Deciding on a thermal scope

Discussion in 'Night Vision/Thermal' started by DarkNight, Dec 26, 2016.

  1. DarkNight

    DarkNight LSB Member

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    New member here. Been doing some reading here & liked the thermal comparison you guys did. Wow! Thanks for doing that, what a lot of work! I don't know if I will be in the market for a thermal this year but did hope to learn from you guys. My hunting would be limited to coyote & fox in the cold weather we have here in illinois.
    I understand 30 hz is sufficient for calling coyote and higher hz isn't really needed. I also read the OLED display is better for cold weather use.
    There are several models that catch my eye. Pulsar apex 50s, Armasight Zeus, & ird mark 2. This scope will be on an AR platform in 204 ruger. Most shots will be between 50 yds & 200 yrs.
    Do you guys recommend renting each before buying? Does anyone here do that?
    How do you guys feel about positive ID with thermal scopes? I read a lot of guys saying you can't ID with thermal & run the risk of shooting someone's dog etc, etc. I have a Pulsar hd19a and at times use the animal's movement characteristics to help me decide what it might be but use my gen 2+ scope to ID & shoot.
    What makes the mark 2 worth so much more money?
    I appreciate & look forward to you sharing your experience & insight.
    Thanks!
     
  2. JPK

    JPK LSB Active Member

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    I have the 19A spotter and a Pulsar XD 50S as well as a MK II, and primarily use them for predator hunting (including raccoons. skunks and other vermin we encounter) here in MD and in VA. My son and I travel to do some hog hunting too.

    30htz is sufficient for a rifle mounted thermal, only helmet mounting requires a faster refresh rate.

    The MK II is definitely a better scope, with better resolution and a clearer view. Plus it is waterproof and stoutly built with an aluminum case. But the XD 50S is a great scope for the $'s. I have not had issues with either in the cold or at all. Our cold might not be your cold though, it can be in the low twenties, but I don't hunt in colder weather often.

    The greater resolution of the MK II will allow longer shots using more magnification. The XD 50 S has 2x digital zoom, plus another 2x in the PIP, which gives a total of 8x, the MK II is useable at 4x digital, for a total of 10x. If the price difference isn't too great of a consideration, I would go with the MK II, great scope in a great package.

    You have a 19A so you have probably already come to realize that range can be difficult to estimate with thermal. The more so when terrain is unfamiliar, or in poor thermal condition when background detail is not sharp.

    Anyone who says that no positive ID can be done with a thermal has never used a good thermal. In many circumstances I find thermal provides a better, faster ID than Gen 3 NV, but sometimes, no matter which you are relying on, you positive ID based on the critters movements and behavior. If the range isn't too great you can often, maybe usually, see a collar on a dog with thermal. The more you use a thermal, the better and quicker you can ID. When I first got thermal I took night hikes and used a bright flashlight to confirm my IDs. Take a look at some of the videos in the Hunting Videos section here, you will see videos made with different scopes, and you can judge IDing through thermal for yourself. I am about positive you will agree with my assessment. Pretty much the only issues me or my hunting buds have with regard to IDing is fox vs coyote at longish range when the critter is facing us. Usually they will move so the head or body shape or behavior give sufficient clues, but once in a while we aren't 100%, since both are legal to shoot we don't take too long to try if the critter hangs up and won't keep coming to the call.

    Ultimate Night Vision, a site sponsor here, rents thermals and will apply the rental cost to purchase price. And renting a unit for a weekend is a great idea. I think Big Red Dog, a vendor here, is a UNV dealer and may rent units as well.

    No matter what unit you buy, I highly recommend getting a UNV remote, rechargeable battery pack. All thermals become more stable and require less NUCing the longer they are on, and the battery pack, which can be mounted on the off side of the stock or on the handguard, allows all night plus hunting and then some. Plus it pays for itself in battery cost savings. I use a Pulsar battery pack on the HD 50S and it works, but the UNV battery pack I use with the MK II is better and UNV sells cable kits for their pack for a variety of different scopes.

