Hunting requires many skills, thus making being good at aiming just one of them – even if it is of high importance. Then, if you’re used to shooting with daytime optics, mastering a thermal vision scope is yet another knack. To make the process smoother, we’ve asked two experienced shooters and thermal users to share their tips. Stefan Orman, a Swedish hunter and military shooting instructor, will focus more on the technique, while Riccardo Tamburini, an Italian hunter, will talk about achieving efficiency with thermal.
Riccardo: Practice, practice, and practice. As they say, “Practice makes perfect”.
Stefan: First of all, you really need to get a good firing position. And a good firing position is also something that would include your technique – how you hold your rifle, how you push it to your shoulder, how you let the recoil go through your body. And it‘s important that it goes the right way, otherwise, you will get more muzzle flip, and that will cause inaccuracy. So, firing position. Very, very important. And also another thing that‘s included in there is stability. You should be able to rest comfortably behind the rifle. Whether you‘re standing up, sitting down, lying down. You should be relaxed but still have a firm grip so you don‘t get punished if you have a heavy-hitting recoil.
Stefan: Scopes are just tools. And they‘re going to be good for different things. So, if you look at something that has high base magnification, it‘s going to be really good for long-range, obviously. But it‘s going to be horrible for close-range. So, the best scope would be the one that was purposefully built for the application. If you‘re going to go on a driven hunt, a red dot scope, which is parallax-free, or a rifle scope with a base magnification of 1x, with a wide field of view and good light transmission, with a magnification level of 1-4x or maybe 1-8x is probably going to be your main scope. And if you can get one of these variable magnification, low parallax scopes for a driven hunt or one that is parallax-free, that‘s going to be the best tool for a driven hunt. If you‘re going out stalking, then a higher base magnification would be more efficient. Like a 2-12x, 3-20x. But you will probably also want to have quite a large objective lens to get a good light transmission because you‘re going to be out in the early morning, late evening, and sometimes even at night when there‘s no light available. And then a good scope with a good light transmission is going to be very, very important.
Now, if you‘re hunting game that is legal to hunt with a thermal scope, the same rules apply.
Riccardo: I think the most important thing for those who want to improve their aim with a thermal scope is to use a rangefinder – evaluating distances at night is not easy.
Then, a ballistic calculator is a great help. With that, you don’t need to add multiple distances to your profiles on the scope. Thanks to Pulsar’s Stream Vision Ballistics, it’s enough to zero the scope at one distance and add all the ballistic data to a profile. The app will then perform the corrections of the point of impact and display them on your riflescope’s screen.
Riccardo: Thermion 2 LRF XP50, of course. With this, you have an integrated rangefinder which can also work in scanning mode, so you avoid the need to push the measurement button every time.
Then, the Thermion image quality is, by now, legendary, and it’s very important to have a clear image for the best results in shooting. The possibility to have 8 color palettes, 10 different reticle types and 11 reticle colors gives you a chance to always have the best shooting combination. Finally, the Picture-in-Picture window helps a lot to be as precise as possible.
Stefan: The shooter, the hunter will have to read the specifications. I always tell people to look at the field of view. The field of view and detection range will tell you for what purpose the scope was built. So, the most expensive is not always the best, and the cheapest is not always the worst. It’s just that if you have a low-power scope, you can make that with lesser material, like a smaller objective lens. And, in some cases, even a smaller sensor. Look at the Talion XG35. Absolutely amazing scope with a wide field of view. Even a wider field of view than Thermion 2 LRF XP50 Pro has. Now, it’s got a higher NETD, but the wide field of view for most hunts in Europe, like wild boar, is going to be more attractive.
However, if you’re going on a fox hunt or shooting at a long-range, and you’re allowed to do that like in the UK or in the US hunting coyotes or something, then the core of the game would tend to be longer distance. I would opt for something with a bigger objective lens and smaller pixel pitch. You get that tighter cluster of pixels and higher base magnification.
But remember, no scope will make you a better shooter. The scope is just a tool to make it easier.
