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Best thermal at a distance for coyotes

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/18/2018 at 19:36
dflar View Drop Down
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Hi all. I’m in the market for a nice thermal scope, and I have my choices whittled down to three:

-Armasight Zeus 336
-Pulsar Trail XP50
-ATN ThOR 650

I’m going to be using my purchase on an AR-style rifle for coyote hunting at ranges between 100 and 300 yards, mostly in open fields. I’m curious if you can provide me with a little expertise and advice on which of these three scopes, in your opinion, would be the best choice for what my use intentions are. Clarity at range at decent battery life are my main two requirements. Thanks in advance!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/18/2018 at 20:36
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Couple questions;

1. How much are you willing to spend? A good 300 yard thermal scope will be quite expensive.

2. Are you firm on your decision to choose only from those 3, or are you open to other suggestions?

Good resolution for positive i.d. and good shot placement at 300 yards will be pretty expensive. Detection and identification are entirely different things, and you will want to make absolute certain your quarry is a coyote and not someone's pet. Detection = "I see a living 4-legged critter;" Identification = "I see a coyote, and I plan to take a precision shot right...there." Out to 150 yards or so is doable with those scopes, but 300 is probably stretching things a bit.

I personally would eliminate the ATN right off the bat. I simply don't trust the brand, and those I know who have owned ATN products have soon regretted buying.

I have no experience with Pulsar thermal scopes, so cannot comment on the second scope one way or the other.

Armasight is a quality brand, but 300 yards is really stretching the limits of 336 core resolution.

The new FLIR PTS series has really good resolution for a  320X256 detector, due to their new "detail enhancement" tech and 12 micron "boson" core. I have the PTS536 (4X base optical magnification), and I feel confident in its ability to take me out to about 200 yards, even though my .300 BLK subsonic rounds limit my effectiveness to about 125 yds and under. Plus, those FLIR PTS scopes have 60HZ refresh, so you will get a more "real time" view of animal movement. Battery life is decent, but all thermal scopes are power hogs, so expect something like 4 hours of continuous battery life with any of them. Fortunately, you don't need to keep the scope turned on during the entire hunt, and they boot up fairly quickly.
The new FLIR PTS736 should easily give you a 300 yd effective range, just based on its 6X base optical magnification and the great resolution of the series in general.

Bottom line, to get a consistent, 300 yard effective range on critters the size of coyotes, you will need to spend $4500 - $5000 minimum to have sufficient resolution for absolute positive ID (as opposed to "detection").

Keep in mind that with all of these thermal scopes, any magnification above base magnification is entirely digital, not optical, so the image will become very pixellated when you increase zoom. Therefore, in my experience, you don't gain much of an advantage in increasing magnification beyond base mag on critters. For shooting at targets (zeroing the reticle for example), increasing the magnification can provide a little benefit, but on animals, I've found no benefit to going above base magnification.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/19/2018 at 15:06
dflar View Drop Down
Optics GrassHopper
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Thanks, RifleDude! This is all extremely helpful. My max budget is $5000. I started researching the Flir PTS536, and it does indeed get pretty high reviews. 

My remaining question on that particular device is, have you noticed the PTS536's 4x native magnification giving you any issues picking up targets closer than 100 yards--will I just be staring at a screen full of coyote fur if I'm looking at a coyote at, say, 80 yards with the PTS?

Thanks for the note about the .300 subsonic as well...just got one last week intended to host whatever thermal scope I end up getting.

I think I'm pretty much between the PTS536 and the PulsarXP50 at this point...
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/19/2018 at 15:42
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Originally posted by dflar dflar wrote:


My remaining question on that particular device is, have you noticed the PTS536's 4x native magnification giving you any issues picking up targets closer than 100 yards--will I just be staring at a screen full of coyote fur if I'm looking at a coyote at, say, 80 yards with the PTS?


No, and in fact I think it is the perfect base magnification for 100 yards and under. The 4X base magnification along with the resolution improvements FLIR made vs their previous gen 320 core thermal scopes allows me to take more precision shots vs "center mass" shots. I also have the FLIR RS32 1.5-5X scope, and I've done a lot of successful hog and predator hunting with it. As much as I've enjoyed using that scope and as much as I still like it, the PTS536 blows it away. I primarily hunt feral hogs with mine, and most of my shots are between 50 - 75 yards. I can't imagine a better thermal scope for my purposes for under $5K. It has a focusing objective group, and you can adjust contrast, gain, sharpness, etc. to tweak the image to your preference. I love the "Outdoor Alert" color palette, which highlights warmer objects like animals in orange over a basic "black hot" scheme. I could probably take a 300 yard shot under ideal conditions (very low humidity and a larger animal), but I would say my true effective range is 200 yards max, and with .300 BLK subs, really 150 yards. If I expected a lot of shots exceeding 200 yards, I would step up to the PTS736.

Keep in mind that through a thermal optic, you don't get anywhere near the level of detail you see with a conventional optic, because you aren't seeing reflected light; you're seeing an electronically generated heat map. People new to thermal optics are often disappointed in the level of detail they see through the optic because they are mistakenly comparing it to conventional optics. The power of a thermal optic is not in seeing extreme detail and fine resolution, it is in clearly separating living creatures from their surroundings in extreme high contrast and enabling a lethal shot at same in complete darkness. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/19/2018 at 15:46
dflar View Drop Down
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Great, thank you. Hell, for nearly $1200 less than the XP50, I may go with the PTS536 and spend the extra bit on a FlirPS-24 monocular for scanning!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: September/19/2018 at 16:17
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Originally posted by dflar dflar wrote:

Great, thank you. Hell, for nearly $1200 less than the XP50, I may go with the PTS536 and spend the extra bit on a FlirPS-24 monocular for scanning!

That's basically my approach once I got the PTS536. I've now relegated my RS32 as my "scan optic" so I don't have to scan with my rifle and can keep the PTS536 turned off until actually needed to conserve battery life. The RS32 has a rechargeable internal battery, so all I have to do is plug it in for a few hours prior to each hunt, and I won't have to buy a steady supply of expensive CR123 lithium batteries for the PTS.
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