    Welcome to LSBs, great bunch of guys here who are willing to help.

    JPK
     
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  3. DarkNight

    DarkNight LSB Member

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    Thanks for that JPK. I'm having a hard time deciding on what unit to go with. The Zeus 640 75 mm looked good but I've heard battery life is very limited, especially in the cold. Then I think the pulsar apex 50s looks good. Then I hear about the atn Thor models & wonder if their quality is better than what I've read on the x sight reviews.
    And then there's the IRD mark 2 & it's cost & if that unit would be a "buy once cry once" purchase. I feel like the 640 core is important to help with target ID of coyote but is it really?
    So hard to decide! Thanks for the help so far!
     
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  4. JPK

    JPK LSB Active Member

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    Thermal conditions vary, but I don't think you would ever have any issues IDing with an XD 50S at 200 or even 300yds.

    Skip the ATN stuff, anything they offer is offered by either Pulsar, Armasight/FLIR or IR Defense without the risks.

    I have looked through a Zeus 3x 75mm and my 35mm MK II back to back. The Zeus was good, but no comparison to the MK II. But that was 18 months ago and Armasight has done some software upgrades since then. In fact, they only units I have looked through that compared with the MK II were current military issue thermals costing some multiple of the MK II price.

    If you talk to Rich or Tyler at UNV or BRD (Clifford) at Third Coast Thermal, you might find a more competitive price for a MK II. Even FLIR's new 12 micron core, coming out next year and sure to cost more than the 17 micron currently used, is only catching up with IRD's 12 micron BAE core.

    Maybe the solution is to call Rich or Tyler of Clifford and see if you can try a couple of units for the rental cost, and have the rental cost apply to the purchase price. I will warn you though, if you look through the MK II you will by it, or wish you did.

    If you can swing the extra $'s, the IRD REAP-IR is the cutting edge, with an improved lens material that offers even greater resolution and clearer view than the MK II, in a smaller, lighter package.

    JPK
     
  5. Taco

    Taco LSB Active Member LSB TURKEY BUZZARD PRESERVATION SOCIETY SUS VENATOR CLUB TEAM OinK

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    As a Reap-IR owner I'm still a bit of an Armasight fan boy. I hunt my 75mm Zeus over the Reap. Yes the image is better but I like the bit more magnification. I've spent quite a bit of time looking at the same animals with a 42mm 640 and the Reap. There the difference is a bit more pronounced, but is it $1500 more pronounced? I'd say no.
     
  6. JPK

    JPK LSB Active Member

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    That's incerememtalism for you. The MK II lists for $500 more than the 42mm 640 Zeus but provides a better view - worth $500? To me, yes. How about the 50mm 384 Pulsar XD 50 vs the 42mm Zeus? The Zeus view might be a little better, but it ain't worth the $2000 price difference. However, the MK II is worth that and another $500 to me (for my scope, neither are worth the extra $'s as my second scope!)
     
  7. ExCavTanker

    ExCavTanker New Member

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    I can tell you that in weather under 25deg the Armasight's eat batteries like a fat kid on a Snickers bar. The conundrum I'm is is I already have the UNV MDVR which does a great job however I'm screwed as to using an external battery pack at the same time. To add insult to injury, Armasight in their infinite wisdom chose to design it to use 6V instead of 5V that almost all the others use thereby eliminating the use of plentiful and inexpensive USB 18650 battery packs and the UNV custom cable. Not to mention Armasight wants over $300 MSRP for the damn external battery pack so that's something to take into consideration when choosing a scope.
     
  8. Taco

    Taco LSB Active Member LSB TURKEY BUZZARD PRESERVATION SOCIETY SUS VENATOR CLUB TEAM OinK

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    Incerememtalism? I see 42mm 640s for like $5k and mk2 35s for $6500 so I don't follow. The reap is $7500. I can't speak for the pulsar scopes but I fear that if I dropped my 38mm pulsar scanner it would break into a million pieces.
     
