While being a little late to the party, I will be discussing the Pulsar Thermion XQ38. As of around June 2021 Pulsar released the newest iteration, the Thermion 2 XQ38, and discontinued production of the Gen 1 but I will be writing about my time with the original. Overall, the newest generation is functionally the same, with a few different physical changes such as a different lens cover, longer-lasting internal battery, rubber pattern used for focusing the optic, and a larger lens (35mm for the gen 2, and 32mm for the gen 1) which slightly boosts clarity. It is currently selling for around $3,300 here.
For many of you reading this and just jumping into the world of thermal optics, do not fret, it is not as complicated as some may suggest. While Thermal scopes are not cheap, they are an absolute game-changer in the world of night hunting. 5 years ago, I would have never believed how powerful of a tool thermal would become in my hunting game. Fast forward to today, and 90% of my hunting is at night searching for coyotes and pigs with great success due to the technology utilized in these scopes. The powers of longwave thermals detecting varying levels of IR radiation given off with respect to temperature should not be underestimated.
When looking for a thermal scope you need to define what your intended purposes are. Like day optics, there are many brands and models available that fit different situations better than others. Personally, I do most of my hunting up close within 100 yards so I prefer thermal scopes which have a wide field of view. Everyone also prefers to have a scope with a clearer image; however clarity comes at a price, and while it is very nice, it isn’t always necessary.
Now back to what I know, what I have used, and what I have loved: the Gen 1 Pulsar Thermion XQ38. The XQ38 has both a low magnification and good clarity for the price. I am a huge fan of Pulsar’s Thermion line of rifle scopes. In my opinion, they provide even better controls than most other thermals, while maintaining the same style as a traditional day optic. Even though the lens is made of germanium instead of glass, and the inside is filled with electronics, a battery, and a digital screen, to the untrained eye the Thermion still looks like a typical day scope. The focus on this model is rigid enough to keep from being bumped around and smooth enough to get that perfect image dialed in. It also comes with a built-in forward lens cap which protects your germanium lens and allows you to not have to worry about losing it in the field when hiking, running, or riding around.
Now for the features specific to the Pulsar Thermion XQ38:
- Sensor Resolution: 384х288
- Frame Rate: 50 Hz
- Pixel Pitch: 17 µm
- Display Type: AMOLED
- Display Resolution: 1024 x 768
- Magnification: 2.5 – 10 x
- Digital Zoom: 2x /4x
- Lens: 35mm
- Field of View: 10.7°
- Range of Detection: 1500 yards
- Reticle Types: 10
- Zeroing coordinates memorization: 5 profiles (10 coordinates each)
- Picture in Picture option: Yes
- Color palettes: 8
- Integrated video recorder: Yes
- Built-In Memory: 16 Gb
- Video Format: MPEG-4 1024×768
- Integrated Wi-Fi: Yes
- Stream Vision support: Yes
- Battery Type: Combined B-Pack Internal + external
- Battery life, (with video out off): 5 hours
- Operating Temperature: -13/+122 F
- Waterproof IP Standard Waterproof IP67
- Mount Type: 30 mm rings
- Length (in/mm) 15.5 / 395
- Weight: 26.5 oz
- Recoil Rated up to .375 H&H, 12-Gauge and 9.3×64: Recoil rated up to 6,000 joules for flawless performance on larger calibers up to .375 H&H, 12-gauge and 9.3×64.
- Rugged, Reliable All-Metal Housing: Designed for rugged reliability, Thermion riflescopes boast full, reinforced yet lightweight мetal construction. Precision-fabrication of housing elements ensures flawless field performance.
- IPX7 Waterproof Rated: IPX7 waterproof rated for protection from heavy rainfall, snow or other precipitation. The Thermion is designed to run flawlessly, even after submersion in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.
- Variable Digital Zoom: Digital zoom, up to 8x, provides improved focus and overall target recognition at significant distances.
