This article was originally posted on Thefirearmblog.com
The FLIR T50 ACTS is a thermal weapon sight that is almost a decade old. But it does not feel out of date and has some interesting features that many modern day thermal sights do not have. The T50 is a clip-on thermal weapon sight designed for military and law enforcement.
I have dabbled with thermal sights before but they were budget thermal sights like the Torrey Pines and Leupold LTO. The T50 is a bonafide thermal sight designed to be used on a rifle. It was a collaboration between FLIR and Trijicon. It was designed to interface with the Trijicon ACOG while maintaining the same field of view and zero. The T50 displays the thermal image on a small LCD screen inside the optic. Since the LCD screen projects light, the T50 has a rubber shroud and comes with a coupler to seal out the light from illuminating the user and giving away his position.
The T50 can be used as a stand-alone handheld thermal device. However, due to the small screen and how it interacts with the ACOG, the screen is rather small. Look at the image above. The soldier is holding the T50 sideways. This is due to how the screen is oriented in the housing. When mounted to a rifle the screen is positioned in a portrait configuration.
FLIR T50, Not Just For Trijicon
The T50 can be used with other day sights. I prefer to use the Browe BCO optic with the T50 since the objective lens is flat compared to the ACOG.
Here are some other setups I have tried with the FLIR T50 ACTS.
Optics on Optics: Optic Inception
Since Trijicon helped design the T50, they had an RMR mount integrated into the top of the T50.
I bought an RMR when they were being cleared out at Cabela’s and found an immediate problem. The interfacing lugs are out of spec so the RMR cannot sit flush to the FLIR T50.
I actually bought the RMR for use on my FNX-45 Tactical but I was curious how the T50 would look as intended with an RMR mounted. In order for this to work, I would have to either mill the lug off the T50 or mill the pocket in the RMR wider. I’m not sure if this was a problem with my specific unit as I didn’t have another to test with.
As I mentioned above, the T50 has features that other thermal weapon sights do not have. Besides the Trijicon optic integration, the T50 has a video output port. This is not as amazing now when modern thermal sights have onboard recording features.
The T50 came with this video out cable that you can connect it to a video recording device.
The cable is coaxial with a female BNC connector at the other end.
I bought a mini DVR from TNVC and found a BNC to composite adapter. I connected that to the video cable of the mini DVR.
One major downside to the video output is the orientation of the screen. As I mentioned above, the screen is oriented vertically. This means the image is sideways as it is recorded in the DVR. While it is easy to rotate a video on a computer, it is slightly annoying. Or I can hold the T50 in my hands and rotate it sideways so the video is oriented properly with the video.
Here is a video I shot at the Agency Arms shoot after they ripped apart a Winnebago with four miniguns.
And here is the video of the miniguns firing.
How far can the T50 see? Well, it seems the T50 is set for the body temperature of people. It shows people very well. When I picked up the T50 I tested it out on the balcony of the hotel I was staying at in Daytona Beach. Please excuse the shakiness. I was using my iPhone to film through the optic.
The number one feature that sets the T50 apart from other thermal sights is the onboard laser designator.
So the laser is actually why I bought the T50. The T50 comes in three flavors. NO Laser, Visible Laser and IR Laser. This one is infrared and has two settings. ON and HIGH. When set to ON, the IR laser is a Class 1 type laser. When set on HIGH it is a CLASS III IR laser that is not eye safe.
The lower right button, on the side panel, is how you activate the laser. It is momentary only and is used for designating a target.
When the laser is turned on, a square reticle is displayed in the center of the screen. LZ is the indicator to let you know you are on HIGH. You can see how this looks below. The thermal is boring and gray due to the ambient temperature. It was 38F when I took these images.
Why would you need a laser built into your thermal sight? So you can point out to others what you are looking at. I was told that this setup would have been used in the military. A single person in a squad would be equipped with a FLIR T50 while everyone else has night vision. The thermal equipped solider would scan for threats and when he sees something he does not recognize he could designate it with the onboard laser to indicate to the rest of the team what he is looking at and they can better identify the target.
A Closer Look
The T50 is powered by three CR123A batteries held in a single magazine. I often store the T50 with the battery magazine removed because the “on” switch has an oversized paddle that is easily activated accidentally. This results in the T50 killing my batteries.
The rail mount is a little odd. The lug that interfaces with the Picatinny rail is at the far leading edge of the mount.
I am sure you have noticed that the FLIR T50 has an odd shape to it. It is taller than it is long. This periscope-like shape was intentional so the T50 would not take up a lot of rail space but also so laser aiming modules would not interfere with it. The lens sits high enough to clear the top of my laser.
Wrap It Up: I’ll Take It
As I said before, I really bought this for the laser. My friend Justin was offered the FLIR T50 by his local LGS. They got a few of these as trade-in’s from a local security team for a nuclear power plant. He asked if I would want a thermal sight. To be honest, I was not interested in thermal since I do not hunt. He borrowed it from the LGS to see if it was worth the price. That is when he discovered it has a laser and that it is infrared. What interested me most was the HIGH setting. I met up with Justin and confirmed it with my PVS14 that the laser is indeed Class III.
Now comes the part about price. If you Google the FLIR T50 ACTS, you will find online retailers selling them for around $10,000 USD. Thankfully I did not pay nearly that much. Justin was offered the FLIR T50 for $3,000 but he had no use for it so he passed the deal on to me. I figured a full power IR laser would cost me around $2,000+ and in some cases $3,000 depending which one. Then having a thermal weapon sight was just the cherry on top of the icing.
Even though the FLIR T50 ACTS is almost 10 years old (they came out in 2009) it works very well as intended. It easily displays heat signatures in the range of human body temperatures. It is designed to work in conjunction with a day optic so you can attach this to multiple guns without needing to zero anything. It is important to note that it is not recommended to use high magnification with the FLIR T50. At most, 6x magnification works but anything higher the image is difficult to use. You are zooming onto an LCD screen and the closer you look the worse the image appears. The price is the hardest part to swallow but if you can pick one up, I would highly recommend it.