Be­yond 20/20



Field-test­ing the FLIR Ther­mosight Pro PTS223, an in­frared op­tic force mul­ti­plier

Iam a bit of a Lud­dite when it comes to tech­nol­ogy. I’m also in­trigued by the look and util­ity of FLIR (for­ward look­ing in­frared) and a fan of how it is used in the real world.

Work­ing in law en­force­ment, I get to see and ben­e­fit from FLIR in the field, usu­ally ob­tained from a he­li­copter. Know­ing that some­one is check­ing the area from above with FLIR gives me some re­as­sur­ance be­cause I know the ob­server is able to clear an area or sim­ply keep an eye out for any­thing out of the or­di­nary.

When the op­por­tu­nity was pre­sented to use and re­view a hand­held, or in this case weapon-mounted, FLIR de­vice, I jumped at the chance. When they green-lighted the pro­ject, FLIR promptly shipped a Ther­mosight Pro Series PTS223 weapon sight, which hap­pens to be the small­est in the Ther­mal Imag­ing Weapons Sight Pro series.

First Look

Get­ting to the heart of the mat­ter, the Ther­mosight Pro makes im­ages from heat, not light. This al­lows the op­tic to help you “see” clearly with­out any vis­i­ble light, as well as re­veal cam­ou­flaged peo­ple, an­i­mals or ob­jects where their heat con­trast can be dis­cerned. Us­ing the Ther­mosight Pro you can see peo­ple, ob­jects or an­i­mals in dif­fi­cult ter­rain in re­duced vis­i­bil­ity, see through smoke, dust or fog, see cam­ou­flage in any light­ing con­di­tion, and see more and far­ther than would be pos­si­ble with night vi­sion gog­gles. This makes the Ther­mosight Pro a vi­able force mul­ti­plier in day­light, low light or to­tal dark­ness.

You can un­der­stand why I was anx­ious to try the prod­uct.

The un­pack­ag­ing re­vealed a Pel­i­can-style box which serves as a per­ma­nent, heavy-duty home for the Ther­mosight Pro when it’s not mounted to a ri­fle. Be­sides the Ther­mosight, the case con­tained a very handy quick start guide, a more in-depth user man­ual, two CR123A bat­ter­ies, a bat­tery caddy, a USB ca­ble and a key­chain 3-inch lens cloth. The bat­ter­ies and quick start guide are enough to get you up and run­ning, so I started with those. I only went to the man­ual once I had a

feel for what the Ther­mosight Pro could do.

The Ther­mosight Pro has an in­te­grated quick­de­tach rail mount. Once se­curely on my ri­fle, ze­ro­ing the op­tic was a sim­ple mat­ter thanks to the sim­ple lay­out and in­tu­itive con­trols. The op­tic also has the lens cover and bat­tery cap dummy-corded so the en­tire unit is self­con­tained.

Power On

Once I pow­ered up the Ther­mosight by means of its Turn-pull switch, I was quickly able to use its in­tu­itive con­trols. The on/off switch of­fers a standby op­tion that al­lows the user to ac­ti­vate and de­ac­ti­vate the unit us­ing a re­mote. There is a diopter ad­just­ment that al­lows you to ad­just for op­ti­mum im­age sharp­ness in the eye­piece. The to­tal diopter ad­just­ment range is cov­ered with two turns of the ring. There’s also a lens fo­cus ad­just­ment ring on the ob­jec­tive lens. This al­lows for ob­tain­ing the sharpest view of the scene. The to­tal fo­cus range is cov­ered with a three­quar­ter turn of the lens.

The Ther­mosight Pro is avail­able in dif­fer­ent ver­sions with op­tions for op­ti­cal mag­ni­fi­ca­tion from 1.5x to 6x. It also al­lows for a 4x dig­i­tal zoom.

