Ever since I started airgun hunting, I’ve been looking for a night hunting rig that worked for me. I wanted something that was portable, easy to deploy, and cost effective. Later on an added requirement was something that allowed me to record video footage of these nighttime hunts.
I used a variety of lights, from powerful hand held spotlights with external battery packs in the early years, to powerful self contained units later on. As a matter of fact I still prefer hunting under lights when calling from a truck, while hunting with a two or three man team. In this set up, somebody can work the lights and the call, someone on the camera, and someone on the trigger. But remove a person from that line up and redistribute the work, it gets exponentially more difficult.
But where I really found the use of lights a challenge was when out on my own, trying to hold a spotlight and work the call until a coyote or fox came in, then switching over to my scope mounted light. Add a camera into the mix, and I can tell you that I’ve missed a lot of shot opportunities and/or didn’t capture the action on film. Another thing that happened to me on a few occasions when night hunting, where I had permission or was hunting legal public land, I had the police called on me. People saw a sweeping red or green filtered spotlight and thought I was either poaching or generally up to no good. A lot of airgun hunting opportunities for airguns at night are in more populated areas, so this should be considered.
I am lucky and often sent gear to test out, and have had a chance to work with different IR and Thermal night hunting vision. To be honest, while the early IR scopes I used worked well enough allowing me to easily pick up targets, I found a couple of items that made them somewhat hard to work with. The IR night vision scopes I used were large, had external video recorders (though many now have online video), were battery hungry……. But the biggest issues I had were that these IR scopes could not be used in daylight which required me to either switch optics on a multi day hunting trip or pack multiple guns. But more problematic was the cost, the IR scopes were expensive and the thermal scopes were jaw dropping expensive.
So when the loan periods were over, I shipped the IR and thermal scopes back and continued to use lights. Then I stumbled across the ATN X-Sight HD 5-20 night vision scope and was intrigued: it was fairly light and compact (relatively speaking), It was budget friendly, had integrated video capability, and could be used for both night time and daylight shooting. I decided that rather than request a media sample I’d jump in with both feet and buy the scope, so went online and found a special sale price of approximately $500.00. I placed the order and received the scope a few days later, the box contained the scope and an external IR light with mounts, along with very scant operators manual. This was not a problem however, because there are some very good tutorials on YouTube that show how to set up the scope. Additionally, I found the controls and menus very intuitive: sight-in, switching between reticle styles, daylight/night time displays, etc .
The scope is not an optical scope, I think of it more as a reconfigured video camera in which the eye piece is a view finder the body is a video camera, and the scopes objective lens the analog of a video cameras lens. There are a lot of features built in such as the aforementioned day/night mode and 1080 full HD video capability, a range finder and a ballistic calculator. To be honest, I don’t use the range finder preferring a separate dedicated range finder, or the ballistic calculator opting for chairgun and my pair of chronographs.
But what I do use is the video and night functions. The night time video quality is good, as this is generally only so-so with most of the approaches I’ve tried, its on par or better than what I get using lights and a standard video camera. The day time video is OK, and it does produce a through the lens view, however I think this will probably be replaced with the SideShot GoPro setup I’ve just received. To be fair, as an all around solution you’d be hard pressed to beat this set up without spending a whole lot more money.
Where this rig really shines though, is giving the airgun hunter a cost effective night hunting rig that is not dependent on lights. I use either my IR monocular, thermal monocular, or IR binoculars while calling to scan for incoming predators. When I’ve picked up a potential target, I’ll use these devices to track the approach, and when in closer range pick up the rifle and follow them in to the shot using the ATN Sight-X. This allows me to do the whole hunt in stealth mode never having to give away my position. As mentioned I’ve had a few run ins even though I was legal all the way, but since I do a lot of hunting at the small hobby farms in my area juxtaposed with scattered housing developments, there is an advantage to stealth. With a shrouded airgun and an ATN scope, I can hunt in fairly built up area without ever being noticed, which is great for the urban predator hunter.
As mentioned, I can use this scope in both night vision and daylight modes so don’t have to swap scopes on my rifle as I move through a multi day/night hunt. However, if I do want to swap the ATN has a on shot sighting capability that is really outstanding, easy and effective it allows for very quick rifle swaps.
It is possible to get a higher quality night vid soon scope to be sure, but you cant get anything else this good for anywhere near the price of the ATN X-Sight, and I’d recommend it if you’re looking for an affordable night hunting rig. I’ll be featuring this set up on some upcoming hunts, so keep an eye out. If you have any questions post them in the comments section and I’ll follow up with you.