I'm an addict to thermal night-vision and it's become one of the most important features of my shooting. Ever since I bought myself the Seek XR30, and then upgraded to the XR Pro, it was obvious that I would need more, and my latest fix has come in the shape of the Pulsar XQ38.
I bought this little beauty at the recent Shooting Show, from Scott Country International, and it is still available at around $3,400, and yes I do realise that this is a hell of a lot of money, but to me, it's worth it.
After playing around with the different thermal spotters on show, and deliberating all weekend, I decided on the Pulsar Trail XQ38 Thermal Riflescope. It falls beautifully in the palm of your hand and the four control buttons are ail easily accessed one handed, after just a minimal amount of usage.
My first trip out with the Pulsar thermal rifle scope was the following weekend. The sun was out and I doubted the spotter would be any use because it was getting quite warm. My fears were soon eradicated as I looked through the eyepiece and immediately saw a fluttering, low down above one of my feeders.
Focusing the lens brought me face to face with a perfect thermal image of a woodpigeon at around 50 yards, but masked from the naked eye by various little branches and ivy.
I took the trusty .22 10-22 to the shoulder and fixed the crosshairs on the identified area, but I was presented with a tough shot through the foliage with maybe a 50mm window between me and the woodie. Everything was up to the job, though, and the first kill of the day dropped sweetly to the ground.
The day continued with me purposely spotting everything with the thermal before picking up the rifle and taking the shot. I was even checking out robins at least 100 yards away - obviously, I couldn't identify the robin at that distance with the Pulsar, but the Ruger confirmed everything.
I ended the short day with three woodies and two squirrels, but more importantly I had received a phone call out of the blue asking if I'd be interested in clearing a factory of feral pigeons. Was I ever!
We arranged for me to meet the factory manager the following week, and to give the factory the once over, mainly to give him the assurance that the thermal night vision clearance would all be taken care of professionally.
Although cost was once a limiting factor, thermal imagers have never been more affordable. They have also never been more practical. Today's thermal imagers are smaller, lighter, and provide greater performance than ever before. With the new FLIR ONE from FLIR Systems, the world leader in thermal imaging technology, thermal imaging is now affordable to all.
All natural or man-made objects that aren't at absolute zero temperature emit electromagnetic radiation of many different wavelengths. The hotter an object becomes, the more infrared (IR) radiation is emitted as a result of the thermal agitation of its atoms or molecules.
The spectral distribution or wavelength depends on the nature of the body (i.e., its relative effectiveness as a radiator, or "emissivity") and its temperature. Darker colors and duller surfaces usually have a higher emissivity and radiate more effectively. Lighter colors and shinier surfaces have a lower emissivity and radiate less effectively.
The human eye can only detect electromagnetic radiation within a narrow band of wavelengths, known as the visible spectrum. The IR region of the electromagnetic spectrum lies outside the visible spectrum. It's typically divided into three regions based on wavelength: near (or shortwave) IR, mid (or midwave) IR, and far (or longwave) IR.
Modern-day thermal imaging devices operate in either the midwave or long-wave IR region. The FLIR ONE operates in the longwave IR region. By sensing the IR energy that's radiated by objects, thermal imagers generate a real-time image that provides a thermal signature of a scene.
By measuring very small relative temperature differences, invisible heat patterns are converted by the thermal imager into clear, visible images that the human eye can see. Since a thermal imaging system senses heat and not light, it can be used in full daylight and at night. Because they sense heat, thermal imagers have a much greater range of applications than image intensification (I2) devices.
The new Pulsar Core offers the convenience of converting a daylight riflescope into a thermal rifle scope, suitable for casual users who do not need to dedicate a rifle for thermal only use.
The Pulsar Core FXD50 Front Attachment Thermal Sight also supplied with an eyepiece for use as a hand-held spotter.
High resolution thermal sensor; ultra-light and compact; waterproof to IPx7; magnification hand-held: 5x / 10x, magnification rifle-mounted: controlled by scope; one-shot zeroing; wireless remote control.
