Virtual SHOT 2021: The World of Thermals and Night Vision

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TNVC thermal and night vision

Thermal and night vision have a place in your guns and gear collection.

Yes, really.

Gone are the days of the uber-cool see-in-the-dark gear belonging only to special forces or Hollywood. Today it’s all about upping your gun game and becoming an effective defender and hunter.

Some of the coolest companies in the gun industry have announced new products and long-awaited direct-to-consumer sales and we’re here to give you a look at what’s coming as well as a peek into the diversity of thermal and night vision.

TNVC L3Harris BNVD (PVS-31)

TNVC L3Harris BNVD (PVS-31) night vision

TNVC L3Harris BNVD (PVS-31) is about to hit the market for sales direct to consumers. Color us excited. Photo credit: TNVC.

This first product is night vision, not thermal. What’s the difference? The simplest explanation is to say thermal works off infrared sensors and requires no light to function while night vision requires ambient light to work well. That’s a very basic way of looking at it, but it’ll do for today.

The TNVC L3Harris BNVD – Binocular Night Vision Device – PVS-31 has been used by USSOCOM for years but has been all but impossible for the general public to get its hands on. That ends now. TNVC is now releasing the L3Harris BNVD (PVS-31) for direct-to-public sales. From the TNVC press release:

The L3 Harris BNVD is one of the lightest binocular night vision systems on the market, with unparalleled optical performance with lightweight optical lens assemblies optimized to maximize the performance of the Unfilmed 2376+ FOM (figure of merit) White Phosphor image intensifier tubes and features both an onboard AA battery and an external power connector to be used with an external power supply.

They’ll start shipping in February of 2021. Each unit ships with a 4x AA Cold Weather Battery Pack and 25-inch BNVS power cable. This product is backed by a full factory warranty and customer support. If you’re concerned these might just be contract overruns, TNVC states they are not. These BNVDs are brand-new. You might want to get on it fast if you’re after one, though, because a lot of gun owners are going to be trying to get their hands on a unit.

ATN Tico LT 320 50mm

ATN Tico LT 320 50mm clip-on thermal.

ATN Tico LT 320 50mm clip-on thermal. Yes, please. Photo credit: ATN)

Let’s start this one by saying clip-on thermals are incredibly handy. They allow you to utilize your existing scope with the additional benefit of seeing targets in the dark. If that isn’t awesome we don’t know what is.

The ATN Tico LT 320 50mm has been promised for some time now and as virtual SHOT kicks off, ATN says it is finally about to ship. 

This thermal clip-on is powered by ATN’s Obsidian LT Core, has a 320×240 sensor, and a generous 50mm lens. It can be used with any daytime scope you have on hand, meaning you just have to attach it, line it up with your reticle, and shoot. If you need to mount to a Weaver rail there’s a QDM mount available as well.

This thermal runs on a lithium-ion battery and is USB Type C rechargeable. Battery life is listed as around 8 to 9 hours or more depending on use. Magnification is 1.5-3x, the field of view in degrees is 4.5×3, and eye relief is 19mm. This unit has a “weather resistant” IP rating. As for weight, it weighs in at 1.2 pounds which is nicely light considering it clamps to the front of your scope.

The ATN Tico LT 320 50mm is a good option for those of us who want an affordably-priced thermal and for those just getting into the market.

Pulsar Thermion XM30

Thermal imaging riflescopes are among my favorite see-in-dark pieces of gear and this beauty from Pulsar Night Vision proves why.

Pulsar Thermion XM30 is a thermal imaging riflescope

The Pulsar Thermion XM30 is a thermal imaging riflescope we can’t wait to get our hands on. Photo credit: Pulsar.

The Pulsar Thermion XM30 is a precisely designed, high-quality thermal that delivers fantastic imaging in a recognizable scope platform. There are pros and cons to every style of thermal and night vision, of course, but the riflescope model has a long list of pros to back up its usefulness.

The Thermion XM30 offers shooters a solid detection range of 1475 yards, meaning target acquisition should be easy.

Microbolometer resolution is 320×240 and it has a 12µm pixel pitch core. Magnification on this unit is 3.5-14x, field of view is 45.9 feet at 100 yards, and it has a windage and elevation adjustment of 82 MOA. The objective lens diameter is 25mm. Dimensions are 15.2×3.1×2.5 inches and it weighs 26.5 ounces making it a relatively lightweight thermal.

This model is recoil rated up to the punishing .375 H and H – that’s 6,000 Joules – so yes, it’s going to perform nicely on your big bore gun.

The housing is aluminum alloy, submersible to 3 feet of water, and mounts to your rifle with standard 30mm rings. In addition, the Thermion XM30 is WiFi and Stream Vision compatible so you can transfer videos and images as needed without a hassle.

I highly recommend trying Pulsar Night Vision thermals such as this riflescope.

Sig Sauer Echo3

The Sig Sauer Echo3 is a direct-view thermal reflex sight. (Photo credit: Sig Sauer)

A few years have passed since Sig Sauer branched out into the optics market and their Echo3 is a stellar example of how successful such ventures can become. The Sig Sauer Echo 3 is a direct-view thermal reflex sight that’s compact, easy to use, and versatile.

Something has to be said about the size of this thermal, especially since it isn’t a clip-on. It’s 4.3-inches long, 2.6-inches wide, and 3.3-inches in height with an overall weight of 14.3 ounces. This is a compact thermal to say the least.

Magnification is 2-12x, total elevation travel is 150 MOA x 150 MOA, and the objective lens diameter is 40mm. Illumination settings include 8 color palettes and 6 brightness settings. This unit runs off two CR123 batteries and its housing is made from ballistics-grade polymer.

Features from Sig Sauer:

•BOX-enabled WiFi/Bluetooth, allowing active reticles that change with KILO rangefinder input

•Customizable fixed reticles that are configured from the BOX mobile application

•Uncooled 324×240 12µV0x LWIER Core Operating at 30Hz (ITAR controlled)

•LevelPlex Anti-Cant System with Scope Cant Sensitivity down to 0.5-inches

•MOTAC (Motion Activated Display) powers up when it senses motion

•Video and image recording, with recoil activation, with 8 color palettes

•Greater than 6 hours of run time with heavy use

•Easy to adjust lens with optional throw lever attachment

•Optional quick disconnect mount

•Designed and assembled in the U.S.A. to withstand IPX-6 conditions

•Aspheric lens (10 degrees FOV) with up to 6X digital magnification

If you prefer to streamline your setup the Sig Sauer Echo3 is likely what you want. Plus it’s backed by Sig’s Infinite Guarantee. There’s a great deal of versatility in the thermal market and Sig Sauer proves that smaller, lighter-weight units are absolutely a thing.

Be sure to check out all the other great new guns and gear from SHOT Show 2021.

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Kat Ainsworth Stevens is a long-time outdoor writer, official OGC (Original Gun Cognoscenti), and author of Handgun Hunting: a Comprehensive Guide to Choosing and Using the Right Firearms for Big and Small Game. Der Teufel Katze has written for a number of industry publications (print and online) and edited some of the others, so chances are you’ve seen or read her work before, somewhere. A woman of eclectic background and habits, Kat has been carrying concealed for over two decades, used to be a farrier, and worked for a long time in emergency veterinary medicine. She prefers big bores, enjoys K9 Search & Rescue, and has a Master’s Degree in Pitiless Snarkastic Delivery.