Night hunting requires both skill and professional gear to back it up. The Pulsar Trail XP50 Thermal Rifle Scope is a scope that will cover the “gear” part of that equation. It is the ultimate tool for night hunters and is perhaps the best thing you can currently get. All that will come with a heavy price tag, though, which is also the scope’s biggest disadvantage over its competition. Still, if you want to have the best of the best, this model here is the way to go. In fact, any Pulsar scope would do but I decided to review this particular one as it offers the most complete package and is the easiest to use.
The Pulsar Trail scopes combine some of the newest technologies in rifle scopes with cutting edge thermal imaging. Everything from the Germanium objective lens to the crisp digital zoom is created to give you the best night hunting experience possible. The construction of the scope is durable and waterproof, although it is a bit on the heavy side. The display on the inside is vivid and the picture you are getting is full of contrast and easy to distinguish. Thanks to the focusing and diopter adjustments this scope matches anyone’s preferences in a turn of a knob.
If you are looking for a cheaper model, I suggest checking out my Buyer’s Guide on some of the best night vision scopes for this year. Apart from some budget options, you will gain tons of insight on these devices and see what you need to look for when buying one. Now, let’s jump straight into this review!
When paying such a high price for a scope, people usually expect to get the most out of everything. That is rarely the case, as often there are slight compromises users have to make but not in the case of the Trail XP. It is impeccable in all of its features and as much as I wanted to find a major downside, I couldn’t. Well… besides the huge price tag and the somewhat limited magnification range. Everything else was on point and precisely what you’d expect from a Pulsar scope.
Let’s start with the magnification and other rifle scope characteristics and then we will move on to the digital side of things and go in-depth on the whole software interface.
In terms of magnification, this scope isn’t something special but it still exceeds most other night vision models. It has a 12.8x maximum magnification and the lowest you can get is 1.6x zoom. The zooming happens in 8 steps in that range. There is no loss of quality nor image resolution while you are zooming in and the picture stays crisp.
Once zoomed in on your target, you can use the focus knob which is located right above the front side of the scope. The focus is wide and nice and can pick up objects that have a lot of distance between them. The knob itself has some torque to it and is easy to turn even when you are wearing shooting gloves.
Another image adjustment option the scope provides you is the diopter ring which is at the end of the eyepiece. That combined with the focus knob makes the scope easily accessible by people with all sorts of sight and the rubber end of the eyepiece allows for users with glasses to easily aim.
The germanium objective lens at the front is one of the highlights of this scope. Germanium is used in lenses that are meant to be put on anything that utilizes thermal optics. Regular silica glass doesn’t allow for the infrared rays to pass through it, hence the need for a different material. The whole processing and polishing of these germanium lenses is a very costly process and is one of the main reasons this scope comes with such a price tag.
The objective lens is of decent size (42mm) and helps the thermal sensor capture everything in great detail even in pitch black conditions.
The rest of the imaging work is done by that very sensor and everything is processed in the scope’s core processor.
Apart from the great detection distance of over 1800 yards, the Trail line of scopes also is superb in their ballistic calculations. The scope provides an indication of the elevation angle and the incline for you at the screen in the form of a 3D sphere in the bottom left corner. That will allow you to make corrections mid-aiming if your target is far away.
The Trail also allows you to save three zeroing profiles with 5 distances for each profile. That results in having 15 zeroing distances altogether. That can be used by having a zeroed distance at 100, 200, and 800 yards and then some slight distance variations around those numbers. That way, you will know which profile and program to select when you see the distance to your target.
With this scope zeroing is also done incredibly easily thanks to the “Freeze Zeroing” function which will track your first shot and let you correct the reticle to match the bullet hole. After that, you will be able to enter a distance for that shot and save it as a preset into one of your zeroing presets.
You get a total of 13 different reticle options and there is pretty much any type of reticle you’ve heard of among these. There are BDC reticles, SCR, mil-dot, Leupold, and other types that will suit almost every hunter’s needs.
Reticles can also be assigned to different shooter profiles inside the menu of the Trail scope and will be automatically saved for the next time you use it. Here on the right side, I have shown the four major reticle presets.