Suitable for rifles producing up to 6000J ME.
Ready To Purchase: Buy Pulsar Core FXD50 Front Attachment Thermal Sight Now
The Leupold Tracker Thermal Viewer will changethe way you hunt and assist you when out hunting. Now you can spot elusive game hiding in thick cover, or find downed game in dense brush, day or night.
The thermal signature of a game animal is equally visible during the day or the night with the thermal viewer. Atthe time of writing I hadn'ttested a unit in the field but am told that the Thermal Viewer can scan it's surrounds up to a distance of 600 yards to find a trophy or crop raiders via it's thermal properties.
Some of the features of this new Leupold Tracker Thermal viewer include a direct view display of some 1.22" round screen, 4x digital zoom, start-up in 3 seconds, 10 hours continuous use and 5 Optional Thermal Filters. The new Leupold LTO also comes with a 5 year Electronics Warranty and a host of other features.
Ready To Purchase: Buy Leupold Tracker Thermal Viewer Sight Now
The new Quantum XQ Series of thermal imaging monoculars is the next generation of TI unit from Pulsar, succeeding the Quantum XD series. And there are a bag of upgrades thrown into the mix.
The 384x288 sensor has been upgraded and now has a 17um pixel pitch which has allowed for increased magnification that has extended the man-sized detection ranges up to 680m (XQ19), 1350m (XQ38) and 1800m (XQ50).
The stadiametric rangefinder has been simplified and now has a dedicated button. Finally, the start-up has been reduced to just two seconds, and all models come with a remote control.
Price: Around $2,999.
Technology has moved on apace since the Digisight N550 revolutionised foxing a few years ago, but the newest version of that unit is still up there among the very best.
The night time sensitivity has been doubled, the magnification now smoothly zooms from 3.5x to 14.0x and the field of view has been increased by almost 30 per cent on the previous model.
Also in the range is the Digisight LRF N970, which has a built-in 400m rangefinder that displays True Horizontal Distance (THD) and Angle of Elevation (AoE). Being digital, both models are resistant to bright light exposure.
Price: $1,299 (LRF $1,499).
Thermal imaging pioneers FLIR are back with a new 640x512 version of their Scout unit. Providing a more detailed than ever before, its sight picture is also boosted by a digital zoom with 2x or 4x options.
And you can choose from white-hot, black-hot or 'Instalert' mode to suit your surroundings. Lightweight and compact, the unit is nevertheless rugged and weather-proof - and it's powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery.
Thermal imagers can be invaluable tools in fugitive searches and search & rescue. People and animals are excellent radiators of thermal energy.
Thermal imagers can be used to quickly search large areas in darkness or daylight. Thermal imaging is excellent for finding people hidden in foliage. Searches can be conducted without blind sweeps involving numerous officers or without giving away the searcher's position. Thermal imaging can detect warm objects hidden in debris, such as recently tossed evidence, blood trails, and recent foot prints.
Vehicles radiate considerable heat during and after use, from the engine, tires, brakes, and exhaust. Thermal imaging lets officers easily track a vehicle from the air or another vehicle. A recently driven vehicle can be detected from its residual heat.
Aircraft-mounted thermal imagers are effective tools to enhance flight safety during nighttime operation or through obscurants such as smoke from wildfires. Hazards such as power lines and other obstacles can easily be detected.
Thermal imagers let officers navigate under conditions of total darkness and conduct surveillance undetected.
With thermal imagers, officers can surveil more effectively and secure perimeters with less manpower.
One of the earliest applications in which thermal imagers proved to be especially helpful was in the detection of indoor marijuana-growing operations, because they require the use of high-intensity lamps. These lamps generate heat, which must be exhausted from the building in order to maintain acceptable growing conditions.