The con­trol panel is im­me­di­ately ac­ces­si­ble on the top of the unit. It is com­prised sim­ply of four car­di­nal di­rec­tional arrows and a cen­tral but­ton. Op­tions in­clude bright­ness con­trol, scrolling through the color pal­ette, zoom, UCMNUC/ FCC (User-con­trolled Man­ual Non-uni­for­mity Cor­rec­tion/ Flat-field Cor­rec­tion), ret­i­cle on/off, ret­i­cle pat­tern con­trol, snap­shot, record video and a main menu op­tion. To be frank, some of this was more than I could im­me­di­ately ap­pre­ci­ate, but some time on the Ther­mosight helped me ap­pre­ci­ate the many op­tions built into it.

The stand­out fea­ture, of course, is the ther­mal im­age. While look­ing through the eye­piece, you will see that the screen de­liv­ers bril­liant, high qual­ity, clean ther­mal imagery. The Ther­mosight Pro of­fers seven dif­fer­ent color op­tions that al­low you to work in low con­trast day­light, to­tal dark­ness and ev­ery­thing in be­tween.

White Hot is prob­a­bly the one with which you are most fa­mil­iar and is good for scenes with high or low con­trast. Black Hot makes the scenes ap­pear more life­like, es­pe­cially at night. Rain­bow HC is a multi-color ther­mal that dis­plays the tem­per­a­ture of ob­jects in a wide color range. Iron­bow sim­u­lates the glow of ob­jects that are heated, sim­i­lar to an iron in the fire. Sepia only uses three col­ors and dis­plays heat in­ten­sity from black to yel­low. Arc­tic sharply dis­plays ob­jects with a higher tem­per­a­ture dif­fer­ence, and fi­nally Out­door Alert com­bines the life-like de­tail of Black Hot with easy-to-spot bright tar­gets high­lighted in dark red to bright yel­low. It as­sumes the tar­get is hot­ter than its sur­round­ings.

My per­sonal fa­vorite op­tion was Out­door

Alert, as it was the most in­tu­itive and had my sub­jects stand out in an ob­vi­ous way. Mind you, I was pri­mar­ily work­ing ei­ther in a struc­ture or at night. It also didn’t hurt that the im­age made it look like I had Preda­tor vi­sion. When work­ing out­side, I would have to switch to White Hot be­cause there was not as much color when ev­ery­thing is warmer.

Re­gard­ing the ret­i­cle, there are six op­tions each avail­able in four col­ors. There’s a four MOA dot, some­thing that will be fa­mil­iar to fans of red dot op­tics. There’s a Line Dot, with

“…the Ther­mosight Pro has in­ter­nal mem­ory that al­lows the user to record up to 2 1/2 hours of video or take up to 1,000 pic­tures.”

a dot set in the mid­dle of a bro­ken hor­i­zon­tal line. The Cross Cen­ter Dot is a bro­ken crosshair with a dot in the mid­dle. The Cross is a sim­ple “plus sign” op­tion. The Crosshair is a “typ­i­cal” old school scope crosshair that is im­me­di­ately use­able. Fi­nally, there’s the Crossdash, which is a Mil-dot type de­sign. As men­tioned, each ret­i­cle can be made to be black, white, red or cyan. In short, the Ther­mo­pro fea­tures a very use­able ret­i­cle op­tion for just about ev­ery­one re­gard­less of back­ground or ex­pe­ri­ence.

Per­for­mance As­sess­ment

The Ther­mosight Pro boasts mul­ti­ple fea­tures packed into a com­pact hous­ing. While heav­ier than a typ­i­cal red dot op­tic, it is still light enough to be prac­ti­cal when mounted on a ri­fle. When look­ing through the eye­piece, the HUD (heads-up dis­play) shows 10 pieces of real time in­for­ma­tion for feed­back. There is the ret­i­cle, a shot counter, dig­i­tal zoom, ri­fle pro­file, cur­rent color pal­ette, dig­i­tal in­cli­nome­ter, bat­tery sta­tus, com­pass car­di­nal di­rec­tion, com­pass de­grees and a record in­di­ca­tor. From a prac­ti­cal side, you have all the info you need in the mo­ment— more than you’d first ex­pect, and some that you’ll be glad you had af­ter the mis­sion.

