When Pulsar releases a new thermal, you can bet all eyes are on the brand to see what they have to offer that hasn’t been done before.
It’s fair to say that their new Trail 2 LRF series will sit at the top of the thermal scope ranks for a while to come.
Pulsar knows what makes quality thermal scopes, but which is right for you?
The XP50 or the XQ50?
The Trail 2 LRF XQ50 has a better price, so let’s check out the details and how it’s different to the XP50.
What We Like: Built-in laser rangefinder
What We Don’t Like: Price
Best Uses: Night Shooting, Day Shooting, Tactical Use, Hunting, Scouting, Varmint Control, Long Range, Rangefinder
- Thermal Resolution: 384x288
- Pixels: 17 microns
- Refresh Rate: 50 Hz
- Display Resolution: 1024x768
- Eye Relief: 50 mm
- Color Modes: 8
- Battery: Li-Ion 8 hrs
- Dimensions: 13.66 x 4.02 x 2.99”/1.76 lbs
Our Verdict: Despite it being a high-tech thermal scope, Pulsar managed to nail user-friendliness making the Trail 2 XQ50 an effective tool for all types of shooters. With its many features, it’s a thermal that is at the top of its class.
Who is the Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XQ50 Best Suited to?
If you are a Pulsar loyalist, you’re likely already tucking away savings for a Trail 2 LRF scope. But those who are new to the brand or who are deciding between various models from various manufacturers, they’ll want to know why you should spend more with Pulsar.
It’s obvious the XQ50 is rather expensive compared to what is currently available in the market. So, who would benefit from buying the XQ50?
Anyone who needs thermal imaging on their rifle scope should consider this model if they value precision in their shots, want to combine both their scope and rangefinding functions in one device, and who wants multiple digital features that comes with owning such a scope.
Hunters, shooters, law enforcement, military, security – you name it. This is a rifle scope for you.
How Does the Pulsar Trail 2 LRF XQ50 Perform?
The Trail 2 LRF has high-performing features such as a fully-functioning built-in laser rangefinder, One Shot, and a full-color AMOLED display. It also has convenience features such as 4x zoom, 8-hour battery life, and PiP mode.
For a thermal with more than enough features to deliver outstanding performance, the Trail 2 XQ50 stands as one of the best 384x288 resolution thermal scopes that exists.
Even though it’s the cheaper alternative for the series with its lower thermal resolution, its optical specs are right in line with its capabilities. This means that its 3.5-14x magnification is within the appropriate range to provide sharp, clear, and bright imaging detail throughout its magnification range and is not overextended.
Once you get to know all its features and how it works, you’ll be a pro in putting the Trail 2 LRF to use. With a light weight of less than 2 lbs, an almost instantaneous start-up time, and a six-lens wide-angle eyepiece, the XQ50 may be your default scope for both day and night hunting.
Features & Benefits
Built-in Laser Rangefinder
This isn’t just some stadiametric rangefinder seen on the display for you to guesstimate the distance based on a target’s known size. It is in fact a built-in and fully functional laser rangefinder that provides distances on targets up to one kilometer away.
You can acquire both line of sight and scanning distances since the rangefinder can operate in either mode. You can also see how TPA (Target Position Angle) and THD (True Distance) can help to improve your ballistic calculations based on the site angle of the target and the true horizontal distance to the target based on elevation.
There are three rangefinder reticles, and you can also choose between meters or yards for distance measurements.
When activating the rangefinder, PiP (Picture-in-Picture) mode will turn on where the aiming reticle of the scope will remain within the small window. The aiming reticle in the main FOV image will disappear and be replaced with the rangefinder reticle. After three seconds of non-use, the rangefinder will automatically deactivate, and display settings will default to what was used prior to using the rangefinder feature.
Zeroing & Scalable Reticles
When it comes down to it, the thermal scope is still a rifle scope, and it must be able to perform accurately as such regardless of the pretty, colored display.
There are multiple reticle patterns to choose from and each can be adjusted in color and brightness. You can also program your reticle as a scalable reticle, meaning that you can have an FFP reticle that will change in size as magnification changes but subtension remains consistent. You can be sure that your holdovers are accurate at any zoom level you’re in. The reticle will also be visible in the PiP window which is extremely convenient for long shots.
