Pulsar Digisight N960 and N970

The Pulsar Digisight night vision scope range really shook up the market around five years ago when it introduced digital technology at competitive prices, using Sony ‘Prosumer’ CCD sensors, offering performance that in some cases was comparable to NVD (Night Vision Device) systems based on Gen 2 analogue residual light intensification tubes, also offering the many functions that derive from the digital nature of the signal. In fact, digital night vision works essentially on the same principle as any other digital camera; a lens focuses the image on a CCD sensor and transforms it into a digital signal, which is processed by a CPU and then displayed on an LCD Display and if necessary saved on digital memory. 

In the case of a digital night scope, the sensor is monochrome, optimised to give the greatest sensitivity to light in general as well as at a certain wavelength (600 - 850 nm). The image is displayed on a microdisplay, observed through an eyepiece, and the scope can of course be mounted on a weapon, while the reticle can be zeroed in.

Riflescope on carbine
The Pulsar Digisight N960 LRF digital night vision riflescope with laser rangefinder mounted on an M4 semiauto carbine
Focus knob on Pulsar Digisight
The focus knob placed on the right side of the Pulsar Digisight in our opinion is just a tad too close to the IR illuminator but is still easily operated.
Next to the eyepiece we find two sealed conectors, one for the Video out and the other for an external power source, such as an EPS3 battery

Note that thermal imaging and digital night vision are very similar in concept: in fact, the only major differences lie in the nature of the sensor and the material the lens if made of -i.e., germanium on thermal imaging scopes.

The advantages of digital night vision compared to traditional Gen 2 NVD systems are the lower cost, the possibility of using it by day without risk, the option of recording what is displayed and being able to manage numerous digital functions that are simply not available on an analogue instrument based on a IIT tube.

In recent years, Pulsar has gradually improved and updated the Digisight series, to now produce what we could call the “3rd generation” of these optoelectronic instruments, with the Digisight N960 and N970 digital night vision scopes we were given to test by the Italian Yukon/Pulsar distributor, Adinolfi S.r.l. of Monza.

The 9xx series Digisight has a 3.5x fixed lens, which, thanks to the digital zoom, can be further magnified by 2x and 4x, resulting in 7x and 14x magnification; intermediate steps are also available.

The integration of laser telemetry, with a maximum measurable range of 400 metres, in Digisight LRF models is a notable addition to the scope's features. The reading is displayed in the eyepiece.

IR illuminator on Pulsar Digisight
The IR illuminator used by the Pulsar Digisight N960 LRF riflescope is based around a powerful infrared LED emitter, with a 810 nm wavelength
Laser rangefinding module
The laser rangefinding module is mounted on the left side and adds considerable thickness to the instrument

The body of the instrument is made of a glass fibre reinforced composite polymer, which is quite strong. The scope can be used with guns that develop up to 6000 Joules, it is water resistant (but cannot be immersed in water) and a mount can be screwed on to fit the scope to the gun. A Weaver/Picatinny compatible mount is included in the package. There are two Picatinny rails on the scope body, one on the side for an extra EPS3 battery or video recorder, and one on top that can be used for a red dot sight like the Docter Sight.

Picatinny mount
The Picatinny mount included in most verisons of the Pulsar Digisight N9xx riflescope can be mounted in three different positions to accomodate most firearms
Pulsar Digisight power source
The riflescope is powered by four 1.5 volt, AA alcaline batteries; it is possible to use an external power source that is rechargeable

It is quite bulky; it weighs around 1.1 kg, is 112 mm long, 94 mm high and 340 mm wide.

The difference between the 960 and 970 models is the auxiliary IR illuminator, respectively an 810 nm LED illuminator (just barely visible to the naked eye) and a 915 nm Laser illuminator (completely invisible to the naked eye); both illuminators can be adjusted to three intensity levels.

The system is powered by four AA 1.5V batteries.

Pulsar Digisight controls
Most of the controls are located on the right side of the Pulsar Digisight riflescope: on top, the on/off knob, the LRF button the multifuncion wheel with central button and on the right the programmable button

The ½” CCD sensor has a real resolution of 752 x 582 pixels and is twice as sensitive to light as the previous generation of Digisight scopes.

There are a number of controls on the instrument; a knob for turning the scope and IR illuminator on, a customisable button, another button that controls the zoom or range measurement on the LRF model, a multifunction knob with a central button for managing all the digital functions, and a focus control for the lens. Compared to the previous generation, the 9xx series offers 30% more field of view at the same level of magnification.

