The Ultimate Thermal Rifle Scope

A review of the new Pulsar thermal imaging weapon scope, probably the finest of its kind and well worth the price tag


Almost every gamekeeper I know is talking about the use of thermal imaging devices, some swear by them and others don’t like them so much. But with every type of technology things are moving on quickly with these devices and Pulsar have brought out a new range of thermal spotters and weapon scopes which are not only a little bit cheaper they also have a wealth of new features and more advanced sensor options.

I was recently lucky enough to be able to test one of the new Pulsar Trail weapon scope. The model I had was the XQ38 which is essentially the entry-level model with an RRP of £2,699.95 but it doesn’t stop Pulsar putting masses of features into this entry level thermal weapon scope.

The trail series of thermal weapon scopes are designed for long distance shooting using a centre fire rifle, I had mine mounted on a .243 rifle and the scope had no problem keeping zero and I did put just over 100 rounds through it to make sure. The detection range is stated at 1350 meters but that is for a man-sized object, I could identify foxes easily at 800 meters which is way further than you would ever want to shoot at one. There are two sensor options in the Trail series- the XQ (384×288) and XP (640×480), they basically have identical features and software it is only the sensor that varies between the two. Both the XQ and the XP have a 50Hz frame rate making scanning and viewing smooth which is essential when you have a target that is moving. The 50Hz frame rate allows you to follow your target until it stops to present a safe shot without the device refreshing and you lose the view.


A feature that I really liked on the Pulsar Trail series is called Picture in Picture facility. This allows you to keep your field of view at a low magnification whilst displaying a magnified area of the reticule. This sounds complicated but basically you have two views in the scope, you find the target with the normal screen and then just cast your eye up to a view that is magnified allowing you to be very accurate and precise with your shot placement. The XP models have 8x digital zoom whilst the XQ models have a 4x digital zoom but both feature the Picture in Picture function. The Trail XQ38 which I had on test has optical magnification of 2.1x effectively meaning the scope is 2.1-10.4x magnification.

As with most digital weapon scopes there is a choice of reticules and colours to suit the shooter and another good feature which can also be seen on the new Pulsar Helion range of thermal spotters is the Stream Vision option. This not only provides built-in recording but also allows you to stream the image from your weapon scope or spotter to a mobile phone or tablet. This sounds a bit gimmicky but when you are out with the thermal spotter and weapon scope as a pair in a vehicle it is really handy for the driver to be able to see what is going on. And this system allows you to do that, there is a very slight delay for the WiFi to catch up but it is not a problem at all. The only issue I found with this is that it does eat the battery somewhat.

Pulsar have also made a change to the power of the units in as much they now have an internal detachable lithium battery. This makes the unit slightly lighter and more streamlined than its predecessor. I found that the battery lasted really well and the power save function helped when you were not actually using the scope.

The Pulsar Has a new Lithium battery system

Zeroing these scopes is pretty straight forward too, I used a large piece of thick ply wood and drilled a screw into the centre. I heated the screw up with a blow torch and then went back to the firing position. I simply shot at the hot spot and then approached the target and found the bullet strike. I then put a screw in that hole and heated it, then held the rifle from the firing point on the original spot and moved the cross hairs to the point of impact. That was it the scope was zeroed for 100 meters. Easy.

With some of the older thermal weapon scopes people have reported that it was difficult to identify what the target actually is and if there was foliage covering it. With this new Pulsar Trail I didn’t have that problem at all, the new sensors allow a much clearer view and it is quite easy to see branches and other items that were covering the target. The clarity of the image was also excellent, as a tool for controlling foxes it is something that every keeper should consider.

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