Thermal Weapon Sights
Thermal weapon sights have become extremely popular over the last decade or so, I’ve had the good fortune to play with a few of them. Today we are going to talk about a supplemental thermal device, one I think is just as useful as a weapon sight; the ATN BinoX 4T 2.5-25X binoculars.
I say just as useful because whenever I find myself in the dark looking for potential animals to hunt, looking around through my riflescope is not only cumbersome but dangerous. The BinoX binoculars allow the user to safely scan the surrounding environment to identify potential targets, and it also gives you additional information that will help you make a better shot when the time comes.
The ATN Binox incorporate a rangefinder, variable power settings, video recording and image capture, and even GPS location that can be used to keep track of fellow hunters in the area. An IR illuminator is also part of the device, which allows you to illuminate targets when using in conjunction with night vision optics. It also incorporates wifi that can be paired to your ATN riflescope through the ATN Ballistic Information Exchange (BIX). Using the connection you can also stream to a paired device for additional viewing while recording the stream to the SD card inside the unit.
The ATN Binox uses an armored housing with a control pad on the top with various buttons to cycle through the menus and activate the different functions of the binoculars. At the rear of the binos you have an adjustable diopter to focus the image of the display inside. The front of the sensor lens can be rotated to focus the thermal image of the target, the right side is for the thermal sensor, the left side houses other sensors and needn’t be adjusted for image focusing.
The Center button doubles as a “Nuc” button that resets the sensitivity of the sensor based on the current field of view, as far as I can tell anyway. You can adjust the power magnification of the binoculars by using the arrows on the control pad, and the power button doubles as a rangefinder trigger when the unit is powered on.
The display inside gives you quite a bit of information, with actual readouts of both incline and cant as well as a compass bearing. You can select to use different widgets such as compass and angle displays, or if you like you can keep it simple and see just the image. There are many different settings that you can adjust to better fit your needs such as different shades for showing heat, you can select different colors or shades of black and white. There are different reticles you can use for measuring targets and distances and such, and of course you can change the units from yards to meters and MOA to MRAD if you like.
The Binox come with an extended life battery, which I was happy to hear. Most thermal devices I have used in the past burn through batteries far too fast. There was also a neck band to carry the BinoX with, it was also easy to adjust the two ocular lenses to fit your particular eye width.
Into the darkness
After confirming a bunch of settings around the yard and making my dog uncomfortable with shouting commands into the dark corners of the yard, I decided it was time to take the BinoX into the hills and see what I could find. It took a few minutes to find a contrast setting that I preferred, but I settled on the “Glowbow” setting. As you’ll see from my pictures I neglected to set the time and date.
Once I got into the mountains I began scanning where I figured I would be able to find a deer or two, or perhaps even a unsuspecting hiker. I did find something that quickly became frustrating. There were plenty of rocks in the hills that appeared to retain a bunch of heat, this inevitably gave me too many false ID’s of potential life. When I actually did see something that was clearly alive and warm, it was pretty clear. But often times I would have to watch at some of the more distant targets to see if they moved before I could confirm their identity.
I spent some time getting used to the imagery through the binos, and testing out the different functions. It did take me a minute to get used to some of the controls and understand everything, but soon enough I was finding things and measuring their distance with the rangefinder and even snapping pictures and videos of them. Much like properly viewing an ultrasound image, it seems there is a bit of a learning curve with looking at images like this. Oftentimes it is easy enough to make out trees, rocks and so forth. You can even make out sunny spots and shadows in the images taken during daylight. I have seen better imagery from other thermal units, but to be fair they cost significantly more than this one.
Finding animals in complete darkness turned out be be everything I hoped it would be, it reduced the eiriness of the darkness. Thermal optics have the benefit of being useful in the daylight just as complete darkness, which is a leg up over night vision optics. I found that using the BinoX during the daytime was also helpful in finding things that were alive in a sea of ambient temperature trees and hills. Continue Reading Here…
I’ll go over the negative things first, as I’ve mentioned I have used other high-dollar units so take my opinion with a grain of salt. One of the most significant things I didn’t like with the BinoX was that things that weren’t warm showed up as if they were. This is likely technological ignorance on my part, it appears that the sensor shows differences in temperature more than anything. For example, the deer I was looking at are surely warmer than anything else on a sub-freezing mountainside with scattered snow at 6:00 AM, but even so many of the rocks on that hillside looked as if they were warm in the BinoX.
The rocks were a whole other color/shade than the ground and trees but were clearly discernible as well. I guess I was just hoping that only warm things would show up as such on the display, but to be fair I got used to it fairly quick, and it ceased to be as difficult.
The rangefinder works, and I tested its accuracy alongside another comparably priced unit. I like rangefinders that reach the two kilometers or more, but for use in the darkness it’s probably better to stay fairly close. Ranging targets inside 1,000 yards seemed to be easy with the Binox, but I didn’t care for the large opening in the ranging reticle, I think it could use a more precise aiming point.
I am not sure what the laser divergence is for the rangefinder, but perhaps the reticle size is based on the beam divergence.
I was unfortunately unable to try the Obsidian APP that I downloaded to view images from the BinoX, I wasn’t able to pair the device and the live chat support on ATN’s website was unable to help me as I wandered around in the darkness.
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT THE BINOX
Now for the good news. I was very excited to be able to see so many things in the dark that were previously unknown. These Binoculars are an awesome tool if you are trying to locate animals in the darkness, or very low light. I suppose you could even use them in the daylight to locate animals. The zoom function is pretty easy and quick to increase your ability to identify targets, and I was pleasantly surprised that resolution wasn’t lost as I zoomed them in.
I was certainly impressed by the battery life, particularly in the cold sub-freezing temperatures in the high Rocky Mountains. The unit has a standby/sleep mode to help conserve the battery, but I wanted to see how long it would last without it. On multiple occasions I would fire the unit up an hour or so before daylight, and I would use it until the deer would begin to bed down around 10-11 at night and the battery was still chuggin’ along!
The photo/video feature is very handy, it was as simple as tapping the button to get saved images of the animals I was watching. Almost too easy in fact, as on several occasions I found I had bumped the video record button and had filled my card up with videos of my feet.
The image quality was as good as I had expected it to be and it gave me an incredible feeling of dominion over the darkness before me.
Thermal imaging is definitely not for the penny pinchers out there, there are a variety of BinoX models available but the most affordable chimes in with an MSRP of $2,699. Needless to say, it can be a hard pill to swallow for most. Though you might find it extremely fun to prowl the darkness, you won’t be able to occult such a purchase from your spouse without risking your own body heat. But if you have the ability to buy products like this, then you will surely enjoy them as I have.
The ATN 640 4T BinoX will take your hunting to a whole new level, and the features make it a pleasure to use. Watch for my next article about the ATN THOR 4T HD Riflescope.