When thermal scopes first hit the market I have to say I very much wrote them off due to concerns surrounding being able to positively identify what I was shooting. It was only this year that I actually decided to look into them a little further, and see just how far they have come in terms of technology.
Just recently I’ve been testing the Pulsar XQ50 trail thermal scope from Scott Country and I have to say it has really grown on me – to the point that I am seriously contemplating buying one myself.
Let’s be clear from the start these units retail around £2,989, so it’s not a cheap unit in comparison to night vision, but thermal is a whole different league.
Night vision, although having the upper hand when it comes to clarity of sight picture, does have some serious drawbacks when compared to thermal, which anyone who has used NV will be all too aware of.
The first is that, though night vision is fairly covert, it does still require the use of an infrared torch, which I can confirm from experience that some of the wiser foxes can see and will sometimes run at the first sign of.
Thermal, on the other hand, has nothing to give it away other than a faint glow from the eye piece of the scope off the viewing screen, other than that you are as hidden as the darkness will allow.
Another real pain with the IR torch is that, like a lamp it will reflect back off long grass or foliage in front of the scope causing ‘white out’ and preventing you seeing a target beyond, again not an issue with thermal.
Thermal scopes also have the advantage of being able to quickly hone in on your target or pick it out in thick cover as it uses the animal’s body heat rather than its actual image. If you have direct line of sight to the animal’s body then you will see it in a thermal scope or spotter.
A slight downside to thermal is that it may not always be possible to see small twigs, crop stems, and so on, which could potentially deflect a shot. That said, I’ve shot though some pretty thick cover in the past and the round always seems to make its way through the vast majority of the time unless you’re using a particularly frangible bullet. So you can see thermal certainly has some great advantages over night vision, and if you’re serious about fox control then there’s no doubt thermal scopes like the Pulsar Trail have the upper hand.
The Trail itself it’s a nicely built scope incorporating some really good features such as a rechargeable, removable battery pack that’s neatly built in, zoom settings from standard 2.7 to 10.8 magnification, various reticles to chose from, built in recording at a touch of a button, and a WiFi streaming function.
The WiFi feature you may feel a bit pointless but if you’re taking a friend out shooting with you then it’s very easy to download the free app and use the WiFi to wirelessly send the live display to your friend’s tablet or smartphone!
Where normally your friend would be sat in the dark getting bored they would now be able to watch the action as it happens on their phone screen, exactly as you see it through the scope!
There is also a clever feature called PIP (picture in picture) mode which displays the usual scope picture but with a smaller picture at the top of the screen in a magnified format, meaning you can get a good field of view and target acquisition as well as having a magnified image to precisely place your shot.
Recording footage is very easy with a press of a button to stop and start recording. When you get home simply connect the charging lead to the unit and your PC to download the stored footage!
Zeroing a thermal scope can be tricky as, of course, it works on heat not image so you need a hot target. A handwarmer stapled to a board and a target taped over the top works well or, as a mate who wanted to be a little more precise suggested, use hard boiled eggs which hold their heat awhile! Pop a few boiled eggs in a flask of boiling water and they will stay warm long enough to zero once you get to the range.
I must say using this scope is pretty straightforward once you suss out how the basics work, and in the field it’s accounted for a shed load of foxes in a short space of time – in fact it’s almost too effective! I’ve shot foxes with this regularly out to 150 yards and the odd one 200 yards or more, though much past that and quarry identification could be questionable in some conditions. But then with a thermal scope you shouldn’t really have the need to shoot much further than that as it’s so covert you can usually just walk in a bit closer using a little fieldcraft.
The battery on the unit easily lasts all evening, although the WiFi streaming will increase battery consumption a little. I generally just switch it on and leave it on, meaning it’s ready to use the moment I spot a fox.
The unit uses Pulsar’s original mounting system, which works well, allowing you to mount the scope directly to a picatinny rail, pinch up the two thumb screws and not lose zero each time it’s removed – it can easily be swapped with a day scope that also uses quick release mounts (though the Trail does works just as well in daylight as it does at night.)
If you’re looking for a serious and very effective night scope then I think you will be hard pressed to find anything better than a thermal scope for fox control and the XQ50 Trail should definitely be on your shortlist.
Find out more: 01556 503587, www.scottcountry.co.uk