- Zeroing Profiles Management: Store up to 5 zeroing profiles, with 10 distance coordinates each for varying scenarios, in internal memory for quick rifle change-outs and on-the-fly adjustments.
- Customizable Reticle Optics: Wide array of color-customizable reticles, including scalable ballistic styles. Color options: black, white, red and green.
- Picture-in-Picture: Picture-in-picture displays a magnified image at the top-center 10% of the overall field of view for precise shot placement.
- Image Boost Technology: Image Boost technology is a proprietary combination of software algorithms that enhance image clarity and overall image detail. Applying Image Boost makes for a sharper and more detailed picture enabling better object identification capabilities.
- Full-Color, HD AMOLED Display: While the Thermion’s HD AMOLED display delivers crisp, richly contrasted, vividly colored field of view, AMOLED technology ensures flawless, fluid, high-resolution imaging and power saving.
- Color Palettes: Color palettes offer customized display options. While white-hot and black-hot are most popular, red-hot, rainbow and ultramarine highlight a heat signature’s more intense hot spots. Violet, red monochrome and sepia are optimal palettes for reduced eye fatigue over long periods of observation.
- Video and Still-Photo Recording: Integrated video (including recoil-activation) and still image recording in MPEG-4 and .jpg makes sharing the thermal action quick and easy. The onboard 16-GB internal memory handles recoil flawlessly and stores hours of video or thousands of photos.
- Stream Vision App Supported: Using Wi-Fi and the Stream Vision App, connect the Thermion to a smartphone or tablet for use as a second display or remote control and to transfer recorded files, adjust settings, and upgrade firmware.
- Upgradable Functionality: Functions and features of Thermion models as well as their performance can be upgraded and improved with the release of new software.
- User-Friendly Controls: Thermion Operation and adjustments are simple using the three function buttons on the top of the device and left side encoder. The three buttons and encoder provide access and management of all device menu options, settings, and system functions.
- B-Pack Mini Combined Power System: Thermion riflescopes have a combined battery system that consists of two rechargeable batteries – internal and external. The external rechargeable battery ensures additional operation time and can be replaced in a matter of seconds.
Of these specs I think it is most important to highlight and explain the following:
Pixel Pitch – The lower this number, the smaller the individual pixels are and the clearer image you end up seeing.
Sensor resolution – The higher the number, the more pixels there are in your image which also provides a clearer image. 640 units are clearer than 384, but they are quite a bit more expensive.
Display resolution – The resolution of the screen that the thermal image is displayed on in the eyepiece of the scope.
Magnification – Glass optics and thermal magnification work in fundamentally different ways. While having a 2.5 x 10 zoom, this is just the ability to zoom in on an already existing image. No matter what magnification you are at, the sensor will be displaying the same image, and the zoom function is just zooming the digital display in the eyepiece.
Range of Detection: The distance where the critical size of an observed object can be fit in two or more pixels of a thermal imaging sensor is called the detection range. Detection only means that the object is visible at a certain distance but does not give any information about its characteristics (i.e. the type of object cannot be determined). This varies based on weather factors such as humidity, ambient temperature, and the type of animal, but normally I feel like I have been able to detect things further than the listed range.
The following is a link to Pulsar’s website where they describe a lot more of these terms in detail, but I wanted to break down some of the basics. Click here if you want to learn more.
I also put together a short video I recorded through the Thermion XQ38 (yes it has internal recording built-in) on YouTube. I show a variety of animals, color pallets, and a little shooting which you can view below.
Overall, I was very impressed with the clarity the Thermion XQ38 provided for the price. In the realm of thermals, price wise this is almost an entry-level optic that packs a serious punch. Good clarity, with amazing features that come standard with all of Pulsar’s thermal scopes. Onboard recording, picture in picture, removable battery, easy to manipulate user functions are just a few of the many benefits this scope provides. If you want to get started in the thermal world, this optic is a great place to start.