iRay RICO HD Thermal Sight

By Jeff Johnston, FE Hunting & Shooting Editor

If you don’t own a thermal scope by now, you’re like a highschool senior without wheels. Sorry for sounding elitist, but it’s true. When combined with a rifle there is no other single piece of gear that can lend a man such an advantage over his domain. With one, hogs and coyotes are easy. But a good thermal scope represents more than just mercing some varmints for fun on the weekends; If your dog barks in the backyard of your suburban home, one sweep of the thermal across the lawn and into the neighboring woods—no matter how shadowy—will reveal exactly what’s bothering him. If it happens to be a dude in a ski mask, he’s fucked—though he doesn’t even know it yet.

For most of us mortals who like neat stuff but also have to put kids through college, there are plenty of good $5,000 and less options. But, if you want the best technology non-SEAL Team members like me can buy, it’s got to be iRay’s RICO HD 1280 75mm unit. The sonuvabitch is unreal.

Why? It will make any mammal on a cool night show up like a pimple on a prom queen’s nose—at around 3,500 yards. Once mounted and zeroed, the cartridge and your marksmanship will be the limiting factor of your range, not the scope, thanks to its 1280×1024 resolution processor that delivers over 1.3 million pixels to your eye. Of course I don’t know what all this geek shit means, but what I do know is that it’s by far the clearest, sharpest, and most precise thermal I’ve ever used. 

Most of the thermals now considered top-end feature 640×480 sensors, resulting in half of this RICO’s capability. In an attempt to describe it, with cheaper scopes you can see a fuzzy white outline of a hog—or is it a dog?—at 300 yards. With this thing you can see the blood spurting from a coyote at 600 after you nail it in the aorta. 

It’s also got all the bells and whistles that keep you from messing around with other gadgets in the dark, including an attachable laser rangefinder with a ballistic solution that projects the readout into the eyepiece, an onboard digital camera/video recorder, 16x digital zoom, a compass, and dozens of other features you’ll never need. It’s the only scope I’m aware of that comes with a precision, spring-type recoil-mitigating mount to save this nearly 3-pound optic from the wrath of your .300 Win. Mag. Its interchangeable battery system beats the hell out of most thermal scopes that use non-removable batteries. If you keep one charging in the truck while you’re using the other, you should never have to call it quits due to lack of juice.

The RICO HD’s downside? It’s twofold. First, all this top-end technology isn’t cheap, and that’s why this baby will run you more than you should ever divulge to your wife. Secondly, the engineers at iRay are evidently so nerdy and good at what they do that they failed to think about what WE do. And that is, of course, spilling beer on the instruction booklet before we toss it in the trash. Afterall, we’ve been shooting guns our whole lives and so very few of us can imagine needing pages of instructions to zero a rifle. But, as I found, unless you can bribe your computer savvy son to zero it for you, you should hold onto the substantial instruction booklet, because the iRay, for all its advancements, does not have a simple interface (i.e. ease of use).

For example, it could benefit from digitally-controlled windage and elevation knobs that are more familiar to us than the multi-function menu that mandates we zero the reticle using x and y coordinates. It does have a frame-freezing feature that makes zeroing easier after you figure it out. Once you commit the initial time to study the instructions, it’s not as bad as it seems at first. For all but the most anti-tech stalwarts among us who hire assistants to send their emails, you can do it. After getting mine zeroed and cussing a bunch as I figured out its other functions, I love this scope. 

The bottom line is, these days every serious sportsman and home defender needs a thermal scope in his arsenal. I can assure you that a good one is more useful than another rifle of a redundant caliber. And if you desire the best at this point in time, the RICO HD is it. $16,000

Pros: Highest resolution in the game; onboard laser rangefinder, swappable batteries, accurate reticle system.

Cons: expensive, interface requires actually reading instructions 

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