Best Entry-Level Thermal Monoculars

Thermal imaging technology is increasing in popularity every day—and for good reason. Thermal has many uses and applications including scouting game for hunting, general wildlife observation, boating, law enforcement surveillance, finding hot spots in fires and much more. Thermal technology has traditionally been very expensive, but thanks to competition and economies of scale, the prices for consumers are trending downward.

So, if you’re looking for the best bang-for-your-buck in the thermal world, what are your options?

Pulsar Helion XQ28F

Pulsar Helion thermal imaging monocular
The Pulsar Helion XQ28F produces excellent image quality and is packed full of features.

Manufactured by thermal and night vision veteran Pulsar, the Helion XQ28 is feature-heavy but doesn’t skimp on image quality. Featuring a 384×288 sensor, the Helion delivers crisp thermal images of objects up to 875 yards away to a high-resolution 640×480 AMOLED display. Magnification is an astounding 2.3-9.2x and the unit is IP67 waterproof, meaning it is submergible up to 1m.

Perhaps the most useful features are the built-in video recording and lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack. While most units run off batteries, the Helion features Pulsar’s proprietary eight-hour rechargeable battery pack, which is much more cost-efficient in the long run than batteries. The Helion XQ28 also offers 8gb of internal memory and can record videos as well as take still images. Connected to Pulsar’s Stream Vision app for iOS and androids, you can remote view on your smart device and even download videos straight to your phone.

At $2,419.98 the Helion XQ28 is jam-packed with features.

FLIR Scout III 320

Commercial thermal giant FLIR has an entry-level thermal handheld for consumers; the Scout III 320. Ergonomic and lightweight, the Scout only has a magnification of 1-2x, but can detect objects up to 600 yards away. The Scout boasts FLIR’s proven 336×256 sensor with ultra-smooth 60Hz refresh rate and clear 640×480 LCD display.

Simplicity is the name of the game for the Scout 320, as the unit starts up in mere seconds and requires no training to operate. The intuitive Scout also has the same IP67 waterproof rating as the Helion. FLIR has also drop tested this unit and it is easily able to withstand drops up to one meter high.

The FLIR Scout III 320 starts at just $1,699.

ATN OTS-HD 384 1.25-5x

Featuring an Obsidian Core, the OTS-HD thermal monocular is manufactured by ATN. With a magnification of 1.25-5x, this thermal scanner also has a 384×288 sensor able to detect human-sized targets up to 685 yards away from the user. Like the Helion, this unit has a microSD card and can record high-quality 1280×960 videos at 30 fps and has 8 hours of battery life from 4 AA batteries, so the thermal viewing can last all night.

Other useful features on the OTS-HD include an e-barometer for precise accuracy, a gyroscope to improve image stabilization and an e-compass so you know what direction to head after shooting.

The ATN OTS-HD 1.25-5x starts at $1,573.56.