days playing football overseas and is fluent in Spanish. Clint works for DNN Software. Learn more about Clint at ClintPatterson.com.

        *All photos courtesy of Clint Patterson.

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