The Pulsar Thermion XQ50 is relevant for me because I do a lot of feral hog and predator eradication here in Central Texas. Like, several times a week. I’ve used everything from green flashlights, digital night vision, and even pretending to have NVGs using paper towel rolls.
The Thermion XQ50 is my first experience with Thermal Imaging. Thermal scopes have always been unattainable for me but when I saw the Pulsar Thermions in 2019, I started stowing away Shekels to take the leap. Boy am I glad I did.
Out of the Box
In August 2019, Pulsar released their newest line of Thermal Imaging scopes, the Pulsar Thermion. The most notable change in the Thermion line over its predecessor the Pulsar Trail was the sleek housing unit reducing the scope’s footprint to the size of a typical riflescope. Thermal scopes have always looked like camcorders mounted to your rifle and the engineers at Pulsar have developed a way to fit the internals into a sleek, durable housing that’s rugged enough for field use. Trust me, I’ve dropped and bumped this scope multiple times in the field and it held zero even through multiple rounds of 450 Bushmaster out of an AR-platform.
The Thermion XQ50 mounts to your rifle using any 30mm scope rings (not included) and weighs in at just 31.7 ozs boasting 16GB of storage for images and recordings (audio/video supported), 8 color palettes, 15 reticle options, 384x288px screen resolution and an ideal battery life of 5+ hours (more on that later).
Mounting and zeroing the Pulsar Thermion XQ50 was painless using only the 3.5x base magnification. Despite my initial skepticism, the one-shot zero function works incredibly well and I was able to get my 7.62×39 AR build on target at 50 yards in under 2 minutes using only 3 rounds of Tula’s finest 122 hollow points.
I’m out hunting and trapping Texas feral hogs multiple times a week during the winter months and quickly got onto a large cattle ranch in Central Texas to put the XQ50 through the motions.
Pulsar boasts an 1800 meter detection range with the XQ50. I didn’t have access to enough land to verify this but based on my experience using this at 800 yards, I have no reason to doubt Pulsar’s claims especially in ideal weather conditions.
The XQ50 includes a rangefinder that is both intuitive to use and accurate. On a recent hunt I did this week, I ran across a small sounder uphill from me 400 yards away and was able to stalk in with my tripod to get in place for a 100-yard shot.
Detecting game at distance and making an effective shot are 2 different things. Personally, I am only comfortable taking a shot on hogs using the thermal inside of 300 yards. While the XQ50 can detect heat signatures at impressive ranges, you don’t have enough level of detail to get effective shot placement so I stalked in on this sounder for another 250 yards to line up my shot.
If the Pulsar Thermion is your first foray into the world of Thermal scopes, you’ve probably tinkered around with some of the lower-end digital night vision scopes i.e. the ATN 4kPro. While these are useful tools, they’re at polar ends of the utility spectrum. Using digital night vision, follow up shots are usually haphazard due to the IR beam reflecting back off the expanding gas. This is not the case with the XQ50 as you’re able to make subsequent follow up shots with ease.
The Thermion line of thermal optics isn’t cheap. Starting at $3,200 and going over $5,000, the price of admission will be cost-prohibitive to many. I went with the Thermion XQ50 because it was perfectly in the mid-tier offering all the features I needed at $3,800.
To keep comparisons consistent, I’ve broken down the core features across the Thermion XP50, XQ50, and XM50….the high, medium, and ‘budget’ tiers. Each has its trade-offs, notably screen resolution, detection range, and base magnification. The XQ50 fit my intended use cases perfectly.
Thermal optics are not for entry-level night hunters who want to go on a hunt or two each year….unless $3,200 is something you can afford for a casual hobby. The Thermion line is geared towards the night hunting enthusiasts who are going out at least multiple times a month.
The Pulsar Core is an attractive entry-level thermal optic for hunters who want to explore the world of night hunting but don’t necessarily want to commit to thousands of dollars in start-up costs. The core lacks the ability to record video but you can still use it as a completely functional piece of equipment. You just won’t be able to flex on social media with video footage of your kill-shots.
Final Thoughts & What Could Improve
All in all, the Thermion XQ50 gets my full endorsement as a quality thermal optic at an attainable price point. It seems like yesterday when $10,000 was the price of admission to get into thermal optics and it’s been incredible to watch the innovation and costs come down so rapidly.
That being said, there are a few things I’d like to see improve and I’m really nit-picking here.
I’ve been heavily using my XQ50 for 2 months now and I’ve averaged about 4 hours of use on each charge. I have my screen settings slightly dimmed and simplified to minimize energy usage but I have never broken the 5+ hours threshold suggested by Pulsar. On top of this, I am also being judicious about putting the unit to sleep when I’m not actively scanning.
This isn’t a major fault and 4 hours of use is certainly about what you can expect from Thermal scopes but it would be awesome to see a Thermal optic with 8-12 hours of continuous run time.
This certainly isn’t a deal-breaker for me. I just use an external battery pack ranger banded to my rifle’s buttstock and I get a full night of power and I don’t have to put the unit to sleep. Extra batteries are also fairly affordable, ranging from $80-$120 online and giving you an extra 1.5-2 hours per battery.
This is me really nitpicking. So much so that I’m hesitant to include this in my critique. The XQ50 buttons are stiff. Really stiff. Think Vortex red dots’ -stiff. Sometimes when I’m out in the field and about to record a shot, I have to double check the top left corner of the screen to make sure I actually hit the record button because the buttons are so stiff.
Or maybe I just have dainty fingers that were made for Tweeting and typing. Also a highly probable explanation.
I know there’s a reason for this, field use can be rough and you want to make sure you’re not accidentally activating a feature but having buttons that were a bit more tactile would have been a small but major win in my mind.
Stream Vision App
I’ll be completely honest, the Stream Vision App is buggy. I have trouble establishing a consistent connection between the scope and Stream Vision to get my media off the scope so I usually just connect the scope directly to my laptop to bypass the app altogether.
I’ve read online that the Stream Vision app doesn’t play nicely with iOS but it works flawlessly with Android but I’m not cool enough for an Android so I haven’t done any testing on this to confirm. In addition to connectivity issues, when I transfer my video recordings over to iOS or OSX, I don’t have sound and have to reprocess the video files in Handbrake to fix the codec.
I recently updated to the latest firmware release and I’m hoping this fixes it but it’s a minor inconvenience to me updating my Twitter and YouTube channel for those sweet-sweet Internet points.
That’s it. Those are my 3 complaints about the Thermion XQ50 and to be honest, they’re pretty minor. I’m someone who’s out hunting hogs and coyotes multiple times per month and the Thermion XQ50 has already paid for itself in utility. If you’re thermal-curious and have the budget, go buy one of these. If you’re a veteran night hunter looking to upgrade your set-up to something more streamlined? Believe the hype. The Pulsar Thermion delivers.
Have any other questions or comments? Feel free to comment below or reach out directly on Twitter: @CitizenHush