Have you ever had the thought that your hunting score would be much higher, only if you could see in the night when your target can’t? Oh! You can, with a thermal scope. But what is this thermal scope thing? What does it do?
A thermal scope is a scope that works in infrared rays, which is different from visible light. It can essentially ‘see’ heat sources. Thus, the name “thermal scope.” An average thermal scope can be easily mounted on a mid to light firearm.
Okay, it’s clear that a scope using which you can see heat sources is called a thermal scope. It sounds technical but with a lot of usefulness if you know how to use it properly. How does it work?
How Does A Thermal Scope Work?
As I mentioned before, a thermal scope works on thermal rays or infrared rays. All the thermal scopes are digital, unlike your regular scope. That’s because it is essentially a camera. It doesn’t record; it just captures and displays.
There’s a focusing lens at the front, a detector panel behind it. When the lens is focused on a distance, a clear image of the target distance is made.
The detector converts it into electrical signals that a processor again converts into an observable image. The final image is then displayed on a screen placed at the eyepiece.
How To Sight A Thermal Scope?
Sighting is really just calibrating the direction of your scope with the barrel of your weapon.
Every thermal scope (like your everyday scope) has reticle, and it might not always line up with the barrel of your rifle perfectly due to mechanical error, or corrosion, or any other reason.
For those cases, you need to sight it before you head out. Here’s an easy solution to make the process simple.
Where To Begin?
First and foremost, I want to highlight the manual that comes with the device. Scopes made from different companies differ slightly both mechanically and functionally. You need to know and properly understand how your device works and how to control its reticles etc.
Take your time reading it properly, try comparing the texts with the device in your hand, and basically play with it. That’ll make you more and more familiar with the structure of it, and also, you’ll be more confident handling it while sighting.
A thermal scope works with and only with thermal rays. The visible light rays are essentially invisible to it. Thus, daylight or the deepest night is the same through a thermal scope. This brings the necessity of gathering some dummy targets while sighting.
Sighting a thermal scope will be slightly more difficult than a regular scope, mostly because it can only see heat difference between objects. Hand Warmers, heating pads, reflecting tapes, or even hot (or cold) water bottles work like a charm.
Consider Bullet Drop
Bullet drop is a big factor while hunting. It’s an occurrence that every hunter has to face. The bullet drop rate at a short-range is hardly an issue. However, it becomes more and more of an issue as the distance increases.
Bullet drop depends on a few factors, such as caliber, weight, velocity, etc. Hence, you should sight your scope properly with the same ammo that you’ll be using on the field.
Even if it seems like a waste of ammo, it’ll save much more when you are hitting every shot dead-on, in the field.
Proper Stabilization While Sighting
Stabilizing your weapon properly is a big deal. An unstable gun is bound to miss the bullseye on every other shot. You can’t measure the distance you hit away from bullseye properly. Thus calculations, as well as sighting, will feel unnecessarily tedious.
Bipod and gun rest are some of the useful gadgets to help you stabilize your rifle and make the zeroing process much faster and efficient. What’s zeroing? It’s the other name of ‘sighting’ that sounds cooler.
The Actual Zeroing Process
I think it is necessary to mention this once again, that you should do this, with the actual ammo you’ll be using, at the actual time and environment, or at least as close as possible. This is because the environmental elements will also alter your bullet path.
You have your gun ready? Ammo loaded? Target in position? Great. Let’s get started then. An effective and ‘proven over the age’ method is to sit (or preferably prone) at your position and take three shots targeting the bullseye.
Then you go to the spot and observe where you hit. Measure the approximate average distance of the shots from the very center.
With the measurements memorized (or even better, written), you return to the shooting spot and adjust accordingly. Then you take three more shots and repeat the process until you are hitting the target dead-on.
You start this from a very short distance (something around 50 yards or so). And then 75 or even 100 yards, then 150, 200, and even more if you think you need to. If your 50 yards shots are way off, you can close in even further, starting from 25 yards.
The idea is to start from a short distance and slowly increase it while keeping your accuracy. The recommended distance to pinpoint your shot is 200 yards.
At a shorter distance, you will be hitting slightly higher than your crosshair. But the alteration will be less and less the closer you get. You’ll still be an absolute killer at distances as short as 50 yards.
As I mentioned before, your regular old paper targets won’t be a practical option since you’ll be calibrating most likely at night, and your thermal scope isn’t the best at observing visible light. Thus, alternatives that make a high-temperature difference from its surroundings are needed.
Zeroing Advanced Scopes
Companies are working hard to invent newer technology, to make their product easier to understand, access, and friendlier towards the new people in the sport. Some modern scopes feature technologies that allow you for 1-shot bullseye.
You just roughly take a shot on your target from your desired distance. As long as the shot is in your view-image, you are good to go. The mechanism of the scope allows you to freeze the reticles while lets you move the objective of the scope. You move the crosshairs right where you hit and lock it.
There you go. You are done already. Your next shot should already be at the bullseye. However, if you see some issue or your bullet is still not hitting exactly where your crosshairs aim, you can repeat the process to get a better aim.
The thermal scope is not a gadget to be used in regular hunting in plain daylight. This is because there are many more alternatives which are far better. A thermal scope thrives at hostile situations like nighttime, foggy surroundings, snowy day(or night), where other scopes or naked eyes are completely helpless.
If you rushed and did not sight your scope properly, you will be stranded helplessly in those situations. Neither can you sight, not hunt the dark of night, can you? Therefore, it is necessary to sight your scope properly beforehand. And to do so, Understanding your scope is essential.
Sighting a scope is not difficult and should not take more than 30 minutes at most, as long as you know what you are doing. It may seem a waste of ammo, but trust me, it will pay you much more value and time in the actual situation. Finally, “Have a successful hunt.”