There are also video out and external power connectors.

There are no turrets as the scope is zeroed in digitally. You can save the parameters used to zero in three different weapons or types of ammo, at 15 ranges. Each profile can use any of the 11 different reticles available, lit red or green.

Version with telemeter
The LRF version of the Pulsar Digisight is quite bulky, as you can see fron its top view
Pulsar Digisight N960
The standard version without LRF of the Digisight N9xx is more compact and offers more Picatinny rail "real estate"

The scope has a large eye relief (67 mm) with – 4 to + 3 dioptre adjustment, and a 6 mm exit pupil. The rectangular screen consists of an OLED 640 x 480 pixel colour microdisplay; the ‘status bar’ at the bottom of the display shows various operating parameters (battery charge, current magnification, active options, etc.) while the image is displayed in black & white.

LRF version
We can see how thick the LRF version of the Digisight can be in this image, but its value in measuring the shooting distance in night conditions, when estimating a distance is basically impossible, is priceless
Head position with Pulsar Digisight N960 e N970
In this image we can note that the riflescope can be used only assuming a different and higher head position, so that the shooter's cheek does not touch the stock anymore. A cheek riser can solve the problem

We mounted the Pulsar Digisight scope on a semiautomatic M4 .223 Remington rifle and on a semiautomatic Benelli Argo E-Pro .30-06 Springfield hunting rifle. The mount can be used to fit the scope body in three different ways, offering various configuration options. The Digisight scope sits higher on the gun than a traditional scope, which means you have to strain your head a bit to use it, something we noticed on the Argo in particular, while on the M4 this was less noticeable.

Pulsar Digisight N960 e N970 shooting test
During our shooting tests, we found the Digisight to be very accurate, despite the 'virtual' reticle digitally generated on the OLED microdisplay

The system used to zero the sight in could be called a touch of genius although you do have to find your way through a series of menus similar to what you might find on a smartphone: after firing one shot and keeping the main reticle on target, with the gun on its rest, just position the secondary reticle that appears to automatically zero the scope in at the desired range.

The resulting precision is quite good; the reticle (virtual: shown directly on the microdisplay) remains the same size as magnification changes.

There are 100 available clicks (+50 and -50) to adjust elevation and 80 (+40 and -40) to adjust windage; each click is equal to 17 mm at 100 m.

If you assign the zoom function to the programmable button, you can change the zoom from 3.5x, to 7x to 14x every time the button is pressed; if you want you can also change the magnification continuously (by 0.1x increments) selecting the function with the main knob and turning it, but this is slow and not very practical.

Pulsar Digisight wireless remote
The Pulsar Digisight also includes a wireless remote
Wireless remote on Benelli Argo
The wireless remote can be mounted on the rifle's forearm thanks to two Velcro adhesive strips, in this case on a Benelli Argo hunting rifle

Some functions worthy of note include an accelerometer to measure the tilt of the scope and firing angle, the “SumLight” image processor that improves sensitivity notably in poor light conditions, and a wireless remote control to use all the digital functions without having to change your grip on the gun.

We tested the Pulsar Digisight N960 LRF both by day and at night, including in difficult light conditions, using a PVS14 with 3x additional afocal optics as a reference. The experience was very different to a traditional NVD. For example, there is no halo around light sources, but it is easy for a part of the image to be too brightly lit and ‘bloom’, which can completely obliterate all detail. Outside the urban environment, things improve greatly: in the open field, with just a crescent moon, the Digisight wins hands down compared to any night vision system that is not Gen 2 spec.

Live fire tests with Pulsar Digisight mounted on M4
A moment during the live fire tests of the Pulsar Digisight N960 LRF riflescope, mounted on asemiautomatic M4 carbine chambered in .223

The resolution is quite limited; it is about one third of what you get from a 64 lp/mm tube, although it is hard to make comparisons as the digital scope behaves in a completely different way, which varies also on the basis of the luminosity of the environment. 

With the IR illuminator, the range and clarity of the image is amazing; so much so it encourages you to try taking a shot at a range of over 150 metres. In brush the illuminator does not work well as the light bounces off the leaves, ‘blinding’ the sensor. In starlight, without IR and a with light cloud cover, performance drops off drastically, and you will have to turn the IR back on. In summary, this is an extraordinary instrument, offering performance in line with the price, which can be used both at night and by day (the daytime zero in / training function is excellent) and it is easy enough to use. Highly recommended.

For more information visit the Pulsar website

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