Night vision is all about how you use it. Maybe you're looking to take out the rogue coyote that's been harassing the livestock, or trying to decide whether that dark spot by the campsite is a rock or a grizzly bear. They were designed for use in far off war zones to give our troops the advantage in observation, but now that same technology is available for civilians to own and use.
Thermal night vision is the best of the best, highlighting targets in all kinds of weather and hostile environments. Day or night, it can ignore camouflage, smoke, and lighting conditions to give you a clear picture of what's around you.
We've built a number of kits to get you started with your FLIR unit, depending on you plan to use it. From the range, to the tree stand, and into harm's way, there's a Scout kit that will make sure you can do the job you need to.
We also have a few different ideas on how you might use a thermal system that are different when hunting predators or big game. Because it works in any light conditions and all kinds of weather, there are some very different options from FLIR over traditional I2 night vision.
Please check your state and county laws regarding night vision! They can vary widely!
from the seat of the truck, you can scan the forest and fields on either side of the road. You see a hot spot deep in the brush, you stop, check your target with binoculars, and if he's a shooter you're ready to get out and go after him. This can be done day or night with the FLIR unit, regardless of lighting conditions.
This is the most conventional way to use a FLIR unit for predator hunting. A call is set up, and the shooter or spotter will scan with the FLIR. Because of its ability to detect heat, it is much faster to find incoming coyotes through thermals than it is through standard NV. The traditional night vision scope comes into play when you double check to make sure its not the neighbor's dog you're scoping. In this setup the FLIR unit is your "detector" that finds the target, while your NVD is the "identifier." Some people will make the shot while looking through a rifle mounted NVD, or just use a momentary light and a traditional optic.
Adding an IR or visible laser to your rifle seems like a small addition, but it means you can remove the NVD from the rifle and use it as a monocular or start wearing in on a helmet. This makes observation safer as you no longer have to point your rifle at something to look at. Here a single person could scan with the FLIR unit, flip down their NVD to identify their target, and then shoulder and aim using the laser indicator.
Using the built in laser on an LS32 or LS64, you could feasibly build a two man shooter-spotter team for night varminting. In this scenario the spotter is always scanning through the FLIR unit. When he picks up a target on the thermal, he lases it, putting a bright spot for the shooter's NVD to see. The shooter can then use his IR laser to aim and take the shot.
This project is untested for now. FLIR rifle sights can sometimes be purchased for government, usually in excess of $12,000. These are well above the price most civilians are willing to pay and availability can be an issue. However, this system would theoretically offer a rifle-mounted sight for under ten thousand dollars using four key components:
The FLIR unit: a PS32 would work fine, but to get closer to the military cores I'd be looking to use an LS64. With a 604x512 pixel detector, 30hz output, and 1-4x magnification, its a far more functional unit.
The Mounts: Because FLIR units have a tripod thread on the base; a mount transitioning to a picatinny rail attachment would be necessary. Something like the Ashbury Precision CLRF-LRTI has the elevation and windage adjustments to subtly shift the FLIR unit's output. Which could feasibly mean zeroing with the laser as well. In addition you would likely need a small rail riser for our final component . . .
The Sight: A FLIR unit can't look through or into a scope, but a scope can look into a FLIR unit. Something like a Trijicon 1.5x16 scope, or perhaps a 3x30 sized optic would be small enough to fit comfortably behind the FLIR unit and transmit both a reticle and thermal image to the user. The key issue here is going to be focus, to make sure your eye can focus on the scope's reticle and the thermal imager's screen at the same time. All the FLIR unit's do have a diopter adjustment, it's just a matter of lining everything up.
The LS series of FLIR units have a built in visible laser. This laser does not have zeroing adjustments, and does not appear on the thermal display. Instead its purpose is as an indicator for people you are with. FLIR designed the LS for Law Enforcement officers where there would likely be only one FLIR unit in a squad car and multiple officers responding to a call. The laser is an added indicator to communicate to officers without thermal technology the exact location of a threat, person of interest, or evidence.
A note on other lasers: Traditional green night vision or (NVDs) can detect infrared light, while thermal units detect infrared radiation. This means that an NVD can see IR lasers, commonly used by military forces around the world. An IR laser is invisible to the naked eye, but shows up clear through night vision. An NVD will also show visible red or green lasers in an environment. From our current experience, there have not been any rifle-mounted lasers made that will produce a visible indicator when viewed through a FLIR unit.