In June 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the use of a thermal imager on a residence was a "search" under the Fourth Amendment. The Court held that police officers must have a search warrant before taking thermal images of a residence. (Kyllo vs United States)
Whenever a surface is altered or disturbed, its IR characteristics are also altered, although it may not be noticeable to the naked eye. For example, turned earth radiates heat differently than compacted earth. Thermal imagers can detect buried items due to the change in radiance of the soil.
Thermal imagers can be employed to track pollutants to their source. Pollutants (such as chemicals, oil, and waste matter) radiate or emit heat differently than the soil or water surrounding them. Airborne emissions from illegal nighttime burning operations can be monitored. Dumpsites can be covertly surveilled under conditions of total darkness using thermal imagers.
Thermal imagers can be a valuable officer safety tool during ground operations, especially at night. They can be used to covertly locate threats such as hidden suspects, guard dogs, obstacles, and trip wires, and can be employed through visible obscurants like dense smoke or dust.
Thermal imaging is useful for detecting hidden compartments in walls or floors, or in vehicles used for transporting drugs, contraband, or people. An adjoining wall or bulkhead causes a change in the thermal characteristics of a surface, and a thermal imager can detect it.
Traffic accident investigators can use thermal imaging. Modern vehicles with anti-lock braking systems make it difficult to collect measurements of skid marks on scene, but the thermal signatures resulting from friction between the tire and pavement can linger up to 30 minutes or longer and can be visualized with thermal imaging.
Accident reconstructions at well-traveled intersections can also be made easier through the use of thermal imagers. The numerous skid marks, oil stains, and grease marks can make it difficult to tell which marks should be attributed,to the accident. A thermal imager can point to the warmest marks, likely indicating those that were left most recently.
Besides the DVTEL acquisition, FLIR Systems has also made other important purchases to make its products more complete and wide-ranging.
In December 2012, FLIR completed the acquisition of Lorex Technology for an aggregate price of USS60 million.
Lorex provides home and business equipment that includes connected visible light video cameras, illuminated infrared cameras, digital video recorders, video monitors, baby monitors, and wearable action sports cameras.
By acquiring Lorex, FLIR was able to diversify its offerings and expand into several new markets as the company sought to lower the cost to own thermal technology, it said.
Also in December 2012, FLIR acquired Belgium-based Traficon International, a leader in video detection technologies for traffic applications, for approximately $46 million in cash.
According to FLIR, thermal imaging is a superior solution for monitoring traffic, and by purchasing Traficon, FLIR was aiming to accelerate the adoption of FLIR technology in the worldwide market for video-based traffic control solutions.
In December of 2015, FLIR acquired DVTEL, a leader in software and hardware technologies for advanced video surveillance, in yet another high-profile merger and acquisition in the security industry as it undergoes a consolidation trend.
According to Avi Gerbi, VP of Security for APAC at FLIR Systems, the deal was driven by a desire to create synergy, as DVTEL and FLIR's products and solutions can highly complement one another.
"The vision was to expand the FLIR Security portfolio to include a wide offering of top-quality products and well-integrated solutions to our partners and customers," he said. "Today we can offer anything from low-cost high-value basic NVR systems through enterprise-level VMS with high-efficiency IP cameras, all the way up to high-end tactical solutions using our Cameleon PSIM, thermal cameras, analytics, radars, and drones."
Already, the combination of both firms has shown initial positive results. "In early April at ISC West, only four months after the acquisition, we were already able to showcase how well-integrated our portfolio is. With our combined range we are able to achieve our aim of offering, in each product category, the best product covered by the best service, at the most competitive price," Gerbi said.
He explained how FLIR has created solutions that are suitable for a variety of verticals, especially those that are more critical and dependent upon products of high quality and reliability. "We have a team dedicated to analyzing the specific needs of different vertical markets in order to put together seamless solutions tailored to each of our major verticals. In April, at ISC West, we were able to display five complete integrated solutions, including transportation, power generation/distribution and safe/smart cities," Gerbi said. "The fact that FLIR provides a broad range of products that are already well-integrated makes it easy for us to tailor the right solution for each vertical."