By Chris A. Choat
Up until recently if you wanted to hunt varmints or bad guys at night you had to couple a daytime optic with a night vision device either mounted in front of or behind the day scope. Or you could go to your banker and take out a second mortgage on your home to purchase an actual day/night vision scope. That was if you could talk a night vision manufacturer into selling you one. Most of the shooters that I knew were doing the first option, using a regular daytime scope or red dot optic in conjunction with an NV optic such as a PVS-14 monocular mounted behind it or a PVS-22 Night Vision optic mounted in front of it. Either way one optic provided the night vision capability while the other optic provided the aiming point. With prices of PVS-14’s anywhere from $2500.00 to well over $4000.00 and the price of a PVS-22 starting at around $10,000.00 you can start to see the problem. Remember, that’s just the night vision. It’s not counting the optic with the aiming point. Not only that, there seemed to always be positioning problems like getting the proper distance between the two to get a good sight picture. There were also issues with different optics having different heights. Not to mention that an extra long rail had to be mounted to the host firearm to have enough Picatinny rail real estate to have room to mount everything. That’s not even figuring in the added weight. This author has an H&K G-3 battle rifle with a large magnification scope and a PVS-22 night optic mounted in front of it. It is a fantastic set-up but you need it mounted to a vehicle in order use it. Either that or get a gym membership so you can pump yourself enough to carry it around.
Today things are a lot simpler and prices have dropped tremendously. Night vision optics in general have gotten smaller and lighter and even somewhat less expensive.
ATN (American Technologies Network Corporation) has been making and marketing night vision for quite a few years. They have marketed all generations of night vision and thermal devices. In fact they have been at it for about two decades. In 2012 ATN introduced its line of Digital Night Vision (DNV) with “Ultra Bright” technology. The DNV line of monoculars offers incredible performance with a full color High-Resolution Display that is capable of offering bright sharp images even in the darkest of times. Now they have taken a giant leap forward with their new X-Sight HD day/night riflescope. This new scope almost has more features than this author can list in this limited space, but I’ll try. First off the scope comes in two different models. There is a 3-12 power model and a 5-18 power model. This author was sent the 5-18X model for testing. The scopes are identical except for the power ranges but the 3-12X model is slightly smaller, a little lighter and has a smaller objective lens. Both scopes naturally have a mounting system included. The mount will fit just about any Picatinny or Weaver style rail. It is tightened onto the host rail with two large hex nuts on the side of the mount. These hex nuts remain captive to the mount so there is no chance of them being lost in the field. The test scope came with a rubber objective lens cover and a 3 inch sunshade. Both models have accordion style rubber light blocking eyepiece covers. The scopes come with a 2 inch piece of rail mounted to the left side of the scope’s main body. This rail is used to mount the included infrared illuminator (more on this later). The scopes come in very nice padded case with a lens cloth and a couple of illuminator adjustment tools. They also come with batteries for the illuminator but not batteries for the scopes themselves. The scopes both use 4 AA batteries and will use any kind but either alkaline or lithium are recommended. Run time with the lithium batteries is almost triple that of the alkalines. The feature set of both scopes are identical. The scopes come with a quick-start guide or you can go online and download the full user manual.
The first thing I noticed when unboxing the scope is the weight of it. It is fairly heavy, weighing in at 3 pounds (3.5 with the IR illuminator). This weight translates into a very robust feeling scope. You can tell by feel that this scope is very well built. To operate the X-Sight the first thing you need to do is install the batteries. As stated before it uses 4 AA batteries. The scopes have an o-ring sealed battery compartment on their right hand side. Just in front of the battery cap is another cap that covers an HDMI port, a micro SD card slot and a micro USB port. Now that I have got your full attention, these ports are vital to use all of the scope’s features. Then it is time to install up to a 32GB micro SD card. This SD card has several uses. The first is it can be used to install firmware upgrades. The scope houses a miniature computer, (called the Obsidian Core) and just like all computers from time to time there are updates available. These updates can be downloaded to a PC and then loaded onto the micro SD card which when installed in the scope loads it with the latest firmware. The SD card is also used for video and photo storage (more about than later as well). I installed 4 Energizer lithium batteries and trust me here, you can use alkaline batteries but lithiums last far longer. In the testing the lithium batteries lasted around 10 to 11 hours of continuous use.
