FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Thermal – Thorntail – Taran Tactical

by Pete

Welcome back to TFB’s Friday Night Lights, where we illuminate the darkness with flashlights, night vision, lasers and thermal imaging solutions. We have been off for a few weeks, but TFB’s Richard L. has keeping you well-stocked with reviews, techniques and concepts when it comes to low light weapons use. Today we bring you Part One of what will most likely be a three part review series on the Pulsar Helion XP50. Although it has already returned to homebase, I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Helion. Thank you, Pulsar – it’s not every day that a company will loan you a $5,000 piece of gear (we’ll discuss pricing later).

After the thermal basics, we will take a peak at the Thorntail Offset Mount from Impact Weapons Components – something most of you have probably already been using for years, but I have just started to really appreciate. And we will rap up with some odds and ends including a visit from Taran Butler from Taran Tactical Innovations who runs through some of the newest Streamlight weaponlights.

Friday night lights – PULSAR HELION XP50 THERMAL IMAGER – Part 1: Basics

The Pulsar Helion XP50 is a handheld thermal imaging device designed for outdoor, hunting, search and rescue and law enforcement requirements. It utilizes proprietary battery and charger that is both shock and weather resistant capable of providing a few hours of recording time on a single charge. A complete recharge will take six to eight hours. The Helion also includes features like a tripod mount point (which I should have used more) and a built in lens cap.

The optics on the Helion are fixed, meaning that increases in the magnification levels are achieved digitally. For the user, magnifying an image means a reduction in resolution since the unit will crop the sensor area to get the desired increase. This is standard for most thermal imaging units, although the Helion is capable of actual lens swaps by the end user (we will touch on that briefly in part 3). Focus adjustments are done manually with the focus adjustment ring.

The Helion is very well made with the feel of professional equipment; I packed it almost every day for two months and didn’t notice any abnormal wear.

Contents of package:

  • HELION Thermal Imaging Scope
  • IPS5 Battery Pack
  • Battery charger
  • USB cable
  • Carrying case
  • Hand strap
  • User manual
  • Lens cloth
  • Warranty card
TFB REVIEW: Pulsar Helion XP50

If I had one complaint about the ergonomics of the the Helion is that it is only setup for right hand use – the strap is on the right so that the users hand wraps around the battery allowing the fingers to access the buttons. It’s a minor issue, but it does alter the way the Helion is used in the field. Otherwise, the buttons are easy to reach and manipulate, having solid positive feedback with each press.

TFB REVIEW: Pulsar Helion XP50

While the learning curve for mastering the use of thermal imagers is a bit long, the XP50 is very easy to own and operate. A long press on the power button turns the unit on and off, while a short press will shut down the display to save battery life and reduce the users visual signature. The menu button takes the user into a vertical menu tree which is navigated with the up and down arrows. A record button starts a video recording or captures still images.

TFB REVIEW: Pulsar Helion XP50

The radiator on the left side of the unit does get warm after continuous use, but I never felt it get unusually hot.

IMages from the Helion XP50:

In my introduction a few weeks ago, I equated the use of a thermal imager to having a superpower. After some beginners-level experience with the Helion, I still maintain that using a thermal imaging device is next-level technology that crushes any preconceived ideas on camouflage or “target” identification. Obviously, viewing targets in terms of temperature gradients has disadvantages, but hiding heat against even a slightly cooler environment is very difficult.

I was amazed at the detail in objects that can be seen, even at 100+ yards. In 2018, a 640×480 pixel resolution is unheard of in the world of Retina enabled iPhones, 8K LCD displays and gaming monitors. But in thermal imaging, 640×480 is a godsend for users in the commercial market.

Using a SureFire Tactician that measures five inches in length, I attempted some basic resolution and magnification testing. Keeping the Tactician on for a few minutes generated enough heat to make it stand out against the cool night air. The above image was taken at about the seven yard line.

