I’ll admit, prior to this review my opinion of ATN was a bit mixed. Around 5 years ago, we had access to an early version of one of their thermal scopes, and it was not ready for primetime. Luckily my opinion has changed after getting some time with the ATN ThOR 4 at a recent TFB event in Texas…
TLDR: Writer gets to play with ATN ThOR with preconceived low expectations, doesn’t know how to use it properly, and can still ring steel at 600 yards in darkness.
Note this is more editorial/opinion and less review given the short hands-on window.
The ATN ThOR 4 is basically an evolution of the ThOR HD line. It keeps some of the features and adds some new things. I specifically had hands on the “TIWST4644A” model:
- Sensor: 640×480 @ 60Hz
- Magnification: 4-40x
- Core: ATN Obsidian IV Dual Core T
- Micro Display: 1280×720 HD Display
- Eye relief: 90 mm
- Video Record Resolution: 1280×960 @ 60 fps
- Micro SD: Up to 64gb
- MSRP: $4,799
All models have several standard features: Ballistic Calculator, Wi-Fi connectivity to iOS and Android, Bluetooth, Smart Range Finder, Barometer, changeable reticles, and Recoil Activated Video.
All of the ThOR 4 line uses 30mm rings for mounting.
The listed ranges for this specific model (for scoping humans) are:
- Detection: 3,300 yards
- Recognition: 1,450 yards
- Identification: 800 yards
Several variants change things like magnification, the field of view, and detection ranges. It would be silly to reproduce the entire comparison chart here., but If you are interested: https://www.atncorp.com/thermal-scope-thor-4-640-4-40x
We decided to stretch this scope out and see what it could do—running a completely unrealistic test. Meaning distance shooting, with a precision platform, outside of ranges that this scope would generally be used in.
The first order of business was zeroing. It is a little different on this beast since it doesn’t use traditional mechanical lens adjusters. Basically, you take your shot, then open the menu and move the reticle from the point of aim to the point of impact. Shockingly easy. After zeroing, we just had to wait for nightfall.
We had targets set up out to 300 yards (with targets at 100 and 200), which were heated with a 500,000 BTU propane burner. (actually, the range has targets out to a mile-and-a-half, but let’s not get ridiculous). These were easy to hit and there is not much to say here.
It was then suggested that we try to shoot for 600 yards, because why not? So the target monkeys went out with the burner to heat the steel at the 600-yard berm. With 6.5 Creedmoor, 600 barely needs any elevation change.
You’ll appreciate a little bit of silliness we had – we did not have a precision thermal spotting scope, so there was literally no way for anyone to call corrections. But there were still communication calls between me (as the shooter) and some notional spotter (we did have some minor ability via the display sharing from the scope to an iPhone). I was mainly trying to alert the group that I was about to take a shot since some of the other writers were doing other things up on the tower.
One of the issues that I didn’t realize, and this is entirely my fault for not getting more familiar with the ThOR, is that you can adjust the sharpness of the resolution (much like the focus on a scope). My earlier shots were at things that resembled eggs and blobs. Once that handy feature was pointed out, I could clearly see the shapes of targets.
I think we probably could have pushed to 800 yards, but as you can see from the video, the splash of a miss was getting challenging to see, and even at the sharpest view, the 18-inch square target was rounding at the edges.
I also did not realize that one of the reticles DID have hash marks. Which would have made follow-up shots much more straightforward. As it was, I was eyeballing the difference, which was less than optimal.
The battery life was such that we used it for 4-5 hours (throughout the day) with no issues. It seemed to take a while to charge, but I also had it jacked into a USB port on my computer. With an appropriate wall wart, it should charge at a reasonable speed. Supposedly it can go for around 16 (or more) hours on a full charge.
The screen is super bright, and there is a rubber eyecup to help seal the eye you are scoping with. Unfortunately, it was bright enough that natural ocular night vision was wrecked when coming off the scope.
The controls are pretty simple; there are four directional buttons and an “OK” button. Some of these have built-in quick functions when you are scoping. When in the menu, they are used to navigate and manage settings. The most useful was the “record” on the right button.
We obviously used the onboard video capture (seen as that above video), which is excellent. We also simultaneously streamed the screen to an iPhone, allowing for pseudo-spotting (it only sees what the shooter sees, so you don’t get any extra field of view—but it comes in handy as a second set of eyes). In the previous generation, you had to pick one or the other. With the ThOR 4, you can do both at the same time.
ATN bases the ranges on “pixels per meter”—the more dense, the better the clarity. We did not have an area to test the full range to 3,300 yards but could see either an aardvark or porcupine at around 800 yards. It was hard to be specific, but it was low-slung and waddled. I’m pretty confident you could pick out a human a little over 1,000 yards, especially if they were moving. I’m not sure what they mean by “Identification,” though. I could probably differentiate between Nick and James (if Nick was wearing his tactical rice paddy hat, and James was wearing short-shorts). The “why” you’d be scoping people leads to a whole set of other questions.
The ATN ThOR 4 was exceptionally fun to use. In addition, it performed really well—certainly beyond my expectations and orders of magnitude better than my first experience with them.
You can set and tweak a million options, and it would be a good idea to spend time with the scope and the manual getting to know it. During the session I had with it, while I couldn’t maximize the use of the features, I was certainly able to hit a 3MOA steel plate out to 600 yards and IPSC silhouettes 300 yards and in. And I think that is a testament to the usability of the ThOR—mount it up on your gun, zero it, and start blasting. Of course, I would have wasted less ammo had I taken some time with the scope and its manual, but I’m delighted with the experience. And especially with the low bar of getting started (except for the price, of course).
In my opinion, this thermal optic would work great for hunting appropriate game inside of 300 yards. I was able to clearly ID targets, and further scoping of animals (rabbits, aardvarks, etc.) the next night reinforced that you can get a pretty good idea of what you are shooting at. You would not likely be able to discriminate between a dog and coyote or your friend Bob and a belligerent (unless they had some identifiable features), but for hogs and rabbits, there is no question. You can see animals out to pretty decent distances, more with the higher magnification models.
Obviously, thermal scopes are not cheap, and the ATN ThOR 4 comes with a range of prices based on sensor resolution and magnification range. The maxed-out model I played with comes with a $4,799 price tag.
If you are into thermal (and/or night shooting), the ThOR 4 comes with a ton of features, a battery life that will outlast the night (unless you are winter hunting in the arctic circle), and resolution to be able to ID game animals inside of ethical kill ranges.
If you have used the ThOR 4, let us know in the comments! I’d love to hear how it has worked for harvesting game.
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