By Ken Perrotte
There was a time when “shot in the dark” was a metaphor for something apt to be wildly inaccurate. Today, with a FLIR ThermoSight® Pro thermal scope mounted on a favored hunting rifle, a shot in the dark can translate directly to “meat on the table.”
Whether you’re hunting feral hogs for meat or to protect agriculture, or gunning for marauding coyotes, the combination of a FLIR thermal monocular and a thermal riflescope provides a “go-dark” edge that ratchets up both excitement and success. And, you can preserve all the action via onboard video recording and still image capture capabilities.
Documenting hunts with video and still images isn’t anything new. Documenting the action at night, directly through your thermal scope or handheld, however, brings new levels of fun—and, perhaps, social media street cred—to the equation.
The new FLIR Breach® PTQ136 thermal monocular and the three models of ThermoSight® Pro thermal riflescopes (short-range PTS233, medium-range PTS536 and long-range PTS736) all feature a built-in recording function that allows the easy “onboard” recording of up to 2.5 hours of MP4 video or up to 1,000 JPEG images.
The FLIR Breach PTQ136 was designed for the challenges of the law enforcement world and it serves that segment well. At just 7.4 ounces, it easily fits into a pocket or mounts to a helmet using its mini-rail feature. It gives the user tactical awareness, and the recording capability makes it easy to document surveillance activities or evidence, while collecting other valuable footage or images.
Other segments of society are finding it just as useful. Hunters can work in tandem, with one person handling the thermal-equipped rifle while the other uses the Breach thermal monocular to scan for game, or even document the stalk and the shot. A solo hunter can use the unit to scan the field and then switch to the thermal-equipped rifle to get on target. Ranchers can observe livestock movements at night or detect and record poachers and trespassers.
The ergonomically friendly Breach is operated with three fingertip control buttons atop the unit. A push of the button allows the user to snap a still image or begin a recording. The control buttons also let the user switch between seven different thermal palettes, each with distinct advantages depending on the terrain and environment.
ThermoSight® Pro Series
The onboard recording capability of each ThermoSight® Pro Series thermal riflescope preserves dramatic action from the field with unparalleled ease. Each of the three models has a four-button array positioned in a diamond formation atop the unit. Simple still photography is accomplished with a push of a button. Video recording is available by two methods. One can simply push a button to begin recording with another push to stop, or the scope can quickly be programed to begin recording whenever the rifle’s trigger is squeezed.
Amazingly, the recoil-activated recording feature preserves and records what was going on up to 18 seconds before the shot. It may seem like witchcraft, but Angelo Brewer, FLIR Outdoor and Tactical Systems Sales and Distribution Manager, explains that recoil-activated recording is akin to a DVR on a television. Thermal optics, such as the ThermoSight Pro and Breach are referred to as “cameras” within the industry specializing in see-in-the-dark technology. Thinking of these optics that way, versus a traditional rifle scope, helps one better grasp the fact that the devices are presenting images much the way a television screen would. In other words, the streaming images are “buffered” and can be saved.
Setting up the recoil-activation feature isn’t tough. One simply accesses the “settings” menu, then selects the “PRE-SHOT REC” option. There, the user can set the number of seconds of buffered footage to include prior to the shot. The same can be done to specify the amount of recording time after the shot in the “POST-SHOT REC” option. A final click on the “REC ENABLE” option gets you in business.
“Once the selected recording time completes, the ThermoSight® Pro stops recording and creates a video file for you,” Brewer says. This option is great for hunters who may forget to push the start button when the moment of truth arises as a hunt nears its culmination. Benefits in a law enforcement setting may seem obvious, with recorded video from the ThermoSight® Pro detailing what actions took place immediately prior to a decision to use deadly force, similar to the way body cameras provide protection for officers today.
Brewer tells fellow shooters and hunters not to be intimidated by the technology. “I’m a gun guy, not a photo-video guy, and I quickly figured it out. A lot of customers love the recoil-activated video, but if you don’t want to take the time to set it up, there’s still the peace-of-mind option of easily pushing the button to start and stop recording,” he says.
The control buttons atop the unit are closely arrayed and easy to operate. Brewer advises learning them during the day. “Train your fingers during the day to easily find the right buttons to push to activate desired recording settings or change palettes based on the conditions. You don’t want to have to turn on a flashlight and blow your cover-of-darkness advantage.”
Thanks to USB-C connectivity, the MP4 video and .jpg images output to your computer or mobile device at lightning fast speeds. Default protocol with a USB-C connector is USB 3.1, which, at 10Gbps, is more than 20 times as fast as the USB 2.0 many people are used to.
“Just plug into your output device and the images or files open in whatever default application you have to handle those types of files,” Brewer says, adding the image quality is ample for most video, social media and web uses. “I tell people that the ‘picture in a picture’ concept works really well when it comes to embedding the videos or images you capture. If you stretch it out over a 50-inch TV, it will look odd, but will look good on Instagram, Facebook and most common mobile or desktop platforms,” Brewer advises. He also recommends reformatting the unit’s drive after you transfer all the video and still images. “That clears any residual artifacts from the drive and ensures you have full memory capability when you resume shooting.”
Rob Arrington, creator and host of the wildly popular Deer Meat for Dinner YouTube channel is a FLIR user and unabashed fan. He has used both the video recordings from a PTQ 136 Breach monocular and a FLIR ThermoSight® Pro PTS233 scope in several shows.
“I think the FLIR is the most epic thing in the world. I’ve showed them to a pile of ranchers, gun enthusiasts, friends, families – they’re blown away. Everybody wants one,” he said. “You’ve got a scope that doesn’t care what time of day it is; noon or midnight, it’s ready to go.”
As much as he loves the ability to use FLIR’s thermal tools to help control hogs, coyotes and other night-roaming pests on his Florida ranch, Arrington says he discovered an unexpected benefit of the ThermoSight® PRO PTS233: its ability to point out flaws in shooting form and marksmanship.
Arrington’s wife Sara, who’s featured prominently in many videos, was encountering some accuracy challenges. “I told her, ‘Shoot through my ThermoSight gear and let’s watch what you’re doing. We’ll record it. We’ll look at it,’” Arrington explains. “We found she could improve her follow-through and her rifle control before and after the shot. Once we actually saw the problem, it gave us something to work on. When you see the shooting through the recording, you can easily find what’s going wrong. If you’re shooting low, you can watch the recording and see exactly what the crosshairs are doing at the trigger break. You can see, ‘Holy crap, I’m pushing it.’ That’s what Sara was doing, pushing and the gun was going down. Now, over the course of a few weeks, she’s shooting like a champion, holding really steady. Her ability to make quality shots has greatly improved. It’s an amazing marksmanship tool,” he says.
Arrington notes that thermal scopes might cost more than mid-range, traditional optics, but for anyone maintaining a ranch, farm or doing a lot of hunting involving nighttime control of hogs or predators, the ability to operate day or night “makes it so worth it, it’s not even funny. This will be the most valuable scope you’ll ever have!”
Learn more about FLIR thermal optics at flir.com.