Moving out to about the 60 yard line, the baseline 2.5x magnification makes the five inch flashlight seem tiny. However, the basic shape and gradient stands out against the cooler backdrop. Built in to the Helion is a rudimentary ranging system that works well for getting a basic idea on an object’s size or distance. Much like the MIL-DOT system, if you know the size of the target object, you can estimate its distance. Alternatively, if you know the distance of your target, you can estimate its size. Using the menu and arrow buttons, the size of the measuring guide lines can be adjusted to make those estimations.

Again, from the 60 yard line, I used the menu and arrow buttons to adjust the measuring guide to approximately the size of the flashlight. Using the key on the left, a jack rabbit sized animal the same size as the icon would be at about 63 meters distance from the user. In this case, it all depends on the height of the symbolic rabbit. The user manual for the Helion states that the rabbit is 0.3m high which is about 12 inches. Roughly adjusting the scale from the rabbit to the flashlight, I would say that the 60 yard measurement is accurate enough for quick estimates. Basically the flashlight is half the size of the rabbit and the measurement lines are about half the height of the rabbit.

Next week will dig into the display and options a bit and review some of the video footage from the Pulsar Helion XP50.

impact Weapons Components – Haley Stratetic MLOK Thorntail Offset Rail:

Over the next couple weeks we will take a look at the M-LOK and Picatinny offset light mounts from Impact Weapons Components in collaboration with Haley Strategic. Installation is simple and straightforward, setting the light at a 45 degree angle.

If you have tips or ideas, please let me know.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Impact Weapons Components Thorntail
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Impact Weapons Components Thorntail
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: Impact Weapons Components Thorntail

Thorntail2 1913 M-LOK® Offset Light Mount

  • Attach any Light designed to attach to a 1913 MIL-Spec Picatinny Rail. Positions the Light at a 45 degree offset angle when mounted to an M-LOK® compliant rail
  • Ambidextrous with 6 total mounting solutions on 3 sided M-LOK® rail system
  • Forward/Rearward Adjustable 4 slot 1913 Picatinny rail has 4 separate mounting positions on M-LOK mount base for infinite adjustability
  • Positions the light as close to the firearm as possible
  • Light offset optimized at a 45 degree offset for ergonomic activation
  • Forward mounting design is low profile, lightweight and does not impede weapons manipulation
  • Mount does not interfere with the operation of front back-up iron sights  
  • Weight: Ultra-lightweight design weighs only .889 oz
  • Quality is insured by precision CNC machining to exacting tolerances from USA Made 6061-T6 aluminum; then hard anodized Type III black matte finish per MIL-A-8625F
  • MSRP: $50.00

Taran Tactical – Published on May 3, 2018
Taran runs the Streamlight TLR-8, TLR-2 HL G, TLR-6 and TLR-1 weapon lights in a hands on comprehensive gear review with Jade Struck, Bobby Knight and Megan Sweasey.

Streamlight TLR-7: 500 Lumen Tactical Weapon Light

Experience the TLR in a new light. The small and mighty TLR-7 securely fits a broad range of full-size and compact handguns. Low-profile design prevents snagging and a “safe off” feature prevents accidental activation, saving batteries.

  • Click here for data sheet
  • 500 lumens; 131m beam; runs 1.5 hours; 4,300 candela
  • Custom optic produces a concentrated beam with optimum peripheral illumination
  • Low-profile ambidextrous on/off switch
  • Uses one CR123A lithium battery (included)
  • Safe off feature prevents accidental activation; saves batteries
  • Rail grip clamp system securely attaches/detaches quickly and safely with no tools and without putting your hands in front of muzzle

    Securely fits a broad range of full-sized and compact guns

  • Durable, anodized machined aluminum construction
  • User enabled strobe function
  • 2.15” (5.46 cm); 2.4 oz (68.1g)
  • Operating temperature: -40°F to +120°F
  • IPX7 waterproof to 1m for 30 minutes
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Assembled in USA

Streamlight TLR-8: 500 Lumen Tactical Weapon Light With Aiming Laser


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