Pulsar's New Thermion 2 LRF XL50 Thermal Scope: Review – Firearms News

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The Franchi Momentum All-Terrain Elite proved an excellent match for the Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XL50. With the Silencer Central Banish 30 Gold suppressor, this is one powerhouse thermal hunting machine.


If you’ve never used thermal before, one of the first things you’ll notice is the lack of depth perception, regardless of the brand of thermal you’re using. However good your thermal scope or device is, it’s still projecting the image onto what is essentially a mini computer screen. It’s flat, and the image is almost always going to be in two colors, with a light and dark configuration. So, it can be challenging to gauge how far away a target is through a thermal scope, especially in unfamiliar terrain. What’s the solution? In the case of Pulsar, it’s the new Thermion 2 LRF XL50 thermal imaging scope.

New and Improved

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Pulsar has a number of thermal products that feature a built-in rangefinder, and it’s an important tool to have when hunting at night in unfamiliar terrain. Even with just a rangefinder, you can more accurately figure your hold on a target. Pulsar has taken this one step further, though, by incorporating a built-in ballistic calculator into the new XL50. You’ll need some range data, namely your firearm’s muzzle velocity and an accurate zero, then let the rangefinder and calculator quickly find your hold for a target at distance. This is huge for predator hunters, especially in the western U.S. Veteran coyote hunters know they can pop out for a shot just about anywhere, and you don’t always get a lot of time to figure your hold. With the XL50, you can quickly range your target, then let the ballistic calculator determine your hold, which gives you a much greater chance for first-round hits at even hundreds of yards – At night! Now, hog hunters can take advantage of this, too. While most hog hunting these days is done over a feeder, where you will already know your range to target, there are still plenty of hunters who cover a lot of ground chasing pigs. If you come across an unfamiliar field, you get the same advantage of knowing your distance and hold in just a few seconds. This technology has already appeared in a number of daytime optics, like SIG Sauer’s BDX system, but now it’s finally available in a thermal imaging scope that can get you the same results in the dark.

Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XL50 Features

My first time behind the new Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XL50 was on a ranch in Texas for a hog hunt. Like most people, the first thing that stood out to me was the image quality. The XL50 features a 1024×768 sensor at 12 µm (NETD <35 mK). I know these specs can be confusing, but the short explanation is that you want a high-resolution sensor with a low noise equivalent temperature difference (NETD) rating, which is exactly what you get with the XL50. Combined with the 50mm objective, you get heat detection at long ranges, and remarkable image clarity at shooting distances. The XL50’s detection range is rated at 2,300 yards. Now, at that distance, you’re only going to see white dots, but at half that distance, you’ll start to be able to see differences in animal size. Within 500 yards, you’re going to get as good of image quality you can possibly get for civilian thermal scopes.

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I’d brought my Franchi Momentum All-Terrain Elite rifle in .308 Win. for the Texas hog hunt, and it made a great match for the XL50. One night in particular stands out in my memory from that trip. After we’d successfully dropped a few pigs from hunting over a feeder, we started cruising around the ranch in a side-by-side with the lights off, using a Pulsar Axion XQ30 Pro to scan and navigate. Later in the night, we were running along a clear-cut for a gas pipeline when we saw some heat signatures at about 800 yards. From the angle, we couldn’t quite tell if they were pigs or the small deer that cruise the ranch in south Texas. Another hunter and I dismounted and started stalking our way to get closer. We got to within 400 yards and still couldn’t quite tell if they were pigs or deer. In the heat of the moment, I’d forgot that the XL50 features an ambi lens-focusing mechanism to focus the objective. With a quick adjustment, it immediately became clear they were just a few small does. Fortunately, we’d already bagged some small pigs, but I walked away impressed knowing that the XL50’s image quality will keep hunters from accidently shooting the wrong animal.