  9. DarkNight

    DarkNight LSB Member

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    Mmmmm, Snickers. The limited battery life would be a issue for me (probably many others too?) but I wonder if all the other thermals are like that in the cold.
    Not sure if I can spend the money on the Mark 2 but it sure looks like it has the best image quality by what I read!
    I hear other guys being negative about ATN but their Thor series caught my eye as well.
    Just so many choices, not enough money!
     
  10. Curly Shuffle

    Curly Shuffle LSB Active Member SUS VENATOR CLUB LoneStarBoars Supporter

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    I would rather buy another Predator than spend my money on any ATN product. There are so many others out there to choose from without the problems. The Predator with the updates has a great picture and the Pulsar units can be had for a good/great price if one shops around. BANG BANG!!
     
  11. BDubbs

    BDubbs LSB Active Member LSB TURKEY BUZZARD PRESERVATION SOCIETY SUS VENATOR CLUB LoneStarBoars Supporter TEAM OinK

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    Why does everyone bash ATN so hard?? I've been shooting with a Thor for over a year and love it. No problems at all
     
  12. JPK

    JPK LSB Active Member

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    Pulsar XD 50 384 resolution, 24micron sensor ~= $3,850 list
    Zeus 42mm 640 resolution, 17 micron ~= $5,900 list
    MK II 35mm 640 resolution, 12 micron ~= $6,500 list
    REAP-IR 640 resolution, 12 micron, new and more advanced lens material ~= $7,500

    All can be had at a discount from list price but no unit is discounted sufficiently that it swaps cost ranking. The pricing corresponds 100% to performance. The XD 50 offers adequate performance for almost any hunting situation, the 42mm Zeus offers an incremental increase in performance for an incremental cost increase, the MK II offers another incremental increase in performance for another incremental increase in cost, the REAP-IR offers yet another incremental increase in performance for another incremental increase in costs... Incrementalism.

    Knowing and putting a number on those traits or features you find significant, either good or not so good, is the trick to ending up with a unit you like and are pleased to own and hunt with.

    For the first time buyer, the issue is not knowing what traits or features to look for, good or bad, and for certain not knowing which you really appreciate or abhor. A simple example is push button controls vs turrets, dials or joy stick. Some guys really like push buttons and dislike turrets or joy stick. I dislike push buttons, am ambivalent on the dials, find the turrets simple and quick and really like the joy stick that the Patrol and REAP-IR offer.

    DarkNight, skip the Thor. Also, as I wrote in a previous post, UNV offers a remote battery pack that solves battery issues and pays for itself in battery cost, and UNV offers different cable set ups for different scopes.

    While I recommend and really like my MK II, every time I turn on the XD 50S I am re impressed, and reminded that it really is all the thermal scope any hunter really needs (which is why I have not bought a REAP-IR to replace it.)

    JPK
     
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  13. ExCavTanker

    ExCavTanker New Member

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    JPK is right on the UNV external battery kits if you go with an IR Defense scope. If you go with Armasight, be prepared to either hunt all night uninterruped OR record your kills on video (as I told you on the other forum). I spoke to both Cliff at Third Coast and Tyler again at UNV and there's nothing currently available.

    Tyler mentioned the possibility of making a different custom cable that will coonect their MDVR and the stock Armasight battery pack to a Zeus. The battery pack is overpriced, but would solve the issue for us great white north hunters. I have the UNV single cable for the MDVR and the quality is fantastic. If you're unclear about the USB battery packs I'm referring to, look up Anker Power Core, it's basically three 18650 batteries in a heavy duty case with all sorts of electronic protection circuitry, basically a perfect battery source EXCEPT it only puts out 5V.
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  14. Taco

    Taco LSB Active Member LSB TURKEY BUZZARD PRESERVATION SOCIETY SUS VENATOR CLUB TEAM OinK

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    IRD products are $1500 or more than their 30hz Armasight comparables. A 30hz 640 42mm is $5k. I guess whether they are comparable or not is a subjective matter; to me they are. I'm simply giving my opinion as someone that hog hunts 2-3 nights a week and owns IRD and Armasight scopes of similar lens sizes. If I were a guy buying my first scope and on a budget I'd go Armasight every time.
     
