Test & video: new Proton FXQ30 Thermal clip-on from Pulsar

I mounted the Pulsar Proton FXQ30 thermal imaging clip-on on a Remington 700 in .308 Win
We mounted the Pulsar Proton FXQ30 thermal imaging clip-on on a Remington 700 in .308 Win with Oryx chassis and Yukon Jaeger 1.5-6x42 daytime hunting rifle scope.

Clip-on devices for riflescopes have stormed the market in the last two years; almost every specialized electro optics manufacturer has at least one, if not several models in their catalogs. 

The reason of this trend, especially in Europe, is not only practical, but also on a more mundane level due to national regulations, that restrict the use of night vision and thermal self-contained riflescopes. It is however obvious that a clip-on Thermal Imaging optic that is used with a zeroed daytime riflescope offers a lot of advantages: i.e., it can also be used as a stand-alone thermal spotter, it allows the rifle to be used in daytime with our favorite optic, and is generally more affordable than a thermal imaging only complete riflescope. 

Most clip-on optics are still very expensive for most hunters though – so Pulsar introduced the Proton FXQ30, an affordable, compact and lightweight clip-on that, in the European optics manufacturer tradition, still offers great performance and a full feature set.

The Pulsar Proton is now available in two versions: the FXQ-30, and the XQ-30, which also includes 5x30B Monocular eyepiece adapter, that allows the Proton to be used as an observation device.

Exclusive Video: Pulsar Proton FXQ30 clip-on thermal optics

The lens of the Proton is a fixed focus afocal objective
The lens of the Proton FQX30 is a fixed focus afocal objective and does not need to be focused: everything between 15m to infinity is reasonably sharp.

Mounting the Proton on the objective of the Yukon Jaeger riflescope I used for the tests is easy and fast. The PSP (Precise Screen Positioning) adapter allows to center the display in the eyepiece, and does not affect the zeroing of the scope. 

I mounted the Yukon glass on my Remington 700 action using medium height rings; the rifle is now mounted on a nice Oryx chassis, that is more suitable to sports shooting than hunting, but it does allow me to evaluate the glass and clip-on sight combo accuracy better.

I got a strange impression in my first look thru the eyepiece of the Jaeger/Proton combo. I was collimating to a faraway hilltop to adjust the eyepiece diopter, and it seemed that the image was slightly out of focus. I suddenly remembered that the Proton uses an afocal objective lens system. In other words, the focus is fixed! The depth of field, in which everything is sharp enough for comfortable observation, is included in about 15 meters to infinity, however the focus is optimally sharp between 30 m and 300 m, the typical hunting distances. I got used to it pretty fast, within the hour I actually forgot about the focus. The image is very sharp overall within the suggested magnification range, that goes from 1.5 to 4x, although I’d stop at 3x to use the maximum definition the nice AMOLED HD display is capable of – which makes the 5x eyepiece adapter included in the XQ-30 version of the Pulsar Proton even more awkward.

The control panel of the Pulsar Proton FXQ30 with two buttons
The control panel of the Pulsar Proton FXQ30 with two buttons, a rotary encoder and Enter button: it is conveniently placed, as the left hand of the shooter can reach and operate it with just the thumb while still gripping the forend of the rifle.

Our practical test: Pulsar Proton FXQ30

I received a sample of the Proton FXQ30 with a Yukon Jaeger 1.5-6x42 daytime riflescope and PSP-42 objective lens bell adapter - although I received the FXQ-30, Pulsar also sent me a sample of the 5x30B Monocular eyepiece adapter, to evaluate it as well.

The box includes the black nylon carry bag, the Proton FXQ30 clip-on thermal optics, two APS5 B-Pack (Li-ion) batteries,  the battery charger adapter and wall AC power supply. There are additional ancillary accessories, tools and the manual. 

First off, the 5x eyepiece is in my opinion unwieldy and too long, making the otherwise compact and light Proton too large when mounted; plus, the 5x magnification is way too much, reducing the FOV and the apparent resolution of the device. As a matter of fact, it allows the user to see only the central portion of the display, magnified in such a way that individual pixels can be noticed. Therefore, I suggest and prefer the FXQ-30 version of the Proton, as it does not include this adapter and is cheaper.

The Proton clip-on optic itself is very compact and light, with a clever form factor that does not block the sides of the riflescope, allowing the hunter great situational awareness when looking out of the eyepiece to the sides of his rifle. Also, the fact that it does not add side bulk to the rifle makes it easier to place it mounted in a padded gun case.

