Thermal optics are praised by military personnel, law enforcement officials and hunters alike as new pieces of cutting-edge, next-gen technology. Originating in 1929 as a component of a British aircraft detection system, thermal imaging units have come a long way in the 88 years they’ve existed. Today they serve as firearm-mountable sights, monoculars, binoculars and goggles, renowned for their unparalleled effectiveness at detecting targets in total darkness or hidden against the terrain.
What is Thermal Imaging
Thermal optics are set apart from other forms of night vision by the fact that thermal imaging devices observe the world via infrared radiation as opposed to the visible light that standard Gen 1 through Gen 3 night vision optics use. The infrared radiation that a thermal imager perceives is given off by any object generating heat. The more heat an object is creating, the more infrared radiation that object will emit and the more distinct that object will appear on the display. For instance, any warm-blooded creature, man or beast, will stand out significantly when viewed through a thermal. Additionally, thermal sights and scopes are digital, meaning they carry onboard computing hardware to take in infrared radiation, turn it into an image that we can perceive and display it for us to see on the unit’s screen.
Thermal optics cannot be created using the same lens components and materials as conventional optics. The infrared radiation thermal technology needs to function doesn’t pass that well through standard optical glass. A thermal scope made with conventional glass would be effectively blind and incapable of perceiving anything notable through its lens. To compensate for this, the lenses of thermal optics are made with specialized materials such as Germanium. Rarer materials such as sapphire and quartz are also known to be effective within thermal scopes, yet they are very expensive and not as widely used.
Pulsar Trail Thermal Riflescope
One breed of high-quality thermal optic is the Pulsar Trail Series of thermal imaging scopes, which serve interchangeably as highly effective and reliable nighttime and daytime optics for use in hunting and law enforcement applications. The Trail series comes in five different variations, each with its own values for resolution, maximum heat detection range and magnification. Both the XP50 and XP38 sport 640x480p sensor resolution, while the XQ50, XQ38 and XQ30 measure in at 384x288p. The XP50 and the XQ50 offer 1800m detection ranges, with the XP38 and XQ38 going out to 1350m, and the XQ30 peeking out at 985m. The magnification that each unit offers ranges from the highest with the XP50’s 1.6 to 12.8x, all the way down to the 1.6 to 6.4x of the XQ30.
Aside from those three aspects, the other features of the Trail Series are universal across all units. Each Trail sports a 50Hz image frequency which means the scope moves dynamically without the image becoming choppy or inconsistent allowing the user to keep up with the action as it’s happening. All Trails also contain onboard video recording as well as the capability to live stream footage to another device such as a phone, tablet or laptop. Each unit is highly shock resistant and rated for recoil resistance up to .375 caliber.
The reliability of Trails, when exposed to the elements, is exceptional as well, as they are IPX7 waterproof-rated, meaning they can be submerged in 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes and come out undamaged. The device is also highly resistant to temperature and will remain functioning without flaw anywhere between -13°F to 122°F.
To combat image distortion due to the heat created by the unit itself, Trails come with heat sinks which quietly vent excess heat away from the sensor and other sensitive components. Lastly, for ease of use, the included wireless control can be used to fully manipulate the Trail without having to touch the actual unit.
The Trail design eliminates the need to buy disposable batteries entirely as the B-Pack rechargeable battery that powers the Trail is rechargeable and the base IPS5 B-Pack carries enough power to keep its unit running for eight hours. Additional B-Packs allow the user to remove one and replace it immediately for continued use, leaving the dead one to charge in the meantime. Taking only seconds, changing out a B-Pack is as simple as changing out a rifle or pistol magazine. If the eight hours that the IPS5 holds doesn’t cut it, the larger IPS10 can be used to run the device for 20 hours at a time, getting nearly a full day’s use out of every charge.
Through extensive prototyping and user feedback, the Trail user interface has been drastically updated and streamlined so it’s incredibly easy to navigate and very customizable. The selection of 10 various reticles gives the user the ability to choose the one that best fits the target at hand and optimizes the most accurate shot.
To make finding the range of your target easier, the Trail comes equipped with an onboard stadiametric rangefinder that can be turned on and off in the display as needed. It’s a simple yet effective addition to the display, allowing the user to find the range of the target without the need for additional equipment.
When it comes to sighting in your Trail, you can save three profiles for three individual firearms or ammunition. When the time comes for you to move the Trail from one firearm to another, or switch out ammo types, you can save your zeroing setup to the unit’s memory, allowing you to skip the hassle of zeroing it a second time. With each saved firearm or ammo profile you can save five zeroed distances. This allows the user to instantly change their distance configuration and still be zeroed for that selected distance.
A unique feature that the Trail series boasts is the Picture-in-Picture display mode. Picture-in-Picture enables a magnified image of the reticle area to appear in the display and can be moved to anywhere within the display per the user’s needs. Taking up 1/10 of the display area, the magnified image gives you a close-up of the current target without taking away you’re your peripheral vision.
Lastly, one component of each Trail thermal scope is an onboard computer, and like all computers, the occasional update serves to improve its capabilities and functionality. Most thermals don’t offer much-needed software updates; however, the Pulsar Trail works in conjunction with the free Stream Vision App to provide your unit with the latest software updates. Simply plug in your Trail to any iOS or Android device that has the Stream Vision App installed and download the latest software to ensure that your Trail is only ever working at peak performance.
The Trail Series encompasses a broad range of features and utilities, giving it an immense aptitude for versatility and usability. The display can be calibrated and customized to fit the situation, the housing is durable enough to withstand unpredictable environments and its B-Pack battery system allows it to be in the field for days at a time. The Trail truly is the ideal optic for any hunter and law enforcement professional or anyone else who loves having the latest and greatest firearm accessory.
Are you ready to join the next wave of hog hunters? Click here to check out the Trail series of Pulsar thermal riflescopes.
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To learn more about how thermal imaging works, read the following articles:
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