  15. theblakester

    theblakester Got a black belt in keeping it real. LSB TURKEY BUZZARD PRESERVATION SOCIETY SUS VENATOR CLUB LoneStarBoars Supporter

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    Sounds to me like your best bets are to either save up for a 640 Zeus or MKII hunter, or get the best bang for your buck scope in a pulsar apex xd 50 or 50a. Or wait till after shot show 2017 and see what new stuff comes out and if there are any older leftover models that they're getting rid of for cheap.. u also run the risk of missing out on end of year close outs and rebates and possible price spikes by waiting...
    FrankT had a friend selling a pulsar xd50 (with OLED screen-- better screen than 50a) that was practically brand new and if frank will vouch for him then u should be good to go and I've heard good things about pulsar customer service. He was selling for $3200. Might have pulled it from the market though or sold it. But similar deals are out there if you are patient and learn where to look.
    The new Thor videos I've seen are **** if u ask me. The hogs/heat signatures disappear behind tall grass and brush way too easy and the background image sucks and is always washed out. And I've heard their customer service is garbage and that they release optics for sale to the public with way more consistent problems and issues than other companies.
     
  16. JPK

    JPK LSB Active Member

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    You are comparing discounted pricing to undiscounted pricing. For example, you quote the Zeus at $5k and the MK II at $6.5k. But list on the Zeus is $5.9k on a number of sites, a mere $500 less than the significantly superior MK II; and anyone can buy a MK II for a hell of a lot less than $6.5k. Moreover, a more fair comparison is 60htz to 60htz since the MK II gives the user the choice. But the judgement of the pricing vs features, good or bad, I'll leave to the guy shopping and seeking the best prices available today. Personally, after using a Zeus, it was enough. Your experiences must differ, a lot, except that you acknowledge that the view through a 35mm REAP-IR is superior to that through a 75mm Zeus, a scope twice the size lens, body wise as the REAP-IR.

    If I were buying a thermal scope o a budget, I would go Pulsar. Or I would save the extra $500 vs a Zeus to go IR D. But really, the Pulsars are all the scope a hunter will ever need 99% of the time. If you really need confirmation, just take a look at Lancer's posts in Hunting Videos, but keep in mind his scope is the 1.45x HD 38A, which list at about $3k.

    JPK
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  17. theblakester

    theblakester Got a black belt in keeping it real. LSB TURKEY BUZZARD PRESERVATION SOCIETY SUS VENATOR CLUB LoneStarBoars Supporter

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    I know the view through the lens on the IR defense products and the pulsar products is much better image than videos will show. I have no experience looking through any armasight stuff (not that they are lacking in image quality at all) but it looks like they might be bringing some some solid competition at this years shot show. Anyone with an armasight scope, feel free to send them my way.. for research purposes. I mean come on, it's for science ;)
     
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  18. Curly Shuffle

    Curly Shuffle LSB Active Member SUS VENATOR CLUB LoneStarBoars Supporter

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    I really like my XD50 my problem is not going out enough to use it. BANG BANG!!
     
  19. Taco

    Taco LSB Active Member LSB TURKEY BUZZARD PRESERVATION SOCIETY SUS VENATOR CLUB TEAM OinK

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    The pricing I listed is off the Third Coast and UNV websites. Yeah the image of the Reap is better than my 75mm Zeus.....at $2500 more. I'm sure the mk3 60mm has a better image to, but at what cost....$8k (edited to $9k) But you say that's not apples to apples bc the IR has a 60hz option! That's frankly laughable. I'm not arguing with you and I don't need clarification on anything. If I wanted a 384res 23" plastic scope I'd buy a Pulsar lol!!!
     
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2016
  20. djones

    djones gfy

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    my observations just from this thread...

    bdubbs is a pillow biter
    taggo is a motivational speaker
     
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