While not hugely advertised as a feature, you can perform a One Shot Zero procedure. Using the Freeze function, you don’t even have to keep your crosshairs on the bull’s-eye while you make the adjustments to the POI. It’s easy to zero, accurate, and you’ll save a lot of ammo.
With this in mind, you can set 10 zeros for the same gun. You can also do this for up to five guns allowing room to save up to 50 zeros!
4 Operating Modes & 8 Color Palettes
While many alternatives may only offer two or maybe even three color palettes in their thermal scope, the Trail 2 offers 8. With White Hot, Black Hot, Red Hot, Red Monochrome, Rainbow, Ultramarine, Violet, and Sepia, you’ll find one well-suited for the conditions and comfort level for your vision.
You also have various types of operating modes that allow maximum clarity and sharpness regardless of the environmental conditions. You have Forest Mode which is for low-contrast thermal conditions, Rocks Mode for high-contrast thermal conditions, Identification Mode for high-detailization, and a User Mode for custom contrast and brightness settings. This gives you the ultimate advantage in rainfall, fog, thick and dense environments, and more.
Image Quality Enhancement
To help boost image clarity, you have an Image Detail Boost which increases the contrast on heated objects. Details on heated objects and targets will look better depending on what mode you’re in, but the feature sure is nice to have to get a little more recognition and identification on a target.
Most, if not all, thermal imaging devices regularly suffer from what is known as dead pixels. The Trail 2 is outfitted with software to correct for this using the Defective Pixel Repair feature. You can make as many corrections as you need and can also delete the corrections if necessary.
The XQ50 is more affordable than the XP50. After all, you are compromising for the 384 versus the 640 model. However, it’s still a very expensive thermal scope, especially so when you consider competing brands that offer thermals at half the price.
But, the alternatives don’t have a built-in fully functional laser rangefinder, PiP mode, 4 operating modes, 8 color display palettes, an HD display – must we go on?
You’re paying extra for the full combo of features in a high-performing thermal rifle scope. Plus, you’re also putting your money with a brand that has a good reputation with customer service. Pulsar could be a brand that you’ll want to do business with when you take into consideration the overall picture.
The key difference is thermal resolution even though both models have the same NETD 40mK sensor. The XP50 has 640x480 resolution while the XQ50 has 384x288 resolution. While pixel pitch of 17 microns, the detection range of 1800 meters, and 50 Hz refresh rate remains the same between both models, the field of view is smaller, and magnification is only 4x zoom in the XQ50.
The Trail 2 LRF XQ50 comes with a Lithion-Ion battery pack. It’s rechargeable and comes with the USB charger. You can also use an external battery bank with the Trail 2 for power top-ups in the field.
You must download the Stream Vision app for this capability. The Trail 2 LRF has WiFi compatibility for connectivity to an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. Video can be streamed in real time and/or saved to the 16 GB internal memory of the scope for uploading to a device later.
The thermal scope is an active scope and does not rely on ambient light as a means to provide a clear and sharp image to the user. As such, it is different compared to night vision and can be used in both day or night conditions without harm to the optics or electronics.
The Pulsar Trail 2 thermal scopes are warrantied for a period of three years. If you are the original owner, it starts from the date of purchase. If no proof of purchase is supplied to Pulsar, warranty coverage starts from the day of manufacture.
Between the XQ50 and the XP50, there’s a significant price difference. If you want the benefits of a 640, more power to you. But the XQ50 is every bit as high-performing as its more expensive counterpart.
Although still pricey compared to the rest of the market, Pulsar delivers high-end thermal technology that may very well be the best in class within the entire industry for the civilian market. They’re also worth spending more when you have features such as picture-in-picture mode that no other thermal yet offers.
If you’re an avid shooter, hunter, or long-range marksman wanting to discover your talent in thermal style, look to Pulsar for new and reliable tech.
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Simon is an avid outdoor enthusiast and the owner of Target Tamers. He is passionate about bringing you the most up to date, accurate & understandable information on sports optics of all kinds and for all applications. When not glassing the local wildlife, you can find him in the garden with his German Shepherd.