Thermal imaging technology has helped our military own the night. Although the cost was significantly less than the government compared to the advantages they offered, it was out of reach for most hunters and firearm enthusiasts. Now we’re getting closer to the point where you and I can own the night for our own hunting needs. One of the advantages of thermal imaging, of course, is that it’s entirely passive; you don’t have to emit any light or IR energy. The coyotes and hogs will never know you’re there…not until you reach out and touch them, that is. Another advantage is the ability to see through dust, smoke, rain and foliage, day or night. Thermal imaging scopes are far superior to night vision scopes, which rely on a light source like the stars, the moon or IR lights. Among the limited offerings in the consumer market, the IR Hunter from IR Defense appears to be a break-through product. It doesn’t look like an electronics box with buttons that can be difficult to identify in the dark. It looks like a scope, right down to the turrets for elevation and windage. IR Defense has teamed IR with NightForce, so it has the NightForce IHR and MOAR reticles. Variable power on the scope we examined was 1-4 times; it uses a state-of-the-art FLIR core and mil spec display. The IR Hunter can identify a man-sized target at 1,000 yards. It’s still not cheap, starting at $4,995, but that’s a lot less than you could get a comparable thermal imaging scope for even last year. We recommend the IR Defense Systems IR Hunter Mark II 640x480 Thermal Weapon Sight Model IRHM2-640-35 This unit has 2.5 magnification with a digital zoom.

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