Enjoying the benefits of thermal optics doesn’t have to break the bank, as Mat Manning discovers when he gets to grips with the versatile HIKMICRO TE19C Thunder

Thermal optics have revolutionised after-dark pest control over the past couple of years, although high prices are still discouraging some shooters from embracing this remarkable technology. The TE19C Thunder from HIKMICRO could just be the solution for shooters who want to enjoy the benefits of thermal optics without breaking the bank. It is very competitively priced and, thanks to the extensive research and development carried out by the tech giant behind this brand, its performance far exceeds its asking price.

There are several variants of this unit, including high-spec 35mm lens versions. I have been testing the 19mm model. Prices start at £1,099 for the riflescope version which also doubles as a spotter, or for £1,299 you can go for the Ultimate Thunder kit which gets you the same riflescope/spotter plus the ability to switch it to a front-mounted add-on that will convert your normal daytime setup to thermal. This is extremely versatile kit. 

The basic Thunder 19mm thermal module is very compact. It’s about 12cm long and weighs around 350g. It feels to be very solidly constructed and is certainly made for proper field use. It is waterproof and can stand up to use on recoiling guns. Powered by two, CR123A batteries, which come supplied, it’ll give a runtime of up to about four hours using basic features or, for really long outings, you can plug a power bank into its USB port.

Thanks to a decent 256×192 thermal sensor, image quality is extremely impressive for this unit’s price point. Detection range is stated as 900m for large objects and this spotter really shines at airgun ranges, even on very small quarry like rats. Detail was more than sufficient for confident quarry identification over typical airgun shooting distances.

The HIKMICRO TE19C is packed with features including video and photo capture direct to a 16gb onboard memory. It also boasts hot spot tracking and numerous image-enhancing features. Despite all the onboard tech, it is very easy to operate. The rear dial focuses the display for your eye (a job you only need to do once), the front dial focuses on whatever you are looking at and everything else is operated via the intuitive control console on top of the unit.

The menu is very easy to navigate but most of the features that shooters are likely to use in the field are operated by the single press of a button. That includes photo and video capture and zoom. Optical magnification is 2.4x but digital magnification goes from 1x to 8x, allowing you to shift from a wide field of view to detailed close-up viewing.

Another quick-access control is the colour pallet change, enabling the user to switch between Red Hot, White Hot, Black Hot and Fusion colour schemes. The Thunder also boasts wifi connectivity and you can connect it to your phone for viewing, controlling, recording and sharing via the free HIKMICRO SIGHT app.

While the TE19C serves as a very handy spotter, attach its Picatinny scope mount and it can be fixed to your airgun to serve as thermal riflescope. For this task it has quick and easy one-shot zeroing and a choice of five different reticle designs displayed in either white, green or red. Being so small and light, it feels very nicely balanced when mounted up. All the handy features are still there, including picture in picture function, doubling the magnification for precise shot placement while still exploiting the wider field of view in the main image for spotting.

The TE19C has another trick up its sleeve in that it can attach to the front of a normal telescopic sight to convert it to thermal. You need to swap the eyepiece for the clip-on lens system. Screw this in and the unit is able to recognise the change and automatically optimises its functionality for the new task.

This lens incorporates a bayonet attachment with a screw fixture that connects very securely to an adaptor that mounts to the front of your telescopic sight. There are different sized quick-release adaptors to fit different scopes, and you also get a selection of rubber shims that fit inside the adaptor to achieve a perfect fit. Once it’s in place, the thermal unit can be fitted and removed extremely quickly.

Being such a light optic, the Thunder doesn’t make your gun feel too front-heavy when fitted. One thing I really liked about using it as an add-on is that you don’t have the usual job of zeroing a thermal scope. All your aim points remain the same as ever for your day scope.

There are higher-spec 35mm versions but I have been very impressed with the more affordable 19mm model, which delivers remarkable value for money and even comes with the added reassurance of a three-year warranty and a service centre in the UK. If you are looking for a versatile and affordable thermal solution for your after-dark airgun shooting, this one is well worth a look.

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Models available

TE19   256 resolution

TH35   384 resolution

TQ50   640 resolution