From the main menu you will be able to toggle between all of the 13 reticles, and also change their color from white to black and choose your desired reticle brightness level.
This scope has perhaps the highest possible sensor resolution on the market currently. It is a 640×480 pixel resolution thermal sensor with a pixel size of just 17 microns. Paired with that is one of the very latest thermal rendering software. All that results in a crisp night vision image of your target which provides excellent detection capabilities at unimaginable distances. Thanks to that sharpness and variable magnification you can detect objects at roughly 1800 yards and identify them at around 800-1000.
One of my favorite thermal scopes that are far cheaper but offers similar features is the ATN X-Sight 4K PRO Night Vision Scope. It doesn’t use a thermal sensor but a 4K optical one. These sensors are an ideal solution for people who want to use their scope as a day time optics that can record their shots in the current best resolution.
If you want to see how thermal scopes match up with the rest of the night vision generations, click here!
Construction & Durability
In terms of construction, this scope meets my expectations well. It is durable and sturdy although a bit heavy. It is IPX7 rated meaning it can withstand heavy rain and slight immersion. It is also fog proof and dustproof thanks to its sealed construction. All those features make it ideal for hunting in various types of harsh environmental conditions. It also makes for an ideal coyote night hunting scope.
One other thing that sets this scope apart from its competition is the fact that it can operate in temperatures from -13 degrees Fahrenheit all the way to 122 degrees Fahrenheit. That is great for people that hunting in the colder states or during the late autumn and winter.
The scope has a rubber eyepiece at one end and a built-in lens cap on the other in order to protect the objective lens. There are two adjustment options – one is via the focus knob at the front top side of the scope, and the other is the diopter adjustment ring on the eyepiece, as I mentioned earlier. On the right side sits the removable battery with the micro USB port. We will get into both of them in a moment. On the side, there is also the power button and the rest of the scope buttons are on top. All of the buttons have a rubber coating and are very tactile. They have a nice click to them so that you know what you’ve pressed even when wearing gloves.
There is a quick-release mount that comes with every Trail scope. It ensures a firm and fast mounting of the scope to your rifle. It works on any weapon with a Picatinny or Weaver rail system. On the right side of the mount, there are two metal knobs that you have to turn in order to either lock or release the mount to your rifle’s rail.
Using The Trail XP50
Usability on this scope is pretty straightforward and happens with the help of 5 buttons – 4 at the top and 1 at the side. You boot up the scope by pushing the power button and waiting. At first, you will see the Pulsar logo and after a few more seconds the image will appear.
The power button also doubles down as a calibration button. One short press of the button, while the scope is ON, will initiate the calibration process in which the image will freeze for a short period of time and you will hear a clicking sound. If you hold the power button for less than 3 seconds you will turn off the display, while longer presses will turn off the whole scope.
The Button Cluster
On top of your scope, you got the following buttons:
- Navigation Up
- Menu Button
- Navigation Down
- Record button
With the navigation up button, you got similar options – short press and long press. The short press of that button will switch between hot white and hot black. In these two modes, the animal will either appear white on a black background or black on a white background. The long-press of the up button activates or deactivates the Wi-Fi connection. You will see whether the Wi-Fi is on or off from the little icon in the bottom control panel of your screen.
The short press of the down button will activate your digital zoom. Magnification is performed in steps progressively as follows – 1.6x, 3.2x, 6.4x, and 12.8x. After the maximum zooming step it gets back down to 1.6x zoom. A long press will activate the picture in picture mode. In this mode, you will have a second small screen with the reticle and your target in it while the larger screen will keep being set on your target at the zoom you are on.
Long pressing of the record button will allow you to switch between photo and video recording modes. You will see a photo or a video icon on the top left corner of your screen with the number of pictures you can take or the video recording time left on the memory. A short press of that button will either take a photo or start a video recording depending on the mode you are in. When video recording is on, a short press of the same button will pause the recording, while the long press will stop it.
Display & Menus
There are two menus on both sides of your side of the screen which are accessed through the menu button. On the right, you have your hot menu which has the rangefinder, screen brightness, magnification, and contrast settings.
