Hunter looking through a thermal monocular

Thermal Riflescopes and Monoculars: The Dynamic Duo

KAPOW! BOOM! CRASH! Some things just go good together. I knew this even as a young sprout lying on the living room floor watching Batman and Robin in my tighty-whities. Lucky Captain Crunch went great with chocolate milk… and more sugar and peanut butter was a perfect match with white bread and honey… at least until TV introduced me to “Why is your peanut butter in my chocolate?” Hand in glove stuff here, certain things just work. Case in point, considering my #pewpewlife, a thermal dynamic duo comprised of a Pulsar Trail XP50 thermal riflescope and Helion XQ23 thermal monocular work as well together on the hunt as Crown and Coke do afterward.

Nothing and nobody hides from thermal, not even the dude in the utility belt and his trusty, albeit meek, sidekick. Everything with a heat signature—even mildly different than ambient temperature—is not just exposed, it’s highlighted on a thermal display; the more distinct the temperature reading, the more intense the hue in the image. That said, different tools serve different purposes. In terms of hunting and shooting, this is a paramount truth. A thermal monocular is used for scouting, observing, strategizing, stalking, tracking and yes, ultimately game recovery when hunting stars finally align. A rifle-mounted thermal scope is never appropriate for use in these applications—keyword, rifle-mounted. Doing so often results in the swinging rifle muzzle during scanning and may create dangerous conditions for anyone and anything in front of it. Never go full semi-auto dangerous!

Thermal image of two deer.
Pictured here are two does being scanned through the Pulsar Trail LRF XP50.

For those who are able, (thermal continues to be easier on wallets as technology improves and devices are more accessible) the best option is to own and employ both types of devices (monocular and scope)—outfitting with both helps prevent dangerous situations, short of sheer common sense. My new dynamic duo consists of a Pulsar Helion XQ38 Thermal Monocular and Trail XP50 Thermal Riflescope. Their routine usage on hog and predator hunts goes a lot like this:

• Use the Helion XQ28 thermal Monocular to glass open fields (the heat detection range is nearly 900 yards), locate huntable prey game and stalk to a distance within my level of confidence.

• Acquire my target and shoot with the Trail XP50 Thermal Riflescope. Of course, I also like to video my hunts so I make sure the Trail is capturing the action! Remember a mounted optic only has this single job to do.

• Use the Helion monocular again, this time to track blood (if necessary) and recover the downed animal.

Hunter looking through a thermal monocular
Use the Helion thermal monocular to glass open fields.

Let’s be honest, not everyone can afford a thermal dynamic duo. At times when I did not have access to a monocular, I used a stand-alone thermal riflescope. The scope was not mounted on a rifle at the time. It simply sat in my pack just like a monocular. In fact, I’m often asked which device should be purchased first, riflescope or monocular, if the person can only afford one. I readily recommend a thermal riflescope first, then a monocular. While a thermal riflescope can be used as a monocular (when unmounted), a monocular lacks a reticle and is not recoil rated—it’s always just a monocular.

Fortunately, a thermal dynamic duo can be surprisingly affordable! Considering Pulsar thermal products, a Core RXQ30V Thermal Riflescope can be had for around $1,900-$2,100 while the new Helion XQ28 Thermal Monocular runs between $2,200-$2,500. Where thermal devices used to easily run as much as $15,000 or more, nowadays you can walk away with more advanced thermal technology for substantially less. Even with today’s premium technology, you can put together the same thermal dynamic duo I just mentioned (Core RXQ30V and Helion XQ28) for less than the cost of a single Pulsar Trail XP50 Thermal Riflescope… even less than the Trail XP38!

Pulsar Core series riflescope

At that low price, the Helion XQ28 thermal monocular even includes many of the same features you find in the higher priced Helion models—onboard video and still imaging, Wi-Fi, 640×480 AMOLED display, 8-color palette, 384×288 microbolometer resolution (XP models feature 640×480 microbolometer resolution), stadiametric rangefinding, picture-in-picture and an 8-hour rechargeable battery.

Hunt hard, hunt often!

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