In late October 2016, Leupold released a hand held thermal optic called the LTO Tracker as an accessory for the modern hunter. Unfortunately, they’ve been made of unicorn teeth since the intro, and we have yet to receive ours for testing and evaluation despite our desperate pleas. Good news then that Leupold had one on hand for the 2017 SHOT show.
Leupold bills the LTO as a great tool for observation and game recovery as it relies on thermal signatures instead of the visible light spectrum. Looking through the digital display, it isn’t hard to imagine using this during the walk up to the blind in the early morning hours, and after the shot to find a blood trail and track it. I managed to snap a few photos over RF’s shoulder as he gave various attendees a look see through the LTO.
The menus and buttons seem to be well laid out and intuitive – proven by the fact that I was able to navigate it without looking at the manual in about 30 seconds. We call that clownshoe blogger proof around these parts. Image resolution seems pretty good, and using the digital zoom, it was easy enough to pick out facial features a few booths down in broad daylight. My experience with thermals has been that they do their best work in the cool of night, so I look forward to using this for some daytime hunting if the situation arises. It isn’t on the level with a $7000 weapons mounted optic, but then again, it doesn’t cost nearly that much.
Upon fiddling with the buttons a bit, I found a setting to turn on a set of crosshairs. The look on my face gave it away as Leupold’s PR man said, “You found the crosshairs eh?” Turns out the LTO isn’t weapons rated, and though he said Leupold’s engineers claim to be able to do a bit of firmware updating that will allow you to zero those crosshairs, Leupold doesn’t have plans to do that with the LTO, though they did indicate that the technology shows promise, and a small format thermal can’t be much further off.
Either way, the LTO uses a 30 mm tube, so it should be fairly easy to mount up if they decide to change their minds. My personal opinion is that they’ll likely do a firmware update and harden the internals, raise the price and sell it for ~$1000. Speaking of, MSRP on the LTO is $875, but it looks like various etailers are selling it for $650-$700. We’re promised one for review, so stay tuned.
This is very interesting. At $1000 as a budget thermal sight I am in for one!
How does it stack up to the Sig Echo 1?
I think the Leo has much better features, but is not gun rated like the Sig is. The Leupold is like a light weight flashlight that you look into the reflector side (100% of first time users hold it up backwards and look into the thermal camera).
I use thermal for various reasons, and this particular device makes using it scary easy and without the usual clunky interfaces and slow performance of other sub-$1k units.
I suspect that law enforcement might begin carrying these to search for suspects and avoid fights/ambushes. Thermal also sees back in time showing where someone/something was.
You may not be able to zero it but you can certainly put it in front of a red dot and zero THAT.
I’m not saying that we won’t do it, but uhhhhh yeah – we’ll probably do that.
Tyler, let Nick know that may be very valuable to him in the cockpit.
Lose an engine at night and it could easily help him find a place to put it down…
Combined with a side-flip mount EoTech style would be nifty.
On a different site I saw a bit more detail about it being weapons rated. Leupold has strict standards for toughness which includes surviving an insane number of .375 H&H rounds. When they asked the Leupold rep about smaller calibers the response was “no comment,” insinuating it is probably perfectly ok to do (why else would they have put that crosshair there?) but don’t mount it your your magnum rifle and it might void the warranty.
Look for more/better/cheaper options in the very near future. FLIR has a (relatively) new sensor out, and the pricepoint will make good things very affordable, and the last gen sensor makes the total hardware cost come in well under $100 per unit.
I’ve actually built one of the last gen sensors into a “holosight” with a see thru OLED display and crosshairs. I’m sure one of the big boys has this in dev, or is at least working on it, so you’ll see it soon-ish.
You’re a geek after my own heart! That’s the kind of stuff I’d be doing if I had a bit of excess cash, instead of futzing with low-buck *very* limited resolution software defined radios…
Geoff, If I had an extra stack, I would have built a hundred and see how they sold. But at the moment I don’t. I’m not the only guy with the idea, I’m sure there’s some corporate boffin who’s conned the boss into building a similar device.
It was a really cheap build.
(I hope you’re not driving yourself crazy with Baofengs, those things drive me nuckin’ futs. Makes me run back to the Super Skyrider and bask in the warmth of tubular goodness….)