April 26, 2021
By Brad Fitzpatrick
A decade ago, thermal technology was reserved for military applications and the very wealthy, but modern technology has allowed optics companies to provide thermal optics that middle-class Americans can afford. Colorado-based Burris Optics has jumped into this red-hot market with the release of the Burris Thermal Riflescope, the BTS.
Even though Burris a new player in the thermal optics market, the BTS offers a list of features that allow it to go head-to-head with anything else in this segment. Buyers can select between 35mm and 50mm models to fit their need and application. Both BTS riflescopes offer 1x, 2x, and 4x zoom, 400x300 resolution and a pixel size of 17µm. The BTS 35 offers a magnification range from 1.7 to 6.8x while the BTS 50 offers a magnification range of 2.9 to 9.2x. Both of these optics are equipped with 1024x768 color OLED screens with adjustable brightness levels.
BTS thermal scopes ship with Picatinny rail mounts, so they’re simple and easy to install on firearms. The robust mounting hardware is secure and seats firmly in the rail, so there’s no concern that the optic will loosen in the field. Overall length of the BTS 50 is 9.8 inches and weighs 25.4 ounces while the BTS 35 measures 9 inches long and weighs 23.2 ounces, which means both of these Burris thermals are shorter and lighter than competing thermal optics.
Despite their compact, lightweight design, BTS thermal optics are packed with features. Both BTS models offer multiple color palettes (black hot, white hot, blue hot, green hot, and red hot 1, 2 and 3) and 10 different reticle options. Perhaps the best feature is the control layout that is far simpler to use than any competing thermal sight on the market. Other thermal optics use directional keypads and multiple buttons to access menus and choose settings. Burris BTS thermal optics, by contrast, have a power button and a control wheel with center button. To power the unit on press the power button. Rotating the knob allows you to quickly zoom in and out and pressing the button on the center of the wheel accesses the menu.
When the menu screen appears, it’s simply a matter of rotating the knob to access the different menu items, adjusting palette color, brightness, contrast, and other features as needed. To change the palette color, for example, simply press the menu button, roll the wheel until you reach the palette menu, and press the center control button. From there you can use the wheel to scroll through the various palette options and select one by pressing the button again. The process is the same for accessing all the BTS’s different setting options. It’s a far more intuitive system than anything currently offered on other thermal sights, and it’s much simpler to use the Burris wheel/button controls than the keypads on competing thermal scopes, especially in total darkness.
BTS thermal scopes are powered by a single 18650 battery with a run time of up to 3 hours (or up to 5 hours with the optional 3400 mAh high-output battery). Burris designed these scopes so they’ll also run on affordable CR123 batteries, which are available in most grocery and hardware stores. When the unit is powered on hitting the power button places the optic in sleep mode, and by doing so you can preserve battery life.
In addition to the simple-to-use controls, one feature that sets Burris BTS riflescopes apart from other thermals is the Hot Track feature that automatically identifies positive heat signatures in the reticle. This is an excellent feature when hunting predators and hogs at night because the optic immediately identifies targets when they come in view and it allows you to follow the animal’s movements. If you’ve ever hunted coyotes with a thermal, you’ve almost certainly dealt with the frustration of losing a dog because you missed the heat signature as it approached. Hot Track provides a warning system when animals are approaching and allows you to visually track animals as they move, even in brush. This is groundbreaking technology found only on Burris thermal optics.
The Burris BTS 35mm carries an MSRP of $3,838 while the BTS 50mm has an MSRP of $4,199, which is very competitive in the thermal optics market; especially considering the list of features and Burris’s rock-solid reputation for reliability. Considering this type of technology cost at least ten times that a decade ago, BTS optics are an even better value.
In the Field Performance
I mounted a BTS 50 on a Daniel Defense DDM4 PDW .300 Blackout pistol for range testing. The optic’s Picatinny rail allows it to fit on a wide range of firearms, so the BTS works well on a compact personal defense firearm like the DDM4 PDW as well as AR and bolt-action varmint rifles and even shotguns. Adjusting brightness, palette color and reticle options allow you to tune the optic in a matter of minutes thanks to the innovative Burris control knob.
The 1024 x 768 color OLED screen offers a wide, clear field of view with excellent contrast. The Burris BTS 50 held up well to the recoil of the .300 Blackout pistol with no point-of-impact shift. Refresh rates are an important (and often overlooked) aspect of thermal optics, and the 50Hz refresh allows for smooth, even consistent viewing.
A key feature found on Burris BTS optics that’s particularly useful for hunters is stadiametric ranging, which utilizes two horizontal lines on the screen to measure the distance from the top to the bottom of known objects and, using that information, you can determine accurate range to the target. The system works like this: In the ranging screen, simply roll the control knob forward to widen the space between the two horizontal lines or backwards to narrow the space until the stadia lines rest on the top and bottom of the object of known size. As this happens, three ranges appear on the left side of the screen, one for a 0.25 meter (10 inch) object, one for a 0.50 meter (18 inch) object, and a third number indicating the range to a 1.8 meter (5 foot, 10 inch) target. The average-size hog has a body height of 18 inches, so simply adjust the lines using the wheel so that the top line rests on the hog’s back and the bottom line rests on the belly. The 0.5 meter range will give you an accurate distance to the pig. Stadiametric ranging technology exists in other thermal scopes, but the rolling control knob makes stadimateric ranging extremely fast and easy.
Another feature found on the Burris BTS riflescopes is the Hot Track feature which automatically marks the warmest object in the field of view with a crosshair and follows that hot spot as it moves. Anyone who has ever used a thermal optic for hunting understands how easily a coyote responding to a call or a feeding hog can disappear in and out of cover. Losing sight of the animal may result in a missed shot opportunity, so being able to track the animal automatically will increase your odds of getting a shot. Hot Track is a unique feature found only on Burris optics.
Predator, varmint and hog hunters will appreciate the range of color palettes and reticle options, which allow you to tune the screen for your shooting preferences. That means you’ll pick out targets more quickly, and that may make the difference between getting a shot and missing an opportunity.
Competition in the thermal optics market is heating up, and with the launch of the new BTS riflescopes, Burris is poised to become one of the top contenders in the field.
Burris Thermal Scope (BTS) 50mm Specs:
Magnification: 3.3 – 13.2x
Pixel Size: 17µm
Frame Rate: 50 Hz
Focal Length: 50mm F 1.2
Visual Angle: 7.5o x 5.6o
Digital Zoom: 2x, 4x
Eye Relief: 48mm
Diometric Compensation: Yes
Screen: 1024 x 768 OLED
Color Palette: Black Hot, White Hot, Blue Hot, Green Hot, Red Hot 1,2, and 3
Battery: 1 x 18650
Battery Life: >3 Hours (Standard), >5 Hours (with 3400 mAh high-output battery)
Mount Type: Picatinny Rail
Weight: 25.4 Ounces
Dimensions: 9.8 in. x 3.5 in. x 2.9 in.
The Essentials Gear Box.
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