To enter the main menu of the unit you have to press and hold the menu button. With the help of the up and down buttons, you can toggle between Wi-Fi settings, observation modes, calibration modes, zeroing profile selection, reticle selection, and other general settings such as measurement units, language, time, auto shut-down, and many more.
All that is viewed on your frost-resistant AMOLED scope display which is one of the sharpest and most contrast-rich displays on the market right now.
There are a lot of features that are all great but are also standard for premium night vision scopes such as the Pulsar Trail XP series. Some of those are:
- Stereometric rangefinder with three animals for reference (rabbit, boar, deer)
- Wi-fi streaming capabilities with the “Stream Vision” app
- A micro USB port for powering up the battery or downloading video data
- Recoil activation mode
- 8 GB of internal memory
- Carrying case
- Wireless remote
All of these features shape up the premium feeling of this scope and allow you to experience what this technology is capable of today. Honestly, despite the very steep price, it doesn’t get much better than this.
The battery life is decent and lasts up to 8 hours of continuous Wi-Fi streaming, although you can upgrade your scope with the larger battery pack that lasts up to 16 hours. Both of those batteries are easily interchangeable out in the field thanks to a quick-lock mechanism.
The standard battery is the IPS5 one, while the extended-life model is called IPS10 battery pack. In case you hunt for more than a day/night, it is always a good option to bring an extra battery with you. Another option is to get a portable battery charger that will power the batteries through the micro-USB port of your scope.
Pulsar Trail XP50 Vs. The Pulsar Helion XP Thermal Monocular
Apart from the fact that the Pulsar Helion XP is a portable thermal monocular, it presents a variety of features the Pulsar Trail XP doesn’t. It is far easier to use thanks to its lightweight design and it has more color palettes when it comes to the night vision options, while the Trail XP50 only has white hot and black hot. The monocular also has a bigger magnification range which maxes out at 20x zoom, while the riflescope can only go up to 12.8x zoom. Still, if you want your thermals to be on top of your rifle, rather than on a tripod next to you, then the choice is rather clear.
Some people that go for coyote night hunting, for example, prefer a monocular-tripod combo and a second night vision scope on their rifle. Others prefer predator hunting lights instead of investing thousands in thermal gear.
Advantages & Disadvantages
- Best Thermal Scope in its class
- Can endure wide temperature ranges
- Great thermal sensor
- A lot of adjustability options
- Easy to use interface with 5 buttons
- Batteries are easily changed
- Has a quick-release mount
- Excellent in pitch black conditions
- Can detect targets at up to 2000 yards
- Very expensive
- Somewhat heavy
- The magnification range isn’t very big with only 4 steps
Frequently Asked Questions
Can thermal scopes be used in daylight?
Yes, thermal scopes are one of the best scouting alternatives both during the day and the night. While typical night vision scopes will perform best under darkness, they often struggle with their day-modes. Thermal scopes, on the other hand, aren’t bothered by the presence (or lack) of light and will pinpoint your target no matter what. Some thermal scopes even have reverse-contrast modes for day use.
Where are Pulsar scopes made?
Pulsar scopes use both British and USA technology in their scopes and they have facilities in the USA, Scotland, Lithuania, Belarus, and the PRC.
Why are thermal scopes so expensive?
The main reason thermal scopes are expensive is due to their lenses. The normal glass used by other scopes isn’t transparent for the infrared light that the thermal scopes detect. That requires the use of different materials. In the case of this Pulsar scope, the lenses are made out of germanium which is a really expensive element.
Conclusion & Rating
It is sometimes very difficult to find big game in the dense forest at night. Having the Pulsar Trail XP50 Thermal Rifle Scope on top of your weapon will guarantee a successful identification even at distances greater than 1000 yards and will give you the accuracy few other scopes on the market can. Thanks to its rigidity and adjustability it is also a very trustworthy companion on your night hunts. It is packed full of features and will last you some good 6-8 hours before the batteries run out. As a whole, I am giving it a slightly lower rating due to the weight it carries and the price it costs. Other than that, I couldn’t find any significant disadvantages.