JTU - digging up an old one, but wanted to know if your thoughts were still the same regarding the recommendations above. If not, could you give us an update on the current status of 'best bang for the buck' thermal optics? I looked for the ThermoSight models above and found very little out there...some places suggesting that they might have even been discontinued.The night optics subject is a lot to unpack in a single message. I am by no means an expert at the subject but by working in the LE/Mil industry I get to have my hands on toys like this and one of my rep groups also sells a line of night optics.
Thermal and night vision play two different roles at seeing in the dark. Night visions primary purpose is seeing your surrounds and observing. The strengths to night vision is that you can helmet mount them and walk through the woods and see what’s around. Night vision Clip on sights are an option if you want to use your daytime scope at night but night vision clip on sights are $$$. The most popular night vision setup for civilians is the PVS-14 monocular. These are fairly inexpensive and can be used in conjunction with a IR eotech or Aimpoint red dot scope. You can get a weapon mount for a PVS14 but in general night vision optics are not designed to withstand the recoil of a weapon. The intensifier tubes are delicate and precise pieces. There’s something cool though about rocking night vision goggles with an IR laser on your rifle that’s just awesome.
Thermals. This is where the money gets big. Most thermals are weapon mounted stand alone digital scopes. Unlike night vision where you are just are amplifying the amount of visible light, thermals are all digital. So what you are paying for is the digital resolution of a camera. I would steer away from companies like armasight and pulsar. Their products just aren’t as good as the price they sell them at. I would look at Flir or Trijicon, you really can’t go wrong with either brand. Flir just came out with a new line of ThermoSight optics that range from $2-4k. What you are looking for in thermal is the resolution, I would look for one with no less than 320x240, that’s going to be your low/mid range of good quality thermal scopes. Your high end thermal scopes are in the 640x480 resolution range. Resolution equals clarity at distance. Higher resolution sees thing clearly at longer distances.
For your use, I would look at the Flir ThermoSight PTS233($2k) or PTS536($3700). I will say that I have never heard someone complain that they spent to much on a thermal but I have heard many many people wish they had spent more to have purchased a better quality optic.