How Does A Thermal Imaging Rifle Scope Work?

By February 13, 2017Thermal Rifle Scope
How does a thermal rifle scope work?

You’re trying to get some shut-eye, but old Blue has started barking aggressively outside. So, you head to the front door to check things out. A quick sweep of the flashlight reveals nothing amiss. You grab your night vision binoculars and notice the blurry outline of a raccoon grabbing fruit from a persimmon tree. Maybe that’s why the dog is so excited, but you’re not a hundred percent sure. So, you grab your rifle, pop your smartphone into the Inteliscope mount, with SEEK™ thermal—that turns your phone into a thermal rifle scope—as you make another sweep. That’s when you spot the bipedal intruder crouching near the tree line.

So, how exactly does thermal vision work? Why did thermal vision detect the threat when other methods didn’t? In this article, we provide some insight to help you understand thermal vision technology.

Thermal Vision
Photo credit: SPI

Thermal vision instruments contain a special lens that concentrates the infrared light that virtually all objects radiate.

Infrared-sensing elements scan the concentrated infrared light to create a pattern. This heat pattern, called a thermogram, detects various levels of infrared emissions. All of this happens in only a fraction of a second.

The thermogram image is then converted into electrical impulses, which are transmitted to a specially-engineered circuit board known as a signal-processing unit. This board translates incoming information into data.

That data is whisked from the signal-processing unit to the display and shows up as a detailed and vivid image of those objects that are in the field of view.

Thermal Vision Diagram

In a nutshell, thermal vision technology registers infrared light waves as heat signals, creating an incredibly clear image through a special lens and series of electronic impulses. Virtually everything on the planet emits some level of heat. Thermal vision utilizes infrared-reading technology to display images, with the coolest objects in view appearing darker and warm objects appearing brighter. This enables you to clearly differentiate between cold and hot objects, whether it be a crowbar laying on the sidewalk, or a burglar standing in the dark recesses of your yard. With such bold contrast, spotting targets is simple. More often than not, if you are seeking a target in the nighttime hours, it will be one that radiates plenty of heat.

Worried about the weather inhibiting function? Come rain, hail, sleet or snow, you will still be able to utilize thermal vision. Because it reads thermal energy, most precipitation won’t interfere. Heat-radiating targets will still be clearly visible, because their heat signature will appear brighter than the environment around them.

Unlike night vision, thermal imaging can be successfully utilized during daylight hours. Because it recognizes varying levels of heat, it doesn’t matter how much or how little light is available. If your target is emitting any level of warmth, your thermal vision gear will display it clearly.

If home defense or predator elimination are more than just a game to you, investing in thermal imaging is a major step in the right direction. Without it, you are subject to the elements surrounding you. Intruder? Will you see him in time to defend your life and property if you don’t have thermal imaging gear within reach? Will the feral hog population go unchecked because your old-fangled night vision equipment won’t give you a clear, crisp image of your target? Adding thermal vision to your firearm technology cache will give you a leg up in the fight against predators – whether they slink through the woods on four legs or enter your domicile on two.


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Diagram via