After installing the batteries you push the power button and hold it down for three seconds to power up the scope. Leave the front scope cap on until the unit initializes. The initialization takes a few seconds because just like all computers it takes a little time to boot up. With the front lens cap in place, looking through the scope you will see the ATN logo appear and then you see a black screen with a few feature icons illuminated along the top and bottom of the screen along with the illuminated reticle. You then use the eyepiece diopter adjustment ring to set the diopter focus for your own eyesight. Turn it right or left until the reticle and the feature icons are perfectly sharp and in focus. Then you can remove the front lens cap and the scope is ready to use. The scope’s objective lens has a focus ring behind it to focus the scope at varying ranges from up close to infinity. The included quick start guide says that one of the first things that you should do is go to ATN’s website and register your scope. This way you are eligible for free firmware upgrades as they become available. The test scope was loaded with the most recent firmware so no update was needed.
There is a keypad with 6 rubber buttons located in the center of the scope on its top surface. The keypad has a power button and 4 directional arrow buttons surrounding an enter button. These buttons control all of the scope features, menus and capabilities. As said before there is a long list of features for this scope. The first and probably the one that would make you want this scope in the first place is that by simply pressing a couple of buttons on the keypad you can change the scope from a daytime scope into a night vision scope! Yes, the new X-Sight HD is both day and night vision compatible. Not only that, you can change the night vision from the traditional green tinted view that one normally associates with night vision into a black and white night vision mode. The black and white night vision can be used in certain scenarios where different shades of green just doesn’t bring out all the details. In other words there are times when the green works better and times when the black and white view works the best.
As stated earlier the test scope was a 5-18 power model. At first look though it’s hard to tell as the scope has no numbered zoom adjustment ring. The zoom of this scope is done digitally through the built-in keypad. You simply push the forward pointing arrow button to zoom out and the back pointing arrow button to zoom back in. This digital zoom is very smooth and convenient to use. The scope’s zoom power can also be set to the “Enhanced” mode in the settings menu. In the enhanced mode the scope will zoom all the way out to 50 power. This is handy for identifying game or other features but in reality the view in any power over about 30 the view starts to become pixilated or slightly jagged. You can still see the images but they are just not as sharp and clear as they are at the lower “un-enhanced” powers.
The night vision in the X-Sight is probably what you would call Second Generation or slightly better. It is not the best available but it certainly exceeds the older stuff by a lot and it does not cost tens of thousands of dollars either. That is why ATN includes an infrared illuminator with the scope. This illuminator is an 850 milliwatt long range infrared illuminator and lights things up well past 150 yards and enhances the scope’s light amplification dramatically. The illuminator runs on two CR123 batteries and has a front lens that allows it to be focused. This lets it work as a floodlight as well as spotlight. It also has two small buttons that are marked with plus (+) and minus (-) symbols for adjusting IR intensity. These two button when held down together turn the illuminator on and off. The illuminator also has windage and elevation adjustments just like any optic. With these adjustments you can focus the IR beam on the exact area that is seen through the X-Sight. The illuminator also features its own mount for mounting on the X-Sight’s side rail or any other rail on your firearm. It can also be adjusted in its mount so that the intensity buttons are positioned exactly where you can reach them the most easily either on the top or on the side. It also comes with its own adjustment tool.
The ability to switch instantly from day to night vision scope is one of this scope’s greatest features especially when using it in the hours right before dusk and dawn. But these are not nearly all of the features of the X-Sight. The X-Sight also has built-in Wi-Fi! The scope has its own Wi-Fi network. With this feature you can connect your smart phone, tablet or other Wi-Fi enabled device to the scope and see what the scope sees on your device. All you need to do to use this feature is to download a free app called ATN Obsidian. The app is available for either Android or iOS devices. With this app you can not only see what the scope sees on your device but you can also use the app to turn on or off different features of the scope from the device as well as change the scopes settings and even change reticles. This allows you to also use your phone or tablet as a larger viewfinder, upgrade to the latest firmware on the fly and record images and video and post them from virtually anywhere there is cell phone or data service. It also aids in sighting in the scope as will be described later. Other Wi-Fi features are promised in future firmware updates.
