What is a Clip On Thermal Scope?
The clip on thermal is a recent development that allows you to turn an ordinary daytime rifle scope into a thermal rifle scope. This is accomplished by attaching (clipping on) a thermal scope in front of your daytime optic utilizing the same picatinny mounting rail. All you have to do is line up the eyepiece of the thermal scope with the objective lens of your rifle scope and you get thermal shooting capability. Because of the sophisticated collimated optics in the clip on thermal scope there is no need to rezero the weapon after mounting the thermal.
This technology was designed for the US military to answer the need for troops to be able to go from daytime to night time missions effectively. Before the Clip ON Thermal scope a soldier would have to either have a dedicated night weapon or rezero their rifle in the midst of combat (not always a practical thing to do). With the clip on you simply clip on the device and go from day to night shooting in an instant.
The technology has made its way to the commercial market to serve civilian and law enforcement applications. The clip on offers these groups several advantages in that it can be swapped from a variety of weapons on the fly to satisfy the mission criteria. The Clip On Thermal scope has become very popular with SWAT law enforcement and hog hunters in the civilian market.
The field of available units is pretty small since this is a niche product within a niche industry. Most of the clip on thermal scopes on the market are military derived and have similar feature sets. They will typically have a digital zoom component and the ability to switch polarity (make the thermal image either black hot or white hot). All the units will have a rail mount attachment to mate with picatinny rails typically found on AR15 type assault rifles. Many law enforcement agencies like to use clip on scopes with their sniper rifle setup. Typically this is a Remington 700 rifle of some variation. The Remington and other bolt action rifles will usually have a short scope rail that can only accomodate one scope. The answer is in rail extensions. Remington makes a unit call the MARS mount that is designed specifically for clip on scopes. There is also some real nice choices from McCann Industries in their MIRS mount lineup. Most of the thermal scopes are 320×240 in resolution with one stand out at 640×480 (4 times the pixels of the others). The T60 also known as the Trijicon ATWS is the king of the clip on thermal scopes with 640×480 resolution and military spec construction.
The FLIR T60 Clip On Thermal Scope is manufactured by FLIR Systems Inc and was designed in conjunction with TRIJICON Inc. These are true heavy weights in the thermal imaging and weapon sighting industries.
The IWNS-T X27 is another very popular clip on thermal scope. This unit was designed by Insight Technologies before they were taken over by the defense giant L3 Communications. The X27 Clip on Thermal Rifle Scope was made specifically for the US Marines and is very rare in the commercial market place. The system has a 320×240 sensor and is of course mil spec. This is an awesome unit but almost impossible to find commercially.
A new entry into the clip on thermal scope field that is getting a lot of attention is the X28 compact clip on thermal scope. This unit is very small and reduces the down pull from forwared wight on your barrel. The system has all the latest features and a really crisp 320×240 imaging sensor. The X28 seems to be built to the same military quality as the other guys but has a much better price point.