The Pulsar Proton uses a proprietary Li-Ion APS5 rechargeable Battery Packs
The Pulsar Proton uses a proprietary Li-Ion APS5 rechargeable Battery Packs, good for up to 6 hours operation; two batteries are included with each Proton.

The image quality is very good, actually the sensor quality is outstanding, as is the display. However, I do miss the possibility to focus, especially for the shorter distances. 

Proton FXQ30 Thermal clip-on from Pulsar
A nice touch of the form factor of the Proton is that it does not add any side bulk, and allows the shooter to look on both sides of the scope without having to move the head. Plus, it makes it easy to throw the rifle in standard gun cases.

The Proton’s firmware offers enhancement filters and 8 color palettes, the usual AV recording capability and StreamVision 1.x compatibility.

The Pulsar Proton FXQ30 thermal imaging clip-on comes with a nice Nylon carry case with all accessories. The 5x magnification eyepiece adapter is only included in the XQ-30 version

Control placement and feedback is great, I actually could reach up with the thumb of my left hand holding the forend of my rifle and operate the two buttons and selection wheel with confirmation button without having to leave the forend at all! Very clever placement and good ergonomic design. The menu UI is circular, so that it fits perfectly in the round FOV of the daytime riflescope. As for the menu itself, it follows the usual structure of any Pulsar thermal imager, so that learning curve is nice and easy.

Batteries are easy to replace in the field and power the Proton for about 5-6 hours each.

The Pulsar Proton FXQ30 thermal imaging clip-on
A moment of our live fire test at the shooting range with Franco: The Pulsar Proton FXQ30 thermal imaging clip-on on a Remington 700 in .308 Win with Oryx chassis and Yukon Jaeger 1.5-6x42 daytime hunting rifle scope. We used Norma, RWS and GECO ammunition for the test.

I shot at distances from 30 to about 300 m – and accuracy is undoubtedly good, with a shift of the POI of only a couple centimeters at 100m, and the group opens from basically a single hole up to about 3-4 cm, due mostly to the difficulty of aiming at a piece of paper thru a thermal imager. I also managed to shoot at 300m, but not record the group size, just a metal Gong to confirm hits.

How affordable is the Pulsar Proton? To wrap up this test, I really need to put everything in perspective with the MSRP.  At the first announcement, pricing was projected to be sub 3K euro. And indeed, it is: 2590 euro for the Proton FXQ30 and 100 Euro more, 2690 euro, for the XQ30, identical in every way except that it does include the eyepiece adapter, which in my opinion is not so useful anyway.

So, for just over 2500 euro, I can get an impressive clip-on optic to add thermal imaging capabilities to most daytime hunting riflescopes, with a 40 mK NETD 384x288 pixel @ 17 µ microbolometer sensor inside a supercompact and light Magnesium device, two batteries and ancillary accessories. What else is to say? Have fun hunting.

Pulsar Proton FXQ30 specs and price

Manufacturer: 
Pulsar - Yukon Advanced Optics (www.pulsar-nv.com)
Model:
Proton FXQ30
Type:    
Thermal imaging daytime riflescope clip-on attachment
Objective:
30 mm/F1,2 afocal lens with coated germanium elements
Sensor: 
384x288 pixel, uncooled Asi microbolometer Focal Planar Array sensor with 17 µm pitch with automatic calibration, 50 Hz Full-frame rate
Output:
AMOLED color Microdisplay image relay interface with 1024x768 pixel resolution
Features:
Max. observation range of a 170 x 50 cm rectangular heated object in optimal conditions: 900 m (illuminates a pixel at this distance)
Dimensions:
119 х 58 х 75 mm
Weight:              
10.58 oz/300 g
Mount:
Precise Screen Positioning (PSP) front objective bell interface mechanism, with three optional sets of adapter rings, covering 42, 50 or 55 mm diameters
Materials/Finishes:
Machined magnesium housing, steel threaded adapter interface, tecnopolymers
Notes:
Powered by proprietary Li-Ion Pulsar APS5 Battery Packs, 6 hours operation, built-in DVR recorder (16 GB internal memory), WIFI Stream Vision 1.x connectivity, compatible with Android and IOS smartphones/tablets, XQ-30 only - 5x magnification eyepiece adapter to use the device as standalone observation monocular, USB type C socket, IPX7 waterproof certified.
Price:
Indicative MSRP 2590 euro; XQ30 version, with the 5x eyepiece adapter, 2690 euro (price in your region has to be checked with your local distributor)
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