The X-Sight will also be GPS enabled in future updates. While the GPS was not available at the time this article was written I did not get to try out this feature. But as soon as its available it will let the user know where he is on the earth at all times. This could let hunters geo-tag exactly where they took that trophy buck as well as always knowing their exact location. You can even see your location on an interactive map. Whether you are hunting or sightseeing you can now record exactly where your latest adventure took place. The scope also shows the date and time.
The scopes can also be set up in either standard or metric measurements.
The new X-Sight also allows the user to take photos or high definition 1080p X 30 frames per second video of anything seen through the scope by pushing a single button on the keypad. The images or video are then stored on the micro SD card in the scope. The scope can use micro SD cards up to 32 MB capacity. Once the pictures are taken or the video recorded they can be downloaded by either plugging in a micro USB cable to the scope or removing the card and using a card reader to transfer the files to your PC. The scope can also be plugged into a monitor or a high definition TV via the HDMI port to view the images or video. The scope also has a microphone so that your recorded videos have sound as well. When the scope is recording video there is a red dot that flashes inside the viewfinder as well as a digital counter that tells the user how long they have been recording. Another added feature of the scope’s still camera function is that it can be set to take up to 10 shots in a series timed at up to 15 seconds between shots.
As the X-Sight will be equipped with GPS it will also have a velocity and altimeter built right in. These features will let the user know how fast he is moving as well as what elevation he is at. This is sort of like having a built-in speedometer. This is handy when tracking game or even when using the scope from a moving vehicle such as hog hunting from a helicopter to estimate lead. The scope will also have an altimeter feature so the user knows what altitude they are at. Readouts for both of these features can be set up so that they are always shown in the scope’s viewfinder.
After mounting the scope to a rifle it naturally needs to be zeroed in. The scope also has an innovative feature for this. It is called “Single Shot Zero”. This is the way that it works. You focus on the target, with your rifle secured on a bag or a bipod. You fire a single shot on the target. You then go into the scopes menu and select the option called Single Shot Zero and hit enter. Then using the directional arrows on the scope you can move the scope’s reticle so that it is centered on the single bullet hole on the target and hit save (the enter button). The reticle is then again centered in the viewfinder and the rifle is zeroed. It’s as simple as that. If you have access to a rifle rest like the excellent models from Hyskore® with a remote trigger, you can mount you rifle in it and then connect the scope via Wi-Fi and do your sight-in from your phone or tablet! If you choose to, you can also shoot a multiple shot group and do the same thing by just centering the reticle in the group. The scope’s reticle is also digital and can be changed instantly. The scope comes complete with 9 different reticle patterns in black, red and green. More reticles will be offered for download later. The user can also choose to shut the reticle off if he is using the scope for surveillance and the reticle is not needed. The different reticle colors and patterns enable the user to tailor the reticle to their environment.
You can also adjust the viewfinder’s brightness. This is handy when using the scope in total darkness as when the brightness is turned down to a lower setting it doesn’t ruin your eyes’ night vision. The scope also has an automatic gain control so if you switch the scope to night vision during the day it won’t ruin the scope’s electronics.
The rifle was used during daylight hours as well as varmint hunts in full darkness. For the testing the scope was mounted on a Century Arms International C-93 rifle. This gun is a clone of the H&K 93 rifle in caliber 5.56. The scope was also used on larger as well as smaller caliber gun with no problems. The scope was used for daytime hunting and target use and was also used hunting coyotes and other varmints at night. This scope combined with a suppressed rifle makes for a very efficient varmint elimination tool. This author is very impressed with this scope. Not once during all of the testing did it fail to perform as it should. Although the scope’s feature list is extremely long it is as easy to set up as your cell phone. Even easier than some phones this author has had. The digital clarity of the scope makes regular optics look obsolete. With the ability to download future firmware updates, this scope will keep getting better as long as you own it. During this whole article this author has failed to mention probably the most outstanding feature of this scope which is its price. It retails for just $729.00!! Get one of these to extend your hunting or surveillance into the nighttime hours, you won’t be disappointed.
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Lead Photo: No caption. Photo by Riley Harmon.
|This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V20N3 (April 2016)