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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Thermals aren't exactly your average sporting goods store worker's forté so I'm asking for advice from those that have thermal experience.
A little background info: Midwest coyote hunting mostly (50-200yd) on an 18" 6.8 AR
I've been eyeing the iRay Rico Bravo because of its 3.0x base mag which seems like the most versatile for my hunting ranges
The price tag of the Bravo is roughly where I'd like to cap my budget
Is there something better in this price range I should be looking at instead?

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(35) IR illumination vs Thermal - ATN X-Sight 4K vs ATN ThOR 4 640 | 6.8 SPC Forums (68forums.com)

Above is a link regarding my experience hunting with a Thermal scope. It might be helpful. I'm not pushing ATN though they have been good to me. ATNs are bright enough to use during the day and have adequate eye relief. The iRay you mentioned has very short eye relief and I can't tell from youtube reviews if it has enough brightness for daytime use. I wouldn't get a scope without record because that is how you learn from your mistakes and improve. I also wouldn't get a scope with less resolution than 360-384 pixels. 3x would likely be good for a base magnification for coyotes. After hunting with the ATN ThOR with a measured 2x base magnification, going back to me ATN-X with 3x seems tight and confining. I joined dvor.com and purchased my ThOR 4 640 2.5-25x on sale for the price you will be paying for the iRay Rico Bravo.
 
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Talk to Travis Shelton at Santa Claus Optics. He deals in a number of different thermals. He is very knowledgeable and will steer you in the right direction.
I am using a Bering Optics Super Hogster, and am happy with it. Rarely if ever do I use anything but base magnification. I can see farther than I can shoot with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
(35) IR illumination vs Thermal - ATN X-Sight 4K vs ATN ThOR 4 640 | 6.8 SPC Forums (68forums.com)

Above is a link regarding my experience hunting with a Thermal scope. It might be helpful. I'm not pushing ATN though they have been good to me. ATNs are bright enough to use during the day and have adequate eye relief. The iRay you mentioned has very short eye relief and I can't tell from youtube reviews if it has enough brightness for daytime use. I wouldn't get a scope without record because that is how you learn from your mistakes and improve. I also wouldn't get a scope with less resolution than 360-384 pixels. 3x would likely be good for a base magnification for coyotes. After hunting with the ATN ThOR with a measured 2x base magnification, going back to me ATN-X with 3x seems tight and confining. I joined dvor.com and purchased my ThOR 4 640 2.5-25x on sale for the price you will be paying for the iRay Rico Bravo.
Fortunately, iRay does offer a pretty sweet mil discount which brings the Bravo down to the low $3k mark. Granted, that introduces a bunch of other good options like the new AGM LRF models along with the aforementioned Bering options. I've heard the only difference between bering and AGM are their sensor sources but don't quote me on that (info from the forum gurus)
I've only used my buddy's Burris BTS50 so my thermal experience is very limited
I usually hunt in places that I've scouted during the day so I try to take note of the ranges of different landmarks. With that being said, should a built in LRF be a deciding factor when looking at thermals?

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I would say Pulsar is the best for price point with the options you can get. I haven't gotten the experience of using an iray or Bering, but heard they are good. I wouldn't say you need LRF if your ranging before night time, I used to do the same thing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks all for the solid suggestions! I figure someone will have a similar question some day so I'd like to update this.
I ended up finding an AGM Rattler 35-384 for a hell of a deal so I jumped on it to test out the features and set a baseline of my thermal preferences.
Here's what I learned from actually being able to play with one:
-Try to narrow down the magnification you'll need for the distances you'll be shooting at. This scope is only 2.14x base mag so it is on the lower side. I think a 3x would be better suited for a base mag around my area.
-While it is possible to just use a weapon mounted optic as your scanner and scope, I definitely see the convenience of a handheld scanner... this will be next on my list
-Menu simplicity/button layout is a real concern to me now. Unless you have the muscle memory down before the lights are off, you're gonna have a hell of a time trying to figure out what button does what at night especially if you need to do something while a dog is coming in.
-There is a threshold of quality vs cost. Everyone needs to find their value in a quality optic. I feel that this optic is a great start for someone trying to find their preferences in thermals.
These things are a game changer and I hope to use this for coyotes and raccoons this year


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