Hardware: Trijicon IR-HUNTER Thermal Riflescope

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posted on November 14, 2022
Hardware Trijicon IR Hunter Thermal Riflescope Lead

At 200 yards and in the dark, the new Trijicon IR-HUNTER 35mm Thermal Riflescope allowed me to just make out the outline of the wild boar’s profile printed on the paper target. Not surprisingly, then, the two HotHands heat packs taped to the target stood out like black-hot beacons in the Wisconsin night, one on either side of the hog’s vitals.

Trijicon IR-HUNTER Thermal Riflescope full length.

I fired twice into the space between the black rectangles. Unfortunately, that was my last two rounds of Federal Premium’s .224 Valkyrie loaded with a 60-grain Hornady V-Max bullet. I had another box of Federal .224 Valkyrie, loaded with a bullet of the same weight. Still, it was a different round and I’d zeroed the rifle, a Franchi Momentum Elite Varmint, with the V-Max loads at 100 yards.

So, I fired three rounds of the new .224 Valkyrie to the left of the left heat pack. Actually, I could’ve drilled the target’s vital zone with the new ammunition all night, thanks in no small part to Trijicon’s first-rate thermal. 

Trijicon launched thermal optics for the civilian market in 2017; I’ve used the various models on numerous nighttime hog and predator hunts. They worked very well, providing clear images and detecting heat signatures at great distances. But the controls were tough to navigate.

These thermal units employed a small thumbstick control on one side. You pushed the thumbstick to scroll through the various digital menus and pressed in on the thumbstick to enter a particular menu. Then, you moved or pressed the thumbstick to access various menu commands and adjustments. It could be very confusing, especially in the field at 2 a.m. when hogs were moving.

In 2021, Trijicon revamped its line of thermals, and the first change I noticed was the controls. Now, the IR-HUNTER, available in a 24mm, a 35mm and a 60mm model, employs knobs—one each on the left, top and right side of the tube—and they provide a much more intuitive access into the menus than the thumbsticks.

Top view of Trijicon IR-HUNTER thermal riflescope menu turret controls.

Once my unit was turned on, the numbered menus, eight of them, appeared to the left of the screen. The left knob moved me up and down on the menu column. The other two knobs allowed movement within a specific menu to make adjustments to the various settings.

For example, Menu No. 1 controlled the heat signature options (White Hot, Black Hot and Edge) located across the top of the screen, with four Zoom magnification possibilities at the right of the screen. When in No. 1, I simply turned the top knob to move through the various heat signatures, stopping on the one I wanted, and then adjusted the Zoom from 1X, 2X, 4X and 8X with the left knob.

Another big upgrade for Trijicon’s thermals is the addition of a USB-C port on the left side of the tube for attaching an external power source. I tried out a pre-production IR-HUNTER with a battery pack last year on a Texas hog hunt, and the exterior pack (zip-tied to my AR-10’s handguard) lasted all night. No “low battery” icon popping up, warning that the unit could go dark at any moment.

The new IR-HUNTER features a top-loading battery compartment holding two CR123 batteries, another change from previous models that featured compartments built into the side of the main tube. The HUNTER came with Trijicon’s new Q-LOC quick-detach mount and clicked right to the Picatinny rail atop the Franchi rifle’s receiver.

At my range, I zeroed the IR-HUNTER at 50 yards, my target a small HotHands packet. The thermal was set on 4x magnification and the first white hot heat signature setting, with the contrast adjusted low.

My first shots struck a foot to the right and half that distance low. To zero the scope, I turned the left control knob to Menu No. 8, and unlocked the MOA reticle I’d selected, then moved to Menu 5 to adjust my point of impact. Holding the rifle steady, with the reticle centered on the HotHands packet, I turned the top and left knobs to shift the Elevation and Windage to where the first rounds had hit. As the controls were moved, a moveable reticle detached from the center and tracked the adjustments.

With this moveable reticle now over my first group of shots, I locked in the reticle to zero it. My next three shots drilled the heat pack with a .40-inch group. I moved to the 100-yard lane. My first three shots were centered fine but hit a little high. I readjusted the reticle, and fired a three shot, 1.1-inch group into the pack. This zeroing was done in the daytime and bright sun, which told me much about the first-rate functionality of the controls and the zeroing process, plus the IR-HUNTER’s accuracy potential. But I needed a night shooting test.

Trijicon IR-HUNTER thermal riflescope USB-C connection port.

That came at a friend’s farm and his newly cut ag field with targets set for 150 and 200 yards. That night, I set the IR-HUNTER’s zoom to 8X; now, the first black hot heat setting showed up best. I set up a table and chair at the 150 mark, my target a paper coyote profile with three small HotHands placed around the target’s vital area. I fired off my three shots, one of which I pulled right and down, but put two right in the boiler room.

I backed up 50 yards and took on the hog target. As mentioned, I only had two rounds left of my original zeroing Federal .224 Valkyrie and shot those between the two larger heat packets. They went right into the target’s vitals at just an inch apart. Then I fired the three rounds of the second ammunition, and they scored a 2.3-inch group—pretty darned good, as I’d aimed at the space to one side of the left heat packet, with no real aim point.

My IR-HUNTER featured six reticle options, including the MOA I used, plus an MRAD option and a simple crosshair.

The IR-HUNTER does take images but does not have onboard video capability. Trijicon includes an Electro Optics Download Cable with the thermal unit, which, once attached to a small, external DVR unit, can take and transfer video. The Cable includes an in-line video adapter. Frankly, the lack of onboard video is surprising; thermal scopes half the price of the IR-HUNTER 35mm offer fairly impressive onboard video capability.

On the other hand, if you want to make a 300-plus-yard shot on a coyote at 1 a.m.? The IR-HUNTER 35mm and its state-of the-art 640x480 thermal image sensor and 12-micron sensor pixel pitch will put Wiley E. clearly in the crosshairs, smoke, dust and dark be damned, something many lesser thermal scopes can’t do. 

Technical Specifications
Type: variable-power, thermal-imaging riflescope
Magnification: 1.75X base magnification; 8X digital zoom
Objective Lens Diameter: 35mm
Eye Relief: 1.063"
Field of View @ 100 Yards: 12 degrees horizontal
Sensor: VOx 640x480
Frame Rate: 30 Hz/60 Hz
Reticle: multiple options
Dimensions: length 9.8", width 3", height 3.2"
Weight: 2.2 lbs.
Construction: aluminum housing
Battery: CR123 (2); 4-hour runtime (external USB compatible)
Accessories: shuttered eyeguard, Q-LOC scope mount, scope cover, USB-C to USB-C cable, lens pen, hard case
MSRP: $7,724; trijicon.com

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