The Ther­mosight Pro’s ad­vanced im­age pro­cess­ing is built us­ing the new FLIR Bo­son ther­mal core. The bright, high-def­i­ni­tion dis­play al­lows for ab­so­lute clar­ity. In ad­di­tion to the elec­tronic dis­plays, the Ther­mosight Pro has in­ter­nal mem­ory that al­lows the user to record up to 2 1/2 hours of video or take up to 1,000 pic­tures. The video can be shot-ac­ti­vated, op­er­ated man­u­ally or op­er­ated re­motely us­ing the in­cluded USB ca­ble. The un­com­pressed video sig­nal is paired with a high-def­i­ni­tion dis­play for bet­ter de­tec­tion and clas­si­fi­ca­tion in the field. This al­lows for a ver­sa­tile and cus­tomiz­able view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Tac­ti­cal Re­view

I was also able to ex­per­i­ment with the Ther­mosight Pro in tac­ti­cal training. Am­bi­ent light was not an is­sue, so I had an im­me­di­ate ad­van­tage when in a low-light en­vi­ron­ment. I was quickly able to rec­og­nize heat sources and dis­cern role play­ers in training. This al­lowed me to ad­dress them ear­lier, even— and most im­por­tantly—when they were at­tempt­ing to con­ceal them­selves or sucked up into a tight space. The con­sen­sus from the team was that hav­ing one Ther­mosight Pro in the stack gives us an ad­di­tional and sig­nif­i­cant ad­van­tage when search­ing a lo­ca­tion.

Re­gard­ing a non-tac­ti­cal en­vi­ron­ment, I had the ben­e­fit of work­ing in the foothills and was able to use the Ther­mosight Pro in wooded ar­eas where we have the oc­ca­sional bear and other wildlife. More than any­thing, I was able to lo­cate small an­i­mals that I would not have seen oth­er­wise. The ther­mal imag­ing makes de­tec­tion easy and al­lows you to then take your time in rec­og­niz­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing what you have in front of you.

Over­all Thoughts

The Ther­mosight Pro Series PTS223 weapon sight is an amaz­ing piece of equip­ment. Bring­ing high-end tech­nol­ogy and hous­ing it in a ro­bust pack­age, it is packed with ver­sa­tile fea­tures al­low­ing for cus­tomiz­able view­ing and user op­tions.

It has a ton of well-ex­e­cuted fea­tures, which means that you can tai­lor it to your spe­cific mis­sion. Ad­vanced enough to be highly ver­sa­tile while be­ing in­tu­itive enough to sim­ply pick up and use, the Ther­mosight Pro Series PTS223 is an ab­so­lute force mul­ti­plier and a win­dow into the fu­ture of firearm op­tics.

“It also didn’t hurt that the im­age made it look like I had Preda­tor vi­sion.”

FLIR’S Ther­mosight Pro Series fea­tures a durable alu­minum alloy that can with­stand drops in the field.

The heat shield on top of the bar­rel sep­a­rates the op­er­a­tor from the hot bar­rel af­ter 20 rounds of 12-gauge am­mu­ni­tion have been fired in rapid suc­ces­sion.

With the doublestack mag­a­zine lo­cated at the cen­ter of the shotgun, be­tween the shoul­der and sup­port hand, bal­ance is not a prob­lem.

FLIR’S Ther­mosight PTS233 Pro Series ther­mal core cre­ates out­stand­ing imagery for bet­ter de­tec­tion and clas­si­fi­ca­tion—day or night—and the au­thor said it has a “ton of wellex­e­cuted fea­tures” so you can tai­lor it to your spe­cific mis­sion.

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