Stefan: First of all, they usually don’t have a good technique to start with. They never learned it. So, they start building behavior that is not going to help them out. Now, the first shot, good trigger squeeze, good firing position where you have a lot of stability and right recoil, and you’re breathing. Don’t forget the breathing. Breathing is super, super important to get right.
There are loads of people out there who do a lot of competitive shooting, like IPSC, PRS, etc. And I would strongly suggest asking one of these shooters to help you out because they will be able to show you the ropes and how to improve yourself.
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make, especially when they’re training on a moving game, is when they cycle the bolt when they reload their rifles. They lift their head from behind the scope. You should always do a follow-through, meaning that when you are looking down your optics, you are looking at the target; you are locked on target. Always. You never stop aiming. And as you’re squeezing that trigger slowly, you never lose focus of your aim. And when the shot goes off, that should be a surprise. If you try to anticipate the boom, then you’re doing it wrong. You need to surprise yourself. And when it goes “bang”, aim through the bang. Keep aiming. Just focus on aiming. That’s called “follow-through”.
If you try to anticipate the shot, it means that you’re preparing yourself for the recoil, and that’s when you’re going to miss. It’s very, very bad behavior that you shouldn’t allow yourself to do. And an easy fix is always to dry fire. Go out with no ammunition. Have a friend look at you. If you pull or yank that trigger, they will see. Shoot with both eyes open. Practice that – it’s very, very important. It is necessary if you’re going to be able to keep track of the target in front of you. If you shoot with one eye closed, if you have a high magnification, the muzzle flip might throw you off. The target acquisition might be slow. So both eyes open. Your vision must be as professional as possible.
Riccardo: Thermal vision doesn’t give you a real image. The target you see on display is the result of a sum of steps: the germanium lens gets the thermal radiation, which is processed by the sensor through an algorithm. This allows you to see a rebuilt image on the display. Although the quality is super good, there are some things to consider: first of all, digital or thermal devices highly affect the general dimension of an object. Then, it’s very difficult to understand the distance. And last issue is that digital vision compresses the depth of field: it’s not easy to understand how far are two different hot targets between each other; this happens, above all, with devices with a base magnification of 1x, but, thank God (and R&D department), Pulsar doesn’t have any unit with this entry value: you’ll have a smaller field of view angle, but depth of field understanding will be better. Then only your knowledge (but sometimes, it’s not enough) can help you, but if you have an integrated rangefinder or another device with this important feature, you’ll be 100% precise.
Riccardo: It depends on how much time you spend in a shooting range and how much time you spend in the wild observing animals with your thermal device. Many people think that you need a monocular to observe animals in the field during the night, but I always suggest people use their thermal scope (without a rifle, of course) as a monocular to understand their tackle better when they will use it as a scope. Or maybe even grab a friend with a different thermal device for comparison.
Another tip is to start playing with different reticles while observing animals (again, without the actual gun). I use M56Fi: the distance of the dots in the reticle lines (from the center) is 10 cm at 100 meters, so simply knowing that you can better understand animal body dimensions. You could use this info to correct your point of impact if you don’t have a ballistic calculator.
Stefan: Being good at aiming doesn’t take a very long time if you do the basics right. The thing that’s hard to master is the technique. You have to be at the range, you have to remember to do everything the exact same way every time. A friend of mine said something smart once: “It’s not difficult to shoot well. It’s difficult to do everything exactly the same every time.”
Stefan: The best way to improve fast is to practice. Seriously, reach out to people who know how to shoot. I would reach out to competitive shooters. These people are going to be the absolute best at helping out. Or if you have a friend who’s an army shooting instructor. But IPSC, PRS shooters are the best because the techniques they use are much more suitable for application in the field when we’re hunting compared to Olympic shooters.
With that being said, I‘m not saying that we run around shooting animals because that is not what we do. But we do end up in stressful situations where things happen pretty fast. And that means that we cannot always have the textbook position.
Riccardo: I know that it’s not easy to get a high-end thermal scope, but I suggest any potential user to make an extra sacrifice to get the best tackle on the market for him or her. As we say in Italy, “Whoever spends more, saves more”. This way, you will have a device made with top components, which will give you the best image possible at every distance without any software elaboration made by the processor. This makes the result better than the real deal.
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