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Another feature I especially like on the XL50 is the “picture-in-a-picture” mode you can use. Scanning can and should be done on the lowest magnification, but it’s annoying to manually zoom in and out over and over if you think you see something worth a closer look. With the high-precision aiming function, a small box appears at the top of the view screen with the magnification setting of your choice, so you can simultaneously see both the low and high magnification settings at the same time. This is so handy for scanning and actually shooting. If you take a shot and the recoil takes you too far off target, it’s going to be hard to get on the same or other target if you’re using the highest magnification, just like traditional daytime optics. With the picture-in-picture, the low magnification will get you on target quickly, and the high-magnification setting is also right there once you’re lined up for a precise shot.

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Image quality in a civilian thermal scope is unparalleled.

Pulsar scopes also have a distinct advantage over other thermal manufacturers when mounting to your firearm of choice. Most other brands of thermal rifle optics use a built-in Picatinny mounting system, which is perfectly fine. However, the XL50, and most other Pulsar thermal scopes, use a 30mm maintube for use with traditional scope rings. Whether you want to use a one-piece cantilever mount to quickly switch between firearms or two-piece rings to get the height over the bore just right, you have a lot more mounting options with the XL50 and other Pulsar scopes.

You can’t talk about thermal optics without mentioning the battery life, and the Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XL50 has a battery life that’s as impressive as its image quality. With the XL50, you actually get two batteries that provide a seven- to 10-hour charge for the scope. One is built into the main scope body, and the other is removable for quick swaps in the field. There are many advantages to this setup, too. Firstly, with the built-in battery, you won’t lose power when swapping the removable battery in the field, so you’ll always have some charge built into the scope. Additionally, the removable battery is designed to be done quickly and easily in complete darkness, so you virtually eliminate the chance of giving away you position with light. Extra battery packs aren’t too expensive either, and they run for around $70 online.


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Here are your primary controls above the eyepiece when in the field: video record, laser rangefinder and your zoom function.

While the XL50 does have a lot going on for it, it’s highly intuitive to use and operate. You essentially have two controls at the front of the unit, a power button and ambidextrous lens focus, and three control buttons right on top of the eyepiece. There are quite a few adjustments to make upon initial setup, but once you have your preferences set, you only need to remember a few features to use in the field. In addition to the controls on the scope body, you also get an optional wireless remote to use the scope, too. I did not get the chance to use the remote on my Texas trip, but I can definitely see the appeal. The remote features three buttons, and you can leave your hand in a more comfortable position when scanning across a field.

Final Thoughts

As you’d expect, the Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XL50 has all the other features we’ve come to expect in modern thermal optics. The XL50 can store up to 10 shooting profiles if you like to switch between different firearms. It features 10 different reticle options and eight different color palettes, and it boasts a 64gb memory to record hunts with full audio. The Pulsar is built tough, too, being rated for recoil all the way up to the powerful .375 H&H, plus it’s rated IPX7 waterproof if you find yourself in high humidity or rain. All-in-all, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a superior civilian thermal imaging rifle scope for general use and hunting. So, what’s the catch? Well, it should come as no surprise that all the features you get with this scope come with a hefty price tag. The Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XL50 is going to run you a cool $8K, and don’t forget about the taxes in your state! When I’m asked if that’s worth it, I simply say it is what it is. There is a lot of Germanium glass in the XL50, which drives the vast majority of the cost, plus the superior sensor and image processing simply means that this scope is going to cost a lot. I will say that you absolutely get what you pay for. With the built-in rangefinder, ballistic calculator, image quality and every other feature Pulsar has packed into the XL50, it’s arguably the ultimate western predator-hunting thermal scope. I’m loathe to sell any of my guns, but a few are about to find a new home. This is one thermal I’m going to have to keep.

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The laser rangefinder sits above the objective. The dial on the side is the lens focus.

Pulsar Thermion 2 LRF XL50 Specs

  • Type: Thermal Imaging Scope
  • Objective: 50mm
  • Magnification: 1.75-14X
  • Sensor: 1024×768, 50Hz frame rate
  • Pixel Pitch: 12
  • NETD: 35
  • Display: Amoled
  • Max Detection: 2,300 meters
  • Laser Range: 800 meters
  • Power: Two APS 5 Batteries, approx. 7-10 hr. runtime
  • Weight: 2.3 lbs.
  • Video Recording: 64gb memory
  • MSRP: $7,999
  • Manufacturer: Pulsar






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