Is it safe to shoot with thermal?
QI am very tempted to invest in a thermal riflescope but have serious reservations about the safety of shooting with only a heat signature for both backstops and quarry recognition. Are they really good enough to be fully safe?
ADOMINIC HOLTAM replies: A top-end thermal imager is a big investment but the technology is advancing incredibly swiftly and the quality is very, very good now. I spent a couple of nights out recently with a thermal spotter and riflescope and was amazed by how much detail I could observe – from lapwings crouching in the pastures, to a mouse working along a field edge, to pigeons in the treetops. Time and experience will obviously improve your ability to differentiate between species – the way an animal moves, for example, as well as shape and size.
You might also be surprised at how detailed and textured a landscape you can make out from heat signatures: pasture, woodland, foliage of different types all have different thermal profiles.
However, just as people can get 'lamp blind' and not always be aware of what is behind the shot, so you must apply the same rules when doing any form of night shooting, be it traditional, NV or thermal. Be sure of your backstop. Know your land and your safe shooting areas and if there is even a tiny amount of doubt in either the safety of the shot or the exact species you are looking at, don't shoot!